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What Not To Do As a Freelance Writer

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The journey of a freelance writer is not smooth – the road is fraught with pot holes and sharp bends. The slightest mistake and you end up in a mess. We’re all humans and we all make mistakes. I, too, have made quite a few in the beginning of my career. But time has made me wiser and I know now how to avoid them. Here’s what I learned –

 

1. Don’t treat writing as a hobby: When you’re working alone from your home, you tend to take things a little lightly – but don’t, because this is the root cause of all mistakes. If you have made writing your career, then treat it like a career – not as a hobby. Treat the people you write for as your clients, not as friends. Make rules for your business and follow them strictly – never break them. Keep records of everything – your clients, your payments, your receipts, your drafts, copies of all the correspondence and written assignments, everything. You never know when you might need them.

2. Don’t procrastinate:  Always reply to all your e-mails as soon as you read them. Never delay, even if your clients are slow in writing. Keep to your deadlines. Your deadlines are your absolute commitments, commitments that should never be broken. Getting things done on time is what makes your reputation, and your reputation is important for the success of your business. It’s what shows your clients how reliable and competent you are. It’s what makes your clients return to you with more assignments.

3. Don’t restrict yourself: By restricting, I mean don’t keep to one kind of writing – diversify to several areas and subjects. This way you’ll never be out of work. If your client wants you to write on a subject that you feel you do not know, or on a genre you haven’t attempted before, don’t refuse. Do research. And by research I do not mean just read one page of reference or explanation, but go to several sources to learn – books, websites, experts in the field, as many sources as you can think of. Clients appreciate writers who are willing to learn. Diversifying opens you up to more market opportunities.  

4. Don’t forget to follow up: Don’t forget your clients once you have completed the assignments. Keep in touch with them through e-mails. If you are one who forgets names, then write them down, but don’t forget to let them know what a pleasure it was working with them and how you look forward to more. You could even suggest a new idea that can prove to be beneficial to the client’s business. The reason for doing this is simple – If you don’t follow up, it won’t be long before they forget who you are.  

 

What lessons have you learned the hard way? Why don’t you share them here with us, so we can all learn from each other’s mistakes?

 

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Freelance Writers and Writing Genres

Genre refers to a category of works that share a common style, form, or content. A literary, or writing genre, to be write 2more specific, follows the same technique, content, or tone. Examples of literary genres include fiction, non-fiction, satire, and poetry. These can further be sub-divided. For example, fiction may be sub-divided into short stories and novels (which can even further be divided into romance, mystery, tragedy, history, etc.); non-fiction into biography, journals, essays and so on; and poetry into lyric, epic, dramatic, etc. Genres have often been a subject of debate as different people have different ways of dividing the different types of writings. But whichever way, the fact remains that there are genres; and each writer follows one or more genres of writing depending on his/her expertise.

 

A freelance writer, too, generally follows a genre or more. The most likely (based on demands) are the following:

  1. Business writing – This involves any kind of writing done for a business. Examples: letters, brochures, presentations, newsletters, plans, etc.
  2. Copywriting – This is writing done for the purpose of promoting or marketing a business, product or service. Examples: ads, information brochures, white papers and so on.
  3. Technical writing – This refers to any writing that is done to instruct or inform people of a technical product or service. The most common examples here are writing manuals or white papers.
  4. Ghostwriting – This is any writing done on behalf of someone else, using his/her name and allowing credit to be given to him/her. This may be in any genre.
  5. Grant or Proposal writing – This involves writing proposals, which also includes research, budget, accounting and so on.
  6. Speechwriting – This is writing words that are to be spoken in front of a live audience.
  7. Critical writing – This is done to review, analyze, or interpret something – which may be a book, a product, a movie, or music.
  8. Non-fiction writing – This may be an essay or article for educational or journalistic purposes.
  9. Web or content writing – This writing is done specifically for the internet. It includes articles, product or service descriptions, online columns, and e-zines.
  10. Blogging – This differs from web writing in the sense that it is done specifically for the purpose of community building, or directly promoting a product or a service. It is done on a regular basis and allows readers to add comments. Blogging may either be for businesses or for individuals.

A freelance writer may follow any of these genres depending on his/her interest or expertise.

Are you a freelance writer doing any other kind of writing? Which genre are you following?

 

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The Whys of Freelance Writers Today

So much is being written about the sad state of freelance writers today. Be it a writer’s blog or a social networking site, and it’s there. Each has its own approach and the visitors’ comments are also varied – but the gist is the same. Two points are always there, and these set me thinking:

1. Clients pay freelance writers ridiculously low rates, often as low as $ 1 per article. And there are writers who actually write at these rates … even when this measly amount is withheld with some excuse or the other. On a blog someone also wrote, “clients use underhand ways to keep writers at their beck and call”. 

My question here is – who is responsible for this state of affairs? If you ask me, it’s the writers themselves. People are paying this amount because writers are willing to write for this amount. Set your price and refuse to go for less. No one is going to force you to write for $ 1 an article if you don’t want to. People need things written, more now than ever before… because of the wide use of the internet and need for fresh content every day. If they can get writers who are willing to write for less, then why should they pay more? But if writers refuse to go below their rates, people will be forced to hire at higher rates.

There’s another point I’d like to make here – you are paid what you are worth. I strongly believe that if your work is really good, then there’s no way that you won’t be paid what you’re worth. So, instead of complaining, freelance writers should be concentrating on the quality of their work and set their own price.

2. Much of the blame is being placed on “Asian writers” or “some guy in India who doesn’t know how to string words together”.

Ok, suppose for one moment that it is “these guys” who are responsible for the low rates. But are they forcing other writers to lower their rates as well? If they can’t “string words together”, or as someone else put it, “don’t even know what correct grammar or idiom is”, then why are they being hired? Again suppose that their English is not good enough, then isn’t the $ 1 dollar their worth? You go out and show what stringing of words or correct grammar is, and you’ll be paid your worth. Why complain?

As for the issue of “native speakers” and “non-native speakers”, to me it makes no sense. Command over a language has nothing to do with nationality. There are many non-speakers whose English is much better than those of “natives”

My belief is that it’s not right to blame anyone for anything. It’s an open market. Anyone can go out there and sell their services. Just like in any other kind of market, there are all sorts of sellers and all kinds of buyers. If you want your services to be sold at a good price – produce good services and show the world what you can do. Once buyers see what you have to offer, there’s no way you won’t be paid what you’re worth.

 

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Qualities of a Professional Freelance Writer

This is for all those who want to pursue the career of a professional freelance writer, as well as for those who think anyone can be a freelance writer (believe me, there are many people who think so).

Being a professional freelance writer requires a lot of talent and hard work.  In addition to having a love for the language, a questioning and analytical mind, and a depth of imagination, a freelance writer must possess the following qualities:

1. Ability to write. This is the most important quality of a freelance writer. The ability to write doesn’t only consist of perfect grammar, correct spellings, and a good vocabulary. It is much more than this. It is having the skills to paint images with words, just like a painter does with a brush.

2. Professionalism. Like the name implies, a professional freelance writer must be professional in his/her approach. This means being able to deal with different clients, evaluate their needs, meet their requirements, and present neat and accurate work on time. This is what creates a good image.

3.  Organization. Working from home and having flexible hours has its disadvantages, too – one tends to be lax and put things off for later. But a good freelance writer is disciplined – knows how to handle time; keeps a record of projects, documents, meetings, etc.; and meets deadlines.

4. Perseverance. A freelance career has many ups and downs, with periods of no work and rejections. A freelance writer does not give up and is able to look for work in all the right places. He/she is also able to face rejections in good spirit and learn from them.

5. Marketing skills. For a writer, his work is his product. He/she is able to project and market his product well. He/she has the ability to convince the client why he should give preference to his/her product over others.

6.  Ability to handle accounts. Knows how to invoice clients, balance accounts receivable, and keep careful records of money earned.

Have I left out anything?

 

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Freelance Writing versus Creative Writing

“So, you’re a freelance writer?” she asked with a smirk on her face.  No, I’m not telling you a story. This is something someone asked me recently. More than the question, it was the way it was asked… as if being a freelance writer was something awful. This person who asked me this isn’t the only one. I have come across many people who think that freelance writing isn’t really writing. These people believe that creative writing is the real writing. Well, they may be right if they consider writing what you actually want to write for yourself to be real writing, and writing for someone else as not being writing. This will naturally come from non-writers, because anyone who knows anything about freelance writing knows how much work goes into it. This is typing 2not in the least bit belittling creative writing. I would never do that because I am both a creative writer as well as a freelance writer. To me, both are equally important and I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other.

What is then the real difference between freelance writing and creative writing? Freelance writing is when you pursue a career as a writer without committing to a single employer. In other words, you write many different things for different businesses and publications according to their requirements. Freelance writers write to earn a living. Creative writers, on the other hand, write only for the purpose of expressing his/her thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They write only for themselves for the love of writing, not for money. I guess this is why non-writers think creative writing is better… because creativity is involved here. But it’s not always possible to pay your bills with creativity.

Did you notice I wrote “not always”, and not “never”? Why? Because now it is possible to be both creative and earn a living, and this can be done by creative freelance writing. You may or may not have heard of a creative freelance writer – a combination of a creative writer and a freelance writer. It’s a way of being creative and making a living by taking on different projects at the same time.  Quite a few people are taking up this career these days.

Some of the fields that a creative freelance writer can pursue are:

  • Ebooks – a great way of being creative and write for others at the same time.
  • Speeches – writing a speech for someone is a great creative outlet.
  • Scriptwriting – this is another great outlet for a creative mind.
  • Songwriting – this is ideal for poetry writers.
  • Ghostwriting – a great field for the storyteller.
  • Greeting Cards – another good place for both the creative prose and poetry writer.
  • Publicity Material – this can be brochures, pamphlets, flyers, or slogans.
  • Magazine Freelancing – you can submit your stories and poems to one of the many print or online magazines.

Can you think of any other field or genre where you can pay your bills by creative writing?

 

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