I didn’t always know I wanted to be a freelance writer. Growing up I was told that I wasn’t a good writer. My teachers told me that I strayed off topic, which isn’t surprising since I wrote how I spoke. I also am a poet, so I claim that my writing style didn’t conform to the constricts of academic papers.
One and a quarter master degrees later, I have improved my writing. I found a way to adhere to the requirements of academia and also express my sentiment. It’s that beautiful balance that we seek in our daily lives.
So naturally, I wanted to capitalize on my new writing skills. I love to write and so why not do it to make money?
I discovered Medium, the online platform that welcomes writers of all backgrounds and experiences. Writing on Medium allowed me the freedom to express myself and share what was on my heart. I had a place where I could use my experiences to help others.
Realizing that I wanted to become a full-time writer, I kept thinking of expanding my repertoire and experience. I wanted to develop skills and be able to add value to others.
Thinking about writing for others, I reached out to my friend, who is successful in his field. He creates podcasts and I realized that he wasn’t transcribing them, so I asked if he was interested in this service.
Turns out, I was in tune with what he was calling in: he had been testing out ghostwriters and still hadn’t found a match. He gave me a test assignment and I knocked it out of the park.
We decided to start working together. There were some logistics we had to agree on, which as two friends who never really saw eye-to-eye, we handled it in a very professional and respectful way.
He politely pointed out that I was inexperienced and therefore an hourly wage given to experienced ghostwriters wouldn’t be appropriate. Treating me like anyone else (which I appreciated), he offered his proposal and we bartered back and forth.
I thought I deserved a price point based off of the value I provided, rather than my experience. It shouldn’t matter if someone has worked in the field or not, outcome and results is what is most important, or so I thought.
Tricks of the trade
After my first assignment of copywriting instead of ghostwriting, I became aware that I had no idea what I was doing. I had to learn what other people already knew. This was when I realized that the lower pay was deserved, as I started to troubleshoot through the position.
It was a humbling lesson and I think that my friend gave me more of an opportunity to negotiate terms and prices because we are close. This is something I do not recommend to do with potential employers, unless you have experience and have been paid that amount before.
Moving forward, I now have a new set of skills that I acquired over the extra time it took me because I was figuring it out. What took me an hour and a half to write, might have taken someone else with experience only an hour. Therefore, the price point difference equates around the same and is more understandable and justifiable.
But how do you get a freelance writer job if you’re inexperienced and don’t have a friend who needs help? No one on Indeed is likely to hire you. From what I saw, they want a minimum of 2 years of experience for most jobs. But luckily, there are other ways to start.
How to get a job
Reach out to everyone you know that is producing content for social media. It just so happens that my friend produces a lot of content and I knew what his message is and I wanted to support him in getting it out on multiple platforms. It was a win-win.
If you follow Gary Vaynerchuk, you’ll know that he suggests working for free. When you don’t have the skills, you’re more than often going to have to provide content without compensation. Even if you do have the skills, but have no connections, you’ll probably have to pay your dues.
Before I contacted my friend, I reached out to a lot of other people, through Instagram, through email, anywhere I could get my foot in the door. Every week I am consistently reaching out and submitting new articles to magazines and newspapers, hoping to catch that big break.
I’ll write an article I’m proud of and then I submit it down the line of companies I’m targeting until eventually one of them accepts it. This is where Medium comes in handy: if no one is willing to accept and publish your work, you can self-publish it and get it out to your audience.
Building a business takes time and effort, especially when it’s freelance writing and you have little experience. The motivation to persevere in spite of the rejection, or complete neglect, is often disheartening. I find myself defeated one day to only regroup, rewrite, and restart the submission process.
Write and improve
The most important thing is to keep writing. Post as much as you can, everywhere you can. Let people know that you’re a freelance writer (even if you haven’t landed a job yet). Manifest the sh!t out of your vision of making a living from writing.
I suggest developing your craft through reading other sources of what your market is. For instance, if you want to write for The New York Times, then you should be reading that newspaper to get a feel for what types of articles they post. You can google different magazines that you enjoy and see if they accept guest posts or submissions.
To be a freelance writer is like being an actor; you are constantly looking for a new job. While it may not be easy all the time, it gives you the freedom to create your own schedule and work where you want.
Get your work out there, get your name out there, and start making connections. Offer to provide a free article for your local newspaper or write a blog for your friend who has a public audience. The more you can load up your resume, the better. And remember, perseverance pays off.