Years ago, when I was seeking positive tips and tricks on how to become a freelancer writer, I stumbled across a ridiculous number of articles stating why you should not become a writer. What? How does putting ‘how to become a writer’ in search engines equate to so many stories about how hard it is and the endless pitfalls of trying to get paid for your art?
And, my least favourite, constantly repeated sentence, ‘Don’t give up your day job’.
Why did my fellow wordsmiths feel the need to discourage people from seeking advice? Resent stemming from rejection letters? Too much time spent in the company of a silent computer? Dried ink in a favourite pen? Afraid of competition?
I knew I was already a writer, by the very fact that I wrote stuff. Not everyone does. Not everyone loves to string words together to create a melody of visual images in the mind. My imagination likes to express itself through words and, if you’re reading this, perhaps yours does too.
That, in itself, makes you a writer, so there’s no need to ask how you may become one, ever again. Oh, and congratulations by the way, for finding your passion and seeking tips to launch on the adventure of a professional scribe – you’ve already ticked the first box.
Becoming a Professional
Let’s look at the word ‘professional’. In society, you’re basically classified as a professional when you’re paid for your work. Writing is round two for me, in terms of embarking on a creative career notoriously known for fierce competition and a life scrambling for gigs to pay the rent. The first one was dancing, a stellar career of 25 years that started with my first pay check before I was a teenager and came to a close as a choreographer, mentor and director. Luck? A splash of it, of course. Hard work? You bet. Without a doubt though, my complete faith in pursuing my passion, regardless of obstacles, got me there.
The point is, the pay checks didn’t make me a professional; pursuing my passion did. If you’re an inspired painter feverishly creating works of art, day in, day out, you’re a professional regardless of whether you sell the paintings. Stay at home mums and dads are professionals in numerous trades and the word ‘executive’ should be placed in front of the term. Know that if you’re writing because you love doing it, you’re already a professional. Releasing labels like this helps create space in your thought patterns, leading to a mindset that will lead you towards getting paid.
Now that you know you’re already a writer, even if you don’t get paid now, you can get on with the business of generating income for your passion. Forget the doom and gloom of those who’ve gone before you and perhaps failed, or resent the effort they’ve had to invest, and just get on with it. Despite writer’s block, a very real and scary phenomenon, you simply can’t procrastinate. Start that first sentence of a novel, write down ideas for an article or at the very least turn your computer on and stare at it until you’re bored enough to compose something. Learn your craft, sharpen your skills and don’t stop until you’re a well-oiled writing machine.
Now, presuming you already have an online presence and a good idea of where you’d like to focus your efforts, here are a few things I’ve done, that have resulted in getting paid to write.
- If your aim is to become a freelance writer, type ‘freelance writers’ into Google and compare different agencies to find a good match, create a membership and apply for jobs. It’s that simple. You are responsible for earning a good reputation and repeat clients. Like any career, how much you put into it is directly related to how much you get back. Don’t be scared of competition, there’s something out there for everyone and the only thing that usually stops people finding it is lack of intention and focus. The ‘Law of Attraction’ is not hocus pocus – it’s focus, on what you want.
- If fiction floats your boat, jump into the exciting world of submitting your manuscript to publishers around the globe. I’m not joking, this is a fun, adrenalin boosting experience, even if the emails you get back are generic rejections. Don’t think too much about it beyond the practicalities of correct procedures – which anyone can do, despite how complicated it may seem as everyone has different requirements. In the end, as long as you present yourself professionally, it’s the writing that does the selling. Keep your focus, keep a sense of anticipation and keep going.
- Want to be a travel writer? I do, and I am. It’s a world full of free-spirits contradicting with travel snobbery that makes people believe it’s some kind of elite genre no-one new can ever crack. Nonsense. Get in there with your spirit for adventure and crack it wide open with original pieces showing the world through your eyes. How? Write the article, send it out. Apply to write for online travel gurus. Write your own on your blog. Keep your focus, keep a sense of anticipation and keep going.
You may have noticed the overriding theme of this article by now, if not, I know you’ve got questions hitting walls in your mind like tiny Pac-Mans bumping into dead ends. I totally understand and yes, you need the details, but it’s in the search of them that inspiration can be lost in a sea of opinions and warnings. The thing is, when you lose yourself in passion and just get on with creating, the details often pop up unannounced, leading you towards your goals.
I wasted quite a bit of time and energy on reading and comparing too many opposing opinions about how to do a craft I already do, as is the case with most writers. Not everyone will like what you do, some may even hate it, some may turn into lifelong fans and there’ll always be people in the industry intent on telling you how hard it is to get into.
Forget all that. It’s not why you’re doing it. Keep your focus, keep a sense of anticipation and keep going.
(And if you’re still pondering details, feel free to ask questions or comment on your writing experiences, I’d love to hear them).
By Nicole Leigh West, as seen on The Huffington Post