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How to Win Writing Awards

All right. This is going to be a difficult post to write without seeming like a Self-Congratulatory Braggy Braggart, but I’m going to attempt it anyway since a few of you have asked me about it…

I’ve won multiple writing awards over the past few years. You can see them displayed on the right-hand side of this blog post in the sidebar, if you’re interested in which ones.

Some of you are interested in winning awards too. And I can’t blame you! Not only are they a lot of fun, they also add prestige to your business and can help get you more gigs from better clients. They’re a great thing to have.

I can’t claim to know all the “secrets” to winning (I wish!), but here’s what I do know… Continue reading “How to Win Writing Awards”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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FREE Writing/Business Goals Workbook!

familyphoto

Hey, Everyone!

I’m having a rough week due to issues with my health, so I’m going to keep this week’s blog post short.

Every year, I make myself a little workbook to reflect on the year that’s passed and plan out my freelance writing/business goals for the future year.

This year, I’m sharing that workbook with all of you!

Personally, I like to print mine out and fill it in with glitter gel pens and add drawings and whatnot to the pages. However, you can probably fill it out digitally too if you prefer (or don’t own a printer).

Click the link below to get your FREE PDF and have fun filling it out! 😀

–Lauren*

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE WORKBOOK!!!

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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How to Set Your Rates as a Freelance Writer

Every freelancer has to decide for themselves what they want to charge, but this post is a good place to start your thinking process.

going rates
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: Rate setting is going to vary depending on who you are and what you do. What works for me may not work for you. But, that said, here’s what works for me:

How to Figure Out the “Going Rate”

You always want to be fair to your clients as well as yourself. And one of the best ways to do that is to figure out the “going rate” for the services you’re providing. I figure out these rates by combining two sources:

  1. I check The Writer’s Market rates guide. (You can also check other sources like The Editorial Freelancers Association’s rate guide).
  2. I ask fellow freelance writers what they charged for a similar project. (Note: It’s important to ask successful freelance writers what they charged… Asking someone who’s plateau’d their career on Fiverr won’t do you much good).

From there, I use the numbers I got back — and combine them mentally with what I’d like to charge to earn a living wage — and come up with a price that I think will be fair for both my client and myself.

Making Adjustments to Your Rates

I’m about to show you something that no one has ever seen before. My rates: Continue reading “How to Set Your Rates as a Freelance Writer”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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12 Common Freelance Writer Mistakes

Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t have to make the same dumb mistakes everyone else does.

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

As a freelance writer, you will make dozens of mistakes throughout your career; however, here are the twelve mistakes you might be making right off the bat:

1. Limiting Yourself

Just because you’ve chosen a niche for yourself doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself. You can still write for other sub-niches under the umbrella of your main niche.

For example, if you’ve chosen parenting as your main focal point, there’s no need for you to forget about your love for fashion, pets, or fitness. You can write articles like:

  • “Get Glam! 15 Make-up Tips for Moms on the Go!” (Parenting/Fashion)
  • “10 Ways Dogs Help Our Children Become Better Human Beings” (Parenting/Pets)
  • “How Having Two Under Two Helped Me Lose 20 Pounds!” (Parenting/Fitness)

Even if you’ve chosen a particular niche, you can still put all of your writing expertise to use! Don’t limit yourself.

2. Disliking Other Writers

Other writers are your friends, yo! In fact: About 60% of my current business comes from fellow writers. Other writers are not “the competition.” Continue reading “12 Common Freelance Writer Mistakes”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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Shady Writing Tactics: Why I WON’T Place Your Articles

I’d like to thank freelance writer Alicia Rades for inspiring me to write this post. You can see her own version of this topic here.

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Hey there!

I’m writing this post because it’s going to end up in my FAQ page. Because I get asked about this a lot, and I’m tired of having to explain it to each person individually. From now on, I’ll just be linking to this.

There’s a trend lately among “potential clients” wherein they want an article written (good!)…about their product (okay under circumstances)…and then pitched/”placed” for them at a particular publication. It’s that last part that’s the problem.

I don’t place articles.

Here’s why: Continue reading “Shady Writing Tactics: Why I WON’T Place Your Articles”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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Writers VS. Editors: We’re All Winners Here!

Without writers, there would be no editing; but without editors, there would be no good writing. 

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

I’m a freelance writerI’m also an editor. This has put me in the unique position of being on bothsides of the pitching, drafting, and publication process.

I consider myself primarily a writer for now (after all, my business is called LittleZotz Writing, not LittleZotz Editing); however, I have a passion for both fields and feel myself more and more divided as time goes on. (LittleZotz Editing may become a real thing at some point!).

Both freelance writing and editing are pretty darn great. There are a lot of pros to both!

There are also a lot of cons though…

Let’s take a look at some of the basic “pros and cons” for each, shall we? Continue reading “Writers VS. Editors: We’re All Winners Here!”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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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?”

Continue reading “30 Writing + Freelancing Questions from My Mailbag (Part 2)”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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30 Writing + Freelancing Questions from My Mailbag (Part 1)

Illustration by Michael Cervantes.
Illustration by Michael Cervantes.

Freelancer questions, writer questions, editor questions…

Okay! So here’s what’s up:

I turned 30 this year. That’s a pretty big deal to me. And, even though said event happened in early January, I wanted to keep the “30” thing going for a while longer and answer 30 commonly-asked questions from my mailbag. 🙂

Then I realized I was a couple questions shy due to so many commonly-asked questions being repeats, so I turned to the wonderful community at Be A Freelance Blogger to fill in the gaps. (They’ve got a lot of questions over there!).

Without further ado, here are my answers to some of your freelancing/writing/editing questions! Feel free to scroll through for the questions/answers most relevant to you — it’s a long post! Continue reading “30 Writing + Freelancing Questions from My Mailbag (Part 1)”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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Why I’m a Hardass Pitching Editor

EditingHi there:

My name is Lauren Tharp. In addition to running my own writing business, I’m the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Be A Freelance Blogger. And while I’m pretty happy-go-lucky on the forum, I’m a complete hardass behind the editor’s desk.

No, really. I’m a hardass by the very definition of hardass:

Hardass

Noun, Slang: Vulgar.
1. A person who follows rules and regulations meticulously and enforces them without exceptions.

~Dictionary.com

But there’s a good reason for this.

And it’s a reason that you, as a writer, should be aware of — whether you decide to pitch an idea to me or any other editor.

Querying: Every Editor Has the Same Number One Rule

Want to know that every editor I’ve ever spoken to has had to say about pitches/query letters?

The writer needs to follow the guidelines.

I’ve said the same thing myself, numerous times:

And you know what writers say in reply…?

“It’s really not that big a deal…”

“Can’t you make an exception for me…?”

“Why are you such a stickler for the rules?!”

“I’m so great, I don’t have to read the guidelines!”

Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Most freelance writers/bloggers are professional enough to “get” why the guidelines are important. But for those who aren’t — or are simply curious — here’s exactly why I, and every other editor worth their salt, is a friggin’ “hardass” about the rules: Continue reading “Why I’m a Hardass Pitching Editor”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.

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25 Ways to Stop Writer’s Block and Get Creative (Even When You’re Not ‘Feeling It’)

Illustration by Ramiro Roman (with modifications by me)
Illustration by Ramiro Roman (with modifications by me)

After sitting down and really thinking about it (and by using a few of the methods I’m about to share!), I was able to come up with a list of 25 things I do when I need to write something and I’m just not feeling it. So, without further ado…

Lauren Tharp’s Top 25 Ways to Unlock Your Inner-Writer’s Creativity

  1. Get some sleep. Eating food and taking a shower are also great, but sleep is a “biggie” that I forget more easily than the other two. And it’s SO important. The more you deprive your brain of sleep the more your brain, well, just doesn’t want to function. You don’t just “feel” stupid—you actually become stupid. And when you can barely function on simple day-to-day survival activities, how can you expect to do something creative?
  2. No self-editing until it’s done. Editing is all about finding errors. And, yes, there will always be errors. But if you start focusing on what you’ve done “wrong” before you’ve even finished…chances are you’ll never finish. Save the editing for last.
  3. Just write—even if it’s crap. The hardest part is getting started. Once you’ve started: Don’t stop. Just keep writing. When I was writing The Ballad of Allison and Bandit (my YA novel out April 17th!), I ended up tossing an entire chapter that was just utter horrible unadulterated crap. But I was glad that I’d written it. Because just the act of writing it helped give me the momentum I needed to write the good stuff!
  4. Start wherever. One thing that used to stymie my creative writing productivity when I was first starting out was the notion that I had to start at the beginning. After all, one of my favorite quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the King’s line, “’Begin at the beginning and go on ‘til you come to the end. Then stop.” It has a certain amount of sense to it, doesn’t it? HOWEVER… In the real world, story ideas won’t always come to you in the right order. Don’t wait around for it all to fall into place. Start with what you’ve got! Even if that means starting somewhere in the middle or—gasp!—the end.
  5. Keep an idea journal. I like to have a notebook dedicated solely to “ideas.” When an idea comes to me, even if it’s just the smallest inkling of an idea, I jot it down in my journal. Even if it’s something that seems completely useless at the time (I have a whole page dedicated to fake band names!), you never know when it might come in handy later! (Dream journals are also great for drawing inspiration from if you get stuck).
  6. Don’t force it. Creative writing is a bit like falling in love. Don’t laugh! It’s true. And like falling in love (or comfortably relieving your bowels), you should never, ever force it. If you’ve tried and tried and nothing’s coming to you—wait. Try again later. Don’t underestimate the value of taking a break and coming back to it later. Just make sure you do come back to it.
  7. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Think you haven’t done any writing today? Oh, come now. Don’t be that way. If you wrote an e-mail to a friend today, give yourself a pat on the back: You wrote something. Think that doesn’t count as creative writing? Bah! Of course it does. I mean, really, your daily life can’t be that interesting…and yet you wrote to your friend about it in a way that wouldn’t bore them to tears! THAT is creativity, my friend. Count it as a victory.
  8. Eavesdrop. The moment you enter a public space, you’re going to hear people talking. Try to (nonchalantly!) pick up on what some of them are saying. People are amazing. Listen to what they have to say—even if it’s just a snippet. Your mind can fill in the blanks. And that’s exactly where you start getting creative.
  9. Strike up a conversation. Similar to the above suggestion, but more proactive. Actually talk to people. Particularly people who aren’t fellow writers. Good/realistic writing does not form in a vacuum. Talk to others. Listen to their stories. Get a new perspective.
  10. Rhyme. I love to write rhyming poetry. Maybe I read too much Dr. Suess as a wee babe or maybe, just maybe, I use it as a mental exercise. Okay, both answers are right. But let’s talk about the latter: When you’re forced to find words that rhyme to tell a story, you end up mentally reviewing your entire vocabulary. Sometimes just the act of trying to find the right word makes it easier to write ones of your own.
  11. Make a soundtrack. This is one of my favorites for BIG projects. I like to imagine what the “soundtrack” would be if the story I’m working on got made into a movie. I create a music playlist and listen to it on repeat until the project is finished. It helps me focus, keeps me in the mood, and helps me capture the right “feel” of the overall project.
  12. Don’t tell anyone. Anyone who’s into reading self-help books (me!) or have had any form of life/business coaching (also me!) knows that “you have to get increased accountability.” You have to tell someone your goals. Well, while that might work for some things (I like to have an accountability buddy for my weight loss goals), for creative things…not so much. As soon as you tell someone you’re writing a novel, you instantly start to lose your motivation to actually do it. So keep it to yourself. Just imagine how happy they’ll be once you tell them it’s DONE.
  13. Make it pretty. Sometimes plain old black and white text can get a little dull. Your brain starts to turn off. Add some color! Use different font colors or, my favorite, colored pens.
  14. Write big. Use your slightly-larger-than-normal handwriting you thought was fooling your teachers when you were a school kid. Or double-space your work when typing on the computer. Even if you aren’t writing much, your brain will see it as a lot and you’ll get that feel-good rush you need to push you through.
  15. Carry a pen and paper pad everywhere. You never know when inspiration will strike. Be ready for it!
  16. Be interviewed. Think you’re not creative? Get put on the spot and think again!
  17. Embrace the haters. Many writers stop in their tracks when they start imagining the reactions they’ll get—especially if they imagine those reactions to be negative. Of course we all hope our writing will be loved by all… But don’t fear the haters. Embrace them! Hate, while negative, is still a passionate reaction. And it was brought about by your powerful writing. How cool is that? The worst reaction a writer can get is indifference, not hate.
  18. Make it a game. Come up with word games! One of the games my significant other and I play is making up captions for pictures. Or describing complex topics in as few words as possible.
  19. Use a pseudonym. Is there something you’ve always wanted to write but were afraid to? Use a pseudonym (fake name) and write it anyway! After all, it’s not really “you” writing that lust in the dust novella now, is it? 😉
  20. Write a letter to your past or future self. Think deeply about your life. How would you describe it to a child version of yourself? Better yet, imagine what you’d like your life to be in the future—down to the last minute detail—and write a letter to your future self asking if any of your imaginings have come true. Get creative!
  21. Engage in another form of creativity. Draw, paint, sculpt, knit… Do something that works your creative muscles that isn’t writing. The truth is, sometimes you’ll get burned out. Doing something else for a while will help keep your creative muscles from atrophying while letting you take a break from writing.
  22. Take pictures everywhere you go. Most cell phones include cameras now. Use yours to take photos of interesting little tidbits you find on your daily journeys. A particularly gnarled tree, a chunk of sidewalk with a handprint in it, a group of people waiting for a late bus… Anything that piques your curiosity! When you’re lacking for inspiration, click through your photo collection. Something in there is bound to spark an idea.
  23. Read. All the best writers read.
  24. Call yourself a writer. Stop calling yourself an “aspiring” writer! Do you write? Then you’re a writer! Just. A. Writer. Fess up to it. The sooner you admit what you are, the sooner you’ll shed your hang-ups and start making unbelievable writing progress. Once you start doing something, you’re no longer “aspiring” to do it—you just are.
  25. Accept my dare. I dare you to try out one of the items on this list today!

Continue reading “25 Ways to Stop Writer’s Block and Get Creative (Even When You’re Not ‘Feeling It’)”

Lauren Tharp is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers.