Monday, April 27, 2009

"Two Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers"

Guest Post for "Dialogue"
by Anne McClure

Google “Freelance Writing Markets” and you get 908,000 hits. Try “How to Become A Freelance Writer” and you get over 5 million. With such an overwhelming number of directions to head, you’ve got to focus your approach if you want to get your freelance career off the ground.
First, find a niche. Are you an engineer? A science enthusiast? A gardener? A pet owner? A cook? Do you live in a big city? Run a family farm? Determine your area of expertise and query publications within that genre. It’s possible—and probably a fun process—to become an expert in a new area through study and exploration. If freelancing is part of a desire to switch careers, this may be a path to follow. For most people, though, the quickest way to finding your freelance market involves analyzing what you already know or what you’re already doing.
You don’t have to determine this niche immediately. In fact, you probably won’t. As you write, pay attention to the way you feel. Even within a general niche (i.e. the Catholic market) you will need to find more specialized submarkets (i.e. Catholic parenting, Catholic commentary on politics, Catholic apologetics). Note the stories and genres that feel the most organic as you are writing—the ones that seem to pour out of you and materialize on the page. As you proceed, remind yourself that you preferred devotionals to political commentary, poetry to prose, tech manuals to movie reviews. Then pursue similar opportunities. Instead of just writing to write, you’ll be accumulating a body of work centered on an area of personal interest or expertise.
Second, make connections and rely on the connections you have already made. Did you receive helpful advice from a writing coach while attending a conference? (Hi Patricia!) Did you work closely with an editor, tweaking several drafts of a piece before it was finally approved? Did an author at a book signing kindly offer to give you a leg up? However you established a relationship, treat it as the source of invaluable advice that it is. Of course, be respectful of the time and obligations of experienced writers and editors; but once you’ve developed a working relationship, don’t be afraid to approach them with questions and send additional queries their way. Ask for resources and accept feedback humbly and honestly. Use their words of wisdom to reflect on your progress and make decisions as you proceed.
I’ve just started down this writing path myself, and I’ve made every mistake I just advised you not to make. I’ve wasted my time writing about politics when I should have been reflecting on my faith journey as a mom, and I’ve queried big name publications when smaller ones were looking for the kind of work I could do. I’m finding that if you try to be what you’re not or start somewhere unfamiliar, your writing will lack a depth of knowledge and experience that lends credibility. Finding your niche and accepting help from experienced professionals will free you to write from your heart and jump start your entrance into the world of freelance writing.

Anne McClure taught high school until her son was born and now works as a mom and freelance writer. Read more at

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