Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Overcoming Terror to Become a Freelancer

A friend of mine recently asked me how I got over my terror of beginning to freelance write.

Honestly, I never was terrified of doing it, because I went into it willing to work for next-to-nothing, just for the chance to build up some clips. That meant I really had nothing to lose. I knew that approach would help me launch into bigger and better things.

Initially, I approached some local magazines with some clips of newspaper articles I had written while I was in the Army. I found one local magazine in my hometown that paid fairly well. Another one, a local entertainment magazine, paid nothing, but gave me concert tickets, movie passes, etc. I didn’t care. I needed by-lines.

If I hadn't had any clips to share, I think I would have offered to do a test interview/article, just to show the magazine I could write.

These days, I'm fortunate to have almost all the freelance work I want. I contact magazines I’d like to write for and offer to send them some clips. Freelance work usually follows.

For people who lack the confidence, I would recommend starting slow. Perhaps go to the smallest local publication first. Write a little for them and build up your confidence. Then move on to the bigger publications.

One thing I would warn people against who are trying to get started is to avoid negative self-talk. It takes thick skin to be a freelancer, because you're going to get turned down once in a while. But if you have been trained in writing or you write as part of your job, there's simply no room for self-doubt. You've obviously got some skills, so give yourself some credit.

I had to give myself this little pep-talk recently when I was considering pitching to a national magazine for the first time. I really was nervous about that. You can read about it in my previous blog on the topic. But in a nutshell, I got the gig and couldn't believe how easy it was to accomplish this.

So my advice to those looking to do a little freelancing is this: Suck it up and call a publication! Send ‘em some clips. You’ll be glad you did.

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