Why is the freelance market flooded with wannabes?

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Gotta sell my writing...

Gotta sell my writing...

The freelance writing business is inundated with new contenders, flooded with wannabes. There are specific reasons why people from different fields turn to freelance writing for their bread. The economy has tanked; no news there. Thousands of people were unceremoniously dumped from long-time careers.

Lawyers, mechanics, artists, actors, copy editors, plumbers, managers, marketers, teachers and you name it, are out looking for gigs. They can’t go get another job – jobs are scarce as long-winded diatribes on Twitter.

The unemployed masses invariably see the light and exclaim, “Eureka! I loved writing in high school (or college, or grad school or kindergarten) and I’ll pop open my lap top, dash off a great story and sell my writing.”

Unemployed Pulitzer winners hunch over morning papers. These wordsmiths slurp inky coffee, and sob for want of a place to write their salient points. There are editors out of work and Kindle is trying to choke the newspaper industry.

Wait! It isn’t impossible to find work as a writer. I hear from established writers, freelance and otherwise, that their work load is creeping up – as is mine. But to play, you must be able to present yourself as a professional. Know how to submit an article.

You have to know grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You need a stable of sources – people in the know willing to tip secrets into your cup of knowledge. You have to know who’s got assignments to divvie among freelancers and what makes those editors happy.

Most of all, you have to know how to meet a freaking deadline. One print pub I work for contracted a batch of rookies to freelance for new spinoffs. Over three months, the editor had to send threatening bulk emails, “If y’all don’t get your work in by deadline next month, it won’t run and you won’t get paid.”

My best advice, if you want to be a freelancer – take classes like the ones from StoryStudio in Chicago . Develop a specialty and a strategy. Build clips by taking grunt jobs. Take the business seriously. Learn that June 1 deadline means June 1, even in parallel universes. Read what you write — before you try to submit it. And know, for heaven’s sake, KNOW the difference between its and it’s!

More?

Renowned author Sara Paretsky talks about the writing life

How writers make money on the web

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