This is a guest post by Aaron Tokelove.
Freelance writing doesn’t need to seem daunting, or out there in the great unknown. There are genuine steps you can take to start producing interesting, readable (and paid!) work.
Your first goal is to establish a strategic plan for the kind of writing you are best able to deliver. Not everyone can write about everything, and quite often each person will possess specific expertise on a certain subject that will make them especially qualified to write interesting pieces. Remember, you’re most important client is your reader, so as long as they are being stimulated and are enjoying what you’re writing, then you’ll be fine!
When you have decided what few areas to specialize in – maybe four or five to begin with, covering, perhaps, diverse areas like travel, entertainment, cooking and natural history – you need to start producing a few ‘demo pieces’ to form part of a portfolio. This becomes especially important when you start to market your skills to third-party websites that will connect you, the freelance writer, with your audience, the reader. And when you do come to market your skills, be very careful to tailor your pieces to the instructions given by the client (be they a third-party ‘middle man’ or the reader themselves), while ensuring that you don’t compromise your own ideas and voice. It’s one thing to cover aspects of a story as asked for by the client, but it’s a different matter altogether to compromise your own views and vision for the sake of a pay check. The best freelance writers are those with integrity, consistency and competency.
As you begin to market your writing, you’ll find that establishing and maintaining a healthy writing routine is essential. Quite often, in the early days, freelance writing is born out of regularity – effectively forcing yourself to sit down every day, probably at the same time of day, to write. This will establish a pattern in your lifestyle, which will make it much easier to treat freelance writing with the respect it deserves. After all, if you intend to make money from it, you need to treat it like a structured, scheduled job. Equally, do make sure that your early routine isn’t overly ambitious. You don’t want to burn out or grow frustrated. I recommend writing for just a couple of hours a day in the beginning, and then your talent and passion to continue will soon see you devoting more time than this to your writing each day.
Business trips are an important source of information. If your writing assignment requires you to do some in-the-field research, make sure you approach the trip as a keen researcher with an eye for detail. Capturing and writing original material is a vital skill for a truly successful freelance writer, while ensuring that you provide an appropriate contextual background to any original research is vital: you want all of your readers to understand just why your new information is compelling when related back to the original framework. Furthermore, providing a contextual background is a necessary narrative skill to ensure that readers feel stimulated and keen to learn new information about a certain topic.
Remember to remain professional at all times. Keep in mind that anything that goes out onto the Internet with your name on it will likely remain in the ether forever, so you want to maximize quality over quantity, at all times. As your skills and reputation improve, your relative pay will as well, meaning you can always prioritize the quality of your words over their quantity.
And, above all else, have fun!
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