As some of you know, I’m a writer and often a freelance one.
I’ve been working for various blogs—including Funny or Die, E! Online, Ecorazzi and Wetpaint—for a little over four years now. And, in my slow and steady climb up the blogging ladder, I’ve managed to glean some tips of the trade to pass on to other aspiring writers.
Previously, in Part 1 of my Free Advice to Aspiring Freelance Writers series, I dished out a guide on how to get jobs. What I want to go over now are TIPS—for getting, keeping and growing your prospects.
Tips for Beginners
- Expect nothing.
When you’re first starting out, freelance work typically pays on the low end of the spectrum. Or, at least that was the case for me. My first two jobs I did for free—because I had little to no experience and needed the clippings. Don’t be above taking a free gig to get some credits under your belt, because chances are the people applying for the high paying jobs already have clippings.
- Ask for help.
If you know someone who’s working (like me), there’s no harm in asking about available gigs or advice. But something to keep in mind is that I get approached a lot. On a weekly basis. Which means that people with better gigs are getting approached daily. Which means you need to stand out. So, if standing out means buying that person a coffee to discuss options—do it. No writer in their writerly mind would turn down caffeine. Plus, I’ve noticed that I tend to work harder for the people who invest a bit in me. (Even if it’s just out of guilt.)
- You’re a Writer.
Someone once gave me this wonderful piece of advice: When you’re asked about what you do for a living, do not reply with, “I’m trying to be a writer.” Instead say, “I am a writer.” People won’t take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously. Even if you aren’t getting paid to write yet, it doesn’t matter—fake it till you make it. (Right, Neil Gaiman?)
Tips for When You Have the Job
- Hard work pays off. Usually.
I’ve found this to be especially true at the low paying gigs. Chances are, the editors realize that getting paid $5 for a 200 word piece isn’t going to pay your rent. But, most of the time, if they see you’re kicking ass—they’ll promote you. Or give you a bonus at Christmas. Or a pat on the back. Awesome!
- Rule of Three.
I heard this on NPR, or maybe someone said it out loud in a coffee shop and I overheard them because I’m nosy as hell, but the point is that it’s spot on.
When working in the arts, you can be 2 out of these 3 things and end up OK: Fast, Friendly, Fucking Awesome.
In other words, you can be a total misanthrope—as so many writers are—but as long as you turn in your work on time and it’s quality, you’re good to go. Or, you can be super sweet and write well but take a long ass time to submit, that’s OK too. You get the gist.
- Give Back.
In the end, you never know who’s going to help you get your next job. I happily give advice and jobs to people who ask, because one day I may need the same thing and they’ll owe me, because karma deems it so.
Additionally, much like when searching for a job, I make a point to give actual, physical gifts to my bosses. Every man loves a good bottle of scotch, and every woman will appreciate a Starbucks gift card (or, if you’re like me, a good bottle of scotch). Whatever the case, make sure you let the people above you know that you’re grateful to have a job, and they’ll make sure to keep you there—if only for the free hooch.
Has this been helpful and, if not, will you please not tell me that?