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Byron asks:"Hi, At age 27, I'm just begining to try and convert my passion for writing into a way to earn a living. I graduated from a well-known university with a degree in English Literature and subsequently went on to work in the insurance industry. How that happened is a mystery. Where can I go to learn how to find and land contract or freelance opportunities? I don't yet have a wide array of clippings and have had trouble getting by on just "talent" or apptitude.
How can someone like me, who is just starting out, begin to build a collection of clippings that can be used to gain access to better opportunities? Is there any alternative to published articles? Would mere samples of my writing syle be enough?
I recommend you getting two books about freelance writing. One is called Writing Freelance by Christine Adamec. She's been a freelance writer for years and has written a very basic text for freelance writers. It's published by Self-Counsel Press. The other book is The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing published by St. Martins Griffin Press. It's a compilation of articles by professional writers on the ins and outs of freelance writing. I think both can be gotten from Amazon.com or go to the publisher and get a copy of each.
You're right that clips are very important. Start with what you know, then research publications that run material that you can write about. Study the publication to see what they publish. If they have filler items or run side bars, start with those. And just write a small 300-500 piece on the insurance business or any subject you feel competent in.
Learn how to query. And learn how to market. Get a copy of The Writer's Market either the print version or on-line version.
One thing you have to learn is to be patient and develop your freelance career over a period of years. Don't jump right into it. It takes time to understand the marketplace, its requirements, and most importantly to develop professional relations with editors.
I recommend you read those two books, plus get the market book. Start writing down and filing away ideas. As you develop clips and decide to move into freelance writing you have to start treating it like a business. And it will take some time so make a goal that is within a reasonable time-frame. And then do everything you can to connect with the freelance world. That includes online stuff, mailing lists, books, if you can get to a writing conference or two that helps and try to get your mind around the publishing industry.
I started freelancing when I was 25 or so. I got some pretty good assignments and thought, whoopee. But, I learned painfully that you have to treat freelance writing like a business or you are squeezed out of it. And, eventually, I had to do other things to pay bills.
That first assignment can be tough to get but it's worth going through the hoops to go up the learning curve.
Good luck in your pursuits!
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