My 10 tips for new freelance writers

1. Start a website or blog. A lot of potential clients that you find on Craigslist will ask to see links to your personal website. You don’t have to think of it as a personal journal; instead, write on current events and topics that interest you. If you read an interesting news article, write a blog post about it. Something going on in the news that bothers you? Write an opinion piece about it. You can get away with only updating your blog on a weekly basis, so you don’t have to contribute too much time to it.

2. Get your feet wet with content mills. Freelance writers can learn a lot by writing for content mills and it’s the way that most of us got our start. Taking on assignments through these sites lets you try your hand at various types of articles. Clients and editors can provide you with valuable feedback. Freelance writers will also be able to get a feel for what you should charge clients (x cents/word) once you decide to branch out. While the earnings won’t be stellar, the experience gained is worth it. These sites can also help you figure out what your niche is, which leads me to…

3. Find your niche. Have a way with words? Try writing sales copy. Are you able to use descriptive and colorful language? Try your hand at product reviews. Good at explaining things in precise detail? See how you fare with writing technical documents. All of these “genres” of writing have their place in the world of Internet freelance writing. Once you find the areas you enjoy and in which you are talented, you can start looking for sites who employ this type of freelance writer. You can also start tailoring your blog to match your nice, as this will help you to gain a following more easily.

4. Having a solid portfolio goes a long way in securing work. Potential employers will also ask for writing samples. Every freelance writer should try to have one of the following categories: Health, Technology, Product Reviews, Press Releases, Sales Copy, General Blog… and that’s all I can think of for now. Those are the big ones. Freelance writers should also have a few SEO-centric articles in your repertoire, since most clients will want SEO articles

5. If you can find a site that will let you be a contributing author, this is great for a freelance writer’s resume. You can actually point to your work on the web, and that goes a long way. Plus, it’s very rewarding to see your name next to a published article!

6. Join a discussion group or forum. There is a lot of value in becoming a member of such a community. You can find a lot of great advice from people who went through the same struggles starting out as a freelance writer. And they got through it, so they can offer you advice that’s priceless.

7. Become familiar with several writing styles. Make sure that you’re familiar with AP style. This is the most popular style on the Internet, and is found on most of the web’s news sites. However, clients will not only be looking for freelance writers well-versed in AP style, but will want writers knowledgeable in Chicago style and APA formatting.

8. Keep a good record of your articles and earnings. This is more of a practical tip then anything else (and vital for tax purposes). When it comes to tracking your freelance writing earnings, you can buy a ledger or create an excel spreadsheet. Also, try looking at your earnings on a weekly basis as opposed to a day-to-day basis; some days you won’t make that much, while you’ll rake in a fortune on other days. This prevents you from becoming discouraged when you have a bad day. Regarding your articles, you should save everything on your computer. One advantage of keeping your work is that you can go back to older writings to see how much you’ve improved over a period. You can also rewrite your previous articles for writing samples; this way you’ve already researched the topic, and you can concentrate on the writing aspect of the article.

9. Practice your writing skills. Just because you write well now doesn’t mean that you can’t improve. There is always room to learn, whether it’s stylistically or creatively. “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White should be in every freelance writer’s library. If you can, ask fellow writers to critique your work, as they may find ways to reword things that you didn’t see. You can also practice writing different type of articles, such as learning how to effectively write press releases and product reviews, thus expanding your freelance writing portfolio.

10. Always make time to write for pleasure. Internet freelance writers didn’t start their careers writing web copy. If you started as a creative writer, then devote some time each week to writing creative pieces. It’s important to go back to your roots. Taking time out to write for yourself also guarantees that you are enjoying your job, which always lends itself to good work. If you don’t make time to joy-write, you’ll find yourself becoming burnt out much more quickly. I try to take a few minutes at the start of each day to warm up with some writing for myself; as soon as I started skipping this practice to jump into the work day, I quickly found myself struggling. Writing should be fun and pleasurable!

Advertisements

Finding a Balance

Update – My Review of Dr. Who Season 7 premiere: “The Aslyum of the Daleks.”

Some of you may know that I recently starting writing for the awesome website Geeksmash.com. It’s been a great experience so far, but I noticed that it’s led me to neglect some of my other writing, namely my blog. It’s not an issue of time but of content; I write about the same sort of things in my blog that I write about for Geeksmash. So, what is a blogger to do?

The answer is to find a balance. Write geeky articles for the site and write nerdy articles for myself. Sounds simple… right? Maybe… Well, regardless of whether or not it’s simple, my solution is to write a blog post each time I write an article for the site! That will be my balance.

I just got done writing my review of the Season 7 Dr. Who premiere, “Asylum of the Daleks,” which was AWESOME. Not only did my heart drop into the pit of my stomach during the episode’s second scene, but it stayed there until a very touching and tear-jerking scene toward the end. There have only been two other Dr. Who episodes that have made me cry, and this was the third. I know, I’m a sap, but I can’t help but fall for the love story between Amy and Rory. I’ll be sure to include a link to review once it’s posted.

To be honest, I struggled writing my review. It seems silly, since I’m a huge Whovian and a writer, so it should have been a breeze for me, right? Sometimes I let the pressure of writing something for a wide audience get the better of me. Every negative thought in existence probably passed through  my brain during my first attempt to write my review. Finally, I said hell with it, I’ll write whatever I write and if it’s not good enough, then so be it. Was it good enough? I think so.

I think all writers are infused with chronic doubt with regards to their work. There’s always the fear of rejection, though this fear usually manifests itself as the writer rejecting his or her own work before it can be rejected by the public. The motto of all writers should be “who cares,” but things aren’t that easy. For a writer, the words that go on the page don’t just arise as her fingers hit the keys; instead, they’ve been lurking, hiding within the writer’s subconscious for quite awhile. Putting them on the page means taking these well-hidden thoughts with which we’ve become familiar and exposing them for the entire world to see. Think of it this way: A painter has been working on a masterpiece and has grown to love the solitary relationship that exists between herself and her painting; once she’s finished, however, the solitary relationship will be no more. Soon, everything will be exposed, for the world to see… and to judge. Can you imagine how it must feel, not only to lose that working relationship but to put it on display for everyone to take part in?

Writing is like that, except these relationship exists within our minds. We grow accustom to our thoughts, ideas, stories and characters. Once we release them into the world, our relationship with them is gone. It’s like losing a trusty friend. And that is the reason why many writers suffer from anxiety when it comes to committing words to a page. It doesn’t matter if the thoughts are years or days old; they are still personal to the writer and revealing them makes one feel vulnerable.

The greatest writers have learned to overcome such exposure or have at least figured out a way to cope with it. My guess is that it’s the latter, fortunately for us readers. And such is the journey I find myself on now; learning to cope with the vulnerability that comes with bearing my innermost thoughts and feelings to the world via words. 🙂

If you’d like to read the articles that I’ve written for Geeksmash.com thus far, here are some links. If you like them, please show your support and click “like” on the page. Validation always makes writers feel better, no matter who they might be. Hell, it makes everyone feel better, am I right?

Comment and let me know what you think! If you have any ideas or news that you’d like to see written about in future posts, please comment and let me know!

Why I Fell In Love With Dr. Who: The Girl Who Waited and Finally Watched Dr. Who

NES Favorites: Top 10 Nintendo Games From The 80′s: Top 10 Nintendo Games That Stole My Heart(s) and Dominated My Console

Telepresence Robots from Double Robotics: Experience the World Without Leaving Your Home: Telepresence Robots, Courtesy of Double Robotics and Your iPad

Page Fright: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Words

One of my books says that you aren’t a true writer if you don’t feel a stabbing anxiety in your chest every time you look at a blank screen. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one out there that goes through a minor panic attack while deciding which words are worthy enough to fill the vast whiteness confronting me. Ralph Keyes, the author of the aforementioned book, “The Courage to Write,” calls it “page fright.”

How does one break through this terror in order to produce a book? That question has yet to be answered (I’m not far enough into the book), but even when it is, there’s a good chance I won’t believe it. I’m sure that I’ll understand the argument’s logic, but belief is another realm entirely.

It’s discouraging, because I have so many ideas that I want to commit to paper. Who cares if the world reads them; I just want to write them. You may be thinking, “If you don’t plan on letting others read your personal work, then of what are you afraid?” Honestly, I’m afraid of letting myself down and losing myself in the process. Ever since third grade, when I wrote my very first poem, I’ve been dubbed a “writer” by my family. Later, it was my teachers who encouraged me to pursue writing. For my entire life, my identity has revolved around being a writer — so what if I try to write a novel and fail? What will become of my identity then?

I know that being a decent writer isn’t the only thing that defines me. I began to list within this post other things that I also consider to define me, and it turned into a huge overhaul of my “About Me” section — complete with pictures! So if you get bored, check it out, leave a comment, “like” the page; you know, all those things that validate my self-worth. (Kidding… maybe…)

Back to the topic at hand. I’m going to try reasoning through my problem, since I’m sure there are several invalid premises lingering around there somewhere:

I’m never satisfied with anything I write, so it goes without saying that I won’t be satisfied with any work I produce for my book. If I’m unsatisfied with something I’ve written, yet let others read it, most of the time they praise my work. It would seem unlikely that every person who compliments my work is lying (just to make me feel good, which is what I’ve always been inclined to think). As such, at least some of my writing must be good, regardless of the dissatisfaction that I feel. I shouldn’t put so much weight on what I think since I’m always going to think it’s bad, unless told otherwise (I’m a sucker for external validation, a habit that I need to stop). Therefore, I have no reason to expect that my book will turn out unsatisfactory and should NOT listen to myself when it comes to self-evaluation, period.

TL;DR — I should not let my harsh self-critiques stop me from writing, since my judgement is often flawed.

With that settled, where do I begin? I have several ideas: a children’s book where the princess saves the kidnapped prince; a futuristic, post-apocalyptic novel that deals with a society that rediscovers technology; and last — but not least — my thought-provoking and tragic zombie tale, which I’ll be writing with my brother, since we came up with the idea together (it’s just going to be one research-intensive book).

At least I can blog without “page fright.” That’s a start.

I’m starting a new tradition where I put a picture in every post. Today’s picture is courtesy of XKCD.