I see a lot of newbies swish in and out of the writing forums, asking the same questions over and over, then getting frustrated when their concerns aren’t immediately met with soft, encouraging words and a handful of easy-to-score, high-paying markets thrust into their palm. Some are willing to listen to the voice of experience, others, not so much. These three myths are a common theme among new freelancers, and are harder to extinguish than the urban legend of receiving free beer through e-mail forwards.
It’s fast money. Oops, excuse me, I just laughed so hard that milk came out my nose. In the big picture, freelancing may seem fast compared to the evolution of dinosaurs into chickens, but it won’t be faster than the due date of your electric bill. Sorry. It can take months between query, assignment, rewrite, acceptance, invoice, payment and publication. Need a speedy turnaround? Find some local clients who need press releases, newsletters and other writing products. In my experience, the process goes faster when you’re working with a local business. Sometimes I would get paid the same day I submitted my invoice; in other instances, it took a couple of weeks.
All you need is an idea and a keyboard. In theory, yes. But you also need information. A big chunk of freelancing is research, so get started now. Locate a copy of Writer’s Market and read the articles up front. There’s a lot of valuable info in there, from how to write a query letter to determining what you should charge. Also, check out writing sites like Absolute Write, which are worth their weight in cyber-gold. AW’s freelancing forum has a collection of stickies at the top of the page representing lifetimes of experience.
Big markets are easy to crack. I once had a client who asked me, “If you send this press release to Reader’s Digest, what issue will it be in?” It’s tough to crack the top markets—that’s why they are the top markets. Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Parade, Smithsonian etc., are staffed by very busy, very talented people. It takes a lot of time and effort to get their attention, and many writers spend years doing the rejection-query waltz with editors.
Again, think global, write local. Start out with regional pubs, get some clips, and climb the first few rungs of the ladder. We’ve all heard about the exceptions; people who claim, “On my first day, I wrote an article, sent it to Reader’s Digest, and they bought it!” These people suffer mysterious aches and pains throughout life, because the rest of us stick pins in their voodoo-doll likenesses. Most freelancers work very hard for each new level of accomplishment. It’s not a walk in the park, but if you do your job right, you could touch a few hearts and change a few lives with your words; if you’re very lucky and dedicated, you could even make a living at it.