Sunday, February 1, 2009

Start Freelance Writing Today by J.D. Carr

Say you'd like to start freelance writing, to stop dreaming about it and just do it. You head for bookstore and sit down with a pile of books about freelance writing. Pretty soon, you're overwhelmed. Query letters, mastheads, SASEs? The list of things you're told you need to learn about before you start freelance writing grows with every page you turn. You begin to wonder, "Isn't there an easier way to start freelance writing?" The books in your lap don't suggest an easier way.

I'm going to tell you how to start freelance writing today. I'm going to suggest things that many of those intimidating books say you should never do if you're "serious" about wanting to start writing. I won't promise that you'll make a fortune, or even a modest living, anytime soon. But you can start freelance writing in virtually risk-free ways that allow you to test the waters without investing huge amounts of time or money. And you can start writing sooner if you skip those lengthy advice books (you can read them later if you need to).

1) Start Freelance Writing: Clarify Your Goals
Why do you want to start writing? Are you hoping to make some extra money? Are you simply looking for appreciative readers? Are you considering freelance writing as a potential career that will eventually replace your current job?

If you want to start writing, you'll need to be honest with yourself about what you hope freelance writing can do for you. Identifying your motivations as you start freelance writing will help lead you in the right direction.

2) Start Freelance Writing: Keep It Simple
Books, websites, articles?the amount of information about getting your start in writing is staggering. With your goal in mind, you can start freelance writing without wading through all of that material. Make the process easy at first, and you'll be less likely to get discouraged.

Say your goal is to make extra money. Start writing by submitting articles to content websites, such as and Content sites provide buyers with articles which draw Internet visitors. The articles generally need to be "keyword dense," which means that you'll need to repeat the same word or phrase frequently throughout the article. Most people who start writing learn about keyword density quickly by viewing other articles and observing how keywords are woven into the text without weighing it down.

Often, selling articles to a content site means giving up all rights to the material?that is, handing over the copyright. How does this help you start freelance writing as a career? It probably won't, but it'll provide you with a small, steady stream of income. Many sites such as allow you to start writing as soon as you complete a brief online sign-up form. Be sure to read the terms carefully, so that you understand how and when you'll be paid, what rights (if any) you'll retain, and other important information.

3) Start Freelance Writing: Look Locally
If your goal is to make a career of freelance writing, you have a longer road ahead of you. But you can still start writing now by building a portfolio of work samples. Some books will warn you never to write for free when you start writing. However, submitting work to small, nonpaying publications is a great way to get the work samples you'll need to impress paying publications down the line.

Start writing by examining local publications, including mainstream and alternative newspapers and freebie magazines. Many small newspapers and magazines are hungry for copy, but can't afford to pay for it. Try e-mailing the features editor or an associate editor and pitch some ideas for articles. Don't emphasize that you're angling to get your start in writing?let your well-written, friendly, professional message win them over.

4) Start Freelance Writing: Submit Work to Literary Magazines
If you write short stories, poetry, or essays, start writing by sending your work?your very best work?to literary magazines. Grab a copy of Poets and Writers or a similar publication and look in the classifieds. You'll find dozens of print and online magazines looking for submissions; many are willing to give you your start in freelance writing. Most pay little or nothing, but the exposure can lead to paying markets down the road.

Start writing for literary magazines by reading the submission guidelines carefully?and following them exactly. Most lit mags have websites with links to guidelines as well as samples of the kind of work they publish. Read these samples to get a sense of what they're looking for. A brief cover letter with full contact info, your work's title and genre, and a short bio should suffice. This is not the fastest way to start freelance writing, since literary magazines can take six months or longer to respond. However, keep in mind that just beginning the process of submitting your work to literary magazines means you'll start writing.

J.D. Carr is co-founder of, a free community, training, and online solutions company specializing in assisting artists, musicians, writers, and entrepreneurs. To join for free, visit