HOW TO BREAK INTO FREELANCE WRITING
A noble vocation, “freelance” writing takes it name from the days
(rather, “knights”) of yore! Those not in the service of a
monarch sometimes hired out their services. Some were said to
carry business cards inscribed: “have Lance – Will Travel.”
Seriously, for those who feel the calling freelance writing can
be both enjoyable and rewarding – to say nothing of what it can
do for “ye old ego.”
Freelance writing encompasses an endless variety of both subjects
and approaches to writing: stories for local newspapers,
magazines, children’s publications, technical journals, romance
novels, resume’s advertising copy – even crossword puzzles (now
they have computer programs for these).
Everyone is qualified to write something! About the only absolute
prerequisite is the ability to explain yourself.
The brightest technician who cannot adequately explain his
techniques or the potential of his experimentation is of
questionable value to the profession, his employer or even
Of course, to break into the higher income potential, experience,
talent and a good knowledge of the language are essential.
From there, style, consumer demand, marketing, education and
plain, old fashioned luck are factors that usually, but certainly
not always govern how far one can go. Even so,, there is still,
plenty of room for all types and levels of writing — because
there are all levels and interests of readers.
Writing even short articles or instructions requires, as the
saying goes, one percent inspiration; 99 percent perspiration.
Work on your item every single day — preferably for regular
hours. Research, rephrase and rewrite until you are satisfied.
Do not ask the opinions of others — especially during the
writing stage. You don’t need to know how 15 other people would
put it — you simply want to YOUR ideas from YOUR perspective on
paper in the best way you can.
Other opinions can be needless distractions and disheartening;
they can prevent you from following through on your idea and
becoming entwined with someone else’s. If you want advice, get it
before starting your project –or after it is finished.
A few of the more obvious outlets for freelance writers are
magazines, newsletters, advertisers, newspapers, children’s
publications, and trade journal.
Getting into this field may be more difficult than asking your
home town newspaper if they will accept (and possibly pay for) a
short article you have written – and hopefully, to write others
on assigned or your choice topics.
When trying this technique, look around for subjects that would
be of interest to the readership of the publication in question.
This approach may not be the most rewarding financially, but it
can get you started and help build your confidence and
If you have an area of expertise that you would like to
concentrate on, write to publishers of applicable trade journals
and magazines in the field.
Ask them for information on items they buy from freelance
writers. Always include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)
to expedite a reply. Most will tell what they pay, how long the
like their articles and some will include a writer’s guide that
spells out their terms and exactly what they like.
For an up-to-date, annual listing of publishers, look for the
WRITER’S MARKET in your public library.
Probably the most useful tool for a freelance (or any other, for
that matter) writer is a word processor. If you don’t have one,
GET ONE and learn to use it. Get a standard word processing
program, output can be input to publisher programs!
Without a word processor, you will have to work at least twice as
long and hard.. Make sure your computer is IBM compatible (it can
be most any off-brand or clone, so long as it is 100% IBM
You can probably get a complete used setup for $500 or so that
will do nicely. An IBM XT (8026) compatible is about the smallest
(and oldest) equipment that will allow you to use a good,
universally accepted word processing program like Word Star or
Many publishers will accept manuscripts on disk, so long as they
are in a “standard” program and system. The publishers can then
“import” your data copy directly into typeset or desktop
publishing with his specialized computer program!
If you area poor typist, get a touch typing program — some of
them are really fantastic: you can learn or improve your typing
while playing a game!
Most people can get 30 words per minute in a week; more with
extra time and effort. When using a typewriter or trying to write
in longhand,, the pages get messy and often out of order as they
are edited and re-edited, and have to be done over frequently.
Unfortunately, when you do one page over, the page lengths never
come out right, so the whole thing has to be retyped. A word
processor takes care of all that, plus spelling, looking up words
in the Thesaurus, margins, page numbering, uniform formatting,
etc.,as a matter of routine.
The WRITERS DIGEST is THE trade magazine for journalistic
writers, the AMERICAN BOOKDEALERS EXCHANGE serves more
self-publishers and perhaps those interested in the mail order
Several books on writing are offered by various discount book
suppliers (see Business Sources). One (BOOKDEALER) Has one
called “Writing for Non-Professionals” (#70867) that sells for
$2.95. The WRITERS HANDBOOK (THE WRITER, Inc.) Lists over 2,000
buyers of written material – complete with publisher names,
addresses, editors, size and type of material desired, plus other
valuable information of interest to freelance writer.
A potential problem area for creative writers is how to protect
your material. The old tale about mailing it to yourself is a
good story, but not adequate! Some experts suggest that one good
reason for copyrighting is to keep from being sued for publishing
your own material!
At any rate, copyright protection is uncomplicated, cheap and
technically automatic for material created after March 1st, 1989.
It is strongly recommended, however, that you at least display
the fact that it is copyright protected, so any infringements
will not be “innocent.” Just include the word Copyright (or
Copr.) or a little c in a circle the first year of publication,
and the name of the copyright owner.
There is no fee for this protection (which lasts for the lifetime
plus 50 years) for works created after Jan. 1st, 1978).
The only “catch” is that while you can prosecute a pirate, you
cannot sue for damages unless the copyright is registered with
the copyright office.
Therefore, to obtain true copyright protection, it is necessary
to register your material. This can be done either before or
after it has been published. If it is unpublished at the moment
you sign the copyright application send in the application and
one copy of your manuscript.
If it has already been published, send two copies. In both cases,
the registration fee is $10.
For more information, see Copyrights in the next section. If it
has already been published, send in two copies. This $10 not only
protects your material here in the U.S.A.: it also extends to
about 80 countries who are signatories to the March 1, 1989 Berne
Convention treaty. Not bad for a $10 investment.
REGISTER OF COPYRIGHTS, Copyright Office, Library of Congress,
Washington, DC 20559. To register an UNPUBLISHED manuscript, send
one copy of it, a check or money order for $10 and a completed
application Form TX, all in the same envelope or package.
For additional information, write Copyright Office, Information
Section LM-401, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559, or
call their hotline: 202/479-0700.
COPYRIGHT OFFICE, Publications Section, LM-455, Library of
Congress, Washington, DC 20559. This is where you write to get
the forms to apply for copyright – or call their hotline:
THE WRITERS DIGEST, 205 W Center St.,Marion, OH 43305. Trade
magazine for writers.
THE WRITER, INC.,Box 892, Boston, MA 02117. Publishes THE WRITERS
AMERICAN BOOKDEALERS EXCHANGE, Box 2325, La Mesa, CA 92401.
Offers publication support for writers.
AMERICAN AMATEUR PRESS ASSOCIATION, 5009 Dickens Ave.,Tampa, FL
33629. Publishes AMERICAN AMATEUR JOURNALIST for aspiring
F W PUBLISHING CO., 9933 Alliance Rd.,Cincinnati, OH 452442.
Publishes WRITERS MARKET, an annual listing of 4,000 buyers of
the written word.. Available at most libraries.
PUBLISHERS CENTRAL BUREAU, Box 1187, Newark, NY 07102. Discount
books (reference, novels, history, etc.)
PERSONAL PUBLISHING, Box 390, Itasca, IL 60143. Trade magazine
for desktop publishers – oriented to MCIntosh users.
ALDUS CORPORATION, 411 First Ave.,S-200, Seattle, WA 98104. Sells
Pagemaker programs for McIntosh System. *$495).
DOVER PUBLICATIONS, 31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11501. Discount
books, clip art, stencils, etc.
QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700,
312/634-4800. Office and computer supplies.
NEBS, 500 Main St.,Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office and
SWEDCO, Box 29, Mooresville, NC 28115. 3 line rubber stamps – $3;
business cards – $13 per thousand.
ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards and
letterhead stationery. Will print your copy ready logo or design,
even whole card.
WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short
run business cards, stationery, etc. Good quality but no choice
of ink or color.