1. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Marketing myself as a freelance writer...?

    Discussion in 'Marketing' started by aModernHeathen, Sep 11, 2019.

    Does anyone have tips on how to market myself as a freelance writer? I haven't chosen a niche yet, but ideally I would like to write for non-fiction publications; this seems to be the most realistic option as far as making a career as a freelancer. I'd even like to get into writing copy at some point.

    However, with no degree or experience as a freelancer, how exactly do I market myself correctly to land those first few gigs? Is it just a matter of sending query after query until someone gives me a shot? I've heard plenty of writers say that, no matter what, resorting to content mills isn't a good idea. And writing for exposure sounds like a rip off - though I'd do it if it were in a huge publication that I really wanted to write for anyway.

    As far as my creative writing... I'm still doing that. That's what drives me to write daily. However, I really want to make a living as a writer, and I know it's doable, I suppose I just don't know how to do it. I've had dozens of jobs in the past ten years in plenty of different industries. I know what a don't want: a nine to five job. That's why right now I have plans to do some over the road truck driving. See the country, drive all day and get paid to do it? Why not. Been talking with a recruiter so it looks like I'll be landing something soon.

    All that said, my dream is to write for a living. I don't care if I have to work 80 hour weeks, I want to work from home, write, and get paid. That seems so awesome to me. And of course I have dreams of getting that novel published some day... who doesn't?

    Anyway, any tips for a newbie? Thanks guys.
     
  2. Deceangli

    Deceangli New Member

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    I think you'd need to focus on 2 aspects:
    - the quality of your product
    - specialist knowledge in some niche

    Otherwise there are zillions of cheap, low quality content churners you'd be competing with. Good luck! And the driving job sounds pragmatic - we all need to put food on the table, you'd be seeing places, gathering ideas - every pearl starts from a piece of grit, right?
     
  3. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Step one: write a lot, and write for free. If you're good, people will ask you for your writing and be willing to pay for it.

    Step two: acquire an agent who understands your writing, and who understands the market you're aiming for. This step is the hardest, and I wish I could help you there. It might help to cultivate personal friendships with people in the publishing business who can give you referrals. Otherwise, you can take your chances with the agents who advertise in the various writers' publications.
     
  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I disagree with writing for free. I worked as a freelance writer for year and didn't give away my work for free (with a few exceptions). But giving stuff away is not a step towards making money, in my opinion.

    The first thing you need to do is have a good pitch. Why is this timely? Why in this important to the readership? Then you need to state why you are the best person to write this story. Say something like, "I have already done a preliminary interview with Mrs. Jones who has gone under the radar as a witness to this internet. She tells me..." This will show you know what you're talking about and have the sources you will need to pull off the piece. Plus, it shows you have found a fresh take on something. Finally, and I think this is important when it comes to breaking in good-paying publications, offer to write on spec. This means they can say they are interested and would like you to write the piece, but they are under no obligation to buy and publish it even after you finish it and turn it in. You want them to take a chance on you without the risk, basically. Without big credentials, writing on spec can be a way to sort of prove yourself.
     
  5. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    That piece of advice actually came from Mark Twain. As a writer and a publisher, I figured that he knew something about the business. But if you were able to make money right away, good on you!
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Well, Mark Twain's days of writing are long gone. I really think offering to write on spec is the way to break in to freelancing. That's what I did to get into certain publications. I had a magazine like my pitch and idea once, but (at the time) my lack of experience had them worried and they suggested I try them with an idea for a lighter story. This was before I started saying I would write on spec.

    The downside is there's no kill fee. Normally, if your pitch is accepted and the piece isn't what they want or were expecting, you will still get paid something (usually half). I've also pitched stories where the publication liked the idea and wanted to pay me a finders fee. This place offered me $200 for the idea, but a staff writer would take over. I pushed back a little because I wanted to write it and was paid $500. And I probably offered to do that one on spec as well if I remember correctly.
     
  7. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Yeah, that's currently what I'm trying to work out. I don't necessarily have special knowledge in any field I can think of; I've worked in multiple industries over the years
    I've heard that writing for "exposure" is the last thing you want to do. But I'll certainly keep it in mind.

    What is writing on spec, exactly? Is that what you mean by telling them they can take or leave the piece even when I'm finished?
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    @aModernHeathen -- That's exactly what writing on spec means. If the publication gives you the green light, they already have interest or they would still reject your pitch even with the offer to write on spec. It's a chance to prove yourself more than just in a pitch letter. And, in my experience, it worked out more often than it didn't. I don't really do that kind of writing anymore, but even with experience and credentials there are places I would still offer to write on spec. It's also a way to start your career in a better spot. If you've got the goods and skills, it can help you get in with bigger places. Sure, a lot of people think you need to work your way up from the bottom, but I fully disagree with that. A good story is a good story. And good stories sell. Why not aim high? Writing on spec is a way to break in at a level that is going to pay you well and give you some impressive credits. It might not always work out and you could still be flat out rejected. But without much experience you have to think about what you bring to the table and what you can offer. The less of a risk you are, the more likely a place is to take a chance on a new writer.

    It's also important what you put into your query. Don't just have an idea. Do some of the ground work. I would say I usually did about half the work before pitching stories. Freelance writing isn't easy and is competitive. It will also help if you know where your writing and what you're writing about will fit well. Read the publications you want to write for. I mentioned some tips for the query letter a few posts up. And I'm happy to give you more pointers or answer any questions. All this is based on my experience, but I did pretty well for awhile.

    You can also check with newspapers and contact the editors to ask if they need stringers. You'll probably get the shit assignments at first, but you will get paid, and work as a stringer can be pretty regular. However, without experience it could be hard. Stingers tend to make between $50 and $200 a piece. It's not a ton of money, but they're not going to pass on big assignments to stringers so the work shouldn't be too hard.
     
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  9. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Dude, this is awesome advice. What is a stringer and how exactly should I contact them? Probably by email, no?
     
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  10. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I stringer is basically a regular freelancer for whatever publication. I would contact the managing editor by email or even phone. You can ask for an informational interview and tell them you are interested in becoming a stringer for them. Once everything is in place they will usually contact you and see if you're available to do an assignment. And once you have this relationship with an editor it's pretty easy to run other pitches by them. I'm happy to look at an email or query before you send it if you want to message me. I was lucky to have several mentors throughout my writing career. It's not so hard once you understand how it all works. If you're interested in becoming a stringer, I see no reason why you couldn't get paid for a story this month even. I don't know where you are in the country, but if you want to give me some more information about where you are and what type of writing you want to do, I might be able to point you in the right direction. And you can do it by private message if you don't want to post that stuff on the forum. I've had stringer work lead to staff writer positions. It's another way to prove yourself.
     
  11. aModernHeathen

    aModernHeathen Banned

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    Thank you! I sent you a PM. Get back to me when possible.
     
  12. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Since there has been a comment or two about this, I should clarify. Twain never intended that a writer keep on writing for free. He suggested, instead, that prospective writers use it to test the waters and see if they had the potential to write for a living. If there were no nibbles after a year or two, the writer should take it as a sign that they weren't ready for the market or that the market wasn't ready for them, and to stick with their day job, so to speak. I think that's still good advice.

    In the year I supported myself with free-lance work, I sold 90% of what I wrote, but still couldn't write enough to be sure I could pay the bills. It's different when you have a track record, of course.
     

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