Although I have only been freelancing for a short time, I like to think I'm doing pretty well, and I'm very humbled to say that I have had several people tell me I've inspired them! It's really an amazing feeling to have people look up to me and ask me for advice for something this new to me. However, I must be doing something right, so I might as well embrace it!
I get a lot of requests for advice on how to get started freelancing, so I thought I'd do a mini series with my advice on how to do it. There are many different approaches and opinions, so I can only tell you what worked for me and the lessons I've learned. Some of them I've already shared, but I'll be a bit more pointed for the next few posts.
How to get started freelancing, part one: Learn How to Write
I can't stress this enough. I've harped on it before, and I'm going to harp on it again now. If you just want to write for your own enjoyment, it doesn't really matter how well you write--you should just write and get your thoughts on paper and enjoy it. However, if you want people to pay you for your work, you need to give them a product worth paying for. You probably wouldn't pay good money for an amateurish painting and put it on your wall, would you? The writing world is very competitive, and a publisher who has to choose between a poorly written piece and 100 well written ones is not going to go with the poor one just because "it's only fair" (or whatever other justification you can come up with).
Learn how to write. Get some textbooks, manuals or tutorials, read books, take a class. Get the basics down: spelling, grammar, punctuation, logical organization of the work. Read a lot of the type of thing you want to write--whether it's articles about horses, short stories or news items. Get a feel for how they are written and come up with your own style. Figure out what your weak points are and work on them.
Writing is a craft, not a task like flipping burgers. You must learn it well and hone it if you want to be successful.
Now that I've admonished you sufficiently, I'll start talking about how to get work tomorrow.