Work Experience 27: Freelance Writer
What is a writer?
How do you classify yourself as one?
At what point do you go from writing things down to being a writer?
These are all questions I’ve found myself pondering, ever since I kicked off my 40 40 project last year. Until my first blog post in July I hadn’t really written much since the final academic paper I submitted at uni back in the 90’s, so I wasn’t sure how I’d go putting pen to paper writing in a different style and for a very different audience. In fact, I was really worried about it at the start. After many, many hours spent blogging over the last 10 months (with more to go), I wonder if that means I’m a writer now?
In any case, I recently had the opportunity to test myself by writing an article for Collective Hub’s website about my 40 40 Experience. Collective Hub is a multimedia brand, whose vision is to uplift and empower people to live their lives to their fullest. It covers business, design, technology, social change, fashion, travel, food, film and art.
What did I do?
I initially reached out to the Collective Hub team as I’d read a number of helpful career change articles and advice on their Facebook page and was curious to know if they’d like to share my story with their readers. The response I received was that they were interested in me penning a post for Collective Hub’s website about my work experience adventure, rather than an interview-style article written by them. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was exciting and I was definitely up for the challenge. I also liked the idea of using it as one of my work experience jobs, which Collective Hub were happy for me to do.
The first task I set myself was to read as many of Collective Hub’s articles in the Change category as I could to gauge the length, format and style of writing they typically use. Luckily for me I’d already read a number of their articles so had a pretty good idea of what they might be after. I noticed that the articles are often broken down into short paragraphs under sub-headings or steps. To keep it simple there were two main points I wanted to get across in my article: my reasons for deciding to do 40 work experience jobs, as well as what I’ve found the benefits of work experience to be.
Once I figured that part out I sat down at my computer to get writing, but for some reason found it very difficult to get started. It was my story written by me, so you’d think it’d be easy? Instead because I was writing for a much wider audience and I had to fit a lot of information into a relatively short article, as well as the extra pressure I put on myself to write it well, I felt a bit stumped. After partially writing a first draft which was missing a bit of ‘oomph’, I caught up with my fabulous author friend Ally Blake to see if she had any words of wisdom for me. Her advice was to take readers on an adventure through the article, and intrigue them at the start. Ally said readers will only read on if you’ve given them a question that needs answering, and a thread to tug them to the end. She added that it’s essential to tie the thread up in a neat bow at the end. It really helped me to talk it through and gain a different perspective.
I found it a lot easier to write the article the second time around, as I was looking at it with fresh eyes. After spending much more time on it than I thought it would take, I was finally happy with my article and emailed it to Collective Hub to review. I was asked a couple of follow-up questions via email such as which jobs I enjoyed the most and which ones I might realistically pursue, and my answers replaced the final paragraph in the piece I’d originally submitted (my little bow at the end was perhaps not as neat as I’d thought). I didn’t mind at all though, as I figured the extra information might’ve been of more value to Collective Hub’s readers.
To read the published article in Collective Hub, click here.
What did I learn?
I found that compared to writing for myself, writing for someone else brings extra challenges. It’s important to consider who the audience might be and the style of article that is typical for the publication, but also to ensure you include everything you need to within a strict word limit. I know that I have a lot more to learn about writing. I take far too long to write every article, blog, interview question, email or even Instagram post I’ve ever posted or sent. I check, recheck, edit, cut, paste and change wording so many times for each piece I’ve written, and would love to learn how to cut down on the time it takes. ‘Practice makes perfect’ my mum has always said. Well, it just took me more than half an hour to write this last paragraph so let’s hope she’s right about that ;).