Bad Girl For A Day: Fiona McLaren – “Freelance Writing – Taking The Plunge”

First of all, I’d like to say I’m thrilled to be invited to join in and be an honorary Bad Girl for the day (the mimosas and the chance to wear my tiara really help!).

Today, I wanted to talk about what it is like to work as a full time freelance writer and, perhaps more importantly, the steps I took to get to this point.

Writing full time is a wonderful and extremely challenging career.  Yes, it is fantastic to be able to run my own schedule, to dabble in my craft all day long and to spend a good portion of my time researching.  However, there are other aspects that are very challenging.

Firstly, it’s hard to write all day where you have to get the words out No Matter What.  When I have a word count deadline to meet for a client, I can’t just wait for my Muse to sidle up whenever she feels like it.  No, I need to get a rope and lasso her to the ground lest she gets away.  And I can’t just use “filler” word count either.  It needs to be high quality, polished prose that does the job it’s been asked to do.

Secondly, you don’t always get to write what you want.  In fact, if you want to make money you need to be a Jack (or Jill) of all Trades.  Finance?  Real estate?  Horror fiction?  Press releases?  Not your thing?  Doesn’t really matter.  If you want to make a proper stab at working full time from home and earning a decent wage from writing then you need to learn to be flexible with your writing skill.  It’s a rare writer who can make a career out of writing solely what their Muse brings to them.

Thirdly, you need to have a rhino-tough skin.  Clients want edits all of the time.  Sometimes the edits are good.  Sometimes they aren’t.  Balancing keeping your client happy with keeping your writing integrity is a hard task.  You need to know when to compromise and you need to know when to politely stand your ground.

As for taking that leap into becoming a full time writer, I’d advise caution.  Make sure you have at least six months funding behind you or someone who is willing to support your career change.  Also, try to work at it part time for a while first, so that you can build up your connections and writing credits.

I don’t recommend the “write an article and submit it and hope” route.  This is slow, arduous and hit and miss in terms of whether you will find an editor who is looking for exactly what you are pitching at the exact time you are pitching it.  It’s better to go out and source who is looking for what and then write a piece to fit.  There are a lot of resources online where individual companies and publishers post messages about what they are looking for.

It’s also important not to set your goals too high to begin with.  Scoring a big contract takes time.  Start by building up connections and by making sure your work is of an excellent standard.  I worked for some low pay to begin with, so that I could build up my references, writing credits and my name brand.  Now, I can demand higher wages and better clients due to my breadth of experience.

Hand in hand with this is being super flexible on what and who you work with.  Not all clients are big magazines or publishers.  Some are small companies, others private individuals, yet others still websites or online blogs.  Join in with everything you can until you build up your portfolio.  Only then should you look into zeroing down into your target area.  Cast your net wide to start with before you start fishing with a spear!

And perhaps the hardest aspect – there is very little recognition for the freelance writer.  A huge amount of work is ghost written (I’ve done DVD narrations, historical fiction books, entire websites and hundreds of children’s books and yet not one will have my name on it).  So you need to be able to draw a line under what you write for profit and what you write for love.  Personally, I only write for money in areas I don’t write for pleasure.  My own areas of interest are saved for my own work.

Becoming a freelance writer is a tough job and you need to stand out from the crowd.  You need to be flexible, have excellent standards, never miss a deadline and be open to all sorts of revisions and edits that come your way.  If you can do this, you can enjoy a rewarding career that teaches you more about writing than you could imagine.

And one of the biggest bonuses?  When you finally snag that dream agent or publisher, you will already be professional, easy to work with and well on your way to becoming a successful author under your own name.


Find out more about Fiona on her page on the Corvisiero Literary Agency website or visit one of the social hubs below…
Twitter: @BookOmnivore


*  I’d like to offer 3 query and elevator pitch critiques to three random people who comment on the blog.

(Pssssst! This is a great opportunity to get feedback from a phenomenal writer and one of #PitchWar’s mentors. xoxo Darcy)

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