For soon-to-be graduates the precipice of professional life and applying for jobs is edging closer. Whether you have a writing degree or don’t have any training at all, freelance writing opportunities are becoming increasingly accessible. I spoke to Lucy Culpepper, a freelance writer of over 30 years, for advice on making it in the industry.
How did you start out as a writer?
“I started writing in my first full time job in travel clothing. I fell into a role in their marketing department, writing their mail order brochures. Their marketing manager resigned out of the blue and I was asked if I’d ever done any writing. I said I thought I could do it, so that was that and I stayed for three years. I loved it!
I went on to have several different jobs, all involving writing in some way. In the UK my freelance work took off and I was writing full time. My freelance business continued until 2018.”
What attributes do you need to be a freelancer?
“You need good organisational skills and to be good at setting deadlines and sticking to them. You cannot be a procrastinator, as missed deadlines will lose you business. Selling your ability to write and deliver what a client wants is a skill that you rely on to get work.
You must be confident, but also a good listener – pay attention to their brief. It’s important that you enjoy working alone.”
How did you find jobs/clients?
“Word of mouth! I worked hard for my two major accounts to ensure I followed their brief and delivered the copy on time or early, which I truly believe gave them the confidence to recommend me.”
What are your tips for pitching to editors?
“Do research about the publication and their audience. Read the articles in their publication! Give them plenty of ‘meat’ in the pitch without giving the whole idea for free. Make them feel confident that you will deliver everything that they’ll need for the article.”
What is your method for writing a story?
“I always start with a writing plan. As well as making sure everything is covered it helps me get started and stops me from staring at a blank page. Just writing down ‘Intro’, ‘Where’, ‘Travel Kit’ is a start which I usually find is enough to get me going.”
Lucy’s tips for working from home or remotely:
“Get dressed for work!
Do some exercise before starting – that’s your ‘commute’ and the mental transition time from home to ‘work’.
Allocate a space only for working. If you work in a shared space, try to clear away distractions.
Take regular breaks. If you don’t, it’ll slow down your productivity and creativity. Do something productive in your breaks so you don’t use those things as distractions from writing when back at your desk.
Have lunch away from your desk.
If being alone is too hard, consider a shared office.”
Like Lucy, everyone’s path to becoming a freelancer is going to be unique. We each have our strengths and weakness at play and whilst there are pros and cons with any job, freelance writing can be hugely rewarding when you know how to do it right.