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The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success first hit the shelves in fall 2003. We knew we�d hit a home run with the book because we dared tell writers that a lot of rules about freelancing are complete bull doo-doo. That said, we were quite unprepared for the fanfare, the kudos, and dare we say, the adulation, our blood, sweat, and late night coffee-swilling had wrought.
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26. 5 Ways to Deal with People Who Hate What You Write

womanupsetcomputerBy Linda Formichelli

You’re don’t write because you’re afraid of what other people will think. What if they hate your writing? What if they hate you?

A glance at the comments on, say, a Huffington Post article shows that readers have no compunction about letting writers know exactly what they think. And sometimes it ain’t pretty.

And then there’s the fear that you’ll offend someone by being, well, yourself in your writing.

I hear you. In the past few months, here’s what I’ve experienced:

  • A reader telling me I must have PMS.
  • Someone who left a 400-word comment complaining that he found two typos in my blog post. He let me know he envisioned me as a frazzled lady with messy hair who has trouble coping with her life.
  • A longtime reader accusing me of being a racist.
  • Someone who was upset that I used the word “sissy” in an email to my subscribers.
  • A woman who was perturbed that I was hosting a teleclass with three male guests.

I’m sure I’ve had other complaints, but these are the ones I remember from recent months.

Writers Aren’t the Only Ones


You may think writers are particularly vulnerable to getting complaints about their work. But even if you gave up your writing dreams and became a barista at Starbucks, someone, sometime, would hate what you do — and let you know.

Of course, you don’t pour yourself into a skinny iced caramel latte the way you do into your articles, short stories, or blog posts. When someone criticizes the foam on your drink, you get over it. When someone criticizes your writing — ouch.

If you push through the fear and get your writing out there, I guarantee that eventually you’ll piss someone off. So what do you do about it?

Dealing with People Who Complain: 5 Ways


Here are some of the tactics I use when faced with an angry reader or even a troll.

1. Set phasers to “Ignore.”

If you’re talking about trolls who smear your blog or an article you wrote with über-nasty comments, the best thing you can do is ignore them. It hurts, but remember, some people will hate on anything. If you don’t respond, they’ll soon move on to the next victim.

2. Explain without apology.

But when someone emails you an anti-fan letter, or lets you know they’re upset with something you wrote?

Most commonly, I write a short note explaining myself without apology. (This is assuming I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong. If I make a mistake, I do apologize.) If the reader accepts that, all is good.

But sometimes, the reader is still not appeased or has another nit to pick. In that case, I hit Delete. There’s just no making some people happy — and the truth is, your job as a writer is not to make everyone happy.

Instead of working your butt off to please someone who’s unhappy with you, pour your energy into thrilling the ones who love you.

3. Kill them with kindness.

Even if I’m about to explode over something a reader has said to me, I don’t spew my anger on them. I complain to my husband and my friends and get it out of my system so I can deal with the reader without going ballistic.

Saying “Thanks so much for sharing your insights!” to an unhappy reader defuses them — whereas if you come at them with teeth bared, you’re in for a downward spiral.

4. Laugh it off.

I still remember when Diana’s and my book The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success first came out, and we gleefully posted a glowing Publishers Weekly review on a writers’ forum.

One woman in the forum blasted us over the idea of the book and went on to say we shouldn’t be proud that PW called the book “upbeat and exceptionally informative” because, hey, who do books by women always have to be upbeat? Why can’t we just be serious?

I was crushed (this was our first book — my baby!) and thought up all kinds of replies to put this woman in her place. But then Diana took over. Her response? “I guess you won’t be wanting the Renegade Writer mug, then.”

Diana’s response was perfect. It defused the situation, showed the poster we weren’t going to let her comment affect us, and kept us from wasting time arguing with a single crabby writer.

5. Buck your genes.

We’re genetically wired to seek out and pay attention to threats in our environment, which means we often ignore positive circumstances.

I fall into this trap — I let one negative review or snippy email ruin my hour, even though I have dozens of great reviews and get tons of nice emails from readers. For example, the post by the woman who wasn’t thrilled with our Publishers Weekly review was surrounded by posts from people who were. Why didn’t I think of them instead?

It’s not easy to think about the many positives in your writing career when you come up against a single negative, but make an effort to do this when you find yourself faced with a troll or an angry reader. Let yourself get upset for a minute, complain to a friend — but then remember the editor who loved your article, the kind comment you got on a recent blog post, or the letter from a reader who was moved by your work.

How about you: Have you ever dealt with an angry reader, or even a troll? What did you do about it? Share your experiences and tips in the Comments below!

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27. Tell Your Editors What You Want — Here are 4 Things to Start With

I know!By Mark Aiken

Here’s the scene: Big Scary Editor from Gigantic Magazine finally calls Little Ol’ Me in response to a pitch. At first I’m filled with excitement… until I read the details of their offer. Exhilaration turns to disappointment and incredulity. I ask myself: how can I make a living on this?

Here’s the more important question: what do I do about it?

Many freelancers are afraid to advocate for themselves in their dealings with editors. I know the feeling: in a business where rejections (or, just as often, no response, period) are part of the game, we don’t want to rock the boat and blow it when the opportunity finally arises.

I am here to sound the rallying call. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want!

Although you may think (and you’re right) that there are thousands of other writers out there waiting in the wings for their chances, this editor called you in response to your carefully crafted pitch — the pitch for which you brainstormed the perfect idea, researched the right market, and determined the appropriate editor to whom to reach out.

A few carefully worded and tactful questions — even the dreaded “Can I have more money?” bombshell — aren’t going to break your deal. In fact, ironing out all the details on the front end is smart and professional.

Advocating for yourself can be intimidating. But if a deal doesn’t sound right, ask. Or if there is something that might make your job easier, the deadline more reasonable, or yourself better able to complete the assignment, bring it up! Sometimes your editor will take up your cause and advocate on your behalf with his or her superiors. (Nice — an ally!).

I like to get a dialogue going from the start. And I don’t like working while wishing there was something I should have asked. It’s better to work feeling satisfied that 1) I got the best deal I could and 2) there was nothing I should have asked for but didn’t.

Here are a few examples of things you can ask your editor for:

1. More money.


I don’t always get everything I want, but editors often give me something. Bear in mind that asking for more money is delicate; be careful not to phrase your request as an ultimatum. As long as you’re nice, the worst that will happen is they’ll stick to their original offer. Then it’s up to you to decide whether you can work under those terms.

2. A subscription.


A few times, after getting denied when I asked for more compensation, I countered with, “Well, can I have a subscription to your magazine?” After all, if I’m going to become a regular contributor, this could help me research ideas that fit the mag. Some say yes, some say no. One editor, apparently thinking a subscription was too much trouble, accepted my original request for more money!

3. A PDF of the article.


After the article is completed, I like to have a PDF of the piece as it appeared in the magazine for a clip or for my website. This usually requires following up after publication.

4. More time.


When an editor doesn’t take the bait when I ask for more money, I may be forced to re-prioritize. Maybe I still want the byline despite the low pay. But maybe I can’t afford to put off another, higher-paying project. Maybe I know I’m slow at a later date on my calendar. Looking ahead and letting an editor know your availability in advance gives the impression that you are both organized and sought after. Not bad images to portray!

It sometimes amazes me to realize that I have never met 85 percent of my editors face-to-face. Advocating for ourselves does more than garner a few extra dollars, a few more days, or a subscription; it identifies us as more than just story-producing email addresses in editor inboxes. We are living, breathing humans who stand up for ourselves when we feel we deserve a better deal.

How about you…have you ever asked an editor or client for more time, more money, a subscription, or anything else? How did it go?

Professional ski instructor by day and professional writer by night, Mark Aiken lives in Richmond, Vermont with his wife and son.

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28. Why You Should Write for Free–and Like It

laptop woman happyBy Linda Formichelli

For years I’ve been preaching to new writers: Know what you’re worth! Demand to be paid fairly! Don’t write for free!

And now here I am, telling you it’s good to write for free.

Am I crazy?

No. I changed because the industry has changed. When I was starting out in 1997, there were no content mills and bidding sites offering writers $15 per 750 words, or blogs paying $20 for an extensive post.

So when I said “Don’t write for free,” I meant, “You should be snagging $500 for a feature article.” Not “Don’t write for free…at least get a few pennies for your efforts.”

Also, in 1997, there was a lot less competition and even a newbie writer had a chance to break into big markets and land impressive clients. Today, thanks to the Internet, the competition is stiff and writers with more samples have a better chance of landing gigs. Another reason many aspiring writers flock to the el cheapo clients. “What an easy way to get samples!” they crow.

The bad news is, better-paying writing clients don’t take samples from content mills, bidding sites, or crappy-looking blogs seriously. There’s no barrier to entry (pretty much anyone can write for one of them), writers need to crank out words too fast to do their best work, and even a great writer’s work is surrounded by mediocre (at best) writing from other cheap scribes.

So I’m changing my stance on the whole issue:

I believe it’s better to write for free temporarily, on your own terms, than to write for pennies for a content mill or bidding site client that doesn’t value your skills–and won’t make a good sample anyway.

There, I said it. Now let’s explore the whys and hows.

Why Free Is Awesome


I’ve become a big fan of writing for nothing. Here’s why.

1. It feels good.

As you’ll see below, I recommend writing for free for causes you care about. For example, several years ago I was a volunteer writer for the SPCA’s newsletter. That’s gotta feel way better than writing gratis for some company that hopes to earn lots of profit from your free work.

2. You get to choose your clients.

Landing free gigs is much easier than pitching low-paying clients. After all, the first is, “Hey, I’d love to write a post for you for free to help build my portfolio” (who can say No to that?), and the second is, “You say I’m competing against hundreds of writers for this low-paying assignment? Let me bend over further for you, my liege.”

When it comes to getting those first samples or building your reputation in a new field, free is more of a sure thing.

3. You can make demands.

When you’re writing for free, you have more control over what you’ll do and what you’ll get in return for your efforts. Of course, your client will have standards and specs you’ll need to adhere to, but you have more leeway to ask for a byline, negotiate the deadline, or request PDFs of your work.

4. Your writing will kick butt.

When you’re writing for a cause or business you love, on a reasonable timeline, you get the chance to show off your creativity, writing skills, and ability to generate ideas. Those are the kinds of samples you want in your portfolio.

5. You only need to do it a few times.

With the content mills, bidding sites, and blogs that pay yucko rates, it’s easy to fall into the trap of churning out assignment after assignment, because the only way to make good money is to write in volume.

Soon, you’ve forgotten that you only started writing for cheap to get a few samples, and are caught in the vicious cycle of mill work. And the longer you do it, the harder it is to climb out.

When you choose to write for free to get clips, you’re able to set limits on how much you’ll do. For example, you may decide you want to become a pet blogger, so you’ll write for free for two animal-related nonprofits and your local independent pet supply store and then use those samples to go after well-paying pet gigs.

When You Should Write for Free


Here are the three situations where you may want to offer your writing services gratis.

1. You have no samples at all.

You’re a rank newbie and have zero writing credits to your name. In this case, it makes sense to do a few free gigs to build your portfolio.

2. You’re looking to break into a new field.

Say you’re a health writer but you’d like to write more about entrepreneurship. You have plenty of samples showing you can write fluently about gluten intolerance and the dangers of Crossfit, but when it comes to business writing–you’re starting from scratch. This is a good time to write for free.

3. You want to switch things up.

Maybe you’ve written dozens of articles or brochures or case studies, but you’ve never written a blog post–and in your heart you really, really want to become a paid blogger.

Blogging is an entirely different skill, and you’ll need to prove you’ve got what it takes. Do a little writing gratis and soon you’ll have blogging samples to show to your prospects.

Who to Bestow Your Free Writing On


The last thing you want to do is offer the gift of your writing to some greedy conglomerate that’s going to turn around and make thousands off it–a business that can actually afford to pay writers. That would make you feel all angry and sad at the same time.

Instead, try approaching:

1. Non-profits.

Chances are, there’s a cause you believe in that has a non-profit organization attached to it. For example, check out charities at Charity Navigator [www.charitynavigator.com], especially their list of Top 10’s–like “10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions,” “10 Highly-Rated Charities with Low Paid CEOs,” and “10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings.”

2. Local small businesses you frequent and love.

That little shop downtown that sells handmade soaps, your local co-op grocery store, and the café you visit three days per week that serves farm-to-table cuisine–these can make great prospects for your free writing.

3. Friends and relatives who are getting their businesses off the ground.

This is a super way to gain writing samples while helping your loved ones. And, they’re the most likely of all the types of clients to give you free rein on your work!

What You Get From All This


You’re not writing for free for your health, right? You want something out of the deal.

Of course, you’ll get samples. But also be sure to request:

1. Credit.

A byline on an article or blog post, or credit on other types of written materials, will give your sample more credence.

2. Testimonials.

Let your client know that in exchange for your free writing, you expect them to write a testimonial you can run on your website and use in your marketing materials.

3. Recommendations.

Ask the client if they can recommend you to any of their colleagues–preferably ones who pay for writers.

Stop!

Okay, now you have two or three samples. It’s time to stop writing for free.

Use those samples to land paying gigs. After all, now you can say, “I’ve written attention-grabbing, effective posts for X, Y, and Z.” That’s what you were after, and now you have it.

Offering your writing skills for free–if you choose the right clients and do a great job–can lead to writing work that pays so well, you’re not even tempted to bother with the content mills, bidding sites, and junky blogs.

How about you: Have you ever written for free in a strategic way? How did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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29. Are You Ready to Write Your Way Out of Your 9-5 Job–And Into the Career of Your Dreams?

Writing Your Way Out - High ResolutionI am so excited to announce that my new e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love is officially launched and available for sale–and through Monday, you can get all the goodness for just $1.50!

I won’t post a big description here because it’s all on the e-book web page. Read all about what you’ll get for your buck-fifty, including 175 pages of goodness and free downloads from thought leaders in the field.

Grab a copy of Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love today, and if you like it I hope you’ll leave a review on Amazon!

Also, if you know anyone who is in a job they don’t love, please send them to the e-book website: http://www.therenegadewriter.com/write-your-way/. Thanks much, and here’s to starting a leaving-the-rat-race revolution!

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30. 5 Signs it’s Time to Quit Freelancing and get a “Real Job”

freelance_help_wantedBy Daisha Cassel

If you’re doing it right–and making a good living off it–freelance writing is a real job. In fact, most successful freelance writers put in well over 40 hours a week when they are getting their businesses off the ground.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of wannabe writing pros are unprepared when they decide to take the plunge and go freelance. Here, 5 ways to know that it’s time to say sayonara to the Schedule C and start sending out your resume.

1. You’re on the verge of bankruptcy and your basic needs aren’t being met.


You don’t have two nickels to rub together and are in dire straits! But you think freelance writing will net you fast, fast cash.

There’s a reason you’ve never seen a late-night infomercial or a back-pages ad in Popular Mechanics touting this profession as a get-rich-quick scheme. Not only does it take skill and hard work, but it’s one of the worst jobs to have if you’re already living paycheck to paycheck.


Unlike a job with an employer, you can’t count on a weekly or bi-weekly shot in the bank account. (One high-profile newspaper once took seven months to get a check out to me, and many freelancers have horror stories of never getting payment from shuttered mags and deadbeat publishers.)


Let’s not forget that the old adage “It takes money to make money” applies here too. You’re not sitting around in a safari jacket scrawling your next magnum opus with an affordable feather pen, are you? At the very least you need a reliable computer, internet connection, and phone to function as a business. It’s hard to focus on an interview when can’t pay the bill for the cell phone you’re conducting it on.

And “basic needs” are more than food, water, and those two proverbial nickels. Do you have health insurance? Are you contributing to a self-employed retirement plan or IRA? Do you have an emergency fund to cover those times when you, too, might wait seven months for a check to come in?

If your basic needs aren’t being met, you may want to consider seeking out employment until you’re over the hump.

2. When you read the beginning of this post you wondered, “What’s a Schedule C?”


Writing can be a hobby, but freelancing is a business.

When you go into business yourself, you are your own employer. This means things that your boss or the company accountant did on your behalf when you worked a 9-to-5 are now up to you.

It’s a legal requirement that you withhold and pay your own federal, state and local income taxes. (And guess what: since employers chip in to their employees social security and Medicare tax contributions, and you are now your own employer, your bill could be even bigger.)

If you haven’t been sending in tax payments, or even filing taxes on your earnings at all, you’re not just in violation of the law—you also aren’t treating freelancing like a real job.

3. You get nothing but rejections–and that’s on a good day.


“Nice” rejections where editors and clients ask you to stay in touch are one thing. But if you’re pitching plenty and hearing back never, or you only get boilerplate rejections, it may be time to reconsider the source of your future income.

If you don’t know when you’ll land your next article, then you don’t know when you’ll get your next paycheck. That uncertainty leads to desperation—both financial and emotional. It is one thing to be perseverant and another to be a glutton for punishment!

4. You’re amassing clips and experience, but not cash.


You’re writing for pennies a word (or less!), but your big break is right around the corner, right?

Don’t count on it.

Many a fledgling freelance writer has toiled away for far too long in the depths of content mills, (very) small regional magazines, and other no-or-low paying gigs in the name of “getting clips and experience.”

Sure, you need to have clips to show off your mad skills, but editorial standards tend to be as low as the pay in these cases, and no editor will be impressed by a barrage of hyperlinks to penny-a-word articles.

My advice? Completely skip the content mills, and start pitching to the big boys as quickly as you have a good idea. Most editors will be more receptive to a great query supported by a single clip than a mediocre, poorly researched one with lots of mediocre clips.

If you just can’t bring yourself to pitch high-paying markets, it may be time to consider getting a job and relegating freelance writing to “hobby” status.

5. You’re more worried about keeping up appearances than making a living.


A reader recently wrote in to Linda saying that she is on the verge of bankruptcy, and freelancing hasn’t worked out for her after several attempts, but she finds the idea of working in retail or food service “distasteful.”

Personally, I have a greater aversion to not having a paycheck when the mortgage is due and there’s no food on the table.

Maybe you made a big to-do about leaving the rat race behind, and now…it’s not going so well. This is important, people: do what you have to do to make things work for you financially.

If you love writing and feel like you just need a little more momentum, then keep it up as a second job while you take on something that pays the bills. Once it really does pick up, then you can slide back into a life of writing full time and kick that other job to the curb.

In the meantime, there is honor in doing what it takes to support yourself and your family. Think about it: would you rather say out loud that you are taking a new job in addition to your writing so you can pad your bank account, or that you don’t have enough money to feel your family and keep the lights on?

Bottom line: freelance writing can be a satisfying and lucrative work, but it takes a greater commitment to be your own employer than it does to be an employee. Do you have any other tips for fellow freelancers about self-employment? Share them in the comments below.

Daisha Cassel is a freelance writer who keeps four nickels in her pocket at all times just in case she ever wants to experience the luxury of rubbing two nickels together in stereo.

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31. I’m Busy and I Love It…And I Love You Too!

photoThanks so much for reading the Renegade Writer blog!

I’m super excited and busy working on some new products that will help you succeed at freelance writing. I work 20 hours per week on this, and am also thrilled to be homeschooling my son, who’s now in homeschool Kindergarten.

Because of these exciting commitments, I’m not able to respond to all emails.

But I don’t want to leave you high and dry, so read on for how I can still help you when you have a question or dilemma!

The Freelance Writers Den


If you have questions or need support, I recommend you join the Freelance Writers Den, a community of close to 1000 writers that includes free resources like e-books, weekly webinars, classes, plus a forum where you can get your questions answered by Den Mother Carol Tice, yours truly, and a host of other experienced moderators. The Den is open to new members only a few times per year, so be sure to get your name on the waiting list if you’re interested!

Phone Mentoring for Writers


Do you have a lot of questions, or a freelancing problem you’re grappling with that you can’t seem to find an answer to? I encourage you to sign up for a phone mentoring session. Check out the details, read a bunch of great testimonials on my mentoring service, and learn how to sign up here.

This Here Blog


Also, I tend to get the same questions a lot, so please do search the Renegade Writer blog using the search box at the bottom of the page. That way, you’ll be able to easily find answers on how much you should bid for a freelance assignment, whether you should simultaneously submit queries, when to follow up with editors, what to do if you don’t have clips, whether you need to interview experts for your query letter, what counts as a reprint, and more.

There are over 150 “You Ask, I Answer” posts on the blog (click on the drop-down categories menu in the right sidebar to select them), so chances are I already answered your question!

Free and Cheap Goodies


I also offer occasional teleclasses, a free packet of 10 query letters that rocked, several e-books, and an 4-week course on breaking into magazines — so there’s help here for everyone, both free and not-so-free! Check out the links at the top of the page for all the goodies.

Thanks again for reading…I look forward to helping you become a kick-butt freelance writer!

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32. Sources 101: How to Find and Work with Interviewees for Your Articles

By Linda Formichelli

A potential expert for your article asks to see a copy before it goes to print. A second one requests copies of the magazine once the article is published. And another one — gasp — asks to be paid for the interview.

We have over 30 posts about finding and interviewing sources, but when it comes to actually dealing with those sources before, during, and after the writing process, many writers feel lost and confused.

Here, answers to your most pressing questions about sources.

Should I send the draft of my article to the source? What if he asks to see it?


Journalism ethics says that you should not show an article to the source before it’s published. If you do, this opens up a door for your source to try to revise what he said based on what other sources in the article say, for example to argue with a point stated by another source he doesn’t agree with.

But some magazines do allow you — or even require you, in the case of a few trade magazines and custom publications — to show the source your article. So I always say to the source, “Generally you’re not supposed to do that, but I’ll check with my editor on their policies and get back to you.” Then I do it.

If you can’t or don’t want to let the source read your article, you can offer call him before turning in your article and fact check the piece with him. During the call, you would say, for example, “I have you saying that 2006 was the best year your business ever had. Is that correct?”

Your editor may also let you send the source just his quotes with the surrounding context.

Do I need to send a copy of the article to my source when it’s out?


I’m not a clipping service! Often I don’t even get a copy of the magazine my article is in, so I’m certainly not buying and sending one to each source.

However, I do let my sources know when an article they’re quoted in has been published. If the article appears online, I include a link. If the magazine is available on newsstands, I mention that, and let the source buy his own copy. If it’s a trade magazine and therefore not available on the newsstand and it’s also not online, I ask my editor to send copies, and she typically does.

(By the way, that’s why I ask my sources for their mailing addresses, and include those in the source list at the end of the article.)

Should I tell my source if I’m selling a reprint of the article she was quoted in?


I don’t think you need to ask permission as long as you’re selling to another magazine that’s not far from the scope of the original one; but it is always nice to give the source a heads-up so she can say, “I’ve been quoted in American Noodle Fortnightly Magazine.”

What if I tell the source I’m pitching Family Circle, but I actually end up selling the idea to Woman’s Day? Do I need to ask his permission?


In most cases I’ve pre-interviewed the source for my pitch and will need to do a more in-depth interview for the actual article, so of course I’d let her know who I’m writing for when I request this second interview.

But what if you don’t need to interview the source again? I think it’s only fair that you let the source know you sold the article to a different magazine. If it’s the difference between Family Circle and Woman’s Day, it typically won’t be a problem.

But sometimes, you may end up selling the idea to a magazine whose viewpoint the source opposes for whatever reason, and if she had known you were to sell there, she wouldn’t have done the interview in the first place. In that case, she may want to withdraw from the article.

I’m not sure what your ethical duties are here, but I would never want to be the writer who says she’s pitching a family magazine and then ends up selling the story to a racy magazine or a publication with a political slant — and doesn’t alert the source.

What if a source asks if I can write for her company? Am I allowed to write for the magazine and the source I quoted?


Generally you’re not supposed to do this for ethical reasons — but I find that if you’re in doubt, asking your editor can clear things up quickly. I did this a while back and the editor had no problem with my writing for one of my sources, and I ended up making a couple thousand from this source over the next few months.

How should I respond if a potential source asks who else I’m interviewing?


Many times the source is just displaying harmless professional curiosity, and in that case I often spill the beans if I don’t see any harm coming from it. I mostly write service pieces; if I were writing an investigative article, that would be different. (More on that below.)

Other times, the source wants to gauge how big-time your article will be so he can decide whether to take part. If you’re interviewing big shots, he’ll want to play. If you’re interviewing small potatoes, he may get the idea that your article is small potatoes too, and he’ll take a pass. So if you get the feeling this is what’s happening, let the source know you can’t reveal who the other sources are.

If you’re writing an investigative piece or an article on a controversial topic, the source may want to know who else you’re interviewing so he can be sure to cut down any opponents’ positions. Bad! Again, in this case let the source know you can’t reveal your other sources.

What should I do if a source asks to be paid for the interview?


Run the other way! Let the source know it’s against journalism ethics to pay a source. If you offer a source money for an interview, she can’t be considered an unbiased source. After all, who’s to say she’s not simply giving you the answers you want to hear because you’re paying her?

If the source still insists on payment, dump her and find someone else. There are plenty of people out there who interview without expecting payment. In fact, though I’ve heard stories from other writers about sources wanting to be paid, it hasn’t happened to me even once in the 16 years I’ve been freelancing.

My source has asked me to include his website address in the article. What should I say?


I always let the source know that I’ll include the website address with his attribution, but I can’t control whether the editor will leave it in or not. That way I do my best to accommodate the source, but don’t make promises I can’t keep.

Usually the editor does take out the web address and that’s fine, but occasionally she leaves it in.

Do you have any questions about working with sources, or any tips you’d like to share? Post them in the Comments below!

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33. Here’s a Successful Query for a Surprising Sex Article–And 5 Reasons It Worked

article_query_dojo_mojoMany writers ask me for examples of query letters that worked to land magazine assignments.

You can get a packet of 10 queries that worked by signing up for my email list, and a Kindle copy of The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock costs only $2.99.

Still want more? You got it! Below is a query by yours truly that sold to Women’s Health.

Dojo Mojo
Martial Arts Techniques to Kick Up Your Sex Life

Men often expect their lovers to be gymnasts in the bedroom — but it’s even better if they’re martial artists. Women’s Health readers don’t have to be able to throw someone over their shoulder to get the benefits of martial mattress training — in “Dojo Mojo: Martial Arts Techniques to Kick Up Your Sex Life,” I’ll tell readers whose only contact with martial arts is watching kung fu movies how to use elements of karate, tae kwon do, and other fighting arts to put the moves on their husbands. For example:

  • Use your voice. In karate, it’s called a “kiai” — a yell that focuses your energy, gives you power, and scares away attackers. In the same way, making noise makes you more powerful in bed (though it WON’T scare your sweetie). “When you hold back sound, you hold back sexual energy,” says Ava Cadell, Ph.D., a sex therapist in Los Angeles and a black belt in shotokan karate. “Making sounds lets your partner know you’re having a great time — it’s validating. It also releases sexual energy from way down in the gut so you’re able to feel a full body orgasm.”
  • Practice libido bushido. “Bushido” literally means “the way of the warrior,” and part of practicing bushido is keeping focused on the task at hand. “Sure, the kitchen needs to be cleaned and the laundry needs to be done, but a true warrior stays in the moment and doesn’t get distracted,” says Jennifer Lawler, Ph.D., a black belt in tae kwon do and author of Dojo Wisdom: 100 Simple Ways to Become a Stronger, Calmer, More Courageous Person. “In a fight, it’s deadly, and in the bedroom, it makes you quickly lose steam. Once you’re in the mood, make it a practice not to think of the other chores or worries awaiting you.”
  • Keep eye contact. Martial artists keep eye contact while sparring to prevent giving away their next move and to get in tune with their sparring partners. Use this same technique to get in tune with your man. “Eye contact enhances intimacy, which is a deeper form of lovemaking,” says Cadell. “I suggest eye-gazing. Hold eye contact as much as possible during the entire experience. This will keep the two of you in a place of union and help you tune into each other through the eyes.”

Other martial arts moves to use in the bedroom include using your hips for power, being flexible (mentally as well as physically), practicing “no-mind,” and tightening your muscles at the end of a move.

I’m a brown belt in Okinawan karate. Martial arts are hot these days — 12 million people in the U.S. are into martial arts and kickboxing, including Taryn Manning, Paula Abdul, Carmen Electra, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette — and sex, well, sex is always hot. May I write “Dojo Mojo: Martial Arts Techniques to Kick Up Your Sex Life” for you?

FIve reasons this query sold:

  1. Sometimes I think you can sell an article with just a kick-ass title.
  2. Notice how I gave stats to show how popular martial arts are, to prove to the editor that her readers would be interested in my idea. These were easy to find with a Google search.
  3. I interviewed two people for this query, and ended up using their quotes in the article once it was assigned. Jennifer is a friend of mine who happened to be perfect for the article, and I disclosed my relationship with her to my editor. The second person I found with a ProfNet search.
  4. I included three of my tips to give the editor an idea of how I envisioned the article working, and to prove I had good advice to offer.
  5. My experience in martial arts helped sell the article. So if you have any sort of background in the topic you’re pitching, let the editor know! (FYI, I didn’t include my publishing credits as I had already written for this editor.)

If you have a pitch that sold, and you’d like to share it with my readers, zap me an email at lindaformichelli@gmail.com. Thanks!

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34. 6 Fantastic Sidebar Ideas to Add interest to Your Articles

sidebarYou know your editors will love you if you suggest sidebar ideas in your pitches or include them in your articles — but you’re stumped.

It’s hard enough coming up with an article idea without having to generate multiple sidebars too!

Here’s a handy guide on the types of sidebars you can try. When you need one, pick and choose from this list.

(And for those of you who aren’t sure what a sidebar is: It’s extra information that’s set apart from your article copy in a box. Read your favorite magazine and you’re likely to see sidebars with many of the articles.)

1. The Quiz Sidebar


A short quiz that tests the reader on the topic of your article will draw her in and help her assimilate the information you’ve shared. Check out this guest post on quizzes I ran earlier this year for more info on how to create one.

2. The Extra Info Sidebar


Writing an article on how to declutter your home and one of your sources mentioned a neat historical fact about housecleaning? A source for an article on small business marketing brought up a marketing tactic that doesn’t quite fit the theme — but is still cool?

Sometimes you end up with some interesting info on your topic that doesn’t fit into the main copy — but you hate to waste it. Turn it into a sidebar!

3. The Resources Sidebar


Readers love knowing about additional resources to learn more about your topic or to take action on it — such as books, websites, and organizations.

For example, in an article I wrote about Tourette’s and transient tics in kids for Redbook, I included a sidebar with helpful books about Tourette’s and organizations readers could contact for guidance.

4. The Quote Sidebar


For an article that relies more on anecdotes from “real people” than on expert quotes, include a sidebar with expert advice. Your editor may also want you to get headshots of the experts that the magazine will include next to each quote.

You can do the same thing in the opposite way: Develop a sidebar of quotes from “people on the street” with their experiences or tips on your topic, with a headshot from each source. (Your editor will let you know if she wants photos, but you can always suggest it.)

5. The Tip Sidebar


If your article is big on service (the how-to aspect of an article that gives readers actionable advice), offer a sidebar with a quick list of additional tips.

An article on plyometric exercise, for example, might include a sidebar telling readers how to perform the exercises safely — like how to modify exercises that are too hard, and what signs to watch out for that they’re doing them incorrectly.

Or if you’re writing an article on lowering your energy bills, the sidebar could be extra tips on weatherproofing your home.

6. The Survey Sidebar


If you have access to a big group of people — and with the Internet, who doesn’t? — you can survey them on the topic of your article and include the stats as a sidebar.

For example, say you’re writing an article on how to improve your marriage. You can use social media to attract women from around the country to a SurveyMonkey survey on the state of their marriage. Then you’ll have stats for a sidebar such as, “64% of the women we surveyed are ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with their marriages” and “Only 12% of women in our survey spend more than 30 minutes a day just relaxing and communicating with their spouses.”

This is something you can suggest in your query, or, if you already have an assignment, you can bring it up to your editor for her OK. Not all magazines will go for this, and you don’t want to waste your time on a big survey only to find that your sidebar idea won’t fly!

Looking for more info? Here’s a good article on sidebar basics from the Long Ridge Writers Group.

It’s your turn: Have you thought of a sidebar type I’m missing? Have you ever written a really cool sidebar? Let us know in the Comments below!

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35. Here’s The Cover You Helped Me Choose for Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love

Writing Your Way Out - High Resolution

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who voted on their favorite cover for my new e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love!

Strangely, there was no clear winner in terms of which one got the highest number of votes, but from your comments I got some great advice on how to tweak the design of this cover. You commented that the original design looked too corporate, so I had my designer (the great James at Go On Write) switch up the font and font color.

I hope you love the result as much as I do! And stay tuned for more info on the book as I work on it. I now have over 17,000 words (that’s sixty-five 8 1/2 x 11″ pages). But now I’m getting to the real meat of the book — information on how to break into the various kinds of writing so you can leave the rat race for good.

Thanks again, and I look forward to your comments on the new cover!

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36. What Should I Charge for Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love?

I SO appreciate the many comments I got on the three potential cover designs for Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love. I’ll be posting the final design when it’s ready.

And if I can impose on you a little more today, I have a very important question to ask you.

I’m trying to decide on a price for Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race, and thought that instead of taking a wild guess, I would ask what you think.

I’m torn between charging low — like under $10 — and charging a more premium price like $29. Here are my thoughts.

The higher price:

  • The book will include exclusive bonus downloads from Copyblogger, Jon Morrow at Boost Blog Traffic, Bamidele Onibalusi at Writers in Charge, and many more thought leaders.
  • Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race has the potential to help readers break free of the 9-5 and make a full-time living as a writer — that’s a lot of value!
  • I’m expecting the Kindle version of the book to be 200+ pages packed with information, with links to many additional resources — some free (like e-books and blog posts) and some paid (like books).
  • My target audience is writers with 9-5 jobs, so I’m assuming they can afford the higher price for the value they’re getting.

The lower price:

  • At $10 or under, I’ll be helping more people.
  • Truthfully, I know that at prices over $10, you get a lot of pushback from potential readers.
  • At under $10, I can sell in volume instead of selling a more expensive product to fewer people.
  • If you charge more than $9.99, Amazon takes a way bigger commission.
  • If I charge less, I can get more readers and hopefully those many readers will be interested in taking one of my e-courses.

So…what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pricing. What would you be willing to pay, and why? Please post your thoughts in the COmments below.

Thanks so much for all your help with this book. I’m so excited about this project I can’t even say!

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37. Which E-Book Cover Do You Like Best for Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love?

WriteYourWayCovers

I’m so excited to have three cover choices to select from, courtesy of cover creator extraordinaire Go On Write, for my upcoming e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love.

I’d love to hear which one you think is best. (You can click on the image for a larger version.) Would you post your choice in the Comments below? You can call them “dream,” “escape,” and “cage” for short.

I’m leaning towards “escape” but with a different font to give it a less corporate feel. I also love “cage,” but to me it’s looking more like a memoir.

You thoughts?

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the book as I work on it, or being one of my 50 beta readers, please join my email list. If you join, you’ll also get daily Morning Motivation for Writers emails and two free e-books for writers!

Thanks so much!

Linda

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38. I’ve Been Rejected Close to 500 Times

freelancing_rejectionBy Linda Formichelli

Here’s a short excerpt from the e-book I’m working on, Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love. If you’re interested in learning more about the book as I work on it, or being one of my 50 beta readers, please join my email list. If you join, you’ll also get daily Morning Motivation for Writers emails and two free e-books for writers!

I just did a rough count, and what I have to tell you isn’t pretty:

Between 1996 and 2012 I sent out 200 queries — each one to multiple publications — and sold 60 ideas. That’s a 30% success rate — or a 70% rejection rate. If I sent each query to four magazines, that means I received 480 rejections. (And that’s not even counting the untold number of informal ideas I sent to my editors via email once I became more established that were rejected, or the letters of introduction I sent to trade magazine editors that went nowhere.)

So how was it that I’ve been able to write for around 150 magazines, with most of them giving me multiple assignments over the years? How was I able to make a living—a good living—mainly writing for magazines?

It’s because I was too stubborn to give up, even when I was failing most of the time. And every time I made a sale, I wowed the editor so she would give me more work.

So how can you get over the idea of rejection? Here’s the thing: Rejection isn’t about you. If your idea or writing are rejected by a prospect or editor, it’s a simple business decision: Your offering was not right for the prospect at this time. [TWEET THIS]

When you’re approached by a salesperson at the supermarket asking if you want to sample a new brand of pita chips and you say No thanks, does that mean the salesperson personally sucks? Is it a judgment call on the actual person handing out the chips? Or even on the quality of the product? No. Your rejection of the offer means you’re full because you just had lunch, or you can’t eat gluten, or you’re not in the mood for a snack, or you’re a vegan and the chips have cheese powder on them.

The product doesn’t suck, and neither does the salesperson. It has nothing to do with them.

It’s the same with writing. If a prospect says no, it can mean anything from “We don’t need a freelance writer right now” to “I had a fight with my spouse this morning and I’m in a foul mood.”

If you let the mere thought of rejection keep you from writing, then you’ve already failed. You’ve pre-rejected yourself! [TWEET THIS]

The best thing you can do when you’re starting your career as a writer is to develop a thick skin to rejection. Easier said than done, I know. But the ones who get rejected the most are the ones who succeed, because it means they’re putting their work out there.

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39. How to Break Out of Your Freelance Writing Comfort Zone

By Francesca StaAna

Everyone hits their comfort zone at one point or the other. Whether it’s a kid who won’t exert enough effort to get A’s instead of B’s, or a sales rep who’s contented with merely reaching his quota, those who are in their comfort zones operate at low-risk, neutral state.

Freelance writers usually find themselves in it when they’re earning a satisfactory amount of money and have collected a respectable number of works for their portfolio. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone for a short time (go ahead, bask in your achievements—you deserve it), lingering in it for too long can be dangerous.

Resting on your laurels for an extended period of time can lead to the atrophy of your talents and skills. This is why you should never allow yourself to become too complacent. Instead, strive to improve your craft and work to attain new heights every so often.

Snap Out of It

Getting out of the comfort zone can be especially difficult for freelancers mainly because there’s isn’t really anyone to push you out of it. No solid boss dangling a promotion, no professors urging you to get A’s, and no parents checking your report card.

That’s why it’s important to always keep an eye on your work and writing habits. If you find yourself in that “way too comfy” state in your freelance career, be sure to do something different in order to shake things up.

Consider the following ideas:

Fly Solo – A lot of freelance writers thrive on platforms such as Elance and oDesk—and for good reason. These websites offer convenient solutions for connecting freelancers with clients, and they can really take the pain out of project hunting. However if you’ve been at it for quite a bit, you may want to consider setting out on your own and finding work yourself.

Do the legwork. Go ahead and build a website and find ways to promote yourself. Look into other ways to find clients, such as cold-calling (or cold-emailing), SEO, or social media marketing. Doing so will not only improve your marketing skills, but it can also allow you to broaden your client base and find more challenging (and possibly more lucrative) projects. Not to mention, you’ll get to keep 100% of your earnings and you won’t have to go on low bidding wars with others.

Get out there—literally – Some writers (introverted ones, in particular) take comfort in the fact that their job doesn’t require a lot of face time. Thanks to the power of the web, acquiring clients and delivering the work can all be done remotely. And to top it all off, you don’t even have to leave the house and you don’t have to worry about making awkward small talk.

Yes, finding clients online can certainly be easier and the chances of you embarrassing yourself in front of prospects are relatively low. However, doing it and only it can limit your growth and potential.

Sure, the online route is effective, but you know what – so is having real world meetings. The former may be more convenient, but actually going out there and meeting people opens up potential for deeper relationships. Not to mention, you’ll get to hone your social and speaking skills in the process.

Instead of focusing all your efforts on online strategies, consider attending a real live event every once in a while. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce and see if there are any networking opportunities that you can grab. Any small biz gatherings in your neighborhood? Go for it. Or head to EventBrite.com and search for events in your industry.

Networking events can certainly help you connect with potential clients, but as a bonus, these things are also rich in opportunities for collaborations, partnerships, and even friends. So don’t just attend for the sake of reeling in clients; go out there with an open mind and have fun while you’re at it.

Deliberately go above and beyond – Starting today, make it a point to over deliver and go above and beyond in your projects. Is your client expecting the first draft in 3 days? Submit it tomorrow. Wake up earlier. Work a little harder this time. Deliberately exceed expectations and strive to deliver work that’s beyond your caliber. Will it be difficult? Yes. But doing these things will undoubtedly make you a better writer and service provider as well.

How about you – what do you do when you’re feeling too comfy in your career? Please share your tips in the Comments below!

Francesca is the founder of Credible Copywriting and specializes in writing blog posts, web content and press releases for startups, Internet companies, and mobile app developers. She’s currently developing Copywriting 2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring copywriters the ins and outs of the biz. Sign up here and get notified when course launches.

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40. Create a Video Vision Board to Keep You On Top of Your Freelance Writing Goals

By Linda Formichelli

Karen Cioffi’s guest post this week, 7 Steps to Freelance Writing Success Through Positive Thinking, got a great response! I can see this idea resonates with many of my readers.

Karen’s step #2 was “Put your vision into words and other visuals.” For me, that visual is a video — and I wanted to let you know about Animoto, a FREE service that lets you create short videos. You can insert photos, select music, add headlines, and more to create a video vision board that will help you keep at your writing goals. My life and career coach, Kristin Taliaferro, recommended it to her clients — and I’m recommending it to you!

I haven’t used Animoto to create a vision board in relation to my writing yet, but in 2010 I made one to reflect my themes for the year: Health and peace. It’s two years old, but I still watch — and am inspired by it — often. Here’s the video:

LIGHT

I hope you find this helpful as you work towards your freelance writing goals and try to keep a positive mindset. If you create an Animoto vision board video and you’d like to share it, post the link in the Comments below! [LF]

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41. 7 Steps to Freelance Writing Success Through Positive Thinking

By Karen Cioffi

Can you think your way to writing success?

Yes! Let’s take a look at a perfect example: Chicken Soup for the Soul. It took the authors 144 attempts to land a publisher.

One hundred and forty-four submissions. What if they gave up after 25, 50, or 100 rejections?

Co-authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen had a positive mindset and clear vision. They had focus and determination. They knew exactly what they wanted – for Chicken Soup for the Soul to be a New York Times best seller. In fact, according to Canfield, the number one reason for being stuck and not realizing your potential or goals is the lack of clarity.

Canfield and Hansen fulfilled their dream with positive thinking, clarity, and perseverance.

Whether you call it positive thinking, a positive attitude, or a winning mindset, it’s the strategy of having a dream, creating a plan, projecting the positive results of that plan, and taking the necessary actions to accomplish your writing goal.

Part of positive thinking is the importance of determining your true motivation. In other words, what is your purpose? Why do you want to succeed? And, what do you want to succeed at?

All this matters.

You need to know and be focused on what you want, what success means to you, and exactly what you want to succeed at. You also need to know your motivation, your purpose. Do you want to:

  • Write and market as a hobby or just pass the time?
  • Earn a supplemental income to be able to buy the extras you can’t afford now?
  • Make a full-time living at writing and marketing – be able to support yourself?
  • Become rich?
  • Become successful in the writing and marketing world?
  • Become a famous author?

Will becoming a New York Times bestselling author be your pinnacle? Or, is your heart set on becoming a multi-millionaire, or a billionaire? Maybe you simply want to be a career author, getting contracts for your work on a regular basis. What about a freelance writer who works regularly? Only you know what success means to you.

This strategy of a positive mindset and positive projection is nothing new. In 1953, Norman Vincent Peale made the psychological term ‘think positive’ popular via his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. And in 1958, Napoleon Hill, using Andrew Carnegie as inspiration, wrote Think and Grow Rich.

Now it’s referred to as the scientific realm of positive psychology, and more and more people are being made aware of the positive mindset strategy — especially through sources such as The Secret. Adding to this, super successful people like Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Louise L. Hay, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Tony Robbins enthusiastically proclaim the benefits.

Harnessing this ‘mind power’ can lead to writing success, better health, wealth, and even happiness. This is the premise behind the strategy and many believe it really works.

So, what does it take to create and nurture positive thinking?

Hill wrote, “All the breaks you need in life wait within your imagination. Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth.”

Seven Steps to Writing and Online Marketing Success

  1. 1. Answer the questions raised earlier. What do you want to succeed at and why? Take time and think carefully about these questions. Determine exactly what success is to you. Imagine it and see it clearly.
  2. 2. Put your vision into words and other visuals. Write it out in detail and make it readily visible. Read it every day . . . envision it every day. Canfield and Hansen put projection notes all over the place, even in the bathroom. This is a visualization technique and you can also use images or objects to help with your projection.
  3. 3. Create a realistic writing and marketing plan. Again, you will need to make it detailed. List the steps needed to go from point A to point B? TIP: Include learning the ropes as part of your plan. Even if you’re already a pro, there’s always more to learn. Learn the craft of writing and learn and test marketing strategies to find those that will work for you.
  4. 4. Give yourself a timeline. Don’t leave your success plan open-ended. State when you will achieve the success you want. It may be six months, it may be a year — just be sure to be realistic. Make it doable. This will help keep you on track.
  5. 5. Don’t just talk the talk. You must walk the walk. This means do the work. Take the action steps necessary to attain your objective. Go into it realistically, knowing it will take time and effort.
  6. 6. Keep positive. No matter how positive you are, there will be times when negativity rears its head. Simply stop it in its tracks. One technique is to recognize negative thoughts when they come. Suppose you’re taking all the right steps, but you just can’t seem to make it all work. You begin to doubt your ability. Take note of those thoughts and actually replace them with the vision of attaining your goal. Talking to friend, peer, or coach is another strategy to help you get back the ‘right’ mindset. You can also repeat simple positive affirmations such as “I am a successful writer; I am a successful marketer; my efforts are successful.” Come up with ones you feel comfortable with and are appropriate for you.
  7. 7. Keep focused and persevere. To help keep focused, prepare weekly writing and marketing plans and read them every morning, then actually act on them. It’s hard to lose focus if you keep your objective front and center. A coach or mentor can help in this area also. And in regard to perseverance, Norman Vincent Peale said, “It’s always too soon to quit.”

Nothing in life is guaranteed to go smoothly, so expect the unexpected. Know where you’re heading, envision where you want to be, and ride through any obstacles that may come your way.

What are your thoughts on the power of positive thinking to boost your freelance writing career?

Karen Cioffi is a multi-award-winning author, freelance/ghostwriter, editor, and online marketer. For more writing and marketing tips, go to her site and sign up for her free newsletter, The Writing World.

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42. Can You Make a Good Living as a Freelance Writer Writing Only About What You Love?

The other day I had a mentoring client ask me, “Is it possible to make a living writing only what I’m interested in?”

I’d like to answer that question here, because there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

First of all: Yes, if what you’re interested in is technology, health, business, or a few other in-demand areas — you can make a living writing only what you’re interested in.

But for the rest of you, who may love writing about quilting, or butterfly collecting, or bluegrass music, or auto racing — it may be somewhat more difficult to earn a good living writing about these topics.

That said, there are ways to make more money than you would expect writing about topics that you love but are in lesser demand. For example, you can think of ways to slant these topics so they’ll fit into a variety of publications.

For instance: My husband Eric is the news editor at BoardgameGeek.com, and before that he wrote about boardgames for magazines. There are really only one or two paying markets for this interest — so what Eric did was to match the boardgame to the market. He wrote about a game called Primordial Soup for Discover, a game about sheep herding for Sheep! magazine, and a game about fish for a magazine for aquarium enthusiasts.

That’s a smart move! But keep in mind that even so, Eric did also have to write about topics that weren’t particularly interesting to him to keep his income up.

Now, I’m going to make a crazy claim: I make most of my writing income writing about what I’m truly interested in.

How is that?

Well, part of my job as a freelance writer is to find what’s interesting about a particular topic and convey that to readers in a fun, reader-friendly way. My job is to be interested in whatever I’m writing about.

For example, I recently wrote an article for a trade magazine about cold-water carpet extraction. It’s not a topic I would normally be interested in, but my editor was paying me to be interested.

I interviewed three experts in the industry, and really, nothing is more fun than talking to people who are passionate about what they do — even if what they do is clean carpets. One of the interviews was especially fun — it was with a source who said, “I can talk about carpet cleaning all day!”

(By the way, it’s funny — I’ll interview a top celebrity who’s a bore, and then have a great time talking with a sanitation/janitorial expert.)

Freelancers need to be inherently curious about everything. If your goal is to make a living through freelance writing and you’re doing a lot of marketing, it’s a certainty that one day you’ll be presented with an assignment on a topic you don’t love. If you can become interested in that idea, then yes — you’re earning a living writing only about what you’re interested in.

How about you — do you write about topics that don’t interest you just to pay the bills? Do you have any tricks for making yourself interested in a topic you don’t love? [lf]

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43. No Work? No Worries. 8 Ways to Use Downtime to Boost Your Freelance Writing Business

By Lisa Evans

It happens to all of us: The ebb and flow of freelance work means there are times when we have lots of assignments on our plates and times when our inbox is empty. Sometimes it can seem as though your email is broken. Refresh, refresh … still nothing?

For me, those slow times usually occur around the Christmas holidays. With editors on vacation, there’s no one to pitch to and it takes three times as long to get a response.

While slow periods may seem like your worst nightmare – a detriment to your business success – there are many ways to use them to your advantage. Here are some of my favourite strategies for turning downtime into cashtime.

1. Research Editorial Calendars and Plan Ahead

Most publications have editorial calendars outlining the themes that each month’s issue will cover. Matching your query to a theme on the magazine’s calendar will not only show the editor you’ve done your research but will make it that much easier for them to accept your idea. Most publications include their editorial calendars in media kits – packages given to potential advertisers. Use your downtime to research editorial calendars and plan your pitches for the upcoming months.

2. Start a Blog or Website

If you’ve always wanted to start a blog or set up a website, but haven’t had the time, this is your chance. Use your downtime to plan your website’s content or write a month or two worth of blog posts and save them for busy times when you aren’t able to update on a regular basis. Blogging is also a great way to keep up your writing skills.

3. Create a Marketing Plan

We all know how important marketing is to our freelance success, right? Use downtime to plan your marketing strategy. Decide which publications you will target each month, which conferences or writing events you will attend during the year, and set a monthly or yearly sales goal for yourself.

Now is the time to design and print business cards or to make a template letter of introduction. If you don’t already have a system for keeping track of queries, consider setting one up. Mine is a simple excel spreadsheet where I record the date I send each query, follow up dates and notes from editors.

4. Sign Up for Online Courses

Use your downtime to learn the tricks of the trade and improve your skill set. Online courses provide a channel for you to meet other writers, learn from experienced professionals, stimulate your brain and add to your writing repertoire. Linda Formichelli’s Write for Magazines course is a great place to start. (Subscribe to Linda’s email list to get an announcement when the next session is set.)

Is there a type of writing you’d like to break into? Whether it’s medical writing, corporate writing or personal essay writing, there’s a course on it. Seek training in an area that will allow you to add a new revenue stream to your business. If you’re a lifestyle freelance writer, like me, try taking a course in writing white papers, for example – an area where you can land better-paying clients and expand your services and expertise.

5. Research New Markets

Hit the magazine stands and research new markets. I like to take my downtime to read through and analyze magazines I’ve never heard of or never written for. Make a list of the type of articles that appear in the publication and brainstorm ideas.

Have a query letter lying around without a home? Check to see if it fits in any of these publications. I had an idea on how to get flawless wedding day skin that I’d been pitching for nearly a year to various wedding publications before stumbling upon a bridal magazine I’d never heard of. I pitched the idea and within a week had a response. They liked it. Sold – thanks to downtime.

6. Plan Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are a great way for you to pick the brains of writers whose work you admire. Most people are more than happy to be treated to a coffee and have an opportunity to talk about themselves for a half hour. Introduce yourself, say you’re a freelance writer starting out in the business and you’d like to talk shop with them. Joining a writing association can be a great gateway to meeting experienced writers.

7. Write for Online Markets

Need some fast cash during your slow days? Online markets are often in need of copy, as they update on a daily or weekly basis and can be a great way to keep yourself busy writing and keep your pocketbook full.

8. Get Out!

Don’t let the slow times drag you down. There’s no sense chaining yourself to a desk grovelling for work that just isn’t there. Get off your butt and have experiences you can write about later.

Is there a new restaurant you’ve been dying to try? A dog-sledding adventure you’ve been waiting to take? A new exercise class that intrigues you? Now’s the time. You never know what ideas might pop into your head while savouring a local delicacy, freezing your butt off or wiping the sweat from your brow.

Lisa Evans is a health, lifestyle and travel freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Alive, Canadian Living, Entrepreneur.com, Experience Life, The Globe and Mail, Longevity, The Toronto Star, The Sun and What’s Up Families. Visit her at her website.

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44. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Getting On the “Editors’ Blacklist”

By Linda Formichelli

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.

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45. This Is The Post Where I Solve All Your Problems

By Linda Formichelli

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.

Problem: You’re afraid to contact editors.

Read these posts:

Are You Afraid to Pitch Editors? This Is the Reason You Shouldn’t Be

6 Crucial Lessons About Editors I Learned from Starting My Own Magazine

How to Find Out Everything You Want to Know from an Editor

7 Excuses to Stay in Touch with Editors and Clients

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Getting on the “Editors’ Blacklist”

Problem: You’re waiting for the perfect time to get started.

Read these posts:

Why You Should Stop Thinking About Becoming a Freelance Writer

Bust My Excuse: I’m Too Old to Get Started!

Bust My Excuse: I’m a Busy Mom…I Don’t Have Time to Write!

Still Waiting for The Right Moment to Begin Your Freelancing Career?

Problem: You’re feeling demotivated, scared, or depressed.

Read these posts:

The Depressed Writer: An Interview with Julie Fast, Author of Get It Done When You’re Depressed

7 Motivation Hacks for Freelancers

How to Get Past Your Writing Block Using Brute Force

The First Hurdle: Why Writers Should Stop Being Scared and Take a Leap of Faith

Does Rejection Get You Down? Here’s How to Develop Resilience as a Freelance Writer

Recording of Become a Confident Writer Teleclass Now Available

7 Proven Tip for Getting Into the Write Mood

Problem: You’re feeling disorganized and scattered.

Read these posts:

Renegade Writer Q&A with David Allen, Author of Getting Things Done

Renegade Writer Q&A with Laura Vanderkam, Author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

How to Gain Control Over Your Freelancing Life

7 More Ways to Gain Control Over Your Freelancing Life

The ADHD Writer: Making Distraction Work for You

How to Organize Your Assignments, Research, Interviews & All the Rest

9 Great Ways to Capture Your Most Creative Ideas Now Matter Where You Are

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!

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46. How to Use Social Media to Get Freelance Gigs: A New Boot Camp from the Freelance Writers Den

How to Use Social Media to Get Freelance GigsIf 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!

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47. How to Become an Expert in Any Topic – Video

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!

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48. The Easy Way to Get More of Your Work Out There — Even If You’re Not Feeling Confident

The other day I was waiting for a yoga session to start and I picked up a book that was sitting on the windowsill (whose title I forget). I flipped it open to a random page, and it read:

“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]

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49. 6 Key Questions to Ask During Interviews

By Linda Formichelli

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!

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50. How to Earn More From Your Writing Just By Talking About It

By Justin P. Lampert

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.

Let’s Talk

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:

  • Record the speech in audio and video formats and offer them in whole or in parts via YouTube, your website, your blog, or via podcast.
  • Obtain testimonials from the event organizers and/or attendees and post them on your site or add them to your media kit.
  • Have the speech transcribed and post it as an article on your site and/or as a sample to mail out.
  • Hand out a brief bio with contact information at your speech to allow attendees to get a hold of you later.
  • Tack “professional speaker” on your bio’s skill list.
  • Be creative and make the moment work for you!

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!

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