On creating a writer's life

Since my Careershifters’ story was published a couple of weeks ago, I’ve received some lovely messages from people wishing me well.  Some of them also asked questions about writing, the most popular of which were: how did I know if I was any good, how did I have the confidence to charge,  how do I know what to write and what advice would I offer anyone else looking to start a writing career?

As these are also questions I’m often asked at networking meetings, and even by family and friends from time to time, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s blog post to answering them.  So here’s some more about how I’ve created my ‘writer’s life’, for anyone who may be interested!

How did I know if I was any good at writing?

When I first started out as a freelance writer last year, I didn’t have a clue!  All I could do was to throw myself into doing my best, and then people would probably tell me if they thought I was terrible.   At that point I decided I’d have two choices: work on any feedback given until I got it right, or accept I wasn’t very good and find something else to work on instead.

Though if I’m being completely honest, I already knew I was sort-of OK at writing because not only have I been doing it ever since I could hold a pen, I love to write more than (almost) anything else.  What this means is that I’ve been honing my skills for years, from reading everything I could get my hands on from an early age, to writing teenage diaries, blogging for fun, scribbling short stories, completing the first and second drafts of a novel (work continues on the third draft!) and offering up unpaid bits of web copy, articles and press releases to the companies I’ve worked for. 

If you love writing enough that you want to start a career doing just that, you’ve probably got a chequered, largely unpaid history with words just like mine.  This is your training, and together with comments from readers and clients, it’s what will tell you if you’re any good or not.

How did I have the confidence to charge?

The short answer to this is that I’d starve if I didn’t charge properly!  It definitely helped that I’d given up my comfortable HR job to write, because it meant I had no choice but to think about how I was going to charge my clients.  I did some research and set an hourly rate (a very reasonable one if I do say so myself!) from there.

How do I know what to write?

Most of the time, clients will tell me what they want me to write for them.  When I’m writing my own pieces, such as this blog for example, I’ll usually pick an idea that’s occurred to me over the past week or so, write a title and a few notes down and a post is born!   I don’t like wasting ideas, so whenever I think of something that would be a good topic for a post then I’ll open a Word document, write the title and then save it in a ‘Blogs’ folder to come back to later on.

What advice would I offer anyone else looking to start a writing career?

Just read and write as much as you can.  You could start by setting up a personal blog and committing to posting at least once a week, even if it’s just a random collection of musings from your mind!  That will help you build some confidence and commitment, especially if you invite friends and family to follow your blog every week (I did this as I was going through the Careershifters’ course and found it a great help, even though at that point I had no idea what I was going to end the course doing).

Then, get as much feedback as possible on your writing from friends, family and anyone else who might be interested, and be prepared to do a lot of listening and tweaking as you go!

I hope you’ve found all this excessive talking about myself vaguely helpful!  I’m always happy to answer any questions, whether you’d like to ask me about writing for a living or if you want me to write something for you.  Simply get in touch for a chat.