Some people think that freelance writing is over but it isn’t. Far from it. Most of the people I know who were making money as freelancers are still making money. But the people who panicked and freaked out when the economy started to tank are not making as much money as they once did. And I have heard that some folks who were once making very nice money are not making such nice money any longer.
In the meantime, down here in the land of I-just-need-to-make-a-reasonable-income, things are just fine. I don’t work with folks who need to make six figures, like yesterday. What I teach is what I have always taught: sane, satisfying, sustainable strategies for writers to start getting published and grow a nonfiction writing career over time.
People think that it’s really, really hard to break into freelance writing. I think the people who teach blogging for dollars love to perpetuate this myth. Speaking as someone who teaches mom writers how to break in as writers, I can tell you that it’s not nearly as hard to break in as it is to move up the ranks right now. It is harder to move up right now because there are a lot more experienced freelancers in the stream to compete with. But at the breaking-in place, there are tons of opportunities just as there have always been a ton of opportunities.
The question that remains is: do you have the chops to get published? These skills can be taught and they are what I teach. Then I watch my students’ results and they consistently demonstrate that the skills I teach work.
Most writers don’t have time-management issues, they have determination issues. In my experience, writing for publication has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with focus and consistency. I see busy writer mamas learning and applying what they’ve learned to create steadily-building writing success year after year all the time.
Here’s my take on the ten most typical questions people ask about freelance writing:
- What if I’ve never been published? No problem. There is no need to have been published before to get started.
- What comes first, the article or the query? The way I teach beginners, the article comes first. We tackle queries at the intermediate level because articles are so much easier to write than queries. Many of my students turn right around and get their practice articles published, so why not start with the easier form?
- Should I write for free? Not in the long run. But if you are a person who just can’t get any momentum going with your writing, I’d rather see you write for free for an editor than not write at all. (Notice I said “for an editor” and then see my answer to #7.)
- Should I blog? If you are a busy mom, I’d rather see you write articles for publication for at least six months to a year before you start blogging. I’ve taught bloggers article writing with success but I always treat the two as separate and different because they are.
- Will people steal my ideas? At any one time hundreds if not thousands of people are having a similar idea. The person who ultimately wins is the one who writes it down and submits it. You can’t protect every little idea and move forward in your career at the same time. And copyright law is always there if you absolutely need it.
- What if I have a great idea for a book? If you have a great idea for a book and you are not yet an established professional writer with a solid platform on that book topic, I’d sit on that idea for a bit. I’d work on writing articles for publication and building a platform. You’d be amazed what you can accomplish in a year. You are so much likelier to get that book deal on the first attempt to pitch it when you are actually ready and can demonstrate that readiness.
- Should I write for content mills? Nope, never. (See my response to #10 for more.)
- How much money can I make as a freelancer? Well, how well can you write? How fast can you come up with appropriate ideas? How smoothly can you sell your words? All of these things come into play when we are talking about how much you can earn as a writer. Most writers find out how much they can make through actual experience, not promises from other people. Besides people who are promising you a certain amount of money are most likely trying to sell you something.
- How long will it take to make any decent kind of money? Again, this comes down to your answers to some questions: How much time do you have to work each day? How consistent will you be? And are you writing to beat some kind of ticking clock? Because if you are writing for money is a really bad idea. Consistently I notice that the moms who make the best money are the most grounded and the least desperate.
- What is the best thing I can do to break in? The best thing you can do is three-fold: learn how to write well enough to compete, find an established writer who can work with you and mentor you over time, put what you learn from each teacher/mentor into immediate action. Then watch yourself progress.
The successful writers I know are all humble and hardworking. If you are thinking you are going to be the exception, you might want to try a different field. If you think there is some magic law of attraction at work or some lucky vs. unlucky game at play, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Success in this field is simply about getting the job done as well as you can again and again and again.
The professional world can always use more good writers. I’ve seen women grow leaps and bounds in self-esteem by flexing their writing muscles, myself included. In fact, I feel there has never been a better time to be a writer. I’ll have more to say on this topic soon.
In the meantime, write on!