Sunday, January 4, 2009

How to Write: Part Three

Today, let's talk about how to break into the wonderful, wacky world of freelance writing.

Let me say right up front that I have no idea how most people become successful freelancers. It's not like other professions where you get a degree, you go to job fairs, and you get multiple, high-paying job offers if you can guess the amount that is written down in the sealed envelope. Come to think of it, that only works if you are in a Tom Cruise movie. Trust me, breaking into freelancing is totally different.

For me, it was really mostly a matter of stumbling around and getting lucky. But I have accumulated a few tips over the years that might be helpful.

Tip # 1: Write something.
I was working as a church choir director, and I wrote an article for a small music publication. Voila! That was my entire portfolio. But at least it was something. You could offer to write a brochure for your dentist, or a newsletter for your church. Or just write up some articles, ads or blog posts to show off your style and your impeccable spelling and grammar.

Tip # 2: Find a niche.
I'm not going to tell you what my niche is, because honestly I don't know most of you very well and you just might be the kind of people who would try to steal it. Plus you'd probably be way better at it than me. Your niche might be travel writing, resume writing, or just general business copywriting (which, from what I've seen, is where the big money is).

Tip # 3: Find someone who might need your services, and send them an email.

Most people hate to write, or simply are not that good at it. And for many companies, it is much cheaper to hire a freelancer and pay only for a specific job rather than putting a writer on staff. So really, there are opportunities out there. You just have to find them.

I know there are lots of job boards online, but personally, I have never had much success with them. My "strategy" has been to simply find companies that might use my services, and shoot off an email.

Make the email short and to the point.

"Hi, my name is so-and-so and I would love to contribute some articles to Strange And Disgusting Pet Diseases Magazine. I am an expert on skin rashes, as you will see from the attached articles! Feel free to call or email me for further details."

Or, for business copywriting:

"Hi, my name is so-and-so and I am a freelance copywriter. I have been writing copy for the Barely Legal Money Laundering industry for the past 5 years from my cozy home office here in Alaska. My goal is to move to a cozy home office in a tropical climate, so I am sending out some queries to see if I can drum up a little more work. I have attached a few samples, and of course I would be happy to provide more details."

Believe it or not, I have actually had quite a bit of success with this type of email. But you need to use your own language and tailor the email to your audience. A more serious tone is probably preferable in most cases. I wouldn't really know, I almost never use a serious tone.

Best of luck!


Have you had any success with online job boards?
Do people really make any money writing blogs?
How come nobody answers the questions I put at the bottom of my posts?


TripleLLL said...

I'm glad you did say, "I wrote an articles for a small music publication. Viola!!"

Lesley said...

Yes, that first "real" writing sample is crucial, no matter how humble it might be!


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