Here are some of the great posts on writing I’ve come across this week. Enjoy!
Archives for July 2009
So you lost a gig. Maybe your client felt you weren’t a good fit. Maybe she ran out of funding or maybe it was you who wasn’t feeling the job. Does that mean you should go openly badmouthing your former employer all over Twitter or the forums? Does that mean you should ignore this former clients emails and questions? No. No, it doesn’t.
You may be unhappy with the present circumstances, but burning bridges doesn’t do anyone any good. Before you start talking smack about the people you used to work for, consider this:
5 Reasons Not to Burn Your Bridges
1. Your Client May Be Back in Business One Day
If your client had to let you go or take a break because his funding ran out, that doesn’t mean he has no intention of using you again in the future. That money may begin flowing again soon. By burning your bridges, you’re erasing the possibility of him contacting you once he’s back in a position to hire your services.
2. Your Client May Want to Recommend You to Others
If you did a good job for your client and parted on good terms, she may want to recommend you to others. If she doesn’t trust you anymore, this won’t happen. Every future client has the ability to recommend you to another client or two and so on, don’t blow it by saying or doing things you may regret.
3. You May Need that Client One Day
What happens when you need a job recommendation or testimonial? If you’re bashing your former clients on your blog and it’s not pretty, they’re not going to want to put in a good word for you.
4. No One Wants to Hang Around with Mr. Grumpy
Self explanatory, really.
5. It May Turn Off a Potential Client
Why would any potential client want to hire someone who is indiscreet or saying unkind things about the people he has worked for before? Before you bash a client, keep in mind that words do stay online forever and they can come back to haunt you.
Bad feelings happen, it’s only natural and writing is a good release. Before you fire off angry missives and hit “enter” or “send”, think about what you’re doing and how it will affect your future.
When you burn bridges you’re not hurting your client as much as you’re hurting yourself.
Let me set the scene for you:
It’s currently 12:48 a.m. I’m sitting in a dark living room with the ‘80s Hits station playing retro music, a sleeping baby on the couch next to me, and I’m hunched over a glowing computer screen working on what had better be my final project of the day.
When I started freelancing, I was excited about all the new possibilities my chosen profession was sure to bring. While I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be glamorous, I somehow didn’t envision listening to The Cutting Crew singing “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” while I balanced my laptop on a Boppy pillow and cringed every time a dog barked for fear my toddler would awake and demand to be nursed back to sleep while my deadlines slipped by.
It’s actually pretty amazing how much parenthood informs my freelance writing business. I was elated when my daughter finally learned to nap without being held, because it meant I could sneak in a couple of extra SEO articles a day. That joy was dashed when she went from two naps a day to only one. I’m still grieving the loss of the morning nap.
Even my work environment is arranged around the baby’s needs. Believe me, I’m not sitting here in the dark as Cher laments her inability to turn back time because it’s part of my “process.” In reality, the music helps keep the little one asleep, and turning on the lights would obviously result in a less-than-productive environment when she started wailing from the inconvenience. Heck, I’m actually a little chilly, but I can’t turn off the air conditioner because it’s providing the oh-so-important white noise that makes this late-night writing possible.
I’m even half afraid to get up at the moment for fear of tripping in the dark over Curios George, a sippy cup, or a copy of Hop on Pop. It’s not my safety I’m taking into consideration, mind you, but the fact that stepping on one rogue peg puzzle piece will cause me to yelp and thereby wake Sleeping Beauty.
Don’t get the idea that I’m complaining, though, because I am definitely not. I chose this career for exactly this reason. I make my own hours (even if they do end up being at one o’clock in the morning sometimes) so that I can be with my sweet girl. I didn’t have to ask a boss for time off to take her to her 18-month well-baby visit today; I just did it. Any time I want to, I can ask her what the rooster says (“er-er”) or to hug me tight.
Like Bobby Brown says: It’s my prerogative.
Self editing is an important and often difficult part of writing. Distancing yourself from your own work can be especially tough. Think about it, you’ve poured over the subject, invested time, sweat and even, on occasion, tears into a piece and in the end you have to take a step back and go over ‘your baby’ with a critical eye.
You need time away from your piece to see it with your fresh editor eyes. I like to call this letting an article “marinate.” This marinating time gives you the opportunity to reset your brain and can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. You do need to schedule marinating time in accordance with your deadline. An editor is not going to want to hear about how your piece is late because it’s still in the sauce.
This isn’t the best ecological practice, but printing an article out will go a long way in making sure you catch any errors. It may sound old school, but there is really no substitute for a printed piece and a red pen. I find that longer articles benefit from this style of editing and shorter, blog-style pieces are less likely to need the stroke of the pen.
If the thought of printing out an article just for editing bothers your green sensibilities, simply reuse the paper for something else:
- add it to the shredder and turn it into packing paper for packages or gifts
- keep it on hand for kids drawings and doodles
- use both sides before tossing in the recycle bin
No, I’m not asking you to bust out in your best robot dance routine while editing, though if you do put it on YouTube so I can laugh. I’m actually asking you to leave your emotions at the door. This is vital to editing especially when it comes to hitting your word count. As a writer you can become so attached to your words that you can’t possibly find any place to trim your beautifully crafted work.
It is better for you to do the trimming than your editor because they don’t want to do it. I’ve gotten pretty darn resentful when a writer has sent in 500 words for a 300 word piece and expect me to whittle it down for them. It makes me think that they are either trying to get over, trying to get paid more than I budgeted or they are too lazy to be bothered. In any case I get cranky.
Imagine you’re a woodcarver and you have carved the most beautiful bench for a client. You deliver it proudly and when you see the piece at the homeowner’s housewarming party you’re horrified to find the client has hacked away at the legs with a handsaw because you failed to make the bench within the parameters they gave you. “But the legs were the best part!” you yell in horror. The client shrugs and mentions it just didn’t fit so they cut what they could. Edit to hit your word count so you have more control over what makes the publication.
Self editing requires distance in order to see your words as just words – words that need to be manipulated and perfected to the best of your ability.
How do you distance yourself from your work? Tell us below!
Being a success as a freelance writer isn’t only about being a good writer. It’s about rocking the customer service and being a good communicator. When your clients are happy, they’re less likely to argue over pay increases and more likely to refer you to other potential clients. Here are some tips to help:
5 Rocking Good Business Practices for Freelance Writers
1. Be Flexible:
Good clients are hard to find. I mean, we’ve all had annoying clients and we’ve all had ok clients but model clients are few and far between. Why clients act the way they do is another post for another time, however, it should go without saying that we want our clients to be happy. We especially want our model clients to be happy. This means we have to be a bit flexible.
Being flexible can mean several different things. For instance, we can be flexible with our rates. We don’t want to sell ourselves short but there’s nothing wrong with adjusting our rates to land a desired project or giving a discount on a large project to our good clients.
We can also be flexible with our time now and then by staying up later to talk to an overseas client or meeting a tough deadline. This isn’t to say we should always give in to difficult clients, but being flexible for our good clients is never a bad thing.
2. Say Thank You:
Do you send thank you notes after job interviews? I do. Even if I don’t get the gig I think it’s a good practice. It keeps me on the potential client’s radar as being someone who goes the extra mile.Clients and employers are impressed by good manners and may tuck that thank you away for future reference.
Do you send thank you notes to clients after projects are completed? I do. I thank clients for the opportunity. Again, the good manners stand out. I’m not just someone who takes the money and runs. I thank clients for opportunities and I thank potential clients for their consideration. This is the difference between “save” and “delete”.
3. Follow Up:
Ok. So you finished a project. Now what? Send it in and wait for your check? Well, you could do that. Wouldn’t it be a better practice to send a note to your client to follow up? How did he like the project? Was it to his expectations? Were there any issues? Any tweaks?
Chances are, if there were any changes to be your client would have contacted you, but your following up will win points in your favor. Points that can add up to referrals, recommendations and raises.
4. Don’t Ignore Your Email:
If not tended to regularly email can pile up to become the bane of a writers existence. This can be a mistake if a client or potential client’s email is lost in the shuffle. No one likes to feel ignored. If you’re swamped for time, at least send a “I have received your email. I am not able to respond at the moment, but I will look it over in a couple of hours when I have more time to give it the response it deserves.” This lets the client know you did see his email and will respond, even if it’s not right away.
Clients like freelancers who can work independently, but they also like to feel as if they’re in control – or at least that they know what’s going on. Many freelancers have successful relationships with their clients because they send them a daily or weekly status report. This lets the client know where the freelancer is with the project, if there have been any problems, and if the client needs to send the freelancer more information or tools.
Your client may not respond at all, but receiving periodic updates will offer reassurance that he has selected a mature, responsible freelancer for his task.
It’s all about respect
These things aren’t rocket science, in most cases they’re good manners and good business. It used to be second nature to treat our clients with respect, and make them feel important. Somehow though, we’re losing a little of this.
It’s not enough to land the client, what will you do to keep your client?
The “standard” resume format that most of us are familiar with is the chronological resume. In this style, the job seeker lists his or her previous jobs in reverse chronological order. This may not be the best choice for freelance writers, though.
We may have long-term clients that we work with regularly, a series of short-term projects, or a combination of the two. Using a strict chronological format may not present us in the best way to a potential client, especially if there are gaps in our work history or times that are less busy than others.
Another issue that freelancers can encounter when writing a resume is whether or how to list volunteer writing projects on it. I think that the fact that you worked on the project is what matters, as opposed to whether or how much you were paid for it, but other people feel that work experience should be limited to paid work only.
Enter the functional resume. You can use this style to focus the potential client’s attention on your skills, as opposed to who you have worked for and when you did the work.
You can check out an example of a functional resume here.
When you are writing your own functional resume, you can include sections for the different kinds of writing projects you have done (SEO, web copy, ebooks, ghost writing, press releases, etc.).
Do you use a chronological resume or have you tried a functional style? Do you feel that one is more likely to get you a gig than the other?
I’m not sure the parameters of simultaneous submissions are the same in the music industry as they are in the writing field however, I thought this would be a good example as to why this can be such a sticky subject with editors and writers alike.
In my post Writing Tip of the Day: Simultaneous Query Submissions, I talked about the reasons for editors’ discomfort, why writers have issues with the “ban,” and what writers can do to work within both their editor’s and their own comfort zone.
This week former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson made news voicing her displeasure over her record company’s decision to release her latest album with a song that has the same “beats” as a recently released Beyonce song. Clarkson had received the music from music producer Ryan Tedder, wrote a song – “Already Gone” – around it and didn’t realize that Tedder had given the same music to Beyonce who wrote a song called “Halo.” By the time Clarkson realized the issue, her album was already to print and Beyonce’s had been released. Oops.
Clarkson was understandbly upset realizing that people are more likely to think she copied a successful song, rather than unknowingly used the same music. Editors feel the same way. A lot of work, thought, effort and money goes into producing a publication and if in the same month they release an article that same writer has basically the same piece in a competing magazine it’s a problem.
Check out the Writing Tip of the Day: Simultaneous Query Submissions column to get the ins and outs of the issue and avoid being on the stinging end of an editor’s angry email.
You apply for one or two gigs a month: There’s something to be said for the law of averages. If you’re applying for five or less blog or web writing gigs a month your odds of getting hired are slimmer than the odds of a blogger who gets out there and applies for 20, 30, or more gigs a month.
You apply for lots of gigs but most are totally inappropriate for you: While the above tip about applying for a lot of gigs is good advice, it’s also important to apply for gigs you actually might get. You’re not right for every gig out there. For example if there’s a Mac tech blog gig open and your knowledge base on that topic is minimal, it’s not a good fit. With 500+ applicants applying for that gig besides you, at least 100 of them will likely know more about the topic than you do. Apply for gigs that you’ve got a shot at.
You’ve never blogged or written for the web before: This seems like a given, but so many clients note that people apply for gigs when they’ve never even written their own blog before that I figured I’d mention it. You may be a rockin’ writer but that doesn’t make you a blogger and you’ll be far less likely to get a gig than one of those other applicants who has blogged before. This is easily fixed though – anyone can start a blog.
You think blogging sounds like an easy job to break into: It’s not. There is actually a skill set required to blog well. Blogging isn’t tough once you get the swing of it, but there are lots of little pieces that make up the whole of the gig. I’ve written for print, businesses, and the web; and web writing, in my opinion, is just as much work as other markets if not more so because the face of the market is frequently changing and you have to keep up.
You’re lackadaisical: Looking for writing work is not a passive activity. You can’t simply write a personal blog and expect clients to flock to you based on your brilliant prose. Trust me, in most cases your personal blog just won’t be popular enough to get you noticed. You have to look for gigs. You have to apply for gigs. You have to network. You have to pay attention to those email applications you send out.
You work for free or for pennies all the time: If you don’t think you’re worth paying; if all your resume shows is content sites or article mills that anyone can write for; then why on earth would a client think you’re worth giving a gig to? I’ve had clients ask why they should hire me when other people are willing to work for free and I always say, “You get what you pay for” and guess what – most clients agree. If you’re not confident enough to work for pay, why are you trying to get work as a blogger anyhow? Allow yourself and your time to be worth something or other people won’t take you seriously.
You’ve heard of Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, and all of that, but you can’t be bothered to jump on board: Two years ago, when applying for gigs, I never had potential clients ask me about my background in social networking. Now almost all my potential clients ask about my networking experience. If you’re not on board with some of the major social networking arenas, and at least somewhat versed in the less popular ones, you won’t get jobs as easily.
You spend most of your time whining about the lack of gigs out there: Whining will get you nowhere. No matter how much you whine it won’t change the fact that there are plenty of places out there still hiring writers and bloggers. All you’re doing is wasting time.
You’re too niche specific OR you’re not niche specific enough: Because green is my fave topic, I’ve concentrated most of my efforts on eco-issues for the last five years or so. However, I also stay on top of a few other specialty topics in case I see a job pop open in one of them. I can just as easily write about pregnancy, money or architecture. So, I keep it open but not too open. I think it’s smart to have a somewhat specific niche that you cover a lot because it makes you look like an expert in at least one area. If you claim to be able to write on dozens of topics you don’t look quite as valuable. Most of us don’t have enough time to follow trends and news on five topics, let alone dozens of topics, and following trends and news is an important part of blogging. When I’ve applied for gigs lately most of the potential clients have asked me about current trends and issues in my pet topics – if I was following too many niches, it’d be hard to stay current.
You give up too soon: Most probloggers I know (who blog for clients) have been at it a while. They’ve had ups and downs in the job market and they deal instead of giving up. If blogging isn’t working out, they’ll diversify as they continue to apply for blogging gigs. It can take years to establish yourself in the web writing world, just like it can take years to establish yourself in another writing arena.
Can you think of any other good ways to bomb out when looking for blogging and web writing gigs?
[image via stock.xchng]
Today’s Monday Markets feature a “green magazine” and one geared toward students. The third magazine on the list is published for physicians who are looking to establish or change practices.
From the Web Site:
As the largest independent environmental magazine, with a circulation of 50,000, E serves an important role as the voice for the environmental movement and as a vital information source on national and international coverage of environmental issues. Founded in 1990, E is sponsored by Earth Action Network, a nonprofit organization located in Norwalk, Connecticut. In an attempt to stay consistent with our values and goals, we print our magazine on recycled paper and screen our advertisers carefully.
1. We request that writers send an e-mail (preferred) or written query when first contacting E with a story idea. FAXed queries are acceptable. Please indicate approximate article length and which section of the magazine you are targeting, allowing a three-month lead time. We will contact you on acceptance of an article and assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. Please include writing samples and a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with your submission. We do not send free issues to potential freelancers.?
2. Payment: E pays 30 cents per word upon publication. Please submit an invoice upon acceptance, including your social security or tax ID number.?
3. Articles should be submitted on deadline in typed form (preferably in MS Word) with an approximate word count indicated. E-mail transmissions are preferred, although IBM-compatible disks are also acceptable. Please include a few sentences about yourself for the brief “author bio” we include at the end of many articles.?
4. Articles for E should be written in a journalistic style in order to be easily understood by those not immersed in the environmental movement. Unfamiliar terms, scientific language and jargon should be avoided or explained for the benefit of the lay reader. We are not interested in strident, opinionated writing. We want a balanced tone that will not alienate the casual reader; E is an “advocacy” magazine that aims to broaden the base of the environmental movement, not to preach to the converted.?
5. We are interested in articles dealing with environmental issues, current environmental thought and action, and the dynamics of the movement (see “Section Guidelines” below). We are also interested in articles that explore the connections between environmental and other social change/humanitarian issues. We like articles which suggest ways to become involved and include places to write letters of support or protest, contact names and addresses, resources to tap, etc.?
6. If photos and/or artwork are available, please indicate so in your query. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ANY ART MATERIALS UNTIL THEY ARE REQUESTED. We are not responsible for unsolicited artwork. Rates for images are negotiable.?
7. We reserve the right to edit for grammar, brevity, clarity and tone. We prefer gender-neutral phrasing-i.e., “humankind” instead of “mankind.”
From the Web Site:
KEY CLUB is published two times during the academic year. Two printed issues are mailed to Key Clubs and are also posted on the Web site.
It is the official publication of Key Club International, the largest high school service organization in the world with more than 245,000 members in 28 nations. Members of Kiwanis clubs, who sponsor these youth groups and have an active interest in them, also read the magazine.
Members of Key Club are service-minded students interested in helping others and in making their communities and schools better places in which to live and learn. Because service and leadership is the basis of Key Club, those topics are important to KEY CLUB’s editorial slant. We are looking for general-interest, academic, self-help and service- and leadership-related feature articles that help Key Clubbers become better students and better Key Club members.
Each couple of years, Key Club International develops a Major Emphasis Program around which nearly one article per issue is written. Appropriate articles for this category should offer guidance for Key Clubs and individual members in their efforts to contribute time and service to their communities.
Some of the published articles include “Service’s Profound Perspective,” “How to Follow the Leader,” “Amazing Fund-Raising,” and “Spice Up Your Study Habits.”
Read the magazine before submitting any material. We quickly reject first-person remembrances and single-source stories. We publish articles that are the product of first-hand interviews as well as research in published sources. Writers should substantiate major points in the article with illustrative examples and quotes from persons involved in the subject or qualified to speak about it. We also like to include club members as sources and will help writers obtain those. Authors are encouraged to include anecdotes—real-life or hypothetical scenes—to illustrate the points of the article. After reading the first several paragraphs, the reader should have a good understanding of what the article will address.
Pays $100-$400 for 250-1500 words, on publication.
From the Web Site:
Unique Opportunities® is a national bimonthly magazine for physicians looking for their first or next practice opportunity. Its goal is to educate the reader about how to evaluate career opportunities, negotiate the benefits offered, and plan career moves. It also provides information on the legal and economic aspects of accepting a position.
Unique Opportunities is distributed to 80,000 physicians who are interested in new practice opportunities or who are in their final years of residency.
TYPES OF ARTICLES
Unique Opportunities publishes feature articles that cover the economic, business, and career-related issues of interest to physicians who would like to relocate. Feature articles range in length from 1,500 to 3,500 words.
Submit article ideas via mail or e-mail. The editors prefer to assign articles from queries rather than receive complete article submissions.
Pays $0.50-$0.75 per word within 30 days after publication. UO buys first North American rights.
We get lots of questions from our readers about resumes for freelance writers. Whether you are looking for your first freelance writing gig or you have some experience under your belt, it can be challenging to figure out exactly what to include in your resume.
Your writer’s resume will list your writing experience, and I include other work experience on mine as well. I want the person reading it to get a good idea of who I am and what skills I bring to the table when I’m applying for freelance work. I also want to make sure that I include transferable skills in my resume and cover letter when I’m looking for work.
What are transferable skills? They are ones that you can use in many jobs, and they apply to freelance writing gigs as well. Here are a few transferable skills that you will want to focus on when you are communicating with a potential client:
- Ability to Work Well Under Pressure
- Computer Skills
- Conducting Research
- Problem Solving
You will also want to point out to someone in a position to hire you that you have these desirable skills as well:
- Ability to Follow Instructions
- Attention to Detail
- Good Communication Skills
Freelance writing is more than just stringing a few words together, and you need to tell potential clients about all the skills you bring to the table. It gives them a better idea of who they will we working with when they decide to hire you.
Which transferable skills do you think are most important for freelancers?