So, you’re a blogger. Maybe you’ve been blogging for a long time, maybe you just started, but either way, if you’re blogging, it has probably occurred to you at some point that this whole putting-words-down-online thing is a pretty fun gig. What if you could actually get paid for it? Wouldn’t that be awesome?
It is pretty awesome to work as an online freelance writer - or freelance blogger, or professional blogger, or whatever you want to call it. You get all the fun of blogging with the added bonus of a little spare cash. Note, however, that when I say ‘a little spare cash,’ that’s exactly what I mean: a little. Very little. Like, money for gum. You aren’t going to get rich as a freelance blogger. So, if you want to pursue any sort of career as an online writer, you need to love writing more than you love money, for a start.
What else do you need? Here are four things that you need to have to get started making pennies - quarters, if you’re lucky - as a freelance blogger:
1) Connections, or a willingness to develop them. Most freelance writing opportunities aren’t going to come to you. This is true whether you’re writing online or off: if you want to write for pay, you’re probably going to have to hustle for the jobs. But ‘hustling’ only means finding out who’s hiring writers, or who knows who’s hiring writers, and getting your writing in front of those people. You can, of course, check out sites like the ProBlogger Job Board (and I recommend that you do so regularly), but you’ll increase your odds of getting good writing gigs if you know people who know people who hire writers. Ask your online friends, or bloggers whose writing you admire, or anyone who seems to have gotten their foot in the freelance door (hell, ask me!) how they’re getting published and who they had to suck up to do it.
2) A volunteer spirit. This might sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to get started as a professional blogger is to write for free. Why? Because writing for small community blogs (that can’t afford to pay) or guest-blogging at larger, more commercial blogs (that can afford to pay, but are perhaps more likely to publish a newbie freelancer if that newbie offers a freebie) is an excellent way to a) make connections with people who might hire you or who know people who might hire you, b) increase your exposure as a blogger, and c) build a portfolio of writing outside of your personal blog.
3) Skills. You don’t need to be the most brilliant mistress of prose to ever put fingers to keyboard to get work as a freelance writer online. You don’t need to be the funniest or most inspirational or most philosophic writer - but you do need to be literate. What that means: any piece of writing that you publish online or that you submit for consideration for publishing needs to be well-executed. Make sure that there are no spelling errors, no crimes of grammar, no excess of LOLspeak. Bookmark some writing and grammar sites, keep a copy of Strunk & White beside your laptop - do whatever it takes to keep your basic writing skills finely honed. Anyone who is going to consider hiring you to write is going to ask for - and look at - samples of your online writing (see above re: building a portfolio), and if what they see is a sample of writing that requires excessive editing, they’re probably going to take a pass.
4) A willingness to promote yourself. Everything I said above about making connections? About developing your skills? About being willing to write for free? Completely useless advice if you’re not going to be the best and most shameless self-promoter that you can be. You need to be willing to tell anyone and everyone - anyone and everyone who can help you, that is - that you’d love to get some paying writing gigs and that any site would be lucky to have you. Write good gossip? Tell everybody. Write good recipes? Tell everybody. Have a backlog of essays on how to wean babies/discipline toddlers/deal with in-laws? Tell everybody. Tweet it, blog it, e-mail your friends, ask people to spread the word. Sure, some people might roll their eyes - there’s always someone - but most people won’t, and if even one person with the right connection passes your information along, you just might have the beginning of a beautiful - if very poorly paying - new career.
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