In this new series for Writer’s Residence, established writers tell us about how they got started and continue to succeed as a professional writer.
Today we talk to the “queen of networking,” Ruth E. Thaler-Carter. Ruth has been writing for pay since high school, and became a fulltime freelance writer and editor in 1985.
There’s no question that Ruth epitomizes “freelance success”. She runs a thriving international writing and editing business out of Rochester, New York, and has numerous awards to her credit, including Communicator of the Year for her contributions to the International Association of Business Communicators.
In addition to writing, Ruth is also an exceptional public speaker and has run seminars on a variety of topics, primarily newsletters and freelancing, but also starting a nonprofit organization and general organizational communications.
Ruth was kind enough to share some of her wisdom about how to succeed as a freelance writer. Read on for Ruth’s thoughts on getting started, staying in business and the importance of networking.
How did you get started as a freelance writer?
I sold my first freelance work while in high school, which was a great lesson in life’s possibilities, and found that freelance work was a lifesaver when I was in one of those “I quit/You’re fired” situations at a full-time job, which was an even better lesson in survival. Freelancing gave me ways to use all my interests and skills while working full-time in jobs that focused only on one topic.
What do you think has been the key to your success?
Topnotch writing skills and a lively interest in the world around me.
What do you like most about being a freelance writer?
The variety in topics I get to write about and people I get to “meet” through my work. And the freedom to work as, when, how much and on what I please!
How do you use your website to promote your writing?
My website serves as both a way to be found for those who haven’t met me or heard of me yet, and an online portfolio for prospective clients, especially those outside my geographic area. I get inquiries from prospective clients thanks to being present on the Internet through my site, and I can point people to it when they want examples of my work – I don’t have to rely on in-person meetings to show clients what kinds of work I’ve done, or that I’m really published as I claim to be.
You are the “queen of networking” – what is the first step writers should take to network with others in their field?
Learn from your colleagues and give back to, as well as get from, them. Networking is a two-way process. People can tell when someone is just trying to use them for personal advancement; don’t be that person! Be visible and active in any organization you join – contribute to its publications, join a committee, participate in a discussion list, etc.
What is your top tip for people who want to get started as a freelance writer?
Never give up!
Thanks to Ruth for this encouraging interview. She is a bounty of advice. If you’re an aspiring freelance writer and would like to learn more, check out Ruth’s nifty guide: Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer.