As a student, starting my freelance writing career has been a bumpy road but nevertheless one I have enjoyed hugely so far. Finding the opportunity to write about the things I am passionate about in collaboration with companies I love is hugely rewarding and something I would highly recommend to anyone interested in this career path. But what do freelance writers need to know to get off to a good start?
Due to the pace of the world we live in and the number of people in it, it is difficult to know where to begin looking for advice and tips when it comes to the field of freelance writing. The following 8 things all freelance writers should know, whether just starting off or having been in the business for years. It is these things which make the difference between a freelance writer and a successful freelance writer.
1. Stories will not come to you without effort
If you want to be a writer, then you need to start contacting companies and pitching your ideas. There will be equally as many rejections as there will be successes, so don’t get too downtrodden and give up if things don’t pick up initially.
The ebb and flow of work is an evergoing cycle, much like the tides. But if you keep up the effort to contact and communicate that you have ideas, you will manage to find the opportunity to share your story ideas over time. But this will definitely not be the case if you wait for those stories to come to you, because that doesn’t happen until you’re Christiane Amanpour and even then it is her who finds the stories, nobody else.
2. You need to keep up the practice
Write laps just like you would run them if you were training for the Olympics. According to the 10,000 hours practice rule, once you surpass this limit you are officially functioning at your best level and what are classed at ‘virtuoso’ level. Every hour you write is an hour closer to that goal.
Plus, if you keep up the practice even when you don’t have any freelance writing to work on, you’re giving yourself the natural advantage of speeding up everything from your typing time to how quickly you can come up with a headline. That practice is what will improve you overall when it comes to working on those important projects.
3. Proofreading is mandatory
Don’t be the person who submits their work only for it to be rife with mistakes that could have been easily spotted and fixed. This is an example of how to show a complete lack of professionalism when freelancing that could lose you further opportunities and even your piece being rejected on such grounds.
Proofread the way you would savour a really good piece of cake: Slowly and using every sense. If you’ve been staring at a screen for hours, give yourself a break and go back to it tomorrow. The more you proofread it before submission the better because you’ll definitely have given yourself the space to weed out all those errors.
4. You need to be your own editor
Linked with the proofreading, you can’t rely only on the editor on the other end of the communication, so act as your own editor throughout the writing process. To perform this role as well as writer, edit as you write. Think about where words have been overused, how they might be replaced, and always maintain a structural line.
5. Reading will improve your own level of writing
Just as writing laps aids the strength of your written voice, so too does reading. The more eclectically you read, the more your mind will adjust to different tones and settings, placing you amidst a thousand scenarios you would never otherwise encounter. For freelance writers especially, this is a valuable way of learning when you no longer have teachers and lessons around.
Plus not only is reading an excellent resource for your writing, it’s even better for your mind in general. Studies show that just 30 minutes of reading a day can decrease your stress levels by a landslide in everything from the physical effect of stress hormones to how you perform under pressure.
6. Mind maps aren’t just for the classroom
Colour coding is fun and allows you to tap into that creativity you have bottled up. Unleash it with some paper and pens, write down all of your ideas and let yourself be messy before everything needs to be organised again.
If you are freelancing and need to come up with some ideas fast, especially if you are suffering from writer’s block, this is a sure fire way to find a good starting point.
7. Keep your information organised
When you are a freelance writer, all of your work is down to you so losing things can be detrimental to both your income and future opportunities. File everything, print screen everything and in general, keep everything!
This might sound excessive but the case stands that, if you have an important document folder and know where everything is, you know where everything is and that’s the end of it. It saves a lot of effort and stress to keep things as organised as you possibly can.
8. Getting an early start is the way to go
And finally, all freelance writers should value the word ‘early’ above all others. It dominates the hierarchy of advice vocabulary because it is the key to pacing yourself, getting things done to a high standard and being able to stay calm. Starting early means that you are free of a lot of the pressures that come with rushing and mind blanks.
Be your own boss, your own teacher, your own person. Starting early means giving yourself the respect and care to work to your best, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to really fulfill what potential you have inside of you. This is definitely something all freelance writers should know.