There are many useful advice articles on becoming a freelance writer, but not all of them will tell you the unvarnished truth. Here are five things I wish someone had told me when I first started.
1. You will be writing for free-for a while. Being a writer is one of the most underpaid professions in the world. It may take two to 10 years to begin earning anything more than copies of the publication or bragging rights.
2. It will take you time to break in. I knew I was a writer long before I had anything published. I was writing plays and poems at age six. Short stories at 14. Articles and book ideas at 18. When I was 24 I decided I was going to work for the local newspaper. It took me a year of bothering the editor to get an assignment as a reporter.
3. You will be writing about things you don’t like. I was thrilled to get that first assignment. It was covering the school board and village council meetings of a tiny town in Illinois. Boring! One meeting consisted of a three-hour debate over a stop sign and ended with postponing the vote until next month. But I had a writing gig and it was worth it to see my byline in print.
4. When you do break in, you won’t make much money. That first gig paid a penny a word. And $5 for a photo. A picture being worth, apparently, 500 words. Now I make an average of $.50 a word, over 25 years later.
5. You have to do it for the love. Like any creative endeavor, you don’t go into it for the fame or the fortune. Yes, there are writers who achieve both. But most writers have to be content with loving their work. If you can do it for the love of it, if you aren’t compelled to write, then pick a different profession, one where you stand a better chance of success, like being a rock star. You have to love it and keep on loving it even when it breaks your heart.
If you can accept these five tips and still feel the need to be a freelance writer, then I say go for it. Anything worthy of that much love and dedication must be a noble thing to pursue. Oh, and you might want to think about keeping your day job-at least for awhile.