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DEAR FUTURE WRITERS
Dear Future Writers,
Congratulations! You have decided to take your first step in pursuing a professional writing career. I'm excited for you and proud of you. Chances are, you are having many mixed emotions and a thousand questions running through your mind. I understand. I remember my inner turmoil as I started on my journey three years ago. Don't worry, this is normal, and it won't last forever.
As someone who has gone before you, I have decided to offer you some encouragement and advice on the journey ahead. I hope my reflection will help calm your nerves, boost your confidence, and most of all, get you excited for the road ahead.
1. What if I'm not good enough?
Imposter syndrome is common when you are just starting. You have little to no experience, and you feel like a "fake" because of it. You're not. Everyone has to start somewhere. When I first started writing professionally, I only had articles in print publications to attest to my writing skills. I had to network in some writing groups and cold pitch to get my first few "online" clips for my portfolio. The good news? It worked. My first two online clips were for the blogs of two members of a writing group I was involved with. The third was for The Huffington Post.
On the author side of things, I had no experience at all and had no idea what I was doing when I published my first book. Still, it was okay. I was thrilled to put my first book of poetry out in the world in the first place. Seeing one of my books for sale on Amazon was a rush beyond belief. I have learned so much since then. Being a writer is a constant journey of learning, making mistakes, fixing them, and learning some more.
2. Who would hire me?
It may take some time, but you will find someone to hire you to write for them. Someone is going to love your voice and writing style. Just keep pitching and applying for jobs and the right clients will come. I promise.
3. My writing is nothing special.
Your writing is unique, and no one can write like you. You have your voice, style, and way of looking at things. All the things that make you and your writing special are going to blow an editor away.
4. What if my pitch isn't perfect?
Let me first explain what a pitch is. A pitch is a customized letter that you write for applying to jobs. In other words, a cover letter. Your first pitch will be far from perfect. You will keep tweaking and perfecting it throughout your career. My first pitches were awful. As they have evolved over the years, I think I'm getting a little closer to perfect.
My best advice is to focus on how you can help the client rather than on your experience. Knowing how you can help them is the main factor they use to make their hiring decision.
5. What if I make mistakes?
You will make mistakes; it just comes with the territory. I have made many mistakes in my author career during the past few years. The good news? I'm able to correct them and move on. If you make a mistake with a client or editor, own up to it, learn a lesson from it, and keep on going.
6. What if no one supports my decision to become a writer?
Sadly, this is a situation for a lot of writers. Most people think pursuing the creative arts is a waste of time. My Dad has always told me that there is no money in writing and that I needed to get a "real job." My Mom and my husband on the other hand, totally support my writing. I also have great friends that support my decision to write.
Most of the time family, friends, and coworkers won't "get" what you do. They will think it's "cute" or a "nice little hobby." This is why it's essential to either look for writer's groups in your area or online. Engaging with other writers is going to be crucial for your success. We are an excellent, unique breed of person and being able to support each other is essential for us to survive. No one will understand the trials and tribulations of this freelance life like another writer.
7. What if I don't have enough education?
You don't have to have extensive education in English or Journalism to become a writer. I have an Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have also taken a few online freelance writing courses, and that's it. You don't need a fancy education; you do have to be able to write well, be good at research, and hand in clean, error-free articles and blog posts.
8. How do I get my first jobs?
There are many ways you can do this. You can go online and put in your topic + write for us and find web sites to pitch that way. You can use job boards or join content mills. The most productive thing you can do is start your own business and have your own clients. I have used a mix over the years.
9. What should I charge?
This can be kind of a tricky question, depending on your experience. For starting, I recommend charging .10/word. Don't go any lower than that. As you gain experience, you can up your rate per word. If you are looking on a job board, don't take any less than $50 for an article.
10. What kinds of writing can I do?
There are many kinds of writing you can do. You can write articles, and blog posts, e-books, white papers, reports, social media posts, e-mails, and the list goes on and on. You can look for jobs that will give you a byline, or you can do ghostwriting. Ghostwriting is when you write something but don't get any credit for it. There is much debate on this whole practice, but I have no issues with it. This is as long as a ghostwriter works with ethics, meaning not stealing other people's work. Why do I mention this? There is a big fuss right now over ghostwriting due to one known author stealing another known author's work. Being a ghost can be quite lucrative as well.
I hope answering these questions helps squash the fear and doubts in your mind. Whatever kind of writing you decide to pursue, you've got this. It will be a fun, exhilarating, frustrating and magical experience. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows. No matter what, keep on going. The world needs you and your words. Now, go out and make it happen.
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