6. Outsource the monkey work.
The “monkey work,” in my mind, is all the administrative stuff that gets in the way of my writing. In all honesty, I shouldn’t be doing that. So I barter to have someone else do it. I hire a work study student from my college. I hire a virtual assistant to do online research, organize data, and perform tons of other administrative support tasks. I bribe my wife with her favorite meal or flowers, or both! Keep your efforts on the things only you can do. Delegate the rest so you can stay productive and take on more high-paying work.
7. Learn the power of NO.
You’re a nice person – I get it. But people will think that because you’re a writer, you love writing, and thus you should love doing any writing they ask you to do, paid or not. Wrong. Shout “no!” to low-paying jobs, to editing your neighbor’s post-apocalyptic nuclear doom novel for free, and to writing copy for your friend’s sister’s dog-washing business website. Try this – the next time you’re at the dentist, tell him that because he loves dentistry so much, you’ll allow him to do your next crown for free. See how that plays out.
8. Always write like a pro.
None of the above tips help much if you don’t have the goods. Re-read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Take some online writing classes via free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Count to 10 and then re-edit emails one bonus time before hitting SEND. Make sure that everything you put out into the world writing-wise advertises your first-rate ability as a wordsmith, even if it’s just an email to a pal, a comment on a colleague’s blog, or a thank-you note to your most recent source for a magazine article.
Keene adds one final note. “Strive to be more professional than the professionals who employ you. Once they realize you write well and with authority on a wide range of subjects,” he says from his experience as both a freelancer and a magazine editor, “they’ll start pitching you ideas versus you pitching them.” That’s a huge shift in your favor.
In short, look and act like you’re a six-figure freelancer, and people will start treating you like one. The dollars won’t be very far behind.
Ryan G. Van Cleave is the author of 20 books, and he runs the Ringling College of Art + Design creative writing program.
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