When You Want to Write Something Other than Books

By Elaine L. Orr

In another universe, or at least another part of my life, I didn’t view myself as creative. I liked to write, but wrote articles, a few (bad) poems, and some essays. I still have a clippings file that contains a bunch of freelance articles I wrote in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Eventually, the notes I jotted about story ideas became more real to me and I began to write some (bad) fiction. It’s like learning a foreign language as an adult — you have to be willing to do it badly as you strive to do it well. Fortunately, you don’t have to show the bad writing to a lot of people.

A reader of this blog (Emma C.) recently sent an email saying she enjoyed some of the resources discussed on Irish Roots Author. Even better, she shared a comprehensive blog post on aspects of becoming a freelance writer. I wish I had seen this a few decades ago. 


Author Bethenny Carl first presents what she terms a Cheat Sheet that gives the basics — finding work, building a portfolio, negotiating with clients, and managing finances and your time — among other topics. She discusses the ability to choose projects you want and work at your own pace, but also points out the challenges. These start with that awkward trait: self-discipline. 

You not only have to write well, you need to keep track of deadlines, handle invoices, perform all administrative tasks, and pay taxes when no one (other than you) is managing payments throughout the year. Blah, blah, blah.

I perform all these tasks  as a (largely) self-published author. They aren’t fun, but are a small price to pay to do what I want for a career.

A freelance career builds slowly, but if you are diligent it can be steady growth. I got off the freelance bandwagon because a firm I wrote for eventually had enough work that I wrote and edited largely for them. Eventually I even had benefits! 

At the same time, I watched a neighbor continue to purse her freelance work. She worked consistently and published under her name in a number of general interest and consumer magazines. She was so organized! And, of course, a very good writer.

With so much online content, there are far more freelance opportunities than a few decades ago. (I’m dating myself.) Not all of it will give you a by-line, though you can ask online clients if they will permit you to include an article or blog post in your portfolio.

You don’t need to search for work on your own. There are a number of websites, such as The Write Life, that list organizations that publish jobs for freelancers. Start with ones that don’t charge for the information. However, you may come upon a group that charges a small fee if you learn of a job through them. That could save you a lot of time.

Whether you are considering freelance work or already doing some, take a look at Bethenny Carl’s extensive blog post. You could save yourself time in selecting clients and hand-wringing.in doing what I think of as the backstage work.

Most important, keep at it!

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.