Thinking of paid and unpaid opportunities beyond your blog? Here are highlights from a Q&A with four freelance writers on WordPress.com.
Earlier this year, we talked to four professional writers about the freelance life, getting paid to write, and writing for free and exposure. If you missed it the first time, be sure to read this roundtable, full of great advice for new and aspiring writers in particular.
Here are highlights from the Q&A:
Give us a breakdown of your typical day.
Every day is different. I start by reading the New York Times. I listen to BBC World News or two great WNYC radio shows, The Brian Lehrer Show and The Leonard Lopate Show, from which I get story ideas and learn about the world.
I start work by 10:00 am — I’m not a morning person! If I’m working on a story, and usually several at once, I’m seeking sources, conducting interviews, writing, reading, or revising the pieces and answering questions from my editors.
Like most working writers, I spend a lot of time marketing my skills to new clients and checking in with former ones to see if they can use me again. I research story ideas to gather enough detail to pitch them. I pitch ideas to editors and check in on earlier pitches. I also work on longer-term projects, like ideas for nonfiction books, fellowships, and travel.
I end my workday by 4:00 or 5:00 pm and turn off the computer. Setting boundaries between work and the rest of my life allows me to come back to it refreshed and recharged.
— Caitlin Kelly, veteran reporter and feature writer
How do you divide your time between paid and unpaid writing?
Writing fiction comes first, even though it doesn’t pay — yet. I do my pen-for-hire work in the afternoon.
When I was more concerned with income than I am now, I was lucky and found freelancing jobs through networking. It helped that I had three salable skills: good writing ability, research skills, and medical knowledge. I did a lot of technical writing for major medical centers that was both interesting and lucrative. Now, jobs come to me, and I only take those that both interest me and pay well.
— Deborah Lee Luskin, award-winning novelist
What’s your take on writing for free?
Writing for free is one of the many evils in today’s world. There was a piece in the New York Times by Tim Kreider, where he made the case that writers should insist on getting paid. It made sense for established writers, but wasn’t practical advice for unknowns in today’s internet-dominated world. As I said in my piece in the Huffington Post, “Why I Write for Free,” literary agents and publishers want you to have a huge internet following before they’re willing to take a chance on you. If you’re not a celebrity or well-known, you have to build an audience, and often the only way to do this is to write for free.
— Kristen Hansen Brakeman, writer and essayist
What’s one piece of advice for writers thinking about “writing for exposure”?
If you get in the habit of “writing for exposure” early, then you’ll find ways to justify writing for exposure regularly. Write on your own blog if you want to write and develop your “brand” or identity for yourself…rather than someone else.
— Julie Schwietert Collazo, bilingual writer/editor