Writing for a living is a challenge at first, but as soon as you settle down with it, it becomes incredibly easy and immensely rewarding. Sort of like looking after a cat. Things only get easier as the years go by and you accumulate more and more experience in different fields. That all sounds grand but how do you get your foot in the door if you’re as green as AstroTurf? Here’s a couple of things that worked for me back in the day.
Write For Free
Write for your favourite charity organisation that you care about. Create free web content for them. If the idea of writing for free gets you down, this is the time to bite the bullet and just deal with it! If you don’t have connections or some sort of nepotism that you can call on, then you will need to work for free or for very little at first.
Focus your energy on areas where your passions lie. A subject that you feel emotional about can be a positive way to spark creativity. Just ensure that this is tempered with a decent amount of level-headed research into the topic.
Once you have started to build up a decent portfolio of work, you can start charging people. Start low and then in a few years you can increase your rates in tangent with your increased experience. When you’re established, continue to give away the occasional freebie. Helping people for free is good for the soul, no matter if you’re successful or not.
The networking aspect of freelancing should never end. You are a one-woman or one-man salesperson for your own business. So you should get out there and meet people in the industry, make connections and grow your presence on the internet and in the local area where you live. This has many benefits including a sense of shared knowledge, making friends and colleagues and building up relationships of trust. If you nurture these relationships, a pool of new customers are more likely to naturally flow into your life.
Learning is Free
Read books about how your industry is changing in 2012 and how it will be shaped in the future. Also, before taking the plunge, it’s a good idea to polish up on the important stuff that needs to be pitch perfect.
Here is an interesting book I recently read about the ever-changing frontier between traditional and electronic publishing. It’s available free to read online and comes in an android and ipad friendly format: Book: A Futurists Manifesto. http://book.pressbooks.com/
Another excellent way to get the foundation you need, is by enlisting in some free courses online. Many well-known universities now offer accredited courses for free online with great multimedia course lectures and proper assessments. Try your hand at edX, Coursera, and Udacity.
Become an Intern
Interning is seen to be the domain of the recently graduated, fresh faced, under 25 crowd. However a great employer will look for enthusiasm and passion, not the age bracket you fall into. On the other hand, don’t just say yes to any old offer. Be selective about where you donate your time and energy. Don’t give your blood, sweat and tears to lost causes. Make sure that you don’t give time/energy to a company that insists you do tea runs or act as their receptionist. As soon as you see this – don’t make a fuss, just leave. Make sure that wherever you intern, you gain experience in their design software, production workflow and gain real industry contacts.
Write For Fun
Do whatever it is you loved to do when you were younger. Write poetry, science fiction, short stories or song lyrics. Rediscover your passion! Meet and compare your material with other passionate writers. Passion is contagious! Continue this even whilst pursuing a commercial writing career. You need an exciting foundation and inspiration, on which to base your career (even if this won’t make you any money.)
Don’t Do It!!
Know when to turn down crappy jobs. Just because you’re trying to get a foot in the door, don’t accept writing 200 x 500 word SEO articles at $2 USD a piece. Perhaps the job you have been offered is about an immoral or unethical subject? Don’t lower yourself to writing soul-destroying things as a stepping-stone project. You left that job in a call-centre, office or café, so that you don’t need to feel used anymore – writing is the same, so have self-respect.
Is there anything I’ve missed? Got any other ideas about how to get your foot in the door? Let us all know!