Photo by Rokito
When I was younger, the idea of me being a professional writer was kinda laughable. I wrote poetry, but never considered myself “a writer”. And actually making money at writing? That was something I thought only big name novelists did.
I was so clueless! (Only without the blonde hair and skimpy skirts… and the shopping habit…)
As I got older, the idea of writing for a living honestly never really crossed my mind. I didn’t believe I could do it and get paid for it. Nor did I believe I was even meant for it.
I loved to read of course, and did so voraciously… I was called a bookworm all through my formative years. But I thought my real calling would be music and sound because I loved it so much.
Well… I do use a keyboard these days… only my keyboard doesn’t spit music.
Anyhoo… somehow I fell into writing, and when I found out I could make some serious money doing it?
Well let’s just say it the idea of me being a professional writer suddenly wasn’t so laughable!
With the advent of the Internet, lovers of the written word (like yours truly) have found a new medium to conquer. While not all writers are born to be published, the Internet has given thousands of self-proclaimed writers a chance to share their literary (and not-so-literary) works to a global audience numbering in the millions.
And yes, even if the Internet is a free medium, you can make a pretty good living if you know where to look and how to do it. The thing to remember though is that while many people can write, not everyone gets read.
That said… if you want to be a freelance writer (or graphic artist, or even multimedia specialist… a freelance anything really!) like me, all you have to do is follow these five easy steps and you’re on your way to becoming an arse kicking, freelancing, entrepreneurial Über professional in your field.
- Craft your resume and/or your portfolio carefully.
Most new writers make the mistake of not paying enough attention to the resumes and portfolios they submit to their potential clients. While it’s understandable for a newbie to miss out on essential things in his or her resume or portfolio, an aspiring professional cannot afford to drop the ball.
That’s not to say that you should write out a resume that’s a mile long with fancy trappings and funky border designs coupled with a splash of perfume. Your client-to-be will just as soon throw out a resume like that because it’s much too contrived and insincere.
Not to mention you look like a suck-up. Need a tissue for that brown nose buddy?
What I AM saying though is this… pay attention to the details.
In other words, if you say that you participated in some training workshop for writers at your college, include the name of the speaker and the actual date of the event.
If you say that you’ve participated in a particular online project, provide the URL so your potential client can check it out.
Heck if you say you wrote and won a Nobel Peace prize… back it up man! Otherwise, just don’t say it, or you’ll only end up making yourself look like a liar or a jackass when you very obviously can’t deliver.
- Show up to your interviews and be courteous. Yes, even when they’re just online!
Sure, there’s a certain anonymity offered by the Internet. Yes, you can stay invisible on Skype or Yahoo! Messenger or whatever IM service you use and opt not to talk to your would-be client just for the hell of it. I myself am very anti-phone calls, and have lost projects because the potential client was “old school” and preferred a phone chat.
Needless to say, we didn’t gel and that client moved on.
So remember that everything has a price.
If you choose to leave your potential client high and dry on a scheduled meeting it’s almost a sure bet you can kiss that particular job goodbye.
There are hundreds of thousands of writers in the freelance marketplace just waiting for the opportunity to get hired, and that job you walk away from will be gobbled up instantly by someone else who DOES know how to show up when asked.
And if you can’t make it to an online interview, then simply say so and don’t leave your potential client scratching their head at your offline status.
Reschedule if you have to, just to let them know that you’re interested. Your potential client might just appreciate your honesty enough to hold that project for you until you’re ready to take it on.
- Never resort to lying about your qualifications.
You can deck out your portfolio with all the pretty trappings you want (except the perfume, please avoid the perfume!), but don’t forget that its primary purpose is to let your potential client know that you are best-suited for a particular assignment. And nothing beats good credentials and great experience in a specific niche when it comes to impressing a potential client.
Often the temptation to cook up phony credentials and an exaggerated portfolio is very strong.
I mean heck, what are the chances of your client-to-be finding out that you just plagiarized the sample work you submitted to them? I mean really?
Well, you’d be surprised.
There are a lot of anti-plagiarism sites available online and they are very effective at weeding out the pilfered from the original, so I’d strongly advise you to think twice before claiming other peoples work as your own just to land a job.
If you do get caught, then you can bet your potential client will be sitting there thinking: if this guy can’t be trusted with submitting an original sample, how am I supposed to trust him to submit original work for my project?
The short answer?
Umm… no trust, no hire. Buh-Bye sweet gig!
- Know where to look for jobs.
Okay, so you’re all set with a killer resume and/or a glowing portfolio to boot. Now what? Where do you look? Who do you give them to?
The first thing to do is to ask around. Maybe you have friends who’ve already tried online freelancing before and all you need to do is get the company details so you can apply for a position as well. Use the Internet to its fullest advantage when searching out new projects.
And one more thing on job-hunting.
Be sure to verify that your chosen company or client actually pays their freelancers. Do a background check into their finances, past history, payment records and any other relevant details you can dig up. Ain’t no shame in this game, you need to know who you’re working with and that you will actually get paid for said work.
My advice is to always get at least 50% up front. This protects both of you pretty equally and if anything were to happen, you wouldn’t want to be left with nothing to show for all your efforts, would you?
Forums are usually the best places to go when you want to know more about a particular company. The members share information that can be mighty useful to a novice sleuth. Big G (Google) is also a great source of info on particular people or companies. So don’t be a dork… find out who you’re going to be working with before committing!
- Give your clients their due.
By this I mean that when you commit to a project, give it your best. Commit to delivering excellence 110% in all you do. Consistency is the key to building strong working relationships with your clients. Trust is earned by always submitting on time and always producing high quality original work.
Before starting on a particular assignment, be sure that you have all the instructions you need to do the job well. It’s always much easier for both you and your client to work out any kinks later on if you have a clear idea of what’s expected of you right off the bat.
And let’s face it… no one wants to hire a lazy, shoddy worker, or hire someone who is always late or doesn’t deliver when deadlines are established. Once you’ve landed a job, make sure that you do it well enough to keep the assignments coming and generate great feedback from your client.
Building your reputation as a freelance professional takes time, and you need to be of the mindset that every assignment could make or break your entrepreneurial career. And when you lay it all out like that? It’s really not too far from the truth!
What say you readers?!