Friday, March 7, 2014

Can You Really Make It as a Freelance Writer?

It’s 3 P.M. and you’re sitting at your desk in your cubicle staring at your computer screen. Your mind wanders but settles on one thought—wouldn’t it be great to have time all to yourself to sit and write articles for top magazines. 
It’s that narrow-minded thinking that will make sure you’re still sitting in that same chair several years from now—without having written a word.

Yes, it’s possible to become a successful freelance writer but to do that you have to first define “success.” Is it getting published, making a lot of money, achieving national fame, winning awards? The better you define what success is to you, the better your chance of achieving freelance writing success.

Can you really make a living as a freelance writer? Your chances are probably as good as any other entrepreneur. And just like any other person going into business for themselves, you need to look at the bigger picture.

Believe it or not, freelance writing is all about relationships. Relationships with editors, relationships with research librarians, relationship with the human subjects in your work.

The key to finding freelance success is developing relationships with editors at the publications you’d most like to write for on a regular basis. These relationships are invaluable, as you’re unlikely to make a living by relying solely on a constant stream of cold queries. You want editors to contact you with assignments. The best way to do that is to always deliver exactly what the editor wants by the assigned deadline. In fact, the more quickly you can turn around quality articles, the better off you’ll be.

Many publications, strapped by tight budgets, have smaller staffs these days. So the editors depend on a stable of good, reliable writers to fill most of their needs. While it may be hard to break into one of those stables, it’s a goal you must strive for if you plan on freelancing full time.

As editors move from publication to publication—and they move faster and more often than hairdressers do to other beauty salons—they often take along their most reliable writers, even if the magazine isn’t in the writer’s subject realm. Anyone can learn about a subject to write about it, but not everyone is a good writer. So editors opt for good writers and help them along with the subject matter as they go.

One thing that many new freelancers forget is that full-time freelance writing is a full-time job, just like the one they left to become a freelancer. Of course, the big difference is that you can choose the hours you work, but you’ll still have to put in as many hours—or more—to make it. You don’t get paid vacation time, and you don’t get benefits like health insurance, a 401k and playing on company teams. However, you do have the opportunity to out-earn what you would get working for a publisher and set a flexible schedule so you can take care of other things when you’re not overloaded with work.

So success as a freelancer depends on how all the parts fit together as a whole. It’s usually not about money, but though you can earn far more than you did in sitting in the cubicle of your day job, it’s the quality of life that counts.

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