The Three Rules That Underpin My Freelance Writing Business
I’m not much of a rule-follower. I like to experiment, do my own thing, go my own way, and generally take a few risks. But there are a few rules I apply in my freelance writing business, and I suggest other aspiring writers follow them too, because they’re at the heart of being a successful writer, and they’re an essential part of how I get my writing out into the world, consistently.
Do the work
Some people say you’re a writer as long as you write. True, and also not true. Everyone writes from time to time. We write emails, social updates, notes, messages and shopping lists. But if that’s all you’ve done recently, do you still feel comfortable with the words, “I’m a writer”.
If I’m not writing for pay, and/or adding to my body of work, every single day, or at least 5 days a week, I don’t feel like I’m really doing the work of a writer.
My days start with me writing, either for the content creation agency I work for regularly, a private client, a prospective writing outlet I’m submitting to on spec, or myself. If I’m writing ‘for myself’ that work will get published, on Medium, or NewsBreak, or on my blog, or in one of my books.
You’re still a writer if all you do is write, but to be a successful writer, you need to also submit, publish and market. You need to do all the work not just the bits you enjoy. I’ve written before about some of the questions I get asked by freelance writers, and I’ve made the point that the answer to most of them is the same three words: do the work.
There’s a lot to learn as a writer. I know this because I’ve been writing (with varying degrees of success) for over 20 years. I still use the skills and techniques I learned in the first ever writing course I took, but I’ve taken so many more since then, which is a good thing. If I was still following the advice I learned in my first ever writing course, I’d still be submitting by snail mail with a stamped addressed envelope for my rejections, or (very) occasional acceptances to come back in.
Writing is now a fairly high-tech business. Writers invariably run their own website and/or blog, upload their writing directly to various different online platforms, submit through software like submittable, store their documents in the cloud, design their own illustrations and graphics, and generally know their way around a computer, the internet, and various other forms of technology. If you want to be a writer, you certainly have to learn about writing, but there’s a whole lot of peripheral stuff you need to learn too.
Writing style, popular genres and marketing techniques have all changed as well. Keeping on top of it all needn’t involve constant formal learning, but it does involve keeping an ear to the ground, following popular writing blogs, paying attention on online forums or in Facebook groups, and, at the very least, reading up about the craft and the business of writing (I have an extensive and ever growing reading list for current and would-be writers).
I’ve written about the ten income streams that make up my ‘freelance writing’ business, some of which involve very little writing. All of which are interconnected at some level to my core business.
Writers are told to specialise, and that’s good advice. Having a specialty, or niche, makes life easier. But it’s absolutely possible to write in more than one niche, and to diversify into different types of writing, depending on what kind of work is available, what is most lucrative, and what you enjoy doing. It’s great when the planets align and you get to work on a piece of writing that combines all of those, but being prepared to take on work that only fulfils one of those criteria (ie it is either easily available, or lucrative, or enjoyable) is how you bullet-proof your freelance writing career.
Freelance writing isn’t the risky choice some people will tell you it is, but it’s vital to cut risk down by being versatile, and diversifying in terms of the type of work you’re both willing and able to do.
Do the work — every single day. Write, submit, publish, market, pitch,repeat.
Keep learning — about writing, publishing, marketing, technology, and trends.
Diversify — by nurturing different clients, skills, writing outlets and income streams.
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Originally published on TheWritingCooperative.com.