Rhonda’s Rules of Freelance Writing

This is the set of rules that has taken me along a side path of freelancing “small” (just the way I like it) while raising kids and managing a household. I started it all with a paid article for a website almost ten years ago. Through work as a managing editor, magazine columnist, and Chicken Soup contributor — right on in to 2017 as a content creator and influencer — these rules have provided the structure for the kind of work I do.

Writing Rules for Small Success

1. Write down a draft, or at least quick notes, ASAP. This is not particularly new advice; but I’m saying it in my own way. Following a write-worthy experience (and while you’re still filled with emotion and immediate recall), jot down phrases, words, and full sentences that encapsulate how you’re feeling. Don’t leave out the humor. Don’t worry if it sounds weird (it will will you come back to it). This first recording of your experiences is gold. Mine it later for use as a hilarious essay or informative article. Or both.

2. Write at a coffee shop. You’re going to come across literary snobbery from authors who say that people writing at Starbucks are “aspiring” or “would-be” writers doing it to get noticed. Such people have clearly never needed to escape inanimate, yet very real distractions of home management, or animate and even more real distractions of children. One of the reasons I’m an actual writer with freelance work is because I occasionally light out from the house with my laptop in tow and work like mad for hours—uninterrupted.

3. Take responsibility for your continuing education. Print out advice that will help you revise your work effectively and keep it in a folder for easy reference. Save other resources digitally in an app or site. Review it from time to time, check up on and skim new advice that comes out. Once a year or so, take an online class. Read books on the craft: classic books on good writing and books that have been written (and address) the contemporary content needs in a world of social media and content marketing.

4. Don’t be afraid to pitch your work and your ideas. Early on, I got a good gig from a cold-call pitch when I emailed, fearfully, the owners/editors of a new site for moms. The pitch led several well-paid pieces and helped move my portfolio from meager to more. Almost a decade in, I still have to fight doubt and fear.

5. Go above and beyond. I impressed an editor by contacting the kinda famous owner of a well-known site that an interviewee recommended. The site owner got back to me and I included her comments in the piece. Doing more than what is expected is actually a good rule for any type of work. (Thanks, Dad.)

6. Be part of community. A professional network, a critique group (the kind that doesn’t hold back on taking a red pen to your piece), FB pages where writing and other freelancers can share opportunities.

7. Say no, even when it’s discouraging to do so. Because I’m not interested in huge success (and no, I’m not the primary breadwinner over here), I’ve said “no” to work that was good money and could have led to other opportunities.

8. Work hard, and celebrate the small stuff. Writing, improving writing, revising, pitching: it means lots of time and lots of work. Treat it as a job, albeit a flexible one if that’s what you’ve set up for yourself. Want it and enjoy the little successes.