How To Become A Freelance Writer

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I would like to take on a little freelance writing work. So, either guest blogging that is paid, or actual writing for publications. I do have a LinkedIn profile, but it’s all from my corporate sales career and, so far, has nothing about my blog. Would updating that LinkedIn profile be the best place to start? How else do you recommend getting your name out there for doing some writing on the side? And maybe a little more personal question… do you think the quality of my writing is good enough for paid work in this area?

I received the above message from a member of the Facebook group, Pro Pet Blogger, I co-founded with Maggie Marton, current DWAA Vice-President.

Answer:  Whether you are a blogger, just starting out as a writer, and/or especially for those of us who do this for a living in some capacity, full time, or want to, freelance writing is a great way to diversify revenue streams.

I monetize my blog beyond traditional things like working with a brand on paid programs. That’s actually the least of how I monetize. Maggie and I talk about this in greater depth in our forthcoming book on pet blogging.

My blog, Fidose of Reality, often serves as a portfolio of my work. There have been numerous occasions wherein l have an editor or potential client contact me and say they found one (or more) of my posts via search engine. SEO is (one of) my calling card(s).

I am often a source in interviews in the pet space, so folks reach out to me by reading my name in someone else’s article.

In terms of freelance writing and how to break in, this is a big area of focus for me and for the many pet bloggers I know.

Guide to becoming a freelance writer.

Breaking Into Freelance Writing

In her blog post, “Dream Job: Break Into Freelance Writing In The Pet Space,” DWAA member and Maxwell Medallion winner Christy Caplan says, “Editors are looking for knowledgeable freelance writers who are passionate about specific topics, and the goal is to whet their appetite with your story ideas.”  She outlines how to make it happen in her well-crafted piece.

On her Make a Living Writing website, Carol Tice outlines “7 Great Ways To Break Into Freelance Writing.”

A plan of attack is essential. No matter what you do for a living, at some point, you put forth a plan and then executed on it. Freelance writing is the same way.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • What type of freelance writing do I want to do?
  • How much money do I want or expect to make?
  • What will I do to ensure I hit my financial goals?
  • Do you want to freelance exclusively in pet? Define what freelance means to you and who your targets are.

You must be a great writer and have technical skills. If you don’t, immerse yourself in the mechanics of good writing. One of my favorite non-pet writing books is Stephen King’s On Writing. There are a plethora of tools these days to keep you on track from the Hemmingway app (I use on my desktop and love it) and Grammarly, which I also love.

Two other books to have in your freelance arsenal include Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. I never miss a copy of Writer’s Market every year.

Living The Freelance Writer Life

Many DWAA members make a living as a freelance writer, either full time or part time or now and then. Jen Reeder, former DWAA President, has been a freelance writer for over 20 years.

As your current DWAA President, I’ve been freelance writing for well over a dozen years, from magazines to private clients, blogs to independent projects.

Maggie Marton is a freelance writer and has been doing so for many years. Kristin Avery freelances from time to time, as well.

Some people work with two or three clients as a freelancer and others prefer writing articles and assignments from traditional publications. Some do both.

Sometimes assignments find themselves falling into your lap. Here’s an example: The AKC Museum of the Dog asked if I would stop by for a guided tour from their curator and executive director. I blogged about it and did social sharing and stories. They shared all of it. Did I get paid? No. I did have a brand connect and told me she saw me do the story and wanted to work with me. I had a fun time, made connections, did some networking, and I got a paid gig out of it.

Group of freelance DWAA writers
Left to right: Kristin Avery, Maggie Marton, Carol Bryant with Jill Rappaport and Stanley in front

Groups To Join To Help Your Writing Career

Get involved with the Dog Writers Association of America. I am the current President, Maggie Marton is Vice President, Kristin Avery is Secretary, and Marsha Pugh is Secretary. Bryn Nowell is your Contest Chair. My wife, Darlene Bryant, is your Banquet Chair.

The Dog Writers Association of America is a professional organization for those involved in creative endeavors that promote the interest of dogs. This includes, but is not limited to, writers, authors, journalists, publicists, bloggers, social media influencers, photographers, illustrators, and on-air personalities. Members share ideas as well as creative and professional techniques. The organization also sponsors an annual contest.

Benefits of Membership

The Dog Writers Association of America strives to strengthen the careers of our members. Membership benefits include:

  • Access to “Members Only” content on the DWAA website. In addition to our private forum, you’ll find “Editor Insights” from top dog-centric publications and examples of “Successful Queries.”
  • Listing of your website or blog on the DWAA website.
  • Inclusion on our Twitter list. Members follow one another’s handles and share articles, book news and awards.
  • Press pass.
  • Subscription to our quarterly newsletter, Ruff Drafts.
  • DWAA’s Yahoo Group. DWAA members share book news and ask advice in this private group. An individual can request an invitation through the group. Visit the DWAA yahoo group page, click “join group” and follow the prompts, then send the request. Since this is an invitation-only group, the moderator will contact the individual with further instructions. The only requirement is membership in DWAA and a Yahoo account. Here is the link to join IF you are a current paid member of DWAA in good standing: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DWAA/info
  • Discounted entry fee in our writing contest. Our annual contest honors writers, authors, bloggers, photographers, illustrators and publications in many categories – plus our special awards come with big cash prizes.
  • Networking opportunities at our annual awards banquet.
  • Guest posting opportunities and book promotion through the DWAA blog.
  • Continuing education through our webinar program.
  • Forthcoming private Facebook group for members only. 

If you have any questions about membership prior to joining, please contact: Kristin Avery, DWAA Secretary at kristinavery9@gmail.com.

Personally, I have connected with several editors of publications over the years at the DWAA events, many of which led to paying assignments. I also connected with a book agent there. DWAA hosts a dinner and awards banquet yearly and if you can make it in person, even better. After the DWAA event, I go to Westminster’s Dog Show in the city. I hang out on the floor, of course (I mean dogs after all), but I mingle with media in the media room. You never know what opportunities await via networking. It’s all about where you go. There are many other benefits, and please stay tuned as we have a new website rolling out this month for DWAA. Did I mention $16,000 in prize money plus awards?

Read more about the awards, medallions, and cash prizes for DWAA winners here. The 2019 awards information will be posted this summer.

Being a DWAA finalist and/or winner looks amazing on LinkedIn, your resume, and as a talking or intro point to a potential client. The cost to join is $85 for newcomers and then you pay a $50 renewal fee yearly thereafter. Join DWAA here.

There are other benefits, and the new website will outline them all.

Another group I recommend is the Cat Writers Association of America. They, too, host an annual awards event but also a conference with several days of teachings, networking, and more.  I know Maggie Marton and many others here attended the CWA Conference and awards that recently took place. From what I am told, you don’t have to be strictly a cat writer to get involved and learn from the classes at CWA. I am hoping to attend their 2020 conference.

Freelance writers at DWAA event.

Building A Freelance Writing Business

There are a variety of freelance writing opportunities out there. Step One to building your freelance writing business is deciding which of these opportunities you are going to pursue:

  • Copywriting
  • Content Writing
  • Professional Blogger
  • Ghostwriting
  • Journalism
  • Book Author

Every freelance writer needs a solid portfolio. Most freelance writers have a separate website from their blogs. The free FreelancersUnion website has some good suggestions on how to build a portfolio from scratch. Use blog articles and posts as part of your portfolio, too! While on the topic, your LinkedIn profile should reflect who you are, what you do, and showcase your work.

Here are some good links to get you started:

How to Launch a Freelance Writing Career: Forbes

Make Your First $100 As A Freelance Writer

This gal has some good beginner stuff and a free email course: https://elnacain.com/blog/getting-started-freelance-writing/

About the Author: President of the Dog Writers Association of America, Carol Bryant is a pet influencer, writer/blogger, speaker, social media pro, and dog mom.  She owns the trademark, “My Heart Beats Dog” and proudly wears the mantra on her left bicep. She received the DWAA 2018 Distinguished Service Award sponsored by the American Kennel Club.A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. A repeat nominee for the Dog Writers of America Maxwell Medallion and the winner of the 2015 Women in the Pet Industry Woman of the Year in the Advocacy Category, Carol’s passion is dogs. 

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