Becoming A Freelance Writer in 5 Easy Steps

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on October 23, 2009 in Freelance Writing Business
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There are many resources out there dedicated to helping people create a successful freelance career.  Several of these resources are grim, treating the whole affair as if it were a matter of life and death.  In reality, it is actually quite easy to become a freelance writer.  All you need to do is follow these five simple steps, and you are well on your way to a great freelancing career.

Just remember - sometimes circles of hell will feel less painful than this job.

1.  Find Time To Work On Your Business

A famous law states that if you do not do anything to move towards a goal, you will never reach it.  Even worse, by doing things to move towards a goal, you must not do other things you would have done instead.  This fact alone has destroyed many a potential freelancer.  After all, if they wanted to do things, they wouldn't have already quit their job.

So you must find time to perform your freelancing duties.  However, this is easier than you think.  Leo Baubata of Zen Habits tells his readers to eliminate everything from their task list except the most essential activities.  With some effort, you can achieve this as well.  Look closely at your life and you'll find many activities that aren't worth the investment.  After all, do you really need to listen to your spouse?  Can't your children raise themselves on TV like you did?  And who needs to eat, when your friend Poison Ivy can show you how to absorb sunlight?

See what other useless things you can eliminate from your life.  Like maintaining a physical body.  Really, do you absolutely have to exist?  Sure, by not existing, you give up precious human contact...but just think about how many more product descriptions you can write!

2.  Networking

Another famous law states that if you don't let anyone know that you're offering a freelance service, you will never get any clients.  This seems to be a point of confusion among potential freelancers, who feel as if clients will drop out of the sky and land at their feet.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.  The planes are only allowed to drop clients in front of the lottery winners.


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Fortunately, it's easy to tell people about your services.  While going about your day-to-day business, strike up conversations with people who look like they have money.  After introductions, steer the conversation towards your freelancing business.  This takes some finesse, but it can easily be done.  Watch how I change the subject in a conversation I had with my friend:

FRIEND: Oh, God, I've been shot!
ME: Oh, wow.  That looks pretty serious.
FRIEND: You have to get me to a hospital!
ME: All right.  I'll take you to the Healthy Laughter Hospital, where they use jokes and sketch comedy to heal injuries.  I write comedy too, actually.  Did you know that?  Not only can I help you create informative content for your website and blog, I can inject it with humor and draw more traffic, backlinks, and comments.  See if I'm right for you - check out samples of my work on my website, http://www.giantrobotinvasion.com.
FRIEND: (Is dead.)
ME: Huh.  I guess you can't putz around when someone gets shot in the heart.

Experiment with the ways you can promote your services in everyday conversation.

3.  Marketing

A third law from the same source states that, in combination with networking, you should also market your services.  There are many ways to do this, from guest posting on blogs and sending out press releases, to holding seminars and giving interviews.

All of these suck.

You see, these are fine marketing methods if you are eager to waste time before someone kills you with salt, since you are a slug.  However, humans everywhere know that the best way to generate word-of-mouth for their services is to do something incredibly loud and stupid.  (This is why there are now churches where people go to worship Johnny Knoxville.)

Let us learn from the example put forth by Richard and Mayumi Heene, who recently made headlines by claiming that their son was carried off inside a giant balloon.  In reality, their son was never in danger, and it was all a clever marketing tactic in order to create interest about their storm-chasing activities.  The tactic was so successful that it got the Heenes exactly what they wanted, assuming their goal was to earn felony charges.

You don't have to pretend a loved one is being carried away in a balloon, but make sure your marketing ploy is just as bizarre.  Otherwise, no one will have a reason to care.

4.  Do The Work

A fourth law from a completely unrelated source states that once you earn an assignment from a client, you must then complete it in a timely manner.  This is a far more difficult concept than you realize.  After all, it is a well-known fact that the more important the work, the higher the chance that everything in the entire world will break while you are doing it.


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No one really knows why this happens.  Even the scientific community can't explain this, and they are quite skilled at using studies to explain what was painfully obvious.  Still, many freelancers have witnessed the effects of this phenomenon first-hand.  As they work on their assignments, they are increasingly bombarded by a multitude of distracting situations.  Children hurt themselves, spouses whine for food, and the dog decides that 12:18 AM is the only chance he will have today to relieve his bowels.

If you are not currently a freelancer, you can simulate this effect for yourself:

A. Sit down with pen and paper, or at your computer.
B. Write a 300 word article about any topic in mind.
C. Revise it to meet grammatical standards.
D. When you are finished, mail the article to yourself, as if you were actually sending the piece to a client.

Now imagine that, while you were working, your house has burst into flames.

This effect is but a fact of life for many freelancers.  You must develop the resolve you need to work in these situations, even while it feels like the entire world is coming down around you.  (This is probably because your son has found a bulldozer while you weren't looking.)

5.  Get Paid


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A fifth, more recent law states, "If you're good at something, never do it for free."  The wise man who stated this law then went on to blow up an entire hospital.  I considered removing his quote from this article, but then I realized that by using the words of a psychopath, Americans are more likely to tweet this article.

In any case, after you finish your work, you must get paid.  Many of your potential clients did not pay attention to this lecture in class.  After all, the nose is a fascinating place, filled with wonderful things to discover.  Unfortunately, the clients who prioritize this body cavity will have the hardest time reading and paying your invoice.

The solution, naturally, is to place the bill inside their nose.

How to place the bill inside the nose of your client is beyond the scope of this article.  (Though I suggest shoving it up just as he recoils from a sneeze.)  But consider the surprise that will overcome your client when he enters the nose and finds a piece of paper threaded up into his brain.  Furthermore, imagine his surprise when he pulls it out and remembers how to add numbers again.

This will please your client so much that he will pay right away, and when you are freelancing, that is very important.  After all, while you were working on that assignment, your house burst into flames.  You'll need that money to pay for repairs, as well as to replace the bulldozer your son has driven into a lake.

With these five easy steps in mind, you are well on your way to a freelance career.  It will take hard work and dedication, but I am confident that, with time and patience, you will triumph.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to outbid someone in India who will write ten articles for ten dollars.

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Matt Willard

Matt Willard's bio begins with witty phrasing that succinctly illustrates his stance as a humorist. It is then followed with a clever sentence that illustrates what he does in his spare time. The bio concludes with a shameless link to his Twitter profile, paired with an off-hand comment that alludes to his success with women. Laughter.

8 Comments

  1. Dawn October 23, 2009 Reply

    LOVE how you turned all the conventional advice on its head. Thanks for the laughs with my morning coffee! :D

    I wish I had an insightful and witty comment to add, but… I esp. loved the dialogue where the friend is dying and the writer is marketing to him.

    It’s sad, but some people actually DO this… okay, maybe not in quite such a blatant way, but they don’t pick up on cues from others that they don’t need or want their services, and keep going with completely irrelevant plugs for themselves.

    Probably the people who do it won’t notice themselves in your article, though. ;)

  2. Matt Willard October 23, 2009 Reply

    Well, if someone’s going to die, you might as well get as much as you can out of it :V

  3. Jennifer Mattern October 23, 2009 Reply

    I think he just needed to refine his sales pitch a bit. Tighten up that elevator speech. It was a learning experience.

  4. Matt Willard October 23, 2009 Reply

    A DEADLY experience! OH HO HO HO HO.

  5. Yolander Prinzel
    Yolander Prinzel October 23, 2009 Reply

    You have to remember to tailor your message to the potential client–in other words, tell the target how your writing can help them.

    In this case, you offer to take them to Healthy Laughter Hospital but then you slide in the incentive that you can put them in stitches for less money and that you have a PhD in Laughology. So then they choose you because you are there right now AND they understand how you benefit them. Remember, Healthy Laughter Hospital is your competitor and freelance writers must always crush their competitors by any means necessary.

  6. Matt Willard October 23, 2009 Reply

    I also have a minor in CRUSH-INATION!

    (But I actually found a helpful tip in there, Yo, so thanks :V )

  7. Jessie Fitzgerald October 23, 2009 Reply

    Snort laughter and joy ensued after I read this blog post. It is so good to be back in the world again!

  8. James Horner February 27, 2010 Reply

    I’m just getting started as a freelancer and this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

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