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Getting Fired Got Me Started as a Writer
by Lucinda Gunnin

Working full-time, I always had an excuse why my writing was going nowhere. I didn’t have (or make) time to write, I had no desire to research markets, and since I am primarily a non-fiction writer, when was I going to actually do the interviews if I was working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily? I hated my office job. It was mind numbing with rules that made no sense. But I was afraid to take a chance and write.

That changed the day they fired me, for my attitude, no less. Within 24 hours, I had four freelance assignments.

The first week I was unemployed, I grossed $25 more than I had at my previous job and I only worked two days! It helps that I had friends in the industry (news writing) that could hook me up with some quick assignments, but mostly I found the opportunity had been there and I was missing it.

Here are the quick lessons I learned.

1. If you have an idea, query with it! I had been knocking around a story idea in my mind for two years. That week, I had the drive to query the magazine I knew it was perfect for. They don’t normally take unsolicited queries, but I heard back from them within an hour, saying they liked my idea and wanting to discuss. I wasted two years on that idea because I was afraid to ask. The managing editor also told me they had been looking for freelance writers in my area. We are in negotiations now for something more permanent than the one time assignment.

2. Don’t shun the small assignments. My local newspaper pays $45 per story for freelancers. It seemed like pretty low pay for the amount of work some stories take. But they also pay an additional 75 cents per column inch and a set price per photo they use. My husband and I were shocked and delighted to find that my initial four story assignment netted me $180 base for the stories and an additional $245 for story length, sidebars and photos.

3. Set up a schedule, even though you aren’t working for someone else. It was easy for a couple days to sleep in and not get started until noon. Then, I scheduled an interview for 8 one morning and found out how much more I could get done early in the day. Everyone is different, but I find if I reserve from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for checking over my completed stories, checking email and preparing for the day, I get a lot more done.

4. Get business cards. Even if they are plain and cheap, like mine, you need them. Mine were $14 for 500 cards at the local big box stationery store. Everyone I have interviewed has wanted one and several times has passed it on to someone else. I included nothing more than my name, “Freelance Writer”, and my contact information.

5. Don’t be afraid to let everyone you know in on your secret. I called people I knew in marketing to get copywriting assignments, editors for the local papers and even people I barely knew to tell them to keep me in mind when they needed something written. In less than a month, I was consistently making more than I had at my so-called secure job and having much more fun doing it!

Above all else, and this was the hard lesson I had to learn, do it. You can't make your first sale until you actually submit something. Don't let your great ideas wait two years!

© Copyright 2006, Lucinda Gunnin

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