One question readers always ask me is “How did you get this job? How can I get one like it?”
If you’re new to my blog–this whole writing thing is something I do professionally. As in, it is my main source of income. Professional freelance writing is what I fill out under occupation on all my medical forms.
And while I usually get kind of a “yeah, right” look from the secretaries, I am not making this shit up–there are actually people out there that make a living through their writing.
But let’s clear this up right away to spare you any more confusion.
Here are some things I do not get paid to write: poetry, fan fiction, scifi, erotica, fantasy, romance novels, actual novels, and compilations.
I’m not saying that you absolutely, 100% can’t get paid writing those kind of things. I’m just saying that they’re certainly not the most lucrative fields of writing and if there is an editor looking to publish them, you should be aware that they probably don’t have the money to pay you regularly, like a salary that you could live on.
Here’s some examples of things that I DO get paid to write: the description on the menu for your favorite burrito, the back of the shampoo bottle that you read on the toilet, the instructions for your early pregnancy test that you mostly ignore while peeing in a quiet, private terror. Articles on how to correctly put on foundation. Articles on how to organize a cluttered vanity. Reviews on the pilot of a TV show you thought was kind of lame, but then ended up staying on air for another nine seasons. Editorials on chronic disease. Medical translation copy. Slogans for a new line of natural baby shampoos. Press kits for clients who need to get attention from the media. Press releases for clients who need to get attention from the media. Website content for clients that need to get attention from customers. Letters to editors on behalf of clients who need to get attention from the media. Signatures on the back of my checks before I push them through the ATM.
You want the truth about being a professional writer? It’s certainly not all glamorous and not everyone can just “do it.” You do not immediately go from zero to sixty and start regularly writing for Marie Claire. I started freelance writing, professionally–as in, with the goal to make money, when I was fourteen. I had a stacked portfolio from newspapers and community magazines offline–which didn’t mean jack shit once I started pitching national editors online. It’s a layering thing. One job leads to another job leads to another–but that only happens if you make it happen.
Here are Ten Types of People That Should Not Aspire to be Freelance Writers:
- The type of person who gets antsy about handing in their resume in person.
- The type of person who doesn’t call back every day until they hear a yes or no about their recent application.
- The type of person who can’t work quickly under pressure.
- The type of person who doesn’t like strangers.
- The type of person who doesn’t respond to their emails.
- The type of person who gets stomach cramps at the thought of an uncensored comment box.
See, because much of my work is done from home and online, people can get the impression that it doesn’t take a lot of guts or effort. But the truth is it takes a lot of guts to pitch people from major magazines who you constantly feel are out of your league. And there is a lot of experience and education that helps you to see the fine line between stalking and gentle but aggressive encouragement. You know what else takes guts? Interviewing celebrities, professionals, demanding people who you feel are more important than you to abide by your deadlines, because if they don’t deliver, neither do you.
What? I still haven’t discouraged you from pushing your way into my very competitive field of work? Fair enough.
If you’re going to pursue freelance writing here are some basic tips
1) Take Responsibility of Your Shit: You are an island. You are a 1099. In every sense of the word, you’ve got be all adult about this. From keeping yourself on schedule (google calendar anyone?) to making sure you fact check that stat, you need to man up.
2) Don’t Be a Pussy: Not be vulgar or anything, but you’re going to have to suck it up. See, nobody has time for you, duckling. If you want somebody’s attention you’re going to have to work for it. Be aggressive with your pitches. Follow up. Re-apply. Connect with people you don’t know on People You May Know. How do you feel about sending an invoice with a payment timeline on it? Getting cold feet? Eh? EH?
3) You’re Going to Need to Google That: If you can believe it–there’s a whole host of people who don’t put their work contact on their twitter profile’s tiny summary. Editors, celebrities, even your sources can be hard to track down on the great and elusive google. You’re going to have to try a lot of @hearsts and @gmails before you track down the right one.
4) Don’t Do What I Just Did: Which was to underestimate the self-employment tax. Now I’m in hell. Ha ha ..ha…ha.
5) Set Your Rejection Reaction Time Limit: I like to keep mine at a cool three minutes. Just enough time to warm up the tear ducts and crack my knuckles before writing my next pitch. Don’t dwell on “no’s” and “thanks for your interest” they’re not crying over your lost talent, why should you?