How to break into freelance writing: Part 1

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Graduates of the Australian Writers’ Centre’s freelance writing courses have gone on to have successful careers doing all kinds of writing, from news to magazine features to corporate work. Read on for five tips on breaking into freelance writing.

1. It doesn’t have to be a competition

Brad Kelly, who was a school teacher for 15 years before he made the transition to writing, says getting to know the Australian Writers’ Centre community really helped him on his journey to becoming a freelance writer. 

“So many people out there want to be writers and they don’t really think that it can be done and they can make a living out of it,” Brad says. “But there’s lots of support and there's a sense that there’s lots of work out there for everybody, it’s not competitive. It’s a very supportive environment, that’s been very beneficial for me.”

2. Dyslexia is not a barrier

Catherine Rodie, who came to freelancing after starting a successful motherhood blog while on maternity leave, says she learnt she could succeed as a dyslexic writer. 

“I was told at school I would never be a writer because my spelling was so appalling and I’ve really carried that with me,” she says. “What I’ve found is that the content is the most important thing and yes, I have spelling mistakes, but as long as I get someone to proofread my work first before I file it then the spelling doesn’t have to hold me back.”

3. You don’t need a degree to make money from writing

Emily Joyce, who had been a stay-at-home mother for a few years before becoming a freelance writer, said she’s found making money from writing is open to anyone. 

“A really pleasant surprise to doing the course was being able to make money straight away from writing. Prior to the course, I thought you had to have some kind of official degree and years of training. However, through doing the course with the Australian Writers’ Centre I learned that anyone can write, if they have some tools and can apply themselves.”

4. Everyone can improve and grow as a writer

Gabrielle Martinovich, who had a background in corporate PR, says she’s learnt that everyone can improve as a writer.

“I often did it for work, but you just never know if it’s enough to sort of write a feature article,” she says. “It can be a different skill set. I’ve learned more tricks of the trade, because I’ve worked on the PR side and I was used to pitching media releases. So this feels like it’s sort of the complimentary side of it. It’s been a really good year in consolidating those skills.”

5. Getting your pitch right is key

Part-time freelance writer Jennifer Johnston says an important part of her journey to becoming a paid freelance writer was to learn how to refine her pitches. 

“The way I started my writing journey was approaching local newspapers and getting unpaid writing gigs,” she says. “I was having success with them, but after a while you get a bit frustrated that you can’t move on from an unpaid to a paid gig. I realised afterwards, after having done the course, that it was because my pitches were failing. My approach was not as good as it could have been.”

Freelance writer and part-time lawyer Libby Hakim says targeting her pitches to specific publications was key to getting her byline into print.

“I learnt how to analyse a publication, to really understand the audience that the publication is speaking to and to be able to craft stories to suit the particular magazine or newspaper. I also learnt how feature stories are structured, they may appear quite simple but there’s quite an art to it. And of course I learnt how to approach editors; how do you get an editor to say ‘yes, I want you to write this story for me’.”

For more tips on becoming a freelance writer in Australia, check out our graduates’ success stories, or join one of our Freelance Writing courses

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