Before getting into the meat of this Blog post, let it be known that I have been (and continue to be) a freelance writer (been at it since 1989).
Yes, I have a full-time job (as President of Twist Image where I am also one of the owners of the company), but writing and being a freelance journalist is in my blood. I love to write and I love everything that has to do with the publishing industry. I no longer rely on my freelance writing for my financial outcome in life, it's more of a hobby for me (albeit a paying one), but I am passionate about it and enjoy helping/connecting with those who do freelance for a living. It's one of the reasons why I could not turn down the opportunity to present at Mediaville Montreal today. Mediaville Montreal was an event organized by and for freelance media professionals. It was attended by independent writers, editors, publishers and translators.
Deal with writing for free.
With only 15 minutes to talk about Personal Branding, Digital Marketing and how to make money as a freelance writer, I started off with this quote from Clay Shirky: "So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this - the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast." The quote was taken from an article Shirky wrote for the Gothamist in April 2004.
That's right, 2004.
Freelance writers - even those late to the Blogging game - have been told about it since late 2003. That's six years ago. Shirky - who can be prophetic in his words - wrote this around the same time that Blogging was as popular as Twitter is today. The message is/was clear: if you don't Blog because you think that you should be paid for every word that you create as a freelance writer, you are completely missing point (for more on this, please see the previous Blog post: Blogs Are Doing Very Well, Thank You Very Much).
Here are 6 ways that a Blog can change your freelance career:
- Blogs can supplement your current freelance writing. Sometimes you have a great idea for an article that editors just don't understand. You don't need their permission to publish anymore... write it and publish it on a Blog.
- Blogs can tell your unedited story. Most editors give freelance writers a specific word count. If you can work out a non-exclusive deal with the publication, you can use your full, unedited version and publish it on your Blog. Warts, unedited, and even over the word count.
- Blogs can help you sell more stories. Search engines love Blogs. People on Twitter and Facebook love Blogs. By Blogging and putting your stories "out there" you make yourself more findable, which - in turn - might catch the eyes of some editors and create newer business opportunities for you.
- Blogs establish you as a recognized authority. The good are good, the great get recognized. Yes, there are millions of Blogs and tons of content being published every minute. Still, those who are truly great do get recognized and do build community... fast. People who establish themselves as such, get noticed and grow their business. Period.
- Blogs will make you a better writer. Much like your muscles, in order for your writing to grow and get stronger it requires frequent and consistent exercise. Having a Blog should force (and encourage) you to write more. This is great if your freelance writing business has ups and downs (as most do). Blogging consistently will keep you sharp and keep your mind open to new story ideas.
- Blogs are free. Blogs set you free. One of the hardest parts of freelance writing is the constant rejection. For every story sold, there are handfuls of those that have been rejected. Setting up a Blog is free (it can cost you, if you want to make it more personalized) and Blogs can set you free. The freedom to have a story idea, write it and immediately publish it to the world is an amazing change in how we all communicate (see Shirky's quote again above). This freedom will give you confidence and it will also help you remove that "whiff of desperation" that many freelance writers have when they deal with editors.
It's not all about Blogs for freelancers.
Building up any semblance of a community or online social network is a smart idea for freelancers. It can be Twitter, creating a group on LinkedIn and more, just don't forget that a great Blog is often better than any number of writing samples or portfolio.
The challenge is that you have to mentally get over the hump that you're writing for free, because you're not. You're writing to free yourself.