It's time to debunk a very annoying myth: "You can't use Wikipedia as a source of information!" You hear it from university professors, research organizations and anyone else that wants you to put some kind of literature together with facts. Pah, I say.
Of course you can use Wikipedia! Just look at all that information sitting there, neatly arranged into sections to make learning quick and easy. The website might insist that it is run by volunteers, but don't be fooled--there are research and writing professionals behind most of Wikipedia's encyclopedia pages.
So what do you do if other sources are tough to find, or you're just short on time?
Open Wikipedia and Read the Page You Were Going to Read Anyway
Go on, just do it. Find the information you need, learn what you needed to learn and write your piece. Easy, right? Great.
The truth is, Wikipedia does a fantastic job of putting together tonnes and tonnes of information that would otherwise take hours to dig up from "reputable publishers." It's almost as if they're a....get this...encyclopedia company. But a better one that updates automatically so you don't have to buy a new set every 5 years. Wow! What an innovative idea!
The "Problem" With Sourcing
There is no actual problem with sourcing, unless you're just writing "Wikipedia" at the bottom of your paper or linking to a specific page. And yes, THAT would be ridiculous.
Here's what you should be doing, using an example I'm currently using:
I wanted to know how many people were living in Rome in the Middle Ages, and Wikipedia was pretty sure it could help me out (it did.) Here's the exact sentence I needed:
Now, there are two ways to use the information you find on a page such as this. In my case, there is no footnote marked for this particular fact. So, I head over to Google and type in the basic information as I've found it:
And then, do some scrolling...and there it is! A "real" source stating the same fact. Hurray! Open it up, double-check it, and go ahead and cite that thing.
Sometimes, it's even easier than that. For example, let's say the fact I wanted to find was actually about the origins of the name of the city itself. Using the same Wikipedia page, the following sentence does just that:
Now, see that tiny little "8" at the end of the sentence? That's what we call a footnote. It leads to the end of the document, where you will find the exact source from which the information came.
Click it, and it leads to this:
That's your source. Cite it. Stop worrying. Finish your project and chill.
Hi friends, it's Homer the Freelancer here!
Recently I happily stumbled upon the page of the lovely Miss Hazel Fluffypants, a freelance writer just like me! We exchanged intermews, and I'd like to share our Q&A with you :) Follow Miss Hazel via her webpage or Facebook for more info!
1. Why did you get into writing?
Well, initially, the keyboard felt warm on my paws. I also intermewed quite a few social media cats in my first year of blogging, fascinated by the community we are not otherwise able to have due to our limited communication infrastructure. We have stories to tell, good stories, and I want to help.
I also love making my readers laugh and feel good at the same time, and as a cat, I am pretty good at it. Sometimes I do goofy things, like when I close the door in your face, or knead you in the pudge, but if you are upset, I will snuggle you, and if you are fixing a broken sink, I will be there, ready to help as if I was a plumber in a previous life.
2. Did you find it difficult to find work due to discrimination against feline writers? I often use my human's name to book jobs.
I just ran into this problem last week! The internet has made us famous because we do so many funny things, like yesterday when I figured out how to get on top of the fridge. Unfortunately, though, some people tend to take our work less seriously, but that's okay. We just have to work twice as hard, and sleep only 22 hours a day instead of the average 25.
3. What is special about your person?
My Pops is the best. He lets me use his keyboard to write and also throws me pieces of my dry food, and I try to catch them. Sometimes I do!
4. My step-sister Minnie Mew is a calico like you, but she is grumpy and won't let me play with her. Can I play with you?
Yes, please! No one plays with me, even though literally everyone plays with me all the time, but I meow as if they don't.
5. What is your favourite thing to write?
Holiday stories! I am working on one right meow for Halloween!
6. Is everything you write on the computer, or do you do a bit of pen-and-paper scribbling once in awhile?
Pawing at a keyboard is more expedient due to my conspicuous lack of thumbs, but I do find it important to use my paws to paw-write things, since it uses the part of the brain associated with the subconscious. If I am stuck on a part of my story, I just paw it out on paper and find the answer was there all along.
7. What is the worst writing job you've ever had?
Hmm, I don't think I have one! I have been lucky to work on some wonderful projects in my short life so far.
Thanks for chatting! Headbonks and purrs to you <3
What's the number one factor that determines whether you will succeed in this industry?
Pitching your freelance writing ideas to editors.
Like it or not, you've got to pitch, pitch, pitch every month and possibly several times a week if you are still trying to hit a more comfortable financial level.
I hate pitching, and you probably do too. It isn't because I lack ideas, but because the process feels so time-consuming and often fruitless. Spending time writing and sending queries - not to mention vetting publishers and trying to find editors' full names to address them personally - is not something a struggling writer feels he or she has time for.
The thing is - this is the only real, proven method to finding work and repeat clients. So? Just get it done.
I prefer to set apart an entire work day for things like pitching, researching publishers and coming up with new query ideas. This way I don't spend the day frustrated at how these important chores are taking away from my "real" writing time.
There's no great secret to pitching, except that once you have the hang of it, it will go more quickly.
Make pitching your freelance writing ideas a part of your routine sooner, rather than later, and you won't regret it!
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There's an episode of Friends that has stuck with me for a long time, in which Rachel is fed up with her waitressing job at Central Perk. She wants to break into the fashion industry, but a lack of formal education or any real job experience means that her horde of poorly-edited resumes has turned up nothing. Joey and Chandler suggest that she quit her current job, and get "The Fear."
"If you quit this job, you then have the motivation to go after a job you really want!"
It makes sense, but like Chandler, you might be "too afraid" to follow this advice.
Here's the thing though: The Fear really works!
When I started freelance writing, I had no reputation and no published content. The Fear of no more spaghetti in the cupboard, no decent cat food in the kitties' dishes, and perhaps no more tiny one-bedroom apartment to shelter us drove me to seek out all kinds of crazy writing opportunities, and work for less than peanuts to make something of myself. I hooked up with an academic writing company and a content farm (the first of which paid better) and eventually chose to work exclusively with the content farm just so that I didn't have to be embarrassed when explaining what kind of work I did. Well, not as embarrassed, anyway.
After a year of working my ass off, making connections and getting things published, I had a decent portfolio and a few extra job offers, though they were extremely underpaid. I took them, because I still needed spaghetti and cat food, but soon I was able to move up into the world of middle-wage content farming! The day I completed my first Scripted post for $24.50, I felt like anything was possible. Sauce to go with my spaghetti! Tuna for the cats! New sheets!
Several years later I am averaging $50 per hour with my writing, and I've moved my furry gang into a 3-bedroom house with a gorgeous enclosed back yard just for them. They eat some of the most nutritious cat food in the world, and I have time to make pizza, bean burgers, curry and all kinds of fun things for dinner. We can afford to use the air conditioner!
Life is good, and it is all thanks to The Fear. Well, several Fears, in fact: working under someone I don't respect; getting up too early in the morning; commuting; doing a job that doesn't matter to me; and being stuck firmly in one location forever.
There are 3 things I've learned that will take your freelance writing career to the next step:
What are you afraid of? Is it enough to make you take the plunge?
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Are you serious about your freelance writing career? I'm going to assume you said "yes." Good! Whether you are a beginner or a relatively successful writer, there are always a few more clever ways to bring in more clients without putting in a great deal of effort. These are my favourite pain-free ways to find new clients and valuable contacts:
Publish Your Own Writer's Website
Mostly, this is about getting your name out there, but it also gives you the chance to solidify your fees and services and prepare a general portfolio. Now, whenever you send queries or letters of introduction, you can easily link to your portfolio and bio without having to rewrite it every time. Easy!
Use an Email Signature
Not only do I regularly share my portfolio page via social media networks, but I also have included it in my email signature. This makes it easy for people to find info on me and my work, and gives them constant opportunities to consider my services and get in touch. Including a link to your website or portfolio with each sent email gives those messages a certain touch of professionalism that is missing otherwise.
Scope Out Twitter
Twitter is a huge hangout for writers, editors and publishers - and they enjoy a good virtual chin-wag or contest. If you aren't already hooked up on Twitter, check it out! Start here to follow The Freelancer Society, and then have a look around. Follow your favourite publishers for insight on future queries, and chat with other writers via #amwriting, #amediting, #pubtip and #querytip.
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50 TRUSTWORTHY AGENCIES AND PUBLISHERS THAT CAN HELP YOU CLAW YOUR WAY TO A SUCCESSFUL FREELANCE WRITING CAREER