There are many writers struggling to balance their love of writing with full-time careers. In this situation, it's not unusual for a novel to take years because of the time constraints involved. However, making a full-time career out of novel writing can be an impossible task. For the majority of writers, advances and sales aren't enough to sustain your career over the long haul. One way to support yourself and still do what you love is to become a freelance writer. Here are some ways you can get started and the benefits involved.
First of all, freelance writing spans the entire world of writing possibilities: from writing web copy and marketing materials to ghostwriting novels and e-books. The range of genres, styles and topics is enormous.
One thing you will learn quickly in becoming a freelance writer is that you will expand your writing skills exponentially in a very short time. By tackling areas of writing you've never tried, you learn new principles, strategies and techniques that will actually improve your fiction writing capabilities. When you tackle academic writing, you learn research skills and formal grammar/punctuation rules. You also learn to tighten your writing to keep to the subject. Copywriting and developing marketing materials teaches you how to write succinctly, precisely target audiences and think like your readers. It also helps you learn to write your own marketing materials.
The second and main reason to freelance is that there is a huge market for freelance writing out there. Companies rarely have the budget or need to employ full-time copywriters on staff. They often turn to marketing companies to source their needs. Marketing companies in turn often source to freelancers for much of their own needs. Again, this keeps them from having to maintain a full-time staff of writers. Companies generally turn to a base of several freelance writers with different specialties. If you can lock into a strong company - whether a direct business, a marketing company or whatnot - you will find a very steady base of work and income. Just two to three clients like this can keep you steadily employed in freelance writing with a very decent income.
Getting started as a freelancer is always the hard part. If, like me, you start out with an excellent set of writing skills but no official past writing work experience, building a credible reputation can be difficult. Here, it is important to look at all of your past jobs and pick out the pieces that involved professional writing. For me, I was a paralegal and spent 12 years writing at a highly technical and formal level. I also spent two years as an editor on my high school paper and one year as a research assistant with a university where I wrote and edited professional journal articles for my professor. I also had vast research experience from most of my past jobs. While you should never lie about your abilities or experience, feel free to make a big deal about what is there.
Next, you will need a portfolio. You will want to focus on the type of writing for which you are going to be bidding. If you want to write marketing materials, create a set of promotional material for a fake company to show your skills. Sometimes it's good to learn complementary skills, such as Photoshop, to go along with your writing.
Now it's time to get the word out and market yourself. The two big players in the freelance market are Elance and Guru. Guru recently lowered its membership prices to better compete with Elance. Both sites offer the opportunity for freelancers to create a profile and portfolio and bid on posted jobs. Keep in mind that much of the time when you are first starting out, you will get jobs based upon being the lowest bidder. However, not all clients choose this way, so you should research the bidder to see how they've made past contracting decisions.
Finally, I highly recommend you become an EzineArticles author. Once you've become an expert in your chosen freelance field, it's important to be recognized as such. It is an enormous rush when someone picks out one of your articles to post on their expert writing website. The recognition is invaluable to a freelance career.
Developing a strong freelance career takes 18 to 24 months overall - if you're good at what you do. The harder you work to create solid material and market yourself, the faster success will come to you.
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