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

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.

Writer’s Diaries: How Natural Hair Blogging Paved The Way

I had a conversation with someone a while ago who thought I was passionate about natural hair and it occurred to me that I’ve never really talked about the impact of natural hair blogging on my writing journey.

Three years ago, I got a DM from my would-be teammate about an opening for a natural hair blogger. I was puzzled. Where was this coming from? What gave her the idea that I would be interested in writing about natural hair? Granted, I was transitioning at that period as I had just entered the world of natural hair and discovered what it had to offer. I was also quite vocal about it on my Twitter. So, I was knowledgeable to an extent. Even at that, I still didn’t see myself writing about something I barely knew about. When I was done raving and ranting like I always do when faced with a challenge, she said I would find a way to wing and wing it did I. At that point, my blog was about 9 months old so I had a bit of experience writing for an audience. Shoutout to the WordPress community!

So I started. After all of the welcome pleasantries by the best editor and teammates I’ve worked with till I date, I published my first post. It won’t be out of place to mention that that was my first time using that CMS – Blogger. To be honest, I didn’t want to come off as a rookie so I was a bit skeptical. But given my little experience with WordPress, I found a way around it. That was how my weekly column began.

When I started my blog, I always had this coping mechanism that helped me deal with my fears. I would tell myself repeatedly like a mantra that ‘I wrote for myself’ hence I wasn’t going to put myself under undue pressure just because I was writing for an ‘audience’. You see, for the longest time, I didn’t know African Naturalistas was a popular site with a wide readership. In my head, it was just one of those blogs and I didn’t need to worry myself about backlash or some readers seeing through my rookie-ness. That helped me push out genuine content. I figured if I had to do it, I had to do it well. Over time, I became more armed with a wealth of information that I couldn’t wait to share every week.

This is what happens when you start writing for niche sites – you start to become knowledgeable. You throw everything you previously knew to the backseat and open your mind to accept new information. Your mind will be blown and you would become somewhat of an authority in that niche after a while

It’s been three years – in September – and I don’t think I would trade any of the experiences I’ve had. Is it from all of the people I’ve met that have become friends or to those ladies that want to associate with me just because I’m affiliated with the brand? Or the incredibly sweet readers who almost always recognize me offline? Or becoming actively part of the natural hair community in Nigeria and getting involved in meet-ups? It’s been amazing. But that doesn’t mean there are hasn’t been downsides.

Writer’s block is as real as it gets. There are times when I would ask Atilola for a two weeks leave under the pretense that I’m under the weather just because I couldn’t come up with content. Then I would get back and still not have anything to write but I would have no choice but to struggle and I hate struggling to write. Those are the times when I thought I had done enough and it was time to quit. No hard feelings. I was just done. I couldn’t just continue anymore especially since I had gotten other gigs along the way. But then I would get some email or a direct message asking for my opinion on something and it would hit me that I’m just as vital to the team as everyone else and then everything would be fine with the world again.

You know how every writer needs a portfolio? Coupled with my free  guest posts I had previously written, writing for African Naturalistas served as a perfect portfolio for a newbie writer. I didn’t have anything to lose even though sometimes I underrated it but I’m so glad and thankful I didn’t lose it.

 

Here’s The Genesis and how I Weighed The Options as well as my Fictional Struggles.

Reading For The Right Reasons

The first time I heard that people read 100 books a year, I was gobsmacked. It was such a mind blowing information that I began to question everything I was doing with my life. Of course, along the line it unconsciously became a milestone of sorts – something that I aspired to tick of my bucket list. So, I began building momentum and took my Goodreads a bit more seriously. In 2014, I started with a goal of 40 and ended with 45, 2015 – 50 finished with 61. This year, it’s 60 and so far, I’ve read 27. Apart from the obvious bragging rights, it’s important to know why exactly you’re reading and not just get overwhelmed with that Goodreads badge.

Which is why this post on Medium Why I Don’t Read 100 Books a Year brought a few things back into perspective.

So, why as I reading? Why am I a tad obsessed with books and idea of books and libraries? Why do I desire to read 100 books a year and books from every country in the world?

First of all, books are incredibly addictive. Once the habit of voracious reading is formed, you need to continually feed it or you might just go insane. That’s why I’m not limited by any medium. I read every and anything on any platform. (I feel like I might need reading glasses soonish.) Classics, Junk, Ratchet, Earth shattering, Life changing, Bestsellers. That way I know how to differentiate good writing from downright horrible writings and what not to learn from them.

The day I decided that I wanted to be a writer was the day I knew that I had a lot of work to do. I had to find my voice. The only way I can do that is to read as wide and as deep as possible. My voice is the sum total of all of the my literary influences. It’s a unique mashup of all of the authors and books that influence me. Which is why I’m very open minded when it comes to books. I try as much as possible not to put myself in a box. Some people prefer to read solely African Fiction for instance, I can’t do that. It means that all of my thinking processes and writings will be one – dimensional. So far, I’ve read French Literature, German Literature, a bit of British Literature here and there, Afghanistan Fiction and a host of Immigrant Literature. Currently, my booklist consists predominantly of American Fiction  which I try as much as possible to regulate because diversity is key.

It’s probably cliché but brilliant writers are readers. I don’t just want beautiful writing, I want brilliant writing and that can only happen if I’m well read. So far, my writing has definitely improved but it’s not even close. Another thing is reading the popular books. Usually, when you read what everyone reads, you begin to think like every other person. I’ve discovered that a lot of books are diamonds in the rough. These don’t get any recognition. They aren’t even bestsellers. For instance, Imagined Love by Diamond Drake. Mahn, that book is vivid but literally unknown.

Apart from my obvious reasons for reading, I’ve also discovered that I’m learning a whole lot of things. I’m more aware and less judgy. I’m always looking forward to that single thing that I would take away from a book even if it’s a phrase. For instance, I’m currently reading The Lover by Marguerite Duras and this sentence came up at the beginning which has stuck: She’s become just something you write without difficulty, cursive writing. Best believe, I’m taking that away even if I don’t learn any other thing. From the beginning of the year till date, I’ve been schooled on a myriad of topics. From mental health to the publishing industry to human anatomy and memoires to the Ina vampires and whatnot. No one teaches you these things. I think it’s a privilege to read and be exposed to the world and I do not take that for granted.

There’s also the issue of finding time. Reading is time consuming no doubt but you just have to find a way around it. During your commute. Less TV. Less Twitter. Less Instagram. Less Turn ups.The other day, my mum was asking about something on the news. I just kept staring at her. I wasn’t listening. I was busy reading. My social life is currently nonexistent but due to my personality, I can bounce back even though I’d rather not at the moment. Because books > friends. Reading has become a habit so much that every idle time matters. During Laundry. When cooking. In the restroom. I read in the weirdest places sometimes.

After reading, especially a very good book, I allow my thoughts to flow and then form personal opinions thereafter. The results are usually in the form of book reviews. I realised that the sooner I write them after reading, the better they generally are.

So, it’s pretty important to read as long as you’re doing it for all the right reasons.

Then again, I don’t think it’s bad thing to desire to read 100 books a year because it takes a whole lot of guts and discipline.

How I Avoid Blogger Burn Out.

For folks like me, who write/blog for a living, blogger burn out is inevitable. Take it or leave it, writing is exhausting! There are times – which is more often than not – when my brain’s on overdrive. I’m obsessed/addicted to my posts. I sleep on them. I dream about them. I’m constantly thinking of what to write because I have deadlines and they have to be met.

For the longest time, I’ve never really had a blogging schedule. I just write whenever an idea pops into my head – this usually happens when I’m doing the dishes or laundry – or when I get inspired during my blog rounds. But lately, I realised that I needed some structure of sorts especially as this particular blog was lagging behind. I needed to a blog routine such that all three sites were not slacking.

The first thing I did was to find my groove. I’m a morning person. I’m the most productive between the hours of 8 and 12noon. After 12, I become jittery and restless so I stop and just continue with my blog rounds and/or get distracted by social media. Sometimes, I get inspiration off Twitter so its not a total waste of time. Usually, I gather content relating to my posts and save them in my Pocket for the next day.

Another thing I did was to make a blog schedule. I divide my time between weekdays and weekends. Weekdays are solely for Cosmo while Sunday nights are for AN and this one. I try to take breaks and not write on Saturdays except I have a backlog of weekday posts. Then on Sunday nights, I write and schedule posts for the week. Since the latter blogs are not very demanding, I could easily get away with a couple of posts. So, I have one post per week for each blog which is fine by me.

I try to take breaks in between by reading books, attending conferences/seminars, going to the movies, binge watching Empire or any other available show or studying for exams. Anything to take my mind off blogging but that doesn’t usually last very long. I still find myself worrying endlessly but I really try to take breaks. I realise when I take long extensive ones, I’m usually mentally relaxed. My brain actually slowly unwinds and whenever I decide to start writing again, the results are always phenomenal.

There are times when the inspiration is at its peak. I try to fully take advantage of this and because I enjoy what I do, I can keep the momentum going for a while. So yeah, I think it all boils down to whether or not you have genuine interest in what you’re writing. Blogger burn out could easily be avoided or better managed.

~EB

Of Conferences And Life Lessons

In the last six months or thereabout, I’ve attended about a dozen or so seminars/conferences/trainings. This is mostly as a result of my streamlined Twitter timeline. I follow quite a number of public speakers who are always promoting one event or the other. From Subomi Plumptre to Iyin Aboyeji who is awesome btw. I’ve listened to him speak twice now and he never fails to add value to my life, I feel like I could listen to him all day to the LagosPhoto Foundation who always send invites to a number of their ” exclusive” events (It never feels like a public event. There are hardly ever crowds) and so on. In one way or the other, these people have helped put things in perspective for me. I’m figuring out a whole of possibilities and whatnot.

I know what I want and where I’m going and it just feels like I’m steering in the right direction.

There are a few things I have learnt that I’d like to share.

I’ve been doing all of this officially for a little over two years now. The first job I got was via recommendation. When I still had my tweeting mojo – I hardly tweet this days – I was constantly talking about natural hair. I think that was the period I discovered natural hair and I was so excited about all of the knowledge I had gained that I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had to share – tweet. Then all of sudden, a follower slides into my DM and asks if I was interested in talking about natural hair on a bigger platform. I was gobsmacked. I’ve never done that before. I was utterly clueless but I took the job anyway. That was one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life because it set the pace for me. Although I didn’t get paid in cash, I was fully compensated. Still am. It wasn’t even about the money. I didn’t think I was good enough to get paid and that’s the truth but I savoured the experience. It was everything.

Lesson 1 : Take advantage of any/every opportunity.
It’s as cliché as it gets but you can’t actually comprehend it until you’re faced with it. You might never know what’s in it for you plus it’s not like you have anything to lose so go for it. Don’t discard any opportunity.

Lesson 2 : It’s not always about money.
I think everyone at one point or the other have done pro bono jobs. It’s pretty much part of the system. Yes, we all have bills to pay and I don’t mean to sound like a broken record but there are times you have to make sacrifices for a greater good so think about it.

After a while, I read somewhere that guest posting brings exposure so it took a lot of my guts to churn out my first post. It turned out okay – I think and then I sent another and another to a few websites until I lost the courage. Apart from the fact the the so-called ”exposure” didn’t come soon enough, I realised that I needed to channel my energy to something. I didn’t think I was cut out for guest posting. Then, I read somewhere else that I shouldn’t be writing for free. I think that was the paradigm shift I needed. In the meantime, after struggling for a while, I finally found my niche – lifestyle. It was so hectic. Almost the same as finding my voice which I haven’t even found.

Lesson 3 : Don’t Force It.
If something doesn’t come naturally to you, please for the love of God, don’t force it. Apart from the fact that you’re wasting precious time, it might not turn out as good as you want it to.

The next job I got, I basically pitched myself to her. It was a tad difficult to find lifestyle jobs that pay so I didn’t really mind anything. So, I went straight into her DM and asked if she was in need of paid writers. She said yes and I started immediately. A few months passed smoothly without any problems, then I had an idea. I realised that she was in need of someone to handle the blog in its entirety. It was quite tough handling both a virtual and an online store simultaneously. So, I decided to pitch myself once again as an assistant editor but my guts failed me as I was writing the application email and I tossed it in my drafts. It’s still there.

Lesson 4 : Offer your services and asked to be paid.
The golden rule – Don’t write for free especially if the platform can afford it. Don’t let folks take advantage of you. Don’t be deceived, quite a number of them can afford to pay the writers but you need to bring something to the table. Don’t wait for them to put up a vacancy. Approach them. Offer your services. DMs are free anyway.

After about a year with several months of backlog, I decided that I needed a new job. I couldn’t afford to be idle. At this point, I couldn’t even do anything anymore until the backlog was cleared.

Lesson 5 : Be Alert.
You need to be at alert so you’re aware when things are slacking and not progressing.

Then one day, I was reading a blog post and the blogger basically just talked about needing writers for a new site.

Lesson 6 : Take This Things Seriously!
Subtle adverts here and there. They’re everything.

Guess?

Cosmopolitan Nigeria.

I didn’t believe it either.

I was both giddy and crippled with fear that I didn’t do anything for about a month. But one day, I woke up and decided to do something. A mean what the hell? Whatever happens, happens. I used the same technique that had worked for me previously – pitch yourself/offer your service and ask for/negotiate payment. That went on and on until it was finalized and was asked to start. About a month later, I signed the contract.

Lesson 7: Follow up
Bug them with endless regular emails so they know you’re serious about it. Follow through and ask for feedbacks. Don’t give them breathing space until you get the job. But watch it, don’t become a pest.

That was huge.

I read Cosmo growing up and now I get to write for them!

I’m not over it!

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So, that’s pretty much all I’ve learnt this past few months. It’s been such eye-opening and insightful experiences when I’m not thinking of covering the events or taking selfies with the speakers which I never do anyway.

~EB.