Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Freelance writing is, like many home-based businesses, one of those things where you can get rich, make a good living, eke out a meager existence, or go flat broke in no time. The income level truly does run the gamut from zero to zillionaire. How can you improve your chances of success at freelance writing so you end up successful?
Any business startup increases its odds dramatically by having a well thought-out business and marketing plan. Most writers just want to write, but writing a business plan is not what they had in mind. So, like many, they skip the plan, write some stuff, read some “how to write” books and magazines, revise and resend and so on. Naturally, some “get it” fairly quick and some spend years learning the how-to’s and some quit and get a job because food and electricity costs money.
So, start with a plan that includes a summary of your qualifications for writing, a list of what you want to write, the potential markets you can sell your writing to, a detailed plan for marketing, submitting and selling your writing, a list of writers who are your competitors (who writes the same type of material), an estimated budget of expenses and income, usually broken down by month, and your writing goals, both long term and short term. Don’t quit your day job until you have the plan down cold and enough money saved to last longer than you imagine you will need.
First, analyze your qualifications as a writer. Would you pay for your writing? Ask people you respect to honestly critique your writing. If you have great ideas but your grammar is lousy, take a refresher course at a local community college or learning annex before you start submitting. As a business owner, you are the key component of your freelance writing business. You can improve your skills and learn to write well. But, if you really cannot write and will not spend the time or money it takes to learn, then even a million-dollar business plan will not help you get published.
For your writing business plan, you will need to know what you want to write. Are you into short stories, novels, magazine articles, romances, travel guides, children’s books, poetry, song lyrics, plays, movies, instructions for using gadgets, or television shows?
Who do you want to write for? You need to know the “target market” or audience for your writing inside and out. How old are they, what are they like, what do they enjoy, what do they hate, where do they shop, and so on.
Who else writes what you want to write? This is your competition. Can you write as well or better than they can? Can you provide a different and exciting viewpoint or a new style?
And, probably most important, who will buy what you write? Get thee to a library or bookstore or Amazon.com (see link below) and get a copy of the latest “Writer’s Market”, a book that weighs almost as much as your high school biology book but will uncover many more secrets for you.
In this book, you can learn what “writer’s guidelines” are, and get the guidelines for your targeted publishers. You can find out how much you can expect to be paid for certain types of writing. Also, you’ll find out how to submit your work, write a query letter, find an agent and much more. Many writers love the book and view it as a friend/business partner. You can take it with you when traveling, highlight potential submission sites, and bookmark your favorite pages with orange sticky notes, but you can also subscribe online. If you buy the deluxe edition of the book, the online subscription is included.
There are many resources for learning to write and learning how to write and get paid for it. You can and should examine writer’s groups, online writer’s forums, writer’s blogs, other writing books and anything else you can find to help educate you on the business of writing.
BellaOnline.com has several sites devoted to different writing markets: Fiction Writing, Nonfiction Writing, Writing for Children, Poetry and Journals. All these sites have discussion forums, too.
Advice from one of the most prolific and successful writers ever:
You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. --Isaac Asimov
Click here to buy Writer's Market 2008 at Amazon.com.
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