Man, it just isn’t easy to be a freelance writer sometimes. Sure, you have the ability to set your own hours and rates. You can work from literally anywhere with an Internet connection and you are your own boss. Plus, if you ever need to take time away you can do so. All in all, it is a good career choice, but it still has its difficulties. [Read more…]
OK so that’s all I got. That’s my splash. Spectacular wasn’t it?
Seriously though, all this labor and angst over finding your “voice” as a writer… does it really have to be so damn hard all the time? (Hint: OF COURSE IT DOESN’T.)
Sorry, was I shouting? Forgive me, it’s all the pent up passion y’know. Wreaks havoc with my social filters.
Anyhoo, you probably already know the usual tips to finding your writing voice and groove, like:
- Write a lot.
- Write a lot more.
- Then write even more. [Read more…]
Writing is a hobby that many enjoy. It allows us to contribute information through our words, touch people’s emotions and even vent our own. We can stir up passion for causes, help others improve their lives, or just pass on a story that has been simmering in our own minds that can be shared with others for their entertainment.
For others it becomes more than a hobby and instead moves into a chosen career. Blogs and websites have made it easier than ever to get that writing out there and make money, where once few opportunities resided. But when it comes to being paid for your work, especially as a freelancer, it can be difficult to find that delicate balance between what you want to write and what you have to.
Creativity can be overshadowed by information, and suddenly, practical work becomes the main focus, where once you had the freedom to explore. This is a difficult time that comes and goes for every writer. It can make it hard to find a flow between paid and personal work. Even more difficult is using both for the same project.
You can get past this block, however. Just try these simple tips to get you back into your flow, so you can find your creative voice no matter what you are working on: [Read more…]
No. Every new writer is afraid of hearing it. Seasoned writers are used to it, but still wouldn’t invite it over for dinner. The good news is there is life and success after being rejected. Sometimes that success comes from the same publication that just rejected you. Why?
Every “no” is not rock solid. In fact, many have a little wiggle room if you look and listen closely.
“Not in this lifetime.” “Hell no.” “Your writing makes me weep for the educational system.” These are firm, but why dwell? Let’s move on…
Not right for us.
Ah, this is a good one. This says the piece or query:
- In its current state doesn’t fit the the publication or site’s theme, audience or editorial direction BUT
- It likely would fit another publication OR
- With some changes it could be just what they need.
Turning “Not a Fit” into the Right Size
Send a follow-up communication to ask how you could change the piece to fit their needs. The follow-up should offer well-researched suggestions. This means going back to analyze the publication or site again. Look for the following:
- Ledes – How do their published articles draw readers into the piece?
- Perspective and tone – Did you match their tone if not, can you adjust your query to reflect their style?
- Numbers and experts – What kinds of sources does the publication typically use? Will concrete statistics build up your pitch?
- Editorial calendar – If you didn’t do it before, check their media kit and see what the publication has planned. Can you adjust your pitch to fit a different issue?
Not Accepting at This Time
Wiggle room! Investigate. Find out if they not accepting a particular type of piece or new work in general? A nice, quick follow-up can make the difference between your pitch never getting published there or simply published later.
Life After Death er, No
- Web – Everyone wants to see their pieces in print, but some articles may find a better home (and longer shelf life) online.
- Trade – What industries would be interested in the information your piece provides? Trade magazines are an often overlooked source of revenue.
- Local – Look around you. Try sending your pitch to local/regional sites and magazines. It may help to adjust your query to demonstrate it’s local angle before you hit ‘send.’
- National – Writers are always advised to start local. Build up clips before going to national sites and publications. It is good advice, but really, there is nothing stopping you from taking that local piece and sending it to a broader market.
No is never the end. It may be a jumping off point for negotiations or an opportunity to move to another market. Look past the closed door to the open window right next to it.
Have you ever turned a ‘no’ into a ‘yes?’ Tell us!
There is perhaps no other topic in the freelance writing world that generates more controversy than the concept of writers writing for free. Bring it up and lines in invisible sand are drawn, commenting spikes and in the case of Harlan Ellison, a few F-bombs are dropped.
It’s understandable. Shady publishers and editors prey on vunerable writers who want to see their names in print. Writers are constantly burned by “write for free now and earn later” promises in which “later” never comes.
However, in the angry buzz of the debate something gets lost. Choice and education. There will always be writers who consider using their talent without traditional compensation. Instead of helping writers make informed decisions, we as a community often take the abstinence-only approach – IT’S WRONG, NEVER DO IT.
Is it really free?
The first step to weighing a work-for-free option is to look at whether the project has any compensation opportunities. Writers work in exchange for items and services all the time. A little web content work in exchange for a new website. A little PR work in exchange for lessons from a yoga studio.
Just be sure that you follow three simple rules when bartering services:
- Set clear boundaries. Define the services you will provide and the services or products you expect in return. This prevents misunderstandings and keeps either party from taking advantage of the “freebie” situation.
- Determine cost. It should be expected that your standard rates are used for services you provide.
- Put it in writing. This is not only helpful for tax and business record purposes, it makes the transaction official and binding.
Is it for the greater good?
Wielding a hammer may not be some people’s idea of how they want to volunteer, but wielding a keyboard may feel just right. Providing writing services to help a charity or organization is a good thing. Sweating over a keyboard or a hot stove both take time and effort and each can be a great help to someone in need.
Are you prepared for the lack of payoff?
Writing for exposure. *Sigh* That’s a tricky one. Certain publications swear by it, but when their blog only reaches 12 people and four of those are family members, the “exposure” doesn’t help a writer one bit. Then you have the Huffington Post model: huge reach and definite opportunities for exposure. However, when the publication makes a deal for a large sum of money, whether it’s for advertising or through the sale of the blog, there will be writers who feel slighted when left out of the monetary windfall.
There is, of course, the possibility that exposure may never come. Before you get into an “exposure” deal,
- Use metrics to define success. How many blog hits, how many subsequent work requests, book sales, etc.
- Recognize and get comfortable with not being able to eat, spend or pay bills with exposure. Exposure has to translate into dollars through other avenues to be successful.
- Have a time limit and exit strategy. Give the exposure enough time to produce results, but have an end date in place if it doesn’t show signs of panning out.
Can you afford to do it?
Whether working in exchange for goods and services, as a volunteer or for “exposure,” carefully weigh the costs of the commitment. There are time costs, including time away from other business-growing opportunities, i.e. querying, working on gigs for other clients, etc. There are also actual costs: electricity, Internet, the standard writing rate… This is one of those tough choices that a writer has to make from a business perspective, especially if the project will be ongoing.
Most of the time I’m against writing for free. It distracts writers from doing things that can both further their careers and enable them to pay bills. Writing for experience can be accomplished while making money – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are, however, situations in which free can work out for writers though they are not as common as “job” listings would have you believe. It’s a personal, business decision that should be made with research and with realistic expectations.
Have you written for “free?” Why or why not? What other things should writers consider when weighing a non-traditional pay option?
Being a freelance writer isn’t an easy gig. Many people wake up on January 1st and after staring at themselves through a hazy fog of cheap champagne and celebratory glitter decide that this would be the year they took the big step and pursue their passion for the written word.
Three months and several rejection letters later they sit alone in their basement home office muttering about being an under appreciated, true artist. Instead of writing for a living, they spend the majority of the day failing at freelancing. Fortunately, after spending a fair amount of time sucking at this job and talking with other writers who have also, at some point sucked, I have found five truisms that should keep you from flunking out of freelance writing:
Freelancing is a J-O-B.
The bunny slippers, the special hours, the inordinate amount of time spent checking email or taking photos of food may make this gig look like a cool excuse for tax write-offs. I assure you, whether you are wearing a bathrobe or a business suit, if you don’t commit to working you won’t eat. Internet currency/street cred/real estate cannot be printed off and used as cash to pay the gas bill. I’ve tried it already.
Real world client interactions rock.
It’s shocking I know, and if you need to take a few moments to compose yourself I understand. There are times where you’ll have to *deep breath* unplug from the Matrix and get out there to find clients. Networking events,
If you never leave the house, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities.
If you want to pick a low-budget, start-up business, freelance writing is the way to go. To start, all you really need is a computer, an internet connection and a printer. However, if you stop there, the freelance writing money wagon will not stop at your door.
Okay, I’m not sure about there being a wagon, it could be an internet rumor like Facebook shutting down. The truth is, if you are unable to communicate with an editor, don’t have a website with links to your work or refuse to get on that Tweety thing or Faceplant you are going to miss opportunities.
You don’t need a fancy website, but you do need a little slice of internet real estate where you can host your clips. The advantage is two fold: many editors don’t open files from people they don’t know which means your query with clips attached may be deleted or shunted to the spam file. Also, you cannot rely on a website to keep your clips live. Saving them as a PDF and uploading them to your website will keep you from losing clips to limited bandwith or upgrading tragedies.
While you’re setting up your site, grab yourself an email account, an IM (instant message) profile and a social media account. If you have to pick one I would start with Twitter. Facebook tends to be more personal, while Twitter allows you to follow people in the industry without being personally connected.
You don’t need a paying client immediately to pay the rent, you have an opening in your schedule. It’s the difference between “Please go out with me, I haven’t had a date in a year” and “I scored two tickets to the game on Saturday, would you like to go with me?” Desperation is a turn-off in both the public and private sector. So don’t announce to Twitter that you need a job. Approach clients/editors privately – dm, email, phone call and let them know you are available.
Do Your Research.
Not a week goes by that I don’t get an email that says “I love/like/tolerate/skim your work on Freelance Writing Jobs, how do I become a freelance writer?” I always wonder why they left a site chock full of info, from a variety of industry professionals, to send me an email.
When I write back I always direct them back to FWJ and include a few of my favorite “Get started links.” I do this not to be an ass, but to give them the opportunity to use their own research skills to find the information that is important to them. Every writer has different goals, pathways and priorities when it comes to this profession. Putting in the time to research the industry boosts a writer’s confidence and affords them an opportunity to personalize their writing journey.
Being a freelance writer isn’t easy, but it is a worthwhile, bankable profession as long as writers keep an eye out for possible pitfalls on the way to writing success. Starting out well and maintaining good habits along the way will hopefully keep you from enduring a suckfest. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. You don’t need to be a starving artist to have a successful writing story. Plus, a rumbling tummy interferes with your inner monologue as you write.
Got any tips on how to stay sucker free? Share them below!
There are some writers that are heads and shoulders above others. They always snag the important gigs and never seem to have a dry spell. What is it about them that makes them so popular? Abundant talent? Insider connections?
Talent will take you far and connections will help you get your foot in the door, but there are three things that, when all else is equal, separate the cream from the watery stuff no one wants.
Star writers are excellent communicators. They keep their editors informed on article development, including any changes or source issues. They are accessible. Emails are returned quickly and phone calls are returned by the next business day. Skype or an IM are just a click away. An editor never has to worry about what’s happening when they work with these rock stars.
These same writers know how to keep in front of editors and clients without being pushy. They follow what publications are doing, drop a line of hello, forward an article someone might be interested in – and not in the same day. They are unforgetable without effort.
Better than any pizza delivery service, rock star writers are always early. Not on time – early. They understand that editors/clients are always facing a huge time crunch. Getting it in early shows that they are on their game and they can be trusted with the big gigs because they manage both their time and the publication’s interests well.
There’s a difference between communication and hand-holding. Rockin’ writers use their problem solving skills and don’t wait for an editor to lead them. They are proactive. If there is a problem with a angle, they keep the editor informed and will give them several options or alternatives.
They are also masters of clean copy. An editor knows with their go-to folks they will get timely work, clean copy and one less migraine.
Talent is incredibly important, contacts can be made fairly easily, but professionalism will keep you in the green long after the wishy-washy Hemmingways and sloppy Stephens are dropped for missed deadlines. Editors and clients want someone dependable and who consistently exceeds their expectations.
How do you knock a client/editor’s socks off?
I get a lot of emails from people seeking freelance writing advice. One letter last week got me thinking about how much time writers waste on queries.
In the email, a new writer asked if I could read his query and tell him why it was rejected and point out any obvious problems. He went on to say he knew he didn’t miss anything because he had worked on nothing else but the query for two weeks.
Two weeks is a long time.
Queries are an important part of writing, especially for writers trying to establish themselves in the field. They should be given care and dilligence, but micromanaging a query is not the best use of your time. Queries are an introduction of yourself and/or your idea to a publication or client. The best ones are those that feel organic, are succinct and specific. When writers over-edit, the result is often long-winded letters that feel rehearsed. Here are three easy ways to get the query letter you want and the productivity you need: [Read more…]
It’s time to put down the cape. It’s also time be honest. Is that ‘to do’ list really doable?
There are still only 24 hours in a day and the majority of our problems with time management involve unrealistic expectations. When you have a daily 20 or 30+ list of items that must be accomplished, you are setting yourself up for failure. The same goes for a list of three time consuming items.
There are three quick ways to tell if your list of action items is too long:
1. Carry over. If you are still finishing Monday’s list on Friday, you’ve got a problem.
2. If you never feel finished, you might have a problem.
3. If you are always in catch-up, grumpy mode, you might have a problem.
So now that the problem has been identified, how do you fix it?
What are you four main goals? You can go micro: four main goals for work, four main goals for family, etc. or you can go macro: four main life goals. Let’s look at Busy Bea’s goals:
Spend more time with family, land more feature articles, work-out more, have more free time.
Before Bea can get the “mores” she wants, she has to check off the items on her list that do not align with her goals. Reducing her email time gives her more time to put into her queries.
See? Not so bad!
Revisit your goals frequently.
When the list gets long, that’s when you have to stop and check your to-do items against your goals. I still have 20+ item days. Still. As recent as last week. That’s why Monday I had a conversation with myself, pulled out my goals list and started crossing things of my to-do’s that didn’t help me reach my goals.
Time management is tough. Each day we struggle to stay focused and to prioritize, but being realistic, setting goals and following them helps. So take off the cape – no need to be Superwriter anywhere but in your prose.
How do you manage your list?
Writers tend to juggle several projects at once, in addition to all of the other things they do during the day – billing, networking, searching for work, living life, etc. There are times when it feels like there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything.
The bad news: there isn’t enough time. The good news: not everything has to be finished today.
One of the craziest things that people do when trying to manage their time is giving each to-do item equal priority.
I’ve talked with friends who have said that everything they do is important. I get it, I like to feel important and busy too, but everything I do throughout the day does not have equal importance. It took me a long time to figure out how to prioritize, but let me spare you the years of bewilderment with three ways to put your priorities in order.
#1 Develop a System
Tornadoes, terror alerts, snow emergencies, they all have one thing in common – set standards that determine which actions to take and when they should be taken. Is that email about dinner as important as the email about accepting a new gig? Is deleting spam as important as editing a piece to make your deadline?
Whether you use color coded Post-Its, numbers or electronic alerts, develop a system that combines standard actions with level of importance. Be careful not to set too many levels. An overly complicated system is ineffective – right, U.S. color-coded terror alert system?
#2 Make a decision.
Trying to figure out where things land within your shiny new system is the toughest part. Start with the obvious items – deadlines, contracts, billing, etc. Then move on to communication items such as research and writing, followed by social networking and follow-ups. Or work backwards – whatever works for you!
#3 Stick with it.
Another thing I have struggled with is implementing a system and sticking with it. It’s one thing to tweak things along the way, but it’s unproductive to scrap the whole thing and start over every couple of weeks. Give your system a chance to work and become a habit.
There are only 24 hours in the day. At some point you have to sleep, spend time with your family and eat. The rest is filled with deadlines and to-do’s. Successful writers figure out what must be done and when to do it.
How do you manage work priorities?