You’ve probably heard about the exciting life of a sports writing career. Maybe you envision traveling from stadium to stadium, hanging out with Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth. Or, maybe you see yourself writing on a beach somewhere, drink in one hand, laptop in the other after interviewing superstar athletes.
Well, I’ve been a sports content writer for almost three years and I’m going to reveal some common myths – what some will tell you – vs. what it’s REALLY like to make your living as a freelance sports writer.
Myth #1 – The dollars will just roll in. Don’t quit your day job, and make sure you have plenty of cash in savings before you decide to go full-time. It takes time to build up a nice arsenal of sports clientele and even if you’re aggressive and well-connected, it still takes time to build credibility, complete the work, market yourself, “do” social media, and write your own blog or newsletter to prove your writing genius. Before you head to the beach or pool with your laptop, do your homework and work out a time line for launching as a full-time sports writer.
Myth #2 – High prices will make your clients respect you. The truth is, you may have to take a Sharpie to a cardboard sign and write, I will work for practically free while I’m getting started. You might have to give away some “freebies” while you’re getting started in order to build your portfolio and credibility. Be strategic about it – you can’t spend all your time giving away all your time – but if you want testimonials and work samples to show your real prospective clients, do some pro bono work here and there. It’ll pay off in the long run and it’s just a way to pay it forward for the favors others have done for you along the way.
Myth #3 – Self-confidence will see you through. Humbug. Some days sheer willpower, determination. and true grit will be the only tools in your toolbox. Some days your self-confidence as a sports writer will soar as your readers praise your work and rave about the wonderful job you’ve done. Other days you’ll want to hide under a blanket and you’ll wonder why you ever decided to do this thing. Inner voices will say, maybe you don’t have any talent. Maybe you’re just fooling yourself. Maybe you should just go and get a regular j-o-b.
Believe me, there WILL be days like that, but as you complete more writing assignments that please your readers and clients, the under-the-blanket days will diminish. In time, you’ll realize that just because someone isn’t happy with your work doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it simply means you need to take a different direction, and at times, it means the client really doesn’t know what he wants.
Myth #4 – The Sports Writing Superheroes can write anything, anywhere, for anyone. We look up to them, we envy the income they tell us they have, and we think they can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Alas, the truth is, they’re only human and they don’t please all their readers all the time. They make statistical mistakes and are sometimes just too brash for their own good. You’ll need to continually build and hone your skills and you might even want to invest in some coaching before you can command higher fees.
Myth # 5 – Develop a niche. While this is true as you progress and your sports writing business matures, the truth is, you’ll want to start out as a generalist. This actually works as an advantage for a beginning sports writer because it helps get your feet wet by diving into many different sports venues. You’ll find that you dread writing about certain topics, while you’re energized by stimulating topics and certain types of sports. You may offer to write a free blog post column to gain some visibility and exposure.
Now that you’re equipped with the truth about what it will REALLY be like as a freelance sports writer, weigh your options and then get started on your dream. When beginning a new entrepreneurial venture, a solid vision for what you want to accomplish is essential.
Keep your feet on the ground, your head out of the clouds, and daily write down the top three tasks that will bring you closer to your goals. Six figures might well be in your future, but today – make it your goal to find one sports venue to write for.
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