Nathan here! I invited my friend and star blogger Amber Adrian to stop by for a guest post on making money freelance writing. Enjoy!
Getting a book published is a long-running game, one that may or may not be lucrative. But while you chip away at your dreams of Pulitzer Prize glory, freelance writing is a way to keep your skills sharp, hone your querying confidence, and bring in money now.
If you’re here, you’re probably an author. You’ve probably sent out dozens – if not hundreds – of queries. You’ve probably had your artist’s heart trampled by rejection after rejection. Congratulations. You are officially miles ahead of the average aspiring freelance writer. You already know how to write a query. You know how to roll with denials and the chilly black hole of no response. All for projects that meant a great deal more to you than your average magazine story ever could. If you want to start making money with those hard-earned skills, you’re better prepared than most to dive straight into the fray and emerge victorious.
1. Aim for your dream byline. You know how to write a captivating sentence. You know how to phrase a compelling query. No reason you shouldn’t start at the top. What’s your favorite publication? Where would you love to see your byline? Query your dream publication first. If the top doesn’t bite, you can move on down the ladder. Maybe you won’t land a Rolling Stone feature your first time out, but there will be a publication that wants your thoughtful, timely story.
2. Join Mediabistro. An Avant-Guild membership buys you access to their How To Pitch guides, well-researched and regularly updated guides to most major magazines and web publications, as well as many of the less well known. You’ll get information on what sections you can pitch and the exact person (with email address) who will read your query.
3. Find your people. Get yourself in the room with assigning editors and other writers. There are tons of these types of conferences – especially if you’re in a big city or near one. Hit Twitter. Find the editors at publications you want to pitch. Start interacting with them in a genuine, respectful way – and your name will be recognized when your query lands in their inbox.
4. Go for the less obvious. Every business on this planet needs words. Bread and butter work for many freelance writers include copywriting gigs for corporations – composing their newsletters, website copy, or social media. You can also target publications that don’t find their way to the newsstands – in-flight magazines, custom publications for gyms or Triple A. The options are limitless, and many of these options pay as well as the big magazines and are much easier to break into.
5. Keep writing your books. We all know how easy it is to allow the urgent to consume the important. But keep plowing away on your bigger projects. Keep your eye on the real reason you became a writer. I often find that when I’m consumed by worry about a specific story, a source, a deadline, or where the money is coming from, all I need to do is spend a few hours with my writing and things begin to fall into place.
Amber Adrian is a long-time freelance writer. For more guidance on how to make a living with your words, check out The Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing.
Nice to meet you, Amber. One more point I'd like to add to your thoughtful list is that in order for writers to make money, they need to ask for it. While they can pick their pro bono projects very selectively, they shouldn't shortchange their profession by working for free or only for "credit" once they've reached a certain level of experience.
Am I missing something? This sounds to me like, "So you're a struggling fiction writer? Go write non-fiction."
I'm not at all sure that I agree with the notion that the skills are the same. I write tons of non-fiction. I've been paid for some of my non-fiction. I've found this experience to be of zero use in my thus-far-pathetic attempts at writing fiction.
Thanks for those great tips, Amber. Very encouraging and inspirational. I understand that most writers need to top up their income at some stage in this way, so it's invaluable to have this information you've provided.
Julie Musil says
Great tips, Amber! My early writing credits came from Scholastic Math Magazine and Highlights Magazine. It was so exciting to get an actual check from actual magazines. Magazine writing, even for little or no money, is a great way to practice skills and earn credits.
Hi, I'll be a senior in high school next year and with extremely over protective parents I'm unable to get a job. I'll be taking college English next year and I've always loved writing, I'm thinking of persueing a degree in writing and English but I don't know where to start, I'd love to start now but I'd also like to make a little money while doing so. If you have any tips or advice please feel free to email me at email@example.com
Michael Brockbank says
Personally, I have made a career out of ghostwriting for various sites while working on my first novel. In fact, I make enough that I quit my regular job. I'll have to check out Mediabistro, though. I haven't seen that site before…thank you.