Tricks of the Freelance Writing Trade
Studying journalism does not make a good writer. There are many more tools a good writer needs that do not include a degree. Making it into the journalistic world takes persistence, perseverance, and talent and good timing.
Everybody thinks they are a writer at some point, whether it is a desire to publish a recipe book, write memoirs or make up a good story. But, jobs and publishing deals rarely fall from the sky. The best way to improve writing skills and publishing possibilities is to follow these five simple steps:
- Mingle with like-minded professionals – this could involve joining a writing group, gate crashing forum meetings, stalking editors on email, or hanging around trendy coffee shops where the journos get their coffee fix. It is sadly true that “it is not what you know, but who you know”. Know the key players in the industry by watching the news and the media industry’s movements.
- Follow relevant websites, job openings and recruitment agencies to keep updated with the latest trends, positions and happenings in the industry. Many agencies and publishing houses will have in-house newsletters and subscribing to these mails is advised.
- Stay tech savvy – there are always new computer programs and design applications that will improve skills, save time and make writing, layout and design easier. There are many applications to be downloaded and courses to be attended that will improve computer skills. Quark Xpress is out and InDesign is in. Keep updating qualifications and skills even if it gets expensive.
- Adhere to deadlines – whether it is a job application or a writing deadline, there is no excuse that will be good enough for a late submission. Many publishing houses and companies have a wide range of freelancers who will adhere to deadlines and be professional when needed. The media industry is competitive and it’s tough to get a break through; professionalism is key to earning respect and getting future assignments.
- Find a niche and a passion – the passion to write about a subject should not be diminished by rejection, as it takes a long time to break into an industry where everybody thinks they are a good writer. Fiction is a popular area and there are instances where mediocre writers make money from writing about vampires or cheesy love affairs, but this genre is saturated and dated. Be prepared to accept criticism as it builds character. The professionals who have been writing for years tend to know what works and what fails in the world of media and publishing, and their advice must be followed if writers want to be published and make money. Writing for passion does not have to be profitable, but then there has to be another source of income, even if it is a trust fund!
Staying updated with industry trends not only makes a writer’s work easier but it provides a topic of conversation with a fellow journo and impresses interviewers. Being able to use industry lingo and terms will encourage acceptance into writer’s circles. It is always difficult from a freelancer’s perspective to stay updated in an industry where they are “guests”, who pop into the office on occasion, but there are ways to learn from afar to stay informed and get published in the media industry.
Written by Lee-Ann Barnes
Image credit: Microsoft Images