How I Got Into Freelance Writing

by thethreepennyguignol

So, I get asked a lot about how I got into freelance writing for a living, so I thought I’d write a blog post covering that, plus the pros and cons of freelancing as a full-time job.

I first starting writing for a few websites back when I was fourteen; I wasn’t being paid for it then but since no major publishers seemed keen to pick up my undeniably excellent and wrenching teen drama novel, I became impatient to get my stuff out there. I don’t think you necesarily have to work for other people for free in order to lay the groundwork for freelance writing, but it is useful to be able to point to somewhere and go “hey, look, they thought my stuff was of good enough quality to publish, maybe you too???”. At the very least, you’ll need a portfolio of some of your writing; one of the reasons I started this blog was to showcase my work, and blogging is a good way to get into the swing of writing regularly. Not to mention the fact that the more you practice writing, the better you’re going to get at it. I firmly believe that writing is a craft, not an art, and very few people are born with a sweeping natural talent for the written word that oozes off even their very first venture into the job.

I made the move (very slowly) from writing for free to asking for money for my work when I was in university. This worked out well for me as I was able to use my student loan to cover most of my expenses while pulling in a little extra cash from writing and getting experience under my belt. I strongly suggest that if you’re thinking of getting into freelance writing as your job you lower yourself in slowly and find a few regular clients you rely on, not just because of the financial risk that poses but so you have the chance to find out if this actually is something you want to turn into your job.

As the end of university approached I kicked my writing work into higher gear and started going after jobs that I could support myself on. This, and the long nights spent feverishly writing anonymous internet porn, is what led me to ghostwriting romance and erotica. Previously I had been focused on pop culture criticism, but I found that the market is wildly competitive and, while I loved it, I just wasn’t getting the breaks at that time that I needed to support myself. Lucky for me, I found that returning to my first love, writing fiction, was pretty fucking great and I focused on ghostwriting full-time as I graduated last year.

It was around this time that I also got the nuts to start writing my own stuff under my pen name, Kara Lowndes (shameless plug: my lesbian romance novella is coming out next week and I’m very excited and can’t wait to share it with you!). Initially, I found it hard to balance the workload I had for clients with the stories I was creating myself, mainly through rigorous scheduling. I found that balancing writing fiction for other people helped keep my writing sharp when I came to write my own stuff, which was awesome. Obviously, the biggest pro of freelance writing is that you are WRITING FOR A LIVING. I wanted nothing more than this my entire life, and the fact I actually get to do it makes me kind of giddy sometimes.

That’s where I am in my career right now, and honestly, I love my job. Like anything that’s work, I don’t spring out of bed every morning punching the air with glee and sprinting to my keyboard, but when I get into a good rhythm with my various work projects and my own stuff it’s hard not to remember how lucky I am to have ended up here. Well, I say lucky, but really getting to the stage I am at now -eight years after I first published work for anyone else – ¬†was an assload of hard work.

And that is, of course, one of the cons of working as a freelancer. I am a workaholic, type-A blur of energy right down to my very soul, which is good because I love having stuff that keeps me busy and I can focus loads of time on my work. But that’s because I’m at a place in my career where I’m not working twelve-sixteen hours per day just trying to make rent anymore. I’m not frantically crunching numbers about when payments will clear or emailing clients for payments. It’s awesome if you can find a niche that pays a lot when you first enter into this job, but you might now, and that’s worth being prepared for. Not to mention the fact that if you’re a workaholic like me, it can be almost impossible to switch off and you might find yourself replying to emails bleary-eyed at three in the morning – it seriously helped me to force myself into a routine where I have to quit work at some point. One of the appeals of freelancing is being able to set your own schedule, but having some kind of basic outline for my days helps me feel a bit more human.

So, that’s my experience and advice for people looking to get into freelance writing; obviously, it’s just mine, and I would recommend looking to see what other people have to say too if you’re considering making the leap. If you have any questions, comments, or queries, leave them in the comments below (or contact me through the blog or tweet me) and if I get enough questions I’ll do a follow-up post in the near future!