“Attempting to make it as a contract author is frightening AF.”
With a topic line that daring (and correct), I wasted no time in opening the e-mail. It was from a younger lady who’d lately graduated with a twin diploma in English and journalism, asking me how, how, how on the planet do I make a residing this fashion?
It wasn’t the primary time I’d obtained an e-mail to this impact, which feels patently insane. In case you’d instructed me simply two years in the past I’d be incomes my preserve as a full-time freelancer — not to mention giving recommendation on the topic — I’d doubtless have laughed in your face. I used to be working a workers writing gig on the time, and had by no means a lot as drafted a pitch to an outdoor publication.
I solely bought courageous sufficient to start out submitting concepts after plenty of encouragement from my good pal (and fellow TWL author!) Susan Shain. Thanks once more, Susan.
Now, I’ve bought over a 12 months of working for myself below my belt — a 12 months during which I truly 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 develop into a standard dialog.
However it’s by no means simple to reply.
So actually although — how do you do develop into 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 goals. Ask 10 completely different writers, and also you’ll get 10 completely 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 simple: Have good concepts, be good at explicating them clearly, and spend plenty of time and power on the Sisyphean footwork of discovering publications that may pay you to publish them. (And convincing them to take action.)
As you’ve doubtless already found, this weblog is a superb useful resource for determining these logistics and enhancing your expertise at every stage. We additionally supply an e-book devoted to freelance writing jobs for novices.
The sincere fact about making a residing as a freelancer
So far as stringing it right into a full-time residing, although, I’ll be sincere with you: A *lot* of it’s luck, and likewise getting very cozy with rejection. If I get a constructive response for simply 10-15% of my pitches, I depend that as an enormous win.
However when you have your coronary heart set on making it as a contract author, there are some actionable steps you’ll be able to take to make it occur.
Right here’s my greatest recommendation for begin freelance writing.
1. Hunt down schooling or coaching
Don’t fear; you don’t should have a proper diploma to be a contract author. However should you’re ranging from scratch, you’ll doubtless wish to educate your self ultimately, so you’ll be able to produce high quality work from the get-go.
In case you don’t have the cash or time to get a level from a college, search for an on-line writing course. They’re sometimes extra inexpensive than formal levels, and you’ll work your method by way of them from residence (and within the evenings or on weekends should you’ve bought a day job).
In case you’re planning to go to school or are within the strategy of incomes your diploma, chances are you’ll wish to take into account formal research that may assist you obtain your purpose.
Opposite to standard 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 tissues, which is able to make you a a lot better author and pitcher. Plus, these applications lend you the comfortable expertise employers search for — which is nice, because you’ll doubtless want a day job when you’re discovering a strategy to make the entire yoga-pants-forever factor work.
If faculty is already within the rear view, you may also take into account grad college. However watch out. The extra expense gained’t assure you’re employed down the road, and should you’re already coping with scholar loans, you possibly can simply be digging the outlet deeper. Within the case of freelancing, it’s extra about expertise and observe than the flamboyant pedigree.
Fortuitously, should you’re aching to return to high school, you don’t should go broke to do it. Many MA, MFA and PhD applications include tuition waivers, offered you educate, or help in educating, a lot of undergrad lessons when you research. You too can discover fellowships, scholarships and different types of loan-free monetary assist should you’re diligent.
2. Think about beginning with a workers job
Sure, I do know: Discovering an editorial place — or any job, actually — is less complicated mentioned than performed.
However web sites and publications do rent writers, and getting a full-time place offers you two superb, irreplicable advantages: an on the spot stack of clips and a world of hands-on schooling you simply can’t get some other method.
Working intently with editors and different creatives every single day will make you a greater author, interval; should you work for a digital publication (doubtless), 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 — primarily 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 simple, and that arduous.” – Neil Gaiman
On the finish of the day, the one strategy to develop into a contract author is…to start out writing.
Meaning taking a fairly scary leap: You’ve bought to start out pitching publications and making use of for gigs even should you don’t have many clips. Hey, everybody’s a newbie in the beginning.
After all, even should you’ve by no means printed skilled work, there are different methods to showcase your writing prowess. Obtained a killer quick story that hasn’t discovered a house fairly but? Perhaps even a very well-wrought essay from faculty? 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 shoppers are extra involved with whether or not you’ve bought the products than the place you’ve managed to land them.
Undecided the place to start out with regards to discovering paid writing jobs? Try these 10 on-line gold mines for locating freelance writing gigs.
four. Showcase your work on-line
Your pitches might be far simpler should you hyperlink to a web-based portfolio the place editors can try your work.
This doesn’t should 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 might probably additionally land you invaluable work: the platform matches editors with writers and different content material creators based mostly on particular beats and talent units. I’ve earned actually hundreds of dollars just because I selected to make use of it.
If you wish to take this a step additional, begin a weblog. Writing repeatedly is a good way to observe your craft, and also you may even develop a following on your work. A weblog additionally offers editors extra samples to overview after they click on over to your web site out of your pitch; each weblog put up is an instance of the sort of work you do. That doesn’t imply they should be excellent, however know that when you have a weblog, editors will look to that for perception in your talent and creativity.
Lastly, having an internet site will make you’re feeling far more legit. (Impostor Syndrome is completely a factor on this enterprise, so prepare!)
Oh, and when you’re at it, ensure 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 at all times felt like a four-letter phrase to me. The truth is, I used to be drawn to freelancing largely as a result of it bought me away from the noisy, crowded workplace surroundings. (I like you, The Penny Hoarder of us, however ya’ll are *not* quiet.)
However, my first main consumer — the one which made quitting my day job attainable, and whose work nonetheless makes up a large share of my revenue — was a chance I landed partially due to a shared connection. I’ve additionally written internet copy for gymnasium 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 consumer, in addition to those she discovered thereafter. From sorority sisters to Twitter mates to current skilled connections, practically each single story entails networking.
Living proof: Don’t overlook any of your present social spheres with regards to writing alternatives, and prepare to actively work to extend them. Everybody wants the written phrase generally!
6. Work out receives a commission
This sounds apparent, however it may be a hurdle whenever you’re simply getting began. When you’ve discovered a consumer and produced the work you promised, you want a strategy to get cash from their checking account into yours.
Many freelancers have given up on paper checks and rely totally on on-line funds. In case you’re simply testing the waters as a freelancer, preserve it easy by making a PDF bill and emailing it to your consumer, then asking for cost through an easy-to-use system like PayPal.
Undecided what to incorporate in your first bill? We’ve bought you lined! Right here’s write an bill, plus an bill instance.
As soon as you’re feeling assured you’re sticking with freelance writing, it is smart to maneuver to a software program that may create the bill for you and assist you monitor funds. We’ve bought an inventory of a few of the greatest bill turbines for freelancers.
7. Know this: the work isn’t at all times glamorous
Once I inform individuals I’m a contract author, they usually 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 proud of, however whose trademarked exclamation level doesn’t precisely bespeak class or sophistication.
The majority of my paying work is much much less illustrious, however vital for rounding out my checking account. Web site copy, search engine optimisation work and listicle-style weblog posts aren’t what anybody goals of after they really feel the pull of the pen, however they’re a few of the most dependable methods for freelance writers to pay the payments. Many companies can present a gradual stream of this sort of work, turning into the anchor shoppers by which you construct a semi-reliable paycheck.
The concept is to choose up as a lot of this bread-and-butter work as it is advisable to survive, after which use the remainder of your time to pitch these dreamy tasks you’ll be able to’t wait to work on.
It may be a tough steadiness to strike, however even un-fun writing at all times counts as invaluable observe. You’ll hone your craft and earn your preserve all whereas amassing extra clips — and higher chops — to point out off whenever you’re pitching the massive boys. Then, you’ll be able to slowly scale as much as working completely on better-paid, extra attention-grabbing content material.
eight. Count on the surprising
Fickle revenue, bizarre hours, completely unmitigated fridge entry — working for your self is a wierd and generally harmful world.
On the very least, you’ll wish to put together your self financially for issues like managing revenue circulation and bills, paying your personal taxes, shopping for your personal well being care and funding your personal retirement. And for even the perfect writers, shoppers come and go, so make sure you construct up a big cushion for these inevitable dry intervals.
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 illustration, 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 briefly, I’d say this: Changing into a contract author requires equal elements semi-pathological ranges of type-A dedication, boundless curiosity, and complete insensitivity to rejection.
Oh, and luck. Quite a lot of luck.
However like the entire greatest issues in life, despite the fact that it’s not a simple journey, the highway to the write life is certainly one value taking — and one we’re excited that will help 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 Creator: 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.