Today's is from writer and editor Liz Broomfield, and it's all about the business of going freelance!
Being professional about being a writer
So, you’re a writer. You’ve written some stuff, whether that’s some fan fiction for a website, a novel that you’re touting around potential agents, or a memoir that you’re planning to self-publish. Maybe you’ve put together a slim volume of verse, there’s a demand for the script of your new play, or you’ve written the non-fiction tome that will change people’s lives.
Good stuff. Now it’s time to get professional about things.
I don’t mean that you’re ready to be a professional writer, to throw up the day job and sit in a log cabin chewing a pencil or sweating over a laptop all day, every day. But you do need to be professional, to take some tips from the professionals whose job this is, and to do two things:
Present yourself professionally
Present your work professionally
What do I mean by this? Simply put: treat yourself as a Writer, not as someone who writes; and make sure that what you write represents you as well as possible.
We’ll look at the first point first.
Presenting yourself professionally
You’re a writer! Congratulations! Don’t hide your light under a bushel, don’t mutter out of the corner of your mouth and get back to your fascinating day job selling ball-bearings – say it out loud and be proud.
Now you’ve done that, treat your writing as you’d tell a friend to. Heck, treat it as a business.
I’m not talking Richard Branson or sell-sell-sell or liking the company so much you buy it here – I’m suggesting that you do this:
* Have a plan. OK, it’s not a business plan as such, but what are you going to write next? What are you going to do with your writing? Are you going to self-publish, put out an e-book or hold out for that agent.
* Have a dream. In the business world it might be called a goal – in the tenuous world of writing, you might want to call it a dream. Your book, published by [publisher], on the shelves in front of you in [bookseller] and top on the [online retailer’s] charts.
* Think about how you might achieve that dream – if you’ve only written one short story so far (though that’s one more than most people) and you dream of your Game Of Thrones-style set of tomes on people’s bookshelves, work out what you can do about that.
* If you make any money at all out of this, whether it’s a few pounds from selling an e-book for Kindle or a hefty publisher’s advance, do the right thing, register as self-employed and make sure you pay your taxes.
Once you’re treating your writing seriously, you might like to do some of the following things, culled from business but adapted for you …
* Dedicate your time – Rome wasn’t built in a day, a business wasn’t built in a week, and a big, lucrative back list wasn’t built in a day. But dedicate some time and space to your writing and you’re closer to getting somewhere with it.
* Invest – in a desk, in a laptop, in some training from someone like Paul, in some software to help you organise your writing. Check out the pros and cons, don’t go all spend-spend-spend, but do invest wisely and sparingly.
* Market yourself – tell people what you’re doing. Recruit beta readers. Join a writers’ group and share your work.
A word about self-publishing:
There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, or indie publishing, as it’s often called now. It can be a way to get your words out there, to earn a bit of money, maybe, if you’re canny. But do treat this very much as a business proposition, with Value For Money and Return on Investment paramount:
* Make sure you’ve read the next section and your book isn’t littered with spelling and continuity errors. Self-published books have a bad reputation for this sort of thing: there are editors out there who will work with self-publishing authors, and your reviewers will be pleasantly surprised to find a near-perfect text.
* Pay attention to the cover and book text design: don’t just stick a text-based cover onto a Word document and expect it to look nice. Pay for this if you need to.
* Don’t shell out a huge sum only to have a garage full of books you can’t sell. These days, print on demand is the big thing – only having the printer create a copy of your book when it’s been ordered by a reader will save you huge up-front costs.
If you’re writing for a living – or part of your living – or a little teeny bit of your living – treat it like being self-employed or a consultant, treat it seriously, give it the attention it deserves and give yourself the best chance of success, however you might want to measure that success.
Letting your work present you professionally
So, as we said, you’re a writer. But do you go about it seriously and professionally, or do you stick some words down on paper or a screen, however they come out, never revise them, never show anyone … and are they in a fit state to show anyone?
If your writing is sloppy, your continuity laughable, your spelling atrocious and your presentation abominable, you’ll give off the message that you’re not taking yourself seriously.
And if you don’t take yourself seriously as a writer, why would you expect anyone else to?
Here are some ways to make sure that your writing represents itself- and you - in the best possible light:
* Get the basics right – grammar, spelling, punctuation. If this isn’t your forte, hire an editor at an early stage. You want a copy-editor here for a line-edit, which will sort out your sentences and help it make sense.
* Get the continuity right. If Mr. White has green eyes and brown hair in Chapter One, make sure Mr. Whyte doesn’t have brown eyes and green hair in Chapter Five (unless it’s part of the plot to have his name, eyes and hair change, and you explain that!). You can use various tools from card indexes to sophisticated software for this, or ask an editor to do a substantive edit on the piece.
* Get some training. OK, we all know how to write a sentence, but training, whether it’s an online course, coaching, writer’s groups or a fully fledged creative writing degree, will help you to hone your skills. You wouldn’t necessarily employ a self-taught bricklayer to build your extension, and writing is a craft as well as an innate skill.
* Share – join that group, get beta readers before you publish, get a proofreader to check your final version if you’re self-publishing, read your proofs if you’re being published.
Note: all of these steps can and in fact should be carried out before you go looking for an agent, even if you’re pursuing that big publishing deal. An agent is more likely to take you on if you’re already presenting your work in a form in which they can offer it to publishers, rather than having to wipe off the coffee stains and tidy up the commas before they’re even able to look at it themselves.
So remember these important points …
* Treat your writing seriously and take hints from the world of business as to how to do that
* Make sure you present the best possible version of your work to the world
* Train for your craft like you’d expect any other craftsperson to train
… and good luck with your career as a professional writer!
Liz Broomfield is a writer, editor, localiser and transcriber. Liz is passionate about helping other people to realise that running a business doesn’t involve huge risks and acting like a beardy entrepreneur. She has written two books, the latest of which details her first year in full-time self-employment; both are available as e-books from Amazon worldwide. You can find her professional website and blog at www.libroediting.com and more about her story and her freelance life at www.librofulltime.wordpress.com.
Book link: here