Byte Experts: How to Be a Freelance Writer by Karen Hockney

Posted by Justine Solomons on 29 September 2020, in Byte Experts, News

To tie in with Karen Hockney's members' webinar , How To Become a Successful Freelance Writer, which we'll be running on October 21st 2020.  here are some of her top tips on making it on the page.

So you want to be a successful freelance writer? I don’t blame you – the idea of writing sparkling copy while being in charge of your own earning power, hours and workload is an attractive one especially during times of great job anxiety and lack of workplace security.

After several years spent working at the sharp end of journalism on what we used to call the ‘Fleet Street’ nationals, I branched out into the freelance writing world and I’ve never looked back.

The good news is, there have never been more openings for writers to have work published. The internet has opened up an amazing and diverse choice of specialist websites, digital publications and news gathering sites through to blogs, podcasts and self-publishing portals for new authors. There are also lots of opportunities to ghost-write for people who are leaders in their field but not necessarily great writers.

I used my three decades of experience as a writer, journalist and author to create The Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer and I’m sharing below five of my top tips for crafting a successful and enjoyable career in freelance writing.

Work on your pitching skills. This is how you sell an idea into a publication. Make your pitches polite and brief-ish, laying out the main points clearly and identify any timeline or hook if a piece is to tie in with, say World Cancer Day, a new book being published or a particular event. Only send one pitch per email…commissioners are busy people and don’t want to be blindsided by several ideas at once.

Always do your research. I cannot stress this enough. You simply can’t cut corners here. Whether you’re interviewing a CEO for a marketing article, an influencer about their viral channel or a celebrity about their new TV show, there’s no excuse for a lack of research. This also goes for researching the companies, publications and websites you want to work for. Your subject will be flattered and impressed that you have done your homework before reaching out to them.

Fulfil your deadlines competently. If you’re going to be late filing copy (never advisable but sometimes unavoidable) give your editor or commissioner the heads up in advance. Be the reliable snappy writer who delivers on time or even better, slightly in advance. They’ll remember you - and value you - for it.

Discipline is vital. There’s always something else to distract you if you’re working freelance (dishwasher duty, laundry, Line of Duty even) but planning your day around your paid workload and putting that before the chores is a non-negotiable unless you really enjoy burning the midnight oil and getting four hours sleep.

Join an online writing community. As enjoyable and fulfilling as writing can be, by its very nature it can also be a solitary, sometimes lonely endeavour. There are many online writing communities and groups that you can sign up to, which are the perfect place to find answers to your writing questions and discuss the vagaries of writing life with people who understand what you’re talking about. Bytethebook.com is the perfect example of one such writing community – after all, we all need a little support at times or even someone in the same boat to sound off to! 

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Karen Hockney has three decades of experience as a journalist writing for UK national newspapers and magazines on news, features, entertainment, travel, health, interiors, food, film and music.

She cut her teeth working with Piers Morgan at The Sun and her freelance clients include The Times, The Sunday Times, You Magazine, The Metro, The Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, Radio Times, Heat, Hello, OK, Red and The Telegraph. Karen has had lunch with Nelson Mandela in Cape Town and shared a limo with the Desperate Housewives in Hollywood. She’s dodged verbal bullets from Sir Alan Sugar, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, swapped music tips with Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, raced in the US Bull Run and interviewed street kids targeted by death squads in Colombia.

She has also worked for corporate clients, writing promotional material for Liberty, Disney, FremantleMedia, BBC, ITV, C5, and Talkback Thames and regularly contributes to Sky with online content from location trips abroad.

Karen gave media training to the final live show contestants in the first series of The X Factor. She swapped London for the Cote d'Azur and regularly covers the Cannes Film Festival, the Monte Carlo TV Festival, MIPCOM, MipTv and Cannes Lions festivals.

Her first book Breathing Out is available on Amazon and KDP and her second, The Boy in 7 Billion, was published by Mirror Books.

For more information on Karen please check out her website karenhockneymedia.com.

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