There are many types of freelance writers, and even more ways to become a freelance writer. So I'm curious... how did you stumble into a freelance writing career? Here's my story:
I decided to become a freelance writer at 19, while I was in college. I was working in one of the department offices to make some money for school, and was known for my computer savvy and quick typing. That led to me being offered an independent position working as a publications specialist for a professor of earth and space sciences. I did research on everything from rocks to Mars missions, and wrote and formatted a variety of booklets and brochures that he used in teaching his students, as well as in public displays (for things like Astronomy Day). It was a lot of fun, and I did that for three years.
I started off majoring in Mechanical Engineering in school. But before that, I'd been considering majoring in creative writing over at Roger Williams University in RI. It was my work in auto mechanics (I did all kinds of odd non-girly things back then) that sparked an interest in engineering... well that and having a mother who insisted writing would never be "real" work (she still thinks that actually).
So anyway, I went full circle back to my interest in writing. Then I changed majors to Public Relations for a variety of reasons, and learned more about PR writing. After college, I worked in retail advertising briefly before getting into non-profit PR. I was doing some work on the fundraising side of things for a major non-profit organization when I finally decided I couldn't stand the politics. I've always been ridiculously independent-minded (blame it on being an Aquarius), and always wanted to go into business for myself. Despite thinking about it for some time, the actual decision was pretty sudden. Needless to say, launching my PR firm (originally offline and exclusively music publicity, and now an online PR firm) is what pushed me into PR writing and marketing communications (including quite a bit of business writing).
The first content-oriented Web writing I did was at the start of 2005, when I launched my indie music webzine. My site list started growing quickly on the indie music front, and then I began writing for About.com. When I left them, I moved my content to the AllInfoAbout network before moving it to my own first business content site at BizAmmo.com. I've since launched about 15 sites total, with 3 more blogs pending launch as soon as I get to them, and about 30 other sites planned. After working with About and launching some of my own sites, offers have come in on that front regularly enough. I generally turn down content projects, unless it's for a company I'd really like in my portfolio though, because I simply make much more with the more private business writing I do.
At this point, I'm trying to be more active in marketing my various writing services, and I'll soon be expanding my portfolio, but for the most part all of my clients are either repeats or referrals from past clients, which I have to say is a really nice feeling as opposed to the start of my Web writing career. So I started out wanting to be both a writer and a problem-solver (engineering), and I ended up finding a career in PR that lets me do both, and I honestly couldn't be happier.
On a mildly interesting note, I've been considering pitching a story idea to Air & Space Magazine from The Smithsonian for a while now, and I recently came across a rather unique story idea through one of my clients (I really do work with the neatest people... from former professional athletes to reasonably well-known musicians to several top notch online entrepreneurs). I recently went back to my college to meet with an old boss, take her to lunch, show my b/f around, and check out the campus changes. I also met with the professor I worked for that I mentioned above, and he agreed to let me interview him if I decide to pitch the magazine. So again, it's like full circle, and always a fun ride along the way. And I guess that means I have a query to think about.
Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing.
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