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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: freelance writing, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. How to Work Less and Earn More as a Freelance Writer

In 2009, I started researching and experimenting with ways to work less and earn more with my writing. I started out by vowing to work only two days per week.

It worked — and I’ll tell you how in a bit.

Since 2009, my schedule has settled to 30 hours per week or less; more than before because now my son is in school all day, and I really do love what I do and find it hard to keep myself from writing. These days, I generally work from 9-2:30 daily, and often take Fridays off if I can.

And during it all, my freelancing income has gone up by 30%.

Want to know how I did it? Let’s start in 2009.

How I Cut My Work Hours & Still Kept Earning

My goal, when I started the two-day workweek in 2009, was to spend more time with my one-year-old son, have more fun, and do more volunteering. On my days off I would check e-mail just to make sure nothing came up, and if a source could schedule an interview only on one of my days off, I’d do it. But most weeks, I sat down at my desk and worked two days per week.

The first thing I did to cut my hours was quit a time-suck writer’s forum. I could spend hours on there every day because there were so many members that every time I clicked, there was a new message. One day I posted a question about freelancing, and was treated to snarky responses about how I should already know the answer.

Right then, I decided to quit. I had my husband change my password and promise not to reveal it to me. For a couple of days my fingers kept twitching towards the keys that would bring up the forum, but then the urge subsided.

Then, on a roll, I found a free site-blocker app and blocked the other sites I spent a lot of time on, like iCanHasCheezburger.com and Failblog.

Suddenly, I had a ton of free time.

I soon came to realize that a lot of what we freelancers do is busy work. For example, I was in the habit of sending out e-mails to sources or editors in the morning, and then spending the rest of the day alternately clicking on “check e-mail” and surfing the web. Then, at 5, I felt that I’d put in a full day’s work, even though I really only worked for a few minutes and then spent the rest of the day waiting for people to get back to me.

So I stopped doing that. If I sent out e-mails and couldn’t take action until I got a response, I would shut my laptop, go off and do what I wanted to do, and come back later to check. Exact same results, but much less time “working.”

One week I felt stressed about all I had to do: I had several writing assignments on the go and was insistent on working three days that week at the most to get it all done. I asked my life coach for tips, and she said that many of her clients feel they have too much to do, but then when they sit down and actually calculate the hours — or actually do the work — they realize it’s not so much after all. They had just built it up in their minds.

So my goal buddy and I set up what we called a “boot camp” day on one of my work days that week. On boot camp days, my Jennifer and I called each other every hour on the hour to tell each other what we did in the last hour and what we planned to do in the next hour. There were no repercussions if we don’t get the work done, but there’s something about telling someone else what you plan to do that lights a fire under your butt.

And guess what? That day, I got all the work I had been worrying about done in four hours. I didn’t even have to work that third day.

You CAN Set Your Own Hours

Those were some very, very valuable lessons, and after so many years of freelancing, I’ve really realized the full power of the freelance lifestyle — the power to set your own hours and be the master of your own time.

The eight-hour workday is so ingrained in us that it’s hard to envision working less and still earning the same income — but as Tim Ferriss said in The Four-Hour Workweek, isn’t it amazing that all over the world, no matter what job they do, every person needs exactly eight hours a day to get their work done?

We freelancers are not in jobs where we have to be present all the time, like in retail. We can “disappear” and, using the power of technology, still be reachable if a client has an emergency (which they rarely do).

Granted, when I started cutting my hours in 2009 I had already been freelancing for 12 years, so I was past the stage where I had to spend hours each week formulating ideas and pitching. I was in many magazines’ “stables” of writers, so it was easier for me to cut down my hours than it would be for someone just starting out.

But even new writers can probably use their time more efficiently. C’mon, fess up — when you should be writing a query or building your website or working on a book chapter, are you 100% focused on that task or are you taking frequent web-surfing breaks? Do you bang out that pitch or do you procrastinate, yet still feel “busy” because you’re sitting in front of your computer?

Do MORE of What You Love

So what did I do with all this extra time in 2009? Well, I started a local parents’ group that ended up with over 100 members, so I spent a lot of time hanging out with other parents and their babies. I read — a lot. I upped my weight training from two days per week to three. And I did more volunteering for animal welfare causes.

Isn’t that why so many of us decide to go freelance — so we can control our workloads and our hours, and have more time to spend on our families, hobbies, and causes?

Every day I have to pinch myself — I can’t believe that so many years later, I’m still working reduced hours and earning more than ever. I keep thinking that one day, my husband is going to say, “Uh, Linda…we’re broke.” But it hasn’t happened. I’m going to keep up this schedule as long as I can…and the more I do it, the easier it gets.

Your challenge today: Want to work less and earn more as a freelance writer? Find your top five time-wasting activities and find ways to ditch or delegate them.

This post originally ran in 2010 and has been updated to be more helpful to you.


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2. What You Can Learn About Business from a Stingy Irish Dance Teacher

My 6-year-old son is a dancer: He takes several ballet classes and a jazz class every week, and has done tap as well. (That’s him at the Nutcracker rehearsal last year…sorry, I couldn’t resist!) So when a local Irish dance studio did a demo at T’s school and he asked to take lessons, I raced to sign him up. Encouraging his passions, and all that.

A weekly class costs $45 per month, but one month I had a brain fart and dropped off a check for $40. The next day, I got a polite reminder from the studio owner that I had sent in the wrong amount — fair enough — and I responded that I would drop off the $5 at T’s next lesson.

But at that very point, T decided Irish dance wasn’t for him. (I have to say I was relieved…driving T to dance five days a week and then sitting in a waiting room with 3-year-old copies of Dance Magazine is not my idea of a good time.) He had taken only one session at the beginning of the month, and after that I just stopped taking him.

A few weeks later, the studio owner emailed to ask where T had been, and I said he decided to stop taking classes, but perhaps one day he would change his mind.

She responded, “Okay, we hope to see him again…and by the way, you still owe me $5.”

I was taken aback: We had paid $40 and T had taken one lesson that month. I responded, “I think the $40 I paid covers the one 30-minute class T took!”

To which she replied: “Sorry, we don’t prorate for classes not attended.”

Now, of course, she was right. In fact, I’m sure I signed a contract agreeing to this very thing. But…seriously?

My husband and I joked for a while about sending the dance school a box of 500 pennies, or mailing five one-dollar bills a week apart, but finally I said, “Just send her a check for the five dollars and be done with it. I never want to deal with this school again.”

So the business owner got her five dollars — win! — but she lost potential future business, not to mention word of mouth. Because if anyone ever asks me to recommend a good place for dance classes, you can be certain I won’t be suggesting that school.

Penny Wise…

Ever hear the expression “penny wise but pound foolish”? This usually refers to people who cut costs unwisely and end up paying more in the long run. But it also applies to writers who are SO invested in coming off as professional, and so hyper-vigilant about not getting ripped off, that they turn off clients.

For example, one student of mine who had been attempting unsuccessfully to get good-paying clients for over a year asked, “A prospect wants me to come in for a meeting. My time costs money! So how much should I charge them?”


I understand the thought behind this: You want to look like a hard-bitten pro, and it’s true — your time IS worth money.

But is it really smart, when you’re desperate for work and someone shows an interest in hiring you, to go all hardcore and demand payment for an exploratory get-to-know-you meeting?

The same goes for writers who go into a frenzy when a client asks for a revise, or when an editor asks for 200 more words or a photo caption that wasn’t included in the contract. You need to consider whether it’s worth doing a bit of extra work for free to keep a good client.

(Of course, if this is an abusive client, one who pays pennies, or one who consistently asks for extra goodies with no compensation — you’re well within your rights to put your foot down…and hopefully ditch the client for good.)

Think about the last time you were at a café and you dropped your drink. (This happened to me just last week!) In 100% of the cases this happens, the barista will offer to replace the drink for free.

Now, the café owner is certainly justified in making you pay for the new drink. After all, is it HIS fault you had case of butterfingers? And drinks cost money, so he’s losing five bucks by offering you a free replacement!

But if he’s smart, the business owner understands that the cost of the free replacement drink is eclipsed by the goodwill created when he offers it to you. You’ll keep coming back and ordering more coffees, ad you’ll tell your friends about it too. That’s five bucks well spant.

Give to Get

Not only should you think hard about demanding money when a good client asks for a little extra here and there — but you should make it a point to offer little freebies even when the client doesn’t ask:

  • An extra sidebar you create with research you couldn’t fit into the article.
  • An introduction to someone who can help your client.
  • Some tweets and Facebook posts to promote an article or blog post you wrote for a client.
  • The occasional little gift just to say “Thank you,” such as an e-book or a box of candy.
  • Ten minutes of consulting time to help the client with a question or problem you happen to have the expertise to solve.

Yes, you’re spending your valuable time, and sometimes your hard-earned cash as well — but it’s worth it to foster loyalty in your good clients. As they say in Big Business, it costs much more to get a new client than it does to keep an old one.

Don’t Be a Sucker

I know you don’t want to be taken advantage of — and you definitely don’t want to come across as a doormat.

The trick is, when you agree to do free work, convey how much it’s worth and that you’re doing the client a favor.

For example: “I had some extra materials I couldn’t fit into the article, so I created an extra sidebar, no charge. I hope you can use it!”

Or: “I normally charge $X for that kind of work, but you’re such a good client I’d like to offer it to you gratis.”

This way, you graciously offer something of value to your client — but you also get across the concept that there is indeed worth to your offering, making the favor even more valuable in your client’s eyes.

At the same time, you keep the requests for freebies to a minimum because you’ve made it clear that these are things you normally charge for. And if the client DOES ask for more, they won’t be shocked when you say, “Sure, I can do that — how does $X sound?”

Remember, don’t be a stingy Irish dance teacher…you may get your five dollars, but you’ll lose a client. [LF]

P.S.Two new (awesome!) classes coming up that you can register for now: (1) Write Big: A Fear-Busting Bootcamp Experience: Practical exercises, live coaching, a challenge, and bonus goodies to help you overcome the fears that are keeping you from writing, pitching—and succeeding. (2) Freelance Writer’s Pitch Clinic: A class on how to write killer queries & LOIs. Your homework will be critiqued, and your questions answered, by editors from Redbook, Forbes, and Writer’s Digest/Print Magazine. And…you have the chance to get a full refund on the course fee!

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3. Interview Sources We Love to Hate: Twitter Game Winners + Knee-Slapping Tweets!

twitterSo this week I ran another Twitter game. (You may remember that last week I did #killaqueryin5words.) This one was #sourcefromhellin5words, and the idea was that we writers would give five-word phrases that would make us want to never interview a source. Like:

  • How much will you pay?
  • Who else are you interviewing?
  • Can I see the article?
  • Is the article out yet?
  • Sorry, I forgot the interview.
  • I’m the foremost expert!
  • We’re creating a new paradigm!
  • You should mention my book.
  • I could talk all day!

What was really cool was that ProfNet and HelpAReporter, the two biggest source-finding services for journalists, got in on the action, so we had a ton of submissions…and also, expert sources who use those services got a lesson in what NOT to do when working with a writer. Not only that, but ProfNet did a post about the contest where they featured their favorite contributions!

As with last week’s game, some tweets were just so AWESOME that I decided to offer prizes to my favorites. And they are:

@anngol: “Oh you’re not from Redbook?” #sourcefromhellin5words [This was hands-down my favorite! The snobby source…ugh.]

@write4income: (In response to everything you ask): “That question is too personal.” #sourcefromhellin5words @LFormichelli [Persnickety sources don’t get called back!]

@lilbusgirl: How’s 10pm your time sound? #sourcefromhellin5words [Yeah, because we writers don’t have a life!]

@CaroleeNoury: Answers are in my book. #sourcefromhellin5words @LFormichelli [Hint: We journalists need to get quotes straight from the source; we can’t just pull quotes from books.]

@RobinDarling: “I read it on Wikipedia” #sourcefromhellin5words @LFormichelli [And you call yourself an expert?]

@danielcasciato: “Get a quote from PR” @LFormichelli #sourcefromhellin5words [Yes, we writers LOVE sanitized PR-speak!]

@RAHolloway: “I will need final approval. @LFormichelli #sourcefromhellin5words [Now THAT’S good journalism!]

[email protected]_olsen: It all started in 1965…(when you only need one quick quote about their work) @LFormichelli #sourcefromhellin5words [I hope you took a bathroom break before this interview!]

Winning tweeters, I’d love to offer you a free book, course, or checklist from the Renegade Writer Store. Please choose your favorite and email me at [email protected] with your selection! (FYI, I’m out of town because my grandma passed away. :( So please be patient and I’ll send you your book next week for sure. Thanks!)

Thanks so much to everyone who played #sourcefromhellin5words. It was a blast!

On Monday morning I’ll be launching a new Twitter game called #editororgasmin5words. I think you can tell what we’re looking for here! Some examples I’ll have on my Twitter feed include:

  • Yes, I’ll write for free! (Yes, we can get snarky in this game! :)
  • I created an extra sidebar.
  • I fact-checked all stats.
  • Pynchon agreed to an interview.
  • Can I file this early?

The game will start Monday at around 8 am ET (New York time) and run all day. (Please wait until then to start posting, and I’ll retweet your contributions!) Just add the hashtag #editororgasmin5words to your post, and feel free to tag me at @lformichelli!

If you want to get announcements when I hold a new Twitter games like these, please join the Renegade Writer email list! You’ll also get a free e-book and checklist for writers, plus my Monday Motivations for Writers emails!

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4. Are You a Writing Fangirl…Or a REAL Writer? 7 Ways to Know

surpriseAre You a Writing Fangirl…Or a REAL Writer? 7 Ways to Tell

We writers can spend hours every day thinking, dreaming, talking, and ruminating about writing. We love what we do!

But when we use these activities (and I’m loathe to even call them “activities”) as substitutes for actually writing…that’s a problem. We leave the realm of serious writer and enter the realm of — fanfolk.

And it’s a sneaky problem, because geeking out over all things writing feels like we’re being productive. We call it brainstorming, networking, getting motivated, whatever. But what it is not, is WRITING. Oh yeah, and MARKETING. And otherwise getting off our butts and going after, and completing, paying writing assignments.

(Caveat: I’m not saying we’re not allowed to have fun, kill time, and kibitz on writers’ forums. It’s when these time-wasters placate us into feeling productive — or we’re more interested in the trappings of a writer than in writing itself — that there’s a problem. )

Seven Signs You’re a Writing Fanboy/Girl:

1. You wear your Grammar Police badge with pride.

Writing forums, email discussion boards for writers, and blog comments are full of posts like these:

  • My client just sent me an email where he used ‘their’ instead of ‘they’re’! *headdesk*
  • Look at the typo in this newspaper headline! What is journalism coming to these days?
  • Hey, blogger…you call yourself a writer? There’s a word missing in the second paragraph.

Pointing out/kvetching about other writers’ grammar mistakes make you FEEL good because hey, you don’t make mistakes like that so clearly you’re a superior writer. But is it getting you more gigs? Is it getting more writing out of you? Or is it simply wasting energy you could be using to get more assignments?

The person who made the typo is writing. What are YOU doing?

I have a guest post on the MakeaLivingWriting.com blog that goes into much, much more details on why you want to pit away your Grammar Police badge. (With 177 comments…clearly a hot button topic!)

2. You give a crap that The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play. (And you know that it has 1,787 words.)

Look on almost any writers’ forum and you’ll see long threads where writers discuss their favorite pen (who writes in pen anymore?), post interesting factoids about Shakespeare, share motivational quotes from Hemingway, and hash out the details of the latest plagiarism/book banning/angry-author-screwed-by-publisher case.

I call these “fanboy writer posts.” These writer trivia posts show you’re a big fan of all things writing…but do they actually count as writing?

3. You’re a member of 10 writing organizations.

Here’s your email sig line:

Jane Smith, Wordsmith Extraordinaire

Member of:

National Writers Union
Science Writers of America
Mystery Writers Association
Medial Journalists’ Society
East Podunk Stitch & Bitch Writing Club
Romance Writers of America
[Add five more here]

Guess what? Editors and potential clients do not look at this list and say, “Wow. She must be a serious writer. Let’s hire her!”

Being a member of (most) writers’ associations does not prove that you are a writer. If you shell out your $150, you can get in. Even if you’ve never written a word in your life!

Join the organizations that pertain to the exact type of writing you’re actually doing. Not the genres you wish you were in, or the ones you think will impress people. And only join if you plan to be active in the group (which includes — wait for it — writing.)

4. You are the proud owner of a vast collection of quill pens.

Many writers love the trappings of writing more than the actual act of writing itself. So we see aspiring writers posting photos of their collection of mugs with writerly sayings; getting/talking about/comparing/sharing on social media their tattoos of Remington typewriters; collecting recycled-paper, leather-bound journals (just for looking at, natch); and strolling the aisles of Office Depot coveting the fancy pens.

Anyone looking at you, with your exclamation point tattoo and “Writer at Work” doorknob hanger, would think you are a writer. But…are you actually writing? Don’t delude yourself: A collection of quill pens does not a writer make.

5. You take writing classes you don’t need.

Wait a minute…did I just say that? Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot because I teach a ton of classes for writers here—but seen too many writers take class after class in order to avoid having to actually pitch and write.

(Many instructors LOVE students like that…they pay good money, don’t do the work, and the instructor gets something for nothing.)

A multitude of certificates from writing classes is the sign of an insecure writer who always thinks she needs to know more before getting started — or the sign of fanfolk who love showing off their creds more than they do actually writing.

Yes, take a class to learn the skills you’re lacking, whether it’s writing the perfect pitch, running a writing business, or crafting an article that will sell. Then…go out and do that thing. That’s what makes you a real writer. If you come to a a roadblock because you need more skills, THEN you can take more classes.

This goes for free classes, too. Just about everyone with something to sell online offers a free class/instructional webinar/training call to get people on their email lists. It’s tempting to try them all! But unless you need that exact skill right now, you can hold off until you do.

6. You love books.

Writers love spending lots of time on Goodreads reviewing books. And weighing in on the latest literary controversies (is The Goldfinch crap or not?) And discussing On Writing and Writing Down the Bones and The Artist’s Way. And bragging about how many books they have in their homes. (I have over 1,000 books! Oh yeah? Well, I have 1,500. Here’s a photo to prove it!)

But the fact that you have a library overflowing with books, a shelf full of writing manuals, and 500 Goodreads reviews (especially of those writing manuals!) does not show you’re a writer. You talk a good game, but do you have the ass-in-seat-time to prove it? Serious writers with limited time use their time to — write.

7. You call yourself a “scribe” or “wordsmith” on your business card.

You are not a scribe, and you’re not a wordsmith. These terms bring to mind unpaid writers jotting down poems for the love of it — or monks copying Bible passages. (My editor at a writing magazine kept changing the word “writer” to “scribe” in my articles and it drove me batshit crazy…as much as I loved this editor!)

You are a serious, well-paid businessperson who offers writing as a valuable service. Right?

So: Are you a fanboy/girl or REAL writer? And if you say you’re a real writer: Prove it today by shutting down the forums, putting away the writing manuals, resisting the urge for one more class or one more writing group membership…and writing.

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5. I created this Query Writing Checklist for you…and it’s super cheap!

Dawn Witzke-checkmarkWhether you’re pitching your idea to a magazine, a website, or a blog — there’s so much to think about and remember when you write and send a query letter:

  • Is my idea timely?
  • Is my idea relevant to enough of the pub’s readers?
  • What sources should I approach about a pre-interview?
  • Oh man, what was that source’s email address again?
  • Could I offer this idea as a chunky format with lots of box outs…or a chart…or a quiz?
  • Did I nail the magazine’s style?
  • Do I have an enticing headline (and how do I create one of those, anyway?)?
  • Wait, did I follow up with editor X?

And even if you remember everything you need to so — inevitably, just as your query email to your dream publication zaps off the screen, you notice…a typo.


I had a HUGE brainstorm: How about a checklist that writers can use with every pitch they send, to make sure it has all the elements that will entice an editor to say Yes?

So I did it…I created a fillable PDF Query Letter Checklist that covers:

Stage 1: Developing the Query
Stage 2: Proofing the Query
Stage 3: Sending the Query
Stage 4: Tracking Your Query

Wherever possible, I also included links to websites and blog posts that will deepen your understanding of that particular query element — from developing a story idea that sells, to learning about the nut graf, to finding expert sources.

The Query Letter Checklist is a fillable checklist, meaning you can fill in the blanks and check off action items on your computer.

Download the checklist, and create a duplicate copy for each query idea…you can use the Query Letter Checklist over and over!

And even better — you can get this helpful checklist for just $1.49. I know…super cheap, right?

If you’d like a copy of a checklist that will help you develop, send, and track killer query letters — so you can get more assignments — here’s where you can get it.


Drawing by Dawn Witzke.

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6. Big Family, Big Income, Great Career: How to Have It All (An interview with Laura Vanderkam)

freelancingparentI’m a big fan of Laura Vanderkam’s books, so I was excited to get an advance copy of I Know How She Does It : How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (which is now available!), and especially to get a chance to interview Laura for The Renegade Writer.

In I Know How She Does It, Laura interviewed and analyzed the time logs of over 140 women who have kids and earn at least 6 figures — women many consider as “having it all” — to offer advice on how we can fit a full, fun, busy life with work and kids into 168 hours per week. This is especially relevant to aspiring freelance writers who may have kids and a day job, and who are having trouble fitting writing and business-building in among all their other obligations.

By the way, if you’d like to keep your own time log, you can sign up for one free here.

Can you talk a bit about how you view the hours in our lives as a mosaic?

Laura: Many people look at their time log and just see these cells on a grid. I said, well, let’s change that. Let’s view it as a mosaic — and you are the artist, you are the mosaic maker, designing what your hours are going to look like and moving things around to

I think this mosaic image is also profound because we have a tendency to tell our lives in stories and to construct memories as stories — and probably your Renegade Writer readers do that, especially because we are storytellers. And the format of a story tends to be: Here are three points of evidence that lead us to an epiphany that we must make some change.

With life it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking: These stressful things happened — I had this horrible day at work, this bad night of sleep, this issue with my kid. Therefore, life is crazy and unsustainable and I must change.

But what if you view life more as a mosaic and say, well, we had those three stressful moments, but we had all these other moments too? Those moments count as well. We can choose to see those three stressful moments as this evidence leading toward our epiphany or we can say, well, life is stressful AND life is wonderful. There really is no contradiction here. We don’t have to construct a story out of it. We can simply view of the whole mosaic for what it is. So that’s why I like that image.

Can we talk about the 24-hour trap and how writers can avoid it?

Laura: The 24-hour trap is that we have a tendency to think that things need to happen daily in order to count in our lives.

Obviously, it is good to have daily habits — and when we want to add something into our lives, we first ask ourselves, where can I put this into my life every day? The problem is that if you have a busy life, often you can’t put something in at the same time every day — but that does not mean it can’t happen.

I see this especially with things like exercise. Many people will say, “Laura, I’d love to exercise, but I am just not the kind of person who can leave for an hour at lunch every day” or “I want to get home and see my kids so I can’t go to the gym after work every day” or “I recognize mornings might be a great time to exercise, but I just can’t stomach the thought of setting my alarm for 5:30 every day.”

And it’s like, “Okay, well, don’t set your alarm for 5:30 every day.” Here’s an idea: Maybe one day a week you could get up half an hour early and do something; maybe one night a week you and your partner trade off who has the kids and you can go exercise during that time; maybe you do something on weekend mornings before the family has gotten up; and maybe you run around the track by your kid’s soccer game on Sunday. Then you’ve already fit in four exercise stints per week.

That was not daily, but four times a week is pretty good.

I think the 24 hour trap keeps us from seeing the whole picture. If you look at the whole 168 hours of the week, often things will fit. You can’t hold to everything fitting into 24 hours.

And I think writers especially fall into that trap because they think, “I need a special writing time every single day.” But even if you got it in three times a week, that’s better than nothing.

Laura: Yeah, and the problem especially is when people don’t do it because they can’t do it daily. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Sometimes it’s really easy to hold onto these stories we tell ourselves, like “I have a full-time job and a family, and therefore I can’t write.” Instead you could say, “Okay, I can’t write for three hours daily, but I could wake up early twice during the week and do it then, or I could stop watching one television show and just get something down on paper, and maybe I’ll be so inspired by what I’m doing that I’ll keep going.”

We have a tendency not to try those things because then we have to actually confront what we are doing and what we are not, and we have to look at our output and judge it — and often it is just easier not to do it and tell ourselves the story that it is impossible.

I notice that you often recommend outsourcing so that you have more time to do the things that are more important to you — but how can writers do this, especially if they are new and aren’t making a lot of money, and they can’t afford to hire much help? Do you have any tips for them? Maybe they need to just relax their standards?

Laura: Yes. When you don’t think something is the best use of your time, you have three options: You can ignore it, you can minimize it, or you can outsource it.

And obviously the outsourcing part costs money, but it does not cost anything to lower your standards — so that is a first line of offense if you are trying to make more time in your life.

I was just reading a comment on somebody else’s blog from this woman who was all excited about how she would get the kids into bed at night, and then do three hours of housework. I think she wanted everyone to think about how diligent she was or some such. I don’t know what point she was trying to make, but my first thought was “Why on earth are you doing that? Why does it require three hours at night to do all this? If you really feel the need to clean, set a timer for half an hour and then be done with it — and if it did not happen, it did not happen.”

So that’s certainly an option for people: Just let it go. Borrow that theme song from Frozen and let it go. It really does not matter. You will never get that time back, so use it first for the things that are important to you and let other things fill in around the edges.

There are a lot of writers who think, “I have kids at home, so I can do freelance writing from home and it will all work out.” And then they realize it does not work out because the kid isn’t napping on their schedule, or they need things while you’re on an interview. So I was wondering what are some of the creative ways that women you interviewed handle childcare.

Laura: Well, this is the thing: There are very few good ways to meet the needs of a client and a baby simultaneously. And, yes, there is inevitably the day you have a phone call with your biggest client at 1:30 p.m. that your child who naps religiously at 1:00 p.m. elects not to.

The only real way around this is to have childcare when you need it. When you’re doing something that you cannot do with kids’ noise or kids’ distractions, then you need somebody else to be responsible so you can focus on your work.

And there are many ways you can pull that off that might not be as expensive as hiring full-time childcare. For example, you can be efficient about pushing phone calls into a certain set of hours per day and have childcare for those hours, and then maybe do some more of the writing work after the kids go to bed. Or you could do the writing work when your partner can be with the kids, for instance, if you have a partner.

That’s a way you could pull it off without needing to pay for 40 hours of childcare. But it is very difficult to work without childcare. I had one woman in my study who was managing to run a small business without much childcare. But the way she was trading that off was by sleeping less, and it seemed to work for her because she did not need much sleep. But if you are not the kind of person who can function on six hours of sleep, and most of us aren’t, then you’re going to have to come up with something else.

A lot of writers think they are at the mercy of the client’s schedule. But what I realized is that if you actually tell people when you are available and suggest times, you can get them all into the one block of time where you have childcare.

Laura: Yes. Be very strategic about that and plan to have a few hours where you really attempt to push calls. I try to save mornings for writing and then do phone calls in either the late morning or the afternoon when I’m ready to interact with the world. You can express preferences. Sometimes you’re interviewing an A-list celebrity, and you’re going to have to do it when she needs to do it. But in other cases, people may have a bit more flexibility.

And people are actually happy for you to suggest a time. “Are you available at 10:00 or 10:30? If not, let me know.” They like not having to think about all the options.

Laura: Yes, it is actually not that helpful to send an e-mail to someone saying, “Can we do an interview in the next week?” Because then they’re looking at their whole schedule, and inevitably the first thing they suggest is not going to work for you. So it helps to just throw a few free times out there. If none of those work, then you can go from there, but the odds of at least one of those three working are decent.

You’re a successful writer — what are some of the things you think new freelance writers can drop to make time for what’s important? What are they doing that makes them feel productive that they don’t really need to be doing?

Laura: Well, the way I approach this question is that it’s not so much about dropping things. It’s about making sure that you first put in time in your life for the things that you need to be doing.

If you’re building a business there are certain things that are important for you to do. You need to have some of your work out there, so building your web site with examples of your work is a top priority. You need to be reaching out to potential clients. That is a top priority. You have actual assignments you need to get done. Those are top priorities.

Do those things first and then this magical thing happens where the other stuff that you don’t actually need to be doing starts taking less time. For example, generally people spend more time in their inboxes than they need to because they’re checking it too frequently, and they’re just working from the top down. Whatever happens to be on the top of your inbox is not necessarily your top work priority, so probably it does not need to be the first thing you tackle when you start approaching work.

But the beautiful thing about filling your time first with the things that you need to be doing is that then you figure out for yourself the other things that can give, and they will naturally give because there are only 24 hours in a day — so try that first.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about balancing work, family, and everything else when you were analyzing these women’s time logs?

Laura: I think one of the best approaches — and I’m not saying this is done consciously, I think it was more just because these people had fuller lives — is that they did not watch as much TV as the average American.

It’s not that people didn’t watch any TV. There was certainly a reasonable amount of TV on logs, but the average per week was about 4.4 hours — if you think about it that’s like watching a handful of sitcoms and two or three longer shows, so it’s really not nothing. Four and a half hours a week is more than a half hour a day, so TV can be in your life — but it’s not 20 hours a week, it’s not 30 hours a week, which are some numbers that have come out of surveys of American life.

So I think that is an instructive difference because the women in my study were working longer hours than the average American works. They were spending time with their families, they were exercising for the most part, they were getting enough sleep. What had to give? Well, it was not really anything of that much importance. That, in and of itself, is a great way to balance your life in the sense of actually making time for things that matter.

You don’t have to cut TV out of your life, but make sure that you’re watching the shows that matter the most to you, the ones that really get you excited, that you’re taping, that you want to talk about with your friends. That’s great, it’s a fun thing to do, it’s a great way to blow off steam — but don’t just turn it on and leave it on. Don’t automatically turn the TV on after the kids go to bed and see what’s on. If you and your partner want to hang out, there are other things you can do than sit on the couch watching TV. There are other things that are much more exciting, for instance, than sitting on the couch watching TV that you can do together, so don’t automatically think TV first.

What’s the one piece of advice you picked up from your research that you think would resonate most with freelance writers who have kids and possibly a day job?

Laura: Daily rituals are great. There has been a lot written lately about the daily rituals of artists and how they make time to write or do whatever they do.

And again, that’s great if it works, but it doesn’t always work — and so what you need to do is look at your whole calendar and say, “Here are some blocks I have for writing. I am going to make sure those work one way or the other. If it’s asking my partner to take the kids for a certain amount of time. If it’s choosing to come into work half an hour late because I have that flexibility. If it’s that I just go sit in your car with my laptop during lunch once a week and write during that time.”

Do whatever it takes, but make sure that those blocks are in there — look at the whole of the week because probably you will be able to find the time.

The numbers I use for people is if you are working 40 hours a week and you’re sleeping eight hours a night for 56 hours a week, that leaves 72 hours for other things. 72 hours is a lot of time. You definitely have time to hang out with your family, to exercise, and to maybe spend 15 hours a week launching your business.

Laura’s book I Know How She Does It : How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time was just released…here’s where you can check it out!

P.S. The Freelance Writers Den is opening its doors to members of the waitlist tomorrow (Thursday, June 11, 2015) ONLY. Carol Tice opens the Den only a few times per year, so if you want to take advantage of the goodies, now’s the time! Interested? Here’s where you can join the waitlist.

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7. 3 Reasons You Must Use Subheads …

Guest Post by Will Newman Last week we had a great session in our Circle of Success Targeted Learning Program on “Leads.” We were discussing how to fill your lead with a feeling of urgency. The session brought back my own memories of when I was first learning copywriting from a well-known copywriter I’ll call “my mentor.” I dreaded seeing my copy when my mentor returned it. He almost

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8. What Is a Feature Article and What Sets It Apart From Other Writing?

Guest Post by Janice Gillgren So many people lead such fascinating lives, and there are so many fascinating places on our earth. The feature writer seeks to show that fascination in such a way that readers will want to know about it too. What is a 'feature article'? The definitions are varied, and the differences can be confusing. A 'feature', like the word 'item', can mean a whole thing,

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9. Freelance Writing - Don't Overspice Your Copy

Guest post by Will Newman I wouldn’t be a copywriter if it weren’t for the computer. You might be in the same boat. The computer has allowed me to get around my terrible typing skills. I’m a hunt-and-peck typist. So, sometimes – no, make that frequently – my fingers hit the wrong keys. Thank goodness Word flags those typos. The computer has also made editing orders of magnitude easier than

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10. The Ghostwriter - Help for Your Writing Needs

He's Invisible...He's Powerful...He Helps Writers...He's the Ghostwriter! What’s the essential characteristic of a ghost? Invisibility. Well, that’s exactly what a ghostwriter is…invisible. And, the ghostwriter is a powerful tool and a huge help to writers who can’t seem to get their ideas into content or stories. Or, for writers who don’t have the time to write the articles themselves. Or,

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11. Content Marketing Success – You Can Do It, You Can Do It, You Can . . .

The saying goes: If you think you can’t, you won’t. If you think you can, YOU WILL. These words are powerful. Whether you're working at content marketing or you're a freelance writer, or whatever it is you do, your thoughts can control whether or not you are successful. The guest post below was written for the copywriter, but the message is valid for everyone and every industry. A Little

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12. How to Land HighPaying Writing Gigs in the Christian Market

Are you a Christian? Would you like to get paid well to write for things you’re passionate about? The demand for good writers in the Christian market has never been higher. Contrary to popular belief, it’s easier than ever to find writing gigs that pay very well by tapping into the $1.7 trillion Christian industry. All you need to know is where clients are and how to land them.

Listen to Joshua T. Boswell — a minister, highly-paid writer, devoted husband, and father of 11 children — on this FREE webinar. You’ll learn what the best paying opportunities are for Christian writers, what you can expect to make for each of the projects, where to find the clients, how to land the work, and more!


Joshua T. Boswell is a copywriter, author of Secrets of Writing for the Christian Market, creator of Six-Figures in Six Months: Mastering the Art of Self-Marketing as a Copywriter, an ordained minister, and Advisory Board member of AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.), the world’s leading trainer of direct-response copywriters.

A marketer with over 19 years of experience in business development and direct marketing, Joshua has written for and spearheaded successful million-dollar campaigns for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ChildFund International, Sony, Microsoft, GM, and dozens of other organizations. He regularly speaks and writes on topics ranging from landing high-paying writing clients to successful web-marketing strategies.

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13. Should You Take the Job?

freelance2Today’s post isn’t about writing per-say, but it is about the business of writing.

If you want to make a living as a writer at some point you’re probably going to do a little freelance work. That work may be writing an article, accepting a work-for-hire gig, or even ghostwriting. And as these opportunities present themselves you’re going to have to decide if you want the job or not. Because trust me, you aren’t going to want (or have time for) every one.

So how do you decide which jobs to accept?

I’ve been a freelance illustrator and writer for over eight years. I’ve slugged through pitfalls, failures, and soul-sucking jobs, wondering if it’s all really worth it. But one simple tool has made all the difference. Before accepting any job, I now ask myself these three questions:

1) Is the job good money? Will the client pay me what I’ve asked them to pay me?

2) Will I be working with good people?

3) Will I be creatively challenged and inspired? 

If the answer to all three of these questions is YES, then it’s a great job. I should take it!

If the answer to two of these questions is YES, then it’s a good job. It’s definitely worth considering. But, I need to decide how important the question that came up as a NO is to my current situation.

If I came up with one (or fewer) YES responses, then this isn’t a job I should take. Move on to better things!

I know it may seem odd to pass up a work opportunity. But if you take too many jobs that only fulfill one of the criteria I’ve mentioned, you’re going to burn out really quickly. The last thing you want to do is give up on something that was once your passion. Be sure to ask yourself these three questions. It will help to ensure that you always love writing.

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14. Should You Take the Job?

freelance2Today’s post isn’t about writing per-say, but it is about the business of writing.

If you want to make a living as a writer at some point you’re probably going to do a little freelance work. That work may be writing an article, accepting a work-for-hire gig, or even ghostwriting. And as these opportunities present themselves you’re going to have to decide if you want the job or not. Because trust me, you aren’t going to want (or have time for) every one.

So how do you decide which jobs to accept?

I’ve been a freelance illustrator and writer for over eight years. I’ve slugged through pitfalls, failures, and soul-sucking jobs, wondering if it’s all really worth it. But one simple tool has made all the difference. Before accepting any job, I now ask myself these three questions:

1) Is the job good money? Will the client pay me what I’ve asked them to pay me?

2) Will I be working with good people?

3) Will I be creatively challenged and inspired? 

If the answer to all three of these questions is YES, then it’s a great job. I should take it!

If the answer to two of these questions is YES, then it’s a good job. It’s definitely worth considering. But, I need to decide how important the question that came up as a NO is to my current situation.

If I came up with one (or fewer) YES responses, then this isn’t a job I should take. Move on to better things!

I know it may seem odd to pass up a work opportunity. But if you take too many jobs that only fulfill one of the criteria I’ve mentioned, you’re going to burn out really quickly. The last thing you want to do is give up on something that was once your passion. Be sure to ask yourself these three questions. It will help to ensure that you always love writing.

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15. How I Broke Out of a Freelancing Slump by Breaking all the Rules

Call for you This post is by Deb Mitchell.

I’m definitely more of a “rules are there for a reason” than a “rules were meant to be broken” kind of girl. It just never occurs to me to buck the system, and frankly, that’s served me well all my life.

But when my freelance writing career stalled (despite the fact that I had 5+ years of experience with clips numbering in the triple digits), even playing by the rules top freelance writing experts teach wasn’t getting me anywhere.

“Send pitches to newsstand pubs and LOIs to trade pubs.” Check.

“Email editors – NEVER call them!” Check.

“DO NOT clog an editor’s inbox by attaching your clips.” Check.

“Whatever you do, take time to research each market and NEVER, EVER use a template email.” Check, check.

I was spending loads of time researching markets, ferreting out the appropriate editors’ contact info and meticulously wordsmith-ing every email from scratch. Despite my best rule-following efforts, none of the editors contacted me back. Not. One.

There simply aren’t words to describe how frustrated and discouraged I felt. Giving so much time and effort with nothing to show for it eventually took its toll. On a daily basis I was at best, fighting despair and at worst, sinking in its depths.

In the midst of all this, I started working with a writing mentor (the one-and-only Linda). She calmed me down and gave me a few pieces of advice which I, of course, followed to the letter. I got a few lukewarm responses from editors as a result, and I even sold an article to a new-to-me (but not great paying) market.

Sure, it was progress, which lifted my spirits to a degree. But let’s face it — I was still working long, hard hours for minimal payoff. NOT a sustainable pattern for any small business.

Then Linda gave me a tip that helped me think outside the box – and believe me, it was one I NEVER expected to hear from her or any freelance writing expert.

“Why not try calling some editors?” she said, “And write a great LOI email you can quickly tweak for each market. Ask if they assign to freelancers or if they prefer pitches.”

Um, excuse me, what did you say?? Call editors?? Write one LOI to reuse over and over?? Pitch to trade pubs?? Break rules?!?!

As if that weren’t enough, Linda challenged me to call 25 editors in one day.

The thought of doing things that are widely considered no-no’s freaked me out enough, but seriously, 25?! Believe it or not, the part that scared me the least was the actual cold calling. I have a background in sales and I’m good at talking to people and I like marketing myself. Maybe, just maybe, the reason my by-the-book efforts were flopping was because my approach felt inauthentic. Calling editors seemed much more “me” — I’d just always thought if I did it, they’d view me as unprofessional (and kind of hate my guts for bugging them).

But with Linda, a seasoned pro writer, saying it was OK, I didn’t hesitate.

Armed with a three sentence script Linda wrote for me and a short and sweet LOI template email, I started the challenge.

I didn’t even get to leave voicemails with five editors before my phone rang.

“Deb, I was just delighted to get your message!” Really and truly, an editor was calling me to tell me she was happy I’d called her — not “hacked off” or “appalled” or even just “annoyed.” It seems she’d heard my voicemail right after leaving an editorial meeting where she’d learned an article slated for the next issue had fallen through. I’d also thrown caution to the wind and sent her my LOI email with my resume and a clip attached. She’d seen something in my article that would make a perfect story to fill that empty spot. Could I get something into her within a couple of weeks?

I know, right?!?!

After all my nose-to-the-grindstone work and months of angst over doing things the “right” way, all it took was literally a couple of phone calls and I had a gig that paid more than triple what I’d been getting! Even better, the editor ended our conversation by saying this was “the start of a very beautiful working relationship.” Hello, future high-paying gigs!

I’m no expert when it comes to freelancing, but I do think there’s something to this whole “find what feels right for you” idea. Just because the freelance writing books and classes say “Do this” or “Don’t do that” doesn’t necessarily mean those rules are hard and fast. It took me having someone of Linda’s caliber giving me permission to break the rules for me to do something that in the end felt natural and comfortable for me. And it worked.

As long as your approach allows you to both be yourself and to “sell” yourself as a competent professional, it’s worth trying something out of the ordinary — especially if you’re feeling stuck. You can’t predict how editors will react, but if you’re being genuine and gracious to them, no reasonable editor would hate you just for doing something differently. If they do, consider yourself lucky to have been warned about their inner crazy before you got stuck working with them.

So what will you try that’s not in the books? Be brave and take a risk. Go ahead — run with a stick in your mouth! Jump on the good furniture! Call an editor! Take it from me — it’s good to be bad.

How about you? Have you ever broken a rule of freelance writing and benefited as a result? Or have you found a marketing tactic other freelancers would scoff at, but that works for you? Let us know in the Comments below!

Deb Mitchell is a freelance writer in Charlotte, NC specializing in writing about interior design and women’s interest topics. She also works with business clients to make their websites and client communications the best they can be and with students as a general writing and college application essay coach.

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16. Keeping the Flame Alive – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here on…. 

Keeping the Flame Alive

The farther I dive into the world of writing, the busier I become. I have done small amounts of freelance writing for years, but about a year ago, in hopes of gaining experience and honing my craft, I dove deeper into the world of freelance. I wrote for a few online magazines like Honesty For Breakfast (aimed at girls in their 20s), I did some ghost web-copy writing for travel websites and a flower shop, am working on a project with RawSpiceBar.com , and do regular posts for Family Focus Blog with farm fresh recipes and family-friendly projects.

I learned a lot about my writing too. I learned that my instinctively conversational style makes me a natural fit for certain things and not others. I’ve found great success with product description writing and online course curriculum development, because I get to play with different styles of description and ways of engaging an audience. But grant or technical writing for things like computer software manuals… not for me.

So what’s my point? Well, between freelance writing and working on my manuscripts, I am doing hours of writing every single day. And while this has been great in many ways, forcing me to flex my writing and creativity muscles, working with deadlines and not being able to stop because I’m just not “feeling it”, it can also become cumbersome.

Bottom line: Writing is very hard work.

I needed a way to regularly stoke the fire, the furious passion that I’ve always had for the written word. A way to remind myself that writing is fun!

Once a week, I schedule two entire hours, where I sit down and write without a goal, and away from the computer. No deadlines, no projects, no one to tell me what’s wrong with it, just writing. It can be free association writing, prose, anything I want. I can use characters from my manuscripts, but I don’t allow myself to work on actual scenes. I write silly rhymes that follow absolutely no patterns, write sentences with horrible grammar, and break as many rules as I can in 120 minutes.

Sometimes I spend the whole two hours writing what turns into a sort of journal entry, and I am reminded of why I fell in love with writing in the first place… the hidden truths it has always seemed to bring forward.

Basically, I indulge myself.

For me, being away from the computer is an important aspect. I do my work from my computer as a writer and a business owner, so just sitting in the chair has innate associations with obligation. This is playtime not work time.

Curling up with a notebook, a pen and absolutely nothing but chaos to guide me connects with the teenager in me who found refuge in writing as words she was constantly scribbling in the margins seemed to bring her closer to understanding herself and the world around her.

Do I always look forward to it? Nope. Not at all. I’d say a solid 40-50 percent of the time, I’m going into this thinking, ech… this is dumb. I don’t have the time to waste just doing nothing. 

But (so far at least!) I have managed to convince myself to do it anyway.

The outcome?

Even when I didn’t FEEL like doing it, when the hours are up, I find myself unbelievably refreshed, both on a personal level, and as a writer. In fact, the times when I’ve wanted to do it the least have frequently been the times it’s had the most effect.

More often than not, I’ve sparked some new ideas for ways to handle scenes I was stuck on, or projects I wasn’t sure of. This means that these two hours actually end up SAVING me time, as I’m able to be more fluid in my work moving on.

And every single time, I renew that secret smile on my face that tells the story of how writing is a profoundly integral part of who I am.

So… do I think this strategy will work for everyone?

Well… sort of. (not exactly a deep meaningful answer there, I know. But bear with me!)  

I think finding a way to reconnect with the raw passion of your writing is essential for all of us. Will a two-hour scribble in a notebook once a week do that for you?

It just might. As writers, I’ve found that many of us have similar stories of falling in love with the written word. So I would highly suggest giving it a try. But if after a few times, you find yourself drawn to something else, don’t fight it. Let the wistful, playful side of you run this show, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

My two-hour decadent dive into the frivolous side of writing has become a stimulating catalyst for not only my writing but my own spirit and the spirit of my characters. And while I know it’s never always easy to find two hours of your time to put aside, I strongly believe that…

… you, and your manuscripts are worth it.

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post. I think everyone looks forward to your posts.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Tips, writing Tagged: Erika Wassall, Freelance writing, Keeping the Flame Alive, Manuscripts

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17. Businesses Need Content Writers

It's true. No matter what the business. No matter what the size. All business runs on content. This means all businesses need writers. And, you know what? If you can write content that is optimized and formatted properly, you can be one of those writers. Here are a few statistics from Social Media Today: CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. Nearly 50% of companies have

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18. If You're Not in the Writing Field, Do You Still Need Strong Writing Skills?

In a study at Grammerly.com, they analyzed 448 freelance professionals to determine if writing skills matter in finding jobs and earning more. The method they used was to review professionals' profiles on Elance (an online staffing platform). Grammerly checked for basic grammar errors (spelling, punctuation, grammar) in the profiles. The study included professionals in the following categories:

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19. 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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20. Freelance Writing - Giving Basic Writing Advice

By Karen Cioffi I was recently asked to look over a children’s fiction picture book manuscript. This was not a paying job, just a favor. The ‘new to writing’ authors, who are both health care professionals, had already been calling major publishers to find out submission requirements. They were told their manuscript would not be looked at without an agent. So, they went to the library to

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21. How to Figure Out the Answer to Every Freelancing Question You’ll Ever Have

Wondering what an editor means when she says X, whether you should break a freelance rule, or whether you should drop that PITA client? Here’s how to figure out what to do. At 3:04, I share my special method for deciding between two different options.

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22. Perfecting the Art of Interviewing

A few years ago, I received an assignment from a local magazine I write for that made me take pause. The editor wanted me to visit the home of a woman living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and interview her about a foundation she had started after her diagnosis. I’ll admit that when I found out the woman communicated using an eye-tracking technology connected to a computer, I hesitated. I worried that I wouldn’t know the best way to communicate effectively with her. But I was also up for the challenge, so I accepted the assignment. I e-mailed her a list of questions ahead of time and arrived at her home on the day of the interview with my laptop and a notepad and pen so I could take notes.

I can honestly say that interview was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. She showed me how the device on her headband allowed her to communicate through her computer, compose e-mails, search the internet and turn everything she “typed” on her screen into speech so we could have an actual conversation. But what struck me the most was how gracious she was even while confined to her wheelchair with limited means of movement and communication. She asked me questions about my family and me and even complimented my work. It turns out she had researched me as much as I had researched her before our interview.

In my work as a blogger, journalist and magazine editor I’ve conducted countless interviews over the years. Some of them went very well like the example above, others did not, leaving me scrambling to pull together a polished article with less quotes than I had originally planned. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that make interviews run more smoothly:

1. Send a list of interview questions ahead of time. I always like to come up with at least four to five questions to least get the conversation started. I e-mail the person the list of the questions and tell them approximately how long the interview should last so they can plan accordingly.

2. Don’t go into an interview cold. We all have assignments that turn up at the last minute, but if you’re conducting a phone or in-person interview, spend some time researching the person you’ll be interviewing if at all possible. Focus on the areas of their life that align with what you’re writing. Is the person the head of a foundation? What other volunteer work are they involved in? How has their life path led to them to this point in time?

3. Be present and prepared. I often conduct interviews and then spend a few days soaking in the experience before I actually start to work on the article or profile. The best advice I can give here is to be a great listener. I either take notes by typing on my laptop (usually with phone interviews) and in person I use a combination of a recording app on my iPhone and notes by hand. If you are recording with a device periodically check to make sure it’s working and still recording. While it’s great to find common ground with the person you’re interviewing, strive for a balanced conversation. Try not to spend a lot of time talking about yourself and your interests unless the subject asks. If you’re interviewing in person, look around at your surroundings and takes notes on what you see. This can often provide a great introduction to your article.

4. Follow up. If you have any follow-up questions, e-mail them a soon as you think of them so your subject has enough time to send responses back to you before your deadline. And finally, be courteous; send the person a link to the article (or hard copy if applicable once the interview is published along with a “thank-you” note or e-mail.

What other tips can you offer when conducting interviews for blog posts and articles?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. She’s currently looking for a few more blogs to promote Frances Caballo’s book Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers Who Want to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write. You can contact her at [email protected]

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23. 25 Tips To Make You a Better Nonfiction Writer

We writers share one thing in common: We exist for the moment a reader gently sets eyes to our first word, our first sentence. From that instant forward, our fate is in our own hands. Either they keep going or they cast us aside.


MikeSager headshot (1)

High Tolerance_Re_FThis guest post is by bestselling author and award-winning reporter Mike Sager. He’s been called “the Beat Poet of American journalism.” For more than fifteen years Mike has worked as a Writer-at-Large for Esquire magazine. A former Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone and Writer-at-Large for GQ, Sager has also written for Vibe, Spy, Interview, Playboy, Washingtonian, InStyle, and Regardies. In 2010 he won the American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine award for profile writing. He has authored and edited 10 books as well as four collections of stories, and a biography. Mike is also the Editor and Publisher of The Sager Group, a consortium of multi-media artists and writers with the intent of empowering those who make art without gatekeepers. For more info, please visit: www.mikesager.com or www.TheSagerGroup.net.


For me, modest success has been built though a careful approach to craft. Arguably, with all the other wild cards that go into being a writer, it’s the only aspect of my career over which I feel I have total control. Words on the screen. They’re all mine!

For nearly four decades, though vigilant practice, I’ve sought evermore to become the most vivid and commanding writer possible. Being read is a privilege.  There’s so much out there to choose to explore. When a reader picks me, I feel thankful. And I feel responsible. In this way writing, to me, is a call to arms. Publication should be a promise to a reader that his or her time (and money) will be well spent. You can’t please everyone, but you can damn sure try.

And if a reader likes you once . . . they might want to check you out again. And so forth.

Success is all about the quality of the service you provide. The rainbow of little thumbs up everyone is so focused upon generating via social media? Well, first and foremost, there needs to be a pot of golden content. Isn’t that what generates the rainbow?

[Learn the 8 Essential Elements of a Nonfiction Book Proposal


book proposal | publish a nonfiction book

From my first word to my last, I work hard to service and reward my readers.  I want to reel them in and take them on a journey.  I want to play with their heads a little. I want to dazzle them a little. There’s got to be surprises along the way. And there needs to be a good ending.

After the perspiration and gum shoe work of the reporting and research process, it is time to bring your craft and your magic. No matter if you’re writing a blog post, a newspaper feature, a big-time magazine piece, or a 150,000 word book, originality is the key. The writer’s byline. Isn’t that our brand? You need to make yours stand out.

Over two decades of teaching writing at journalism schools and professional seminars around the country and overseas, I found that certain tidbits of advice I’d written on manuscripts (both electronically and on paper), resurfaced time and again. After a while, I started keeping a list.

[What’s A Nonfiction Writer Supposed to Do During November's National Novel Writing Month? Here's what.


Try these 25 tips out for size and your writing will improve almost immediately.

1.     Get an imagination. If it’s been done before, find a different way to do it. If it’s been said before, find a different way to say it.

2.     Do not start stories with the time, season, or weather conditions.

3.     Do not start with “It was” or “It’s” or “When.”

4.     Do not ever use time stamp sub heads (ie: 12:15 p.m.) to break up a feature story. Write in scenes.

5.     If you can’t find the killer declarative sentence to lede with, use an evocative scene-setting description.

6.     See like a movie camera—make your writing cinematic. Zoom in. Pan the surroundings. Use your words to make pictures.

7.     Build your images in linear fashion. Employ digression to explain.

8.     Use all five senses—writing is the only medium that is able.

9.     Go through your copy and eliminate as many recurrences of “that” you can find.

10.  Employ the elements of the novel: scene, setting, characters, dialogue, drama. (And point of view only where appropriate.)

11.  Don’t be so fast to write in first person. Isn’t it enough that somebody’s reading you?

12.  Don’t begin your narrative stories with the climax. Begin a couple scenes before the climax, then backtrack, then move forward. Give the reader a reason to keep reading until the end.

13.  What you don’t describe is just as important as what you do describe–omission invites the reader to fill in some of the details themselves. In reality, reading was the first interactive game. Take note: Your reader is making their own pictures from your words. And take advantage of that! It gives the reader an unconscious stake.

14.  Ask yourself: Why am I using this detail?

15.  When in doubt, cut it out.

[Freelance Writing: 10 Ways to Satisfy Editors & Land More Assignments


16.   If someone reads this twenty years from now, will they understand the reference?

17.  Don’t work so hard with every sentence. Think of the meaning of “diamond in the rough.”

18.  Let your choice of details work subtly to invoke the attitude you wish to convey. (Instead of slamming the reader over the head with it.)

19.  When using dialog, stick with using “said” or “says.” Avoid fancy attributions—recalls, retorts, replies, unless it is done sparingly for effect.

20.  Be careful of too much effect. It becomes affect.

21.  Rely on nouns and verbs more than adjectives and adverbs.

22.  Show, don’t tell.

23.  Pick out a good voice and read out loud to yourself as you write. And also as you edit. Hear the rhythm of the syllables, the words. Good prose is like a song.

24.  Read writing by great writers. You can start with Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists, which I edited with Walt Harrington, the awarding winning author, former Washington Post staffer, and professor of journalism at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For more info, please see www.TheSagerGroup.Net


25. To read dozens more tips on reporting and writing, please see www.MikeSager.com


Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here



Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters


Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlemsWD Newsletter

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24. Copywriting: A Crash Course for Writers Looking to Break In



Do you know what Dashiell Hammett, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Sayers had in common? Besides being among the world’s finest novelists, they all turned their talent into profit early in their careers as advertising copywriters.

—by Athena Schultz

Is a Freelancing Career in Writing Feasible? Here's What You Need to Know.


While there are still many copywriters working full time at ad agencies, the real area of opportunity for new writers is through freelance work for a wide variety of companies, including retailers, banks, magazines, universities, health-care providers and many others. There’s virtually no industry that doesn’t utilize copy in some form.



So what does it take to get those assignments? As a creative writer, you already have many of the required skills, from a talent for language to a facility with grammar. And the adage that readers make the best writers also holds true for copywriters. A big part of writing effective copy is being able to utilize familiar themes that course through our culture, so being an avid book, magazine, newspaper and even blog reader will work in your favor.

All told, becoming a copywriter is just a matter of learning the basics of the industry, and using the skills you already possess to write about products and services in a way that gets readers in the mindset to buy.

A Crash Course in Writing Copy

To prepare to apply for copywriting work, your first step is to create a few spec ads to send to potential clients. Spec is short for speculation, which typically means the writer submits completed work for publication consideration, rather than by assignment. However, writing on spec in the copywriting world works a bit differently than in other industries. Your spec ad will not be bought by the company or agency you submit it to; rather, it serves as a sample of your copywriting ability.

But even though you’re writing a spec ad, that doesn’t mean you should make up a fake product to write about. In fact, quite the opposite: You should choose well-known companies for your specs to best demonstrate that you’re able to write in the established voices of brands.

To get started, browse through a magazine or your inbox. Clip or print a few ads that you think are especially effective, and then choose a few that seem to come up short. Both types will serve a purpose in our crash course on ad writing.

[Here's how to make money writing for the Web.


The key is this: While an advertisement can be as short as a few sentences or as long as three or more pages, every form of copy must get the consumers’ attention, communicate benefits, appeal to their emotions or desires, and impel them to take action.

An easy way to remember this is through the classic marketing and sales acronym AIDA:

       1. Attention. The ad’s headline (usually in larger and/or bolder type than the rest of the copy, sometimes with a subhead or tagline that supports it) must grab the reader’s attention and convince her to read further.

       2. Interest. The first part of the ad’s body copy should fulfill the promise of the headline and convey the benefits of the product or service in a way that holds the reader’s interest.

       3. Desire. The second half of the body copy has to appeal to the reader’s wants and needs, and produce a positive emotional response.

       4. Action. The final part of the ad must be a line or two telling the reader exactly what to do, with a sense of urgency (for example, visit a website now or call for more information today). This is the call to action.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, look again at the effective ads you chose. Break down each one into the AIDA elements, and analyze how the copywriter used them to write a successful ad. Exactly which words or phrases interested you? Why did they work so well?

Once you see what makes for appealing ad copy, it’s time to look at your pile of less successful ads to identify their flaws and come up with ideas to make them better. Did the copywriter miss a step in AIDA? Fail to grab your attention with the headline? Forget a compelling call to action? Make notes on what didn’t work.

Now, pick one to rewrite. This will be the first spec ad you create to seek copywriting work. Start by brainstorming 10–20 alternate headlines that are in line with the concept of the ad. Pick your top five and get the opinions of friends or family members on which headline is the most effective.

Then, write the body copy, keeping AIDA in mind. Picture a specific customer and write your ad directly to her. Use the character development skills you’ve acquired as a creative writer to give this person a name and face, a career and family. What’s important to her? Why would she want the product? How can you speak to her wants, needs and desires? How will the product help her? Sticking to the same length as the original ad, close with an urgent call to action.

The next step—and it’s essential—is to walk away from your copy for at least 24 hours. With fresh eyes, you’ll spot areas for improvement. When you have a draft you’re proud of, have someone read it to you. If your reader sounds like a robot or trips over any lines, you have more rewriting to do.

Repeat the process with two more ads. When you’re finished, gather them all into a single plain-text document—no images, fancy fonts or formatting. You’re not applying for graphic design work, so refrain from inserting clip art or pictures of any kind. Let your copy shine on its own.

There are two ways to approach the formatting of your spec portfolio: You can either include your text-based spec ads alone, or scan the original ads and pair them with your work for comparison. Create a “Spec Copywriting Portfolio” title page with your name and contact info. Then, save the document as a PDF file. You now have a spec portfolio to submit to prospective clients.

Breaking In

The first order of business is to draft a cover letter explaining that you want to transition into copywriting, and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to create copy for the company. If you have any other writing experience, be sure to mention that. But don’t worry about the fact that you’re a new copywriter. Be honest about it and show them how it will work to their advantage. Think of your cover letter as an ad you’re writing about yourself, emphasizing the benefits of hiring you. And do it with some personality—they’ll see how you sell yourself, and how you can do the same thing for their company. You’re excited, hungry and ready to write for them. They must have you!

The next step is to get some simple business cards printed with your name, contact information and the title “Freelance Copywriter.” Carry them with you at all times and talk to everyone you know about your new venture. Plenty of people need copywriting services or know others who do, so you’ll always want to be ready with your card.

The most direct route to a published piece is to offer your services pro bono to a nonprofit. These organizations need everything from flyers to website copy—and it’s a win-win to volunteer for a good cause while you build your portfolio. Local charities are often the most in need (and easiest to approach). Visit their office or email them your cover letter and specs, and offer to help with copy. You can also use sites such as TaprootFoundation.org and VolunteerMatch.org, which pair skilled individuals with organizations looking for business assistance.

Once you have some pro bono work experience and have added those published clips to your portfolio, you’re ready to seek out paying gigs. Before you hit the pavement, both concrete and virtual, you should have an idea of what to charge for your services. While there’s a huge rate range for copywriters (varying by things like experience level, project and location), new copywriters can generally charge $30–45 an hour. Of course, there’s no reason not to take a few lower-paying jobs when you’re starting out in order to gain experience. These will also help you see how long it takes you to complete a project, so you can accurately quote project timelines and fair rates in the future.

To seek out those paying clients, begin by canvassing  small businesses in your area and inquiring about which tools they use for marketing their companies to the community. You’ll find that many of them are in desperate need of assistance and could use a writer like you to help them create handouts, flyers, postcards, sales letters, website copy, emails and more. (Many businesses, and places like the library, also have community boards or tables where you can post a flyer advertising your services or leave some business cards.)

You can also broaden your search online. Start with job sites specifically for freelancers, such as Freelance-Switch, Elance, Guru, oDesk, Creative Hotlist and FreelanceWritingGigs.com. You’ll also find opportunities on less specific job boards, such as Indeed (which performs a search for job openings across the Web according to your unique specifications, including title, location and salary range), CareerBuilder and Monster.

It can be scary to dive into what feels like a completely foreign industry. But remember that as a creative writer, you already have a background that’s a perfect fit for copywriting. As soon as you get started with a pro-bono gig, you’ll quickly have advertising work that’s been published, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a freelance copywriter.

This article was written by Athena Schultz, a professional copywriter and instructor of Break into Copywriting

for Writer’s Digest University. Check it out here.

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here



Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters


Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlemsWD Newsletter

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25. 5 Tips for Revealing to Your Boss That You’re Freelancing on the Side

Writing Your Way Out - High ResolutionThis is an excerpt from my e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love, which is available on Kindle and in PDF for under five bucks.

Freelancing while you’re also working a regular gig can be difficult, confusing — and risky. The last thing you want is to find yourself sans job and floundering in the freelancing waters without a life jacket. (In that mangled metaphor, the life jacket is regular freelance gigs.)

But don’t worry — you can work with your particular job situation to make freelancing on the side work for you, and even work for your employer!

How to Tell the Boss

“Tell my boss?” you ask yourself. “How about if I don’t and just say I did.”

Your first instinct may be to go undercover. And that might work for you. But consider this:

  • You will need a writer website. Can you keep it hidden from your boss should she Google you, without resorting to cloaking tactics
    that will keep you hidden from potential clients as well?
  • Ditto with LinkedIn. Many editors and prospects use LinkedIn as a kind of Yellow Pages for finding writers. Will your boss notice that your LinkedIn profile title suddenly went from “Insurance Salesperson” to “Freelance Writer”?
  • If you hide your freelancing status from your employer and he finds out, how do you predict he’ll react? Will he feel you’ve been deceitful?

That’s why you want to control the situation instead of leaving it to chance that you’ll be discovered. Kind of like a politician who comes clean on some skeleton in the closet before the media can out him. Makes him look a lot better that way, doesn’t it?

Now, I can’t guarantee that your employer will be happy with the situation, and only you can decide whether it’s worth it for you to come out to your boss. Maybe you work in an environment where it’s expected that you live for your job, and telling your employer you’re writing on the side could leave you holding a pink slip. So use your best discretion.

Whether you might want to come clean also depends on the type of job you have. You’re probably safer telling your employer you’re freelancing on the side if you’re in a management position than if you’re lower down the ladder.

Here are some ways to make the revelation as smooth as possible:

1. Don’t give away the farm.

You can tell your boss you’re freelancing on the side without also revealing that you plan to eventually quit your day gig.

You may face some uncomfortable questions, such as why you feel you need to write on the side. Are you desperate for money? Are you dissatisfied with your job? Be sure to come up with responses for any questions you feel you may be asked.

2. Do your work at work.

When you have this discussion with your boss, assure her that during the 9-5 your focus will be on the work you were hired to do. Then make sure to do that.

I know, I know. Your job can be boring, and sometimes you find yourself playing endless games of Minesweeper during slow times.

But whatever you do, do not go back on your promise and succumb to the temptation to build your freelance business on company time. This can lead to all sorts of unpleasant consequences, like you having to explain to your boss why you’re trolling for writing gigs from your work email account.

However, some bosses are super-understanding and will let you write on your breaks or during slow periods. If that’s the case for you, you can ignore this tip.

3. Add value.

Put your all into your day job. No slacking off because you know that in a few months (or a year, or whatever) you’ll be quitting anyway.

In fact, instead of just doing your job, you should work to kick ass at your job. You want to allay any fears your employer may have that you’re not putting as much effort into your job as you used to because of the side gig.

4. Make it a win-win.

Make your writing benefit both your employer and yourself. For example, offer to write your company’s website copy, brochures, or case studies as part of your regular duties. Point out that they can save money by not hiring someone else to do it. (You don’t have to point out that you’ll be getting practice that will help you eventually say sayonara to your employer.)

5. Check your contract.

Before you make a move, check your employment contract. Some contracts stipulate that you won’t pitch your services to the employer’s vendors and service providers, and other contracts state that anything you create while at work belongs to the employer.

How about you: Do you have a day gig and freelance on the side? How do you make it work? Let us know in the comments below!

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