This is my dream: the manuscript of the novel I’m working on someday finds its way into the hands of a great publisher who will spread the good word of my story, and I’ll become a recognized, in-demand writer who will then be given book deals and will be asked to write essays and articles for all sorts of publications.
This is my current reality: I’m a 24-year old, nearly done with an fantastic MFA program, who is devouring information about becoming a freelance writer in the hopes that I’ll be able to contribute articles to numerous websites and publications–local and national– while offering social media, copy writing and copy editing services to small businesses for blogs, newsletters, websites, etc. And I want to publish that book, of course. Right now, I’m standing right on the brink of all this.
I’m not brand new to freelance writing. I’ve been contributing to local newspapers in Southern RI on a regular basis for over a year now. I like that kind of work: find an angle for a story, tell it well, and see your name and work in print. And then get paid! Here’s the thing: my local papers aren’t exactly the most widely-read publications in the universe. And my editor, as great as he is, isn’t exactly throwing tons of work my way. He can be… sometimes unreliable, though he’s given me plenty of stories to write and journalistic experience over the past year. Plus writing for newspapers has helped me build a HUGE portfolio of clips. But I’m ready for more.
Here’s what I’m doing to turn writing into a career:
- I’ve gotten involved with my town’s Patch page and will begin writing for them soon (have you heard of Patch? If not, get thyself to www.patch.com and learn about writing opportunities near you). The upside of writing for Patch versus town papers is that I’m still covering local stories, they pay a little more, AND the articles I write will be online and I’ll be able to link to them. With the town papers, I have to scan and .pdf all my work to make it visible to the public after it has already run in the paper (kind of a pain in the butt).
- I’m networking. A lot. I made aTwitter account specifically to connect with other writers and freelancers and I’m actually reaching out to the people who are doing what I want to be doing. I ask them for advice, guidance, tips– and everyone has been gracious enough to share their knowledge with me. To name just a few, people like Emily Suess, Katie Portman, and Melissa Breau have been especially helpful, in both the knowledge they put out with their blogs or by answering my questions or tweeting advice. I think the best thing you can do for yourself when you’re contemplating a specific type of career is to learn how other people did it first. What worked for them, and maybe more importantly, what didn’t work? My path will be different from your path, but I can still glean knowledge from the experiences of others (that’s what this is all about, anyway!).
- I’m reading books (like How To Start a Home-Based Writing Business) and making accounts on freelancing sites. My best friend is in a publishing MA program at a great college in Boston, so she’s sharing tons of information with me about magazine writing and freelancing in general. It’s not her dream job, but she’s absorbing so much useful info that I’m just fortunate to be able to get my hands–and brain– on it.
- I’m expecting to make this work. I could freak out right now, run the other way, and just forget all of this. Writing is too uncertain a career, and who the heck am I to think my writing is special enough to make me some money? Ha. That would be the easy and miserable way out, and I’ve already tasted enough unhappiness in an office job to know I’m never going back unless it’s on my terms. So instead, I’m expecting that this is the next chapter in my life, and I’m going to make it work.
- I’ve got support. Thank God for my husband. He encourages me, supports my ideas, helps me brainstorm, listens to me babble about writing– and he’s taking on the brunt of our household finances until I’m totally done with school and am pulling in more moolah. The great thing about this writing career is that, in the process of making my dreams come true, I’ll be able to help my husband with his. He does (amazing) photography on the side and has sold a number of his photos, but it’s not something he does full time. My goal is to not only help myself become a well-paid writer, but to help my husband spread the word about his photography and to nurture his creative side, too.
- I’m being specific. I’m outlining exactly what I want to accomplish, what I want to do, and how I plan to get there. I make a lot of lists for daily tasks and for long-term goals to help me stay on top of things. Overall, being specific is more helpful than being vague. I could say that I want to be really successful, but what does that even mean, really? It’s a nice goal and all, but what exactly are the smaller pieces that define my personal version of success? I’m trying to specifically define success for myself. Success for me might mean making a certain amount of money next year from writing, or publishing a certain number of articles. Or it might mean just being satisfied and happy with the work I’ll do every day. It’s really a person thing, and the more specific you can be, the easier it will be to figure out how to attain success and how to recognize when you’re taking a wrong turn.
So this is where I’m currently at. Where are you in your writing journey? How do you define success for yourself?