It’s only been a couple of years since I decided to start freelance writing to supplement my full-time income. I have a degree in writing, so I figured I’d put that degree to work.
What I quickly learned was that my degree meant nothing in the freelance world.
After half a year with no prospects, I decided to seek out successful freelancers and learn from them.
Here are the five most useful rules for a full- OR part-time freelancer I learned:
There are many ways to do this thing
No one has found a singular path to a freelance writing career, but successful freelancers have paved the way for those that come behind them.
By following the blueprint specifically geared toward part-time freelancers in Linda Formichelli’s Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race, I’ve been able to create an actionable plan to help me organize and really put my spare time to work.
Because I’m limited on time, adhering to a schedule is really important. If I’m taking a class, I do my best to dedicate a couple of hours a day to this. I also dedicate one day a week to devote a couple of hours after work to marketing. I choose another day for coming up with ideas and another for research/interviews. I schedule the same days and times for these activities to establish a routine.
Consistency is key
I learned that I had to remain consistent in my marketing and pitching before the gigs started coming in. I carve out specific times for marketing, pitching, and writing.
Last year, with no plan, I had only two writing gigs. This year, I lined up seven gigs.
Keep learning and improving
Since I spent an entire college career learning how to write, I thought it wasn’t necessary for me to take any more classes or trainings. I was wrong.
There are so many different opportunities for a freelance writer, and not all of it is taught in a classroom. I recently enrolled in the Article Writing Masterclass, because I want to write for magazines. I’ve learned how to dissect a magazine’s content and how to write headlines.
These skills have provided me with the tools I need to figure out exactly what a publication is looking for (definitely didn’t learn that one in the classroom).
Don’t pitch blindly, or contact an editor before you’ve done your homework. I learned the hard way that pitching blind could not only ruin my chances at an assignment, but could also ruin my reputation with that publication.
Editors know whether you’ve done your homework or not, and the chance to pitch that publication later on may be ruined. Patience and the willingness to research are essential in this business.
Content mills and low-paying gigs will not give you the freelancer’s life you’re looking for.
When I first started this journey, I was writing for a publication that paid 5 cents a word. They wanted heavily researched articles for very little money. Listening to freelancers with experience taught me that these gigs weren’t going to bring me the income I was looking for.
I decided to drop that job and focus my time on finding clients who were willing to pay well. I’m currently working on an article for a print publication that’s paying me 60 cents a word. Now, that’s better.
Nicole Slaughter-Graham is a part-time freelancer who hopes to make the jump to full-time freelance writer in the near future. She also blogs about her love for reading and literature at Many Hats.