Thinking of Becoming a Freelance Writer? Here Are 9 Tips to Help You

Truth be told, writing is hard. It is tedious and on bad days, can be difficult. If anyone had told me a couple of years ago that I would end up writing, I would have side-eyed them and asked, do you mean me well?

I’ve been getting some requests on freelance writing and it’s only right that I share my knowledge and experience with others. After all, our gifts should be a blessing to others.

Let’s get right into it!

Thinking of Becoming a Freelance Writer? Here Are 9 Tips to Help You

Make a decision
Before you become a freelance writer, you need to make up your mind. Have those difficult and uncomfortable conversations with yourself and decide what you want. If you have been writing fiction or short stories all your life, you need to decide if you’re ready to make that transition –  because you might not have time to write as much fiction anymore.

Choose a niche
When you’re fully convinced of your decision, it’s time to choose a niche. Yes, I get that writers should be flexible and knowledgeable enough to write on any subject. That has never worked for me and I do not know anyone that does that. In these times, your best bet is your niche.

It can be something you’re skilled at, trained at, passionate about or simply knowledgeable about. I believe the best work comes from a place of knowledge and passion. So, make a list according to these factors and pick one or a few related ones.

Build your portfolio
Now that you know what you stand for, it’s time for you to build your portfolio and let people notice you –  because trust me, the jobs will not look for you. The fastest and easiest way to go about this is guest posting. Here, you are going to need to research a list of authority sites in your niche. When you’re done with that, send articles to them. It is not the time to think about money. This should not be a problem especially if you have a good knowledge of your niche. This is also the time to create a blog. Writer or not, everyone should have a blog. Your blog would serve as a portfolio for all your guest posts which should be as frequent as possible.

At this point you have established yourself as a freelance writer, now it’s time to put yourself out there.

Rebrand your social media accounts
No matter what anyone has told you, social media is key. This is why your accounts should be consistent. Let it reflect what you do and the services you offer.

Follow the relevant brands and influencers in your niche. 
Here, you are going to need social media to work for you.

You might be followed back and you might not. That is the least of your problems. What’s important is, these accounts are on your timeline which means your chances of getting a job from these accounts has increased because you will see those unexpected vacancies that pop up randomly. If you’re so bothered about your following/follower ratio, make a Twitter list.

At this point, if you play your cards right, you should be getting a few offers. If you haven’t, don’t lose hope.

Make a list of potential clients
Everyone has dream jobs. Companies that we’ve spent our entire lives desiring even when we were not qualified. This is the time to be proactive.

Of course, I do not need to tell you that your research skills come to play here.

Perfect your cold pitch and go for it
Remember when I said that the jobs won’t look for you? Well, except you have somehow risen to the ranks of a digital influencer, you will have to pitch yourself. That list of potential clients comes in handy now. It is time to contact them and pitch yourself. Sell yourself and your expertise – which is backed up by your portfolio (remember your guest posts and blog?) and experiences. Most of them have websites. Look for their contact details and offer your services. Trust me; you might never know where you get lucky. Sometimes, some clients might not realize that your services are needed until you reach out to them and if you are rejected, do not be discouraged.

Keep at it and be consistent
If you’re diligent in your business, you will eventually succeed. Don’t forget to start small and grow from there. If there are additional skills you need to learn to attract more income, do not think twice. Clients usually appreciate freelancers that bring extra to the table. Also, do not chase clients away by overcharging because you’re broke, you will only play yourself.

Register a business name and make it official
Don’t be like me. Don’t wait until you have hammered before making it official.

 

I think this guide also applies to other skills and not just writing. Whatever your hands find to do, with consistency and dedication, you will definitely reach your goals.

 

Originally published on Bellanaija

 

Writer's Diaries: How Routine Kills Creativity

Writer’s Diaries: How Routine Kills Creativity

The other day, I was at a meeting with a potential client. Just before the end of the meeting, he asked me, ‘what inspires you?’ I was numb for a minute before mumbling something along the lines of money, success, and results. Not necessarily in that order. He then probed a little more. ‘Do you have pictures or music that motivates you?’ Here, I regained my confidence as fast as I lost it and replied with all of the gusto I could muster; ‘no, I don’t have things that inspire me. I just have a routine that works for me and gets the work done.’ I was sure I made quite the impression with that response because he kept staring and nodding.

Which brings me to the subject at hand.

A few days later, I went over that scenario and realized how pathetic I sounded.

 


As a new writer, one of the first rules of the profession is to have a routine. Whatever, you do, do not sit around and wait for inspiration before you write because it will not come and you will not work. So, find a way to develop a routine and stick to it because it will pay the bills. Your productivity will skyrocket. Your body clock will be attuned accordingly and you will get work done.

Frankly, it works. 

Over the past couple of years, I have come to this realization and it has worked for me. I’m able to finish my work in the shortest possible time and still have extra for books and homemade skin care products. To be honest, I love my life. What else could I ask for?

But then, recently during one of those weekdays creating content for Cosmopolitan Nigeria, it dawned on me that I have become one of those generic content writers. Headline – wise and even body – wise. I wasn’t bringing anything extra to the table. My defense? When you’re in this line of work, there’s a tendency to lean towards sensationalism and whatnot but I decided to be as objective as possible and just report the way it is. Although, there are times when I can’t help but come across as controversial.

My point?

Creativity takes time to execute. I don’t know about you but when I have a great idea, I do not execute it on a whim. I take the time to carefully go over it before releasing it to the public. Take this blog for example. All through the years of its existence, I’ve carefully guarded it with all jealousy because I know the value it has on my myself as a person and in my career. So, when I get emails for ad space, I carefully turn them down. Apart from the fact that the stats are not all that, I cherish the intimacy which is why I would rather work harder for clients to maintain it. It is a space where my creativity comes to play. As a writer, it is important I do not forget that because that is the very essence of writing. So, yeah, I do not have an editorial calendar because you cannot schedule creativity.

But then, when your plate is full with deadlines, how do you find time to create? When you’re stuck in your structured routine, how do your creative juices flow? There are days when I swear I work on autopilot. When I don’t feel a thing, how do I create something?

These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.


Writer’s Diaries, just as the name implies, is a series that documents my journey as freelance slash aspiring fiction writer. I have dreams of becoming a novelist but in the meantime, the bills have to be paid. I share my victories and challenges as well tips and tricks of the profession to make someone’s life a bit easier. For previous editions, go here.

 September Faves

 

September Faves

  • Biopics

There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t be caught watching anything other than romcoms and K-dramas. Now, I’m embracing biopics with both hands. So far, I’ve seen Pele, Jobs, Nina, Confirmation, Joy, Selma, The Walk, and counting. I figured if I can’t get around to reading some of these biographies, I could at least watch them and still get the whole idea.

  • Nik-Nak’s Voice Notes

The other time, I talked about my new favorite podcasts. Every other day, I discover new podcasts, the latest being Nik Nak’s Voice Notes. Nik Nak attempts to exalt the beauty in the mundane, the simple and intricately detailed. My fave episode so far is the latest one on the Faith Episode where a number of people share their faith journeys – leaving the faith, returning to it or having a crisis of faith. It’s so damn relatable.

 

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

During my last grocery shopping, the state of the economy finally hit me. I was about to buy my staple bottle of ACV when I noticed that the price had tripled. (Side-eye to Spar though whose prices had doubled in advance). I was so sad that I had to settle for a cheaper brand which I still had to dispose of because it turned out to be apple juice. I use ACV for everything and I literally cannot do without it. This is me taking time out to appreciate its existence.

  • Wilson’s Lemonade

 

During my last Graphics Design training, I had Wilson’s every day for the entire duration. Yes, for a week. I didn’t know what came upon me. All I knew was I had been slacking on Wilson’s plus it was incredibly cheap. No, I didn’t get tired of it because I made sure I took just the right quantity all through.

I recently attended a Writer’s workshop which turned out to be completely underwhelming and a waste of money asides the small chops maybe  and for the first time in a long time, I appreciated the Internet in its entirety. I also realized some of the things I had taken for granted over time including the Writers in Charge website. This is basically a Freelance Writer’s hub for everything about the business. This month, I found myself going back to it and I’m SO glad I did.

  • NITC16 TVC News

During NITC16 last month, TVC News surprised us. They had seen our flyer and planned to cover the natural hair segment of NITC. Fortunately or unfortunately, NITC has evolved into a healthy lifestyle meetup so they had to wait a while. In the meantime, they interviewed a couple of us, myself included.

I think I was rambling something about my hair routine here. Btw, as a fast-talker, I’ve come to despise interviews and videos. I always end up stuttering and saying unintelligible things.

Also, the official photos have been posted on nitcnigeria.com.

  • Kemi Lewis Photoshoot

During NITC16, natural hair stylist extraordinaire Kemi Lewis swung by and casually mentioned that she needed models for an upcoming photoshoot session. I did not know when I volunteered myself. Before I knew it, she was getting my details and we were making plans. I had so much fun that day and I cannot wait to share my experience when the official photos are out. Meanwhile, some selfies and BTS.

  • Bad moms

 

I saw Bad Moms last week and it made me realize how challenging motherhood is. It’s both the scariest and bravest thing any women could go through and there’s no right formula to it. You just need to find out what works for you and strike a balance else you’d literally lose your mind.This is also why it s important to have a career or cause you’re passionate about to maintain your sanity.

  • Big Trouble – Dave Barry

I didn’t read that many books in September because I was really occupied but I stole a moment to read Dave Barry’s Big Trouble in one sitting. It left me in stitches. I mean, it is the most hilarious book I’ve read since the Stephanie Plum series. Best thing? It is Dave’s first work as a columnist/humorist cum novelist. I have a thing for non-fiction writers who have transitioned into fiction writers. Elizabeth Gilbert. Junot Diaz. I feel like they have set the pace for me whenever I’m ready write a work of fiction.

Recap: TFESS Graphics Design Workshop

Recap: TFESS Graphic Design Workshop 

One of the things I decide to do at the beginning of the year was to increase my skillset. You know how you set goals and actively work towards them? Mine was skills. 2016 was my year of acquiring digital skills and increasing my capacity. Since February, starting with Social Media Week, I’ve been attending all the necessary conferences, workshops, and trainings. Towards the middle of the year, it all finally came into place. Even though I still hadn’t figured out what exact path I wanted to take, all I knew was, it had to be related to writing/content. So, I took it from there. Interestingly, content takes various forms these days including audio, graphics, text, and videos. I figured if I learned all of that, it won’t be a shabby year.

Enter TFESS Graphic Design Workshop.

Of course, I had been looking out for a well-rounded training. Something worth an investment. Something that would sustain my interest for the entire duration given my attention span and non-existent background in Design. So, at the last minute – I didn’t give myself time to overthink it plus the deadline was close – I registered.

TFESS Graphic Design Workshop

Three things stood out for me.

  • The location was super convenient.

It was such a great experience returning to my former hood. I hadn’t been to Surulere in months. It is completely out of my radar but it was great to return there. Of course, the venue was easy to find as I had been there two years ago. Although I wasn’t exactly pleased with the week long duration, the convenience made it less stressful.

TFESS Graphics Design Workshop

  • The content of the workshop.

As I mentioned earlier, I had attended several trainings previously so I was very particular about the content/curriculum of the program. I didn’t just want theory – I mean I could have stayed home and read blogs –  but the main crux of the matter.  Fortunately for me, I got what I wanted and even more. You see, each day was divided into sections. The morning section was pure theory. Everything you needed to know about Graphics Design without boring you with too many details. It was just right. The afternoon session, on the other hand, was purely practical. You learned something new in the morning and got to practice it almost immediately. I thought that was the selling point of the entire workshop. It was such that everybody had to work and present it to the entire class no matter how terrible you thought you were. I thought it was brilliant!

TFESS Graphic Design Workshop
Bryan…all the way from Port-Harcourt
  • THE GUYS!

It is a universally acknowledged fact that I bond faster and better with guys than girls. It is just what it is. Of course, I bond with girls but it just takes longer except well, there’s some sort of connection. But how could you establish that at the first meeting? Anyway, the guys at my session were incredibly helpful. We were just three clueless girls. Myself and two others with a zero to vague knowledge of the software. I didn’t even have anything but before I could say, Jack, I was passing my laptop to another complete stranger at the back of the class to work on just because one version didn’t work for the other. I was a bit dazed because everything seemed strange to me but then I was sitting between two guys. I had to catch up FAST! And I did. Before I knew it, I was winging it like like I knew what I was doing. Lol. I did actually to some extent.  Bottom line, the guys in my class were my heroes.

Worth noting.

Recap: TFESS Graphics Design
Victor Fatanmi of Fourth Canvas
  • The facilitators

We were taught by four guys who were super talented and believable. They knew their stuff and they were able to pass it down to us. You know it’s one thing for you to know something, it’s another thing entirely to teach people what you know. These guys made us appreciate the art and craft of design. Need I mention the all of the hacks, cheats and freebies? My content game has definitely stepped up!

  • The follow-up

As with every other training, we were made to open a Whatsapp group. The idea is to keep in touch and follow up. Asides from the constant notifications, it’s a great avenue to share your work which enables it to be properly critiqued.

Yes, I had a great time and I hope subsequent trainings will be just as awesome.

 

How To Make Time For Other Interests

So, that happened and in my usual fashion, I decided to address it with a post.

How do I manage my time?  Again, I would like to issue a disclaimer. I’m a freelancer so I’m pretty much in control of my time and I cannot speak for 9 – 5ers although you might be able to find one or two things that cut across. I’m going to spare you all of that cliche preamble on time management and get right into it.

  • It’s important to prioritize. 

Yes, it’s as vital as they say. We all have 24 hours a day and it’s up to us how we decide to use it. As a freelancer, different jobs have their individual demands. For instance, I have a job that requires me to write content daily. Unfailingly. I also have a weekly column that has to be updated. Then I have another one that is less demanding and more flexible. The trick is to prioritize them accordingly. This saves a lot of headaches and disappointments. Also, you can work more efficiently. When all of that is done, then you can dedicate the extra time to your other interests.

  • Identify your interests

I have Pinterest boards for all of my interests. The first time any subject piques my interest, I open a board and take time out to pin it accordingly. The pins usually include ideas and action plans. Whenever I decide to take up anyone, I just open the boards and the inspiration gushes out like a fountain.

  • Prioritize your interests

Depending on what you like, there are some activities that are more time-consuming than others. If you have a 9 – 5, it is obviously not advisable to take up a full- time hobby. You could pick something that doesn’t require efforts of any kind. That way it doesn’t become a job but stays a hobby and gives you satisfaction in the long run.

  • Pick one and break it down 

The first time I learned how to make homemade skincare products myself, I broke it down into phases and took it one at a time. I started with the basic whipped shea butter. Then went on to ACV toner, body scrubs and eventually deodorants. When I mastered those basic recipes, I started to upgrade them so I started all over again. This time, I upgraded my basic whipped shea butter to a proper body butter and went on to the next one. Of course, there were trials and errors in between. I tried to make them in smaller quantities initially to avoid waste and all that. Eventually, I got it right although I still have to tweak it to suit the weather. The point is, making products is obviously time – consuming and demanding as a result of the trials and errors involved but it did not feel like it. Not for a single moment. Also, I enjoyed it. There’s some sort of fulfillment that comes with making things yourself.

 

These steps have worked for me and I hope it does for you too.

August Faves

I haven’t shared my favorite things in so long. Usually, I wait until they are a substantial amount before writing them down. But now, I’m ready.

  • Books 

Janet Evanovich‘ Stephanie Plum Series

Stephanie_Plum_Series

I’ve been reading a bit too much crime fiction lately. Sometimes, they get real intense that you just need a witty line or more to contain the heat. I had read Janet Evanovich before now and she wasn’t half bad so I didn’t hesitate to pick her up once again. This time, I was in for a major surprise. The Stephanie Plum series are 22-full length novels and I stumbled on the 9th. First of all, can I just say it’s incredibly addictive? I’m currently on the 11th novel and I have no plan of stopping. They’re a tie between chic-lit and crime fiction and they serve me just the way I like them – humourous, witty and fast-paced.

Elmore Leonard

Elmore is also another crime writer I absolutely cannot get enough of. Just like Janet, he makes crime fiction totally appealing. I’m currently on my third novel.

 

  • Others

Podcasts

I jumped on podcasts by accident and I haven’t been able to stop. I’m currently bingeing on Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Magic Lessons but I follow a couple of interesting Nigerians on Soundcloud.  I’ve also been having ideas of a podcast. Question is, what would I talk about?

Listen to the first episode of Magic Lessons here;

 

Instagram stories

I’m currently phoneless at the moment but I’ve been enjoying the thrill and duration of Instagram stories from my tablet. I love how I do not have to worry about aesthetics or editing or curation. I also love the spontaneity as it allows me to share bits and pieces of my daily life. I’m forced to look outwards and find beauty in my environment rather than my facial expressions.

Protopage

As a content writer, one of my biggest challenges is aggregating my sources. For a while now, I’ve been jumping from one tool to another and so far, Protopage has been a staple. It is worth mentioning.

TheSkimm

I’m quite indifferent to a lot of things. Most subjects actually. From politics to economics and sports. TheSkimm has changed all of that. Every morning, I receive bit- sized news in my inbox. Everything that is going on in the world. More efficient than Twitter and CNN. No jokes! I mean that is the only way I’ve been able to follow the Olympics and US Elections. Also, it’s millennial – friendly.

Techcabal Daily Digest

Just like TheSkimm keeps me up to date on world issues, Techcabal daily digests keep me informed on the tech scene in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. For the longest time, I kept denying and withdrawing from anything that had to do with tech and its technicalities. My excuse? Too geeky. But now, Techcabal has fixed all that. I mean, if you’re working in an industry, the least you can do is to be informed else you’ll be left behind.

Quartz Africa Daily Digest

Similarly, Quartz Africa keeps me informed on the most important news on politics and economics. I love how concise and easily digestible their articles are. When I’m ready to move to the next level in my career, I’ll probably start from there.

  • These lovely photos of me at NITC 15. Check out the new website – nitcnigeria.com

 

  • Finally, my newsletter.

I’ve been sharing a lot of things with my subscribers. Those things I would rather not talk about but need to be addressed and it’s been fun. You can sign up here.