Monday, January 6, 2014
"Kids, Don't Try This at Home" Why Freelance Writing Ain't for Everybody
The temperatures are frigid, we're buried in snow, and many businesses are closed or at a slow crawl.
It's on days like this that I feel particularly blessed to be able to work from home.
Which brings us to today's post...
The other day, while browsing books at a used bookstore, I picked up a paperback that I hoped would provide some useful marketing tips to enhance this year's efforts and start off on a "good foot."
Many of the chapters were interesting, and the author provided some good strategies for today's writers and entrepreneurs. But then one chapter really didn't sit well with me.
In fact, it was as frustrating as a child proof cap.
Let me explain. It read something like this: "If you have an Internet connection, a computer, a home phone, and have good English skills, you can become a freelance writer."
Sure, you can start it. But you'll have as much success as that diet you started last year. Or that DIY project in your garage. Or that promise you made to start working out at the gym regularly.
Though a career in freelance writing isn't rocket science, it's certainly not for everyone. And it definitely requires more than an Internet connection and a command of the English language.
If only it were that simple...
I think that this type of mentality is why so many fail at this line of work, and why freelance writers continue to battle for better pay and the recognition deserved.
Not to be a "Debbie Downer" here, but "serious" freelance writing is not child's play.
With this being the case, I thought this would be a great opportunity to address what it takes to be a "successful" freelance writer who can go the distance.
Sure, it's nice to be able to work from home, make your own hours, and not have to deal with a.m. traffic, but can you produce without someone watching over your shoulders? Not everyone can.
Watching the daily soap operas can be lovely, but if you can't pay your monthly electric bill because you've mismanaged your time and resources, you'll be sitting in the dark. Hello? Anyone home?
Truth be told, many freelancers work on holidays and long after your typical "business hours" to get things done or meet a deadline.
2. A business mentality
Let's face it. Creative artists are not always as business oriented as we should be. It's the reason so many become true "starving artists." Don't believe me? Look at the many writers, actors, and singers that go broke because they spend lavishly, or let others mismanage their funds, or forget to save while they are having fun. Best-selling author Iyanla Vanzant admits to having a "welfare mentality" despite her fortune, and reportedly shared on Oprah Show that she had multiple bank accounts that she didn't even know what to do with. As a freelance writer, you'll need to know how to send out invoices, set rates, set up a Paypal account, pay taxes. Are you up for this?
3. Time Management Skills
Dividing 24 hours by family obligations, appointments, household chores, needed sleep, etc. can seem like one of those complex math equations back in school. But, real writers have this and more. It can be a struggle to juggle. Consider interviews, deadlines with editors, research, marketing...let's just say you better take your "Wheaties."
4. A Thick Skin
Even with the best of intentions, and words that you carefully carve out with the precision of a skilled surgeon, someone will have something negative to say about your work. Sometimes it's a blog reader. On other days, the heat could come from an editor. You've got to keep a level head, a clear focus, and stay in the kitchen!
You gotta' love it. Seriously, folks. If not, this gets old real fast.
Passion will carry you through low pay, rejection, fatigue, doubt, and weeks of surviving off Ramen Noodles. :-)
Today's scribe must be smart. And not just book smart. You must also be strategic with a broad knowledge base. Why? Editors are becoming more demanding. Writing is becoming more competitive, and everybody is trying to do more with less. Can you be resourceful and come up with different ideas, week after week, month after month, year after year? Can you conduct research and know what to include to give your articles added value? Can you convince a publisher to invest in your book concept? Do you have the skills to engage an audience through blogging, to help build your platform? If so, move to the head of the class.
Though curiosity may have "killed the cat," it's crucial to your survival. A good, professional freelancer is always asking questions of others and self. He wonders what makes things tick. He imagines the possibility of things. He thinks outside the box. He's always probing and pondering. How about you?
Many find the idea of being a writer rather "glamorous." And it can be. But most days it's more grit than glory. If you're looking for a career that will bring you glamor, may I suggest the fashion industry? :-)
Despite the frigid weather, keep warm thoughts. Until next time...
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? Which category presented today poses the most difficulty for you as a freelancer?