Writing for a living means, by necessity, keeping your eyes constantly glued on your monitor, laptop or tablet for many hours each day. Given the implied risks of having strained eyes, taking the time to treat them nicely can only help you to avoid nasty side effects of eye strain, which is very important for us writers and bloggers. [Read more…]
Everyone has a big idea for a TV show, but only a few of the hundreds of pitches network executives hear will ever make it onto the small screen. In such a competitive market, how do you make your concept stand out from the crowd, and how do you get it in front of the people who can give you a green light? Follow the steps below, and you have a shot at standing out from the crowd.
- Come up with an original idea – Networks have heard the same stories again and again, so make sure you are bringing something new to the table. This may mean creating characters that are quirky and unlike anyone else on television, or tackling a story in a completely new way. You’re not just pitching the idea, but pitching the specific people and situation that the series would be focused on.
- Know your network and your audience – Research is key. Educate yourself on current television trends. Scripted programs are very popular, but you have to understand how shows on AMC have a very different feel to those on MTV. Do your homework on what is working for each network and who their target demographic is, and then decide which networks you are going to pitch to. Be specific in your concept and choose subjects that are marketable to that network.
- Write a treatment – The first step is to put your idea into writing, which is called a “treatment”. A treatment is a one to three page synopsis that states the concept of the show, outlines the main characters, the style of the show and potential story arcs. You should be able to summarize your show idea in only a couple of sentences, which is called a “logline”. The logline should tell the network what the premise of the show is, and what’s unique about it. You will also need a catchy title that will capture the network’s attention. Be creative with word play or known catch-phrases. The title should roll off the tongue and tell you what you are going to be watching. The synopsis is a longer, more detailed show description, outlining what will unfold in brief, powerful points. Revise and refine your pitch. Be efficient and concise with your descriptions yet provide enough information to provoke interest.
- Create a sizzle reel – Many networks now want to see video footage to go with your pitch. This is often called a demo tape or “sizzle reel”. This should be around 2-3 minutes long and should draw in the viewer in the first 10 seconds. It’s important that the sizzle reel is professionally shot and edited. It should show off the essence of the characters, the lifestyle, locations and potential story arcs, and reveal the potential for drama, action and/or humor. If you need help there are production companies that you can hire to help create a professional sizzle reel.
- Get it in front of the right people – If you don’t already have contacts at the networks, you might need to partner up with a production company that has established network relationships. They can connect you with the right people, set up meetings and help you with the pitch. The downside is that they will be expecting a cut of whatever commissions you receive. But this may be the most efficient way to get you in front of the right people, and they may also be able to contribute valuable ideas to your pitch. In order to find the right production company research ones which are already producing shows that are a similar genre to your concept. Call the company and ask to set up a meeting with the head of development, and bring your sizzle reel and treatment. There are also many television conferences and summits which are devoted to industry professionals networking, pitching and exchanging ideas examples, such as Real Screen.
- Time to pitch – It is better to arrange an in-person pitch meeting with a network executive than to correspond by email, that way you know what they are looking for, and what they do and do not like about your pitch. Once you have a meeting set up, go in with confidence and passion. Be prepared to be flexible and take feedback. If the network likes the sizzle, they hopefully will put up money to shoot more, or even order a pilot or episodes. If they have specific ideas, suggest revising your pitch taking into account what was discussed, and resubmitting.
- Follow up – Send a follow up email thanking the executives for their time, and outlining any next steps. If you don’t hear back, or it’s a no, try to keep the relationship going regardless. Once you have a contact at a network, you can go back to them with more ideas in the future. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a yes immediately. Try other networks, keep reaching out to new people and following up. Don’t be afraid to develop new concepts, every pitching scenario will play out differently depending on timing, the players and the project. The more experienced you become at pitching, the more likely you are to succeed. The key is to stay committed and not to give up.
This post is by television producer Joanne Azern, who has written, directed and supervised hundreds of hours of programs for networks such as The Discovery Channel, NBC, MTV, Bravo, the Sundance Channel, National Geographic, Style Network, Travel Channel, and History Channel. You can follow her on Twitter @joanneazern.
- A lack of purpose and passion
- Working a dead-end job
- No one is investing in you
- Insufficient compensation
If you’re feeling any or all of these symptoms, you may be ripe for a change. The launching pad for this monumental shift? A bit of wisdom from Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Whether you’ve freelanced as a side-gig or are just jumping into the ring, taking on a full-time freelance career is not a decision to be made lightly. Full-time corporate employment offers paid time off for vacations, illness and holidays. Medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance are often part of a benefits package. So, too, is a guaranteed minimum income.
So, how do you leave all of that security? How do you transition to freelancing as your main source of income? How do you budget and plan? Very carefully.
Be a Business
Transitioning to full-time freelancing means you are going to be a business all on your own. If freelancing is your main source of income, you can’t be casual about it. You’ll have to start thinking like a business owner, even if your only employee is, well, you. By giving up that secure spot in corporate America, you’ve taken on the following roles (in no particular order):
- Head of Sales & Marketing
- Account Receivable
- Creative Director
- Client Services
- and more.
Are you ready and willing to manage both big and small picture details? Gone are the days of throwing receipts into a shoebox. Here are the days of detailed financial record-keeping. Gone are the days of, “Sorry, just saw this email from two weeks ago.” Here are the days of, “Please see attached for all deliverables due tomorrow. Please contact me with any questions.”
Don’t take this to mean you can expense everything and go on a spending spree to outfit a new office. You have to think about overhead costs, billing cycles, positive cash flow and more. Find a reliable and usable accounting platform. Learn it inside and out. Use it.
Research and apply for credit. American Express has some of the best business credit cards with benefits ranging from purchase protection to flexible payment schedules. Using a card (and paying it off monthly) is a great way to keep business expenses separate from personal expenses. It will make it easier for you to reconcile business expenditures by comparing the statement to your accounting records. You’ll also be building credit for your business. That way, if you’re ever in a position to seek out investors or loans for expansion, you’ll have a credit history.
Set Yourself Up for Success
After years of marching to another’s drum beat, it can be tough to stay productive without oversight. By now, you know what helps and hinders your personal productivity. Does a clean workspace keep you sane? Find and maintain a dedicated and orderly space for your business. Using the kitchen table might seem convenient, until someone spills fruit punch all over a very important piece of paper.
Start with a schedule. Until you’ve found your stride, it’s important to commit to a scheduled workday. It doesn’t have to be eight to five, but you must be fully engaged in work during whatever schedule you choose. Don’t let distractions like daytime television destroy your productivity.
If you need Internet to do your job, do you have a plan at home with adequate bandwidth? What happens if you lose access? Do you have a back-up plan? It wasn’t a big deal when your Netflix was down for a few days, but if your livelihood is resting on reliable email access, that changes things.
Every freelancer wants to be “too busy.” A freelancer’s best problem is having such an overflow of work that turning projects down is necessary. So, how do you get there? You have to make a name for yourself. Relying on a small client base would be nice, but what if the work dries up? Know who you are and what you do. Distill that into an elevator pitch. Imagine this: you run into a friend at a restaurant, and they introduce you to a potential client on the spot. What would you say? Will you have a business card at the ready? You’d better. You don’t have to plaster your face on a billboard like an aspiring realtor. You do need to constantly seek out business opportunities and be ready to pitch yourself at any moment.
Still ready to ditch the suit and forge out on your own? Have fun and stay organized!
This post was written by Amanda Kohn, a bookworm from Phoenix. Although a fashionista at heart, you can find her head in a book or online reading up on the latest headlines. Follow her on Twitter.
There are many reasons why many freelancers choose WordPress for building their portfolio of websites: It’s easy, reliable and flexible (thanks, of course, to plugins). Okay, maybe you will occasionally be told that Tumblr or Blogger is the better choice especially for those looking for a more casual blogging experience. But for the professionals, WordPress always comes out on top — and for good reason, considering the number of features, tools and free plugins you can access to customize and monetize your content. [Read more…]
I’m a writer, not a marketer.
I’ve heard/read that phrase often enough. I’ve even said it myself many times. Writers, they say, have a unique personality in that they want to focus more on getting that jumble of words and ideas in their heads and putting them together in a coherent piece of writing. Whether people read the piece and like it or not is a different matter altogether.
Then guest blogging/guest writing comes into the picture.
The practice has become so popular for many reasons, not the least of which is to market your own content and bolster your brand online. In themselves, there is nothing wrong with content marketing and brand building. That happens in the brick and mortar world as well. But I totally understand why many online writers shy away from the idea of guest blogging.
Some common (negative) reactions are:
- Why should I give my content away for free?
- Why should I spend time and effort in writing for someone else without getting anything back?
- I don’t have time for that.
- I write. I don’t do marketing.
As I said earlier, these reactions are rather understandable. That is not to say, however, that writers should not consider guest blogging.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch!
Here’s my reply to concerns such as giving away your work for free. Guest blogging is not really for free! Sure, you may not get paid your usual $100 per article (I wish!), but compensation comes in other forms. Don’t worry, I am not talking about Craigslist-type nonsense like “the good feeling that you’ve helped someone out”. (Though there is nothing wrong with that in some cases!)
You may be the world’s biggest introvert (I can give you a run for your money, by the way), but if you want to get more writing gigs online, you have to create connections. There really is no way around it, unless you’ve hit the jackpot and you land the dream client, the kind that will give you tons of work regularly for good pay. If you’re like many freelance writers, you have to actively seek out work. And you need connections for that, connections that can be made by engaging in guest blogging.
“Building your brand” is a term that may put you off, but it is also an inherent part of freelance writing online. You want your name to be associated with quality writing, often in a certain niche. Having a web site or blog to showcase your work is one way to do it, but that may not be enough. You have to get the word out there. You have to expose your name – and back it up with proof. That’s what guest blogging can do for you.
Sometimes, you have to get out of your writer’s shell.
Sure, writing is lonely work. I don’t know about you, but I write best when I am alone at home. I can also work at a busy coffee shop, but I do surround myself in a self-imposed, even imaginary shell where I am alone.
However, in order to keep work flowing in, we do have to get out of that shell.
Have I mentioned connections?
Yes, connections are needed. We need to interact with others – potential clients, existing clients, and fellow writers. This is essential for many reasons. We need to keep in touch with the world out there in order to be able to produce relevant and timely pieces. We need to get out there to connect with people who may throw some work our way or people who may serve as inspiration.
Marketing yourself may be part of guest blogging, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Look at the situation from a different perspective, and you won’t fail to see the benefits that guest blogging can give you as an online writer. Give it a go?
About the Author
Jackie is the epitome of the introvert writer, but she pushes her limits as she improves on her craft. She has recently gotten involved in guest blogging services, and recommends fellow online writers to keep an open mind.
A former student of mine graduated with a degree in theater and set off to Hollywood to make her way in her chosen world. She soon learned an interesting twist about the requirements of Hollywood: in order to land a part you need a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card. But in order to have the coveted SAG card, you must have acted in a legitimate production. So in the logic of the glittery world of movies, you can’t get a card until you’ve had a role, and you can’t get a role without having a card first. It’s a vicious cycle! Short of being “discovered”, she was going to have to pay her dues by acting in productions that earned her points towards her card, but were less glamorous than Hollywood.
Writing is very similar. Often, in order to write an article, an editor wants to see clips – or examples of material you’ve published in the past. But, it’s hard to get clips if no one will publish you without them. Just like acting, we writers may have to pay our dues.
For writers, “paying your dues” may mean writing a few articles that either don’t pay or pay in copies (sending you five copies, for example, of their magazine) or contributing to an online site or blog or searching out smaller markets. I have a couple stacks of magazines – copy payments – I don’t necessarily have a use for (other than making my mother proud), but now I have hard copies of clips I can scan and send along with my queries.
Get Those Clips!
So how do you find ideas and potential markets?
- Spend a couple hours at a local bookstore or library scanning the magazine section. Don’t limit yourself to the big names; there are almost as many magazines as there are interests: sports, kayaking, mountain climbing, dogs, cats, biking, literature, cars, farming, cooking, ranching, eco-living, art, etc. Let the magazines and their topics inspire you!
- Be sure to check out local and regional magazines. My first articles were published in a local arts journal and a regional interest publication.
- Writer’s Market is a well-known writer’s resource book. Flip through the thousands of pages of trade journal and magazine listings. Consider people you know who you could interview for articles. A few of my first publications in national magazines were written interviewing a local dog trainer, another came from spending a day with friends who grew organic, heritage potatoes.
- Go on the internet. There are a plethora of online magazines and blogs you can write for – they count as clips too! Many are very open to new writers. Are you a caregiver? Parent? Traveler? Athlete? There are sites for every interest you can think of.
- Look at job boards. They are an excellent resource to find publications, websites and businesses actively seeking writers.
Let your imagination and creative juices flow and come up with great ideas. Mine all your life experiences for topics and ideas – you’ll be amazed to find there is a market for almost anything. Now that you have a file full of ideas and potential publications, it’s time to sit down and write. Start gathering those clips, even if it means writing a few pro bono articles. You won’t have to do that for long. Soon, you will be savoring the satisfaction of producing and seeing your writing in print.
About the Author
Julie Luek is a freelance writer living in the mountains of Colorado and is published in dozens of regional, national and online publications including Farm & Ranch, Dog World, Vibrant Life, Today’s Christian, Colorado Central Magazine, Arts Perspective, Coaching and Athletic Directors and others and is the author of two blogs, A Thought Grows and In Fine Company. She is also a biweekly contributor to the international writing site, She Writes and appears as a guest blogger on sites like WOW (Women on Writing), Author Spaces and others with writer-based content. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter and enjoys supporting the community of writers.
Image via Brandon Giesbrecht
You’re just starting your journey into the world of freelance writing. Maybe you are looking to make it a career, or maybe you are looking to make a little Target, I mean, grocery money while you stay at home with the kids. Either way, that first step can be intimidating. Where do you start looking? How do you approach potential clients? How much time should you spend writing each day? And the questions go on and on.
As you become more and more confident in calling yourself a freelance writer, you will find your own answers to these questions – paving your own way is kind of the nature of the beast. And while I would still consider myself in the paving process, I think there is something to learn from a person who is just starting out. So, check out Lessons on How to Be a Paid Writer, and then read more about the beginning of my freelance career:
The First Steps
Consistent writing started for me when I became pregnant with our first child. I wanted a way to document the pregnancy and share information with family, and, the easiest way to do this was with a blog. In addition to starting my own blog, I began reading other people’s, and I saw how it could become so much more than a diary. So, I started out dabbling in other genres by just writing guest posts for writers I enjoy following. I did this either by responding to requests for guest posts or checking submission guidelines for various sites. This was a low stakes way to get my writing out there and receive feedback from someone who was considering publishing it.
Then, I started looking online for more. I found a few sites and programs that list various opportunities and have good information. Some offer paid positions while others do not. Either way, I consider being published a great way to boost my career.
- Freelance Writer’s Den
- Make a Living Writing
- Freelance Writing Jobs Blog (of course)
- Blogger Link Up
Use Your Talents
A lot of my family and friends know I am an English major and a former teacher. They also know that I edited and helped write papers and resumes in college, so I get a lot of business from recommendations. If someone is in need of a service like that, I usually work out a price with them based on what they need.
Think about what talents you naturally have. Find a way to incorporate that knowledge and make it work for your writing. Are you great at marketing your work? Do you already have a small business you could use as a venue for clients? Do you have specialty knowledge that others might benefit from learning about? Use it. Write it.
My blog and portfolio continued to grow, and I started finding new ways to get my name into the market. I created a LinkedIn account, and I also added a tab to my blog so others could see my work and see what I am capable of. After doing this, I received emails from a few sources asking that I write for their site or publication. This doesn’t happen as often as I go out searching for opportunities though.
When I am hired to write for a publication, I make sure I make use of all of the social media resources I have on hand. I tweet it out, post links to Facebook, pin posts, and have even been known to post to Instagram after writing something my followers might love. By doing this, not only do more people see my writing, but the publications I am working with appreciate the marketing. They are more likely to rehire someone who will tout her work and drive in traffic.
The Bottom Line
If you want to make a liveable salary freelancing, be ready to put in well over 40 hours a week. A lot of it is writing, but a lot of it is searching out and getting the opportunities. If you’re looking to make a little extra cash on the side, check out some of the resources above and start practicing. And, don’t forget subscribe to Freelance Writing Jobs – they have connected me to a lot of work!
About the Author
Jenna Hines is a former HS English teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. She spends her days taking care of her kiddos, creating content for her blog, Call Her Happy, and freelance writing. Find her on Twitter and Facebook or check out her portfolio on LinkedIn.
You have this freelance writing thing down cold. Your writing sparkles with informative content that educates and entertains audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Editors are calling on the hour with request for more work at whatever rate you name. You finally ditch that boring nine to five job and now spend your days with your laptop in that trendy coffee shop where all the cool people hang out.
Wait, that is not what is happening to you? Me neither. However, we are working, and getting paid, so it’s not all that bad.
Speaking of getting paid, you will have to report that income to the IRS. Since you are getting paid as a freelance writer, you are not an employee so you would not get a W-2 like at your regular job, but would get a 1099-MISC. Additionally, your clients will need to report how much they pay you to the IRS if they paid you more than $600. They would use Form 1096 to report all the amounts they paid to freelancers, and would send you a Form 1099-MISC which shows the amount they paid you for the articles you wrote.
The IRS requires that you get these by January 31st every year, so you should receive them in the mail in late January. There are a few things you should do once you receive this from:
- Make sure you did work for the person or company who sent you the form. Keep in mind that the name on the form may be different that who you normally deal with as you may have been dealing with a subsidiary, and the 1099 would have come from the parent. If you didn’t do work for the company or person who sent it to you, the company who sent it to you may be trying to defraud the IRS by over reporting the amount in expenses they had. If you hadn’t done work for them, contact them for an explanation. If you can’t get a satisfactory answer, contact the IRS.
- There is a box labeled RECIPIENT’S Identification Number. Make sure that this is either your social security number or the Employer Identification Number (EIN) you were assigned when you registered your company with the IRS. If it doesn’t match, get in touch with the sender to correct it.
- If you got royalties for your work, these would show in Box 2 of the form.
- You may be subject to something called backup withholding if you did not give a taxpayer identification number to the person or company who paid you. You will have had to have given a W-9 containing this information to the person or company paying you; otherwise you will be subject to backup withholding. Box 4 on the 1099-MISC will show the amount of backup withholding taken from the amount owed to you. If you had backup withholding, check your records to see if you sent them a W-9 with your information. Contact the company if you had sent them the information so they can adjust their records, and send you a corrected 1099-MISC.
- Box 7 will show the amounts paid to you as a writer. This amount will need to be reported on Schedule C of your tax return. Check this amount with your records to see if the amounts tie to what you billed the company. Contact the person or company who sent it to you if there is a difference in what your records say
- Box 11 will show the amount of foreign tax you paid. You may be able to either deduct this or claim it as a credit on your tax return. Box 12 will show to which country the tax was paid.
Dealing with form 1099-MISC is just part of doing business as a writer and is nothing to be nervous about. An understanding of what is on the form will help you to properly report your income on your taxes. If you run into something you don’t understand contact a good accountant, who is always happy to answer questions and help out people who need assistance with tax matters.
In accordance with Circular 230 Treasury Department Regulations, we are required to advise you that any tax advice contained in this article may not be relied upon to avoid penalties under the Internal Revenue Code. If you are interested in a written opinion that can be relied upon to prevent the imposition of tax-related penalties, please contact the author.
About the Author
The author, Chris Peden, CPA, CMA, CFM, has over 15 years of experience with helping people and companies with organizing and making sense of their finance information, as well as meeting their regulatory compliance requirements. He is also available as a freelance blogger if you need an article on finance, accounting or taxes for your blog. He can be reached at [email protected], and his website can be found at http://cmpfinancialconsulting.homestead.com/.
Image via 401(K) 2013
When we think about eBooks, we generally think Kindle, Nook or iPad formatting, which have their own specifications about how the pages and images are laid out. Converting a standard Word document into one of these formats requires properly formatting your Word document first or using a service that handles the formatting and conversion for you.
What is often overlooked by writers is the fact that all of these e-readers can also read files saved in pdf format. There is a formatting option that is as simple as clicking on the “Save As” or the “Export To” function in your word processing software, then selecting the pdf file format and extension. [Read more…]
A recent study conducted by the freelancers’ resource site Elance.com showed a very encouraging trend for the world’s freelancers. According to the survey, which was conducted last September 2012, 57 percent of the 3,000 independent contractors who participated in the study reported an increase in their income, with 67 percent sharing that they expect their income to increase some more in 2013. [Read more…]