Survival Kit for Freelance Writers

|| Writing & Editing Topics |

Only a few people who decide to embark on a writing career really know what they are getting into. Most are clueless about what being a writer entails and some come to resent the decision because their expectations are hardly aligned with the realities of the game. Some people think that they are already writer material just because they can express themselves through the written word. 

To be fair, anybody who can think logically and can clearly express what she thinks has the potential to become a writer. But potential is as far as it goes. Writing, like any other serious craft is an exercise in discipline. Without discipline, a person will find it much easier to create voluminous pages of bad writing than to craft a decent one-page essay.
Some people also consider writing as an escape route from the restrictions of traditional corporate culture, particularly the 8-hour daily grind. Like many creatives, some writers do thrive as professional indies but others who lack the astute discipline of successful freelancers eventually return--disillusioned and jaded--into the corporate fold.

If you are contemplating of becoming an independent writer, here are some tips to help you survive the perils of the trade.
  1. Forget a career in writing if you don't have the passion for it. You will only become mediocre at the art. If neither evocative fiction nor insightful essays resonate with some fundamental aspect of your personality, becoming a writer is not the right route for you to take.
  2. If money is your primary goal, writing is not the easiest path to achieve it, unless you are a pornstar or a high profile whistle-blower. Write heroically for the sake of creating beautiful or effective phrases and you'll eventually feel your efforts adequately rewarded. To be sure, writing is not the most lucrative of professions but it is certainly among the most fulfilling.
  3. Read. Next to actually writing or keying in letters onto a screen, reading is the best training any writer can have. Make it a point to consume "good reads" like there's no tomorrow. By reading, you will learn different ways of articulating different subjects. Reading content from different fields will also help you configure your writing for different kinds of audiences.   
  4. Write. Don't talk about writing. You don't even need to mentally plan. Just will yourself to write the first word and complete your sentences until you conjure a decent paragraph. Avoid being distracted until you finish a piece.
  5. Do your research. Some writing requires precision and accuracy more than others and a self-respecting writer will complement his writing skill with well-researched information.
  6. Be open to feedback, criticism and even rejection. Some writers became sterling specimens of their profession only after enduring multiple rejections. Learn your craft well and you will know whether feedback about your work is valid or not. When valid, learn to accept criticisms with grace and a resolve to improve your craft.
  7. Know your audience. Nothing beats content that powerfully moves its intended audience. At the other end, nothing is sadder than a well-written piece that is read by the wrong audience. Align your tone, diction, language and style with your target readers so that the engagement will deliver value to all.
  8. Know the terrain. There are millions of writers out there and each one a potential competitor. Continuously honing your skills and being a dependable expert at some writing areas will give you an edge.     
  9. Know the tools. The Internet is a writer's heaven. There are free references (writing guides, grammar tips, style guides, dictionaries) and other writer resources any enterprising writer will leverage for his advantage.  There are also dozens of great freelancing portals such as oDesk and Elance where writers can obtain contracts from various customers.   

Being a writer has its perk and prestige but it also has its pitfalls. Being passionate about it is merely half the journey. Translating that passion into meticulous, disciplined work is the well-known mantra any successful professional wordsmith will tell you.