Category: Writing

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?

Why Write?

“What’s your passion?”

That’s a question I hate hearing, because I can never answer it. I’m interested in a variety of things, but I can say that writing is something I always go back to.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the different kinds of professional writing, and I realized I was only focused on one type. Most of my writing clients have been businesses who needed press releases, web content, and other commercial copywriting.

Magazine writing is another field that sounds promising, and it fits my writing style a little more closely.

Recently I read a “how-to” article about magazine writing at Suite 101, and the author recommended writing every day, even if it’s a personal journal. She also said that writers love to write.

Personally, I can’t say that I love writing, and I don’t write every day, but I do feel a strong connection with writing. It comes easily, maybe because I love to talk. And I’m good at it. But if I follow conventional wisdom, I’d give it up because it’s not my passion.

What about you? Do you think it’s a requirement to be passionate about a career before you try it? If you’re a writer too, why do you write?

Are you too critical of your writing?

Recently I had a writing project for a new client, and for some reason I couldn’t churn it out as quickly as I should have. I finally realized my problem. I wanted it to be perfect, and in worrying about that, I was stuck doing nothing.

Does that sound familiar? Are you so critical of yourself and your writing that it holds you back sometimes?

A freelance writing friend of mine told me a similar story. She agonized and agonized over what to write for her client. She went back and forth with him to make sure she was on the right track. The client told her he wanted the piece to be exciting.

Finally she submitted the project, and much to her dismay, the client sent back a correction. He added an exclamation point to one or two lines! That’s it! That’s what he considered editing, and that’s what he considered exciting. There was nothing wrong with her writing, except that she sat on it too long, all because of perfectionism.

The moral? Write it. Just do it. Get past the fear that it won’t be perfect, because, in all likelihood, what you write is fine for your average client. They just want it done.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your writing? How do you overcome it (or do you)?

Have you forgotten how to spell?

With today’s technology, it seems like things should be easier and easier, right?

Maybe.

I’m a pretty darn good speller, but I’m finding myself getting worse as time goes on. I blame it on spellcheck, lazy typing (who needs to type well when you have a backspace key), instant messaging (IMing), and text messaging.

Here are some ideas for fixing this growing problem:

1. Spend at least half an hour each week typing without using the backspace key. Force yourself to spell things right the first time. If you make a mistake, leave it.

2. Go back over your typing and circle all the mistakes you made. Write that (likely huge) number in red ink, and make it big, on your paper.

3. Now that you feel bad, promise yourself that that number will decrease each time you practice.

4. When you IM or text message, spell out the words as often as possible. I know it takes more time, but practice makes perfect.

I haven’t tried this method yet, but as I type this I’m finding myself backspacing a little less often than usual. Next time I’ll do better.

What about you? Have you forgotten how to spell or type too? Any tips for the rest of us?

Where’d you get that name?

Somewhere in the blogosphere I read a post about the origin of blog names.

I thought I’d share with you how I came up with Crayon Writer.

It was pretty difficult at first, since so many good domains are taken. But I knew I wanted to talk about writing in the title, and I knew that my being a mother was important too.

Even though it was difficult to come up with, the concept is actually pretty simple.

I’m a writer who’s the mother of a toddler. When I need to write something in a hurry, I can never find a pen that works. So what do I reach for? A crayon. They’re everywhere. If I stick my hand in the couch, I’m sure to find one quickly.

So there you go. I write with crayons because my toddler uses crayons. I’m a crayon writer. And proud of it. The only problem is that my daughter gets upset when I use her crayons. “That’s MY crayon!”

Sigh…. Maybe I should change the name to Imaginary Pen Writer (LOL!).

How did you come up with your blog’s name?

Writer’s Block? Try this eye exercise.

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It happens to us all at some time or another. You sit down to type a brilliant piece, and suddenly you can’t think of a thing to say.

During my Entrecard travels I found a really cool post that may help if you have writer’s block.

Assuming you can type without looking at the keyboard, try closing your eyes while you compose your masterpiece. If nothing else, it sounds like a fun exercise.

Try it and let us know how it works for you.

Do you write like you talk?

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When you write a blog post or a marketing piece for a client, do you write like you talk?

Generally, I write Crayon Writer the way I think and speak. You may notice the words “so”, “but”, and “and” a lot, for instance.

I also write like a writer (or maybe I think like a writer). When I talk or think, I see the commas, periods, hyphens, and apostrophes in my head. Weird, huh?

Is it a good idea to write like you talk? I think it depends on how correctly you speak or think. If you know that you’re prone to mixing up the subjective and objective tenses, or you know that you don’t spell while you’re thinking, you might want to take a step back after you write something down. A second pair of eyes might be a good idea, even.

But if you know the basic rules of grammar and punctuation , there’s nothing wrong with sounding like a normal, everyday human when you write. Complete with sentence fragments, run-on thoughts, and even colloquial errors.

Above all, have fun when you write. If you spend too much time nitpicking you may sound like a robot. At the same time, make sure others can understand what you mean in your writing.

Here’s an example of a writing faux pas. I saw a truck the other day, driven, I presume, by a woman. There was a cute message written on the window that took me quite a while to figure out. The layout and the missing punctuation were hard to decipher.

Silly boys trucks

are for girls.

Huh?

First I thought, “What are silly boys’ trucks? I guess she’s driving a silly boy’s truck. Interesting. But why are silly boys’ trucks for girls? Why are the trucks silly?”

Finally it dawned on me that she was mimicking the Trix commercial, “Silly rabbit! Tricks are for kids!”

So she did two things wrong. There should have been some punctuation after the word “boys” and the “trucks are for girls” should have been on a line by themselves at the least.

So (didn’t I tell you I use that word a lot?), be careful when you write like you talk, but have fun! You won’t be getting a grade on your blog, but your clients may have something to say about it if you get it wrong.

Freelancing for (almost) free

836748 apples for free

Is it ever a good idea to work for free, or close to it?

I just took on a project the past week that really took a lot of time, but there might be some benefit for all of my hard work.

  1. One thing I got out of it is a stronger desire to charge what my time is worth.
  2. I also dabbled a bit in a new program, In Design, so I learned something new.
  3. I worked on a souvenir booklet for a non-profit, service-oriented group, so maybe I did some good in the world too.
  4. Just in case, I also made sure the ad I bought for my business was placed in a prominent spot, so maybe I’ll get new business that way.

Time will tell. So, is working for pennies ever worth it? Maybe. Just be sure you have the time, and settle your feelings before taking on the project.

Google’s caress

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If you’ve been reading the comments, you might remember the discussion about whether writing for PayPerPost and other paid review sites is a wise idea.

I argued that I’ve seen an increase in Google traffic since my PR was dropped from a 3 to a 0. I also argued that this is my site, not Google’s, so I can monetize however I see fit. There was praise for my courage, and concern that I would never get PR (I thought “never” sounded like a mighty long time, sort of like “life” and “forever” (Prince fans know what I’m talking about)).

Well, I found out that, as opposed to being “slapped” by Google, I’ve been lightly caressed. I now have a PR2! Interesting, especially since I’ve stepped up my paid reviews.

Was all the Google hoopla just a scare tactic? Did Google make a mistake that they’ll soon fix? Will Google really banish the thousands of paid reviewers to PR0, despite the age of our blogs and the incoming links?

While we ponder these mysterious questions of the Googlesphere, I’ll take advantage of the increased pay from reviews that a PR2 will bring.