Freelance Writer Guide Chapter 3 – Start Writing

A hand holding a pen beside a stack of foreign coin currency.

“Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” – Mark Twain

If you are reading this guide, it’s likely that you have written something simply for the sake of writing it in the past; not for a school project or because you were compelled to, but just for the hell of it. This is a good place to start. As with any specialty, the basics need to be nailed down first – you can’t turn a triple Lutz before you’ve figured out how to put a pair of ice skates on.

Here are a few tips to help you get started on your writing journey.

  • Check with your favorite places. Yes, people will pay you for your work, but don’t be afraid to farm out your newfound or growing skill for the sake of a little exposure. Local businesses may need new marketing Copy, which is a term for the words that are put into materials like magazine or newspaper ads, and you can offer to write something for a place like a favorite restaurant. If you end up writing something for them successfully, you can then add that establishment to your writing portfolio as a little professional credit in your favor.
  • Peer Review Practice. If you’re hesitant to dip your toe in the waters of pro writing, but want to get a feel for it, review sites are an excellent place to try your skills. Head to sites like Yelp.com and type up a missive about your favorite places to eat, or visit to start exercising your writing muscles. Most projects will require you to write from a perspective that is not your own. With this in mind, keep your “training wheel” projects, such as writing for a local business or review site, constrained in the same manner:

“China Garden, a garden of exotic Asian food delicacies, is conveniently situated at the juncture of route….”

 As opposed to the “wrong” first-person perspective:

“I went to China Garden last week and the food was delicious! I had no trouble finding it, it was right off of….”

 This will help get you in the mindset of writing for the customer as opposed to simply telling a story.

  • Don’t plagiarize, ever. Not even a little. Google has special programming that tells it when your work copies even a single sentence from somewhere else on the web. This will trigger a red flag in plagiarism checkers like Copyscape, a very popular program used by clients to screen work for originality. Use other sites for research if you need to, but be sure to put everything in your own words to avoid misunderstandings and site penalties.

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6 thoughts on “Freelance Writer Guide Chapter 3 – Start Writing

  1. Having integrity is key. Besides that, hypothetically speaking, if rehashing what others have said before is all I do, then am I truly a writer in my own right?

    • I agree, Karlene. That being said, article rewriters are a legitimate part of this business and I don’t want to snub them. Personally, I feel that article rewriting takes more time than just writing a piece from scratch, but a staggering amount of folks use it to keep a roof over their head. Takes all kinds, I suppose 🙂

  2. One thing I don’t see on your site–and perhaps it’s there and I’ve not found it, but you lack a search function–is advice on coming up with a writing sample. If you’ve never freelanced before, obviously you won’t have a portfolio to show. But for sites such as WriterAccess, what sort of writing sample is called for, for those of us who would like to get started but quite literally _are_ just getting started? I read blogs and comment, but I don’t generally write my own blog, and while I write all the time, I’m only ever plugging away at fiction that is nowhere near publication stage. So I don’t have any writing samples to speak of and would have to write one “on the fly,” as it were. But what are the guidelines on this?

  3. Pingback: Freelance Writer Guide Chapter 2 – The Five Tools | The Freelance Writer Guide

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