There are plenty of dirty little secrets in the freelance writing business. The first dirty secret is that most writers won’t tell you their dirty secrets. They find ’em and hang on to them jealously out of fear that their fellow freelancers will act just like zombies–all swarming desperately to get their grubby little undead fingers on another piece of the freelance writing pie.
That’s dirty secret number two–freelancers WILL swarm about like extras in a George Romero movie.
Which leads me to dirty secret number three. Freelance writers only let their dirty little secrets out when they don’t need them anymore. Feeling a bit cynical yet?
It’s all part of the game, and for those who like to play, it’s just something you have to get used to. No worries, we’re all in this together and all that. Here are a few of my own personal dirty little freelance writing secrets that I actually still DO use, but I don’t mind sharing:
- I am a freelance editor as well as a freelance writer. When I need to hire writers for various projects, the first criteria I judge them on is how well their cover letters match their writing samples. Are the writers inarticulate boobs in the cover letter or are those first impression communiques just as finely crafted as their writing samples?
- When a writer tries to pretend they know something they don’t, it seems glaringly obvious to me as an editor. I never work with these people again once I’m sure they are talking out their backsides. Sorry, gang, but if you don’t know your subject matter, don’t try to write as an authority. Appeal to someone else’s authority instead. Write from a more neutral point of view and let your quotes do the talking.
- Screw me once on a deadline and I can forgive. Screw me twice in a row, and I’m not so forgiving. Chances are you won’t hear from me again.
- Good writers who are difficult to work with aren’t as valuable as an average writer who understands I have deadlines, too.
- If I put an ad out for freelancers and fill the job, I always keep a few resumes on file just in case. The just in case happens a lot more than you might think.
- Editors talk to each other the same way freelance writers talk to one another. It’s a small world and word travels.
- I personally tend to give writers too many second chances in spite of me being a grouchy, semi-perfectionist. So when I do fire somebody, they are fired forever.
- The secret to knowing when you are in trouble with an editor–they have to repeat themselves. When an editor tells you about a glaring mistake, your best response is “It’ll never happen again.” That, my friends, is a promise that–when kept–earns you SERIOUS respect.
- Glaring mistakes usually aren’t the reason some writers don’t get hired back for another freelance writing job. It’s the multiple little ones that bite you in the end.
These are just a few of the things you can use to your advantage…I know most of these seem in the negative, but trust me, a writer who knows what NOT to do is better equipped. You don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to make it as a freelance writer–being dependable, reliable and competent is much preferable. And that’s a dirty secret you should take to heart, too. Talent is good, but dependability trumps talent at almost every turn.