9 Tips on Being a Paid Freelance Writer

Recently I passed a personal milestone and finished my 1,000th blog entry for the Houston Press over the course of a four-year career. When you throw in print work I do here and for other publications, the total number of articles I've had published ranks closer to 1,200. It's a lot, and I collected a paycheck for every single one of them.

A lot of people ask me how I got into this gig, and I tell them the truth: bullshitted my way in. And while that is 100 percent how it went down, I've learned a lot at the hands of people who really do know what they're doing, and I thought this article might be helpful to aspiring writers who want to break into the world of monetary compensation for writing. At the very least, it will cut down the number of times I get asked this question.

1. Write something: It sounds basic, but a lot of the people who tell me they want to write have absolutely nothing to start from. Write a review of a movie you just saw, or your thoughts on a news story you read. I started with my submission in an essay contest to open for the Misfits. It was good enough for my first gig. Editors want samples to get an idea of your voice and how good you are.

2. Find a place to showcase your writing: You're not likely to walk right into a paying gig. I started off doing CD reviews for Space City Rock, which doesn't pay but netted me lots of free CDs and free tickets to shows. It's easier to break into places that don't pay because they have a hard time finding people. So if you want to be a food critic, find a food blog and ask to guest-spot, or if you're a political junkie, see if one of the millions of political blogs will let you take a stab at something. These are great places to build up a repertoire, and I owe at least some of my current position to a glowing recommendation letter from SCR's Jeremy Hart.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner