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5 Easy Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers

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on October 23, 2012 in Freelance Writing Business
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By: Athena Jacob

Freelance writing can be one of the most rewarding careers, both financially and spiritually. It can also be somewhat overwhelming when flipping through Writer’s Market. Although it’s a very good resource it’s often misused by the beginning freelancer. In this article, I'll help you find out what you might have been doing wrong and then we'll correct those mistakes.

Find a Niche

It’s always easier to do something that you love. If your passion is living green or saving the whales, there’s a market for you. You’d be surprised by how many writers pick several different subjects and then become overwhelmed by upcoming deadlines and demands.

Even picking a subject because it pays well doesn’t really make the material fun to write. I was once guilty of this myself. “Ooh, Mathematical Mysteries is paying one dollar a word.” This is very bad if you are like me and hate math.

What helps a lot is if you make a list, limit it to about ten niches, and then choose your top three. Once you find your chosen niche or niches, you’ll soon be getting paid to do what you love.

Don’t Despise Humble Beginnings

Ever dream of having something printed in Cosmopolitan  or National Geographic? So do thousands of others. Don’t be discouraged.


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Starting with a humble beginning will give you the training and experience that is required to pursue top notch magazines. The best thing to do when having little to no experience is to write for trade journals, small online magazines, and be a guest writer on blogs or other websites.

Why Write for Trade Journals?

  • With trade journals you can have little or no experience.
  • Contrary to popular belief, they can pay just as well as big press.
  • It’s still somewhat of a hidden market, making it less competitive.
  • They look great on a resume.

Guest Posts -- Are You Kidding Me? Write for Free?

  • With so many great blogs out there, the possibilities for a writer are endless. Bloggers especially need help writing new content.
  • This will at least give you published clips that you can show to a potential client.
  • Even popular blogs want content help and this is a great way to get your work out to the public.

Have no Fear, the Query Letter is Here

There is big controversy over using a query letter to gain attention from an editor.

Most magazines, trade journals, and bloggers don’t always require a formal query letter for submission.

Just in case they do, there are just a few key points to go over. I did, at one time, hate even the idea of a query letter. Once you understand how easy it is, it becomes a lot less intimidating. One thing to keep in mind is an editor is busy and they want you to get to the point.

  • Inform the editor of the ideas you have.
  • Keep the publication's readers in mind.
  • Know the tone of the magazine -- funny, serious, reflective, etc.
  • Keep it short and professional.

What other tips would you share with freelance writers looking to build a portfolio? How did you kick off your own freelance writing career? Tell us about it in the comments.

About the Author

"While fairly new to freelance writing, Athena Jacob is an avid reader with an interest in journalism and writing fiction. Barely a day goes by that you won't find her with a book in her hands. She now freelances full-time but still actively pursues her true passion in writing -- poetry. To read some of her poetry, check out Writing Rapture, her new writing blog."

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6 Comments

  1. Alex January 10, 2013 Reply

    Great tips Athena, this is just what I need. This could help me improve my writing. I’m new to freelance writing and it’s hard for me to find clients. I’ve recently read that having a blog is a great way to find clients for writers and I’m planning to create one to expose my writing skills on clients. I’ve also tried looking on different freelancing sites like Staff.com, Freelancer.com and even on social media like Twitter.

  2. Dreamer October 18, 2013 Reply

    Currently, I’m very young, but when I grow up, I plan to become a freelance writer of fiction books.
    1. Is this possible?
    2. Would you recommend starting my career with freelance writing, or would you say that having a job as a non-freelancer is better?
    Thanks! Love your name, by the way! Athena was always my favorite Greek goddess.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 18, 2013 Reply

      I’m not Athena, but I’ll do my best to answer.

      1. Yes, it’s certainly possible to become a fiction writer when you’re older. In fact, you could start writing fiction now. :) There’s a yearly challenge called NaNoWriMo taking place in November, and they even have a young writers program. You should consider taking part. Not only will you get to start focusing on a story, but you can meet other young writers in the process. :)

      http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

      2. No one can really tell you how to start your career. Whether you choose freelancing or a traditional full-time job will depend largely on your situation at the time (such as your need for a stable income and insurance benefits versus your drive to work independently). But freelancing is always something you can do part-time to get started, and then you can transition to full-time freelancing when you’re ready. So don’t feel like you have to decide one way or the other immediately. I’ve known many teenagers who started freelancing part-time while they were in college for example, and they either continued part-time later alongside a traditional job or they immediately went to full-time entrepreneurship. The choice is yours to make. :)

  3. Slavek May 11, 2014 Reply

    Hi Athena.
    Thanks for the ideas and direction in your post.

    [This comment was moderated. Job ads may not be posted in blog comments. If you would like to hire a writer or editor, please use the job board located at http://allindiewriters.com/freelance-writing-jobs/. Thank you.]

  4. Bohuslav Kocarek May 12, 2014 Reply

    Dear Athena,
    My contribution was to offer a job, but a desperate attempt to get simmilar soul to a common “work” to implement the story in English. The reward has to be an offer to become the co-author of the book, because my translation without contributing authors, who would like to work with is the issue of insufficient. I understand your rules and have no choice but to respect them. Could you help me when you notify someone of his friends, who wants to work as authors, that such an offer is there. K without obligation. Thank you, believe me, friend.
    Slavek.

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