Freelance Writing Workshop
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Freelance Writing Workshop

Being a writer is a fantastic job for the right person. Some people know that they want to be writers early in childhood when they become the go-to storyteller for all the other kids on the block. Other people realize that they enjoy writing only after they take a mandatory composition class in high school or college. For others, it can be any number of things that spurns an interest in writing that prompts them to pursue a career in writing.

Make no mistake about it; being a writer can be a great career. It isn't for everyone though, and most writers have to spend quite some time paying their dues before making any substantial money. So don't quit your day job just yet, but get ready to roll up your sleeves and figure out if you have the gumption needed to soon become a professional writer.


It doesn't matter if you are a recent college graduate or a grandmother of three, by joining the ranks of people who want to make writing a career you are gaining membership to a diverse crowd. Writers are as varied as the things they write about; business finance writers and erotica writers compose works on two completely different topics, but they are all deemed writers nonetheless.

You should figure out why you want to write before you jump into figuring out how you are going to write…make sure you have the passion and drive needed to become a professional - and possibly successful - writer.


Do you have a passion for writing? 

Some writers have such a joy and passion for writing that they thirst for time to write. Ideas are constantly flowing through their minds. Some writers are notorious for pointing out flaws in other people's writing, especially flaws which are a result of a paid writer (such as advertisement copy and things like that). Are you happiest when you are writing? Do you feel as though your writing is a result of an innate talent you have been blessed with?

You will be a happier professional writer if you actually enjoy what you are doing. You'll be an elated writer if you love what you are doing. Sitting down to compose a writing project should not feel like a daunting task to you. Of course there are times for most writers when they need to tackle a project which they are not particularly thrilled about, such as when composing a series of articles regarding a subject for which the writer does not have much interest at all.

The act of writing, however, should not be something which feels like a constant drain. If you hope to spend the rest of your life cultivating a writing career and being a successful writer, you might want to second guess your decision if the act of writing leaves you exhausted and frustrated. Remember that a writing career is more than a way to make money…it should also be a creative outlet for the writer.

Do you have delusions of fat paychecks? 

Yes, some successful writers make big bucks. You should not allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that you will instantly be met with great success and the checks will roll in like mad. The truth is that some writers - many of them quite talented - never make enough money from their writing to pay the mortgage or put groceries on the table.

Money should not be your main motivation for wanting to become a writer because if it is, you are not only setting yourself up for disappointment but you are in it for the wrong reasons. There are better ways to become a millionaire than writing. Go play the lotto.

Do you want to be Carrie Bradshaw?

The show Sex in the City made a writer's life seem glamorous and impossibly chic. Although it is true that some well-known writers live an enviable life, not every writer is able to achieve this type of lifestyle. If you are chasing after a certain lifestyle instead of following your heart's desire to put your thoughts to paper, you're in it for the wrong reasons. Don't forget, too, that Carrie Bradshaw was usually broke.


What do the people around you say?

Barring comments from your parents, who probably think everything you do turns into gold anyhow, are you constantly being told that you should be a writer? Maybe you write short stories to read to your friends and they all gush about your talent. Perhaps you contribute to a company newsletter and your fellow employees tell you that your column is the only thing in the entire newsletter that they bother to read.

If you continually get comments about how you should be a writer, and you personally agree with that assessment, then this is a good indicator that you may want to give it a shot. On the other hand, if you secretly write stories and poetry but luck them away and don't let anyone ever read them, you are doing yourself a disservice. The comments of the people around you can be golden when you are trying to hone your writing skills.

What does your academic history say?

When you were in school, did you constantly get the highest marks in your grammar and composition classes? If you wrote for the school newspaper, were you praised for your engaging writing style? You may have had teachers who took you aside and intimated to you that you have a talent for writing. You should not discount these experiences, even if high school or college were years ago.

It is often during these formidable years that people come to the realization that they should be professional writers, but sometimes the fear of rejection or the idea that being a professional writer is unattainable stops people from trying. If it has been years since you were in school, but you can still remember having a real talent for writing, you can use these memories as a catalyst to get you started.

Can you truly envision yourself as a writer?

Some writers truly enjoy writing, but once they turn professional they don't enjoy it nearly as much because they do not like dealing with deadlines, editors, and the whole process of finding their next paying gig. When you write professionally, there may be days when you just don't feel like writing but with deadlines looming you have no choice.

This means that writer's block must be conquered, procrastination pushed aside, and a gung-ho writing attitude embraced. If the idea of writing under a deadline and then having your writing blasted to bits by an editor turns your stomach then you will either need to get over it or find a different profession.

When you adopt the frame of mind that "this writing thing" is what you do... then you're a writer!


 School work counts. 

You may think that an article you wrote for your school newspaper is too lame to put into your résumé, but the truth of the matter is that anything is fair game when you are first padding your portfolio to present to potential employers. If you ever did any editing or formatting for school projects you can also consider this great work experience, because even though you didn't get paid for it that doesn't mean you didn't do the work.

The question is, when you did these things for your school work, did you do them well and were they well received by the readers? If you did a bang-up job and everyone praised you for your efforts, then you can consider this valuable experience. Conversely, if you received ho-hum reviews or were harshly criticized, this can be considered good preparation for entering the world of professional writing. Editors and readers can be quite harsh, after all, so get ready to develop a thick skin when it comes to the feedback you receive.

Do you engage people with your writing?

It's okay if you don't have any real experience other than engaging people with your writing. You don't necessarily need to have a history of writing for a school newspaper or composing online content for websites as long as you have a real talent for writing. Although it is true that you are going to have to pay your dues and probably take a series of non-paying or low-paying jobs to build up your résumé and reputation as a writer, if you have a great talent then it shouldn't be long before higher paying jobs are heading your way. Don't let a lack of concrete experience stop you from pursuing your dream of becoming a professional writer.

Are you able to simplify complicated subjects?

Having the ability to take a complicated process and break it down into easily comprehensible writing is a much sought-after talent in writers, so if this is one of your talents then be sure you show it off. For example, if you can take a question like "What is a heart attack?" and turn it into an informative and entertaining article that is easily understandable, you have already surpassed many professional writers. Since there is a fine line between being engaging and informative and being informal and exceedingly conversational, writers who can strike the correct balance while still entertaining readers have a real future in writing.


Writing may come easily to you, but paying gigs may not.

It's true that you need to have some talent if you want to be a professional writer, but it is not true that paying jobs will fall into the laps of talented writers easily. In fact, some very prestigious literary publications pay their contributors with nothing more than a copy of the publication. If you aspire to make your living as a writer, you need to spend a good deal of time looking for paying jobs.

Freelance writers especially will continually split their time between looking for writing jobs, applying for writing jobs, and working on the jobs they have. On rare occasions, freelance writers will have jobs sent to them unsolicited by previous employers or people who have seen their work and were impressed. Most of the time, however, you will spend a good portion of your time looking for your next gig.

Don't think that just because you are a good writer you can jump right in and start making a fortune. If you are one of the lucky few writers who meet with great success early on, then consider yourself quite blessed. If, on the other hand, you are like most writers and you need to spend some time paying your dues in order to get your name established in the writing world, then keep on it and don't allow yourself to get discouraged.

Get ready for some competition.

This probably does not come as a huge shock to you, but you are not the only person out there who wants to make a living as a writer. There are probably people out there who have more drive, more ambition, and more time on their hands than you do, and you will more than likely wind up going against these writers when you apply for a new writing job. You should always keep this in mind when you apply for a writing gig.

Don't send prospective employers sloppy writing samples riddled with grammatical errors. Don't send queries to prospective employers which are incredibly informal, full of Internet acronyms like IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) or TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now). You should always suppose that someone equal to your writing talent is also applying for the same job as you are, and therefore you need to make sure that you always put your best foot forward.

Free spirit or not, you have to meet deadlines.

It doesn't matter if you are writing an article for no pay or if you are composing an article which pays a substantial amount of money. When you miss a deadline, you let people down and tarnish your reputation as a writer. You have to learn to manage your time to where you are not constantly in danger of missing a deadline. This means that if you have small children, you certainly shouldn't wait until the night before a deadline to hunker down and get a big project done because you never really know when a small child will feel ill at night and need your attention. Of course, emergencies and other interruptions do occur, and most editors are pretty understanding as long as you don't make it a common issue to need extensions.

You can avoid most needs for deadline extensions as long as you work with a consistent schedule and don't leave things for the last minute. If you have visions of lazily composing profound poetry by the fireplace and then getting the poetry to your editor when you feel that it's ready, then you may want to hold on to your day job until you manage to find an editor who is willing to wait as long as it takes for your next masterpiece. Here is a heads-up: that's probably not going to happen. Writing is certainly a creative occupation, but that doesn't mean that you don't need to adhere to deadlines.

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