Lately, when I tell friends how I made the leap from PR/Journalism professional to becoming my own boss as a freelance writer, they want to know how I did it.
There are lots of technical issues to starting your own business that I will blog about later if it is requested. But today I want to share the basics on freelance writing.
First and foremost, if you want to be a freelance writer, I feel it is imperative that you purchase, use and learn like the back of your hand The Associated Press Stylebook. This is a writer's Bible.
If you're going to write for a printed publication, specifically a local newspaper or a magazine, particularly in the southeast, AP style is the default style for these publications.
Secondarily, I think it's not a bad idea to invest in a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. This appears to be the style of choice with many Web content and promotional material writers.
Finding a Gig
How do you find a publication willing to let you write for them? This can seem a daunting task to those just getting started. But don't let fear hinder you.
My greatest success has come from starting locally and broadening my search from there. Call your local newspaper and ask them if they hire freelancers (commonly called "stringers" at newspapers). Offer to send them a writing sample. Once they see that you are a good writer, they will tend to call you each time they need a stringer.
If you don't have a lot of writing experience and you live in a big county with several smaller "hometown" papers, and one large daily, hit the hometown papers first. You may not get paid for these gigs, but you will get the all-important by-line. This helps you build your portfolio and translates to paying gigs down the road.
Contact local magazines. Let's face it. There are a million of them out there. From the local woman-to-woman magazine, to the free publications of local nightlife and music, these provide a great launching point. Again, the pay may not be great, but the by-lines are what you should go after as much as the paycheck.
I'll write more on this topic in the future, as there are many aspects of getting started. Send me your feedback and share the specific information you are seeking and we will get some good dialog started on the issue.