Become a Freelance Writer

Are You Ready for Reality?

By Kathy Coogan

So you want to become a freelance writer. Becoming a freelance writer is a little like becoming a mountain climber. In theory, all a mountain climber has to do is place one foot in front of the other, all the way to the top. In practice, there is a little more to it.

The situation is similar for aspiring freelancers. It sounds easy. You’re a writer. All you have to do is write stuff and sell it. In practice there is a little more to it.

Just as there are foothills that you must conquer before you begin the grand ascent, there are steps that you as a writer must take before you quit your day job.

The first step requires an honest examination of your abilities, attitudes and work ethic. Can you assemble a paragraph that is interesting as well as grammatically correct? Can you do it quickly? Can you do it over and over again, day after day? Can you write to a deadline after a self-start? Can you accept editing advice from the folks who will be paying you, who insist that a mountain climbing metaphor is ridiculous?

If you are here at this site, you have probably done your share of writing. Maybe you’ve even done it for a regular employer. Free-lancing removes you from the comfort of receiving a paycheck for showing up at a work-site and following orders.

There is little about free-lancing that is free. A free-lance writer must find his own jobs, buy his own supplies, pay his own salary and file his own taxes. The free-lancer eats lunch alone, can’t walk to the next cubicle to shoot the breeze, and does not punch out at five.

The free-lancer must have curiosity enough to research his topic on an as-needed basis, never fudging or inflating, exaggerating or minimizing. The free-lancer must leave his personal biases at the door, respecting the assignment that he has accepted, for which he will be paid.

But sometimes you write a nice little commentary about a mundane topic that turns out rather well so you sell it pretty quickly. And sometimes, sometimes, the free-lancer has a spontaneous fascinating concept that he develops fully, using admirable language, which he sells for top dollar (with by-line, no edits) to the periodical of his dreams. That, to the free-lance writer, is reaching the mountain top.

Author’s note: Read on for the nice little commentary on a mundane topic that sold pretty quickly to a food industry magazine that I searched out on the Web: Supermarkets Supersize

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