SO YOU WANNA BE A WRITER…STEP 4: CHECK THE PRICE TAG ON YOUR SOUL
As you’re puttin’ on the blitz, you’re initially looking for anything and everything that will give you writing experience.
One day, as I clicked away at my laptop to create a blog post for a small-business website, I had to ask myself, “Have I sold my soul by writing for a chiropractor?”
Those who know me well have heard my soap-box beratement of this profession. I realize there are probably chiropractors who are trustworthy and effective. I’m just a bit (lot) skeptical about “see me three times a week for the rest of your life (and pay me lots of money forever) and you’ll feel…a little better.” Still, I’m sure some of you chiropractors out there have helped many people.
But…it was chiropractic care for pets!
Yep, that’s a thing.
And it’s a thing I can now say I’ve written about. The truth is, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much if that chiropractic care I was writing about was for humans. But, seriously, I’m telling people to take their dog to get its back cracked?
I say all this to let you know I began to wonder about my freelancing commitments when they began to involve writing on subjects I was far from excited about (and even a little doubtful about.) Something seemed broken – and it wasn’t Spot’s spine.
Was this what I wanted to do for a living? Could I afford to say no if I didn’t like the topic?
It turns out, the answer to that first question was yes, so the answer to the second one was no. I wanted to be a freelance writer. I still do. In my experience, that means writing about some less-than-exciting stuff now so you can write more of what you want later.
Perhaps you’ll find a different route. Maybe you’ll figure out how to get paid a livable wage by devoting 100% of your time to writing about Christian living, board games, party planning, travel, and the outdoors (wait a sec, that’s my dream list.)
My point is – whatever your ideal topics are – you will probably have to work your way there. Don’t get discouraged if this is the case. If you have a specialty, by all means, pursue it. But, if you’re simply looking to break into freelance writing, then it doesn’t hurt to explore your options. Write for a variety of media and cover a wide range of topics.
This could also help you find a niche if you don’t have one. Maybe you’ll discover you absolutely love to write about home remodeling, and you’ll become the go-to source for contractors looking for blog content. Maybe you’ll accept a small job drafting a marketing piece for a country club, discover you enjoy writing about golf, and become the next big sports writer. The possibilities are endless.
Be willing to dip your toe into many ponds before finding a place deep enough to dive.
Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who enjoys covering a variety of topics, but I still think it’s good advice.
But what about…
Of course, don’t write anything that goes against your moral beliefs. I feel very strongly about alcohol use, so I have turned down assignments to write web content for liquor stores. On the other hand, I’m not crazy about guns or hunting for sport, but I haven’t had a problem writing content for pawn shops that sell guns, or creating text for a taxidermist’s website.
You have to decide where to draw the line. I’m simply trying to warn you not to make that line an inch from your feet. Don’t get too picky or you won’t have any jobs to pick. Get some experience. Accept the fact that you have to start somewhere. Your initial freelance work may be low-paying and somewhat boring. But, those assignments are not your end game.
Keep working at it. Your goal should be to gain experience, build your portfolio and improve your writing. This will eventually allow you to be more selective in your project choices.
Greater experience will also allow you to earn better rates – which leads to our next topic. It’s one of the toughest questions I’ve had to answer as a freelance writer: How much should I charge?!?
Up next: So you wanna be a writer…Step 5: Set Your Rates (And Watch Out for S.E.T.)