5 years. That’s how long my professional writing life has been. I’ve written for newspapers, magazines, ebooks, blogs, article submission directories, PR companies, corporations and other entities that may or may not pay me properly. Looking back, I can say that I’ve earned a good living (and name) out of writing. But I’m not done yet. Not even halfway. Everybody knows that. Just enough to share some useful industry advice to the youngsters.
Lately, I stumbled upon a rich Facebook group discussion about writing as a passion and as a profession. The members of that group are students from a reputable university. Some of them have lost heart for writing. This, I don’t exactly know why. I don’t know their individual life stories, after all. When I see young writers having a hard time with college and end up saying “walay mabuhi sa writing” (you can’t earn a living by writing), my heart used to break a little. Today, I’m going to (try to) change that mindset by giving them a few pieces of advice.
1. Know your strengths. Writing is a very broad skill/ talent but surely there are certain genres where you’re exceptionally good at. You may be good at news writing, feature writing, poetry or even blogging. Know your strength and capitalize on it. Hone it and open your eyes to opportunities that are aligned with your strength/s.
2. Plot opportunities. And I am not just talking about opportunities to write or be published, but actual opportunities for maximum earnings. You don’t know how lucky we are today in terms of selling creativity. Just ask those overpricing PR companies! If you are good at newswriting, chances are, you’d also be good at writing PR articles. If you are good at feature writing, you’d probably capture a great audience through blogging or writing SEO articles. Just remember to be niche-faithful. (More on this later.) And poetry? Yes, poetry pays! You can submit your works through websites, join contests or make corporate campaign/ product/ service slogans. Hell, there were even times when I earned a few pennies writing wedding vows!
3. Your network is gold. Do not be that writer who only lurks in the dark and hides behind his laptop monitor. Yes, there are perks to being a wallflower but the principle doesn’t play well in terms of moneymaking. Go out and network! If it’s your first time to try freelance writing, make a slick business card with your main services, your contact information and give them to people who might be interested in hiring your services. Always remember that not everyone can write, write as well as you, or have time to write. AND the fact that a lot of people are willing to pay for quality writing. Start with your friends and eventually widen your network. Just remember not to sell yourself too hard. After some time, your portfolio can easily do the talking.
4. Build an awesome portfolio. Keyword: awesome. Be open to the fact that sometimes, you’d have to stoop in terms of pricing just so you’ll get the kind of projects that you will feel proud of afterwards. Don’t worry, this will only happen during your first weeks or months of professional writing, depending on your developments on the other areas of your professional life. How to keep the projects coming so you’ll fill your portfolio faster? Easy. Just do your job well. Write compelling, original copies. Don’t just meet deadlines, BEAT them. Follow instructions. Compile your best work and always update it so that every time you submit your portfolio, it is in its best form.
5. Never stop learning. A lot of people are born with mind-blowing imagination. Powder that with flawless grammar and unforgettable style and you get a really good writer. Surely your friends have told you how good your Facebook notes (poems, essays) are and how funny your tweets are for most times. However, this doesn’t mean that you’d stop learning. There is always a new style, a new (read: younger) writer and a new word just around the corner. You have to keep upgrading your skill set so you’ll stay ahead of the game. Keep reading. Go to workshops. Write as often as you can. No excuses.
6. Make use of technology. Yes, we know about the natural charm of having your name printed on paper. And yes, the big magazines pay well too! However, now that the internet and social media has taken the world by the storm, you need to ease in to new-world methods of getting your stories across. Blogging, for example, can be a very good way to earn. Start a blog with a niche, stay faithful to it and advertisers will eventually come your way! In fact, you can easily sign up for a Google adsense account and you will start earning as long as you write religiously. If you maintain a blog, you can show your writing prowess and market yourself better if you tweet or do a Facebook post with the link to your article. It can also serve as your online portfolio. You can also try SEO writing. If you are a fast thinker and a fast writer, you can easily earn P30,000 in a month by just writing articles for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week! I believe that’s still a better deal than most of the 8-5 jobs there are.
A lot of people are still surprised everytime I tell them that I actually took up marketing in college. So far, it’s still an obvious advantage in terms of forwarding my career as a writer. Don’t worry, young one, you don’t need the hardcore info just to advance! The basics in jump-starting your professional writing career are easy. And I’ve broken them down into 6 breezy, non-marketing principles. And guess what, you just read about them.
Also check out this article on How to Work Less and Earn More.