Job Title: Freelance Writer
Type of Company: I work for myself, from home.
Education: BA, Liberal Arts, Sarah Lawrence. (We didn't actually have majors at Sarah Lawrence, but I figure "liberal arts" probably covers what I did.) Some MFA education, Emerson College (Boston, MA)
Previous Experience: I began my career as a daily newspaper reporter but later started submitting freelance essays and ideas to newspapers and other publications. Some were published. During this time, I held several "survival jobs." Eventually, one of the papers I began writing for--a business journal--bought enough of my articles that I was able to focus on writing professionally full-time.
Job Tasks: I'm a freelance writer. I write books, articles and personal essays. Except for personal essays, my work involves research, usually interviews with professionals, plus reading to gain knowledge of my subject. I'm expecting to meet word counts and deadlines and to communicate clearly.
Creativity helps, although not all professional writers are particularly creative. Coming up with interesting ideas helps, too. But, again, some publishers want writers to communicate other peoples' ideas.
The most important things a writer needs are the desire to write, an ability to handle rejection and a willingness to keep at it. A network of other writers helps a lot, too.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I'm afraid I have to start with the worst, because this is uppermost on the minds of many writers today: the markets are changing quickly, and it's hard for many of us to figure out how to make money in the so-called "new economy." Far fewer people buy newspapers or magazines. Publications have therefore had to cut staff, as well as budgets to pay freelance writers. And professional writing has always been a difficult field to break into and make a living at.
That said, working at a job you love is invaluable. So is making your own hours and working wherever you want. I love being my own boss. And being able to say, "I'm a professional writer."
Job Tips: Learn how to make money as a writer. Study successful writers in traditional, as well as new, media.
However, don't let editors or anyone else take advantage of you. For example, some pay-per-click schemes are nothing more than that.
Also: Don't do anything immoral, such as writing students' term papers for money.
Join professional organizations. Some have stringent entry requirements, but others, such as The National Writers Union, can be a good place to start.
Ask other writers for advice; thank them for giving it.
Become an expert in a subject that interests you.
If this is your dream, hold onto it. Understand that you might have to make sacrifices, financial and otherwise. But don't give up.
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