Freelance Writing: The Beginners Guide

By Samantha Tetrault

The most common question I get as an English major (other than what grade I want to teach) is how I plan to make money. It’s a common misconception that English majors (or writers in general) can only make money by teaching or serving coffee. To some extent I can agree with this concept; it’s definitely hard for English majors to make money in their field if they expect to make money writing the next Great American Novel. However, there’s a lot of money to be made from writing if one is able to keep an open mind!

I began freelance writing before I began blogging as I way to earn side income. This was when I was working two part-time jobs while going to school full time. I had no time for myself and knew I needed to find a way out of the soul-killing cycle of retail. I stumbled upon freelance writing entirely by accident, and I was hooked. Even without extensive experience or a completed college degree, I was able to earn a few paid gigs, and I even landed a contracted position as a contributor with a new startup! It might sound too good to be true, but I’m here to show how you too can get started freelance writing!

 

Do I need experience?

Many people are hesitant to start writing professionally because they think they need a masters degree in English Composition and several years of experience as a paid contributor. This just isn’t the case! There’s a range of writing gigs available, and all of them are looking for different skill and knowledge levels! If you have experience in a different fields like Real Estate or Finance, odds are you are more than qualified to launch your own freelance writing career!

You don’t need a degree or any advanced skills, just a passion for writing! A firm grasp of English grammar and composition will go a long way in this field, but simple tools like Grammarly can help you edit your own work. A lot of freelance gigs are looking for experts in different fields unrelated to English, so having outside skills is a large plus! Also, you’re going to be doing a lot of typing, so having a quick word per minute speed is definitely a plus! Honestly, practice makes perfect in the freelance writing world, so don’t be afraid to jump in and learn as you go!

Creating a Portfolio

Before you can apply to freelance gigs, you’re going to need a small portfolio with examples of your work! I highly recommend starting your own blog to showcase your writing skills while also building an audience. Otherwise, compile 3-5 of your best-written pieces into a document on your computer ready to submit. Unsure what to include? School research papers, book/product reviews, and essays are excellent places to start. Another great tool for aspiring freelancers is LinkedIn which allows prospective gigs to find you! Be sure to link to all your best work on your profile, and include a killer summary!

freelance writing

How to Find Gigs

So you’ve set up your online portfolio and you’re ready to get started freelance writing! Remember you’ll need to be open minded when it comes to options, and you probably will have to start by writing things you aren’t all that excited about. I’ve written boring product reviews, tourist information, and technical copy. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was paid, and I got to work on my own terms. Here are some great places to begin searching for paid gigs with different companies!

  • ProBlogger – A highly curated job board
  • BloggingPro – Another excellent job listing board
  • Contenta – Digital job listings for graphic, web, and writing gigs
  • @Write_Jobs – Follow on twitter for updated job postings
  • MediaBoard – Includes writing gigs from well-known companies

Keep in mind you’ll probably need to apply to more than one before you start getting responses, but don’t give up! Freelance writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but it can be a great way to make side include, and even a full-time income! Happy freelancing!

 

The Power of Journaling

By Gwendolyn Crowe

I’m one of those people who can never sit still or focus on one thing. My mind is always all over the place and I get easily distracted. I think this is fairly common nowadays due to technology and entertainment being so accessible. It’s difficult to really zero in on something and give all of your attention to that particular thing.

Because of this, I decided to challenge myself to a week of journaling. I’ve personally never been much of a journaler. I’ve dabbled in it when I was younger, but I would just get bored and tired of writing so much. Weirdly enough, I think me being left-handed and holding my pencil awkwardly contributed to this because my hand would always hurt from writing. It was such a struggle for me to just relax and concentrate.

I heard about journaling being helpful mostly from people around me, but the first time I noticed the importance of journaling was during a writing camp that I attended. They had us journal outside every day and it really helped us notice the things around us. Journaling is important for a writer’s mind because it collects and organizes all of your thoughts, which is something I’ve struggled with doing; it’s a healthy outlet, and you can even go back and read memories that you otherwise may have forgotten had you not written them down. Keeping a journal of your life and the experiences you have is such a beneficial thing to do, and documenting various things can actually help in the long run.

So, as I said before, this past week I decided to do sort of an experimental test to see how journaling helped me. I wanted to see if I got better and more relaxed each time. I quickly learned I’m just not very good at journaling; it’s hard for me to keep up with it every day.

Though I found it difficult at first, I have a few tips for making it easier. For instance, writing in various places aside from just your bedroom is really helpful. That way, you’re out seeing the world and noticing new things to even possibly write about. I journaled outside under a tree and it really forced me to pay attention to the detail around me and open my mind. Not to mention the sunlight was very therapeutic and boosted my mood.

Journaling is important because it keeps your creativity going and, most importantly, it keeps you writing. It helps to stimulate your mind and remember things that occurred throughout your life. It also improves your memory. It’s definitely worth it to take a few minutes and jot something down – it doesn’t even have to be a full-fledged story, but just something to use as an outlet and to keep you writing consistently.

Have you tried journaling?

 

Readers Block?

By Rhiannon Alter

I’m pretty sure the last time I picked up a book out of pure will and desire to read was years ago. Three years ago I got to college, where my love for reading continued to die as it slowly had in highschool. Middle school was the most recent time I can recall where I actually read for pleasure.

When I was younger, my love for writing accompanied my love for reading. Although I stopped reading, I continued writing. I wonder if this intervened with my ability to write. Would I be a better writer if I read more? I feel like I may be doing myself a disservice. Alongside that, I’m sad that my love for reading has died down as a whole.

I know many of my friends also struggle with staying motivated to read throughout college, both for their classes and for pleasure. This is mostly due to the fact that college = a lot of reading. It’s true, most of the college reading it a lot of painful, dense, and boring material. It’s reading you just HAVE to do.

Recently, I’ve missed reading for myself. I miss actually picking up a book to enjoy, and it’s hard to find the motivation…So for those struggling like myself, here are some ways to slowly get back into reading:

  1. Find a book with an interesting cover. I know it sounds a little silly, but if you can appreciate the artwork of the cover, you can probably appreciate what’s inside the book!
  2. Sign up for a literary website that sends you a new story/poem each day.
  3. Search for a subject opposite to what you’ve been recently studying in school: escapism.
  4. Go to a local bookstore, maybe a second-hand
  5. Procrastinating? Might as well pick up a book. There are many mindless ways to procrastinate, reading may be much more beneficial!
  6. Remind yourself of why reading is important.
  7. Return to an old favorite, even if it’s a book from your childhood. Revisit why you enjoyed it before, why you decided to read it.

 

How Tinder Improved my Grammar: Top 5 Common Errors in Writing

By Liz Browning

After a rough break-up, I finally decided to put myself back out into the dating world. Of course, I figured a good place for a young, intelligent, college girl like me would be Tinder. I downloaded the app, created an account, and added a few sassy selfies and an interesting bio that didn’t reveal too much info but it wasn’t too vague either.

After about a week of matching and chatting with guys, I was about ready to give up. Then, I received a message that was quite odd and slightly insulting. He didn’t even say “Hi,” his message simply said, “You’re pretty, but your grammar in your bio is not very good.” When I received this message, I didn’t respond right away. I pondered for a couple minutes in astonishment and at a loss for words. I didn’t want to unmatch him or ignore him because I thought that he needed to know just how I felt about his failed flirting attempt.

I wasn’t insulted or anything because I know that I am not a grammar expert by any means. I decided to respond with something witty. I replied, “If that is some cheesy pick-up line, you have failed miserably.” We both laughed and continued chatting for a while. As It turns out, “Grammar Guy” was actually pretty nice, and we even went on a few dates.

As I said before, I know that I am not a grammar perfectionist and that my skills could use a little work. After receiving that message, I realized that grammar and proper writing is important, not just for a relationship, but for life in general. These skills might even be useful in a future career?! Basically, you can have the best content (or the best Tinder bio), but if the reader can’t understand it because of all the grammatical errors, it’s basically a piece of garbage.

Thus, “Grammar Guy’s” diffident first impression provoked me to talk to tutors in our college writing center. Since they spend their days editing papers, they might be able to give me some tips for improving my grammar (and Tinder) skills. They helped me determine some of the most common writing mistakes and shared ways to improve my skills. I’ve decided to list some of them with you so you can improve your own writing and avoid embarrassment from potential professors, employers, or even a possible soul mate.

5 Most Common  Errors seen by College Writing Tutors

1.No Thesis Statement

Many students come in with a paper that either lacks a thesis statement or it is very weak. Remember, a thesis statement is not a summary of the introduction, rather, it’s a statement which tells your reader what the paper is going to be about. Think of it like a brief roadmap for the rest of the essay. 

2. Incorrect use of Commas

There are two types of writers: those who use too many commas and those who do not use them at all. Comma placement can be tricky, but a few main areas to use them are before a quote, in a list, and after subordinating conjunctions (and, but, yet, so, etc..). If you find yourself constantly struggling with commas, consider using an application like Grammarly to catch the tougher mistakes. (Pro tip: run your Tinder bio through Grammarly to avoid awkward interactions with the grammar police.)

3. Use of Semicolons

A semicolon is used in place of a period to combine two separate sentences. Students either use them in writing improperly, or they use them too much. Think of a semicolon like Tinder dates: exciting in theory, but actually disappointing in practice. 

4. Incorrect use of Possessive Apostrophes

Apostrophes are confusing, let’s be honest. The most common ones are “it’s” and “its” and “your” and “You’re.”  

“Its” means belonging to the subject of the sentence. For example, “Tinder is better than its review would suggest.”

“It’s” is a contraction for “it is.” For example, “Why do you use Tinder? It’s creepy.”

5. Improper Citations in all Formats and Writing Styles

Professors are very specific as to which format the assignment should be in whether it’s APA, MLA, or Chicago be sure to refer to the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab to ensure that you are citing your paper correctly. Tinder dates can also be sticklers for proper citation. That Lion King quote you included in your profile bio needs to be properly cited in order to really impress your potential matches! 

My improper grammar has always been the crux of the jokes between my friends and I. When I told them about my the first encounter with “Grammar Guy” they said sarcastically,  “Well Liz, this proves that you have to have the G to get the D.” (D standing for date…don’t get the wrong idea.)

 

The Top 8 Films Every Writer Should Watch

By Caitlin Costello

As I writer, I find it almost necessary to read great books and watch great films. As an artist myself, I feel like it is important to enjoy and appreciate other forms of art. I think films are important to the writing artform. So in addition to reading, I also enjoy watching films in order to write well. I am a very visual person and watching great films inspire me to want to write more and even write something like that. Granted, I am not the next great screenwriter, however, I am a storyteller.

A film without cinematography is just a script, and a screenwriter is essentially a masterful storyteller (and even better at dialogue than most writers). When you watch a film you are watching a story unfold – so that’s an entire book in about 1.5 hours. As a writer, a great film gives me life because I want to aspire to write something that great. I find that there is even literature in film, if analyzed enough, a film’s plot can have that same sort of specialness that a book has. It’s all in the fiction, or in this case, the intricate layers of striking cinematography and crafty dialogue.

Without further ado, here are the top eight films that I think every writer should see:

1. Misery

Two words. Kathy Bates. This film is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. It is the story of a famous writer who gets into a car accident and is then rescued by a woman who turns out to be one of his biggest fans. She is pathologically obsessed with his book series and makes sure that he doesn’t get any better so that he can stay under her ‘care’ and finish the manuscript of his newest book. This film delves into the psychology of fanaticism. But it also gives writers a fair warning about the kinds of people who actually read their work. I mean just imagine being kidnapped, psychologically abused, and forced to write for a sociopath’s enjoyment, you’d probably never pick up a pen again.

      via GIPHY / Columbia Pictures

2. Adaptation

This film is about a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman, named after the actual screenwriter and director of the film. The story follows a neurotic sweaty writer who is trying to adapt a book into a screenplay. The plot gives the pains of being an undervalued slave to Hollywood while still trying to maintain a writer’s credibility. It delves into the psyche of its main character, and we find ourselves as fellow writers sympathizing with all of his crazy antics and cynicism. I recommend this film because it is a great introduction to the work of the genius screenwriter, you guessed it, Charlie Kaufman.

3. Storytelling

This film is very dark, so if you don’t have a black enough sense of humor then don’t watch it, it won’t be rewarding enough for you I promise. The film makes a mockery of writers. It follows two plots, one is titled “fiction” and the other is “non-fiction.” Both parts are equally disappointing and painfully real. The film covers themes such as film criticism, exploitation, and metafiction. Brought to you by the wonderfully subversive Todd Solondz, Storytelling pities writers and it’s hilarious.

 4. Ruby Sparks

This film comes from the makers of Little Miss Sunshine, which is another brilliant movie script. It’s about a writer who creates a fictitious girlfriend for himself because he is lonely, but the rub is that she becomes real. Intrigued by this, he manipulates her existence by writing what he wants her to be like and even what he wants her to do. Every man’s dream, right? I recommend this film for one reason and one reason only, because it’s unrealistic. You can’t make your characters fall in love with you. No matter how talented of a writer you are.

via GIPHY / Fox Searchlight Pictures

5. Adult World

This film is about a twenty-something post undergrad named Amy who is also a struggling writer. We are all Amy. She obsessively submits her work to some of the top literary magazines in the country and gets rejected by all of them. She thinks that she is a great writer, and don’t we all think that at first. She meets a famous writer (John Cusack) who completely shatters her ego, but in doing so he offers her (and the audience) some great advice on being a young writer who is just starting out. The film taught me a lot about my own goals as an emerging writer. One quote from the movie really stuck with me and that is, “It is the artist’s job to fail better.” To me it means, that as a writer you will fail a lot, you will get rejected a lot, however, that doesn’t mean that you should stop what you love doing, you should keep going and try to fail a little bit better next time.

6. The End of the Tour

This is an indie-type biopic about the brilliant and prolific writer David Foster Wallace. For those of you not familiar with his work, I recommend that you look up his most famous scripture Infinite Jest, because it is definitely infinite. The tale follows his friendship with a journalist on his book tour. I like this film because I found that there are a lot of philosophical remarks by DFW that are very beneficial to writers of all sorts. The script is based on the actual interview that occurred between Wallace and the journalist. Wallace is very insightful and his advice is great for anyone who wants to be a writer. Also, if you are fascinated about the glamorous life of a writer then watch this film.

7. Midnight in Paris

This film is for the romantic types and for people who love the twenties. If you like both of those things then you will probably like this film. It is a Woody Allen film, but don’t let that stop you. The film features a lot of the greats from that era.

If you are an English major or a fancy-schmancy literary connoisseur then you will definitely enjoy this film. The plot is about a struggling writer who wanders the streets of Paris at night in hope to muster up some inspiration but instead finds himself transported back to the twenties during the golden age of literature and art. The film is slow to warm up, but once it does magic happens.

via GIPHY / Mediapro

8. Synecdoche, New York

This film made me question my entire mortality. Why you ask? Because the film deals with every writer’s anxiety over writing something worthwhile and putting it out into the world before they die. The character in this film Caden, played by the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a very complicated playwright who is afraid of death. While unsuccessfully trying to finish a play over the span of seventeen years, his own life becomes intertwined in the play itself. The film has deep existential themes that tackle every human’s fear of death and every writer’s fear of somehow creating meaning to that death.

What are your must-see writer movies?