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Mark asks: "I'm 32 years old and a project manager at one of the credit bureaus. I'm not bad at what I do but incredibly bored. I like writing and have always been told I was good at it. I have submitted a couple of pieces based on a trip I took recently to some online travel sites (nothing that would be paid, just for experience sake). What do you recommend for someone who wants to get into writing but doesn't per se have a degree or any real experience? I have to eat, so I have to keep my current job, while I have dreams of paying off my debts in the next couple of years, I can't currently drop to entry level salary and make ends meet. So, is there something I can do for experience on the side? Any suggestions greatly appreciated!"

Hi Mark,

Your approach is the right one. If you want to get into a writing career, freelance or otherwise, transition into it. It's virtually impossible to leap into and be successful at it right away.

The best thing to do is to decide what two or three interests fascinate you the most. What do you feel most passionate about? What keeps your curiosity going? If it's travel, then you have a bead on the market you're going to try and write for.

The next step is to discover all those publications that will buy material you submit to them. The market books are great for this. If you use the computer a lot go to this site: www.writersmarket.com. It costs about $3 a month but it's worth it. It has a lot of great information and excellent market listings.

The next thing is to look at the professional side of being a writer.

  1. - Know how to approach editors with query letters.
  2. - Know how to prepare manuscripts in the format they ask for.
  3. - Know how to interview and do research.
  4. - Know how to study publications to see what editors are looking for in terms of the writing style and content.
  5. - Know how to be persistent about getting paid.
  6. - Know your rights and how to use those rights properly.

These are some things you learn over a period of time. Be patient with it.

The best way to start is just do little pieces, fillers, and things like that. Get some interesting information together, make it entertaining, be thorough in its presentation, and then query a few editors about their interest in it. Be patient until you get your first sale.

The best thing you have going for yourself is that you have put several years aside to make a transition. That's smart and it will work because by the end of that time you'll know if you want to try and pursue this as a living. Some do, some don't. But, if you learn how to do it you can always use it as a revenue stream and that's a great thing if you're doing what you like to do.

I recommend getting two books, as well as the site above:
Writing Freelance by Christine Adamec
The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing- edited by Timothy Harper

The latter guide is the best I've seen on freelance writer, written by pros. The first guide is for beginners and full of good information. And clips are the best thing to show someone who is going to hire you full-time on a staff. They want to see what you write, how you write, how you interview, research and the rest of it. So, try to get freelance articles published and then you can take those into the job market for writers.

Make a goal for yourself; something like 8-10 published clips by the end of two years.

Good luck in your pursuits!

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