How to Win the Freelance Writing Game

Carol Tice

How to Win the Freelance Writing Game. Makealivingwriting.comTrying to make it as a freelance writer can feel a lot like trying to play a very complicated game — one where no one tells you the rules.

Well, today, I get out the freelance-writing game box, open it up, unfold the instruction sheet and lay it out for you.

There are basically two things you need to do a lot of to earn a good living as a freelance writer.

1. Write a lot

I know a lot of writers who don’t seem to write anything until it’s time to turn in a paid assignment. This is not a good approach, unless you have deadlines every day.

Good writers get that way because they write in great quantity.

Most good ones I know usually write every day.

They get feedback on their writing from editors and other writers, which they take to heart.

And they get better and faster at writing.

In their free time, they keep a journal.

Or write a blog.

Many writers are willing to do this write-a-lot part. Often, you’re sort of addicted to writing, anyway.

That’s how you got this idea of earning from your writing, anyway, right?

But here’s the part most writers aren’t willing to do:

2. Market your business a lot

Whenever I meet a writer who complains they are not earning well, I ask them what they are doing to market their business.

They always have the exact same answer for me:

“Well, actually, I’m not really doing any marketing.”

What?

Think of any small business you patronize. Do you think they would have any customers if they never marketed their business?

What happens to businesses that don’t do marketing is simple. They go out of business.

You might imagine that as a creative type, the rules of business are somehow different for you. That you’re magical and special.

But the rules are exactly the same.

Quality freelance writing gigs typically will not jump out from behind a bush and bite you, especially when you’re just starting out.

You have to proactively rise up on your hind legs, and go out and find those clients.

If you do lazy marketing like reading Craigslist ads, you are swimming in a low-value prospect pool, and you will tend to get low-paying clients.

You’ll have to go places that 10,000 other writers aren’t looking to find better pay.

People are always asking me what sort of marketing works best – is it Twitter, emails, direct mail, cold calling?

Here is the best kind of marketing to do: The kind you are willing to stick with.

Here’s why that is…

Have you ever wondered what sort of game freelance writing is, really?

Once you understand what kind of game it is, I think you’ll be able to play it to win.

So here it is:

It’s a numbers game

Linda Formichelli and I find ourselves saying this on the Freelance Writers Den forums all the time.

Writers tell us:

“I’ve sent out this one query letter and I’m waiting to hear back.”

What?

To earn a living at this, you need to send many query letters, or make hundreds of cold calls, or send dozens of warm emails, attend many in-person networking events, or whatever else it is you do for marketing. (You can learn about all of those marketing methods by subscribing to this blog and taking my Marketing 101 course, BTW.)

It’s like the lottery.

Enter more times, and you’re more apt to win the jackpot.

Place bets on many different horses, and it’s more likely one of your horses will finish in the money.

Everybody understands how those games are played.

Play the freelance writing game the same way, and you’ll shorten the time it takes to arrive in the winner’s circle.

Join my freelance writer community

13 Comments

  1. Jamie

    It’s so simple but true.

    I spent years writing fiction and no fiction and most of it is gathering dust in an old wardrobe in my parent’s house. I participated in forums for feedback but usually fell short of trying to “market” my work. When we are young and idealistic we often think not to taint our creative genius with marketing – but it is absolutely essential if we are to get our writing in front of readers.

    What’s more is when we do market and start achieving results it helps give momentum to the habit of writing daily. Writing daily is necessary practice for maintaining the habit and speed of writing also. Like exercising regularly – we tend to get rusty if we don’t keep it up.

    Thanks for sharing Carol – good stuff:)

  2. Anita

    That pretty well sums it up: Write a lot. And market a lot.

    If only I enjoyed the second as well as the first.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, that’s pretty much the problem in a nutshell. And many of us with journalism training were basically never prepared for a world where marketing our writing services would be required, beyond interviewing for a staff job we’d hold for decades.

      But those days are over, and now marketing is essential.

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