Some people just seem to have a better grasp of the English language than others.  Whether they know grammar, spelling, and punctuation like the back of their hands or they have a proven ability to turn a phrase, they can inform, influence, and inspire with their work.  And yet, a strong background in poetry, prose, or even technical writing does not necessarily ensure the ability to make a living with your craft.

So, here are 5 simple tips to help you get it together and adapt your writing style in such a way as to provide for a viable occupation.

  1. Try everything.  You won’t really know what you’re capable of until you try, so get your hands on all kinds of work.  Write for publications and blogs with all different subjects, try your hand at marketing or advertising, create an e-zine, or pen some technical service manuals.  The ability to diversify will only make you more marketable (and it will help you figure out what you excel at and what you might want to avoid).
  2. Join a service.  As a freelance writer, you will spend a lot of time hustling for jobs and fielding rejections.  This can be extremely disheartening.  To avoid some of the hassle, join a free website like Elance or ODesk that allows you to create a profile (that companies seeking service can peruse) and apply for jobs posted by their patrons.  If you get good reviews and offer a variety of samples, you may soon notice that you receive enough offers to keep you busy indefinitely.
  3. Keep learning.  The best writers hone their style through both research and practice, so don’t be too hasty to rest on your laurels.  Just because blogging is big right now doesn’t mean it will keep you employed for the next ten years, so make sure you learn the ins and outs of different types of writing so that you have something to fall back on if the bottom of your bread-and-butter workload suddenly drops out.
  4. Be professional.  This means you deliver what the client wants and exercise due diligence to ensure that your submissions meet their standards.  For example, an informative article written for a celebrity blog (think TMZ) is probably not suitable as a press release (even if they contain the same basic information).  And if you can’t tell the difference in style, you are going to be hard pressed to expand your business.  So put in the time to learn various formats so the client isn’t forced to explain your job to you (or give you the send-off).
  5. Own it.  Your skill with language and proactive attitude will help you land jobs.  But it’s the personal flair you add to your work that will interest people in hiring you again and again.  Putting your personal stamp on your writing is what makes it desirable, so don’t be afraid to own it.  All famous writers are recognizable in their way.  For example, you wouldn’t confuse Stephen King with Edgar Allan Poe, or Jane Austen with J.K. Rowling.  In the long run, a signature style will get you a lot further than dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s.

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