Posted: Nov 12, 2013 7:00 AM
 
It can seem easy to make a living as a writer, but once you step into the world of freelance writing, it can be hard to land a gig, and if you do, it takes a lot of work to be successful. What can you do to boost your chances of making a living with the written word?

Being a writer is one thing — being paid to write is another. Wanting to turn a skill or a talent into a career is an ideal dream for many, and writing is appealing because it can often be done from home. However, browsing around for writing jobs can be discouraging, and getting clients can seem like a far-fetched dream.

Write

As obvious and as simple as it sounds, the first thing you need to do if you want to become a writer is write. Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. There is no better way to break into the business than by practicing what you strive to do, even if you're not being paid. This can be a blog of your own, or even free projects for friends and family, for starters. These stepping stones are vital for future success. "It comes down to: Do it well," explained Sarah, published author and freelance writer. "Do it for free. Do it because you love it, and doors will open for you."

Without an online presence, someone needs to bring something really unique to the table. There are just so many talented people out there and editors receive a lot of queries, so showcasing your abilities allows an editor to understand what you have to offer without a huge time investment.

Don't set out to become a writer and make a living freelancing right away, in other words, but do spend your time writing. Having an established online presence is important because it gives editors a way to see you in action before they hire you to work for them.

"The best way to allow an editor to get to know you and take an interest in your work after you contact him or her is through a blog and social media," explained Laura, professional editor and writer. "For me, without an online presence, someone needs to bring something really unique to the table. There are just so many talented people out there and editors receive a lot of queries, so showcasing your abilities allows an editor to understand what you have to offer without a huge time investment. I've received queries where the topic might not seem that compelling, but after I click around the writer's blog and social media channels, I realize they have a very interesting voice. On the flip side, the very first bit of work I was offered was because of my blog and even though I don't write often anymore, it's still a place where editors can get to know me and my voice."

Network

networkingMany of the writers I spoke with really emphasized serendipity and luck, but that usually doesn't happen without making connections — connections you might not know you have. For example, someone who reads your blog on the regular may be an editor for a popular website, or perhaps you befriended an editor on a message board unbeknownst to you.

This is what Leigh Ann, popular blogger and freelance writer, mentioned as one of the reasons behind her success. "I wrote for sites where I made pennies before I realized it wasn't worth it," she shared. "When I decided to just focus on my blog, doors started opening. When you're immersed in a community for the field you want to work in, you're bound to find opportunities through the connections you make."

Work hard

Even when a door is opened for you, it takes determination, grit and lots of hard work to keep your foot in the door.

Even when a door is opened for you, it takes determination, grit and lots of hard work to keep your foot in the door. Working from home can be difficult because of distractions, such as your refrigerator, your kids or your housework. Don't let those get in the way of your deadlines and communications with those who are assigning and editing your work. Dedicate a separate work space if you can — ideally one you can close the door on and walk away from.

Also, always think about ways you can bring fresh, new ideas to a website you might have gotten work from in the past. Rejection is part of the process, but if you don't strike out and make yourself desirable, you'll go nowhere fast.

The bottom line^ You should first work for yourself and get yourself out there, because without practice, connections and hard work, it can be difficult to make a living freelancing. It's not easy, but it's absolutely rewarding, and if you get your foot in the door, don't take the opportunity for granted.

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