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The Bible of Writing

My copy of the 2014 Writer’s Market came last week.  This tome is every freelancer writer’s bible.  It has all the information to help you get your business up and running from crafting killer query letters, finding business opportunities, how to’s for magazine writing, blogging tips, contracts and even marketing.

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If you’re serious about being a freelance writer, you need this resource.  I spent the extra $10 to get the deluxe edition which gives me a super fat  book to read, as well as all the online resources.  It’s worth it.  Lots of folks opt for just the online version, but sometimes I really need to get my fingers off the keyboard and soak up some outside sun and air with a print copy.  Besides I’ll be highlighting and making notes all over this book which I can’t do with an electronic version.

The online version also gives you a year’s subscription to Writer’s Digest which has its own great blog, articles, classes, etc.

There’s a Writer’s Market for any sort of writing you want to do.  You can usually find fairly recent copies in your local library if you want to try before you buy.

If you following any writing blogs, check their site for affiliate sales.  We’re all in this together, right, so support your online writing friend/mentor.

Remember, purchasing the Writer’s Market is a business expense so keep track of your receipt.  You’ll thank me come tax time next year.

 

Finding Business Clients

My first foray into finding business clients has gone pretty well.  I contacted the marketing department of our local hospital and have opened a dialogue with them.  They’ve never worked with a freelancer before so we’re both seeing how we can be of benefit to each other.

I also emailed the owner of an upscale furniture/interior design business that puts out a beautiful newsletter.  In the subject line I simply put, “Do you need a professional business writer?”  I got a response right away, which was gratifying.  He also hadn’t ever worked with a freelance writer but seemed interested in having some help with the newsletter.

So although I haven’t gotten any work from either prospect, I am glad I reached out to them.  You never know what seeds have been planted.  

It was easiest to start with businesses I’m familiar with or have a contact at.  I’ve made a list of other businesses to contact as well.  I’ll be working on this angle more the next couple of weeks.

Know your rates though, before contacting potential business clients.  That’s going to be one of their first questions.  It’s helpful to have already gone through a whole business plan exercise to determine your expenses so you know what you need to charge to be able to put food on the table and pay your bills.

Here’s a resource to get you started:  A List of Possible Business Expenses

Also I found this handy rate calculator.

 

The Cursed ‘C’ Word

C – as in Content Mill.  Those sites where writers write whatever it is a client wants.  Those sites where if you’re a decent writer you can make $5 or so for a blog post or $2 if you’re not a very good writer.

So let’s talk about the good and not good of content mills.

Disclaimer:  I wrote for Textbroker off and on for 2 years and am still signed up as a writer.

Here’s how content mills work.  A business owner needs some writing done.  The problem?  Their writing skills are rather lacking.  The solution?  Become a client with a content mill, post the order and someone else writes the copy.  Done deal!

But it’s not that simple.  First let’s look at the disadvantages from the writer’s side.

  • the pay is abysmal
  • you have to comply with often insane order instructions
  • if the client doesn’t like your article, they can request revisions which you won’t get paid for
  • if you’re not a good writer there are a very limited number of orders you can claim, which keeps you from improving and moving up.
  • because you’re writing for such low wages, you get sucked into the vortex of dependency

Now let’s check out the positives:

  • you’re making an attempt to improve your writing
  • you’re making some money (better than nothing!)
  • if you work hard you can make more money by writing better and faster
  • you gain a sense of confidence when the client loved your work

There’s a boatload of content mills out there.  If you want to go this route as a writer, you need to ask some questions.

Does the site have a helpful forum with information that will improve your ability to earn money and sharpen your writing skills?

How do they pay?  What’s the minimum pay out amounts?

Is there support for writers dealing with problem clients?

How does the site determine at what level you begin?  How easy is it to move up?

All these questions can have a huge impact on how much money you can earn.

My Experience

First of all, I’ve only written for two content mills – Textbroker and iWriter.  I applied for a ton of other ones but their sites were either too difficult to use, the pay was waaaayy too low, or the orders were nothing that I cared to write about.

That said, I’ve actually enjoyed writing for Textbroker.  I didn’t love iWriter.

With Textbroker, I qualified as a level 4 author (out of 5) and stayed there.  I generally liked the order topics and I learned a lot about topics I wasn’t familiar with.  Because I had to do a lot of research my writing speed wasn’t great, so my hourly rate wasn’t very good.  But I did earn some money.

I also improved my writing.  It’d been several years since I’d done any “professional” writing so I was rusty.  But the more I wrote the better I got.  And I love getting positive comments from the client.  It gave me enough confidence to strike out on my own.

So my experience was positive.  Still it can be a very tough way to earn a living, especialIy with the wild fluctuations in the number of orders on any given day.

So what do you think about content mills?

Another Resource – The Freelance Writers Den

Ever since I discovered Linda Formichelli and The Renegade Writer, I’ve been waiting to join the Freelance Writer’s Den.  Linda had a plug for the Den in one of her posts so I checked it out.

The Freelance Writer’s Den is the brain child of Carol Tice, of the blog, Make a Living Writing.  Here’s why she started the Den:  “Basically, the Den is an accelerator for ramping up your freelance writing income. You could take years to figure this all out on your own, or use the Den resources and get there a lot faster.

Linda and Carol are Co-Den Mothers who care for Den members.  Plus there’s a whole slew of talented, helpful folks who add amazing value to this spot of the Web.

Membership

Carol Tice only periodically opens the Den to new membership.  You can sign up to get on the waiting list.  Additionally, Linda Formichelli announces on her blogs when the doors will be open for new folks.

Why Did I Join?

I’m as tight as another other freelancer with my money, especially as I’m just starting out. But I knew I’d need a lot of help to make this dream a viable, paying reality.  The Den is overflowing with the most helpful, easy to access resources, aides, forums, ebooks and whatever else you’ll need to start your freelance journey.   It has everything, and I really do mean everything, you’ll need.

I’ve posted questions on the forum and got nearly immediate feedback from someone. I’ve started taking Den bootcamp courses which are designed to get you up and earning income right away.  And if you just need a little encouragement, you’ll get it.  But you’ll also get a gently worded kick in the pants if you need that too.

Is It Worth It?

There’s a monthly fee to belong to the Den, but it’s minimal.  It would have to be for me to join.

That fee, though gives you access to all the resources as well as any bootcamps or courses being offered.  For non-members, bootcamps cost $197.  So in the two months I’ve been a member I’ve already saved over $500.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  The Den is a gold mine for freelancers.

So go check out the Freelance Writers Den and get on the waiting list.  Until then, follow Carol Tice at Make a Living Writing.

The Slush Pile

There’s a term writer’s hear with dread – “the slush pile.”  It’s where your words, which you’ve labored over and edited and coaxed and polished end up as an unsolicited manuscript.  When you’ve written and re-written and poured your soul into a manuscript and you send it off to an editor, that’s where it ends up.  The Slush Pile.  Along with the thousands of other manuscripts from hopeful writers.  Rare is the manuscript that fights it way out of the slush pile.

Writers have to find ways to bypass the slush.  We enter contests.  We pay for reviews.  We try to acquire an agent who can take our baby straight to an editor’s hands.  It’s tough.  Writing is not for the faint of heart.

So when I tackled the slush pile in front of my house yesterday, I had the same sinking feeling as when I send off a beloved manuscript.  The literary slush pile does definitely equate with a physical pile of ice and very, very wet snow.  It’s big.  It’s insurmountable.  It’s darn hard work moving it.

Ugh.
Ugh.

But move it I did yesterday – at least the pile in the gutter.  I tossed slush out into the street (yes, I did get glares from city workers driving by) to make a path for the river of water that was threatening to overflow into the yard.

So maybe my victory over my physical slush pile will herald a victory over the literary slush pile.

Starting

I’m starting.

Write – Every Day

Do you write every day?  I’ve read several blurbs this week that all spoke to the need for writers to write something every day.

For me that’s tough.  When I write, I like to sit down and WRITE – as in for at least an hour at a time if not more.  I like to really focus on the task at hand and completely submerse myself into the topic or the character.

But in my world, that kind of writing isn’t sustainable.  I wouldn’t get anything else done and unfortunately, there’s life to do.

But practice makes perfect so I’m trying to write at least something every day.  I’m updating this and my nature blog (Sagebrush Lessons) at least three times a week.

I’m also working on my picture book and middle grade writing the other days.    Even if I write for only 15 minutes per day, that’s better than what I’m doing now, which is nothing.  No writing at all.

Here are some writing quotes to inspire you.

Hmmm. Maybe they’re on to something?

When You Don’t Want to Work

I believe I have procrastination down to a fine art.  I’ve practiced until I am an expert at putting off work, and funny thing is, I didn’t even know I was practicing.  I convinced myself I just had so much else to do.  Worthy things.

So I get a lot done.  It just isn’t work.  Which is interesting because when I do sit down and start writing, it’s good.  It flows.  It’s what I’m supposed to do.  But I’ll do just about anything to keep my fingers off the keyboard.

I’ve learned I’m a productive procrastinator.  I read an article by Ranka Burzan that talked about the productive procrastinator.  We’re the folks who get a lot done but it just isn’t what we’re supposed to be doing.  Yep, that would be me.

Now however, I recognize what I’m doing and am able to tame the beast a little more each day.

Here are some tips from The Renegade Writer’s Monday Motivation.  The full article is here:

1. At least get the title and introduction, or lede, down.

2. Write a little – time yourself for 15 minutes.

3. Change your attitude – it’s not going to be as awful as you think!

I don’t know why I fight it so much, but I’ve found these ideas helpful.   Setting a timer makes me feel I have an “out.”  If I can’t get anything down, then it’ll be ok to quit when the timer startles me.  But I usually I find I totally ignore the clang and keep writing.

How about you?  Do you procrastinate?

Some Writing Resources

There are so many “How to Become a Freelancer” websites it can be discouraging to anyone looking for truly helpful information.  I’ve certainly come across my share of, should I say, worthless sites.  So, I’ll be highlighting those websites that are gold mines for my own freelance journey.

Lest’s start with Linda Formichelli.  www.lindaformichelli.com

Linda Formechelli has been freelancing full time since  1997 and has been very successful. Her website outlines her courses and the  individualized services she offers.  Linda’s blog The Renegade Writer is chock full of great help for beginning freelancers.  I signed up for her Monday Motivation for Writers (free – Yay!) and paid for a phone mentoring session (worth every penny).  The phone mentoring was 40 minutes of query critique, brainstorming trade magazine titles to query and a ‘to do list’ to get my writing wheels churning.  It was very helpful and I really appreciated Linda giving me her honest opinion about my writing skills. Freelancers, especially beginners, often work in a vacuum and aren’t even sure if their writing skills are good enough for publication.  Add a few query rejections and it can really shake your confidence.

Linda asked me to send her a couple clips so she could asses my writing before our phone session and I could tell she’d read them.  She had very focused thoughts and ideas which were 100% geared toward me.  This wasn’t  a generic, “do this and you’ll earn a six-figure salary” type of mentoring session.  And when I said I was going to sign up for her Write for Magazines ecourse she said I didn’t need to.  I just needed to forge ahead and work on my queries a little.  What?  Save me money?  Thank you!!

LInda is passionate about helping freelancers achieve success and she’s got a lot of freebies to get you started.

What resources do you use that make your freelance journey easier and more profitable?

 

 

Freelance Journey Blog

I began my freelance journey in 2013.  I contacted the editor of a local magazine and let her know I was available for any writing assignments she might have.  It just so happened one of her writers had quit and she asked if I could pick up the article.  That was my first paid writing assignment.  Now I am freelancing full-time and am busy learning the ropes.  Some days I feel I have a good grip on those ropes, other days they slip through my fingers leaving me dangling from the ends and trying to catch them as they flip past.

I’m going to post updates on this journey as well as anything I think other aspiring freelancers might find useful.  Thanks for joining me!