Starting Out as a Freelance Writer? Look Beyond the Bottom Line!

By Valerie Hamer

I meet a lot of would-be writers in my day-to-day life: decent and (mostly) talented people who dream of well-paid editorial commissions, three book author deals or global fame and fortune.

Sadly, whether they blog, or write novels, short stories or poetry, very few will reap any financial reward from their work. Ever. This gloomy prediction has little to do with their skill level, but a lot to do with attitude. Put simply, they focus only on the bottom line of any writing opportunities that appear on their horizon.

‘I wouldn’t write a shopping list for that kind of payment’, they scoff, before retreating back into the limbo of inexperienced, unproven, portfolio-less would-be writer status.

While I fully support the notion of expecting fair pay for creative work, my route to success in this field came from following some less avaricious signposts.

Write for free – on your terms

I’m not ashamed to reveal I began my writing career by producing web copy for no immediate financial reward. I took this as an opportunity to prove I could write well, and along the way I learned what worked and what didn’t. Despite the lack of direct payment I continue to earn cash from this work thanks to being a Google Adsense associate.

These days I still produce quality articles for no pay – it’s called blogging!

Learning the discipline essential to a writing career is only possible when you actually get on with it.

Leonid_Pasternak_001Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

Hidden perks

I often find that a job featuring a token or minute payment opens the door to further (more lucrative) opportunities I’d never have accessed without that initial connection.

Some jobs offer bonus rewards that appear only when you have proved your worth. Fixed rate blog posts may offer extra pay for decent social media attention. And if they don’t, well you can always suggest it.

Find long term success as a paid writer

* Hone your writing skills in a way that suits your personality or lifestyle. Building a sound blog presence, contributing to profit-sharing information websites (such as Squidoo or Triond) or submitting copy for local free sheets/newsletters are just a few of the options out there.

* All writers need to build and maintain a portfolio, so work towards securing linkable published work that includes your name and bio. This also boosts your search engine visibility.

* Remember that a lot of writing work comes via recommendation/word of mouth. Gaining a foothold in the industry and making professional contacts is invaluable.

* Don’t forget to ask for a reference or testimonial from everyone you do any writing work for.

Few people will tell you that making a living as a writer is easy, but there are definitely lots of opportunities out there. Taking the time to gain experience and prove your worth provides a solid foundation to build on as your career progresses.

One thing I can promise you is that you’ll get further by being proactive and open- minded than those wannabe writers who wait passively to be ‘discovered.’

Writer’s Bio:

Valerie Hamer is a British writer/teacher/cultural detective currently living in Asia. A confirmed coffee addict, word fiend and event organiser, she is currently studying for an MA in Professional Writing while planning the launch of her second non-fiction book.