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How to Become a Writer

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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.

  1. What Exactly IS Freelance Writing?
  2. Is Freelance Writing the Right Choice for You?
  3. Freelance Writer's Skills and Education
  4. Writing Well
  5. Preparing for a Freelance Writing Career
  1. Find Your Specialization
  2. Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer
  3. Make Your Writing Into a Business
  4. Common Problems in Freelance Writing
  5. 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.

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.

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.

Writing Well

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Resources for (New) Writers

A listing of valuable resources and tools for beginning freelance writers, and those who need a little boost.

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