There are two types of people in this world: those who take a running leap into a pool of water and those who dip their toes in one at a time until they are finally in up to their (gasp!) ankles. I suspect that those who jump into pools without a care as to the temperature are the same who advocate for the ripping-off of band-aids (hair and all); those who dip gently into the obviously frigid water will likewise take time and care to pull a band-aid off hair-by-hair. I’m a pool-dipper, slow-puller. Thus, when I considered freelance writing as a possible career choice, I approached slowly.
This is a post for the curious, the cautious, and the contemplative. These are a few steps that I took to acclimate myself to the field. I didn’t do all of them at once. Even now, I use them here and there when time allows in order to step closer to a full-time situation.
1. Take a course at your local community college. I have taken courses on essay writing, freelance journalism, and the basics of freelance business. Each course challenged my writing and introduced me to other writers in my community. Plus, I had an opportunity to practice writing and a better idea of the logistics associated with writing as an occupation.
2. Get set up on social media if you’re not already. Maybe pick one that you’re unfamiliar with and start playing around with it. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are good places to start. For a freelancer, LinkedIn is especially important. It is a good way to stay in touch with editors and other writing connnections that you make along the way – particularly when they move around.
3. Enter the blogging world. There is some debate as to whether this is a good idea for a person interested in freelance writing with the strongest concern being, “Won’t I run out of ideas if I post all my brilliance on a blog?” I posted about this issue (as well as the pros and cons of the social media mentioned in #2), in The Big Four for Freelancers.
4. Join a local writer’s group or other professional association in your area. The Writers’ Club in Charlotte is 90 years old – that’s an impressive tradition – and is mostly geared towards authors and poets. Since I anticipate attempting to write a book of some sort at some point in my life, this is a suitable networking and learning outlet. However, if you’re interested strictly in a freelance option, consider joining groups in areas in which you are interested in writing (such as business, parenting, fitness, etc). Another group that has been recommended to me is the Society of Professional Journalists.
5. Swipe free magazines from retailers, rest stops, and restaurants. It will give you an idea of local publications that you might be able to send a query to, keep you up to date on trends and fads, introduce you to the type of articles that are accepted, and will possibly serve as a muse for your own writing ideas.
If you’re a pool-dipper, slow-puller, these are a few ways to get started in the freelance realm that have been useful to me. If you’re a jumper and yanker, you might try all five plus some more and go for it. Good luck!