I became a freelance writer when I was pregnant with my first child. I’ve hung in there now for seven years, babyhood, toddlerhood and now school.
It ain’t always pretty, but it’s rewarding. It’s hard work and you need a good plan of attack before you take it on.
So you love writing. You’ve worked as a professional writer for a while and for whatever reason, you want to go it alone. Maybe it’s for the diversity of work, maybe to specialise in a preferred area, maybe it’s because you want to strike the holy grail: a work-life balance.
I’ve got some tips which might help you plan it. Take note, because there’s little worse than the cold dread of having no work and no leads.
Know your craft.
This is obvious, but you really need to be an experienced writer. And not just that – experienced in a range of genres. Corporate communications, news, features, fiction, marketing copy, reports – if you are nodding along saying yep, yep, done all that, you are more likely to be flexible enough to get work from a range of clients. Putting all of your eggs into one basket is risky.
There is some truth in the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” If you are liked and respected by colleagues, ex colleagues, clients, friends – let them know you are going freelance and spread the word. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions to people. Don’t be afraid to ask for favours. You have to be pushy.
This is not my favourite thing to do but it’s very useful. Sign up with your local Chamber of Commerce, go to community events, call businesses and introduce yourself. Become a familiar face in the business community.
Do favours – they come back to you.
If a start-up business can only afford to pay you a small amount, and you like and trust the people and see that their business idea is pretty sure to be a successful – work at the lower rate. People remember kindnesses. Some people might take advantage, it’s true, but my philosophy is to not go into these things with cynicism.
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Pitch pitch pitch
A woman’s magazine editor once told me that they’d prefer 100 pitches than five, even if 99 of those were rubbish. Pitch, keep pitching, you’ll get a sense of what people want, what works, and your nose for the type of story which suits each genre will sharpen.
Secure a regular gig before quitting the office job.
For me, it was writing ads for real estate agents. It wasn’t the most creatively satisfying work, but it was my bread and butter while I went out and hustled for more work. I don’t do that anymore
If you don’t have a regular client lined up, don’t quit your job yet.
Do you want repeat clients? Remember that these people don’t owe you anything. (Apart from what you invoice them. Obviously.) They need never hire you again. So be personable, cooperative, flexible, patient and NICE. Make sure they look forward to talking to you. Make dealing with you easy. Make them rely on you.
Don’t lose your love of words.
All going well, you might find yourself writing thousands of words a day and it can become a chore for even the most dedicated wordsmith. Try to avoid that happening. If you can, ration the writing days, make most days a balance between writing and research, interviewing and pitching. If you lose the love of words, it’s not going to be a happy life