Category: Freelance Writer’s ABCs

V is for Vending Machine Mentality

V - Vending Machine
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

You are not a vending machine.

People can’t just thrust money at you and expect something to pop out.

I once recommended that writers think of themselves as a product in order to sell themselves objectively. Which is good advice. However, don’t think of yourself as a product, or as a business, to the point that you forget your humanity.

You are a person.

You deserve respect. Continue reading “V is for Vending Machine Mentality”

U is for Updating Your Skills

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

While you don’t necessarily need a formal/college education to succeed as a freelance writer, you do need to continuously update your skills. You can never stop learning.

As a freelancer, it’s your responsibility to stay up-to-date and adapt with any changes to your craft.

“Back in My Day…”

I had done a few odd writing jobs in my youth, but the first time I got legitimately paid by a publication was in 2003.
My Aunt Carol bought me a copy of the Writer’s Market for that year and I used it to the best of my abilities. I taught myself how to approach editors, how to write in the style they required, and got myself published.

Ten Years Ago…

Continue reading “U is for Updating Your Skills”

T is for Testimonials …and Saying Thanks!

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

The 3 Elements of a Great Testimonial:

1. They’re Specific.

The best testimonials are the ones that say something specific about you, whether it’s about your product (“sensational article writing!,” “writes terrific press releases!”) or about you as your character pertains to your business (“Lauren is fast!” “Lauren goes above and beyond!” “Lauren never skimps on the research when writing an article!”).

On my old website, I had this comment up in my Testimonials section:

“LOVE IT!!! Thank you very much… Highly recommended!” 

Obviously that person was extremely happy with my work!  But what work did I do for him/her?  To be honest, I can’t even remember myself.  (And that Testimonial isn’t giving any hints!).  Because of this, I’ve removed it from my current Testimonials page.

I’m happy he/she was so happy, but there’s no reason to share it with you. Continue reading “T is for Testimonials …and Saying Thanks!”

S is for Security …and Saving Your Work

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

Once you become your own business, you’re going to have to do whatever it takes to keep that business secure.

Since freelance writers work primarily online these days, I’m going to chat about E-mail Security and Website Security.

E-Mail Security

Most of us know not to send money to help out a Nigerian prince, or buy “enhancing” drugs from an unknown source without a prescription, but spam has gotten trickier these days.

Many spam e-mails look very legitimate and try to gain access to your most private information by posing as real companies such as PayPal or eBay.  These spam mails/scams are also known as “phishing” e-mails.

The Big Tip-Off:  When an e-mail lands in your inbox asking (for “verification purposes”) for you to fill out a form with your account name, password, address, card number, expiration date, and sometimes even your social security number…  Alarm bells should go off in your head!  99 times out of 100, this isn’t a real company: this is someone trying to steal your identity.  Oh, they’ll “verify” your credit card all right—by spending all your money!

Some Precautions:

Continue reading “S is for Security …and Saving Your Work”

R is for Research

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

Research and writing go hand-in-hand.

When you’re a freelance writer–rather than an employee–the need to research becomes even greater.

Traditionally employed writers tend to focus on researching their news/article sources: Their statistics, quotes, images, and other facts all need to be checked and re-checked.

Freelance writers have THREE forms of research they need to perform:

  1. Writing Research
  2. Client Research
  3. Self Research.

If you’re a writer, I’m going to assume you already know how to do #1. So I’m going to focus on #2 and #3. Continue reading “R is for Research”

Q is for Querying

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

Querying (or pitching) is extremely important for writers who want to get into magazines, news writing, or blogging. And, really, what writer wouldn’t? All of those markets are incomparably awesome.

Your query letter–your pitch, your letter of introduction–is your foot in the door of Article Writing’s well-guarded fortress.

It’s your way to break in.

The 6 Components of a Query Letter:

Continue reading “Q is for Querying”

P is for Promo

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

It’s the 16th post in this series, and I think it’s time for a confession…

I was originally writing these to promote a now defunct project.

You see, I was approached by a copyeditor named Kris Emery (the woman in the green dress in the illustration above) to teach an online class with her. And we thought it would be fun to write alphabet-themed blog posts as part of our marketing campaign. Her ABCs were aimed toward would-be editors.

And, you know what?

Our alphabets worked beautifully!

It was a — if you don’t mind me saying so — brilliant marketing technique.

Mainly because it followed the #1 rule of great promos:

It wasn’t self-indulgent.

Everything we produced was useful to our target market/audience.

The fact that our ABCs were subtly promoting our upcoming class was an afterthought. Something that I’ve proven here—where all references to what we were promoting have been completely removed.

Great marketing is always about the audience.

If you don’t connect with your audience, if you don’t make your marketing a valuable experience for them, they’re not going to care about your product. (Just like what I was talking about in the “Layman’s Terms” chapter).

6 Other Promotional Techniques That Kick Butt

Continue reading “P is for Promo”

O is for Organization

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Organization is important.

Very important.

To be a successful freelancer, you’ll need to:

  1. Organize your time.
  2. Organize your office/work space.
  3. Organize your files.

Organizing your time (planning your work days/nights) will allow you to meet deadlines more efficiently.

Organizing your office/work space will ensure that you don’t go insane attempting to run a business in filth. (Successful businesses generally aren’t run from within a pile of clutter).

Organizing your files will enable you to easily keep track of clients, tax information, articles, blog posts, guest posts, interviews, and any other work you do–and have ever done.

See what I mean? VERY important!

Now, I can’t tell you exactly how to organize your business. (Organization takes on different forms for everyone). But I can show you what I do. Hopefully it’ll be helpful!

Without further ado… Continue reading “O is for Organization”

N is for No

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

Here are 17 syllables to sum up this post:

No, no, no, no, no.
Never. No way. No, thank you.
Get used to the sound.

That’s right. A haiku about saying “no.” (Pretty awesome, right?)

As a freelance writer, the word “no” can be the hardest word we ever say–or write!–to our potential clients. But you must get used to it. The word “no” isn’t your enemy. In fact, it can be your very best friend.

The truth is, you can’t please everyone. But you can at least please yourself most of the time. And a big part of this is learning how to set boundaries. Turning down so-called “opportunities” that would ultimately make you miserable.

Drumroll, please…

7 Great Reasons to Say “No.”

1. You can’t do the work.

Don’t be ashamed. You have a specific skill set–and that’s a good thing. Those are the skills you’re offering as your services. If someone asks you to do something outside of your skill set–something you know you couldn’t complete with excellence should you accept the gig–then it’s best to turn the work down.

It is so much better to say “No, thank you. I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to do that.” and let the client find someone else who can do the job (integrity move!) than to accept the gig and do a crappy job with it (a waste of everyone’s time!).  Continue reading “N is for No”

M is for Meaning: Why You Write

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

At some point in your freelance writing career, you will consider quitting.

Maybe the “famine” part of the Feast or Famine Cycle hit you overly hard and you’re not making enough money…

Maybe you’re ill and physically feel like you can’t go on…

Maybe you’ve had a string of clients who treat you cruelly…

Maybe you have no clients at all…

Or maybe you’ve been doing the same job–the job you swore you’d always, always love–for way too long. You’re burned out.

It’s natural to feel like quitting when the odds are stacked against you.

But that’s when you most need to tap into your true purpose–why you do what you do. Continue reading “M is for Meaning: Why You Write”