Hey y’all. For those who don’t know i’ve lately been doing a bunch of freelance writing to pass the time. Lately it’s mostly been for recreation and most jobs I’ve taken on are small editing and criticism tasks. That being said I’ve gleaned a lot from my time as a freelancer with regards to the writing and publishing process as a whole. In addition i’ve even earned a spot on the staff of a really neat online magazine called The Ranting Dragon.
I’ll talk more on that later but if you’re interested the website proper can be found here.
Actually, what I want to talk about most is what a freelancer writer/editor does. Some may recall an earlier post I made titled “Things your Editor is not!” where I touch upon the stereotypes regarding editors. Rather than doing that, i’m going to go into specifics, or rather the types of roles one can expect to perform as a freelance writer/editor. For those seeking to be the former the next section is for you. For those curious as to the types of freelancers out there my next post will likely be more up your alley.
So you want to be a Freelance Writer/Editor
When you clicked on this page chances are you noticed the swarthy dwarf blacksmith pounding away at an unfinished weapon. While the picture is very pretty I chose it because it fits the theme of a freelance writer/editor in more ways than one. In fact it may be the best metaphor out there for the profession. So, for anyone hoping to make a living off freelancing, here are a few things you should know.
1) The first step is knowledge.
It goes without saying that anyone worth their salt in any subject has to know what they’re talking about. Yet some people seem to think being a freelancer is as simple as declaring it so. While this may be true, it does one no good to call yourself something and have no experience or education. It’s the same reason why blacksmithing begins with being an apprentice. Years of manual labor dedicated to honing your craft if needed for any smithy to have a hope of succeeding.
Fortunately being a writer or editor is something you’ve likely done since you first went to school. If you’ve ever taken a writing class or edited a friend’s paper then you have some experience. Even fanfiction or poetry counts as personal experience. It’s not professional experience mind you, but it’s definitely something one should keep in mind when going into this line of work. Should you wish to take it a step further there are plenty of writing centers, schools for editors, and even literary groups willing to teach and give guidance.
2) The second step is practice.
Ah practice, that dreadful word that goes hand in hand with effort. Learning the ropes is all fine and dandy but to truly succeed you have to continuously hone your skills. It’s also why blacksmith apprentices work for years before they’re allowed to handle projects on their own. Fortunately writing is not so dangerous a profession, and you can practice your craft without fear of losing your fingers.
So how does one practice being an editor/writer? Well here are a few suggestions I gleaned from my time at DPI:
- Just as an apprentice needs lessons, learning begins in places that are chock full of knowledge. In the case of a freelanc writer/editor, there are several books that teach proper techniques and etiquette in the publishing world. In an earlier blog post I listed many books that come in handy when learning how to edit. At the same these books can help you become a better writer since they show what editors and publishers look for in a piece.
- Many blacksmith apprentices are expected to glean from those who were already masters of their craft. You can do the same by taking your local newspapers and editing them yourselves. It comes as no surprise that some newspapers are riddled with faulty writing or grammar. Either due to negligence or apathy, these mistakes are the perfect opportunity to hone a keen eye for detail, while giving you the satisfaction of catching something other people might not. This works for magazines and even (le gasp!) your favorite books.
- You know how they say you can’t trust a skinny cook, a tan engineer student, or a clean blacksmith? Well that’s because they spend all their time refining skills they already have. In this case, the best refinement comes in the form of reading. This simple act, which you likely already do for recreation, will broaden your mind and give fuel to your own burgeoning creativity. It helps you understand the writing style of whatever you wish to edit, and makes you invaluable to anyone who wants your help. Better yet, you can accomplish twice as much by editing as you read.
3) The third step is putting yourself out there.
I put this one last because it is both the easiest and hardest step to take. As writers and editors we tend toward sheltered lifestyles, and would be content to keeping to ourselves while the world comes to us. In a sense, we’d all love to be that great blacksmith in the mountains whom people come to from far and wide, seeking out majestic expertise in craftsmanship.
“Hey Bob. How much longer til we get to this great Editor person?”
“Just five more mountain ranges, Ethel.”
“Five? Screw this! Wanna get tacos instead?”
Now while the above was poking fun at that conceit, it does speak the truth. Freelancing is a business in which you are selling your skills, and while that comes with all sorts of freedom, it also comes with a massive amount of responsibility on your part. When you freelance you are typically your only boss, but you are also your only employee. As such it falls upon you to make your work known. How does one do this? Why it’s actually quite simple: put yourself out there.
I don’t mean go out on the corner and chase people with your claims of editorial/writing skills. Chances are you’ll more than likely scare people away. Rather put yourself in a position where your name can be easily seen. In this day and age, advertising can be done with little Bug your friends. Make a facebook page. Set up a blog (wink wink). Heck, if you have to make flyers and post them on street signs.
Just let people know you’re out there. Let them know what you’re all about. It may not get you a lot of customers but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. If you stick to it you’ll either get an audience or you’ll get better. No matter how you slice it I don’t see how either one will hurt.
So that’s my first half discussing the work of the freelance writer/editor. In my next post I’ll go into specifics on the kinds of work freelancers and editors do.
If you have a few suggestions, a couple words of advice, or even some experiences you want to share then say so in the comments. If not then I hope you have a wonderful day.
Until next time.