Are you afraid to pitch an idea because you’re not enough of an expert in the topic? In this video, I share two secrets for getting around that block. Enjoy!Add a Comment
Are you afraid to pitch an idea because you’re not enough of an expert in the topic? In this video, I share two secrets for getting around that block. Enjoy!Add a Comment
“Take action when you’re 80% certain.”
This really resonated with me, because too many writers refuse to take action until they’re 100% sure about it — and so they never do anything, because who’s ever 100% sure about anything? Their ideas languish in file folders, and their half-finished queries sit on their hard drives.
What if you took action when you were only 80% certain?
For example, say you want to call a magazine’s editorial department to double-check an editor’s name, but you’re not quite sure you’ll get a good reception. If you can be just 80% sure that nothing terrible will happen — go for it.
Or you wrote a query letter to your dream magazine, and you can’t seem to stop revising it. Is at least 80% of the way there? Better to send it out at that point than to hold onto it forever.
I understand that 80% is not perfect, but setting that as your goal prevents you from becoming stuck in analysis paralysis — a common problem for writers.
The next idea or query or phone call you have in mind — do it when you’re 80% confident, and then do it again with your next idea (or query, or whatever), and the next. I always say freelancing is a numbers game, so it’s more important that you produce in volume than send out a few perfect things.
Try it and let us know what happens! [lf]Add a Comment
I recently had a writer ask me for tips on coming up with interview questions — and I realized I’ve never done a blog post on this valuable topic!
Interviews are important — they’re where I get most of the information for my articles. So preparing for them and asking the right questions are key. I’ve done thousands of interviews over the last 15 years, and over the years I’ve developed a loose set of rules I follow for each interview. Here are the six key questions I almost always ask:
1. How’s the weather?
I like to loosen up the source — and myself — by asking about the weather in their area, how their holiday went, etc. Sources seem grateful that I don’t just jump in and start asking them the hard questions!
2. Hey, that reminds me of another question… ???
I create a very casual list of basic questions and use these as a guide instead of sticking to the list like glue. Through your initial research you should come up with a few good questions. Use these as a base to riff off of — more questions will come up as you do the interview. It should be more like a conversation than a third degree, as sometimes the best info comes up in response to questions you didn’t know you were going to ask.
3. How do you spell your name?
Always be sure to get the source’s full name (and spelling), credentials (PhD, MD, etc.), phone number and email address (for the fact checker) and mailing address (so you can ask the editor to send the source a copy if the magazine isn’t easily available on the newsstand).
4. Can I ask you a stupid question?
If I’m new to the subject I’m interviewing the source about, I come clean. For example, for a recent interview on the janitorial business, I told the source, “This is my first article for this magazine, and you’re my first interview — so I might ask you some stupid-sounding questions.” He got a laugh out of that, and I got my questions answered. Don’t be afraid to keep asking until you understand a concept!
5. Is there anything I didn’t ask you?
One thing I always like to ask at the end is, “Is there anything you thought I would ask but didn’t?” Sometimes sources prepare for the questions they think you’re going to ask, so you can get more good info this way.
6. Can I contact you again?
At the end I also like to ask, “Is it okay if I email or call you if anything comes up while I’m writing this article?” They ALWAYS say yes, and it helps you become less fearful that you didn’t get everything you need. You can always go back!
How about you: Do you have any great tips for coming up with interview questions? Share them in the Comments below! [lf]
Also, a quick note: I’m booked up with phone mentoring clients for January but have spaces starting in February. If you’re interested, read more details and testimonials on the phone mentoring page!Add a Comment
If you’re like me, every single article you write is a learning experience.
Especially for the large-scale feature-style articles, you put the time in, do the research, conduct the interviews, compile and curate your notes, all before you even manage to put pen to paper. And the entire time, you’re learning.
Maybe it’s a subject you’re totally passionate about. Or, maybe it’s something you’ve never even considered before you got the assignment to write about it. But at this point, you’re a genuine expert.
Now you have two choices: 1) You can hand in your article and move on to the next learning experience without a second glance, or 2) you can capitalize on all that effort and new-found expertise while putting a few extra dollars in your pocket and a few extra credits on your bio.
As a freelance writer smart and ambitious enough to be reading this blog, I’m pretty confident you’re a #2 kind of person.
As an expert in the subject matter at hand, why not make the opportunity to share your knowledge with people who want to hear about it?
Every community has opportunities available for people to speak on various subjects. If your article was for a local market, you probably have the appropriate venues right at your fingertips already. Contact the folks you interviewed, the websites you already visited, and the local organizations those folks are connected to. Even if you don’t have a list of names already in hand, though, the answers are only a Google search away.
Locate local groups, organizations, corporations or non-profits who have some connection to the topic you’ve just written about. Review their website and see if and when they’re meeting, holding an event, or planning a program of some kind. Then, contact the folks in charge and offer your services as a speaker for their function.
Even if they’re not planning anything right now, contact them and offer to develop a speech on the subject at their discretion. Maybe you’ll spur them on to putting an event together.
Another option would be to serve as moderator for a panel discussion or debate on the topic. This could allow some experts from the company or group you’re contacting to join the fun, and offer an added benefit for them to take you up on it.
But I’m speaking in generalities right now. Let’s bring it down to a real-life example of how this really works.
How Does it Really Work?
You’ve just completed a 3000-word feature article about the effects of fracking (a controversial method for harvesting natural gas) for a regional environmental quarterly we’ll call the Smith Valley Greenspace magazine. In the course of researching and writing the article, you’ve learned more about the natural gas industry — and the love/hate relationship it enjoys with environmentalists — than you ever expected to know.
You submit your article to rave reviews. It’s going to print in about four months. In the meantime, you start doing some Google searches for local environmental organizations that may be hosting fundraisers, educational events or seminars in the area. Sure enough, you find three different groups that have events planned over the next six months.
You contact them and let them know you’re a published writer with a feature article coming out soon in the Smith Valley Greenspace quarterly about fracking. One of them is especially impressed, because they happen to subscribe to the SVGQ. But all of them keep listening because that’s an impressive enough fact to warrant their attention.
You then let them know you’re looking forward to their upcoming event, and you get a feel for what kinds of subjects they’re planning to cover. Finally, you make your pitch: “I’d like to speak at your event. I have access to some of the most up-to-date information and sources on fracking, and I think your audience would love to hear about it.”
One of the three already has Al Gore lined up to speak, so you missed it by that much. But two of them are thrilled to have an expert available to speak on such a timely topic, and they ask you what they can do to help.
Why This Makes You More Money
This kind of public speaking isn’t going to earn you big bucks on its own. Generally, if a speaker makes anything for giving the speech or moderating the panel, it’s a small honorarium.
But, far more importantly, speaking on your subject offers you multiple opportunities to market yourself as an expert:
In all these ways, you’re building a platform that consistently brings you up in the minds of others as an expert on this subject.
Now, we all know you were already planning to re-purpose a lot of that research material from the original article into a dozen other related articles for non-competing publications across the nation. How much better do you think your chances of seeing those queries approved will be, now that you’re a recognized expert on the subject, with the audio, video, text and testimonial evidence to prove it?
That’s how this tactic ends up making you more money as a writer: by vastly improving your chances of turning every article into a dozen paying gigs while simultaneously improving your professional reputation in the process.
If you, like many of us, have books in your future, any agent worth their salt is going to tell you to build a platform before pitching a publisher. Sure enough, speaking — even on the small, local level — offers a fantastic opportunity to do just that as well!
So, don’t just sit there! If you’re currently working on a big, meaty article, keep your eyes peeled for speaking opportunities you can exploit. And if you’re not, start trolling your clip file for some huge learning experiences from your past and get yourself out there talking about it!
Justin P Lambert is a freelance content marketing specialist and copywriter with room in his schedule to make your blog sound just as fantastic as this one! Take a glance at the site or hook up on LinkedIn to get acquainted!Add a Comment
If you’re confused about how Twitter and LinkedIn can help you earn more as a freelancer, you’ll want to take part in the Boot Camp from Carol Tice of the Freelance Writers Den, How To use Social Media to Get Freelance Writing Gigs. Here are the details:
Session 1: Overview. I’ll be joining Carol for a baseline training in what social media is all about. We’ll cover what platforms to use, how to behave, how to connect with prospects, what not to do, and how to market effectively. We’ll also cover local/regional social media and how it can be a promotional goldmine.
Session 2: LinkedIn. This platform is the phone book big companies and publications use to find freelancers. Learn how to get found, make an impression, and get hired through LI.
Session 3: Twitter. The hosts will take you step by step through how to create your profile, grab attention, and get gigs — all in 140 characters.
Session 4: Review of students’ LinkedIn & Twitter profiles & activity. Carol is going to critique students’ social media profiles, tweets and LinkedIn status updates in an interactive session that will offer practical, real-time tips for how to market effectively on these platforms.
Right now the cost for non-Den members is just $97 until January 1. After the New year, the price goes up to $197, which is what these Boot Camps normally cost. So if you’re interested, sign up today by clicking on the banner there on the upper left of this post!
I look forward to helping you kick freelance butt in 2013!Add a Comment
Why aren’t you making a living as a freelance writer? In fact, why aren’t you marketing and writing right now?
Whatever ails you — whether you’re afraid or depressed or disorganized — I have posts that will help you, right here on The Renegade Writer.
Read these posts:
Read these posts:
Read these posts:
Read these posts:
That’s all for now…but there are more than 1,000 helpful posts on this blog, so if I didn’t address your problem, please select a category in the drop-down box on the right and browse the archives!
One thing I hear a lot from my mentoring clients is that they’re afraid if they make a misstep in their pitches or how they deal with editors, an editor will put them on a black list and they’ll never get a gig.
Let me tell you something: There is no black list.
What is true is that editors move around a lot, so if you piss of an editor at one publication and she moves to another publication, your chances there are pretty slim. However — and this is a pretty big however — it’s pretty hard to piss of an editor enough that she would remember you, hold a grudge, and tell other editors to put you on the “buzz off” list.
I know of one writer who got into major trouble with a big magazine for selling essentially the same article to two competing magazines at the same time. And guess what? That was several years ago and her career is still going great.
And one time I pulled off a boneheaded move that got me banned by an editor, and, well, my freelance writing career is going gangbusters.
Editors are people, just like you and me. They understand that writers are human and they make mistakes, and that everyone approaches things slightly differently. And keep in mind that an editor’s job is to find good writers and help them turn out the best articles possible. It’s a partnership, not an adversarial relationship.
So rest assured that if your LOI or pitch aren’t perfect or if you have to ask an editor a question about an assignment, or you make a typo in an article — you will not be put on a blacklist.
By the way, if you’re interested in becoming one of my mentoring clients, I have three spaces open for new clients starting in January 2013. Check out the Mentoring page to read testimonials, get more details, and sign up.Add a Comment
The world is flat, asserts Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times‘ Foreign Affairs columnist and the author of the bestselling book by the same name. Never before in the history of the world have opportunities been distributed so evenly between people of colors, countries and gender. This is certainly true in freelancing. You could live anywhere in the world, never have stepped foot in New York City, but still have a fantastic career writing for some of the most respected names in the business.
I know of what I speak. I started my career ten years ago from New Delhi, India, writing for small publications around the world, including in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Bahrain, France, Germany, Sweden, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and of course, India. I’ve now lived and worked in four continents and written for The New York Times, Time Magazine, Marie Claire, The Christian Science Monitor, The International Herald Tribune, Ms. magazine, Vogue, Glamour, and many more.
I have also come full cirlce and wound up where I began in India and even today, 95% of my income comes from publications that are based outside of my home country.
Selling work to countries outside your own isn’t just an ego boost (though it can be one when you get fan mail from Malaysia). With editors increasingly demanding more and more rights and your income threatening to dwindle, selling reprints in different countries and non-competing markets can be a fantastic solution. Even if you simply resell your pieces to different markets in various countries, you’ll earn substantially more.
Pitching to a foreign magazine is no different from pitching publications at home. Just be careful of cultural differences though. What works in the West may not necessary be right for, or even acceptable in, the East and vice versa. You can find international publications pretty easily these days. Just enter in keywords of your choice with country names into Google and just watch those babies pop up!
Here are a few more good reasons why you should be writing publications outside your own country.
1. Better pay.
Publications in the US typically pay a lot better than publications in Asia. Publications in Europe typically pay a lot better than publications in the US or Canada. Publications that are in foreign languages will translate your work and pay you for doing no extra work. Publications that are outside of the English-speaking world that need good writers in English will come back to you repeatedly for more work.
There is immense opportunity out there if you’re willing to look, do a bit of legwork, and keep your eyes open for opportunites beyond your newsstand. I get e-mails on a weekly basis from editors in European countries from publications I’ve never heard of asking me to write for them. If I do a good job, repeat work is almost inevitable. And my income has soared as a result. These aren’t the sexy gigs, but they’ll keep you in business.
2. Less competition.
Most writers — new or experienced — will usually look for publications in their own countries to pitch story ideas to. This means that there are editors in about 200+ other countries that may not have regular reporting or analysis from your country. That’s a very fertile market with very little competition.
For instance, I currently write for two construction trade magazines, one in the UK and one in the US. Both pay well, give me regular work, and have no other correspondents based in my country. They’re eager to hear about new developments from my part of the world, and I’m more than happy to provide it. Because I’m the reporter on the ground, I’m the eyes and ears for these publications and hence my relationship with my editors is much more involved and friendly than it would be if I were just another one of a group of writers they hire in their own country. I bring a specific part of the world to them and that’s what makes me stand out.
3. Less legalese.
American writers are often so used to 10-page contracts that will ask for everything but the deed to your house that when a publication doesn’t offer up a written contract or just, you know, wings it, they balk at this idea and think it must be some sort of scam. Sometimes, it is. But in much of Asia, and a lot of Europe, this is the way business is done. “We’re going to buy your article, we’ll have first rights, we’ll pay you £1,000 for it. Deadline is end of this month. Capiche?” How simple is that?
4. Extra income for work already done.
As I alluded to earlier, if you’re smart enough to hold on to your rights (and admittedly, it’s getting harder these days), you have 200+ more opportunities to sell that piece for first rights in specific territories. And that’s just in the English language alone. Then there are translations, audio rights, all sorts of rewriting opportunites, and don’t forget reslanting that information.
You’re obviously not going to go all that far with each piece — you chose this career because you found it exciting to write and report new things, after all — but even if you follow up on 1 percent of those opportunities, you’ll have a better income and more credits.
How do you get paid by all these publications? Wire transfer is my method of choice, but checks should work, too. Paypal works. Talk about tax with European publications — some like to deduct at source, which means they might lop off a third of your paycheck before it even gets to you even though you’re not paying tax in that country. You can get that money back, but it’s a headache. So discuss these things beforehand so there are no nasty surprises.
5. Higher readership.
If you’re looking to sell e-books or products from your own website, bringing international readers into your fold can substantially increase your readership and your market.
And why just e-books? You might end up selling international rights to your paperbacks, Kindle versions are now available all over the world, and Friedman’s flat world is especially becoming a reality in publishing where readers have always been open to new ideas, new authors, new cultures.
By consciously making an effort to include international readers in your work, you make fans for life. And how do you find these readers? By publishing in newspapers, magazines, and websites in their countries, of course.
6. Short lead times.
You know the women’s magazine that has been sitting on your FOB for about six months and has just now slated the piece for March next year? That doesn’t usually happen with non-US publications. Lead times around the world are far, far shorter than those for US magazines, so if you’re looking to beef up your resume with a few quick clips and credits, look to publications in Asia, where the lead time is the shortest I’ve ever seen. There — I think I just answered the age-old question of “How do I get published quickly?” that every new writer seems to ask. Tell me you don’t love me.
7. Makes you an expert.
Writing for international markets is a fantastic way of becoming a specialist in a certain topic. Say you’re an IT expert. If you can say you’ve been published in IT magazines around the world (or in X number of countries), that immediately lends you credibility and boosts your perceived experience on the topic. This, in turn, brings you more opportunities for speaking, presenting, teaching, and, of course, more writing. So if you write because you’re a specialist in a certain subject (or have a book out on a specific topic), writing internationally can be the key that unlocks many potential opportunties.
How about you? Do you regularly publish outside your country? Do you have any additional tips to add to the Comments?
Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, Time magazine, The International Herald Tribune, Marie Claire, Ms., Elle, and hundreds of other national and international publications. Check out her tips for writers on her blog and connect with her on Twitter or Facebook. She’d love to hear from you.Add a Comment
When you’re a new writer and you get your first assignment, you first want to do the happy dance — and then you want to wet yourself in fear that you now need to actually produce a publishable article.
A lot of mentoring clients ask me to describe my methods for writing an article. So — here you go!
1. Write in your head.
I think about my assignments during down times, like when I’m taking a shower or driving in the car. It’s a habit — it’s become automatic for me. Then, when I sit down to write the article, a lot of it is already written in my head. I may have an idea for a lede or a kicker (that’s the end of your article), or I may have thought about what information from my research and interviews I want to include and what I want to leave out.
2. Draft an outline.
Don’t freak — I don’t mean that you have to write a detailed outline with all the letters and numbers like you did for high school essays.
For me, outlining is as simple as jotting down the subheds I think I’d like in the article, in the order in which they’ll appear. Even writing a quickie outline will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all the research you’ve done. You now have an idea of what you need and what you don’t.
3. Divide it up.
If you’ve written a quick outline, divide up your word count among the sections, making sure you save words for your lede and kicker. For example, if I’m writing a 2,000-word article with 4 sections, I know I have about 450 words per section, which gives me 200 words for the beginning and conclusion. This keeps me from overwriting, and it’s a lot easier to write to length when you’re looking at chunks of 500 words (or whatever) instead of an entire article.
4. Read your notes.
I like to quickly read over all my research and interview transcriptions before starting just to refresh my memory on the main points. Then, I start writing from my head, without looking at the notes. If there’s anything I forget, I mark that spot in the article with a TK (journalism parlance for “to come”) and fill it in later.
5. Use the notes.
I often use the technique I outlined in My Trick for Writing Difficult Articles. In short, I go through each of the interview transcriptions, pull out the best quotes, and plop them into the right sections in the article. Then, I use my mad skills to blend them into the rest of the article, or to paraphrase the quotes if I find the article is becoming too quote-heavy.
6. Make raisin bread.
Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing and the Freelance Writers Den has shared the “raisin bread” technique she learned from a journalist when she was starting out: Think of quotes as the raisins in raisin bread. No raisins, and your bread is dull and bland. Too many, and the bread falls apart. You want to sprinkle in just enough to make the bread tasty and interesting.
7. Edit as you go.
Some people like to blast out a draft and then edit the heck out of it, which is perfectly fine. As for me, I prefer to edit as I go. So I’ll write a paragraph and edit it. I may have a brainstorm and go back to an earlier section and add or delete words there. Then, when I finish the article, I only need to do a quick proofreading before sending it out.
8. Put on the finishing touches.
You’ll definitely need to include a source list, and your editor may also ask you for an annotated copy of the article for the fact checker. More info on those and other end-of-the-article details here.
That’s it! Do you have any super special tips for writing a great article quickly and efficiently? Please post them in the Comments! [lf]Add a Comment
Louise asks: Do I need to bill editors after I turn in an assignment or will they just automatically pay me?
In short, you should send an invoice for all the work you do for any magazine or website.
Some magazines do pay automatically without an invoice, but it’s easier to just send one than to try to figure out who needs an invoice and who doesn’t. Also, having an invoice on file will help you keep track of your accounts receivable, and will give you some backup should you need to go after late payment.
A question that stems from this is when you should send an invoice. New writers are often afraid that an editor will be turned off if the writer sends in an invoice too soon.
I go by gut feeling. If a magazine typically doesn’t request revisions — or if they do but it takes them forever to get back to me — I send the invoice right away. But if the magazine I’m writing for usually gets some revisions back to me in a week or two, I want until I turn those in to invoice because I want to make sure the editor is happy with the article before I bill for it.
Technically, I could invoice everyone as soon as I turn in the article, but it just feels right to wait a bit on those magazines that are quick with edits.
Whatever you choose to do, feel confident in the fact that an editor will not blacklist you for invoicing when you turn in an article. You are a professional, and that’s what professionals do.Add a Comment
You may have been putting off signing up for my Write for Magazines 4-week e-course that’s helped students break into magazines like Woman’s Day, Redbook, Weight Watchers, Writer’s Digest, GRIT, Spirituality & Health, E: The Environmental Magazine, Today’s Parent, Black Health, Women’s Health, Blue Water Sailing, Pizza Today, Graduating Engineer, and more.
The time to sign up is now, because after the January 3 session, I’ll be raising my prices. Other experienced e-course instructors have been telling me I’m charging way too little for the value I offer!
Right now, the Basic version of Write for Magazines with no e-mail support is Pay What You Want, with a minimum of just $30. The Premium class with full e-mail support and assignment critiques is $240. Both versions include two 45-minute group calls where I’ll tell you what to expect, provide motivation, and answer your questions.
If you’re interested in the Premium course, act now — I limit membership to 12 students and I expect it to fill up even faster than usual this time since I’m raising my prices soon. I keep the numbers low in this version of the class because I offer very detailed assignment critiques and can only handle so many!
Let’s get going on your freelance writing goals in 2013!Add a Comment
You know all those books you have on freelance writing? Put them away. Now. Stop reading them immediately. I’ve already read them for you.
I’m one of those people who loves research — perhaps a little too much. You might even call me a research evangelist. So when I embarked on a full-time writing career, I pored over every book I could find on the subject.
And there are a lot of books on freelance writing. Like, dozens. Hundreds. Many are highly recommended. Many are totally irrelevant. A large percentage are just plain boring. But sandwiched in between, you’ll find some overarching themes that can put you on the path to a successful and fulfilling writing career.
I don’t even want to know the amount of money I wasted purchasing books on writing freelance to glean information on inside tips and tricks of the trade. I refuse to delve that deeply into my Amazon.com order history. But there’s a silver lining to all of this. Because I spent weeks of my life reading over 100 books on freelancing, you won’t have to.
Derived from the best books on freelancing, use these 5 tips on being a freelance writer … and regain valuable time to do good work and get paid.
1. Jay-Z is a valuable business coach.
Some of the best advice on freelancing is best summed up in the immortal words of Jay-Z: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”
You may not be wearing a suit and working a 9 to 5 every day, but as a freelance writer, you are a business. And you’d better start acting like one if you want to pay the bills and avoid living in a cardboard box.
This means organizing projects, invoices and payments effectively. As a business, you’re responsible for all the administrative tasks, the bookkeeping, the marketing … and delivering great work to your clients on deadline. It also means sticking to a daily schedule, showering regularly and banning sweatpants from your wardrobe.
The scariest word in the above paragraph for many freelancers is marketing. And yes, marketing your work may require hustling outside of the internet and your home. It may involve attending some initially awkward networking groups. Them’s the breaks.
Putting yourself out there and letting others know about your work doesn’t have to be fake or insincere. Marketing strategies can be as simple as taking a writer or editor you admire to coffee, or sending an e-mail to an editor you’ve worked with in the past saying “thank you.” Attach a sandwich board ad to your dog when taking her for a walk advertising your services. Whatever. Just market!
Once you get over the initial “awkward” feeling, marketing your business becomes much easier down the road. And if you want to be your own boss, marketing isn’t negotiable. You must do it.
2. Do your homework, then do it again.
One of the things I vastly underestimated when jumping into writing full-time was the amount of research. As a freelancer, your research often has nothing to do with fleshing out a story. Before you even think about hitting “send” on an e-mail query to an editor, you’d better have a good handle on the tone, target audience and subject matter of the magazine.
Essential for writer recon missions:
Basics for sending the actual query:
3. Use the force to kick negativity and bitterness in the ass.
A recurring theme in many books on writing, from novelists to magazine editors, is how essential it is to be persistent, take things in stride and remain positive. This is a tough industry, but not an impossible one. That being said, it’s easy to get discouraged along the way, which is a perfectly human reaction sometimes.
Just be wary of those negative inner thoughts dominating your brain. If you don’t keep them in check, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you never accept criticism on your work, it won’t ever get better, and it will limit your career. If you constantly think you aren’t good enough, or that everything is a lost cause, you’ll send out half-baked queries and pitches that never get a response.
Here’s a real life example of how negative thinking can kill your writing (and your career):
Over a year ago, I attended a meeting of a large writer’s organization. The members were primarily fiction authors working on novels. Part of the meeting involved discussing the stress and lack of confidence authors go through after having their manuscripts rejected (or worse yet, ignored).
One participant angrily recounted his ongoing struggle to get his book published. The plot involved a man and his dog. And then the unpublished author was out for blood.
In an extremely unsettling manner, this gentleman proceeded to actually take out hard copies of his rejection notices and dispute each of them on a case by case basis. He finally concluded his tirade, breathing heavily, with this:
“My book clearly wasn’t rejected because of the quality of the writing, but because editors and publishers are idiots and thought a book about a man and his dog wouldn’t sell. Well, look at “Marley and Me”! Look how that did! A bestseller! It’s a movie now! And they think my book isn’t worth publishing! Morons.”
Mr. Bitter-and-rejected didn’t seem to notice that many of us had quietly scooted our chairs away from him and glanced wistfully at the exit doors as he was speaking. And we all made sure not to cut him off as he was leaving the parking lot.
The angry guy at the meeting wasn’t a bad writer, but he wasn’t great, and the rejection letters were right: The book sounded boring. But he’d become so frustrated and bitter that he’d convinced himself the problem wasn’t him, it was everyone else.
If you find yourself doing this, take a step back. Go for a run. Put things in perspective. Don’t become so closed minded and bitter that your work and career suffer. Not to mention that thinking that way will probably make you miserable.
In more practical terms, get out of a negative thinking rut fast for this reason: Budding writers often don’t have great health insurance, and therapy is really expensive.
4. Play games with yourself (in a healthy way).
Rejection sucks, plain and simple. But you know what? Ninety-nine percent of writers get rejected. And I’m not referring to that old anecdote about Dr. Seuss, either. I’m talking about modern authors who went on to write bestselling novels and win awards.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King writes about tacking all of his rejection letters to the wall using a large metal spike (and he notes that he had to replace the spike several times to accommodate the large number of rejections).
David Foster Wallace, one of the most intelligent and talented writers of the past decade, taped all his rejection letters from magazines end on end throughout his office, like a DIY wallpaper project.
King, of course, is a household name. Wallace went on to win a MacArthur Genius Grant, and wrote novels and short stories that many critics consider to be some of the finest in postmodern literature. His books of short stories are largely compilations of essays published by magazines who initially rejected him.
What can humble writers like you and me learn from this? Plenty. Use rejection as inspiration to work harder and harder, like King did. View getting published as winning a game of strategy, as Wallace did. Rejections aren’t a bad thing. They mean you’re trying, and trying is probably more than 75% of the battle.
Jenna Glatzer had some great advice on this in her book Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer. In a section about creating goals, Glatzer suggested creating a goal of receiving 10 rejections. When I first read this, I thought she was nuts. But then I realized what a brilliant suggestion it was. Getting 10 rejections means you’re playing the game, pitching and getting your work out there.
Don’t take rejections or a lack of response personally. Instead, turn it into a game you can win. Inbox filled with rejections? Send out more pitches. Not getting responses? Look over your old queries and see what you can re-work to fit the magazine.
5. Draw on experience, or just stuff you really like.
Before I became a writer, I worked in finance, pretty much two polar opposites. But through reading books on freelancing and finding a niche for my writing, I realized a way to make it work. There’s a big market for financial journalism, business writers and writers who know about mutual funds and hedge funds and estate planning.
If I can bridge the gap between my professional background (the finance industry) and writing, believe me, so can you.
So right off the bat, think of ways your unique background can help you establish street cred with publications and editors. Build that up first. Once you’ve gotten a few good clips under your belt, branch out. Do you love cooking, sports or travel? Write about them.
Writers who write on subjects they enjoy create articles that are engaging and fun to read. Your passion for your subject will shine through. And believe me, there’s a market for everything. Just crack open your copy of the Writer’s Market and browse through the trade magazines section. And then get to work!
Erin O’Neil is a freelance writer and financial journalist in Atlanta, Georgia, and does not live in a cardboard box. You can find her work sprinkled throughout various financial publications and trade magazines, or just visit her website at www.econeil.com.Add a Comment
I wanted you to be the first to get a free copy of Carol Tice’s and my new e-book 13 Ways to Get the Writing Done Faster: 2 Pros Share Their Secrets. To earn well as a freelance writer, you’ve got to be able to crank out your assignments. Learn how to speed up the process and get your writing done quickly from Carol Tice of the Make a Living Writing blog and Linda Formichelli (that’s me!) of The Renegade Writer.
The book will be available gratis on Amazon for five days and then will go back to its regular price — so grab it while it’s free! This is our holiday thanks to our loyal readers.
Also: Write to Done is running their annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest. I’ve won twice in the past and would love to be in the running again — so will you take a few seconds right now to nominate The Renegade Writer blog by leaving a quick comment saying why you like us? Thank you so much!
Here’s to a happy holiday season and a kick-butt writing career!
LindaAdd a Comment
I hear a lot of the same problems from my mentoring clients. They have trouble getting started with marketing, researching, or writing because:
I’m a fix-it type of person. When someone comes to me with a problem, whether they ask me to or not, I want to just — fix it.
So my instinct when I hear these problems — and what I learned in my wellness coaching course — is to delve deep into the issue, find its roots, and fix the issue at its core.
For example, if you’re a perfectionist, we would talk about why you’re a perfectionist. Is it because you’re afraid you’re not good enough as is? Because you’re a person who needs control and order? Then we would tackle those basic issues.
But one thing I’ve learned in my 15 years of freelancing and 4 years of phone mentoring is that all the talking and mental gyrations in the world won’t get you to where you want to be, which is having a career as a well-published writer.
That’s why I advocate the “brute force” method. Or, if you like, you can call it the “suck it up” method:
It doesn’t matter why you’re not writing…you just need to write.
You can write while you’re afraid. You can write — and send something out — if you’re a perfectionist. You can write if you have ADD.
Why not figure out what’s holding you back and try to solve that problem? Because the only way to get past those blocks is to suck it up, do the work — and discover that it’s not that bad after all.
For example, if you have some unnamed fear about writing and sending out pitches, and you just swallow that fear for long enough to write and send a query, you’ll almost definitely discover that nothing bad will happen — and in fact, something good will probably happen, even if it’s just a friendly rejection from an editor at a big-name publication.
It’s only through experience that you grow as a writer — not through thinking, analyzing, and mulling. So the next time you feel stuck,, try to blast past the block even if it’s uncomfortable at first, and see how it helps you realize your freelancing dreams.
How about you…have you ever used brute force to get past a writing block? Let us know in the Comments below!
Let’s pretend for a moment here that your freelance career is a puppy. (Bear with me here. I’m going somewhere with this. Also, you get to choose what kind of puppy it is so it’s not like you’re not getting something out of this.) Puppies are a lot of responsibility and they need a lot of care. But some things are a little higher priority than others. For example, you can buy a really cute collar and groom it regularly, but if you never feed it, your puppy’s future doesn’t look too good.
Marketing your business is like feeding your puppy. If you fail to do it or fail to do it well, your business doesn’t stand a chance. This is why I usually care more about marketing and prospecting than some of the other little things over writers may place importance on. Sure, all that other stuff is important but if I don’t market my business, I might as well close up shop.
Knowing that, I’ve made marketing a priority in my business. I dedicate a good portion of weekly work hours to promoting myself through various methods. I keep a list of business contacts with detailed notes about where I met them and what contact we’ve made. I touch base with prospects several times a year. I have a guest posting editorial plan designed to target the audiences I want to build awareness with.
But there’s a quirky little phenomenon I’ve noticed in my efforts to market my business: marketing karma.
Essentially, it’s the fact that as much as I market myself, I often find new work from unrelated sources. At first, I thought it meant I didn’t need to market at all. Here were all these leads coming from left field. Maybe I didn’t need to do anything at all. So I stopped all efforts. Suddenly, my business (and therefore my bank account) was a ghost town. I figured it was a fluke so I started hitting the streets for work again. Once again, I noticed I was getting bites–just not always where I put my bait.
I’m not the first person to notice this. Peter Bowerman discusses it in his bestselling book The Well-Fed Writer. He talks about learning that if you send a dog out with a receipt book tied to his tail enough times, you’ll eventually get a sale. Over the years, I’ve read several blog posts about marketing karma, too. I’ve talked about it with other freelancers who have experienced it. Recently I converted my friend and fellow freelancer Melissa Breau into a believer as she started her first year of freelancing full time.
Tapping Into Marketing Karma
Karma is often misunderstood. There is this misconception that karma is sort of this universe-driven watchdog, punishing evildoers and rewarding the good. The concept is actually much less black and white than that. In very simplistic terms, everything we do has an effect on this world. What you put out into the world matters because it will affect other things until eventually it comes back to you. This is not a moral law but a law of nature. It is not good or bad. It just is.
Like spiritual karma, marketing karma is not necessarily saying that if you do something good, something good will happen to you. Instead, the energy you spend prospecting will bring leads to you, no matter where you put it. Sounds simple, right? Not always. Here are some things to remember if you want to tap into your marketing karma:
Frequently reassess. Marketing karma is only as strong as your marketing plan. You need to reassess your plans frequently as your goals change. Are you marketing something people actually need or want? Are you really putting as much effort into it as you think you are? Have you re-evaluated your approach to make sure you’re hitting the right targets?
Focus on action instead of results. Often, we try to control the results of our marketing. We want to make sure that each and every person we contact chooses us. But that’s impossible to do. All we can control is what we do and the rest is up to the world. Instead of placing importance on the leads you may get back, focus on putting thoughtful effort into the work of marketing yourself.
Keep an open mind. The biggest hurdle to taking advantage of marketing karma is a closed mind. You have to be open to unexpected opportunity. Things will come out of left field and you have to be prepared to make it work. I’ve gotten well paying jobs that started with random tweets. I could have ignored those tweets but instead I chose to keep an open mind and follow them to work I never thought I’d get.
There are those of you who find this concept too hippy-dippy-sell-me-some-crystals-and-check-my aura-ish to get behind. You’re rolling your eyes so hard that they might fall out of the back of your head right now. That’s ok. You actually don’t have to believe in marketing karma for it to work. It’s just a side effect of marketing your writing business with passion, whether you’re expecting it or not.
Princess Jones is a television addict, reluctant New Yorker, and freelance copywriter–not necessarily in that order. She writes about the ups and downs of freelance life on Diary of a Mad Freelancer. If you’d like to talk more about marketing karma, send her a tweet to @themadfreelancr.
I recently had a mentoring client (who I love…you know I love you, lady!) who told me she’d been thinking about a particular article idea for a week. She’d been to a gift shop in a small town that drew hundreds of visitors every weekend, which is pretty amazing. How could she turn that into an article?
She turned this idea every which way with no success…and it was driving her nuts not to be able to use it!
I’ve seen this a lot: Writers who find an idea and hang onto it like a dog hangs onto a bone. Are you one of them?
Focus on the input, not the output.
My secret to boosting creativity has been to focus on the input, not the output. So, for example, I read widely and try to have different, interesting experiences.
You need to feed your brain so that it has something to work with. If you have enough different input, you’ll come up with inspired combinations.
For example, I was checking out magazine headlines and noticed that certain women’s magazines always had either “diet” or “orgasm” on the cover (or both). I noted this with interest and then let it go, and later it popped into my head: How about an article called “The Better Orgasm Diet,” on foods that boost your libido?
The idea sold to Redbook, and a news station later did a story based on this article.
Go wide, not deep.
in my recent post on what to do with an idea once you have it, I talked about taking one idea and spinning it in different ways to come up with salable angles. This is a great way to take something meh and turn it into a sale.
But if you’re the type of writer who obsesses over coming up with just the right slant, you may want to try going wide instead of deep.
By that I mean, instead of focusing all your attention on one idea and using brute force to spin angles out of it, take in as much information as you can from varied sources and let your subconscious do the work. Again, it’s all about the input.
The image I have of these stuck writers is of them being surrounded by a cloud of great ideas, but having laser-like focus that illuminates only a tiny sliver of the cloud.
Want to go wide? Read magazines from a different part of the newsstand than you normally browse. Pick up a graphic novel (I recommend the Bakuman series). Watch YouTube videos and click on the links for recommended watching.
Don’t worry about gleaning ideas from these sources. Just take them in and let your subconscious do the work.
Take the easy route.
I told my client that she needs to find a sense of ease in her work…which is something my own life coach taught me.
If things happen only with great strain on your part, then you need to find a new way to work. Grasping, straining, and attaching only make your writing work difficult.
What comes easy for you in terms of writing? How can you do more of that and less of what you find difficult? After all, if something is easy for you, you can do more of it faster…the perfect way to earn more as a writer (or in any career).
I asked my client to find ways to become more playful in her work. For example, she plans to buy the classic Whack on the Side of the Head creativity card deck, which offers different exercises to help you get unstuck.
She could also try those old tricks you’ve probably heard of but never tried: brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, take a different route home from work, and so on.
This is all about giving your mind permission to wander and play. It’s during these unstuck moments that inspiration tends to blossom.
How about you: what do you do when you feel stuck on some aspect of your writing career? Let us know in the comments below! [lf]
The best part of being a freelance writer is the freedom to build a writing career that’s wrapped around your specific goals and desires.
Since it’s a process we all take on differently, the best part of being a freelance writer is also the intimidating part.
For example, I’m still adjusting to the freelance lifestyle, so I’m very careful with how I handle sending out query letters. Especially as a new writer still building clips, I know how important queries are in making a good first impression with editors who don’t know me.
While I do research markets for each of my queries, organizing them in tiers based on their pay rate and my desire to break into each market, I’ve yet to send out simultaneous queries. This is something I plan on doing in the future, but for now I want to become more comfortable with the process, giving each pitch and the editor I send it to my full attention.
I’ve customized a query letter “production line” to help ease myself into the process, which as it turns out is also a great way to fend off what I call “rejectionitis”: that deflated feeling a writer gets when they’ve received a “thanks, but no thanks” response from an editor (or no response at all).
Create a stellar query letter for your article idea, and send it to the editor of the magazine you most want to accept it.
Choose a back-up market you’d like to submit your query letter to if your first choice doesn’t accept it.
Customize the query letter to fit your “Plan B” market. When customizing your query, use the following checklist as your guide:
If you receive a rejection from your preferred market, this makes it so that you don’t have time to react to the rejection. Simply send out your “Plan B” query and you’ll be back in anticipation mode.
Repeat the above steps with every query letter you send out, and your pitches will always be out there, patiently waiting to be accepted.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my transition from web designer to writer, it’s that no two writing routines are the same. We all have our own transition to create based on our lifestyle and current work schedule.
Create a routine that works best for you, and you’ll be well on your way to creating the writing career you’ve always wanted.
Do you have a unique writing routine? How is it helping to strengthen your writing skills and build your credentials?
Krissy Brady is the owner of Krissy Media Ink and a markets columnist for WOW! Women on Writing. She runs a blog for writers dedicated to keeping the passion for writing alive. Keep in touch with Krissy on Facebook and Twitter for the latest writing-related information.Add a Comment
Just a quick reminder that my next Write for Magazines 8-week e-course starts this coming Monday, September 3.
This is the course that’s helped writers break into Yankee, Spirituality & Health, Woman’s Day, E: The Environmental Magazine, Washington Parent, Blue Water Sailing, GRIT, and more.
The course will show you how to generate a salable idea, find the perfect markets for it, and craft and send a killer query letter.
For this session I’m offering only the Basic version (with no email support) because I’ll be on vacation for two weeks during the session. The good news? The Basic version is Pay What You Want, with a minimum of just $30. That’s less than $4 per lesson!
Want to boost your freelance writing career? Check out the testimonials, download the FAQ, get more details, and sign up on the Write for Magazines page.
Thanks, and I look forward to helping you break into freelance writing — and earn more!Add a Comment
So we decided to offer the Audits again right now, until August 21.
We normally charge $97 for these classes, but for this session we’re letting you pay whatever you want (with a minimum of $30). (Crazy, I know!)
Here’s a little more detail on what you’ll get:
Do you feel you’re earning less than you should because you didn’t go to journalism school — but you don’t want to shell out $30k to attend?
We heard you — and that’s why we created a course that will help you become a more confident writer – fast – and earn big as a freelancer.
What you’ll get with the 4-Week J-School:
Learn how to match your talents and life experience to lucrative writing assignments.
Discover how to find good-paying clients, pitch them, and get the gig.
Study at your own pace.
Skyrocket your income.
Yeah, I know. That’s not the most grammatically perfect headline you’ve ever read. In fact, I’m sure that my high school English teacher would be rolling her eyes and throwing her hands up in disbelief, thinking she’d taught me better. Bless her heart! Nevertheless, if you’ve read this far, then that horrid headline has done its primary job: getting your attention.
The three power tips in this article are not concerned so much with improving your writing skills as they are with refining your abilities as a writer. Confused yet? There are boatloads of resources out there to turn you into a perfect punctuationalist or a proficient grammaratician. Some are listed below.
However, this article doesn’t deal with syntax and structure, adverbial clauses, comma splices or even the dreaded dangling marsupial, uh, participle. These tips are meant to improve your confidence level as a writer and, consequently, to transform you into a better one.
John Donne, the English clergyman and poet, wrote this about the human condition in his work, Meditation XVII:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less . . .
The entire passage, written in 1624, tells of the interconnectedness of people, the idea that each of us has an integral part in the overall community that is humanity. Even you!
Heavy stuff, huh?
Interconnectedness spills over into the world of freelance writing as well. We aren’t monks sequestered away in our candlelit cubicles, slaving away with parchment, quill and ink, feverishly hand-crafting some obscure tome.
Unfortunately, many new writers feel that they must work alone, devoid of human contact, as they attempt to master their craft. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s time to get off the island, my friend.
Successful writers know that association with other writers is vital to growth. No one person knows it all, but we can all grow together by hanging out with others of our own ilk. In the classic 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill outlines the Master-Mind principle used by Andrew Carnegie.
In a nutshell, the melding of minds and sharing of ideas leads to an entity that is greater and more powerful than the individuals alone. Each person’s talents and knowledge contributes to the whole of the experience.
Man, heavy stuff again!
As a new writer, you should start associating with other writers. You can learn from both their successes and their challenges, get some counseling and ask them your burning questions. In fact, you’ll have a great opportunity to do that in a few minutes. At the end of this article there will be a place to make comments.
Many new writers never add a comment, often afraid of looking stupid or uninformed. Understand that the comments section is a safe haven in which to ask questions, request clarification and share your own experiences. Really, you need to write a comment! We need to hear from you!
Remember that you are a piece of the continent too.
I’d suggest that you become part of a writers’ group as well. Three that I belong to and recommend are:
I get a lot of questions from writers on how to use Help a Reporter Out, a.k.a. HARO — the free service that helps journalists find sources for their assignments. So I interviewed HARO founder Peter Shankman to answer all your need-to-knows. Enjoy!
How many people subscribe to HARO e-mails?
Somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 sources, including pass-alongs — and hundreds of thousands of journalists have used the service at one point or another.
Have you ever done a breakdown of what kind of experts or other people are subscribed to HARO?
No, but we’ve found that it’s almost 75 percent small businesses now.
A lot of writers are e-mailing me because they’re confused about the requirement that your website needs to have an Alexa ranking of under one million for you to be able to send a request for sources. They think that their personal writer site needs to have this ranking. Can you explain that a little bit?
The way it works is, if you’re writing for a traditional or understood media outlet, like cosmopolitan.com or Washington Post online, our goal is not to exclude anyone. Unfortunately, what happens occasionally is that people join HARO and say, “I have to do a story for my blog that has two readers.” Journalists writing for Forbes, or any outlet that has a good quality base and quality readership, we have no problem. Use HARO and we love you. We just don’t want to waste sources’ time if it’s for Joan’s House of Blog, you know?
Another question I often get is whether a writer can use HARO if she’s working on a pitch but doesn’t have an assignment in hand and, if so, how to do that.
It’s a tough question. If you’ve used HARO before and we see that and we recognize your e-mail address as having written for traditional or recognizable outlets in the past, you are more than welcome to use HARO for a pitch.
There are no other requirements for posting a request on there except that your media outlet has to be lower than one million in Alexa, right?
Can you offer us some tips on how to write a HARO query that gets results?
The best thing you can do is be as specific as humanly possible. If you want sources in West Philadelphia, make damn sure you put “West Philadelphia.” If you only want sources who know about bridge building and have one arm, make that clear.
Any other tips?
The biggest thing I can recommend is make sure you put your deadline at least a week before your actual deadline. We base HARO on when your deadline is. So if your deadline is Thursday and you put Thursday down as your deadline, HARO is going to most likely run your inquiry Wednesday night.
What else can writers do to make sure they get the best sources?
Keep it short. Keep it simple. That usually works well.
Do you change the titles of the requests or do they go up just as the writer writes them?
No, it’s actually as you write them. We don’t change them at all.
Any tips on writing a title that gets attention?
“Need experts in blank.”
A blessing and a curse of HARO is that writers will put out a request and get 100 responses. What can writers do about that besides make sure they’re specific in their requests?
Start reading the answers. If you get everything you need in the first five replies, just click a filter that sends all the rest of them to a folder so you don’t hAdd a Comment
Recently, I discovered freelance writing marketing tactic that many professional freelance writers have been using for years:
I went to my local Chamber of Commerce to meet my potential clients face to face.
In this setting I had no competition. The marketing was far less frustrating than the scattershot approach, because I knew what my clients needed, and I was prepared to offer it to them.
That’s how I landed ten new clients in a month. My first client paid me $800 up front for two hours of consulting. I didn’t even write anything. I just pointed him in the right direction.
What I did wasn’t special. In fact, anyone can do it. All it takes is a little common sense and courage. Here’s the step-by-step process I used to land ten new clients in thirty days.
I Googled my local Chamber of Commerce by typing in the name of my town and state, followed by “Chamber of Commerce.” My local Chamber popped up on the first page. As soon as I was on the website, I did a little browsing around. I wasn’t just mindlessly looking though. I had an agenda:
I dug up information about the Chamber of Commerce.
I needed to answer these specific questions: How does it operate? How old is it? How many members are there? What are the fees to join? How often do you pay?
By being informed about the Commerce itself, I knew what to expect out of its members as well as the Board of Directors. It would also help me tailor my marketing.
I thoroughly searched through the list of members.
I needed to know which local businesses had joined the Chamber. The owners of these businesses know how important it is to market and get new customers, so they’d be more willing to hire a writer. Those are the people I wanted to talk to.
I went through the list carefully from A to Z. I took note of which businesses had websites, and which businesses offered discounts to other Chamber of Commerce members. I also researched the types of businesses on the list. There were dentists, gourmet popcorn shops, even movie theaters. I wanted to find out what these businesses offered to the community, how they stood out from their competition, and what I could do for them. Then I wrote down questions that I wanted to ask each owner that I met.
I had 98 businesses to research. It took me two days to go through them all.
But my local Chamber has a small members list compared to other places. If your Chamber has a really big list, here’s a tip: Narrow down who you want to talk to by searching through each category of businesses and picking out ones that can afford to pay you what you’re worth. For example, if you charge $100 for a one-page ad, you want to look at companies that make enough money so that $100 a page doesn’t seem like a big deal. You may not land them as a client, but you could get a referral to another business in the same earnings bracket – or even higher.
I found out out if non-members can attend events as guests of the Chamber.
My local Chamber of Commerce allows non-members to attend three events a year, but there’s a $10 fee to get in. To me that fee was worth it. It’s nominal compared to how much money new clients could potentially bring in.
Find out if your Chamber does something similar. If they don’t, search the schedule to see if any of the events are open house. Those types of events let potential members mingle with current members, making it a great way to network.
I looked at the list of scheduled events.
I took note of which ones are more likely to draw a bigger crowd. Those are the events I want to attend.
I chose three events, two on the weekend and one charity event. I reasoned that business owners would set aside time on a weekend to go to a Chamber of Commerce event, even if it was just for an hour or so. Of course, everyone loves supporting a charity, and in supporting a cause I would show that I’m willing to use part of what I earned as a writer to give back to the community. Everyone loves hiring a humanitarian.
Once I had done my research it was time for me to prepare for the events I was going to attend. The first thing I did was make a list of what I needed in order to market myself effectively. It read something like this:
I had a website, but was – and still is – currently under construction. I didn’t want that fact to deter anyone from requesting information from me. So I put up a contact form on my landing page so that they could request an information packet from me, either through snail mail or email, and ask me questions.
Once I had my business cards made, I put together my letter of introduction and writing samples. My samples had to be diverse. I made sure to include a mock-up of a one-page ad, a newsletter, some informational articles, and a few other pieces of marketing material.
The reply cards I had were simply postcards with postage affixed to them. These are easy to use as reply cards because the person can simply fill in their information and drop it in the mail. It eliminates delayed reactions for mailing; if the postage is already there, the person doesn’t have to set aside mailing it due to a lack of postage.
The envelopes I bought were large manila envelopes. I fixed together five information packets to start out with; I wasn’t expecting a huge response. I put a letter of introduction, copies of my samples, a business card and a reply card in each envelope. I wrote my return address in the corner in the neatest, most legible handwriting I could muster. This was one of those moments I wished I had return address labels, but I made do with what I had.
The last thing I did was pick out my clothes for each event. You may think this is silly, but I wanted to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I had. I was very careful and meticulous when picking out my clothes. I made sure that I was modestly dressed: no cleavage showing, no short skirts, no tight pants, and no extremely high heels. I wanted to leave a positive impression. I wanted people to remember me, not my shoes or what I was wearing. I also made sure my accessories, makeup and hair weren’t flashy, gaudy or inappropriate.
I ran the outfits by my mother. She’s a legal secretary and office manager for a non-profit law firm. They have a set of rules at her job for clothing. She’s in charge of telling people whether their clothing is inappropriate in the workplace. By running the outfits by her, I knew that I’d be dressed to impress.
If you’ve got someone that works in an office environment, you can do the same thing. That became my rule of thumb for these events: If you can’t wear it in a law office, you can’t wear it to a client meeting.
I’m a natural wallflower. I don’t like to mingle at gatherings, even if the place is full of people that I’ve known for years. But I had to break out of that routine if I wanted to get some clients. For each event, I arrived ten to fifteen minutes early. As soon as I stepped into the door I took the initiative to talk to the first person I saw. I just said “Hi, my name is Kinya.” It never failed to start a conversation.
When people asked me what I did for a living, I told them, “I help businesses communicate with their current and future customers and clients.” They were always eager to learn how.
I didn’t keep the conversation focused on me; I always switched the topic back to their business. This is where the research came in handy. I was already prepared for all the members there, so I asked them questions pertaining to their individual businesses. They were impressed that I knew so much. Many of my conversations lasted ten minutes or more.
At the end of the conversations, I always asked if we could exchange information. Usually we would swap business cards, but if the other person didn’t have a business card I put their name, business name and telephone number in my cell phone.
I waited a minimum of three days before I followed up with those I met. If I had their business cards, I went into their place of business to see if they were working. If they were, I told them that it was nice meeting them at the event, and I looked forward to seeing them at the next one. I also told them if they needed anything – anything at all – to just call me.
One person actually called me and asked me if I had “an epic brownie recipe” they could have for a family reunion. I passed along something spectacular with a caramel center and an ice cream topping. She was ever so grateful, and promised to pass my information along to other business owners.
If no one was there, I left a message with the manager on staff. For the ones who hadn’t given me their business cards, I followed up with them on the phone. If they didn’t answer, I left them a brief message.
The results were overwhelming to me: I’ve sent out over forty information packets and gained ten new clients. Two of these clients were referrals.
And I didn’t have to lowball my pricing for anyone. Everyone immediately thought my fees were reasonable, because they recognized how valuable my services were. And, perhaps best of all, I’m the only copywriter they know in the area. By taking these simple steps, I’ve set myself up to not only get new clients, but expand my business.
How about you — have you landed any gigs from attending Chamber events or other networking events? Do you have additional tips on how to make the most of these events? Share your insights in the Comments!
Kinya is a freelance copywriter and public speaker. She enjoys baking, writing fantasy novels , watching cartoons and brushing up on her Latin. Her blog, Nom de Plume Ink, talks about things she’s learning and discovering on the journey to reaching her career goals.Add a Comment
I recently had a mentoring client ask my reasoning behind sending a sales letter to prospects asking them to request a full information kit — rather than just sending them the full kit right off the bat. You want to wow them with your great samples, right?
And I’ve had other clients who send out letters of introduction (LOIs) and are upset when they don’t get assignments — just editors saying they’ll put the writer in their files, or they’ll get back to her in a few months, or “We don’t have anything right now but please keep in touch.”
I think this stems from a misunderstanding of the purpose of LOIs and sales letters.
LOIs and sales letters do not exist to get you assignments.
They exist to help you build a relationships with people who may buy your stuff.
These marketing efforts are not about trying to entice the prospect to give you an assignment right off the bat, because that probably won’t happen, even if your samples are awesome. Only a very small percentage of prospects will happen to have a writing need right then.
So your goal is to start a relationship with them so you can get in touch every once in a while and be top of mind when they do have an assignment. Wowing the prospect with your sales letter and convincing them to get back to you to ask for your info kit is the start of that relationship…they’ve now reached out to you.
In the case of the sales letter vs. the full info kit, you want to use your sales letter to start a communication with the prospect — to build a relationship — and a great way to do that is to have them get back to you to ask you for something. Then the door is open to send them your kit, follow up, and generally get to know the prospect. If you send your whole thing right off, you’ll have no way to create that opening — many prospects will just file you away or even toss your stuff and then forget about you.
(Not to mention, it’s not very cost-effective to mail big envelopes out blindly.)
In the case of an LOI, you want the editor to request your clips or ask you to stay in touch so you now have an opening to follow up and start building that all-important relationship that can lead to assignments down the line.
When an editor or prospect asks for clips or more information — you win.
So keep sending, and do the happy dance when someone gets back to you to request info. Follow up every couple of months, and you’ll do an even wilder happy dance when you’ve turned that contact into a loyal client. [lf]Add a Comment
I cannot — simply cannot — write on a day when I have even one phone call scheduled.
I’d long ago resigned myself to the fact that if I have an article due, I’ll write it on the weekend because I can never get it done during the week. It never occurred to me that the phone calls that broke up my day were the culprits.
But as I was talking to a friend about it, the pattern became clear: If I had a phone call scheduled (unless it was very first thing in the morning), I wouldn’t be able to start writing because “Hey, I have a phone call coming up soon, so why bother getting started on this article?” Even if I had four hours to spare!
So my new M.O. is that when I have a deadline, I’ll keep a day or two before that totally clear of mentoring calls and interviews so I can get the writing done.
Do you have any ways of working that are not yet at the level of consciousness…any patterns that aren’t working for you but you can’t put your finger on what they are?
Think about a work problem you’re having and see if you can’t define what it’s really all about.
For example, do you put off starting your assignments because you’re afraid of interviewing? Do you neglect to market because you don’t like coming off like a pushy salesperson? Do you sit on revisions as a passive-aggressive way of punishing the editor for asking you to change your work?
Then, brainstorm ways to get around the issue. In the interviewing example, you could figure out ways to psych yourself up for interviews, hire someone else to do them for you, hire a transcriptionist so at least that burden is lifted, talk to a coach about it, or figure out a type of writing you can do that doesn’t often require interviews (copywriting, anyone?).
Don’t be like me and suffer for 15 years because you’re subconsciously creating obstacles for yourself!
How about you? have you made any major discoveries about your habits that have helped you improve your work? Let us know in the Comments below. [lf]Add a Comment
You want out of the 9-5 grind but you’re not pulling in enough money from freelancing just yet.
Instead of feeling like you’re wasting your time, why not start thinking about how the skills you use every day can be specifically applied to your freelancing?
The traits it takes to succeed in an office environment bring a level of professionalism to your freelancing career that editors and clients are sure to appreciate. So before you start thinking you don’t have the chops to freelance, start focusing on how your current skills transfer to the writing career you’re building. Maybe you can get where you want to be sooner than you thought.
Here’s a list of skills you’re building now that will serve you well once you jump ship to write full time:
1. Customer Service.
Guess what? Editors are customers. Sources are customers. And like any customer, they expect you to provide great service.
And there’s more to great service than simply being courteous. The best customer service training class I ever took focused on the fact that customers expect you to take some crap from them without losing your cool. Editors expect the very same thing. (This doesn’t mean you should roll over for an editor trying to get you to do more work than you agreed to, but you do need to suck it up and do any contractual rewrites without whining.)
2. Great turnaround time.
You know from your day job that nothing makes a bosses happier than getting faster service than they expect. The same goes for your clients and editors. Responding to emails and phone calls as quickly as possible and making — or beating — deadlines is sure to win you repeat gigs.
In this economy, those of us with traditional jobs know it’s adapt or meet with the door. Companies need flexible employees who can learn new tasks and new ways of doing things quickly and without giving management any guff.
This is a critical skill in freelancing, where you need to say yes to new opportunities, even if it’s stretching your current skill set. White paper? Yeah, I can do that. Video script? Sure, no problem.
4. Fake multi-tasking.
Let me tell you a secret about multi-tasking: it’s a sham. Nobody really does it. You can’t troubleshoot and issue over the phone while simultaneously responding to an email about taking on a new client.
The real trick is to be able to concentrate on a task and know when it’s in your best interest to break that concentration for a new task (or when it isn’t). It’s really about judgment and being able to refocus attention as quickly as possible to make the best use of your time.
5. Going above and beyond.
You know that look on your boss’s face when you deliver something she didn’t ask for, but can truly use? Editors and freelance clients love it just as much. When you’re trying to win over a new client, throw in a little extra — a sidebar, another story idea, the name of a great graphic designer you happen to know. They’ll be forever grateful, and willing to repay you with more work.
6. Quality assurance.
In your real job, whether you’re making widgets, flipping burgers or crunching numbers, you’re expected to turn out a quality product that they won’t have to pay someone else to fix.
Having this skill from your 9-5 job means you’ll be reluctant to turn in sloppy copy, no matter what. If this means finishing an assignment early enough so you can look at it with fresh eyes time to catch errors before your deadline, or bribing your hyper-literate brother-in-law to copy edit for you, you’ll do it.
7. Great listening skills.
In today’s team centered work environments, those who have good listening skills will build relationships faster, and be more innovative in coming up with solutions. Being an attentive listener will serve you as a freelancer whether it’s at networking events, where all too often everyone is simply waiting for their chance to talk again, or getting a source to keep spilling good quotes. Keeping your ear to the ground also helps you figure out what other needs a client may have that you can fill.
If you’re still employed in today’s economy, you’re either very lucky or you have a great work ethic and discipline (or both).
The ability to keep yourself on task and deliver what and when you say you will is going to make all the difference as you build your client base as a freelancer. There’s no boss to come around and keep you on task and no editor is going to hire a flake twice. The discipline you cultivate today will be your best friend when it comes to completing your assignments and carrying out your marketing plans tomorrow.
What other skills are you honing today that you plan to use to build your writing career? Please post them in the comments below.
Sue Campbell is a freelance writer, journalist and blogger in Portland, Oregon. She’s also a business systems analyst who’s about to jump ship. You can contact her at suecampbellfreelancewriter.com