Many professional writers get their start by writing articles. In years gone by, that meant writing articles for magazines. This was a protracted and wearing process.
A longtime colleague reported that it took her six years, and that she packed the proverbial shoebox with rejection slips, before she started to sell her articles consistently. I was luckier, I sold my first magazine articles immediately, but only because I was already a novelist.
These days, new writers can and do get paid for their very first articles. Yes, the payment is a mere token — a couple of dollars — but it’s something.
It gives these writers confidence, but it also presents huge challenges for baby writers. Since they’re writing without knowledgeable and competent editorial supervision, there’s no one to tell them to rewrite to make an article stronger, and to help them to build productive habits.
You’ll just have to do it all yourself. 🙂 Here are some tips which will help you to become an article writing pro, and build your writing career.
1. Know Your Topic: Research Until Your Eyes Bleed
Get the research habit. Start by going to your local library, and get a book on research skills. Read it. You need to know the difference between primary and secondary sources, and most of all you need to know that the world’s information (Google notwithstanding) is NOT online.
If you’re wondering why you need to learn professional research skills, the reason is simple: without them, you’re stuck in what I call the “writing ghetto”.
You must know how to research. Research skills are the basis of a professional writing career.
2. Take Low-Paying Jobs, but Don’t Get Stuck There (Keep Researching!)
Writing well takes practice. New writers “write.” Professional writers communicate. Learning to write, rather than “write” is much like learning to drive. When you learned you drive, you were self-conscious. You were conscious of doing this, and this and this, to get the car moving and to avoid hitting things and getting tickets. Over time, you stopping thinking about driving. Driving became an automatic process: you focus on your destination rather than the vehicle.
The benefit of low-paying writing jobs is that they help you to get lots of practice, so that you stop being conscious of writing, and eventually learn just to communicate.
This is where knowing how to research is so valuable. To flog an analogy to death, it gives you a more powerful vehicle. You get ideas for articles, and you know how and what to research to write a powerful article for which you’re paid $1 a word. (In essence, the difference between an article for which you’re paid one or two cents a word or a dollar a word is the amount of research and insight that went into the article.)
3. Build Your Client List — They Need You
Professional writers build relationships. Whenever a new client hires you, you’re beginning a relationship with that client. Building the relationship is your job.
Add every new client to your client list, and communicate with your client list regularly. Send out “how can I help you?” and “this is what I’m working on” messages. Ask for referrals.
4. Build Your Own Websites(s): Yes, It’s Show and Tell
I hope you’ve got at least one website: it’s a professional tool. In a very real sense, your site is show and tell — you’re showing your skills in every word you write.
Post sample articles on your site (articles you’ve written for yourself and for others), and put your research to good use by specializing in topics. For example, if you love to cook, know who Georges Auguste Escoffier is, and have read Le Guide Culinaire, food and cooking could make one of your specialties.
5. Take a Specialty and Build a Career
Any one of your specialties could grow into a career — or at the very least, boost your freelance writing career.
Staying with our “food” specialty, you could expand into writing for food websites and magazines, and creating your own “food” blogs. Sooner or later, if you stick with a specialty, you’ll be asked to write a book on it by an agent or publisher, because you’re known to be an expert on the topic.
Writing web articles is a small beginning, but it can and will grow into a complete professional writing career if you act like a professional. It’s all up to you.
Want to build a professional writing career? Sell Your Writing Online NOW (SYWON) builds your career week by week.
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Three weeks after completing the class one student wrote:
“Thanks Angela, for all your help and advice in class. I’m quitting my job next week. I printed out my letter of resignation tonight after landing a contract writing job that will pay me more for three months part-time work than I earned in from my day job in the whole of 2008! You were right – the great gigs are out there, and now I’ve got the skills to land them. Your class opened my eyes. Bless you…”
“Write More And Make More Money From Your Writing: Develop A Fast, Fun Productive Writing Process” shows you how to thrive as a freelance writer. Would you like to write five times more than you’re writing now, and sell to higher-paying markets? Take the class.
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