“Making an attempt to make it as a contract author is horrifying AF.”
With a topic line that daring (and correct), I wasted no time in opening the e-mail. It was from a younger girl who’d lately graduated with a twin diploma in English and journalism, asking me how, how, how on this planet do I make a dwelling this manner?
It wasn’t the primary time I’d acquired an electronic mail to this impact, which feels patently insane. If you happen to’d instructed me simply two years in the past I’d be incomes my maintain as a full-time freelancer — not to mention giving recommendation on the topic — I’d seemingly have laughed in your face. I used to be working a employees writing gig on the time, and had by no means a lot as drafted a pitch to an out of doors publication.
I solely obtained courageous sufficient to start out submitting concepts after a number of encouragement from my good pal (and fellow TWL author!) Susan Shain. Thanks once more, Susan.
Now, I’ve obtained over a 12 months of working for myself below my belt — a 12 months by which I really earned greater than I did as a staffer. I take pleasure in location independence and a workday uniform of yoga pants and tee-shirts, so it’s no shock that fielding the how do you do it? query has grow to be a standard dialog.
But it surely’s by no means straightforward to reply.
So actually although — how do you do grow to be a full-time freelance author?
Right here’s the factor.
There’s no assured, step-by-step course of that may land you the freelance writing profession of your desires. Ask 10 totally different writers, and also you’ll get 10 totally different how-I-made-it tales — or, extra precisely, how-I’m-making-it-up-as-I-go-along tales.
The precise mechanics of the factor are fairly easy, although not straightforward: Have good concepts, be good at explicating them clearly, and spend a number of time and vitality on the Sisyphean footwork of discovering publications that may pay you to publish them. (And convincing them to take action.)
As you’ve seemingly already found, this weblog is a superb useful resource for determining these logistics and bettering your abilities at every degree. We additionally provide an e-book devoted to freelance writing jobs for newcomers.
The trustworthy fact about making a dwelling as a freelancer
So far as stringing it right into a full-time dwelling, although, I’ll be trustworthy with you: A *lot* of it’s luck, and in addition getting very cozy with rejection. If I get a optimistic response for simply 10-15% of my pitches, I depend that as an enormous win.
However when you’ve got your coronary heart set on making it as a contract author, there are some actionable steps you may take to make it occur.
Right here’s my greatest recommendation for learn how to begin freelance writing.
1. Hunt down schooling or coaching
Don’t fear; you don’t need to have a proper diploma to be a contract author. However for those who’re ranging from scratch, you’ll seemingly need to educate your self not directly, so you may produce high quality work from the get-go.
If you happen to don’t have the cash or time to get a level from a college, search for an on-line writing course. They’re usually extra reasonably priced than formal levels, and you’ll work your approach via them from dwelling (and within the evenings or on weekends for those who’ve obtained a day job).
If you happen to’re planning to go to school or are within the technique of incomes your diploma, chances are you’ll need to think about formal research that may make it easier to obtain your objective.
Opposite to well-liked opinion, English main jobs might be worthwhile, and the identical is true of different writing-intensive majors like inventive writing, communications and journalism.
Finding out humanities flexes your rhetorical muscle mass, which is able to make you a significantly better author and pitcher. Plus, these packages lend you the delicate abilities employers search for — which is nice, because you’ll seemingly want a day job when you’re discovering a approach to make the entire yoga-pants-forever factor work.
If school is already within the rear view, you may also think about grad college. However watch out. The extra expense received’t assure you’re employed down the road, and for those who’re already coping with scholar loans, you could possibly simply be digging the opening deeper. Within the case of freelancing, it’s extra about expertise and follow than the flamboyant pedigree.
Thankfully, for those who’re aching to return to highschool, you don’t need to go broke to do it. Many MA, MFA and PhD packages include tuition waivers, supplied you educate, or help in educating, numerous undergrad lessons when you research. You may as well discover fellowships, scholarships and different types of loan-free monetary support for those who’re diligent.
2. Contemplate beginning with a employees job
Sure, I do know: Discovering an editorial place — or any job, actually — is simpler mentioned than performed.
However web sites and publications do rent writers, and getting a full-time place provides you with two wonderful, irreplicable advantages: an immediate stack of clips and a world of hands-on schooling you simply can’t get every other approach.
Working carefully with editors and different creatives on daily basis will make you a greater author, interval; for those who work for a digital publication (seemingly), you’re sure to get some search engine optimisation coaching and different know-how within the cut price. I do know for a truth I owe my success to my tenure at The Penny Hoarder, whose managing editor — Alexis Grant, who additionally began this web site — basically handed me a writing profession entire fabric in hiring me.
three. Get on the market and begin pitching
“That is the way you do it: you sit down on the keyboard and you place one phrase after one other till it’s performed. It’s that straightforward, and that onerous.” – Neil Gaiman
On the finish of the day, the one approach to grow to be a contract author is…to start out writing.
Which means taking a fairly scary leap: You’ve obtained to start out pitching publications and making use of for gigs even for those who don’t have many clips. Hey, everybody’s a newbie initially.
After all, even for those who’ve by no means printed skilled work, there are different methods to showcase your writing prowess. Bought a killer quick story that hasn’t discovered a house fairly but? Possibly even a very well-wrought essay from school? I utilized for The Penny Hoarder with a brief memoir I wrote in grad college and — I child you not — wine-tasting notes. Most employers and purchasers are extra involved with whether or not you’ve obtained the products than the place you’ve managed to land them.
Unsure the place to start out in the case of discovering paid writing jobs? Take a look at these 10 on-line gold mines for locating freelance writing gigs.
four. Showcase your work on-line
Your pitches will likely be far more practical for those who hyperlink to an internet portfolio the place editors can try your work.
This doesn’t need to be something fancy! A static web site will do, even one created with a template. So far as a portfolio is anxious, I like to recommend Contently. Not solely is it a clear, easy-to-use digital showcase, however it could actually additionally land you helpful work: the platform matches editors with writers and different content material creators based mostly on particular beats and ability units. I’ve earned actually 1000’s of just because I selected to make use of it.
If you wish to take this a step additional, begin a weblog. Writing recurrently is a good way to follow your craft, and also you may even develop a following to your work. A weblog additionally provides editors extra samples to evaluate after they click on over to your web site out of your pitch; each weblog put up is an instance of the form of work you do. That doesn’t imply they need to be good, however know that when you’ve got a weblog, editors will look to that for perception in your ability and creativity.
Lastly, having a web site will make you are feeling far more respectable. (Impostor Syndrome is completely a factor on this enterprise, so prepare!)
Oh, and when you’re at it, be sure that your social media accounts mirror nicely on you, too. Any good editor will discover these to be taught extra about you.
5. Networking: Yup, it’s a factor for writers, too
As a serious-business introvert, “networking” has all the time felt like a four-letter phrase to me. In actual fact, I used to be drawn to freelancing largely as a result of it obtained me away from the noisy, crowded workplace atmosphere. (I really like you, The Penny Hoarder of us, however ya’ll are *not* quiet.)
Nonetheless, my first main shopper — the one which made quitting my day job potential, and whose work nonetheless makes up a large share of my earnings — was a chance I landed partly due to a shared connection. I’ve additionally written net copy for health club acquaintances, family and friends members, which had been gainful tasks each financially and in broadening my expertise.
The Write Life’s managing editor Jessica Lawlor blogs about how she landed her first freelance shopper, in addition to those she discovered thereafter. From sorority sisters to Twitter pals to current skilled connections, almost each single story includes networking.
Living proof: Don’t overlook any of your present social spheres in the case of writing alternatives, and prepare to actively work to extend them. Everybody wants the written phrase typically!
6. Determine learn how to receives a commission
This sounds apparent, however it may be a hurdle whenever you’re simply getting began. When you’ve discovered a shopper and produced the work you promised, you want a approach to get cash from their checking account into yours.
Many freelancers have given up on paper checks and rely totally on on-line funds. If you happen to’re simply testing the waters as a freelancer, maintain it easy by making a PDF bill and emailing it to your shopper, then asking for cost by way of an easy-to-use system like PayPal.
Unsure what to incorporate in your first bill? We’ve obtained you lined! Right here’s learn how to write an bill, plus an bill instance.
As soon as you are feeling assured you’re sticking with freelance writing, it is sensible to maneuver to a software program that may create the bill for you and make it easier to monitor funds. We’ve obtained a listing of a number of the greatest bill turbines for freelancers.
7. Know this: the work isn’t all the time glamorous
Once I inform individuals I’m a contract author, they typically assume I’m publishing completely in shiny magazines with stylish, single-word titles. The closest I’ve come to that, to this point, is Yahoo! — a byline I’m very pleased with, however whose trademarked exclamation level doesn’t precisely bespeak magnificence or sophistication.
The majority of my paying work is much much less illustrious, however crucial for rounding out my checking account. Web site copy, search engine optimisation work and listicle-style weblog posts aren’t what anybody desires of after they really feel the pull of the pen, however they’re a number of the most dependable methods for freelance writers to pay the payments. Many companies can present a gentle stream of this sort of work, changing into the anchor purchasers by which you construct a semi-reliable paycheck.
The thought is to select up as a lot of this bread-and-butter work as it is advisable survive, after which use the remainder of your time to pitch these dreamy tasks you may’t wait to work on.
It may be a tough steadiness to strike, however even un-fun writing all the time counts as helpful follow. You’ll hone your craft and earn your maintain all whereas amassing extra clips — and higher chops — to indicate off whenever you’re pitching the massive boys. Then, you may slowly scale as much as working completely on better-paid, extra fascinating content material.
eight. Anticipate the sudden
Fickle earnings, bizarre hours, completely unmitigated fridge entry — working for your self is an odd and typically harmful world.
On the very least, you’ll need to put together your self financially for issues like managing earnings circulation and bills, paying your personal taxes, shopping for your personal well being care and funding your personal retirement. And for even the very best writers, purchasers come and go, so remember to construct up a big cushion for these inevitable dry durations.
It’s additionally a good suggestion to impose guidelines to lend your otherwise-loosey-goosey day construction — like deciding you’ll solely write at your desk versus your sofa, as an example, or making your self placed on actual pants during your work day. (Or possibly not. Let’s not get loopy.)
If I needed to summarize all of it in short, I’d say this: Changing into a contract author requires equal components semi-pathological ranges of type-A dedication, boundless curiosity, and whole insensitivity to rejection.
Oh, and luck. Numerous luck.
However like the entire greatest issues in life, despite the fact that it’s not a straightforward journey, the street to the write life is certainly one value taking — and one we’re excited that can assist you journey.
We up to date this put up in 2019 so it’s extra helpful and related for our readers!
In regards to the Writer: Jamie Cattanach
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a author whose work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, Ms. Journal, the Institution, Roads & Kingdoms and different retailers.