Writing is a wonderful career that allows you to work from anywhere and create your own schedule. But sometimes the so-called rules of writing can keep you from being all you can be as a freelance writer. I’ve been freelancing for just over a year, and I’ve found over time that these six “rules”, as outlined below, should be broken. Obeying them will only restrain your writing, and will keep you away from some great jobs. Are you ready to find out which rules you should break? Read on.
Write What You Know
Write what you know and only what you know is one of the most commonly circulated pieces of advice in the writing world. I, however, think it’s nonsense. If you write only what you know you’re going to be limited to a very select set of topics, and it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to craft a long-term career on that set of ideas alone. No, freelance writing has a lot to do with writing about what you don’t know, but doing it as though you’re an expert. That comes from research. I’ve written about things I had no prior knowledge of, and loved the experience of learning and researching new topics. As long as you can make a piece sound authoritative and be factual and well-researched, you can write about anything you like.
Don’t Borrow Ideas
Really? First of all, ideas cannot be copyrighted, therefore they cannot be borrowed or stolen. If every writer had to come up with completely original ideas not inspired by any other idea, writing would have ended a very long time ago. You don’t want to plagiarize, of course, but you can certainly use an idea you heard elsewhere to come up with an article idea. For instance, let’s say you read an article about fly fishing entitled “5 Fly Fishing Techniques You Should Learn”. You can easily adapt that to create an article. For instance, you can narrow the topic, or broaden it. You can narrow the topic to a certain audience. You can even take one technique and write about that. Always look for ideas in other works of writing; that’s how we learn and build on knowledge.
You Have to Know an Editor to Be Published
No, you don’t. It would certainly help, but by looking on places like Writer’s Market and doing a bit of your own research you can query editors on your own with absolutely no contacts. In fact most freelancers who have never queried before don’t know any editors at the publication they’re trying to gain an assignment from. Never let the absence of connections keep you from querying an idea or trying to land an assignment.
You Have to Have Clips to Be Published
You can try to get a clip from a local publication before pitching a big publication, but you don’t need to. One of the seemingly implicit rules of the writing world is to start small. But why? In the movie The Pursuit of Happyness the character played by Will Smith was working as a sales representative and was working on a list of prospects. He was asked to work from the bottom all the way to the top. At some point he decided to just skip to the top and landed an appointment. This is the kind of thinking that allows you to surpass others in your field, do your best, land big assignments, and jump start your career. If a smaller job lands in your lap, then so be it. But making your query letter an expertly crafted piece of writing that shows what you can do will very often win you an assignment even without clips. Writing is what sells, not necessarily a star-studded background.
Pay Your Dues on Bidding Sites and Content Mills
If you’re trying to make a few extra dollars and some quick cash these sites can be good for your bottom line. But I would encourage you not to waste too much time on them. I struggled for almost my entire first year on these sites, and while I did see some nicely paying months from these sites, it took me long days to get it because of the low pay these sites often pay out. There are strategies you can use to make more and pick the right assignments, but I found out the hard way that the real money is by finding your own clients and pitching magazines. Writing e-books and e-articles for the Kindle is also a good idea. I would encourage you to pursue these methods sooner rather than later so you can earn more sooner.
Don’t Negotiate Pricing
Many new freelancers seem to think that negotiating prices with a prospective client or editor is a sure way to sink your sale. I disagree. In the world of writing for your own clients, business owners expect you to negotiate with them. It shows that you’re a professional. When it comes to editors, if you have reason to feel you should earn more for a certain story, make your case. It’s a very rare occasion that you will lose a job because you tried to negotiate a higher price. If you do you’re probably better off for losing the client, because that is not the type of client you want to work for.
I hope these tips have helped you break free from the unnecessary rules imposed upon so many new freelance writers. You may always have to follow the rules of grammar and spelling, but when it comes to business there are some rules that seem to best utilized when broken. Happy writing, and never forget to follow your own instinct when creating your writing business.