Many writers make the mistake of confusing vanity writing with freelance writing. To the average person there is very little difference between writing for pleasure, writing to be heard, and writing as a source of income. Once the decision to become a freelance writer is made however, the difference becomes apparent quickly as an abundance of rejections comes flooding in. The following article addresses the difference between vanity writing and freelance writing and gives important information a budding freelance writer should know and remember.
What is vanity writing?
Vanity writing essentially is writing and publishing your printed word simply for the pride and enjoyment of seeing it online or in a book. Most of the time there are no strict writing guidelines which must be followed and no deadlines which must be met.
A good example of vanity writing can be found on personal blogs and twitter message boards. Here it is all about the individual writing and often has very little actual sustainable substance. This writing often is amusing to read for a short diversion but hardly holds any real interest unless the reader is a family member or friend.
What is freelance writing?
A freelance writer has chosen to offer his talents and written insights as a source of income. It becomes a very time consuming and often difficult job to turn into a viable source of income. The writer has to familiarize him/her self with often stringent guidelines specific to the publication or brokerage to which he/she submits material.
Often there are deadlines to keep in mind and revisions as well as edits are a constant necessity if the article or manuscript is to be sold. A freelance writer must be familiar with copyright and plagiarism laws.
Research on subjects the author wishes to write about are of great importance and resources must be listed with precision. Quotes of previously published works by other authors must be clearly marked as such.
In other words, freelance writing is a career, not a hobby, and must be treated as such.
Transitioning from vanity writer to freelance writer.
If a love of writing is not merely a fleeting enjoyment but rather a deep passion, it stands to reason that a vanity writer may decide to try his/her hand at becoming a freelance writer. At this point a decision needs to be made and a goal must be clearly defined which can be altered and increased as time goes by and experience grows.
Is freelance writing going to be the sole source of income or is it going to be a source of pocket money or as savings towards a particular goal? Again the approach for each goal will by necessity be different. If the choice is freelance writing for sole source of income the writer has to set very rigid guidelines for him/her self. How much is enough to survive on reasonably well and available time becomes a major consideration at this point.
Regardless of who you are there are only so many hours in your day in which writing will be possible. Freelance writing involves much more then just the clacking of fingers to keyboard. Most of the writers’ time is spent researching potential markets, topics, deadlines for seasonal articles and more.
A vanity writer may have become used to praises from those close to him / her and now needs to learn to deal with a more critical audience. Suddenly the subject of what he/she consumed for Dinner or if the item he/she wanted for Christmas was not found beneath the Christmas Tree is no longer of interest to the readers in question. With other words writing for a wide and varied readership with higher and selective standards can be very difficult at first. It is something that needs to be practiced and learned via trial and error.
Getting your feet wet and building a writing portfolio is extremely important as well. Most publication houses want to see samples of your writing style. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Putting your best efforts forward is very important.
Things to remember when trying to break into the freelance writing market.
Always familiarize yourself with the publication for which you wish to write. Each publication has a very distinct voice and feel to it. In order to give your article or manuscript a fair chance at being accepted you need to make certain you understand what the editors want in their content.
The only way you are going to gain experience is by doing. Only certain publications require you to have a degree in literature. Some Editors are willing to give a new writer at least a chance as long as their “voice” is fresh and can drive the material forward. Reading submission guidelines with care will show you which publications are open to unknown authors, and allow you to focus your efforts there.
Understand the ratio of rejections to acceptances. If you have a hard time with rejections being a freelance writer is not a good job for you. A ratio of one acceptance to one hundred rejections is not unusual, even after several years. Of course that always depends on which publications you are trying to write for, online article brokerages and “low payment” online only mass media venues being much easier to break into than Vogue, National Geographic, or The New York Times.
How much do you need to make minimum per Article in order to meet your income quota? Selling an Article you spent 2 hours researching and writing for $5.00 is hardly going to help you make ends meet. That is fine in the beginning when you are trying to get your name out or if you are only freelance writing for pocket change, but if you have bills due you need to look at higher paying freelance writing jobs.
How many articles do you need to write and submit to various publications a week in order to break even? Keep the rejection to acceptance ratio in mind. Writing only 5 Articles a week and hoping for a $150 per Article payout when you first start out is unrealistic. Unless you are already a widely known name in the literary world, you won’t have anyone knocking your door down with offers. This means you need to sent out a lot of Articles in order to stand a chance.
Keep good records! It is ironic that a lot of writers are horrible record keepers. If you want to be successful in this business you need to find an organizational style that works for you and stick to it. Keep records of which Articles you have sent where, when you have submitted them and who your contact person was if applicable. Transfer rejected Articles or Articles slated for revisions into their appropriate files. Keep records of which articles you have sold, to whom and for how much. Make sure you keep all necessary receipts for supplies and research for tax time.
Always keep a notebook and pen on you or carry an electronic notebook with you. You never know when an idea will strike. The biggest mistake novice writers make is not being prepared at all times to write down an idea. A few words may be all it takes to jog your memory later, but those few words can be critical to retaining the sense of excitement in the writing that goes along with that light-bulb moment.
Don’t give up and don’t depend on others to market your writing for you. Be pro-active and flexible. Learn from each rejection letter and don’t take it personally.
Learn the turn around time on submissions. If you are dealing with bigger publication houses it may take longer for an article to be accepted or rejected. A good ball park figure for online mass media brokerage publications is five to seven business days. For Magazines anywhere from 3 Weeks to 6 months. If you have not heard anything from an Editor after six months you may either consider the article in the trash bin or you may write a polite note of enquiry. Again read submission guidelines carefully. Some inform the potential writer up front that if you haven’t heard from them in x amount of months your writing has rejected.
When choosing a pen name make sure it is not one that is already being used by someone else or that it is potentially offensive to a majority of the people who may read your material. Your pen name is as important as your calling card. Be classy about it.
Taking the first steps towards your career as a freelance writer might be daunting, but these tips and insights are sure to help you smooth the way.