Stop Hunting For Better Clients

freelance writing burnoutI received the following email and thought it might help other freelancers to read my response. The author of the letter agreed to let me post the email anonymously.

Hello Emily,

I am a budding freelance writer. Truth be told I have been a budding freelance writer for more than three years now. I have spent a lot of time writing for low paying content mills, and to be honest I feel that I am pretty much burnt out from it. At the moment I am burdened with low paying clients, and I spend over 12 hours per day writing articles just to pay the rent and eat!

I am constantly reading that there are good paying clients around and I do not doubt that, but so far I have not had any success in attracting their attention or even finding where they are. I don’t think I am a bad writer, and I have a couple of decent clips on Yahoo, Blog Critics, and places like Hubpages.

I really don’t know what it is I am doing wrong. It seems to me that I am missing a piece of the puzzle. I know it all takes hard work and effort, and I am certainly not adverse to rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in. I have just wasted so much of my effort thus far digging in the wrong fields. I am worried I will be burnt out before I realize my full potential as a freelance writer.

Kind regards,
Burnt Out

Dear Burnt Out,

My advice for you is threefold: dump the content mills, stop searching for work, and stop blogging for other writers.

I know what you’re thinking, but let me explain.

I spent some time writing for content mills back in the day, and I’m not surprised you’re unhappy. It might put food on the table, but it’s uninspired work that pays poorly with unreasonable deadlines. My first piece of advice to you? Fire them as clients.

I know you’re dependent on freelancing for your income, so phase them out if you have to. But you can’t accept better jobs if you’re spending 12 hours every day writing drivel. You also don’t have time to improve yourself or your business with such a workload. When will you update your portfolio? Your website? When will you blog for your business?

You also can’t build an impressive portfolio if all your clips are content mill samples. The best writers still produce subpar work when they’re burnt out and underpaid.

My next recommendation is that you stop searching for clients at all. Do you know why content mills can make outrageous demands and pay so little for the work? Because writers keep applying. And the only writers willing to apply to them have convinced themselves they’re desperate for the work. Trust me, the mills know this and they’re all too happy to exploit it.

So change up your business model. I haven’t searched for a client in a few years now, because at some point I realized I was wasting my time. Instead I’ve invested time and money assisting potential clients in their search for me. I built a website and blog and made friends on social media so that when people searched for “Indianapolis freelance writer” they found me. Then they contacted me.

All I do these days is respond to the requests for quotes that land in my inbox and reach out to potential clients in my network. I don’t cold call anyone ever. I don’t scour openings on Elance or oDesk or Craigslist.

Back to the website stuff for a minute. I’m not a keyword expert and I don’t know all the ins and outs of search engine algorithms, but I have common sense and know how to improve my chances of being found online. I recommend you do the same using “freelance writer” or “content writer” with a local qualifier like your town, city, region, or country to bring in search traffic. That’s how they’re going to find you.

The next problem is: what will those people find on your site when they get there? When potential clients see you’ve been blogging to other writers or complaining about the horrors of content mill writing, they’re going to be confused. You need to be posting content for people who hire writers not for other writers. At least until you’ve established a solid client base.

It’s great to commiserate with people who understand, and I don’t know where I’d be without my freelance writer friends, but none of them are ever going to become my next client.

I recently separated my blogs. I have the professional blog for clients and this blog for writing whatever the heck I feel like. But I have a full-time job paying the bills at the moment, so I have some freedom in that regard. If you don’t have the time to run two separate blogs, writing to a client audience should be your priority.

Now, I’m not saying this next part describes you, Burnt Out. But it’s worth putting out there for all the struggling freelancers:

Sometimes I think new writers see talented, successful writers running classes and giving advice to budding writers and they think they need to mimic that behavior to be successful. Great freelance writers have freelance writer followers! Great freelance writers are mentors and give advice! I should do those things to be a great freelance writer too!

Unless you’re in the business of educating new writers right now, it’s not a profitable way to spend your time. If that’s something you want to pursue later, awesome.

I hope this helps you, Burnt Out. Let us know how things go.

Emily

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My New Copywriting Blog

One of the things I’ve decided to do as a result of feedback from the web copywriting instructor at Mediabistro is focus on building the professional side of my web presence.

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going away. And neither is any of the content. I’m just making a formal announcement so that those of you interested in my copywriting and freelance writing content know where to find it.

Read the blog here.

Subscribe to the feed here.

Or subscribe by email.

Wealthy Web Writer Review & Giveaway

Wealthy Web Writer ReviewThe Wealthy Web Writer is a site that provides a “comprehensive resource and community for anyone seeking to become or already working as a web copywriter.”

It’s been around since 2010, and in that time the minds behind the site have compiled a pretty extensive list of how-to videos, articles, and job leads for freelance web writers.

Wealthy Web Writer is associated with American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI), a company you may have heard of in conjunction with past International Freelancers Day events.

Free Resources

So we’re clear: the Wealthy Web Writer is a premium content site, meaning they make money from monthly subscriptions. However, they do offer some free resources and advice on the blog.  A sampling of recent topics they’ve covered include:

  • Marketing Basics: Closing the Sale & Asking for More
  • Marketing Basics: Generating Leads & Following Up
  • How to Make Money as a Travel Blogger
  • 15 Link-Building Strategies that Google Will Love

Paid Resources

This is what it’s really all about. Is the site worth the current $27 per month price of admission? That, of course, depends on your current skill level and how much you can absorb in an independent, online environment.

While there are more resources available on the site like forums and a web copywriting glossary, here’s a rundown of a few key things you have access to with a paid membership:

Improve Your Skills 

In this section, you can browse content in specific areas related to specific web writing skills. You can learn more about writing for social media, B2B copywriting, writing autoresponders, and how SEO strategies are constantly evolving in the web writing business.

Build Your Business

This section covers a lot of newbie questions regarding fee structures, contracts, basic bookkeeping and organization. It also includes advice on marketing yourself as a web writer and landing those first couple of clients.

Tech Corner

With article titles like “WordPress Maintenance 101” and “Using Google Webmaster Tools” the topics in Tech Corner will hit home for a lot of freelance writers who like a little introduction before they dive head first into a new application or platform.

Wealthy Web Writer ScreenshotTraining Center

While you can browse upcoming and previously recorded webinars and teleconferences in the Training Center, I think the 3-Minute Guru videos and Roadmap Tutorials are the most promising features here.

The 3-Minute Guru videos walk you through practical instructions on things like using Google Alerts and learning how to prevent Google from indexing your site until you’re ready for search traffic.

Roadmap Tutorials walk you through more complex topics in a series of modules on topics like:

  • Build Your Freelance Website with WordPress
  • 12-Step Roadman to Success
  • Become a Web Writer
  • WordPress Tutorials

Wealthy Web Writer even offers to generate content for its Roadmap Tutorials based on user feedback. So if there’s something specific you want to learn about, you tell them and they promise to build a tutorial or find someone who can.

Jobs

Last but not least, the Wealthy Web Writer does provide some unique freelance job leads for users. On top of that, they pay web writers too. So, if you have a content idea, you can submit it for possible publication on their site. If selected, they’ll pay you for your trouble.

Summary

I know that those of us who have been freelancing for years could still stand to learn a thing or two about running the business, but I really see this site being more beneficial for newbie freelance writers.

Also, a word to the wise: content focuses on running the business and writing specifically for the web, not on learning to write in general. So if you don’t already excel at writing, it’s probably a little premature to sign up.

Finally,  while the content seems well-rounded overall, I think from a user’s perspective the content in Tech Corner could stand to be beefed up a little.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

[box]I was given a three-month subscription (and a three-month subscription to give away ) to Wealthy Web Writer for the purpose of evaluating the site and publishing an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.[/box]

13 Ways to Boost Your Freelance Career (Without the Internet)

By Terri Huggins

My name is Terri and I have a problem. I think most Americans can relate to it. (I can’t be the only crazy one.) I am addicted to the Internet. I always knew my excessive Internet use was a problem but I didn’t know how big an issue it was until October 2012. I, amongst thousands of other Central Jersey residents, found myself the main target of Superstorm Sandy. I was one of the fortunate people, though. I am alive, my home was intact, and we never lost power. Yet, I still found myself suffering when it came to work.

freelance writing careerObviously, never losing electricity wasn’t a problem. The problem was that everyone else did. That meant I wasn’t able to email editors, follow up on pitches, or schedule interviews and expect a response. When everyone lost all connectivity, I lost all connectivity. That loss made me feel like a fish out of water. (Of course, it wasn’t as extreme as those who actually lost electricity.) It turns out I didn’t know how to function without sending emails with instant gratification, calling people and sending tweets for sources. As a result, my productivity and business really began to suffer. It was then that I learned I rely on the Internet way too much.

Sure, having access to Gmail, HARO, and WordPress have boosted business and helped journalists stay organized, connected and on top of breaking news. However, when you lack the ability to operate without these tools your business may be in total jeopardy. It was a life lesson I learned the hard way. To spare others from learning that lesson the way I did, I’ve come up with a list of 13 Internet free tasks that can boost your freelance career.

1. Do some cold calling

Most people lost phone service during the storm. Truth be told, I got a lot of busy signals, error messages, and voice mail prompts during my cold call sessions. However, I did strike gold every once in a while. But when cold calling proved to be pointless, I decided to make a list of people I planned on contacting once business went back to normal. When it was time to return to my normal routine, having the list on hand made my work schedule easier and increased my productivity.

2. Assess your client list

It’s easy to take on clients blindly out of excitement. After all, it’s extra work and pays the bills. But they don’t always fulfill your mission or may not be worth the time. Revise, your list of clients and analyze which ones aren’t as profitable. Are you satisfied with your relationship with them? Do you have too many clients to handle right now? Do they assist in reaching a bigger goal? Can you afford to cut some loose? Do you need more clients? Now is the perfect time to reevaluate.

During the loss of connection, I found that many of the clients I took on don’t assist in fulfilling my reason for being a writer. By the time, everything was restored I was able to begin eliminating those who no longer fit my needs and work towards getting clients that do.

3. Revise your marketing strategy

It is always wise to have a marketing strategy. Otherwise, you will be moving blindly toward your goal. If you don’t have a strategy, take out a pad and scribble down your plan of attack. Should you already have a marketing strategy, decide whether or not it’s helping you reach your goal. Do you practice in-person networking? Are you writing guest posts? Do you send out email campaigns? Are they working? It’s normal for marketing strategies to not fit as businesses they grow. Take the time to analyze and see what needs to be amended.

4. Edit your resume and bio

The rumors are true. Even as a freelance writer, you need a resume. Occasionally, you still might run into the potential client who decides a resume, bio, and portfolio are necessary before hiring you. Make sure they paint an accurate picture of you. Update your resume to reflect your best and most recent gigs. Make sure your bio is still relevant. I had been putting of the update of my resume for a long time. Sandy provided me with the nudge I needed to get it done.

5. Write

As freelance writers, this one should be a given. But the truth is finding uninterrupted time in which you can draft that blog post, start that article, or complete that copywriting assignment is difficult. There’s always the distraction of an open email box, Twitter alerts, Facebook messages, and phone calls. Take the time to unplug and actually do what you’re paid to do for a living.

With no Internet and calls to follow up on, I was able to write more than I ever had in a long time. It was really rewarding being able to complete my blog posts for the month in one day!

6. Meet the neighbors

Unfortunately, constant access to Internet has made it unnecessary for people to actually see each other face to face. However, it’s good for business. Getting out of the home office for a while, mingling with others, and networking with neighborhood businesses is revitalizing.

7. Set and evaluate your goals

As time goes on, goals change. Unfortunately, we never take the time to stop and realize it. Think about goals you’ve already made. Are they still in progress? Have you reached them? Are the goals still relevant to your career path? Once you set and evaluate goals, you will be able to be more efficient as a freelance writer.

8. Assess your budget

I hate numbers. It was one of the reasons why I went into journalism. Journalism or not, numbers are important. It can’t be avoided for long. Tracking expenses, and income is necessary for running any business. Once you assess your budget you can determine if you need more income, slash your budget, or search for new clients.

9. Create templates

As great as personalized, unique documents are, they take a lot of time. They aren’t suggested for everything, but it can be very beneficial to have templates. If you happen to use the same format for email follow-ups, or some pitches, create a basic template for it to save some time.

10. Back up files

Technology is great, but sometimes we have to accept that it will fail. If you don’t have several copies of documents you are out of luck. Dedicate an afternoon to backing up all your documents. You’ll be happy you did should your computer crash.

11. Revisit your reading lists

Remember, all those magazine clippings, printed blogs, and downloaded e-books you saved? If you are anything like me, they are still sitting in your “rainy day” pile untouched. It’s about time you actually go through the pile. You may come across new ideas to pitch, potential sources, and inspiration for your blog post. Sandy gave me the opportunity to slash my “rainy day” reading file in half. I learned so much.

12. Organize your source list

There is nothing worse than scrambling to find sources for a story at the last minute. If you’ve been in the business for a while there is probably a collection of sources in disarray. Save yourself the time and stress by organizing your sources. When you need a source at a moments notice you’ll know exactly what to do.

13. Go to the library

The library is a foreign land to many people. After all, who needs the library when you’ve got Google, e-books, and I-tunes? The problem is many people forgot how to research without the use of Google. A visit to the library can help you relearn the basics of thorough research.

[box border=”full”]Terri HugginsTerri Huggins is a Freelance Writer/Journalist in NJ who specializes in bridal, beauty, relationships, education and business topics. She also writes marketing paraphernalia such as brochures, press releases, blogs and newsletters for local businesses. By night, Terri is a arts enthusiast, prima ballerina, education activist, and dedicated volunteer. Connect with Terri on Twitter: TERRIficWords or stop by her blog, www.terrificwords.wordpress.com. Professional Website: http://www.writingbyterri.com/%5B/box%5D

 

Image credit: svilen001

5 Places to Look for Freelance Writing Opportunities

By Katie Sluiter

So you’ve decided you want your writing to earn you some money. But where do you start?  How do you find something that will pay? A good rule of thumb is to start with what you already read and branch out from there.

dollar sign

Local Publications

Poke around your local paper’s website for the name of the submission editor.  Years ago I submitted a piece on celebrity baby names to my local paper and was unexpectedly hired as a freelancer for their print paper.  But local publications aren’t limited to newspapers.  There are probably many local publications—newletters, magazines, blogs, etc.—that you don’t know about yet because you haven’t looked.  You may have the edge over another writer, because you are familiar with the local beat.

Online Magazines

These are generally bigger and get many submissions, but they are worth a shot. Babble, Curvy Girl Guide, AllParenting.com, etc. are some that usually offer open submissions.  Places like BlogHer takes submissions for syndication (which pays) and will often highlight work (which sends your site pageviews) Somewhere on the site you want to work with will be a “careers” or “submissions” link/button.  There you will find guidelines and pay information.  Watch social media as well, Babble, for instance, will tweet when they are looking for new writers for a specific section or column on their site.

Print Magazines

Some Large scale print magazines will run essay contests and hold open submissions for articles.  Watch for reputable, well-advertised contests, not the hidden ones in the backs of the magazines.   Real Simple holds an annual essay contest that is legitimate, for instance, and gets the writer published in the magazine and a cash prize.  Trade and scholarly journals will also have a section in the front of the magazine for calls for articles.  The English Journal, for instance, has a space devoted to what themes and subjects it is looking for to publish in future editions.

The Google

It probably sounds obvious, but searching Google for writing opportunities will bring up various communities/groups you can join.  Some come with a membership fee, some are private and you need to apply, but some are open to anyone.  For example, Linkedin has a group you can apply to be in that posts paid writing opportunities and lists companies looking for freelance writers.

Company Websites

Corporations like Best Buy have programs where they hire bloggers to do their product reviews FOR them.  You join their network and receive the latest products and gadgets to use and review.  The catch is that you need to have your own blog to work with some companies as they do not have a review site.

It is undoubtedly overwhelming for the beginning freelancer to know where to look, but remember: The opportunities are out there.  You just have to go find them.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]katie sluiter
Katie Sluiter
is a freelance writer and teacher who should probably be grading papers or changing diapers but is more likely blogging, tweeting, or just overusing social media in general. She chronicles all this on her blog, Sluiter Nation.

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Image credit: ba1969

Business Writing for Beginners: 5 Types of Business Writing You Need to Master

By Sherri Ledbetter

business writingBusiness writing. When I was a fledgling writer, the term business writing was new and scary to me. BUSINESS. Business was important; business was BIG right? I wondered, what is business writing anyway?

In general, most writing for business is geared toward informing and persuading the customer. For non-profits, it may mean writing in a compelling way to obtain donations or funding.

The main goal in business writing is to get the message across in a clear, accurate and simple manner. Below you’ll find 5 types of business writing you need to master as a freelance writer in this niche.

1. Website Content: Trading Paper for Bullets

The hottest form of writing is for company websites and blogs. Web writing often includes the additional requirement of establishing a good rapport with your online audience. Web writing is more casual, with a more relaxed language and attitude.

Because computer screens are harder to read than printed paper, it’s a good idea to…

  • Break paragraphs into chunks; 3 to 4 sentences at the most.
  • If you have a series of items, use bullet points to save readers’ time.
  • Boldface important words and phrases so readers can quickly see key points.

2. Press Releases: What’s the Company Up To?

Press releases, sometimes called news releases, are written to inform the news media of a company’s new product or service, award, promotion or other recent event. The goal is to attract media attention and generate publicity.

3. Technical writing: No Jargon Please.

Technical writing requires communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Medical procedures
  • Environmental regulations

Technical writers provide detailed, how-to instructions. Examples of technical documents include: user guides, installation guides, tutorials and E-learning modules.

4. Grant Writing: Show Me the (Free) Money.

Structure, attention to detail, concise persuasive writing, and the ability to follow guidelines are skills needed as a grant writer. Grant writing involves writing proposals or completing applications in order to apply for funds. Companies requiring grant writing skills include non-profits and educational institutions.

5. Commercial White Papers: My Stuff is Better Than Their Stuff.

Commercial white papers are marketing documents written to emphasize the benefits of a particular product, technology or method. The goal is to convince the customer that the company’s product is the best choice. Commercial white papers are often used to generate sales leads and educate customers. The three main types of commercial white papers are:

  • Business Benefits: Stating a case for a certain technology or methodology.
  • Technical: Describing in detail how a certain technology works.
  • Hybrid: Combining the two types above in a single document.

These five types of business writing are just the tip of the iceberg. How about speech writing, game writing, resume writing or book reviews? The list goes on and on. Which type of business writing do you think you would enjoy doing the most?

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]sherri ledbetter
Sherri Ledbetter is an Oklahoma freelance writer, editor and food blogger. Visit her online at Sherri Ledbetter Writes
 
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5 Tips for Overcoming Your Freelance Writing Insecurities

By Marie Lapointe
overcoming freelance writing insecuritiesYou’re in the midst of or planning a major switch and want to become a freelance writer but you’re riddled with fear. You’re not the only one. Career change. That’s a scary title Stephen King never thought of!

It’s a frightening move and transitions are never easy. In order to deal with these monsters of self-destruction let’s pinpoint their source:

1: Is my writing good enough?

Tip: Write daily.

The only way to be good at something – anything – is to go out there and do it. A lot. Not a day went by where Tiger Woods didn’t hit at least 1,000 balls in order to become Tiger Woods.

Start a blog, join online writing communities, and comment on other blogs. Slowly comments will start trickling in. Blogging will give you plenty of practice and amazing feedback. It will also give you a sense of what people want to read. Internet users are fickle; some posts will draw in hundreds of hits and comments where others will leave you listening to the crickets. As you’re posting frequency increases – your stats will give you valuable information.

2: I’m not as good as they are.

Tip: Don’t compare yourself.

This is especially true when you’re left with feelings of inferiority. Use others’ articles to bring you up, not down and be inspired by them. What kind of writing draws you in? What do you like about it? Without replicating, allow it to influence your own voice and style.

3: How will I ever pay my bills?

Tip: Plan ahead – before quitting your day job, do what you can to clear your debts and reduce your living expenses.

Most people live above their means. Don’t be one of them. If you’re like me that means you don’t have rich parents or a willing spouse earning a 6-digit income to support your dream. Start by making a list of your biggest expenses and set a budget with clear strategies on how to reduce-reduce-reduce. Move to a smaller apartment, sell the new car and buy a cheaper used model or better yet take the bus!

4: Who will hire me?

Tip: Start small – do volunteer work.

Join an organization that matters to you like the Humane Society or the YMCA. Offer your services and submit articles. Chances are they’re so overwhelmed with their workload they’ll welcome you with open arms. This will provide published work content for your portfolio.

Any career specialist will tell you the key to finding a job is to have a job. Employers would rather snag an employee from the competition than hire somebody who’s unemployed.

5: I’m not even getting paid, how can I call myself a freelance writer?

Tip: Say to yourself daily, “I am a writer.”

Don’t wait for your first paycheck (it will come). The more you repeat those four words, the more you will believe it and ultimately believe in yourself.

 

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Marie Lapointe
Marie Lapointe is an ex-race car mechanic and now lives and travels on a boat with her best friend Leo. This quirky writer dreams of running away with the circus and has been writing about her vida loca since 2010 on my cyber house rules.
 
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