Six Things Freelance Writing Taught Me
For cash-strapped writers – which, let’s be honest, is most of us – freelancing is a means of making ends meet while doing what we love most: writing. But more than that, working as a gun for hire also serves as an awesome tactic to learn the ropes and pick up things like:
1. How to sell a pitch. Landing a freelance writing gig is like submitting a novel. You have to stand out from the rabble – which means crafting a clever cover letter. Something tight and professional (but not boring, boredom is the Black Plague of queries) which showcases your writing savvy. After hundreds of hours trawling through online classifieds and shooting off queries, I’ve got the CV thing down to a freaking science. That said, the tweaking and tuning never ends.
2. How to research. Since freelancers write across fields and professions, research skills are a stamped, signed and sealed must. It can also be kind of fun. For instance, a while back, I landed a gig writing targeted Tweets for a floating real estate honcho. I ended up submerged in a crap ton of did-you-knows about aquatic living, and to this day, I know more about float homes than most people are ever exposed to.
3. How to keep it sharp. Most writing projects have a word limit. For instance, I shoot for 1000 words when it comes to newsletters, and about 500 for articles. For Tweets, it’s even less: 140 characters. That means making each sentence count. The flip side of this is that I’ve been kind of stunted. I can crank out short stories and novellas fine, but I struggle with length. So just be careful about that. Believe me. Nothing more frustrating than plotting out a 50k novel just to top out at 20k.
4. How to self-edit. Kind of obvious, but freelancers have to polish their own stuff. Sometimes, clients will make little changes, but the writer must know their way about the grammar-go-round. No one’s going to hire a freelancer if their writing sample is chock-full of more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.
5. How to stick to a deadline. Deadlines are super important. Ever finished an assignment the night before it’s due? When there’s an immediate cut-off, there’s no time to wait for inspiration to beam down from the heavens. We don’t have a choice but to take matters into our own hands – and that’s when the magic happens.
6. How to treat writing
like the serious profession it is. Like accountants, freelancers exist in
the frame of mind where writing is our livelihood. Once that mental shift
occurs, writing becomes a hell of a lot easier. It’s not just a catharsis. It’s
a career. And that’s what it’s all about.