So, you’ve decided to risk it all in the high-stakes world of the professional freelance writer. You know that you’ve got talent, and you’re just waiting for the world to recognize it. Just remember, you might be in for a long wait.
Unfortunately, becoming a truly self-sufficient freelance writer is a lot more difficult than you might think. Freelancing can be a great way to do something that you love and make money doing it… making a living can be another story. Freelance writing work can often be sporadic at best, and payment can come anywhere from 2 weeks to several months after the job is completed.
One of the biggest problems that beginning freelancers have is that they get too attached to their work, and are often unwilling to see what editors do to it in order to make it work on their website or publication. More than one freelancer has shuddered and raged after seeing the piece that they had poured their heart and soul into “torn apart” by an editor. When writing, you need to make a distinction between what you write for love, and what you write for money. Your novel (everybody seems to have at least one), your poetry, your short stories... the things that you write because you want to, these are the things that you should get attached to and pour your heart and soul into. The articles, the columns, and everything else that you do for a paycheck… you’re writing them for someone else. They’re paying you (hopefully) for what you write. Let them do with it what they will, and spend your free time working on your book.
Another problem that beginning freelance writers have is finding work in the first place. Books, such as Writer’s Market, list paying markets in both book publishers and magazines. Several writing websites have listings of paying and non-paying freelance jobs. You can also find various other websites with job listings by searching on an internet search engine for “freelance writing jobs””. Job search engines such as Monster usually aren’t the best places to look for freelance work, as they aren’t really designed for freelance writing listings.
Just like any other job, you’re only going to get as much out of a career in freelance writing as you put into it. If you spend 2 hours each week looking for jobs, you aren’t going to find as many potential jobs as you would if you spent 10 hours looking. If you only write 1 article a week, you’re not going to make as many sales as you would if you wrote 5. The more effort you put into finding and completing jobs, the more your portfolio is going to grow and the more jobs you’ll be likely to get.
An item that you should consider when selling articles and pieces is the rights to the article. If you sell one-time, first, or non-exclusive rights, you’ll be able to sell the article again somewhere else. If you sell exclusive or all rights, then the party that you sold the piece to will own it outright, and if you try to publish it elsewhere then you could actually be sued for copyright infringement. Be careful when choosing to sell exclusive or all rights… make sure that you’re getting enough money to make it worth it. You can charge less for non-exclusive rights because you can always resell the same article again to someone else… meaning you’ll get the money for the article without having to do the work!
In closing, feel free to pursue a career in writing, but you might want to hold onto your day job until you’re sure that you’ve got enough cash flow coming in to cover your bills and food. After all, the only benefit to being a starving artist is, well… being a starving artist.closing