There are countless blogpost, articles, tips, lists and more on how to make a living writing.
And whilst all are very good resources to help you get started, I thought it’d be good (and very nice of me, too) to tell you how I started.
Let’s start with what I DIDN’T DO.
I did not, at any given point, make a conscious decision to become a freelance writer. Neither did I ever have a writing blog before this one.
I didn’t talk to other writers/ journalists, didn’t find a mentor (strictly speaking, probably not true, as one of my university tutor was a journalist who has given me tips on occasions) and I did not, really, ever had any problems getting my stuff published.
Now, notice how I used published here. I didn’t say I got JOBS, or even internships. Cause that’s not how it works. At least it’s not how it worked for me.
I was, however, pretty lucky, on multiple fronts.
Firstly, because I was born to the parents I was born to, my love of writing was encouraged, never questioned, and always nurtured. Even when it meant I was on the big computer in the living room at all hours of the day/night and my dad needed it to finish writing an important scientific paper, I was welcome to type up my little stories. I was never told to stop wasting paper, or to stop reading, or that books were expensive, for that matter. I was bought writing supplies and every packaged “written words” I could lay my hands on without a blink or questions.
That was lucky, because who knows where I’d be if it weren’t for this upbringing?
Now, I was also extremely lucky in the fact that I found an ad on the university website for “writers” at the end of my foundation year, when I was wondering what the hell I was going to do next.
I applied, with a short little story and here I am. Well not exactly. But it was truly amazing that I was given a chance when I was.
Between that chance being given and now, there has been a lot of work, a BA and Masters degrees, moves (back to France for a couple of months, back to New Zealand for a year), travels (hello round the world). But mostly A LOT OF WORK.
So much so, that I actually need a 5-page word doc to keep track of it all. I’ve written countless articles, features, reviews, interviews… on a number of subjects. I’ve edited features, subbed, translated, called many PRs, attended fashion weeks, contacted stylists, makeup artists, record labels, trolled reddit, transcribed badly recorded interviews I was handed over by other journalists who couldn’t be bothered, ran around London, edited videos without knowing the first thing about Final Cut Pro, been forgotten by supposed interviewees… I even had my own online magazine at some point. And most of it I did for free, whilst being a student, and having a job (this girl needs to eat).
Does it sound like a lot? Well, it IS a lot. But I am glad I did it when I did. It meant that when I graduated, I was WAY past doing anything for free or needing “work experience.” More often than not, I had more experience than the people who wanted me to “learn from them” (read: write stuff without pay to build up my portfolio).
I didn’t need it, and so I refused. And it was hard. So hard, to say no to interesting opportunities. But I figured with a MA in Publishing and years of experience, my work deserved at least some kind of compensation.
So, if you’re still a student and reading this, SAY YES TO EVERYTHING. It’s the time to do it. You might feel like you’re drowning in work but you can take it, believe me. And it will set you up for a very scary but ultimately satisfying position of being able to pick and choose what you do (or don’t do) once you’re out of university.
Will you struggle? Probably. It’s a pretty tough world out here. But coming back after my travels, I found some amazing opportunities fairly quickly. And I was even rewarded for all my previous effort by being contacted by some clients without even knowing a job was opening at their company.
Now? I still work. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t even work half as much or as hard as I did back when I was a student/ intern/ freeworker. And the best part? I get paid for it!
So take heart, put your head down, and just do it!