So you Want to be a Freelance Writer
(( A little bit of a personal rant by yours truly, if you’re looking for game posts skip this one entirely please! ))
The question comes up from time to time in regards to my freelance writing: How did I get here. How did it happen, what did I do. Sure, these questions are typically posed by family and close friends, but it all counts, right? Without coming across as some egotistical snot, I decided I’d write a few of my own personal hints and tips on the matter. These by NO MEANS imply that if you follow them you’ll start getting paid to write tomorrow – they are just my own personal suggestions for those who may be interested.
Keep in mind that I’m still VERY new at this. I’ve been writing for Beckett Massive Online Gamer (magazine) since August of last year, and MMORPG.com (web site) for only a month, two at the most. My blog I’ve had for a number of years now, though I’m not directly paid in any form – I do believe that I’ve been indirectly paid (which I’ll get into later). These may seem like pretty obvious things to do, and if you have other suggestions please feel free to comment!
Be consistent, and persistent. This is probably my number one motto. It’s taken me three years to make it this far, I’ve written pretty much every single day for those three years with a few days off here and there. If you want to get into the field you have to show that you can be relied on and that you’re not going to just disappear off of the face of the planet without some sort of warning to your audience (no matter the size). Even on days when I had nothing to say, I tried to come up with a relevant post. I realize that some days it’s better off just to say nothing at all, but I truly do try to write every day.
Write what you know, what you’re comfortable with. I can not stress this enough. If you’ve read anything I’ve written on this site in specific, you’ll see I have a pretty simple method of writing. It doesn’t typically change from post to post. I write about my experiences gaming on a day to day basis and I write about the games I play. There are times I’m requested to write about something I don’t know a whole lot about – but it’s still focusing on the game industry and there’s always lots of research involved. I don’t consider myself to be very much of (what I term) a journalistic reporter. I don’t write about the ups and downs of industries, or coorperate matters. I do write about the people behind the games, the emotions and feelings games evoke, and other things along those subjects. Does it limit me? Sure it does, but it’s what I know and it’s what I’m comfortable writing. That does not mean that styles don’t change and that my writing won’t evolve over the course of time (it always does) or even that you shouldn’t step outside of your box when you’re thinking of a path to take. If you’re not comfortable writing in a particular style, it will be apparent to your readers and they will (eventually) call you out on it.
Cater to a niche. This one has good and bad points, and some people may not want to do it at all, but it’s what has personally worked for me. My ‘main’ site (MmoQuests.com) is a site about my exploration through games – MMOs in specific. While I do throw in other posts from time to time (my artwork, rambles, posts like this one) the main bulk of my writing is all about games and very specific games at that, games I’m playing or have played. If your web site covers everything from cooking to gaming to cars and doesn’t settle on at least a general ‘topic’ it is harder for people to notice what you write about, and then contact you based on what they’ve read. Friends, family, and fellow bloggers will of course be eager to read all of that but the general internet audience may not. Streamlining things a little bit is not so bad. I’ve got my main site and my personal site so I don’t clutter too much (of course it happens, I’m not perfect!).
Network. You may not like twitter (just one example, I know there are lots of social networking platforms and instruments this day in age), and you may not like linking people off of your site but these are the bread and butter of my writing career. You have to get noticed somehow and while it’s great to think that you will be noticed by your writing alone, that is not always the case. I do have a few rules for myself, such as I don’t link anyone off of my site if I don’t read their site on a fairly constant basis. I also didn’t go around asking to exchange links. I’m not saying that either of these things are bad if you do them, but they were just not the path I wanted to take. It also made things much slower for me in regards to networking. People love to read opinions. They love to read news. They love to read all sorts of things.
Networking is a big deal to me on multiple levels. First of all it’s allowed me to interact and meet some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. It’s also how I got started writing to begin with, I owe being contacted by Beckett to Tipa from West Karana, she was writing for Massively at the time. MMORPG.com actually contacted me through a friend who saw my facebook status. It’s not always fun being social when you’d rather just be left alone, but it’s how you get your name (and your work) out. I’ve never really cared too much about networking until I started doing freelance. I was always very passionate and wrote for me, and just for me. I still write for me, but I really want to see where I can take this, and what I can do with it. If writing ends up being a huge flop then that’s alright, at least I tried. Without getting my foot in the door I’d have no idea.
Find your style. I’ve already mentioned that I write a particular way. It’s rare that I’ll rant and rave (though it DOES happen) and I try to be polite and refrain from ‘rage’ writing. I’ve been called a ‘care bear’ before because of my style but it doesn’t get to me since it’s just the way I am. If you find a style that works for you, and you enjoy writing that way, then by all means hone in on it.
Luck. I personally think a lot of my writing has progressed just through luck. Sure, I did the above things but it just happened to be me writing in the right place at the right time about the right thing. When I think back some times I ask myself ‘wow, why are they paying ME to write?!’ like it’s some sort of joke. I never expected it, and I sort of just fell into it.
In the end: A few other random things to keep in mind, like the work load involved. If you want to get your name out there you have to expect to do a lot of work for some times very little return. It’s all about long term progress though (at least for me). I feel that my web site has paid for itself in the simple fact that I am paid to write a little now and had I not started that site all those years ago, I would not be where I am. No, I don’t make enough to make a living off of my writing alone. This is a start for me though, it’s my foot in the door. Of course I want more, I want to move up and progress even further. Will I get to? I’ve got no idea. It’s all new to me and I stumble around as much as the next person. I don’t have the faintest idea how to go from where I am to where I want to be. It’s an exciting (stressful) ride. The excitement of working under deadlines (oh gawd how I have learned to work under deadlines) and making yourself available and flexible for your editors is an incredible rush and it may not be for everyone – if it’s not, that’s ok too. There’s no rules set in stone for this line of work which can be both a blessing and a curse.
When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter if I’m writing for anyone else as long as I keep doing what I enjoy, first. It’s not fun to write if you don’t enjoy the basics.