How to be a Freelance Writer

Years ago I decided that being a  freelance writer was the perfect job for me. I didn’t have to be tied down. I could write about things that interested me. And I could stay indoors and never have to talk to anyone… But then I read that in order to go freelance, you had to have worked on staff and you needed loads of contacts. I put the idea to the back of my mind.

Five years ago, stuck in a work rut and trying to find a job I could fit around my new baby, I thought about freelancing again. In the meantime, the internet had been invented (yes, I’m that old) and so I decided to just throw myself in and give it a go. But I was really scared. After I sent a pitch, I would turn the computer off, afraid that the editor’s reply would be something like “Hahahahaha! As if, LOSER!” (I soon learned that if an editor doesn’t like your idea they won’t even bother replying. They’re very busy and haven’t got time to mock, even if they want to.)

When I did get my first commission, I convinced myself it was a practical joke – I didn’t actually believe it was a real commission until I held the magazine in my hands. Even now I tend to hide after submitting an article – I find editorial “suggestions” hideously embarrassing.

I’ve broken lots of freelance rules. I never chase pitches by phone – in fact, I’ve still only spoken to about three editors, all other communication has been done by email. I hardly ever tag a pitch to a news story (what’s the point when the magazines commission at least three months in advance?). I don’t do networking.

I know that I’m nowhere near as successful as I could be if I took it more seriously and really put the hours in, but that wasn’t really what I wanted. I wanted to write about things that interest me and I’ve done that (for publications including Scarlet, Practical Parenting, Mslexia, The Daily Mail and Essentials) and it’s fitted perfectly around taking care of my two young sons.

One of the best things about freelancing is that you can do as much or as little as you want or need to do. And you can do it in your pajamas. There aren’t many jobs you can say that about.

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