Hey, I’m in the same boat as you are. I love writing, and I want to make some money. Yet there are several faux pas that we commit and here are ways to mend them so that we can do a better job:
(1) We are unrealistic about how much money we ought to make or how much fun it is supposed to be. Often we expect to rake in the dough while having a frolicking good time when in reality this is usually not how it goes. For instance, when I started out at freelancing I was given an assignment for a newspaper that paid $125. I was thrilled and eager to go. Then I realized that to do a good job I needed to do tons of research and make several phone calls. I was making everyone crazy. I was consumed with doing a job that the editor would like. When I e-mailed the article to him I was sure he was going to blast me. The pressure was intense. He liked it, I got my check, but it wasn’t the barrel of laughs that I thought it would be. Besides, if you take into account the hours I spent working on the article, the payoff was not great.
(2) We take only articles that interest us. This is a huge mistake because there are a couple of great advantages to taking the uninteresting pieces: First, there is less competition, so we have a greater likelihood of getting the gig; and second, writing about a subject we do not care for helps us grow at our craft. A while back I took a job writing about golf. I never played golf in my life and to that point I thought that golf was the most boring sport in the world. Took out a couple of books from the library, did some research on the web, and watched some golf on a Sunday afternoon. After the article was published, a friend commented that he had no idea I was so into golf. Little did he know….
(3) We try to sound too fancy. Some writers think that if they do not use long, complicated words, they are not doing a good job. In fact, the opposite is true. Most editors prefer clarity over vocabulary. When I edited my college newspaper I hated when writers threw in words to show off or that forced the reader to grab a dictionary. As a reader, I find it distracting. One writer I know refuses to use the term “she said.” Instead, it’s “she mused,” or “she bemoaned,” or “she averred.” There is nothing wrong with using the word said in all three cases. If you can deliver clear, grammatically-correct prose, you are miles ahead of many writers.