Category: OLD BLOG

The OLD LittleZotz Writing (2010-2020)

Once upon a time, LittleZotz Writing was very gray and very “professional.” Its tagline was “Writing for businesses. Advice for writers.” The blog won multiple awards, the freebies were well-regarded, and it was overall a useful source of information.

The bulk of it was made during the absolute worst years of my life (2007-2017). I grew to loathe the old LittleZotz Writing — I even tried to hand it off to my readers (removing “LittleZotz” from!).

I eventually realized that was silly (no “LittleZotz” at! Preposterous!) and I came back, taking LittleZotz Writing in a far more personal (and colorful!) direction.

While I still want nothing to do with most of the old content (it makes me very sad), I realize that it’s a much-beloved and invaluable source of information to many of my readers… So, I made a separate section on my site for it. You’re in that section now. Enjoy?

50+ Freelance Writing Questions: Answered!

Lauren Spear freelance writing AMA
Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art.

Last month, I reached out to my readers/followers via social media and my newsletter to invite them to “ASK ME ANYTHING” about freelance writing. You guys readily responded to my “AMA” and I ended up with over 50 questions!

That was far more than I was expecting, to be honest — which is why this became my gigantic START-of-the-year post rather than my enormous END-of-the-year post like I’d originally intended. (Apologies to anyone whose been anxiously waiting!).

In the end, it feels incredibly fitting and, dare-I-say, “right” to have this post go up in 2020. This year marks LittleZotz Writing’s 10th anniversary — and what better way to get my 10th year rolling than to answer a buttload of questions from the folks who’ve stuck with me and made this site everything it is?

Which reminds me! Before I do anything else… THANK YOU!! Yes, you. Thank you — and you and you and YOU — for sticking with me and continuing to read the LittleZotz Writing blog for an entire decade! And extra big sloppy thank you hugs to those of you who wrote in with questions for this extra special post. You rock!

Ready to have your questions answered…? Here we go!

Continue reading “50+ Freelance Writing Questions: Answered!”

Research Tips for Writers Who Hate Doing Research

Image via Unsplash

This title might sound like an oxymoron. After all, research is intrinsically tied to writing, especially if you’re unfamiliar with a topic.

It’s precisely this close association with research and writing that may be putting people off writing altogether. Research takes a lot of time, and the proliferation of hashtags and fake news means that the search for credible sources has become that much more taxing — and important.

That said, research can open up a whole new world of information; it can even take your work to exciting places that you never would have thought possible.

The good news is that if you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already got a good grip when it comes to writing. So, here are some tips to hone your research skills, and to hopefully make you enjoy the process while you’re at it:

Read widely

Research from Emory University shows that reading helps create new neural links, boosting brain function and allowing you to tackle even the most difficult writing assignment. As a freelance writer, sometimes you get assigned to write about something you don’t know much about. One of the best ways to get a feel for the topic is to read similar articles to get a grasp of tone, vocabulary, and the like. Reading up on your chosen topic also gives you an idea of how to structure your argument, which can help if you’re someone who prefers to make outlines before writing.

Keep track of your citations

Depending on the length of your article, you might require anywhere from two or three to a whole handful of sources. Whenever you’re writing an article, it’s best practice to keep track of these links for when it comes time to cite them. Zotero is a great place to store your citations, as it stores everything from the link address to the publication date and author. You should also develop the habit of double checking your sources every once in a while to ensure that the information you use is up to date, which is especially important if you’re writing a longer piece.

Associate research with credibility

Research is just a way to fortify your writing and make it more persuasive with credible information. The fact of the matter is that there are tons of freelance writers out there, with many trying to write articles similar to yours. In fact, Small Biz Trends reports that freelance writing salaries remain low for beginner freelancers, a testament to how saturated the market is. Credibility is what gets your writing ahead, as it shows that you’re a source of information that people can trust. Rather than viewing research as yet another task you have to do, think of it as a way to show that you’ve thought deeply about what you’ve written.

Diversify your sources

Sources like news outlets, publications, and the like are good sources for a reason, as they’ve garnered a reputation for posting trustworthy news. Relying on the same few sources, however, doesn’t add much to the conversation. Google is always a great place to start your research, but looking at specialized websites can help you get the information you actually need. Try as much as possible to switch up your citations every once in a while. For example, online journal databases like JSTOR and Project Muse host a wide range of studies across all disciplines. As mentioned, this adds some welcome variety too.

Dedicate time to research

A lot of writers hate doing extensive research because it makes them feel like they’re back in college. To that end, an article by Special Counsel notes that breaking up your study into smaller chunks and creating a timeline helps you manage your time better. That way, you won’t get overwhelmed, as you will be adequately prepared. The same can be said for research and writing, because the tricky thing about research is that you can quickly get lost in a rabbit hole of endless clicks. Use the timeline trick and work backwards from your deadline, making sure to give yourself an ample amount of research time before you start writing. The important thing is to not go beyond the allotted time frame.

Always keep in mind what the reader wants

Your ideal audience is someone who’s never heard of your topic before. You want to write an article that engages them, so you should look to conduct research accordingly. Author Andy Weir says that it’s easy for an author to write about everything interesting they find — it’s your topic, after all! However, it is important that you to look for the facts that your readership will actually find interesting. When in doubt, always consult someone unfamiliar with your piece. And always make sure the content you are writing about has factual basis.

Researching is a muscle that you can build up through practice, just like writing. Backing up your work makes it more credible, allowing more readers to relate to your story. At the end of the day, we write to share our experiences and stories with people from all over the world. So don’t forget to leave a comment below sharing your research tips, and good luck!

Don’t Fall for These! 6 Common Freelance Writing Scams to Avoid

Watch Out for Red Flags! | Graphic by SandpaperDaisy

Getting caught in the web of a fraudulent client is every freelance writer’s worst nightmare.

If you’re a newbie, you’re the easiest prey. There’re a good number of scammers out there looking to milk free content out of you by using your naivety and desperation for work to their advantage. That said, well-seasoned writers aren’t immune to these insufferable predators either.

Follow along as I shine a light on the telltale signs that reveal common freelance writing scams.

Continue reading “Don’t Fall for These! 6 Common Freelance Writing Scams to Avoid”

You’re NOT Alone: Surviving Depression as a Freelance Writer

freelance writing with depression
Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art

This is either going to be one of the best, most helpful, posts I’m ever going to write (on LittleZotz Writing or anywhere else), or one of the worst. Either way, it’s going to be very long and deeply personal. I’m holding NOTHING back.

Why write about mental illness on a website dedicated to freelance writers? Why not write another post about how to up your blogging skills, or how to earn affiliate income? How could this possibly be useful to anyone on this “niche” site?

Well, in my experience, freelancers – particularly freelance writers – are more often than not “mentally ill” in some way or another. In fact, more than any other post I’ve written in my career, THIS is the one that I get emailed about the most. It’s a post I wrote, along with Sophie Lizard and Kelly Gurnett (both fantastically successful – and mentally ill – freelance bloggers) about dealing with mental health struggles as freelancers.

There’s something about being a freelance creative that really appeals to those of us with “brain problems.” So, yes, I think this post – even with its largely personal focus – is valuable for my audience.

However, unlike most of the posts on LittleZotz Writing, which provide clear and “actionable” advice for the problems they tackle, this post is going to be more-or-less a long ramble about my personal experiences dealing with mental health issues as a (successful) freelance writer. I’ll offer my opinions on what “works” and what doesn’t, of course, but there’s no definite “do it THIS way” advice I – or anyone! – can provide on this topic. Everyone’s mental health journey is different, and what worked for me might not work for you.

What I do wish to provide with this post is encouragement, honesty, and hope.

My dream is that, by being candid about my own life and experiences, I can help YOU – even if you’re just ONE reader – improve your life in some minor-yet-significant way. You’re NOT alone.

Continue reading “You’re NOT Alone: Surviving Depression as a Freelance Writer”

Welcome to the NEW LittleZotz Writing!

Hey, Everyone!

My name is Lauren Spear. Longtime readers will remember me as Lauren Tharp… That changed recently when I got married (4/27/2019) and proudly took on my fabulous husband’s last name.

And this here? This is my baby: LittleZotz Writing. It’s a pretty well-grown “baby” at this point — quickly heading towards its 10th birthday! — but you get what I mean. LZW is special to me, and to so many others.

To keep LittleZotz Writing “special,” and to celebrate positive transformations in my own life, I knew it was time to make some changes.

Continue reading “Welcome to the NEW LittleZotz Writing!”

8 Tips on How to Become a Successful Fanfiction Writer

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

I noticed on the Internet there’s a stigma attached to being known as a fanfiction writer. Go online and search for writing tips or advice; there’s a wealth of information on the topic, but generally with the intent to self-publish or solicit a publishing house. Almost never do you see advice catered to those who write fanfiction, and that’s missed opportunity.

Just look at the success of authors who got their start in fanfiction; such as E.L. James, Rainbow Rowell, and Amanda Todd. Authors who “graduate” from fanfiction to eventually create their own original works are a growing niche that mainstream markets have yet to fully embrace.

I’ve written fanfiction for over 20 years. Currently, I’m on the path writing my first YA novel, using my two decades’ worth of experience to mentor the new generation of writers on how they can position themselves as authorities in fanfiction.

Continue reading “8 Tips on How to Become a Successful Fanfiction Writer”

Top 3 Productivity Boosting Books for Freelancers

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Sometimes, we need motivation from outside of ourselves to be as productive as possible.

We live in a world which is designed to distract us endlessly.

From never-ending emails to ceaseless app notifications, everything is set up to rob our attention away from us.

This conflicts with our desire to be as productive as possible and produce the best work we can.

So how can we regain control of our productivity and do our best work?

I’ve found that books are the best way to regain my focus and drive to work on the things that matter to me.

Today, I’d like to share three of the books that have helped me the most, along with some takeaway tips you can use to make more of your time.

Let’s get to it!

Continue reading “Top 3 Productivity Boosting Books for Freelancers”

4 Signs You’re Sabotaging Your Writing (And What to Do About It!)

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Oh, the lovely struggles of a writer’s life — bloodthirsty deadlines, toxic clients, lack of inspiration… These things come with the package, whether you like it or not. But did you know that you are the greatest enemy of your own work?

Out of hundreds of excuses — bad days, the dreaded writer’s block or simple laziness — you, as a writer, bear the sole responsibility for whether words appear on the page or not. It took me a while to acknowledge this and improve (a bit). Now I want to make it easier for you.

Take a look at these four signs and see whether you’re making the same mistakes!

Continue reading “4 Signs You’re Sabotaging Your Writing (And What to Do About It!)”

7 Things You’ll Need to Know Before Becoming a Managing Editor

meditating editor
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

After just over five years of being the Managing Editor of Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger, I finally said “so long” to the job.

Why? Well, long story short, it’s because I’m now a full-time content editor for Syed Balkhi’s Awesome Motive, and I simply didn’t have time for BAFB anymore.

However, five years as a Managing Editor is a long time. Especially in the fast-paced online world. Five years can feel like a decade, especially where learning and experience comes into play.

There‘re so many things I wish I’d known before starting my career as a professional Editor. I learned, of course; but fumbling around using “trial and error” tactics was brutal at times. I desperately wanted someone “in the know” to tell me “THIS is what you should expect, and what you should do…”

But, hey! Now I’M that “in the know” person. And I have the power to tell YOU what you should expect, and what you can do.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of seven things you’ll need to keep in mind if you plan on becoming a Managing Editor: Continue reading “7 Things You’ll Need to Know Before Becoming a Managing Editor”

How to Invoice Your Freelance Writing Clients Like a Pro

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

What’s the most important piece of paperwork in your freelance arsenal?

The contract, right?

It’s that little piece of paper that outlines the scope of work, ensures your client is legally obligated to pay you, and is the official start to all new working relationships.

But here’s the thing.

If the contract is the start, then what’s the end of your agreement? What is it that ties off the agreement and lets all parties involved know that the job is, officially, complete?

The answer is your invoice.

Your freelance writing contract and invoice are the book-stops to the job you’ve agreed to take on. They’re the hard start and stop for each job. And sure, contracts might get more love in the freelance advice world, but these two should always go hand-in-hand.

The invoice you send to the client doesn’t just officially close the agreement (pending payment of it of course), but it reminds the client of the payment terms and work completed.

In my humble opinion, the invoice is almost as important as your freelance contract, but its one of those elements that gets very little coverage online.

And we’re going to change that.

I’m going to run through the key considerations for crafting a killer invoice, as well as list some awesome tools to help you look even more professional. Continue reading “How to Invoice Your Freelance Writing Clients Like a Pro”