Four Ways Freelancing Improved My Writing and One Way It Didn’t

Behind the Scenes editing

I’ve been a freelance writer for a few years now and one of the best things about it is the fact that freelancing allows me to improve my writing and get paid for the privilege!

Now that I’m in a position to look back and assess how far I’ve come, it’s interesting to note just how many ways in which freelancing has turned me into a better writer.

1. Freelance writing helped me write faster

It’s pointless writing a lot of words if they’re not good words and one of the things freelance writing has taught me is how to churn out a lot of words in a short space of time without compromising on quality. After all, the more I write, the more I can earn and it’s useful to know that if I’m really up against it, I can throw 20,000 words at a page in a day. OK, so I’ll be burnt out and utterly useless for a couple of days after that, but knowing that I have that skill in my back pocket is really useful if a client suddenly needs work yesterday – and if a publishing or submissions deadline is looming, I know that I can hit it if I have to.

2. Freelance writing helped silence the inner critic

One of the problems of being a writer is that it doesn’t matter how many times you hone a piece, it’s never good enough. When you have a client who needs their article or ebook by a certain date, you don’t have the luxury of agonising over every single word. You just have to do the best you can and hope your client is happy. As it stands, it’s very rare for clients to ask for edits when I submit work for approval, which means that I’ve become adept at choosing the right words first time around to achieve the desired effect without constant rewrites.

3. Freelance writing helped me toughen up

Whatever type of writer you are, a thick skin is essential. Just this morning, I received a rejection from a publishing house I’d really hoped would pick up my submission. Not so long ago, that news would have seen me sink deep into the realms of depression, not writing for months because what’s the point when nothing you do is ever good enough?

After years of being turned down for jobs for various reasons, I don’t take rejection so personally any more. Sure, it still stings, but there’s a million and one reasons why you might not get picked up, most of which have little to do with the quality of your work. When I apply for a freelancing job, I might be too expensive (or not expensive enough), too experienced or inexperienced, not have the right ‘voice’, or it might even be that the client doesn’t hire anyone at all. I know that I probably won’t win the majority of jobs I apply for, but I’ll win enough to pay my bills and, more importantly, I’ll get the right client for me. Not all clients are a good fit and that’s OK.

The same principle applies to publishing houses. If I don’t get picked up by one, that’s OK too. It wasn’t the right one for me.

This also extends to editors. I used to hate anyone pointing out that I could have phrased something better or shifted the order of things to make an even  bigger impact. Writing’s such a personal thing, editing was like having someone tell me my baby had big ears. These days, if someone tells me how my work can be improved, I get on and make the improvements, trusting their judgement. I’m lucky enough to work with some fantastic editors and there’s no doubt that being able accept their criticism makes a world of difference.

4. Freelance writing taught me not to be shy

Most writers hate to promote themselves, but these days, self-promotion is essential, regardless of whether you have a publishing contract or not. When I apply to jobs, I have to convince potential clients that I’m the best writer for the job in just a few sentences, which means you can forget about being shy. I have to hit the client right between the eyes with how great and amazing I am and how much they want to hire me.

It’s the same with my own books. I’m not a pushy salesperson and I never will be, but I’m quite happy to mention my book if it comes up in conversation, ask around for speaking opportunities and take every opportunity I can get to market myself. It’s all part of the job.

5. Freelance writing is addictive

There’s one way in which freelance writing hasn’t been so great for my own projects. The problem is that being paid to write is addictive. There’s no better feeling than have a client approve payment for your carefully chosen words and the money that I’ve made from writing has become an integral part of the household budget.

The problem is that when you have bills to pay, paid work takes precedence over creative projects that may never see the light of day. I have plans for a series of books and even a cover already made up for the first one and I haven’t even begun writing it. It’s actually a good thing I got rejected from that publishing house because they wanted completed manuscripts and I’d promised myself I’d finish what I’d already prepared in time for their response should they want to see more.

That was three months ago and I haven’t actually added a single word.

So the plan for this year is to take the time management skills I’ve learned in terms of meeting client deadlines and apply it to my own work. I need to treat myself as if I’m a client and start building a strong portfolio of my own material to take my career to the next level. With a third book for So Vain due to be published in October this year, I’m putting the finishing touches to The Trouble with Secrets and then I’m going to move on to the other ideas I’ve had and finish them off. With everything I’ve gained from freelancing, there’s no reason that I can’t conquer the world with my words by this time next year…

That’s the plan, anyway.

How about you? Are you a freelance writer? Have you found that it’s helped your own writing or hindered it? Are you thinking about going into freelancing and something I’ve said above has convinced you to make the jump? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below!


Film Reviews: 10 Cloverfield Lane and Capture the Flag

10 Cloverfield Lane 2.jpg

Note to self: Stop looking forward to films. You’ll always be disappointed. Sigh.

I was so excited about 10 Cloverfield Lane. I mean, it stars John Goodman, who is always amazing, so that alone was always going to make me want to see it. Then there’s the Cloverfield connection, which I also love. I’d heard good things about it too, things like “you can’t talk about it without spoilers, but it’s brilliant.”

When my husband said he wanted to see it with me, that was the icing on the cake. My husband and I so rarely agree on films that this gave it the double seal of approval. What a shame it failed to deliver.

If you don’t know what it’s about, Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, wakes up in an underground bunker after a car crash. Her leg is strapped up and she’s chained to the wall in a locked room. Why the cuffs were deemed necessary is never explained and they’re not used again, which really set the tone of a film that poses a lot of questions and doesn’t give satisfactory answers to them. I mean, a woman with a bashed up leg is in no position to beat her way out through a thick, locked door, but let’s use cuffs anyway to show that John Goodman is, in fact, a Bad Man, just in case people don’t get the hint right away…

Or is he?

To be fair, John Goodman is amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something where he wasn’t. Howard, his character, built the bunker, and he tells Michelle that there’s been some kind of attack. The only safe place is down in the bunker with him and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) – or is it?

Now, I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but I am going to say that I clearly saw an entirely different film to the critics. (Same as with Deadpool. I heard you gasp, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wasn’t impressed by it at all.) I found it overly long and confused. It didn’t seem to know what kind of film it wanted to be. If it had been a straight forward thriller, it probably wouldn’t have been especially innovative, but I came up with at least three plot twists that could have made it something special, so I’m sure the script writers could have done the same.

But it’s not a straight forward thriller. It’s something else. And unfortunately for me, the final half hour of the film ruined everything that went before, when the film goes in an entirely different direction without enough time to really go into it in depth and clearly leaving things open for a sequel.

If I go into any more detail about what specifically I didn’t like, it will spoil things, so I’m going to leave it there. Suffice to say that I found it really disappointing.

3 out of 5 stars but only because John Goodman deserves a star all of his own

If you liked this, you’ll also like Kiss the Girls and Cloverfield

Capture the flag

I’d promised my youngest son that I’d take him to whichever kid’s movie was playing at the cinema this Easter holiday, which is how I ended up going to see Capture the Flag.

Meh. It’s not the best children’s film I’ve seen recently, but it’s not the worst. It’s your typical family rift healed by kids stowing away on a space ship kind of film. OK, there aren’t that many films like that, but I think you get what I mean. It’s not innovative in any way, mildly amusing rather than laugh out loud hilarious and the characters are predictable clichés.

If you didn’t know anything about it, in a nutshell, Mike Goldwing comes from a family of astronauts. In a nod to the conspiracy theorists’ claim that the moon landing was faked, he becomes sucked into a race to the moon to ‘capture’ the American flag when Texan billionaire, Richard Carson, decides that he’s going to mine the moon and wants to destroy the flag so that he can claim ownership of the moon by rewriting history and being the first person to plant a flag on the moon.

A Spanish film, it lacks the wit and broad family appeal of more successful children’s films such as Up and Big Hero 6, which is a shame, because Spanish cinema is usually incredible. The basic premise isn’t bad, but it seems to lack that distinct flair of originality that elevates an OK film into a great one. 

Still, for all that, my son loved it, so if you’re five, you’ll probably enjoy it.

3 out of 5 stars, but only because I didn’t pay full price to see it.

If you liked this, you’ll also like Space Chimps and Monster House.


And We Have A Winner!

Blog post winner

In the name of being super scientific, I gave each commentator on the giveaway post a number in the order in which they posted. I then used a random number generator to choose a number from the range.

And the winner is… Bec! Please comment below to let me know which book you’d like (or if you’d prefer the short story) and where to send it – I’ll leave the comment hidden so your details won’t be revealed.

Congratulations Bec and watch this space for more competitions in the future.