This article is for every writer that is just starting out and is trying to figure out how to make this writing career thing work. It is for the writer who has been around but is still not making enough money. It is for every writer that wants to get value for their creativity.
In 2018, I started out writing for 1 naira a word. I would get paid less than $2 dollars for a 500-word article. I was just starting out and all I wanted to do was to work as a writer. I believed my big break would eventually come.
My big break had other plans in mind. At the beginning of 2020, I was still making very little money as a writer. In frustration, I called my friend and had an hour-long conversation that changed my life.
After the conversation, I made plans to change a lot of things. Three months have passed and I have started getting much better offers than I could have dreamed of. Now I want to share what changed my career with you.
1. Learn everything about your craft
The first item on my list was to learn more about writing. Sounds weird right? What more is there to know? A lot, actually. Knowing all the extras is the difference between mediocrity and mastering your craft.
My friend explained it this way. Studying your field makes you more confident. Confident enough to put up good content. Confident enough to go out and find a good client. Confident enough to ask for great pay.
I used to claim to be an SEO writer. So every client believed that I should know how SEO works. I should understand the importance of keywords and backlinks. I should know how to write engaging articles that speak to the reader. But in reality, I was a fraud. I just had a passing knowledge of SEO. This showed because I could never apply for positions that required this knowledge. I took the SEO writing jobs that came to me but never went out to look for them. I could not dare to because I knew I would not be able to deliver. I knew I needed to become better.
With this in mind, I started reading on writing. My interests are content marketing and SEO writing. I started following content marketers on Medium and even read a huge textbook on SEO. This might sound like overkill but it was not. As I read and read I found out things I had been doing wrong. And I found out that I did not know as much as I thought I did. And I also found the right way to do things and the confidence that went with it.
Now some of us might say, we just want to wing it. Talent will take us all the way. I can’t say it won’t. But building your skill is one thing that will win every time for sure.
Here is another reason why you should learn everything about your craft. Writers come a dime a dozen. There are more than enough clients to go around but there are a few exceptional writers out there making how much they deserve writing better than everyone else.
Reading on writing also requires reading on the art of writing itself. Improve grammar, diction, sentence structure, and anything else there is to work on.
2. Build A Reputation
If I googled your name or the name of your brand, what would show up? If the answer is nothing, then you need to work on building an online resume.
If you have skills, you have to sell it. Post on a blog. Share about writing on your social media. Post on a helpful tip for writers on LinkedIn. Build an online portfolio. It only makes sense to do this because we do all our work online, we find our work online, and we get paid online.
It is great if you write for others but what have you written for yourself? I realized that what I had written for people (posts that do not credit me) would never speak as much for me as what I write for myself. Your articles and posts are your resume. Asides from increasing your chances of discovery, you will be improving your skills.
3. Work on your network
I got two of my best writing gigs from referrals. And this happens a lot. I have noticed that you stand a better chance of getting a job when someone steps out on a limb and says I know this guy. I have seen what he has done. I think you should talk to him.
Connecting with people in your field is a necessity. Fellow writers not only help you become better, they also increase your chances of being discovered.
My first blog was opened by a total stranger. She paid for the hosting fee and even got me a writing gig later. I owe a lot to her. All of this came from a simple conversation.
Start with the simple intention of meeting and bonding with other writers. If you talk to people because you want them to do something for you, it will show and they might be put off. Talk about shared experiences. You have a lot to learn and a lot to give. Freelance writing can be a lonely journey. But it is easier when we all realize it is not us against the world.
- Attend writing workshops and seminars. Online and offline.
- Join writers’ communities.
- Praise and critique the works of other writers.
- Put your works up for their scrutiny.
- Expand your network. And even if you do not come across a job yourself, they will recommend you. Remember to return the favor. If you someone you know can fill a position, recommend them.
4. Start to say no
It is fine to start out taking every job. But as you grow you need to start saying no.
Do not take every job. I know that sounds like pure blasphemy. When I started out as a writer, I took every job. Because of this, I have written close to a thousand articles. In diverse niches and now I know what I am the best at and what I should avoid. I know it is not a lot but I have gained a lot of experience from doing this.
But there has to be a balance to this. When you start out, you should try to do as much as you can. For reasonable employers. I will get back to that point in a bit. But as time passes and you become a better writer, you need to start saying no to jobs that
- Do not pay enough
- Give too little money for value and effort
- Threaten your sanity
- Align with your career goals
You have to slow down and do the jobs that give you value or not take jobs at all. You have earned this right. But how will you survive, you are asking? I must admit it was easier for me because I had money coming in from other places. But it is necessary. Here’s why:
Taking bad paying jobs made me comfortable. I did not go out and look for other offers because I was making enough from writing for less. Deciding to say no to jobs is quite ballsy. It means you are ready to either win or fail. It saves your strength for the best jobs it gives you time to grow.
5. Make plans
Plans. Urrrgh I hated those. Who needs a plan? Certainly not me. Starting out as a writer without any goals and plans will leave you sailing every ship you see. That will take your nowhere. But it is possible to get lucky and land on a yacht. But you know that will not happen to everyone.
I have found out that having plans gave me a direction. These plans have changed over the last few months. But they were there. They are something to hold on to and they direct me.
If you want to change how your writing career is going right now, decide what you want and create a plan to get to it. If you want to a copywriter and want to make enough to support yourself, here are some ideas for a start
1. Take copywriting courses
2. Join a copywriters community
3. Ask a copywriting veteran to take her under her wing
4. Send cold emails to possible client/join freelance websites.
See. You have a plan. It makes it possible for you to direct your efforts in a particular direction and to try out new things if these fail.
Now that you have put all this effort in, go after what you deserve.
The normal response is fear. I struggled with this. I felt like an impostor. Con artist. I asked questions like how will I write what they want? Do I even deserve to ask to be paid at this rate? When friends sent me job offers I never applied. If you are doing this too, you need to stop. That is why I have encouraged you to build yourself.
When you are confident it is easy to apply for a job on weworkremotely.com or to send cold emails to a prospective client. When you are confident you can ask for higher pay. When you are confident you can leave a job that makes you hate writing for a better one. When you are confident this writing thing starts to make sense.
These are just lessons from my personal journey. Allow yourself to grow and learn from every experience. Good luck on your writing journey.
Feel free to ask me any questions about writing.
Are you feeling uninspired to write? Read this post and find out how to create even when you do not feel like it.
This article was originally published on Medium.