Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Freelance Writing: A Beginner's Guide

This is the first in a series of posts about freelance writing.

A beginner's guide to freelance writing, written by a beginner!

I've done the writing bit, having spent seven years writing essays, research papers and dissertations (though still have lots to learn, of course ... there will always be something to learn about writing, that's what makes it so exciting) but now I need to do the freelancing bit.

I know a little of the theory, having read some great blogs and websites about freelance writing, but have yet to put it into practice. So as I step off the edge and try new things, I'll pass on the things I learn. (Especially the mistakes I make!)

As a non-fiction writer, I will focus on writing and publishing articles. (There are some wonderful blogs by fiction writers in my links.) My first step towards freelance article-writing has been Helium.

"A community of writers who are revolutionizing freelancing."
(If I've done it right, you should be able to click on the Helium logo above and it will take you to the home page. But in case it doesn't work the link is here too!)
Helium is an article-publishing site, where writers share articles on a huge variety of topics. I have written on parenting, emotional health/wellbeing, writing, gardening, crafts and positive thinking. Some are flying in the ratings while some are floundering, which has given me an idea of where my writing needs work.
Writers can register free, put up a profile and submit articles immediately. And easily. (I promise ... as someone who struggles with technology, if I can do it, really anyone can.)
Rating other articles supports the Helium community, hones proofreading skills and provides endless inspiration. The feedback from other writers means you can use Helium to improve your writing skills, while getting your name known in writerly circles and even earning yourself some money.
There are debates, contests (with cash prizes) and the Helium Marketplace, a place to submit articles to various publishers.
Helium has an excellent mentor facility and numerous forums for chatting to other writers.
You can link your blogs and websites to your Helium profile, attracting more visitors, although I should say that, at this point, I haven't seen the results of this. (But then, I've only been on there for a few weeks.)
But I have found Helium a great place to stretch my article-writing muscles. I have enjoyed browsing titles for inspiration and have a list of Articles To Write, some of which I will try and write for submission elsewhere ... somewhere I need to send a query letter. I have written articles over the past year which I have done nothing with, as the whole submission process has me stumped. Not that I don't know how to submit a query (thanks to other blogs and websites, a list of which I'll put together when I get chance), but I just haven't been able to do it.
Why? I think that it's the usual trigger for my procrastination when it comes to writing ... I'm scared to do it wrong. Perhaps I'm scared of rejection, of my name being known for the wrong reasons, of building a rotten reputation and making things harder for myself. Yes, I'm scared!
Deep breath ...
I'm setting myself the goal of submitting four articles to print magazines or local papers in April.
Yes I am! And when I wobble, when I doubt I can, when I want to give up and run away, I'll tell myself I just have to. Because it says so on my blog!
The first one will be an article on recycling for the local paper. (I can hear you sighing, Mum! And see you shaking your head, but hopefully smiling at the fact that I have eventually acted on your patient advice. My wonderful Mum has been saying, "Why don't you write something for the local paper?" for at least ten years!)
I've had a blue recycling bin for a while and haven't made the most of it as I was unsure what to put in it. Did a bit of research and think it might be useful information for other people. The girls and I have put it into practice and so I've learned a few tips I could pass on too.
See? What if the paper doesn't need an article on blue bins and recycling? What if everybody already knows about it? What if it's already been done better by someone else? What if they think I'm arrogant or naive offering an article on something that I'm not at all an expert on? What if I don't actually know anything about blue bins and recycling? What if ...
Well, I suppose it won't get published!
And I'll learn something. Which I'll be able to pass on to other people who might find it useful too. I'll have something else to write about ... and submit somewhere else. I'll definitely have a post for my blog. I won't be a published writer, but I will be a writer who has submitted something (at last!)
Although researching and reading, rather than writing, has had its benefits. I've got some great resources! Here are just a few to start with:
There's a really useful article for freelance beginners, by Jenna Glatzer on Absolute Write. You can also sign up for a couple of free newsletters on Absolute Write.
If you're an article writer, check out Jeff Herring, The Internet Article Guy.
If you're looking for information on copywriting, writing online and general freelance writing tips, Copyblogger and Problogger are fantastic resources.
The wonderful Dabbling Mum is well-worth a look, for beginners and more experienced writers alike. The site has tons of useful information for people working from home and particularly writers (plus loads of other stuff like parenting advice, recipes and reviews.) There are three fab newsletters to sign up for: Parenting, Business and Writing.
Then there is the Dabbling Mum, to whom I owe a huge "Thank You" for an an inspirational comment, just when I needed it.
Well, here I go ...
Huge thanks also to the awe-inspiring Ann Marie Dwyer (who has TEN kids and still finds time to write!) Ann Marie introduced me to Helium, convinced me to have a go, and has supported and encouraged me since.
And thanks (always) to my family and friends and to all the amazing writers I have met on Blogger. I will never be able to thank you enough. I can't believe how lucky I was to come across such a wonderful group of warm, talented, generous and truly inspiring people.
You can read my articles on Helium here. (Feedback always welcome and please don't worry about hurt feelings! I'm not at all precious about my writing and always appreciate constructive criticism.)


Anonymous said...

Nice introduction into your new journey! Is Helium a paying market? I never heard of it before.

Moondreamer said...

Thank you!

Shame about the squashing! Ho hum ... another challenge (good job I love them!)

I did try to edit the html, having received some advice from the lovely Leigh, but it's such a foreign language to me that I still couldn't do it!

Next mission: Learn HTML!

Yes Helium pays writers according to three things, the position of articles in the ratings, the subject (how much traffic it attracts), and the advertising interest.

Triond is a similar thing, I think, but haven't checked that one out.

Helium also have cash prizes for competitions and a marketplace.

Plus, at the moment, they are running a Rewardathon, where each article earns some money (the amount depending on how many writing and rating stars have been earned) to be paid at the end (in April).

Having just started, I can't say how much money can be earned. I've earned $24 so far, but at the moment I am more interested in improving my writing and hopefully getting known as a writer (I don't even have a PayPal account!)

I certainly think it's worth a try.


HelenMH said...

Well done you. I'll check it out properly over the weekned when i have some time x

KAREN said...

Your article about personalizing crafts is great! I'm going to forward it to a friend who has just started making her own gifts. I'm sure she'll find it useful :o)
Very interesting post.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Helium reminds me of a few other sites that have since closed their doors. I'm not fond of writing for sites based on a commission base in hopes of getting paid. I even wrote an article why, here:

But I am glad to see that you're stepping out and making your dream happen! Doesn't it feel good?

Gonna be a writer said...

I've looked at Helium but haven't actually written anything for them yet. Well done Moondreamer - you're making it happen for you.

Lane said...

Another enormously useful post. Thanks moondreamer - I will spend some time travelling around your links.
Hope you're having a good Easter.

Moondreamer said...

Thank you, Helen!

Hope you had a lovely weekend (not too wintery!)


Thank you, Karen!

It's so nice to know you think it might be useful for your friend. I wish her well in her new endeavour!

Really nice to know you found the post interesting too, thank you! I've started a new blog about my freelance journey (am I mad?!) and hope to provide lots more useful info there.


DM, thank you for the link to your very interesting article!

I have used Helium as another place to write, in a slightly different form than writing on my blog. I don't really expect to make any money from it, but see it more as a small step towards freelance writing.

Yes, it does feel really good that I'm actually doing something!

I have also read your fab e-book (Queries and Published Samples) will send you an email about that, as have lots to say, besides a big Thank You!


Gonna Be, thank you! Yes, I really do feel like I'm making it happen!

DM's article (link above) is well-worth reading. Helium is probably not somewhere to make a lot of money but I have found it useful as a place to practice my writing and also to find lots of inspiration.


Lane, thank you! It's so nice to feel useful!

I had a quiet Easter with the girls and tomorrow we're heading to my Mum and Dad's for a few days.

Hope you and yours had a lovely Easter weekend too!


Maddie Moon said...

Good luck with the writing, Moondreamer. Must admit, non-fiction writing scares me slightly. You have to know about things, with fiction you can just make it all up! I'll be back to have a look at some of your articles.

Moondreamer said...

Thank you, Maddie!

I'm a bit of an information junkie and having spent seven years writing academic essays, the research doesn't faze me as much as the imagination needed for fiction writing. I have always been in awe of story-tellers - stories are essential to humans and being able to tell them is a wonderful talent.

Helium is great for writing articles that don't need research though. I have written a few with no research or special knowledge at all, just personal experience. So I hope you will have a go if you get a chance ... and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have!


Ann Marie said...

You know you had it in you all along! Don't let her fool you with her waffling spine. All I told her was "If I can, you can!" She did all the rest!

And yes, Helium is a paying market. I have made more than my fair share there. Plus the exposure is fantastic.

I have had material purchased and referenced by sites like, A & E television, USA Today, Four Hour Work Week and more than I care to admit.

One of the most satisfying aspects of Helium is the partnerships. I have won a citizen journalism award co-sponsored by and Yahoo! News. No place else offers partnerships with the Pulitzer Foundation AND the National Press Club.

So help me support my Moon Dreamer by helping her keep her commitments and writing as only she can!

Keep Writing,
Ann Marie

Ann Marie said...

And PS:

The pay structure has now changed to offer up front payments for all submissions. And Publishers in the Marketplace pay at the time of purchase...Some average US$100 per article.