Freelance Writer

Freelance Writer

FreelanceWriter

Detroit, MI

Female, 30

After working in strategic communications and marketing for five years after college, I decided to make the move to full-time freelancing--mostly, to give me the freedom to travel. I've been freelancing for three years. At any given time, I'm writing for 5-10 print and digital publications, covering everything from engineering to travel. Common projects include copy writing, research reporting and academic writing.

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Last Answer on February 13, 2013

Best Rated

How does 50 Shades of Grey get published written like it is? I get it: sex sells. But where's the editor / publisher stepping in to suggest grammatical changes to make it semi-legible?

Asked by grey over 5 years ago

I once read a Danielle Steele novel--it was the only English-language book in a tiny town in Mexico and I was desperate--and I had the same question. Appalling! Honestly, I don't know. My guess is that editors are overworked and underpaid. Maybe the audiences for certain books care more about the story than the writing? Actually, I just did a quick search and came across this quote, which seems to support that theory: "Writers make up a specialized but very small part of the reading public. As specialists of the craft, we’re naturally hyper-aware of technical gaffes and structural problems. The average reader isn’t going to be anywhere near as likely to notice or care about all the little things that drive us (rightfully, if perhaps over-zealously) mad. They just care that they’re given a good story." (From http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2012/07/why-do-bad-books-get-published.html)

Are you able to do this full-time? How many hours do you put in, and how many pieces do you write per week?

Asked by Big Sol over 5 years ago

Yes--freelancing is my sole source of income. Usually, I put in 4-5 solid hours of work each day. (Though depending on how distracted I am by Facebook/Google Reader/news/email/Pinterest, I might be at the computer for 8 hours.) By working 4-5 hours per day, 5 days per week, I'm able to live comfortably. Plus, since I can work anywhere with Internet access, I often travel internationally for 2-4 months at a time. The number of pieces I write depends entirely on the project. Feature articles might stretch out over a period of weeks while I research, schedule interviews, draft and edit. With smaller marketing pieces, I might get out 10 or more in a day. On most days, I work on multiple projects.

I write as a hobby and would like to do it professionally, but how did you go about getting your first clients? Aren't there tons of uber-talented graduate writing students flooding the market every year?

Asked by Ignatius over 5 years ago

My first freelance clients came to me when I was working a full-time job, so I was able to learn the ropes without risking my income. One editor came across my personal travel blog and contacted me about writing a destination-specific article. My first corporate client came to me through a referral. After I quit my job, I didn't take on a full client load right away. The last year of my job was unbelievably stressful, so I took some time off to travel and shake the stress. By the time I connected back into the professional world, word had gotten out that I was no longer with my former agency. One of my old clients reached out to ask if I would take over his company's marketing writing. I turned him down out of respect for my former employer. He was really understanding--in fact, I'm pretty sure he passed my name on to other businesses, because I started getting project offers. A month later, another past client--who had moved on to a high-level position in a different corporation--called and asked if I was interested in writing for his new company. Years later, they are still one of my biggest accounts. It's hard to be specific without knowing your situation, but I'd suggest that you start by looking for writing opportunities in your current industry. If possible, tell your boss you'd like to take on some writing responsibilities, either internally or for clients. Frame it as cross-training. It's a fantastic way to learn. If you build a reputation as a skilled writer in your professional network, people may start sending referrals your way. If you're not comfortable going that route, look for writing opportunities outside of your personal network but inside your industry. Trade publications and topical magazines are a good place to start. For story ideas, use what you have--insider knowledge, unique access to sources, or information about upcoming challenges/trends/catastrophes/developments. If your company's R&D department is pioneering a new manufacturing technique, for example, you'll have an interesting topic and firsthand access to the researchers. As an industry insider, you will automatically be a step ahead of other writers. You'll have an in-depth, working knowledge of the target audience, the jargon, the major players, the ins and outs of business operations, and the challenges facing businesses. In my opinion, corporate clients are the way to go. They always have writing work and they understand the value of industry experience. (I can't tell you how many engineers have audibly sighed with relief when they realized that I was able to speak their language.) Plus, the pay is often higher than print/digital journalism and you don't have to jump through the querying hoops. If a business likes you and your work, they'll keep coming back. The project range is endless: annual reports, project proposals, feature articles, corporate magazines, print marketing copy, website copy, white papers, newsletter articles, client work, employee profiles, research reports... As for the grad students...yes, I imagine they are out there, though I haven't run into them. :) The thing is, there is absolutely no substitute for practical industry experience. A strong writer with five years of industry experience will almost always win out over a recent grad with five degrees and no experience.

What's the pettiest or most-heated wordsmithing argument you ever got into?

Asked by AllYourBase over 5 years ago

I once worked on a big writing project for a huge company. From the first meeting, it was obvious that the corporate project liaison did not support the company's choice to hire an outside contractor (a common problem when working with businesses that have in-house marketing/communication departments). To make matters worse, this woman had self-published a romance novel, so she fancied herself a writing expert. That may have been true in the bodice-ripping genre, but when it came to high-level science writing for an expert audience...not so much. This woman went out of her way to make my life miserable. She sent passive-aggressive group emails (the ultimate weapon for a petty professional), nitpicked about every tiny thing and demanded I use a different style. Every time I wrote "he said" at the end of a quote, she replaced it with things like "he elaborated," "he uttered, "he pronounced" and "he articulated." It took me weeks to convince her that those phrases have no place in super-technical writing. Luckily, I understood the target audience--who were emphatically NOT romance novel readers--so my choices prevailed. The worst moment came when I requested that the company change their corporate motto. That's a big deal--not to mention a big investment--but it contained a blatant grammatical error and reflected poorly upon the business. This woman just about had a fit. We went back and forth for ages until she finally called a meeting with the CEO, confident that she would come out on top. I'm not naturally combative, but her smug expression at the start of that meeting nearly sent me over the edge. After I calmly explained the issue to the CEO, he paused for a moment and said, "Well, you're the expert. If it's incorrect, we'll change it." The look on the liaison's face at that moment was worth all of the irritation and wasted time. :) It can be difficult to stay professional in that type of situation.

When did you know you were a “good writer”? Did you get told that frequently growing up?

Asked by mary_eggers over 5 years ago

I've always been a fairly competent writer, mostly because I've always been a voracious reader. Reading is a big part of writing well--it introduces you to sentence structure, helps you recognize misspellings and grammatical errors. It also teaches you how to break the rules, which is more important than you might think. In answer to your question, yes, I was told that I was a good writer in elementary school, high school and college. Of course, the definition of "good" writing changes rapidly as you move beyond essays and term papers. In college, I learned that I am a terrible creative writer. I like to infuse creativity into non-fiction and technical writing, but when it comes to poetry or short stories, I'm hopeless. The moral of the story is that if you fail at one type of writing--or if you've never been told that you're a good writer--don't give up!

I enjoy writing for the creative and 'fun' aspects it has to offer. I'm not looking into doing this professionally or full-time, but would still love to make some extra change. Any tips on what I can do or where to get started? I love food and travel

Asked by Ford over 5 years ago

Start with some of your favorite websites about travel and food--check to see if they accept submissions from freelance writers. Websites often have lower barriers to entry than print publications, so experience is less important. I can't suggest any specific sites for food, but to get you started, there are some links below to the submission guidelines for websites that pay for travel content from freelancers. It's not much, but it's something. Lost Girls--Writing for NY Times http://www.lostgirlsworld.com/2011/03/pitching-101-how-to-write-for-the-new-york-times-intransit-blog/ Bootsn'All http://writers.bootsnall.com/ Wolrd Hum http://www.worldhum.com/info/submissions/ Matador Network http://matadornetwork.com/content/contributors/ Transitions Abroad http://www.transitionsabroad.com/information/writers/writers.shtml Journeywoman http://www.journeywoman.com/writers_guidelines.html

Do you think becoming a paid, full-time writer is easier, harder, or the same level of difficulty as it was 10 years ago?

Asked by bella belle over 5 years ago

I was in college 10 years ago, so I can't speak from personal experience. Older writers I know have said that it's more difficult now. A lot of companies are outsourcing their writing work to countries like India and the Philippines because people there will work for pennies. (Literally, pennies.) American writers can't--and shouldn't--drop their prices far enough to compete with that. However, most of those workers speak English as a second language, and their writing reflects it. Clients worth working for understand the value of strong , fluent writing. I think "serious" journalism might be harder now, especially as many print publications die a slow death, but the Internet has opened up a whole world of options. Journalism as we know it is changing. Writers now can write for any number of websites. In most cases, it doesn't pay as well as print, but it's a completely viable way of making a living. There's more room for style freedom, the tone is often more informal and the variety is endless.