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How to Become a Freelance Writer: A Newbie’s Guide to Earn Money Writing

“Trying to make it as a freelance writer is scary AF.” With a subject line that bold (and accurate), I wasted no time in opening the email. It was from a young woman who’d recently graduated with a dual degree in English and journalism, asking me how, how, how in the world do I make a living this way? It wasn’t the first time I’d received an email to this effect, which feels patently insane. If you’d told me just two years ago I’d be earning my keep as a full-time freelancer — let alone giving advice on the subject — I’d likely have laughed in your face. I was working a staff writing gig at the time, and had never so much as drafted a pitch to an outside publication. I only got brave enough to start submitting ideas after lots of encouragement from my good friend (and fellow TWL writer!) Susan Shain. Thanks again, Susan. Now, I’ve got over a year of working for myself under my belt — a year in which I actually earned more than I did as a staffer. I enjoy location independence and a workday uniform of yoga pants and tee-shirts, so it’s no surprise that fielding the how do you do it? question has become a common conversation. But it’s never easy to answer. So really though — how do you do become a full-time freelance writer? Here’s the thing. There’s no guaranteed, step-by-step process that will land you the freelance writing career of your dreams. Ask 10 different writers, and you’ll get 10 different how-I-made-it stories — or, more accurately, how-I’m-making-it-up-as-I-go-along stories. The actual mechanics of the thing are pretty simple, though not easy: Have good ideas, be good at explicating them clearly, and spend lots of time and energy on the Sisyphean footwork of finding publications that will pay you to publish them. (And convincing them to do so.) As you’ve likely already discovered, this blog is a great resource for figuring out these logistics and improving your skills at each level. Check out, for instance, our posts on writing…

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