Category: Freelance writing

Just keep writing. Just keep writing.

nemo's friends

Finding Nemo is one of my daughter’s favorite movies, and Dory’s cute little song, “Just keep swimming” came to mind. As an aspiring full-time writer, the only option is to just keep writing.

Controversial though it may be, I’ve decided to write for one of the lower-paying “writing mills,” Demand Studios. I’m not writing prize-winning articles, but I need to have some type of income while I market my “real” business. Demand Studios has been one of my staples along with my substitute teaching gigs. Their highest paying articles pay only $15 each, but I get to choose when and if I’ll write articles at any given time.

Demand Studios pays twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays), so as long as I can find articles interesting enough to churn out, and as long as I find the time to write them, I will definitely make some money. They do have editors, so you have to write well enough for your copy to be approved, but I haven’t had too much trouble with that.

For whatever reasons, they don’t accept everyone who applies, so if you’re interested check them out and see if it works for you. So far I haven’t checked to see if my accepted articles are published on the web yet, but all of them are slated to be on Ehow.com. I’ve written several bird-related articles, some home safety ones, and even some I just had an interest in learning about.

Writing good articles does require some research, and it can be argued that that time would be better spent marketing for your own business. But marketing brings future money, and, like me, you may need to get some “now” money. If you do write for Demand Studios or similar companies, just be sure to continue working toward your primary goal. Just keep writing and just keep marketing.

Also, writing consistently also allows me to exercise my writing mind. That’s always a good thing.

Do you write for Demand Studios? Have you? What do you think about writing for low pay?


My Well-Fed Challenge Continues…

stairwell

A couple of weeks ago I started my Well-Fed Challenge. My goal is to make 400 cold calls to local businesses in 20 work days, letting them know I’m a freelance writer and finding out what their needs are. August 20 is my deadline.

So how am I doing?

So far I’ve made 103 calls! Yay!

Of those 103 calls, about 58 agreed I could send them my online commercial writing portfolio. Mind you, many of them were secretaries who were probably trying to get me off the phone, but it counts. I can now add them to my snail-mailing list of potential clients.

Of the 58 who gave me their email addresses, 18 were “hot” prospects. Either they use freelancer writers or they were very interested in seeing my portfolio. One of them even wants to interview me for a part-time position teaching copywriting at their college. I have the interview next week!

The companies I targeted for this first round all have a website, and were listed as having 25-250 employees in my library’s database. They are also all local. I made sure to have a few website designers, graphic designers, and advertising agencies in there too (so I wouldn’t get a million no’s).

One of my tactics is to be sure to ask for an email address every time, even if the secretary agreed to send me to voicemail. This is something Peter Bowerman suggests in The Well-Fed Writer. I figure that once I have an email address I can send future correspondence by snail mail (postcards, letters, etc.). I’ll start my snail mail follow-up campaign in a week or two.

Now for the downside.

I had to alter my plans a bit. I wanted to make 20-25 calls every day, but child care wasn’t available every day. So several days had to be skipped. On days when I did have child care, I sometimes would only have 2 hours to make my calls (and research each company a little bit before each call).

Also, when I did make my calls for the day, I still had to find time to go back and send emails with a link to my portfolio. With limited child care, and with a limited amount of steam (I fall asleep at about 10pm, shortly after my daughter goes to bed), I found that I needed to create time to send those emails. Sometimes I had to take time away from calling to do that.

After all, making the calls doesn’t get my information in front of people. Most of my calls are for information gathering only.

Next week will be a challenge. I have that interview, a doctor’s appointment, and I’m going to investigate another childcare provider. I will probably only be able to make calls and send emails on just 2 or 3 days (I hope).

Even if I don’t make my goal, I’ll keep reaching for it. Stay tuned!

Do you give up when you realize you can’t make your goal, do you keep trying, or do you alter your goal?

Well-fed challenge – Week one

Phone series # 4

When you need help staying motivated and on-task, it makes sense to issue yourself a challenge. And what better way than to publicly challenge yourself. If you’re game, join me and we can have a mini-contest.

The other day I started reading The Well-Fed Writer (I’m reading the ebook version until the hard copy arrives). So now I have a plan of action.

I started out with my local library’s business database. I did a search for companies in my local area with more than 20 employees. I also made sure they had web addresses, so I can do a little research while I make my cold calls.

Using a free database like this, though, I could only print/download up to 25 records per search. So that meant searching repeatedly. Anyway, I have a list of about 200 businesses now.

My goal is to make 400 calls in the next 20 workdays, starting tomorrow. That gives me until August 20, 2009. When I’m not able to call, I’ll send out cold emails at least, and I’ll follow-up with a phone call.

So that’s the first step in my quest to becoming a “well-fed” writer.

Reading the book re-motivated me, and it reminded me that cold calls aren’t really that scary. You just have to make yourself do it. I’ll report back next week.

Would you like to join me on my Well-Fed Challenge? How do you approach cold calling?


Well-fed Writing


Now that I’ve decided to make my freelance writing business really work, I realize it’s time to make some serious moves.

First thing’s first. I need powerful ammunition to stay on-task and motivated. The first book I read on freelance commercial writing was The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman. His book laid out an easy-to-follow blueprint for success, and when I followed directions I really did make money. I had clients, a decent income, and I was on my way.

I do tend to get side-tracked (as you know), and Peter’s book was written mostly from his point-of-view. But he just published a new, updated, expanded edition. There are lots of anecdotes from other successful commercial writers, and I’m just so impressed with what he’s accomplished with this edition.

And his book came at just the right time. Right after I made my decision to get serious with my business, I got an email from him alerting me to his newest book. Serendipitous!

I’m also impressed with Peter’s willingness to answer questions. I’ve had several replies from him, though I’m careful not to overdo asking him stuff. Being personable has won me over as a fan. I’d buy and promote almost anything he writes since he takes the time to respond to inquiries.

Do you have dreams of becoming a successful commercial writer? Maybe we could start a writer’s group to motivate each other. Or if you already have a freelance writing business, maybe you need a good kick in the rear too.

Click on this link to check out the new edition of The Well-Fed Writer. You can buy it in ebook or hardcopy formats (or both), and there are a few other ebooks you should consider as well. I also got the Toolbox and Timeline, both of which are well-worth it.

When you buy it, let me know. I’d love to have others to discuss it with, and you can feel free to leave a mini-review in the comments.

What are you waiting for? Check out the 2009 The Well-Fed Writer and let me know if you’re as impressed with it as I am. His site also has a bunch of free things too, so if you’re even a little bit interested you should head over to The Well-Fed Writer.

Have you been bitten by the commercial writing bug?

Getting referrals for your freelance business

Present 2

Working full-time for an employer may seem to put a damper on your freelancing business, but maybe it’s a secret weapon in disguise. Your employer may be a valuable source of referrals, little gifts that can go a long way toward enhancing your freelancing career.

Here are some tips for making your job work for you (as long as your employer doesn’t mind that you moonlight).

  • Your current employer may have hundreds of contacts, so be sure to ask for referrals. Even if you aren’t writing at your job, let your boss know that you are looking for new business. Give them your brochure, along with links to your online portfolio, website, and blog.
  • If your job doesn’t entail writing or editing, try to find opportunities to showcase your skills anyway. As a secretary, I’m often making copies, so I find time to scan outgoing documents for errors…a win-win situation for everyone.
  • Above all, do your best work, whatever it may be, at your current job. Even though you’re looking for writing referrals, your boss will be more inclined to help you if you went above and beyond to help them.

I also came across a great article over at Freelance Switch that discusses more ways to increase referrals.

How have you gotten referrals for your business? Has a current or former employer helped you?

Start at the very beginning

Running track 1

As “Maria” from The Sound of Music says, starting at the very beginning is a very good place to start.

Recently I wrote Anne over at AboutFreelancing.com because I realize I feel like my freelance writing career needs to start over. While I don’t have to start over from scratch (I do have a good portfolio), I do need to get started again.

One piece of advice she had for me was to start writing on Crayon Writer again, even if it’s just a little bit, so here I am.

Next, I need to figure out what’s holding me back from being the writer I know I am.

What about you? Are you living your dreams? Any advice for those of us who aren’t quite ready?

How do you get there from here? Goal update.

find the way

A couple of weeks ago I shouted from the mountaintop that I had a goal and a plan for my freelance writing business. So how’ve I been doing?

Truthfully, I haven’t been as successful as I wanted. I couldn’t carve out 2 hours each day for making contacts, finding myself home only when me or my daughter was under the weather.

Am I giving up? NO!

Instead, I’m going to change my plans, though not my goal. It’s important to recognize when your plan may not work out. Otherwise you just spend day after day beating yourself up about your failure, and you find yourself no closer to the goal.

Imagine you’re taking a trip from your house to a nearby park. You plan to take a right on Main Street, a left on 2nd Avenue, a left on Park St., and then drive straight for about 10 miles. But you find construction at various points along the way, and realize there’s no way you can take that well-planned route. Do you just turn around and go back home, sulking while you eat a bag or two of chips? Of course not (I hope)!

You map out a new route and try again. It might take you longer, and you might get lost, but at least you’re still trying.

So, my new plan is to contact at least 10 prospects each day, via cold call or cold email. My goal is the same, though I realize it may take a little longer to get there. We’ll see.

Have you made changes in your entrepreneurial plan? Share your story with us!

From the mountain top (shouting it)

Achieve 1

A couple of days ago I announced that I was setting a course for my freelance copywriting business’ success.

Rather than reveal my plan all at once (besides, it’s still a work in progress), I figured I’d just start with each baby step that I’m taking.

One thing I figured out is that it’s not feasible for me to jump in, head first, with all the other daily responsibilities I have. That’s a pretty important point for everyone. A plan, to be achievable, has to be realistic for your particular situation. It can’t be too pitiful, like paying just the minimum due on your credit card with the goal of paying it off anytime soon.

But goals also can’t be too farfetched, or you’ll never even try to reach them. Like, say, planning to make a million dollars on the first day.

Here’s my goal: Initially I will make at least $2000 per month from my writing activities, not counting expenses and such. My timeline for this is within 3 months from today.

There! I said it out loud. Whew! That was hard!

How do I plan to make this income? I am primarily a business copywriter, focusing on tasks like press releases, web/blog copy, ads, annual reports, sales letters, newsletters, and brochures. I also do proofreading and editing.

I know I mentioned magazine writing in a previous post, but after some research I realized magazine writing isn’t best the way (for me) to achieve my goal.

Now that I’ve revealed my goal, let me tell you my first couple of steps.

In order to write for companies, I have to contact them, right? And in order to contact them, I need to have their phone numbers and/or email addresses. So my starting point is to compile a list of prospective companies. I’m using a free database that lists pertinent information, oftentimes including key players in the company. It’s a bit time-consuming, but I’d like a hefty list so I have no excuses.

My next step is to start making cold calls to my prospects. Basically, I ask for the person or department that probably hires freelancers, and then I ask that person if they do, indeed, ever outsource. Sometimes I get to the key person, and sometimes I have to settle for voicemail. Invariably, I get an email address and send them my intro letter and a link to my online portfolio. A lot of my procedure was gleaned from Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well-Fed Writer. I highly recommend it.

When I can’t make cold calls (like when it’s too late at night, for instance), I’ll still make good use of my time by cold emailing prospects. I may still call them at some point, but with working during the day I won’t always be able to make cold calls.

Because my days aren’t structured yet, it’s hard for me to give myself a set number of calls/emails to make each day. I’ll have to play this by ear, but I will commit to spending 2 hours each day making contacts. I might be able to set different goals for the different types of days I have (days where I work vs. days that I don’t), but I’ll get back to you on that. If 2 hours is too easy, I’ll increase it, of course.

So that’s it for now. I’ll be making a lot of calls this month. So far my list is over 2000 companies long, which will definitely keep me busy.

Now…how am I going to organize all of the information I get? Outlook’s contact management program? Excel? Index cards? Stay tuned, and feel free to offer your prospecting hints.

Working at your best

Arizona Sunrise

I often claim that I don’t want to work a 9-5 job because I’m not a morning person. But that isn’t quite accurate. I actually find that I’m most focused and energetic in the morning hours.

For instance, right now it’s almost 10 a.m. and I’ve cleaned my fish tank, cleaned up my daughter, done some research, caught up with my Facebook account, edited a few blog posts, and now I’m writing this post.

In the late night hours I’m beginning to find that I don’t concentrate as well as I used to. During my college years, I spent a lot of time doing my best work in the midnight hours, sometimes pulling all-nighters. But if you got a chance to read over my last few posts (all written at night), you might have noticed some unforgivable errors. (Hopefully I caught them all this morning).

While I do have more time in the evening, my mind can’t focus on details so well. Perhaps it makes sense to write drafts at night, editing them in the morning. Or maybe the midnight hours should be reserved for tasks that are no-brainers (like household chores).

When do you do your best work? Does it depend on the type of work? Has it changed over time for you as well?

What’s the plan?

Garden Path

The other day I watched a speaker talk about how important it is to have goals. But even more important, he said, is having a plan to achieve that goal.

That really hit home for me.

I’ve been talking about being a successful freelance business writer for years now, and there are times when I give it my all. But truthfully, I realize I haven’t done my best yet. I haven’t made a good plan, I haven’t taken the necessary steps, to get to the 6 figures I know I can make with writing.

But better late than never, right?

This month I’m renewing my efforts with a passion. Having worked for myself makes me hungry to really make a living on my own.

So what makes a good plan? For me it’s quantifiable steps that I complete each day or each week. I know there will be times, like this week when my daughter had to stay home, when the plan doesn’t go…well…as planned. The point is to work like heck to put my foot on each step, knowing that there’s no way to reach the destination if I don’t. I can’t magically teleport to the goal.

So here goes! I’ll post my goal and my plan a little later.

In the meantime, tell us about your goals and your plans of action. Are you an aspiring writer or a part-time entrepreneur also?