Getting started as a freelance writer: Books to read

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Years ago I realized I was a good writer. I would say it started in elementary school when my teachers always told me how creative I was. In college, I helped friends edit their papers, and even though my degree was in biology, my first job after college was as an assistant editor.

So it makes sense that I’m pursuing a writing career.

More recently, I’ve figured out that I prefer writing for businesses. I write website content, newsletters, press releases, sales letters, correspondence, brochures, and more. Basically, I’m a freelance commercial writer.

A new freelance writer asked me to recommend some books that helped me get started. There are two that I found particularly useful for commercial writing, and they’re both by the same author.

Peter Bowerman’s books include The Well-Fed Writer and Back for Seconds. The best thing about his books is that they give explicit instructions for building your commercial writing business. It’s not a bunch of, “Look how great I am!”

Peter’s first book, The Well-Fed Writer, is very specific but primarily based on the way Peter built his business. It’s great for learning about an effective business model. When I followed his directions, I definitely made progress.

His second book, Back for Seconds, includes lots of examples from other writers’ experiences. You’ll learn from people from all walks of life who are running their own commercial writing businesses.I also appreciate that Peter responds to his email messages even though he’s clearly very busy. He has a new book coming out soon, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think of it.

In the meantime, if you’re serious about a freelance writing career, grab these books and get to work. I pick them up whenever I need a boost.

16 Responses to “Getting started as a freelance writer: Books to read”

  1. sheet music says:

    I agree, the well-fed writer is an excellent book

    • Theda K. says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think it’s very specific, which I like. I can just follow his directions and the magic happens. Unfortunately, I don’t always follow his directions, since he focuses on cold calling and I really don’t have time during the day to make calls.

      Have you had any success?

  2. Marie D. says:

    Thanks for that list!
    Can I add one? “The anti 9-to-5 guide” by Michelle Goodman.
    Good for anybody who wants to start their own gig, whatever the business.

    Marie D.’s last blog post..Bye Bye 2007

  3. Hi Theda – Well done. Commercial writing can bring in a lot of money.

    And if you’re going to be doing sales letters – it really is worth picking up at least one good copywriting book.

    There are many good ones, but Drayton Bird’s are excellent.

    Catherine Lawson’s last blog post..Are you Making One Of These 6 Fatal Marketing Mistakes?

  4. I read peters second book, what great book. I recommend others to read it.

  5. Triphow Ling says:

    Haven’t read the book, and I don’t think I’m going to, to be frank. Good title, though. Well fed writer. Now that’s one thing I’d like to see…The only writer who is well fed today is J.K. Rowling – Over-fed, maybe. The writers’ strike has left most of the others rather under nourished…

    Anyway, hope your writing is going well, Theda.

    • Theda K. says:

      Hi Triphow, you should take a look at it if you’re in a library one day. His premise is that you can make decent money writing for businesses, rather than for magazines or books. I charge my clients between $50 and $75 per hour, so I definitely see the potential if I just did better marketing.

      I haven’t looked into the writers’ strike, but I’ll try to find out more about it. I thought they were mostly script writers, rather than PR/marketing writers.

      My writing may be on hold for now. My lack of marketing has led to a lack of clients, and therefore a lack of money, so I’m looking for a day job again.

  6. Groove Momma says:

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve been talking about starting a writing business without acting on it, but this is the year I will put some real work into it.

    BTW, I love your blog!

    Groove Momma’s last blog post..Slowing Down

  7. goyin says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of creative writing and one thing that I’ve learned is that even if you’re someone born without tons of talent, that hard work really does make up for it. Time and energy can be used to sculpt and polish stuff that you write that people will really read and enjoy.

  8. Chris Slaton says:

    I like a book with a strong structure. I am so non- structured, it helps make a good working guide for me.

  9. Book recommendations are helpful, to be sure. My brother is trying to get started as a freelance writer, so I’ll be sure to pass this along to him. However, the big thing seems to be finding places where people want you to write for them. Do you have any good websites for freelance writers? I know the few he’s found have been either kinda shady or he just can’t compete with the almost nothing prices of other people’s bids. Any recommendation on sites would help tons if you get a chance. Thanks. 🙂

  10. Volume500 says:

    Well currently I’m trying to learn about writing newsletters, we try to send it to our subscripts monthly but sometimes I run our of ideas… do you think if reading those books I can do it better?

  11. Thanks for sharing information, I really need to learn how to write… I need to write about 20 newsletters every month about different products and I’m not so sure I do it very well…