30 Writing + Freelancing Questions from My Mailbag (Part 2)

Celebrating my 30th birthday!

Celebrating my 30th birthday!

This is part two of a two part series answering commonly-asked freelancing/writing/editing questions from my inbox.

Hello again! Welcome back.

Last time, I covered these 15 questions:

  1. “Is it really okay to e-mail someone as an ‘interview?'”
  2. “How do you deal with rejection?”
  3. “What do you do to feel more professional when working from home?”
  4. “What field of writing brings in the most money?”
  5. “Most important skill as a freelance writer?”
  6. “How do I figure out my rates?”
  7. “What’s been your biggest challenge owning your own freelance writing business?”
  8. “What’s a question you’re tired of answering?”
  9. “Do you know a place online anywhere that fellow bloggers/editors hang out? I’m feeling really green and I could use some camaraderie…”
  10. “How do you get rid of an annoying client?”
  11. “I think my rates are too high for the company I’m interviewing for – should I lower them or keep them the same?”
  12. “Do you ever write sponsored guest posts for clients looking to promote their product/service?”
  13. “Why don’t you use ads/affiliate marketing on your site?”
  14. “Why do editors sometimes accept a pitch but then reject the post?”
  15. “How can you tell when a client’s going to be no good?”

This time, I’ll cover 15 more! Sound good? Good. Here we go! (Feel free to scroll to the questions/answers most relevant to you).

16. “How do you get old fogies to respect blog writing?”

Sometimes I just refer to blogs as “online magazines.” It’s easier than arguing.

Though don’t let that be your default. Most of those “old fogies” aren’t as set in their ways as you might think! Often, our elders simply aren’t “in the know.” But, one of the things I’ve always liked about the older generations is their willingness to learnIf you’re willing to put in the time to explain blogging to someone — of any age! — I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results you get.

If you come across someone who’s unwilling to taking blogging seriously as a writing medium, it’s more likely a personality issue rather than an age issue. Some people just shut down and say “la la la” with their fingers in their ears when you try to talk to them about certain things. If that’s the case, then you can whip out the ol’ “online magazines” descriptor and end the conversation.

17. “How do you get people to respect you as a freelance writer when you’re young/look young?”

As long as you’re over 18 and can write well, your age shouldn’t matter. (Note: You can get started as a professional writer if you’re under 18 – you’ll just have more trouble getting paid).

Most clients/publications care more about whether you can write than how old you are.

That said, I was “going on thirty” from the time I hit twenty-five! But I only whipped that one out for in-person meetings. After the fifth guy asks if you’re a teenager, you’ve gotta say something, right?

Which, I guess, is another tip I would offer: Try to avoid in-person meetings! Or, at least, put them off until after you’ve already impressed the would-be client with your writing skills.

Dressing professionally helps too, but, even more than that, watch your posture. How you hold yourself goes a long way toward how confident — and how “old” — you appear!

18. “Worst fear as a writer?/ Worst fear as an editor?”

As a writer: Not having readers. If I have even one reader, I’m happy.

As an editor: Becoming corrupt. It’s one of the reasons I’m such a hardass.

19. “Why did you decide to pick a brand name for yourself instead of sticking to just your name?”

ZotzCoinLittleZotz is actually a nickname I’ve had for most of my life. You can read the (short, I promise) story on my FAQ page.

And here’s why I use it as my brand name:

When I decided that I was finally going to take the plunge and “go freelance,” my then-mentor said to me, “Reach out to the network you already have. Your first customers are going to be people you know. People you may have already done business with at some point.”

And that’s when I realized that most of the people who “knew” me — and especially the people I’d “done business with” in the past — wouldn’t know me on my own. My parents had been a very overwhelming presence in my life and I had always faded into the background. I was only really “known” as their kid within our town and in most circles. (My parents are both well-known special effects artists in the horror industry — a man recently flew out to CA all the way from Japan just so he could shake hands with my mom…and that kind of thing isn’t that uncommon for them).

So I decided to just go with it. I kept the “LittleZotz” nickname I’d become known for/as. But I tacked on “Writing” to the end of it to assert my independence and let people know what I was all about!

So that was the main reason.

Second Reason: People almost always misspell my last name (I get Tharpe, Thorpe, Tarp, and Sharp a LOT!) and most tend to stumble over the pronunciation. I figured LittleZotz would be easier for potential customers to remember — and spell! — correctly.

That said, I sometimes get people spelling it “LittleZots” or “Little Zots” which drives me crazy, but eh… What can you do? I set up a couple Google and Talkwalker Alerts for common misspellings of my biz name and called it a day.

20. “I want to ‘go freelance,’  but how do I know when it’s the right time to take the plunge?”

It’s going to be different for everyone.

This actually reminds me of something my dad once said about getting married. He said that if he had waited until he was “ready” to get married, that he’d still be single and that I would have never been born.

I think that freelancing is a lot like getting married. It’s something that you probably really want to do. You’re excited for it. You’re looking forward to it. BUT…you’re probably never going to be really “ready.”

At some point, you’ve just gotta take that plunge — ready or not.

What I would suggest is that you don’t just jump in. Because, while you can, it’s better to sort of plan it out a little bit. Because setting goals without action is useless, but action without planning tends to be very sloppy. And you don’t want to be a sloppy freelancer.

If you’re interested, I wrote a “checklist” for writers looking to go freelance over on A Writer’s Bucket List: http://www.writersbucketlist.com/start-freelancing-checklist/

21. “How do you deal with negative comments?”

Politely tell the person leaving them to get wrecked.

Well, that’s the short answer. Longer answer:

  • Breathe. Take a moment to chill. Never write back while enraged (and, if you’re like I am, you might get a bit heated when you get a negative comment). Don’t let your emotions take control. You’ll come off sounding stupid, even if you’re right; trust me on that one.
  • Analyze. Is this person actually being a butthead or are they offering constructive criticism? Are they right? Is there a fundamental misunderstanding of your work that you could easily clear up? (Some people like to comment without actually reading/understanding what they’re commenting on).
  • Reply (politely). This is the part where you either politely tell the person they’re mistaken and prove, with evidence, why they’re being a dummy; or, you say “thank you” and make any needed adjustments.

Or you can just ignore them. That works too.

22. “How do I establish myself as an expert?”

Establishing yourself as an expert isn’t as hard as most people will make it out to be.

The fact of the matter is, you’re always going to be an expert to someone. No matter what “level” you think you are, you’re going to be an “expert” to someone else.

For instance, I don’t know everything that there is to know about freelance writing — and it’s possible that I never will — however, you’re sending me questions and reading this long blog post that answers them! So, I’m an expert in your eyes (thank you!).

And, really, that’s all you need to be: Expert “enough.”

If you can show that you know what you’re doing — if you have that confidence! — and you can say to your prospective clients that “I know how to do this” then you should be good to go. Clients want someone who knows that they’re doing, who can get the job done the way they want it to be done, that will be effective. And, if you know you can do that, then you’re expert enough.

Just you keep updating your skills, because things change quickly int his business and you’re going to want to keep up.

However, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” when you don’t know. 

23. “What should be on my writer website?”

Keep it simple:

  1. About Page
  2. Contact Page
  3. Services Page
  4. Samples Page
  5. Testimonials Page
  6. Blog Page (optional).

24. “In your opinion, what’s the quickest way to break in and start getting good writing jobs?”

Ask around in writing communities. Like the Be a Freelance Blogger forum or the Freelance Bloggers Google+ group. Make friends. But don’t be the jerk who’s like, “I said ‘hi’ to you. Now share your clients with me!” No one likes that.

Check on job boards. Google your niche. And, if possible, try guest posting! Just keep trying stuff until you find something that works for you.

To be honest, “breaking in” is fairly easy; but getting a great client base and developing a great network takes a lot of time. A lot of freelance writing is just patience and perseverance.

25. “What’s the easiest way to get started as a ghostwriter?”

Write “I do ghostwriting” somewhere on your About or Services page. Seriously. The first step to getting gigs in a certain writing field is making the public aware that you can — and want to — do that type of writing!

I’m going to get more into the nitty-gritty of getting ghostblogging gigs when I release my book later this year; however, in addition to adding the service to your site, I would suggest seeking out mislabeled “copywriting” gigs. A lot of blogging and content writing jobs get posted under the “copywriting” label — especially when they need to be ghosted.

26. “Does it ever get boring reading/writing about the same topic again and again?”

Rarely. Every writer has their own style and their own take on a topic. And, as long as they’re bringing something fresh to the table, that’s going to make it interesting for the people who come and read those articles. After all, I’ve written just shy of 170 posts on freelance writing — on this blog alone! — and you’re still here reading them. 😉

27. “How do you deal with e-mail overload?”

I go into this a bit in my “E is for E-mail” post. It’s pretty basic stuff, but you might find it helpful if you’re really struggling.

Though, over the past few months — maybe due to my award-winning status! — I’ve been getting a ton of e-mails. (Last month I was averaging 50 per day on weekdays). So I finally broke down and created an auto-responder for myself. Now, when someone e-mails me, they automatically get this as a reply:

Hi there!

Thanks for your interest in Lauren Tharp/LittleZotz Writing!

Due to the high volume of e-mails I receive, it may take me a couple of days to get back to you. But, rest assured, I will reply to your message. 🙂

In the meantime, feel free to grab some free e-books! Check out my calender for Upcoming Events! Or, see if I’ve already answered your question on my F.A.Q. page.

Write to you soon-ish!

–Lauren*

It seems a bit impersonal, I suppose; but it’s really reduced my stress levels (“overwhelm”) where e-mail is concerned. It’s given me a little leeway to sort out my inbox and respond at my own pace. If you’re getting similarly bombarded, I highly recommend it.

28. “Which is better: Working in-house as a traditionally-employed writer or freelancing?”

Both have pros and cons.

As a freelancer, you have a lot more freedom over how you work. By definition, freelancers are in control over how and when they work — the client only has a say on the final product.

As an employee, you get all the benefits of being an employee! Like not having to pay for your own supplies/repairs and getting a steady paycheck. But, of course, your boss is in control over when and how you work.

29. “How do I get over burnout?”

Take a break. It really is the only “foolproof” way to get better.

I know. Sometimes that’s hard to even imagine. Until September of last year, I hadn’t had a break that lasted longer than two days in over four years! And, boy, was I feelin’ it!

Hopefully it won’t take you four years to take a decent break; however, if it does, don’t get discouraged. In the meantime, I highly recommend taking at least one day — preferably two days — off per week. Do it for your sanity! And do it so your work quality doesn’t go down due to exhaustion.

30. “I just lost a client, what do I do?”

That stinks. 🙁 Sorry to hear that. I’d suggest tackling this in six steps:

  1. Stay Calm. All right. Deep breaths. You’re going to be okay. Deep down, you always knew this could happen. As a freelancer, there’s no guarantee that your clients will stick with you. Panicking and making rash, potentially career-ruining, decisions is not the way to go here.
  2. Take Time to Mourn (Briefly). It’s okay to admit that this sucks. Big time. Don’t whine about your loss publicly (totally taboo!), but do acknowledge it. Take a day or two off to rest and recuperate from this highly-stressful situation.
  3. Assess Your Lifestyle and Adjust as Needed. If you were making $2,000 per month and you’re suddenly making $800, you’re probably going to need to make some lifestyle adjustments. Think “needs” rather than “wants.” Depending on the dent in your finances, you’ll likely need to restructure your life to center around “survival” rather than comfort. It’s a bummer, but the good news is that it’s only temporary. Do what you have to do to survive until your next big client.
  4. Do the Things You Were Putting Off. All of the things you’ve been putting off — business and personal. Call your uncle. Clean out your closet. Fix your website up. Finish filling out your social media profiles. Get your life back in order so you can get your business back in order.
  5. Up Your Marketing Efforts. Ideally you always want to be marketing yourself — getting yourself out there! — at least a little, even when you’re fully-booked. However, whether you’ve been lax or steady in the marketing department, now’s the time to really ramp up your efforts.
  6. Be Grateful for What You Have. Seriously. Be grateful. And I mean this in two ways: First, be grateful for the clients you still have. They might not be paying you as much, but they’re still paying you. And they’re (hopefully!) wonderful people. Their expectations are generally reasonable, and they’re enabling you to live out your life earning money via your dream job. Second, you’re earning money via your dream job. How amazing is that? How could you not be grateful?!

Whether you’re pulling in ones or thousands, you’re earning money with your writing. And that’s wonderful. And the best part is, even if you lose your biggest client, you will never ever be out of a job. The only way to stop being a writer is to stop writing.

Have More Questions?

Well, this is it for my two-part series of 30 questions for my 30th birthday! However, I answer freelance blogging questions every week as the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Be A Freelance Blogger. Feel free to join the free forum!

I also offer one-on-one mentoring.

And, of course, you can always write to me or leave your questions here in the comments’ section!

Thanks for sticking with me. 🙂

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