Three things I've learned on the job.

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As a newbie, what I've learned from following other writers and their experiences is priceless. I'll forever be grateful for the invention of blogs for how they've helped me. They're a source of information worth the most expensive course on freelancing. When I decided to freelance three months ago, all I knew was nothing.

Through reading blogs and online books, I've learned three lessons that are engraved in my head. When I reach my first goal for myself I plan on gifting myself with a plaque of top five lessons to never forget, to keep in front of me every time I write.

There are no short cuts.

The best thing I learned is that there are no short cuts to a freelance writing career. It takes time and dedication to be the writer you envisioned yourself to be and to earn half of what you thought you would earn. Be vary of websites screaming that it's easy to be a freelancer or that you can make heaps of money through it. Sure, there are people for whom it has happened. But its not the norm and its not going to happen to me. Or you.

Don't sell yourself cheap

The next lesson that I engraved upon my writer heart was to never sell myself cheap. No matter how desperate I was to get work. I found plenty of people looking for writers to write 500 word article for $1-$3. It felt like an insult to my intelligence but I was on the verge of accepting that maybe this was the norm when I read a discussion in the comment section of a blog about how so many writers were doing work for next to nothing which was why they felt that such rip-off jobs were still on the market.

Persevere and eventually you'll find clients and gigs according to your personal standards.

Be realistic.

Don't sell yourself cheap, but don't put too high a price on yourself either. Personal standards should be realistic. Don't expect to get $500 for a 500 word article. If you've got no credential, potential clients won't hire you at the standard rates either. Lower your rates if you must...but be realistic about it too!

It only took me a week to realize that it was going to take me a long time to land any kind of work. I don't have a diverse portfolio. I don't have any references from previous clients, I also have no experience. I knew it would be idiotic to charge high rates. In fact, charging standard rates would have to be let go for the time being too.

If you're a new writer with no experience, you cannot expect to land a column at a national newspaper or magazine. Even applying for such jobs is folly. Keep them as a goal and gain experience and knowledge to work towards materializing that goal.

Find out what the going rates are for the kind of writing you do and charge according to that. Again, that still is no guarantee to get instant work

The gist of all these lessons is that patience and hard work is the key to success. What lessons has freelancing taught you so far?

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6 comments:
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Sal said...
November 14, 2008 at 5:50 AM  

So far I have learned to be persistent and consistant. Keep at it each day, improving upon your last and learning from mistakes you have previously made. Other than that, write like there is no tomorrow and apply to leads even faster.

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Samar Owais said...
November 14, 2008 at 7:35 AM  

Your lessons are different from mine but no less important! I haven't been applying to many gigs. I stopped to concentrate on my quality of writing. I also don't get to write everyday except for blogging where I don't follow any of the rules of a well crafted blog post. And I also need to work on the consistency bit. I tend to let go if I don't have work related writing to do.

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Sal said...
November 14, 2008 at 9:12 AM  

@Samar: I too am a blogging rebel. I think the only thing that I do is put pictures in my post, but that is because I feel it needs more color than the words I come up with.

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Tony said...
November 14, 2008 at 9:44 PM  

Thanks for the post - I don't think that I'll ever be a freelance writer mostly because I really don't think that what I write is that good. I have a hard time writing for the blog because I can't seem to follow general rules of puncuation. When I read other blogs such as Sal's I'm amazed at how well he writes and think there is no way I can compare to this. I actually had thoughts of ending my blog because I don't think many people read what I write and no matter what I do to try and get people to read I seem to fail at it.

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Sal said...
November 17, 2008 at 6:08 AM  

@Tony: Not everyone is supposed to become a freelance writer. I didn't think I had it in me, but my dream has changed and has started to push me in that direction. Don't worry about general english rules. I hate them, and their dangling modifiers. I never follow the rules. Besides, the best people make up their own rules and are successful at it.

Don't compare yourself to others. Just write what is on your heart and use that voice you have developed. People will come and people will go, but the ability to express yourself and get what is inside, out, is what real writers possess. Wether you are published or not, if you can take the words that are inside and express them in a way to make the reader feel just as you did, then by my book, you have succeeded as a writer.

Samar, what do you think?

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Samar Owais said...
November 17, 2008 at 8:27 AM  

I completely agree Sal. Believe what people tell you Tony. You're a writer and an artist. Good thing about both is that the more you write and draw the better you get!

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