Friday, April 4, 2014

Gather Ye Building Blocks

Today, people put a lot of stock into experience. You can get college credit for it when pursuing a degree. You can get a better job because of it. And as a freelance writer, experience can help you climb to the next market level.

Job applications and HR (Human Resource people—although at times they may seem more resource and less human) lead people to think that only the experiences they’ve had in a particular area related to the job are important. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. And in freelance writing, all types of experience count—not just writing experiences but life experiences as well.

Perhaps you began your career as a worker delivering prescriptions for a mom-and-pop pharmacy. Think of all the people you came in contact with. Then think of all the situations you needed to grapple with while doing your job—grumpy people, old, sickly people, angry people, strange people, and those that were just plain nuts. Think of the weather conditions you had to endure to get those prescriptions out to them. How you coped with them and the situations is your experience.

You say, “What does that have to do with freelance writing?” Believe it or not, a lot.

Every job you’ve had, every life experience leads to another. All the information gets stored in your brain for future use. Your mind uses all your experiences as resources to help cope with future ones. So the experience you gained dealing with all those people should eventually help you in dealing with editors—grumpy editors, old editors, angry editors, strange editors, and those that are just plain nuts.

Let’s look at the flow of experiences for a particular writer. Let’s call him Joe. Joe started his writing career working on the staff of his high school yearbook. When he went to college, he joined the staff of his college paper. While working on the college paper, Joe started writing reviews of movies, a favorite interest of his. An editor at the local town newspaper saw Joe’s reviews and asked him if he’d do some for her. While the pay wasn’t that great, it was a start.

Joe’s interest in movies led to a broader interest in media. After college, he wrote reviews of not only films, but of other forms of media. All the while, Joe continued to improve his writing. He eventually got a job on the staff of a small pop culture magazine. But the pay wasn’t enough to live on, so Joe pursued his studied area of expertise, business management, and eventually became the manager of a large regional office for a big corporation.

And while he enjoyed his daily work, his heart longed for the time when he could spend hours sitting at his home computer writing.

The trick to making your experiences work for you is to first identify them. Most people never really look at all the experiences they’ve had up to the present time in their lives. You’ve got to network those experiences and make them work for you.

While writing media reviews, Joe became friends with a movie producer. A few years later, the producer introduced Joe to some public relations people who promoted movies and videos. It was then that Joe learned about the movie business in depth. This led to a short gig as a movie columnist for a regional magazine.

Once he had his foot in the door, the rest, as they say, is history. Joe began to get assignments from editors of a variety of magazines. They were looking for someone who knew what went on in the movie biz. Then Joe hit the big time with an article in the Chicago Tribune. That led to more assignments.

So whether your experience is in writing, itself, or in the subject areas you write about, you need to always seek better assignments. You need to climb the ladder to freelance writing success one experience at a time.

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