How to Become a Writer
By Allena Tapia, About.com Guide
Knowing how to become a writer means sorting through loads of information online, deciding what's best for you, and then putting it into action. We'll go over the most basic, step-by-step ways to begin making money and building a career as a freelance writer.
- What Exactly IS Freelance Writing?
- Is Freelance Writing the Right Choice for You?
- Freelance Writer's Skills and Education
- Writing Well
- Preparing for a Freelance Writing Career
- Find Your Specialization
- Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer
- Make Your Writing Into a Business
- Common Problems in Freelance Writing
- Resources for (New) Writers
What Exactly IS Freelance Writing?
The first step to successful freelance writing is to understand what it is exactly that you're getting into. No, I won't hire you to write for me, and no, this isn't a "job" per se, where you work for one company all the time, and they pay you regularly with the same paycheck (although that might be one of the arrangements you will find out there).
Freelance writing generally means you are on your own- you're the boss. You gather a set of multiple clients who pay you to do a single project (such as write one thing- a magazine article, let's say), and/or ongoing clients who keep you on board for specific needs (such as a nonprofit who has the need to pump out newsworthy press releases, and contacts you when they need one). This second arrangement may turn into a sort of full time job- as in, you're needed regularly and paid on a regular basis. (Sometimes!)But this "freelance" designation is generally a contracting arrangement. You are an independent contractor with different arrangements for each client/project. You (should) pay your own taxes. You should work rather independently. You should have contracts and arrangements formally (and uniquely) made with each client as needed.
As a contractor/freelancer, the amount of clients, work arrangements, and types of jobs you take on is up to you. Sound interesting? Let's make sure you understand what exactly freelance writing is, and then you can accurately determine if the work is right for you.
- Freelance Writer- Definition
- What is a Freelance Writer?
- The Difference Between a Freelance Writing Job and a Freelance Writing Project
- Different Kinds of Freelance Writers
- Types of Editing Jobs
- Different Kinds of Freelance Writing Work Arrangements
- Different Stages of Freelance Writing Work and Projects
Is Freelance Writing the Right Choice for You?
Becoming a freelance writer sure can be a leap. The most common type of email I get is one seeking some kind of affirmation of this choice. Often, that revolves around money- can a person really make money freelance writing? Other common questions include balancing other (full time) work, or the possibility of working at home. Now, I can't tell you if freelance writing will work for you. Only you can make that decision! But I can give you some information to help you to decide.
- Is This a Good Career Choice? A Look Into the Freelance Career
- The Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing- A Short List
- Kinds of Freelance Writing Work
- What Are the Best Kinds of Freelance Assignments for YOU?
- You Know You're a Freelance Writer When... (Humorous)
- Freelance Writing As a Full Time Job- What You Need to Know
- Should You Quit Your Day Job?
- Is Freelance Writing a Legitimate Work at Home Job?
- Freelance Writing As a Work At Home Job
- Five Benefits of Working at Home
- Wait...Do You Really WANT to Work At Home?
- Can You Really Make Money By Freelance Writing?
- Readers' Opinions- Can You Really Make Money Freelance Writing?
- How Much Money Can One Make As a Freelance Writer? (First Example)
- How Much Money Can One Make As a Freelance Writer? (Second Example)
- How to Make a Career Out of Creative Writing
Freelance Writer's Skills and Education
This section answers the most common questions about the kinds of skills and education that potential freelance writers need to succeed.
- Skills and Characteristics of the Successful Freelance Writer
- Readers' Opinions: Skills and Characteristics of the Successful Freelance Writer
- Freelance Writers Need Sales Skills
- Freelance Writers Need Business Skills
- Do You Need a Writing Degree to be a Freelance Writer?
- The Top Ten College Majors for Freelance Writers
- Ten Steps to Freelance Writing Success
- Freelance Writers Need These 4 Fatal Flaws
- Freelance Writers Need These 4 Fatal Flaws
If you're exploring the career of freelance writing, I assume you've got some writing ability/talent. Before you jump in feet first, make sure you know some of the basic mechanics needed to excel at this career, and can write some of the more common documents/pieces needed by clients.
- How To Revise Your Writing
- What You Need to Know About Voice and Style
- What You Need to Know About Style Guides
- What You Need To Know About Blogging (Blog Vocabulary)
- How To Write a Book Review
- How To Write SEO
- How To Write a Press Release
- How To Write a Pitch Letter or Query Letter
- How TO Write a Letter of Introduction to Editors
- How To Write Copy for Ads/Sales
- How To Write an Ebook
- How To Write Web Copy
- How To Conduct an Interview
Preparing for a Freelance Writing Career
Readers- do you recall the copy store called Kinkos? It's currently called "FedEx Office"? When I first resolved to seriously undertake this career, I found myself at a FedEx/Kinkos, scanning things like clips, university transcripts, and my degree (I didn't have PDF software nor a scanner in my home office at the time. I can't even remember if I HAD a home office). While the scanner was taking its sweet time, I was educating myself via the net about things like making money writing, paying taxes, and finding writing work.
The basic needs you'll have as a new freelancer include a resume, a set of clips organized into a portfolio (which is often a website), a cover letter, a letter of introduction, a marketing letter, a standard contract, and a standard invoice. In addition, you'll need to be fairly well-versed on things like hourly rates and taxes before you begin.
Although the process of gathering this knowledge and preparing these documents may be slightly different today than back when I did it at Kinkos, this section will help you make sure you have everything covered. Not only that, but the process of brainstorming experiences for your resume and gathering past writing work bolsters your confidence and helps you consider where to concentrate your efforts.
- How To Write Your Writing Resume
- Put Together Your Writing Portfolio
- No Clips? How To Get Some!
- Why You Need a Website
- Parts of a Writer's Website
- Tips for Developing Your Business Card
- Gather the Needed Tools for Freelance Writing
- Organize Your Office, Records and Processes
- Be Proactive About Your Budget
- Set Your Minimum Freelance Writing Rates
- Learn About Keeping Your Financial Books and Records
- Prepare to Pay Taxes on Your Writing Income
- Writing and Publishing Law: What You Should Know
- Know What You're Selling- And What You're NOT Selling (Publication Rights)
- How To Write a Query or Pitch Letter
- How To Use Letters of Introduction for Writing Work
- Use a Marketing Letter to Get More Clients
- How to Write a Freelance Contract
- Create an Invoice
- Think About Developing a Niche/Specialty
Find Your Specialization
Once you've begun preparing for this career, you may notice a pattern in the topics and genres in which you like to write. Although we do have an entire channel on topics, genres, niches and specializations (see the tab at the top of the page), this section will provide you with insight into some of the basics in choosing exactly what kind of writing and clients you plan to undertake.
- An Overview of Potential Genres for the Freelance Writer
- What Type of Writing Should You Do?
- How To Research and Choose a Niche Writing Topic Area
- Places to Find Niche Jobs
- Three Unique Freelance Writing Jobs
- Getting Ghostwriting Work
- Where to Find Blogging Work
- How To Write for Magazines- An Introduction
- Comprehensive List of Writers' Associations
Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer
Although you can go after freelance writing jobs in various ways (and we describe those via the "jobs" tab at the top of the page), eventually you'll want to have freelance writing work come to you. In order to get to the point, you'll have to market yourself. Here are some of the basics and the best ways to get your name out there and attract potential clients and editors.
- Key Elements of a Freelancer Writer's Website
- 10 Must-Haves For Your Website
- 10 MORE Things to Include in Your Website
- Do You Really NEED a Website? Pros and Cons
- How To Manage Your Writing Portfolio
- Your Writing Portfolio- 5 Portfolio DOs
- Readers Respond- How Do You Organize Your Writing Portfolio?
- Rescuing Your Writing Samples
- Nine Ways to Find New Freelance Writing Clients
- How to Make Writing Work Come to You
- Find Clients Via Conferences
- A Sample Marketing Letter
- How Writers Can Use Pinterest for Marketing
- How Small Businesses and Freelancers Can Use Pinterest for Marketing
- Use the Holidays To Keep In Touch With Past Clients
Make Your Writing Into a Business
Once you get going- whether you like it or not- you'll need to start tracking income and expenses for tax purposes (if you live in the U.S.). Since you're already undertaking that chore, perhaps it's time to start thinking of your freelancing as a business (especially if you're working on it as a full time career). Here is how to approach freelance writing as a career and a business.
- When Should Freelance Writing Become a Business?
- The 8 Business Skills of a Successful Freelance Writer
- How to Start Your Freelance Writing Business
- Reasons to Become a Small Business
- How to Create Your Freelance Budget
- Seven Steps to Determining Writing Income Goals
- How to Keep Records for Your Writing Business
- "Bookkeeping Basics" (Book Review)
- Freelance Taxes by the Numbers
- Should You Take the Home Office Tax Deduction?
- Setting Your Rates: "How Much Should I Charge?"
- Setting Your Minimum Pay Rate
- Five Types of Freelance Writing Rates
- Readers Respond: Readers' Tips for Setting Rates
- How to Write a Contract for Freelance Writing Work
- What to Do When Payment Is Slow
- Six Retirement Tips for Full Time Freelancers
- What Kind of Insurance Does Your Small Writing Business Need?
- When and How to Outsource to Other Freelance Writers
Common Problems in Freelance Writing
As in every career field, there is a set of common problems and conundrums. Check out this section for a look into the most common issues and challenges in the freelance writing career, and how to deal with them.
- You Don't Have Any Clips or Writing Samples
- All the Job Ads Are Slammed With Applicants
- You're Not Sure If That Job Is a Scam
- You're Not Sure That Job Ad Is a Good Bet
- You Need More Clients
- The Only Answer to That Query Letter Is Crickets
- You Procrastinate
- You Don't Have Time to Write
- You Have Writer's Block
- There Are Too Many Distractions
- The Client Is Unhappy
- The Client Isn't Paying!
- You're Afraid an Editor Might Steal Your Idea
- Interviewing Is Scary!
- The Subject Asks to See the Interview Article Before It Prints
- The Final Word Count Is Too High
- You Have Down Time Between Projects
- You Have Ergonomic Aches and Pains
- You Need a Fresh Start
- You're Not Sure How Long a Project Will Take
Resources for (New) Writers
A listing of valuable resources and tools for beginning freelance writers, and those who need a little boost.
- Freelance Writing Tools and Gadgets
- Required Software for Freelance Writers
- Top Writing Magazines
- Freelance Writing Communities, Sites, Forums and Blogs
- Tool: The Neo by AlphaSmart
- Five Resources for Creative Writers
- Six Books for the Creative Freelance Writer
- Fiction Roundup: Books for Beginning Fiction Writers
- Top Ten Books for Writers
- Book: "The Writer's Workout"
- Book: "Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers"
- Book: "Writer Mama"
- Book: "The Anti 9-5"
- Book: "Working Writer, Happy Writer"
- Book: "My So-Called Freelance Life"
- Book: "Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life"
- Book: "Writing the Life Poetic"
- Book: "Full-Time Income in Part-Time Hours"