“Attempting to make it as a contract author is horrifying 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 just lately graduated with a twin diploma in English and journalism, asking me how, how, how on the earth do I make a dwelling this fashion?
It wasn’t the primary time I’d acquired an e-mail to this impact, which feels patently insane. Should you’d informed me simply two years in the past I’d be incomes my hold 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 received courageous sufficient to start out submitting concepts after plenty of encouragement from my good buddy (and fellow TWL author!) Susan Shain. Thanks once more, Susan.
Now, I’ve received over a 12 months of working for myself below my belt — a 12 months through which I truly earned greater than I did as a staffer. I get pleasure from 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 grow to be a typical dialog.
Nevertheless it’s by no means simple to reply.
So actually although — how do you do grow to be 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 totally different writers, and also you’ll get 10 totally 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 vitality 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 bettering your expertise at every degree. We additionally provide an e-book devoted to freelance writing jobs for newcomers.
The trustworthy fact about making a dwelling as a freelancer
So far as stringing it right into a full-time dwelling, although, I’ll be trustworthy with you: A *lot* of it’s luck, and in addition 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 if in case 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 finest recommendation for the best way to begin freelance writing.
1. Search out training or coaching
Don’t fear; you don’t must have a proper diploma to be a contract author. However when you’re ranging from scratch, you’ll doubtless wish to educate your self indirectly, so you’ll be able to produce high quality work from the get-go.
Should 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 reasonably priced than formal levels, and you may work your method via them from house (and within the evenings or on weekends when you’ve received a day job).
Should you’re planning to go to school or are within the strategy of incomes your diploma, it’s possible you’ll wish to take into account formal research that may allow you to obtain your purpose.
Opposite to widespread opinion, English main jobs could be worthwhile, and the identical is true of different writing-intensive majors like artistic writing, communications and journalism.
Learning humanities flexes your rhetorical muscle tissue, which is able to make you a significantly better author and pitcher. Plus, these applications lend you the tender expertise employers search for — which is nice, because you’ll doubtless want a day job whilst you’re discovering a technique 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 received’t assure you’re employed down the road, and when you’re already coping with pupil loans, you might simply be digging the opening deeper. Within the case of freelancing, it’s extra about expertise and follow than the flowery pedigree.
Fortuitously, when you’re aching to return to high school, you don’t must go broke to do it. Many MA, MFA and PhD applications include tuition waivers, offered you educate, or help in instructing, plenty of undergrad lessons whilst you research. You too can discover fellowships, scholarships and different types of loan-free monetary help when you’re diligent.
2. Contemplate beginning with a workers job
Sure, I do know: Discovering an editorial place — or any job, actually — is less complicated stated than executed.
However web sites and publications do rent writers, and getting a full-time place provides you with two wonderful, irreplicable advantages: an instantaneous stack of clips and a world of hands-on training 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; when you work for a digital publication (doubtless), you’re certain to get some search engine marketing coaching and different know-how within the discount. 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 complete material 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 executed. It’s that simple, and that arduous.” – Neil Gaiman
On the finish of the day, the one technique to grow to be a contract author is…to start out writing.
Which means taking a fairly scary leap: You’ve received to start out pitching publications and making use of for gigs even when you don’t have many clips. Hey, everybody’s a newbie initially.
After all, even when you’ve by no means printed skilled work, there are different methods to showcase your writing prowess. Acquired a killer brief 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 received the products than the place you’ve managed to land them.
Undecided the place to start out relating to discovering paid writing jobs? Take a look at these 10 on-line gold mines for locating freelance writing gigs.
four. Showcase your work on-line
Your pitches might be far more practical when you hyperlink to a web-based portfolio the place editors can take a look at your work.
This doesn’t must be something fancy! A static web site will do, even one created with a template. So far as a portfolio is worried, I like to recommend Contently. Not solely is it a clear, easy-to-use digital showcase, however it could possibly additionally land you beneficial work: the platform matches editors with writers and different content material creators based mostly on particular beats and ability units. I’ve earned actually 1000’s of dollars just because I selected to make use of it.
If you wish to take this a step additional, begin a weblog. Writing usually is an effective way to follow your craft, and also you would possibly even develop a following in your work. A weblog additionally provides editors extra samples to assessment once they click on over to your website out of your pitch; each weblog put up is an instance of the form of work you do. That doesn’t imply they must be good, however know that if in case you have a weblog, editors will look to that for perception in your ability and creativity.
Lastly, having an internet site will make you’re feeling far more professional. (Impostor Syndrome is completely a factor on this enterprise, so prepare!)
Oh, and whilst you’re at it, make certain your social media accounts replicate properly 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. In truth, I used to be drawn to freelancing largely as a result of it received me away from the noisy, crowded workplace atmosphere. (I really like you, The Penny Hoarder people, however ya’ll are *not* quiet.)
However, my first main shopper — the one which made quitting my day job attainable, and whose work nonetheless makes up a large proportion of my earnings — was a possibility I landed partially due to a shared connection. I’ve additionally written net copy for health club acquaintances, family and friends members, which have 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 shopper, in addition to those she discovered thereafter. From sorority sisters to Twitter pals to current skilled connections, almost each single story includes networking.
Working example: Don’t overlook any of your present social spheres relating to writing alternatives, and prepare to actively work to extend them. Everybody wants the written phrase typically!
6. Determine the best way to receives a commission
This sounds apparent, however it may be a hurdle if you’re simply getting began. When you’ve discovered a shopper and produced the work you promised, you want a technique to get cash from their checking account into yours.
Many freelancers have given up on paper checks and rely totally on on-line funds. Should you’re simply testing the waters as a freelancer, hold it easy by making a PDF bill and emailing it to your shopper, then asking for cost through an easy-to-use system like PayPal.
Undecided what to incorporate in your first bill? We’ve received you lined! Right here’s the best way to 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 allow you to observe funds. We’ve received a listing of among the finest bill mills for freelancers.
7. Know this: the work isn’t at all times glamorous
After I inform folks I’m a contract author, they typically assume I’m publishing solely in shiny magazines with stylish, single-word titles. The closest I’ve come to that, thus far, is Yahoo! — a byline I’m very pleased with, however whose trademarked exclamation level doesn’t precisely bespeak magnificence or sophistication.
The majority of my paying work is much much less illustrious, however essential for rounding out my checking account. Web site copy, search engine marketing work and listicle-style weblog posts aren’t what anybody goals of once they really feel the pull of the pen, however they’re among the most dependable methods for freelance writers to pay the payments. Many companies can present a gradual stream of this type of work, changing into the anchor shoppers by which you construct a semi-reliable paycheck.
The concept is to select up as a lot of this bread-and-butter work as you might want 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 beneficial follow. You’ll hone your craft and earn your hold all whereas amassing extra clips — and higher chops — to point out off if you’re pitching the massive boys. Then, you’ll be able to slowly scale as much as working solely on better-paid, extra attention-grabbing content material.
eight. Count on the sudden
Fickle earnings, bizarre hours, completely unmitigated fridge entry — working for your self is an odd and typically harmful world.
On the very least, you’ll wish to put together your self financially for issues like managing earnings move and bills, paying your individual taxes, shopping for your individual well being care and funding your individual retirement. And for even the perfect writers, shoppers come and go, so remember to construct up a major cushion for these inevitable dry durations.
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 throughout your work day. (Or perhaps not. Let’s not get loopy.)
If I needed to summarize all of it in short, I’d say this: Turning into a contract author requires equal components semi-pathological ranges of type-A dedication, boundless curiosity, and complete insensitivity to rejection.
Oh, and luck. Lots of luck.
However like all the finest issues in life, despite the fact that it’s not a simple journey, the street to the write life is unquestionably one price taking — and one we’re excited that can assist 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 shops.