Friday, July 20, 2012

Looking Into That Crystal Ball

While it would be nice to have a crystal ball to look into to tell what’s going to happen in your freelance writing career, as far as technology is concerned, it’s just not possible. But there are ways you can predict or at least forecast what may happen. And with a little luck, it will.

If you’re determined enough, you can make anything happen. Your mind is a strange and fascinating thing. Let it work for you. So the first step when looking into the future is to think positively. Imagine yourself a success, and you’ll most likely succeed.

To help plan for the future, know where you hope to be in five years. What kind of writing—articles, stories, books, or a combination of these—do you anticipate producing? How much money do you want to be making? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you obtain the skills necessary for you to succeed.

To make sure you get where you want to go, you’ve got to create a five-year plan. This shouldn’t be set in concrete, but be flexible enough to change as time goes on. But at least you’ll know where you want to end up at the end of that time.

Begin by figuring out where you want to be at the end of your career. Do you see an end, or do you plan to write for the rest of your life? In the beginning, you may not know where you fit in the freelancing world, but after a year or two, you should have a pretty good idea. A freelance career is a living thing. It changes and evolves as it goes, so you’ll need to do the same.

Imagine where you’ll be two years from now. Do you see yourself working full time as a freelancer or do you plan on working part-time for the foreseeable future?

What kind of assignments do you want to receive on a regular basis? And what do you need to know to get them—knowledge, experience, kind of people for contacts, etc.? What have you done so far that will help you get started along this path? Make a list or a spreadsheet of every writing project or job, noting how you did it, with whom you were in contact, and how much you were paid. Seeing that information all together on paper will show you just how well you’re progressing or not. And if not, you’ll be able to see where you’re falling short.

What barriers do you see between where you are now and where you want to be in five years? Don’t be shy or sugar-coat the your situation. Note everything in detail. Is the lack of sufficient funds holding you back? Do you see a way around this? Do your family and friends support you, either financially or emotionally? Do you feel like a writer?

Analyze the current publishing situation. Things haven’t been so great lately. Will that affect your long-term plan. How can you adapt your plan to fit into upcoming industry changes? Do you see yourself publishing ebooks or are you set on print publishing?

How well do you present yourself and your talents? Are you shy about promoting yourself? Do you think that writers shouldn’t do that? Too many beginning writers pick up that kind of attitude from their schooling. To be a successful writer, you have to live in a studio apartment and starve for your craft. That’s nonsense. In today’s world, writers are working professionals just like lots of other people. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Do you overreact to criticism? Beginning writers are notoriously thin-skinned. You may think everyone is out to steal your work. If it’s worth stealing, then perhaps you’d have something to worry about. But as a beginner, it mostly likely isn't. Instead, concentrate on making your writing the best it can be.

Are you trying to handle everything yourself instead of looking for the right kind of help? If you’re having problems with a particular skill, get some help, either through a tutor or a class. Find out all you can about the kind of writing you intend to do. Read lots of examples of it. Become very familiar with its style or organization. Don’t think just because you read articles, stories, or books that you know how to write them.

What warnings have been coming back to you that you've ignored? Have you had the same pieces rejected again and again? Have any editors hinted at why they’ve rejected your work? Try to get some feedback, even from your friends. After all, some of them may be avid readers.

Creating a five-year plan will force you to keep track of the people and places where you'll find help in accomplishing your goals. You won't veer off into sidelines that aren't financially rewarding enough. A five-year plan also maintains vigilance over your best, most lucrative and satisfying ideas. Be both realistic and ambitious—five years can be a very short or a very long time. But if you don't look that far ahead, you'll discover you've lost much more than just five years of your time.

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