So You Want To Be A Freelancer , Part One

At one point or another, anybody who loves to read has wondered what it would be like to make a living with words.  There are all sorts of ways to answer that question because there are a number of roads you can take to make a living by being a writer.  Screenplays, novels, newspapers, and of course, freelancing.

To varying degrees, most of those rely on knowing someone in the industry to get started, but freelancing is different.  You don’t have to know a soul to earn money and make a name for yourself as a freelancer, but you do have to have three critical skills.  If you’re toying with the idea of trying your hand at writing for money, it pays to do a quick self-assessment to see if you have these skills, and if so, to what degree.

Make no mistake, if you don’t have these three skills (at a minimum), you will not succeed as a writer.  Here’s what you absolutely need:

At Least Some Writing Talent

You certainly don’t have to be Shakespeare, but you do have to at least be able to string coherent sentences together.  You can make money even if your skills are rudimentary, and don’t worry, the more you write, the more you’ll hone your craft.  Swing a hammer enough times and you’re bound to get good at it, and the same concept applies here.

The Ability To Research Topics Quickly

When you freelance, the less picky you are about the topics you write, the more work you’ll have.  This also means that you’ll frequently find yourself writing about topics you know very little about.  You need to develop rapid research skills so you can at least be conversant in every topic you write on.

The best and fastest way to research a topic that’s new to you is to do a Google search and open the first ten entries.  Skim each entry and make mental notes about each page you look at.  Mostly, you’re looking for commonalities.  If you read the same basic point on 8-10 of the pages you look at, you can rely on the fact that that’s common knowledge about the subject you’re researching.

Mentally throw out any outlying data that only appears on a single site, and if data appears on just 2-3 sites, then mentally bookmark that for further research later.  In about 20 minutes, this will give you a broad understanding of the topic in question and give you at least a couple of lines of inquiry you can pursue for additional research.

Good Communication Skills

Getting writing assignments is easy.  If you’re using the HireWriters system, it’s as simple as selecting a job that looks interesting to you and hitting “accept.”  Getting repeat work, however, is trickier, but that’s ultimately how you move from just getting by to making real money.

Ultimately, this comes down to being a good communicator.  If you keep the clients you work with in the loop and ask good questions as needed, your clients will remember and ultimately come to rely on you and the work you produce.

Stephen King was once asked how a writer knew he or she had “made it,” and was a success.  His answer was simply this:

“If someone pays you for something you write, and you take that money and buy groceries or pay a bill, you succeeded.  Do more of that.”

Wise words.