I’ve been making a solid living as a freelance writer since graduating college. (I don’t want to tell you when that was, because it brings up lots of bad memories of having braces when I was old enough to buy booze.) As a result, a lot of people have asked how I got into it and how they can start. Here are the best tips I can offer to freelance writers who are just starting out and who have been locked into full-time positions alike.
Use your degree.
I went to school for this. If you went for something else, like engineering, biology, makeup artistry, whatever–try starting on technical writing for those fields, then expand from there over time. (And really, if you majored in engineering or biology, you should be making a lot more money than I am, so why do you want to take my job? To Hell with you. Greedy bastard.)
I interned at a magazine in college and hustled that between another editorial job at my campus alumni magazine, plus a stint at a coffee shop to pay for commuting costs and textbooks. I was always tired. I was always working. But it paid off in connections and a lack of debt when I graduated.
Use your connections.
Publishing and media are surprisingly small worlds. Make nice with everyone. Impress everyone. Follow up with everyone. And don’t be a dick. No one likes those. Not figurative ones, anyway.
Get a good accountant.
My tax guy Steve is dabomb.com. You’ll have to file quarterly as an independent contractor. If you don’t, remember what happened to Al Capone–the Feds couldn’t find him, but the IRS did.
Be a good writer.
I know it sounds as basic as can be, but that’s what’ll separate you from every other schmuck on the street trying to earn side cash in a craft in which most of us had to study and toil in before getting a foot in the door. If your writing experience is only comprised of passive aggressive Facebook statuses, sorry–you’re not a writer. If everything you write reads like a term paper, sorry–you’re not a writer either. And before any of you get snarky with me, check yourself: You are reading this, aren’t you?