Have you ever wondered how some freelance writers seem to shoot to success?
Here’s how it happens.
I know because it happened to me.
Once upon a time (in a decade far far away), I was a starving songwriter living in Los Angeles. Then I entered a couple of essay contests and won them.
The next thing I knew, I was writing features for the L.A. Reader (R.I.P.) and the Los Angeles Times real-estate section.
I was terrified and excited all at the same time. This article-writing thing seemed really fun. And it paid money, a nice change from my songwriting life.
I had no idea what I was doing.
I had been writing prose for about five minutes.
How did I go from there to a six-figure freelance writer?
One word: Mentors.
Two incredibly generous editors at these two publications took me under their wing and taught me how to be a reporter. From scratch.
They liked my writing. They thought I had potential.
I was willing to work my rear end off for cheap, and was thirsty to know
I’d come in the day after a Reader piece of mine came out and say, “I see you changed my lede from this here to that. Why””
He loved that.
When I started, it took me six weeks to write a 600-word feature for the Times. I kept asking if I shouldn’t know more about real estate, maybe be a former Realtor or mortgage broker. I felt really in over my head.
“Perish the thought!” said my editor. “Those people can’t write. You’re funny!”
The Reader editor helped me write a 3,000 word feature for the first time. My first draft was 10,000 words long.
For reasons I’ll never understand, this generous man was willing to show me how to sculpt it into a compelling feature that fit in the paper.
I did mention I had no idea what I was doing, right?
After he helped me and the story came out, I sold a one-year movie-rights option on that story for $10,000. True story. (No, it never did become a movie, darnit.)
Without these two mentors, I might have floundered around for years and years, slowly figuring out how to write an article on my own.
I might have just given up.
Mentors help you keep the faith that you can do this.
Mentors are your career’s rocket fuel.
Ask any successful writer you know how they got started and somewhere in the story, there will be mentors.
If you’re struggling to launch your freelance writing career right now, ask yourself: Where are your mentors?
You need to find knowledgeable people who believe in you and will help you develop as a writer.
They will cut years off your ramp time.
It might be a college writing professor, or a magazine editor, or a marketing manager, or a professional writing coach.
But if you want to speed up this process, get to where you make a living at writing, and cut the agony factor down, you need a mentor.
Looking to launch your freelance writing career in 2012?
Join the Freelance Writers Blast Off 2012 for Newbies on January 17 to learn from two longtime writing professionals how to choose your writing niche, explore potential markets that want your writing, market yourself, and run your freelance business. We now offer three levels of the Blast Off to match your budget: You can audit the course, participate in the webinars, or participate in the webinars and get phone mentoring sessions with Carol and me.