Actually, I don’t know in this moment how many points my plan has, because they are randomly floating around in my head right now. But I have been researching and reading and noodling this whole business, and think this will help me move forward, while potentially being useful to someone else considering putting a toe in the freelance waters.
A few side notes: first, I have been freelance copyediting for a year, and have gotten all of my business through word of mouth. While I was working full time, this was all I needed to do to have as much work as I could handle. And that first word of mouth client? A friend. No getting around it, a foot already in the door helps. Also, I have read so many articles and posts that it would be impossible to keep it all straight. Most of what I’m writing is gleaned from somewhere, but I can’t remember where. If I do, I’ll definitely link!
So there are different sorts of writing people do and sell. Most of what I see can be divided into magazine articles, longer form web writing (profiles, investigative pieces, and essay), blogging, and content marketing/copywriting. Then there’s the mist-shrouded land where the real money is: selling writing advice to hopeful writers. I’ve downloaded a number of free ebooks, signed up for newsletters, and clicked through massive link chains to realize that the people making the best incomes are the ones with an established method of delivering advice – ebooks (one is fifty bucks!), webinars, online courses. Some of these are highly recommended training, and some seem to be mostly personal enrichment plan, with some mildly helpful advice and lots of peppy encouragement thrown in. But, between the recommended info and months of lurking in facebook groups for professional freelancers, operation freelance is under way here at my house.
What I have trouble finding is info about the beginning steps, other than “write some things, then here’s how to pitch to editors.” If the info is out there, I haven’t wanted to pay for it yet. But I have ascertained that for now, I want to try to get local content marketing clients. This can come in the form of social medial, blogging, white papers, or feature-y writing for content heavy marketing efforts. Probably more, I just don’t know it yet! So, here is what I know, what I have done so far, and what I plan to do. This is both manifesto and journal, intended to keep me focused on the next step (advice I read somewhere!) and perhaps provide a simple record of what works and doesn’t, should anyone reading this find that useful.
My Big Plan:
1) Set up a blog. As you see, this one is checked off. This serves multiple purposes. One, the more you write, the better you write. Two, it’s a potential marketing tool, almost a portfolio. It was recommended by a guest post on the Write Life, I think, because it not only shows off your cool, web appropriate writing style, but shows that you can write regularly to a deadline, even if self-imposed.
2) Online portfolio. I set mine up through Contently: http://jessicanelson.contently.com. It needs work, mainly pulling out individual stories from the magazines that I put out in my previous job. Unfortunately, those were print only, so it’s hard to post them through this site. However, the Contently claims that people get jobs there; it’s supposed to be a freelance professional networking site. So there I am.
3) Website. This one will take longer, which is another reason that Contently + this blog will have to suffice for now.
4) Get business cards. These will almost certainly be necessary at some point, and should reflect all the ways to find me online.
5) Beef up social media. I need to optimize my LinkedIn profile, jump on Twitter (good for learning and pitching, apparently), and potentially get back on Tumblr, though I tend to lose time there that is never quite accounted for. I mean, really, did I just spend an hour looking at Orphan Black fan art? The answer is yes, easily, when it comes to Tumblr. I love it, but not sure how it would help me here. Where was I? Oh, yes. Social media. Linked In. Twitter. Contently. Those are the first targets.
6) Acquire local nonprofit client (on a volunteer basis). This one is done. One of the things self help books can’t sell you is a stroke of luck. Though finding a non-profit to take your offered free work is probably not hard (I had several targets in mind), I happened to find a GREAT one that is aligned with my interests and experience: Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO), a local creative writing non-profit whose founders live down the street from me, and whose son comes over frequently to play with mine. We met, they are amazing, and I the plan is to help them and get a clip for the portfolio while I’m at it. Best of all possible worlds.
7). Send out letters of interest. This is by far the hardest. I need to craft a letter of interest (I’m pretty sure I have a link bookmarked or a free ebook with samples somewhere) to start customizing and sending to local businesses. I’ll start with email and potentially LinkedIn.
8). Write personal essays and pitch them. This one is an unrelated foray into another side of freelancing that I would love to break into – essays. I know I read dozens of these a month. They are compelling personal narratives with a larger message, and some of them are incredibly powerful. I have a few that I’m working on in my head, but nothing concrete yet.
There you have it. My big plan. Some other things I’ve read that seem useful, but I’m unsure how to implement:
Find a niche. (Um, okay. I’ll get on that. I thought my niche was “I can write whatever you need.”
Find your ideal client online and network with them. (I don’t know who my ideal client is yet!)
Position yourself as a thought leader. (This reeks of business jargon, but it seems like a sound principle. But this one too is dependent on knowing your niche, and I’m still struggling on that.)
And finally, I want to write fiction. So the plan for that is to write for at least ten minutes per day on my current favorite manuscript (incomplete novels are starting to pile up on my hard drive). This might mean I get one sentence out. But hopefully some days it’s more. One of the big lessons from editing is that good things come to those who just write. Bigger than any other hurdle to making money writing is just working. Writing. A lot. You hear this lesson in many forms from writers, but it’s true in ways they don’t even intend. More important than talent, than originality, than having lyrically beautiful prose: words on the screen. Without them you’re all aspiring and no author.