Ma vie en Suisse

Advice to a friend who would like to become a freelance writer

Part of my first assignment of my journalism course: “What particular advice would you give a friend of yours who wished to become a freelance writer?”

Here is my response.

The first thing I would tell somebody who asked me for advice on becoming a freelance writer would be: Start. Just start. Start something. Start a blog. Start writing a bit every day. Start talking to editors. Start the creative process. Start keeping track of your ideas. Start making writing goals. Start by making SMART goals. Just start somewhere. But don’t give up your day job.

Structure your day. Get up. Get dressed. Have breakfast. Do some activity. Then start your working day. Don’t fall into a trap of never getting out of your house and talking only to your virtual, online friends.

Eat properly. Don’t snack. If you are working at home, make space for your office. Take breaks. Walk to the printer. Get a cup of tea. If you know your neighbours, have a 15 minute chat—just to get some perspective.

Find a community of writers or writer wannabes. If you can’t find one, start one. Participate in that community. Find inspiration for ideas. Give inspiration for ideas. Try out ideas. Share your work. Get feedback. It’s part of nurturing your growth as a writer, as a professional.

Read books on writing to become a better writer.  Every time you write something, read it out loud to hear your voice—to hear what you have written. Can you make it sound better? Can you cut out words? Can you use another word? A shorter, cleaner word? One that sounds less pretentious?

Read what you want to write. Surround yourself with quality publications. Study the language. Analyze the audience.  Up your ante by pushing your own limits on digesting information and articles out of your comfort zone.

Take pictures. Learn how to incorporate multimedia into your stories. Visit the archives of your favourite publications. Learn what was so you can better describe what is.

Ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions.  Prepare for interviews. Ask hard questions. Ask light questions. Ask questions your reader would be afraid to ask, but probably wants to know the answer.  Be honest. Have integrity. Know where to draw the line. Know if a line needs to be drawn, but push the limits.

Read your favourite author out loud. Hear the rhythm of their words. Better yet, transcribe your favourite book (an activity I have yet to complete).

Be original. Be authentic.

And last but not least: Believe in yourself and persevere with your goals.

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Comments (3)

  1. What about advice for someone who like to do some technical writing, as (I believe) you do? I’ve written my share of user instructions for software and systems, as well as notes for computer-based courses, but don’t have any formal training in technical writing. Any suggestions on how or where to start? (Particularly for those living back here in Whitehorse?)

  2. Hi! This is the first time I comment in your blog. I used to write fairly well in English, but this was before studying French 6 hours a week, now I mix everything. So, this was my excuse for any possible (probable) mistake.

    Straight to the point: I found your text excellent! Anyone who wants to start writing always has lot of questions and the answers they get are usually fuzzy and subjective. That’s where your article is different and special: you give advice. Sound plain and simple, but, in fact, it’s the most difficult thing one can do.

    I’ve been wanting to start writing the last 10 years, but never really tried hard enough. Maybe I’ll try again!

    Thanks!

    P.S.: I forwarded your text to many friends I know would like to start writing.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Actually, I do have a lot to say on the subject of technical writing. I will think about it and distill it into an entry, especially for you.

    Thanks for the kick start!

    Diego, welcome to my blog. Thanks for leaving a comment. And, well…let me know if you write anything. I guess you’ve already started with your 140 characters in Twitter.

    Start. Just start. 🙂 Good luck to you,

    -J