Scope of Work
Many freelance writers in the non-fiction sector have quite niche or specialist roles, perhaps writing features for particular magazines or websites which represent particular areas of expertise, or writing biographies of people alive or dead. Work can be regular or intermittent.
What You Need to Learn
General writing skills - grammar, punctuation, sentence structure
Non-fiction writing aids - tools and techniques, layout for different types of publications, use of style templates, vocabulary enrichment
Planning work - working out duration, word count, use of headings, where to put information, what information to use
Organisation skills - when & how to work, time management, goal setting, working to deadlines
Research - understanding your subject material, fact checking, spell checking
Communication - liaising with agents, publishers, editors, interviewing people to gather information
Technical skills - understanding IT, computers and software, publishing platforms, printing, websites
Starting a Career
For some the first inklings of a career in freelance non-fiction writing may begin at school. Perhaps they start by writing reports for a school magazine, or the local scouts or guides club newsletter. Maybe they just enjoy writing their school homework and take pride in the technical side of writing.
Others may develop a liking for non-fiction writing through reading reference books or simply enjoying reading factual information. They may take opportunities to write through part-time jobs they have like writing noticeboard announcements for the newsagent or supermarket.
As their work life unfolds, they are attracted to positions which offer better chances to write and this then leads them to exploring life as a freelance writer.
Some may work as part-time editors to gain exposure to written work and support them towards their main goal of writing for themselves.
Progressing a Career
Since non-fiction freelance writing can be quite specialised, writers need to know their areas of expertise very well if they are to advance. They also have to be aware of different writing styles and how to use them effectively.
This means continuing professional development and there are some excellent ways to do this:
Attend workshops & seminars
Undertake further training
Join writing groups
Join professional bodies which represent your industry interests
Network with other writers
Take educational courses
Although writing can be time-consuming for those with steady contracts, you should always make room for courses. More intensive courses offer better value since you will gain insights from experienced tutors, and you are likely to remember more of what you learn. These days, there are excellent online courses to fulfil this need.