Three Ways To Promote Yourself And Your Writing

Promote Yourself And Your WritingAfter reading the title for this article I know what you’re all thinking. Mindy, how can you give insight on promoting yourself in the writing world when:

  • You’re unpublished
  • I never heard of you before
  • And your only twenty-two?
  • What makes you think you have enough life experience to give us tips?

All valid points and all true. However, I wanted to write these articles for one main reason; I’m learning right along side you. In order to learn with you I have to practice what I preach. So here’s what I’m preaching:

In order to become well known as a writer I have learned three very important things from other authors.

  1. Have a website. A website is incredibly useful. On your author website, readers or potential readers of your work can get to know you, the author. Consider registering your own name or at least your pen name as your own domain and create a portfolio that showcases you and your writing. Your own site also helps keep your readers up to date with any new projects, news, reviews, etc.
  2. Social media. I’ve found social media to be a powerful and useful promotion tool. I have had a Facebook account and Twitter page a while but never used them to promote anything writing related, until recently. Now I’m meeting many fellow writers and readers on Twitter and Facebook, especially with Facebook Groups. I highly recommend for those who have a Twitter account to read the conversation hundreds, if not thousands, of writers have each day through the hashtag called #amwriting.
  3. Events. Going to events based on writing can be hard if you’re shy like me. I’m slowly getting out of my shyness because I get out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. Going to events like a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Write In, is a great way to get to know local writers and promote yourself. As are local writing groups, conventions, and conferences. Also the good old ‘word of mouth’ is still much more useful than anything else.

Important Tip: Though promoting yourself is invaluable, remember not to go overboard. I have wasted many days by checking my Twitter account every two minutes. Anything else I wanted to get done that day, like writing, was never accomplished. Also, one of the most effective ways to promote yourself is to promote others. Share and share alike. Give back to the community and you’ll become a friend to others who will promote you too.

What other ways can we promote ourselves and our writing? How do you get the word out about what you do?

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Photo Credit: 04-15-10 © muharrem öner

Networking 101 for Freelance Writers: Is Twitter the New Chamber of Commerce?

When a writing colleague on AbsoluteWrite.com asked, “What’s the best way for experienced writers to get writing gigs nowadays?” it sparked an interesting conversation.

The writer noted that she used to attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, collect business cards, follow up, and sign clients. I realized that many of my recent clients have come from similar means – except I rarely leave the house for networking events.

Here are three steps to land clients on the Web using time-tested networking techniques.

  • Set up an impressive website.

    By impressive, I don’t mean flash everywhere and zillions of pages of marketing copy. While I’m not thrilled with the look of it (I did it myself) my Website at www.allcotmedia.com has gotten me many clients. It contains five important elements:

    • A photo of myself
    • What I can do for clients/visitors
    • A bit about my credentials and experience and how that helps potential clients
    • Links to a diverse collection of published clips of my work
    • My contact information

    Beyond that, it’s clean, easy to navigate, and professional-looking, albeit a bit on the dull side in my opinion.

  • Promote the Website and yourself through LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media outlets

By promote, I don’t mean sending out tweets every hour that read: Need a writer? Go to www.mywebsite.com. Instead, share links to your work and your own knowledge about writing. Most importantly, be yourself. Engage others – both other writers and potential clients – in conversations.

You wouldn’t go up to someone at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, business card in hand, and say, “Hi, My name is ___ and I’m a writer. Do you need me to write copy for your business?” There’s a simple rule for Internet networking: If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it on the Web.

I often send out tweets promoting the blogs I write for, but I have never tweeted asking for clients. They can figure out what I do based on my tweets, my links and my website – they come to me if my talents fit their needs.


“Always Be Networking”

To paraphrase Alec Baldwin in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” writers may not “always be closing,” but they should always, always be networking.

In another post on AW, this one from last year, a new writer received advice that he should network to jumpstart his career. In a thread titled “Just Hit Send,” many of us post our goals for each month, and some even post daily to-do lists. In his next JHS post, that writer posted his schedule for the week, with time set aside Wednesday morning for networking.

While networking can be a discrete activity, performed only when you check your Twitter and Facebook accounts twice daily, it’s much better to approach it as something you’re always doing – or at least looking for opportunities to do.

If you go out to dinner and engage the waitress in a conversation about her day job – you’re networking. If you compliment the person in line behind you at the bank on her brooch – that’s a potential networking opportunity. Networking, when done correctly, is really just another way to say, “Asking people about themselves so you can find out how you can help them.”

Now, go network!

Leaving a comment here is networking too!
What are the most effective ways you network?

Networking Know-How: Say YES To Opportunities

The Power of YES when NetworkingTo accept or decline? That is the question.

Networking is vital for any business, but especially for writers. If you are a reclusive writer, chances are you are missing out on precious opportunities for new clients, gigs, interview subjects, industry connections, and much more.

  • Say “Yes”!

    • Start small. It doesn’t take much effort to get “out there” with the public. Spend an extra hour in church, mingle during the coffee/cookie hour before or after services. If you typically stay after your service, opt to go an hour early and mingle with the earlier service or vice-versa. Go early to pick up kids from school and chat with the other parents. Accept more invitations to go out or visit with friends. While I wouldn’t hand out business cards to everyone, a simple conversation about what you do for a living will leave a lasting impression on a business owner.
  • Be A Host

    • For those with local clients or colleagues, host an event such as a coffee meeting between companies can increase the work-load for you! While you might not have a new project available immediately, bringing clients together to network will keep you in mind when he isn’t able to take on a project. You can socialize with prospective clients and fellow writers by hosting a morning tea or lunch. Perhaps consider a stationery or office supply party plan event.
  • Join A Writing Group

    • The group doesn’t have to be locally based. Join a writing group for accountability or editing. Fellow writers can call on you when they aren’t able to take a gig for any reason and you’ll all benefit from the shared support and mutual feedback. This might lead to some ghost-writing positions that you can claim on your resume or the right name being dropped in the right place at the right time.

Networking online is important for many writers, but failing to network off-line can be detrimental. By not answering the knock of opportunity you are failing yourself and your business. Change just one “no” into a “yes” today and begin sowing the benefits of all your hard work.

Don’t forget the Writer Must-Have’s when you venture outside your own writing nook.

How do you make the most of opportunities to say “yes” instead of “no” when networking?

Photo Credit: 06-03-06 © Amanda Rohde

Does a Freelance Writer Need a Blog?

Does a Freelance Writer need a Blog?Blogging has come a long way since the days of angst-ridden teenagers sharing bad poetry on Live Journal. Many social media experts insist that every business needs a blog. If you’re a freelance writer, is this true? Do you need a blog? Maybe.

The Purpose of Business Blogging

Blogging keeps you connected to clients, potential clients and fellow writers in a way many other media cannot. A well-targeted blog (by that, I mean one that covers a specific topic relevant to your audience), permits you to:

  • Showcase your writing skills
  • Provide advice and information to fellow writers and clients
  • Share your accomplishments as a means of subtle self-promotion

Remember, though, if you want to see a return on your time investment, you’ll need to market your blog. You may be better off marketing your writing business in other ways that will lead directly to assignments.

Before you start a blog

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who will be your readership?
  • Are you willing to make the commitment to blogging at least once or twice a week, promoting the blog, and staying connected with your readers by responding to comments?
  • Do you have something worthwhile to say that is different form the thousands of other writing blogs on the Internet?

I used to maintain my own blog, but in the face of paying writing assignments that showed an immediate ROI, I had a hard time staying committed to updating it and building a readership. Besides, the topic I blogged about (writing) served to attract other writers rather than potential clients, so it wasn’t an effective marketing vehicle for my freelance writing business. Now, as a writing coach, it makes more sense for me to blog about writing to draw clients to my website, but I don’t want to invest the time in building up a readership. That’s why the WRA writing community is perfect for me. The Freelance Writing Collaborative Blogging Project has a built-in readership who come here looking for people like me to share my knowledge. If one writer promoting a blog is good, a whole staff of writers promoting that blog is even better.
Click here if you’d like to write for WRA, too!

Niche Writing and Blogging

If you specialize in a particular topic — say, technology, pet care or paintball — a blog targeted at your niche market (not other writers) may help you attracts clients in the industry. You can build a name for yourself through the blog, building a platform for books, eBooks or information products you want to sell. If you’re a niche writer, a blog can be a very effective way to market yourself.

Websites and Writers

I want to emphasize: a blog and a website are not the same thing. I believe most writers need a website. This can be a place to post your biography, list contact information, and put links to writing clips. (Side note: Don’t ever send an editor to the main page of your website expecting him to find your clips; instead, select particular articles you want to highlight and send the direct links.) A website helps you establish yourself on the Internet as a legitimate writer. But does your website need a blog?

Not necessarily. What do you think?

Do you have a blog? Does it generate leads and assignments? If not, what can you do differently so that it does?

Photo Credit: 07-15-08 © Kronick

5 Things Aspiring Freelance Writers Must Know

Five Things Aspiring Freelance Writers Must Knowby Anna Miller

It’s a job that everyone wants to do, because they think it’s easy as pie and the perks are great – you can work from the comfort of your home, at schedules that suit your convenience, and all you need as investment are a computer, word processing software, a good Internet connection, and some creativity with words. But being a freelance writer, especially one who is successful, is not exactly a bed of roses. Yes, the job is great if you want to choose writing as a profession, but before you take to freelancing, here are a few things you must know:

1. Procrastination never pays

When you’re a freelancer and able to set your own schedules and work at your own pace, you tend to put work off when you’re caught up in other activities. You convince yourself that you have all the time in the world, and then when your deadline looms closer, you find yourself rushing to complete the work in the little time that you have. When you do this once too often, you could end up compromising the quality of your work and losing valuable clients in the bargain. So avoid procrastination, and if you feel yourself delaying work for some reason or the other, nip the habit in the bud.

2. You must avoid distractions

When you work from home, there are numerous distractions to contend with – the television, your chores at home, children, visitors and family members taking up your time, and other diversions tend to take up your time if you’re not dedicated to work. And worst of all, the Internet is a very tempting and hard-to-avoid distraction if you work in an unsupervised environment and keep your own hours. Unless you make a concentrated effort to avoid distractions, you’re going to waste away the better part of the day.

3. Keeping commitments is important

A freelancer’s success is based on their regular clients perceive them – if they come across as writers who are always on schedule and continue to produce quality work time and again, it’s not going to be hard to find regular work. Unlike a regular job, a freelancer must work at getting each assignment, and the best way to establish themselves in the industry and gain regular gigs is to earn credibility as a responsible and skilled worker who honours commitments and also writes well.

4. Schedules help

Although you have the freedom to choose and set your own schedules when you work from home, it’s best to establish a regular schedule for work, just like those that are enforced in offices. This not only helps you avoid distractions but also reinforces to other people the fact that you’re working and should not be disturbed.

5. Maintaining connections is necessary

And finally, it’s important to stay connected to other people in the business and your clients so that you continue to get assignments on a regular basis. The best way to do this is to join forums for freelancers and also set up profiles on social networks through which you can connect to fellow professionals and potential clients. When you prove that you’re committed to your work, it’s easy to establish yourself as a successful freelance writer.

This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topic of online degrees. She welcomes your comments at her email id: anna.miller009@gmail.com.

What are the most important things you think aspiring freelance writers should know?

What Do Your Business Cards Say About You?

A business card is literally a clean slate, a fresh start.A lot can be envisioned on that blank space. A business card is literally a clean slate, a fresh start. The design options are only limited by your creativity – if you make them yourself – or by how much you’re willing to spend to have them designed.

Business Card Considerations

Do you have a logo? Have you been in business for years, or are you new to the writing world like fellow writer, Matt Willard? Is your business recognized by certain colors or a theme? Should you put your name at the top (using a big font), or should you focus on the name of your business and your tagline? Do you include a phone number? E-mail only? Physical address or P.O. box? Do you include a “The”? Possibilities – and design choices – are endless…

The Web has changed the way businesses can order their promotional material. You don’t even have to leave your home or office, hop in your vehicle, and make your way down to the printers; all you have to do is follow the simple instructions available and wait for your freshly-designed business cards to arrive in the mail!

Fast, Easy, Affordable or even FREE! Vistaprint for Business Cards and more!We Recommend:

With a new year here, you can take advantage to incorporate a new approach to your promotional efforts.

5 Reasons for New Business Cards

  1. Include a mini portfolio/resume. Pay a little extra for printing on the backside of your business card. You can use it to add publications your work has appeared in, or share your skills, etc.
  2. List the social media sites you can be found on. More and more companies and individuals are realizing the importance of social media. Grow your network by letting others know where to find you.
  3. Update your website or blog links, emails, phone number, address, etc. Have you moved to a new address — whether your physical home or your virtual domain? If so, update your clients or readers with the new information so they can reach you easily.
  4. Revamp your image. Is your business image old or boring? Or does it feel that way to you? Improve it by splashing some new colors (or even a new logo) on your card!
  5. Put a fresh spin on your tagline. Is your tagline too long? Too generic? Be unique. Be bold. Be brave. Speak from your heart. Share your heart with the world! (After all, there’s a superhero inside of you!)

If you’re not as creative as you’d like to be; if you’re not fond of the ideas you come up with; you can always hire someone to design a logo (or your entire business card) for you. This is a new year so get out there and sell yourself – you can find the courage!

Did you enjoy this article? Feel free to visit the other articles Michele has written for The Craft of Writing Fiction – or contact her to write for you.

What do your business cards say about you? Are you going to start 2010 out with new cards in hand? Or, are you still unsure about the benefits of having them?

Photo Credit: omar franc

How to Show Your Clients a Little Love

Show Your Love And AppreciationIn my last post, I talked about how to break up with clients that weren’t meeting your needs or didn’t fit into your business plan.

If that went well, you’re now left with clients you love working for. Shouldn’t you let them know?

I often struggle with this question. Of course, you want to let your clients know you appreciate them, but you don’t want to come across as a brown-noser either. I’m very interested in hearing how other writers show their appreciation.

Of course, there’s the obvious:

  • Meet your deadlines.
  • Accommodate re-write requests with a smile.
  • Fact-check your work.
  • Make sure you understand their needs and deliver what they want.
  • Follow writers’ guidelines.
  • Be polite in all correspondence.

But these are the basic things a freelance writer needs to do in order to get hired again and again. What can we do beyond that, to really let our clients know that they enhance our lives?

Here are my suggestions. Please share your own in the comments section.

Say thank you.

Perhaps this belongs in the “obvious tips” category, but too many people just don’t do it. Say thank you for assignments and for timely payments. If you particularly like the layout of a specific magazine story, thank the editor and ask him to pass your words on to the graphic designers. Look for any opportunity to say thanks.

It’s also nice, every so often, to send a handwritten thank you note on a pretty note card. I have one client who sends a thank you card with every check she sends. It always makes me smile and reminds me that she appreciates me. Thank you notes can work both ways.

Remember special occasions.

Many networking experts recommend asking someone’s birthday when you first meet, and recording the date in your Blackberry (or wherever you track such things). Send a birthday card to your editor or client on that special day.

Many people disagree on the value of e-greeting cards. Some view them as “just more spam.” I think some of them, especially the ones that play music and use animations, are exceptionally cute. Use your judgment.

A note on Facebook is nice, but, chances are, it will just get lost in the shuffle of birthday wishes. Send an e-card or, better yet, a real card. You can buy cute cards at your grocery store for 99 cents. It takes five minutes to sign it and mail it. But it means a lot. A handwritten note inside the card, letting them know you value their business (and friendship, if applicable) is a great idea, too.

Promote the magazines and blogs you work for
– even if you don’t earn bonuses and even if it’s not required.

This is one way to show clients you appreciate them – and it also benefits you. I make it a point to Tweet and promote on Facebook most of the new posts I write, and many posts from other bloggers who write for the same websites I do. I also share when a new magazine (digital or print) comes out. Your client gets more traffic, your articles get more readers – everyone wins.

Look for other ways to help your clients.

Maybe you’ve just spoken with a company representative whose products would be a perfect fit for advertising in the magazine you write for. Pass on the information to the editor.

Would one of your clients make a perfect interview resource for another writer? Share her name with the writer. Maybe you know someone who needs your client’s services… Your client will appreciate the referral.

These small things cement the writer / client relationship and send the message that you consider your client or editor not just “another paycheck,” but that you consider yourself “part of her team.”

How have you shown your clients appreciation recently? I’m excited to hear your ideas!

Build Your Working Relationships: Write Recommendations

How important are relationships to your freelance writing business? If your business is anything like mine word-of-mouth accounts for up to 80% of your paid commissions so building relationships is vital. Meeting new people is important but it is just as, if not more, important to develop and reinforce the relationships you’ve already established. Is strengthening your working relationships one of your goals for 2010?

Writing a recommendation or testimonial is an effective way to boost morale and deepen a professional relationship. If you value the professional courtesy and service you’ve received one of the simplest ways to give back is by recommending that individual to others. A recommendation or testimonial for a job well done creates a lasting impression. People remember you for saying something encouraging and positive.

“Who are the people you most value professionally? Do they know it? More importantly, do others know? In a perfect world, we would all proactively make sure that the people who have earned our trust and respect knew it, and that others knew it as well.” ~ Adam Nash

Write A LinkedIn Recommendation

One of the reasons I love building my network of LinkedIn freelancers is because, as a community, we are encouraging and positive. No matter what level of the industry we stand on there are others around us who support our business and want us to succeed.

On LinkedIn we have an opportunity to connect with new friends or colleagues. We can create a new impression on people we’ve worked with in the past, see what our associates are doing now, find professionals to work with on new projects, and reconnect with talented minds to deepen relationships. But how many of these connections will think of you if they need to hire a writer? What sort of relationship have you developed with your connections?

Writing a LinkedIn Recommendation is easy and it’s one of the most effective ways to put your name on the lips of the person you recommend. It is important to be honest about your experience with that person but every interaction we have with another individual offers us insight into their professional atmosphere. Think about the other writer’s amongst your LinkedIn connections… Have you enjoyed a post or article they’ve written? Have you read their latest book? Have you used them as a source for something you’ve written? Have you interacted with them via social media? Have you been touched by their experience? In what way has that person affected you positively?

“Be aware that the person you’re writing the recommendation for is looking for your words to help act as leverage with a prospective new business partner.” ~ Chris Brogan

Get Started Now! I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn and exchange recommendations in our quest to get to know each other better. A special shout-out goes to the five wonderful ladies (Michele L. Tune, Mysti Guymon-Reutlinger, Kimberlee Ferrell, Hope Wilbanks, and Jenn Greenleaf) who have recommended me in the past!

#FollowFriday on Twitter

Perhaps the quickest and easiest way to say, “This person is great” is to join the #FollowFriday trend on Twitter. Every Friday, Twitter enthusiasts offer up name after name of fellow tweeters they recommend. I suggest adding a few words about WHY you recommend a particular Twitter user because I like to know why “I” should follow them. But even if you don’t offer any detail, just taking a moment each Friday to name-drop is a rewarding way to let those you admire know they offer value in your life.

“The idea is to think of interesting people you already follow and recommend them to others.” ~ Micah Baldwin

Not only is this a great way to show your support and respect for the people you follow on Twitter but it is also an opportunity to grow your following. You recommend your friends to others and they recommend people you might be interested in getting to know. Writers are constantly recommending fellow writers on #FollowFriday and your recommendation can lead you into further Twitter discussion with your personal Twitterati.

Get Started Now! Follow me on Twitter and join the #FollowFriday craze.

Testimonials, Endorsements, and Reviews

Twitter’s #FollowFriday and LinkedIn’s Recommendations are all about WHO. But another way to build relationships is to share the WHAT. That is where testimonials, endorsements, and reviews carry the most weight. On Writer’s Round-About we have a whole category dedicated to Reviews and Reviewing. If you’ve read a fantastic book, watched an entertaining movie, used an effective tool, or purchased a quality product you can build a relationship with the creator by writing a recommendation of their product.

You can even recommend content you find online by sharing a link. Use bookmarking and sharing tools available on most blogs. Take a moment to thumbs up on your StumbleUpon Toolbar. Use your favorite social media networks to spread the word about what you’re loving online. Write reviews for blogs, send testimonials in to website owners, add your reviews to sites like Amazon, etc.

And you can do this with anything at all. People talk about the food they love to eat, the gadgets they want to buy, the brands they love to use. These simple recommendations develop relationship, not just with the creators of the products you recommend but with the people you are recommending them to. If I’m looking to buy a new game console I’ll remember how much you raved about your Wii.

Get Started Now! Have you used a product or read a book that has helped you be a better writer? I’d love to take this opportunity to invite you to submit your review to WRA. Tell others what you think and share your recommendation with WRA’s readers.

A Final Word: Recommendations in Reverse

One final thing to remember is that recommendations work in reverse. If you feel a product fails to live up to expectations, a practice is shady, or a person has falsely presented themselves you can say so. Act with integrity, be honest and forthright. A balanced review will have more weight with readers than a biased one but you should avoid sounding trite or petty.

Remember: What you say about others says a lot about you.

Writing recommendations is a fantastic way to develop relationships with others and there are lots of ways you can express your opinions. Who has added value to your life? How do you show your appreciation? What have you done today to strengthen your business relationships? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

Step Up To Promote Your Writing Business In 2010

I'll be your private dancer, dancer for money!


No more half stepping!

I’m taking a page from one of my favorite Tina Turner’s songs, “I’ll be your private dancer, dancer for money!” as the incentive to set fire to my creative endeavors and get the ball rolling, the juices of creativity flowing, and the networking on full blast. I’m dedicating 2010 to reach my goal of garnering profit from my Freelance Writing Business.

There are things I’m still learning on this solo journey into freelance, but, I’m already set in motion by landing my first major client just before the Christmas Holidays (can you say, “oh, happy day?!”) and I’m gearing up for my first at home telephone interview from another possible client. I’m not a great dancer and I’m a bit too settled to do it for money, but I am confident in my ability to create other people vision into their reality. Over the last three years, through trial & error, submissions and rejections , encouragements and online classes, I’ve gained a bit of know-how in learning/incorporating steps to build up my Freelance Writing Business. The stuff I’ve learned from seasoned pros is meant to be shared, I think, as a preamble to accomplishing ones dream. 

I’m also writing this post from a position of needing to explore my own passion. Put myself and my vision out there freely for an oftentimes discriminate world to examine. I ask that you be kind in your critiques, but, if not, it’s all good! The five steps to promotion that I’ve found works best in bringing  my own personal vision to the forefront and that I offer up to all creatives with dreams, are:

1. Define your niche

Initially, I fought against this because I felt I’d dipped my pen into too many inkwells to be selective; no more! You must find that one thing that drives you and explore the possibilities. When you answer the questions people are sure to ask as in “What makes your product different?” you know you’re on the right track.

2.  Stay positive and focused

It’s hard when your thoughts are like jumping jacks. Your dreams are many and your vision ever changing, but, you must find a way to manipulate your creativity. Have it do your bidding in a purposeful, concise manner. Organize your thought patterns.

3. Seek counsel

I’ve been blessed to have an older woman/adviser who acts as my writing mentor. She has encouraged and soothed away my writing insecurities  over the years and for this I remain truly grateful… I also have a firm belief in “spirit”. I “know” that I am never alone in this often lonely freelance writer business. It matters very little who/where you turn for comfort. It matters most that you do.

4. Network

I’m finding myself opening up to the possibility of making new friends on this journey in freelancing. Recently, I came across a blog whose writer impressed me. I invited her, along with several writer friends, to meet and greet at my home. The events of the evening included good conversation, poetry recitals, tales of life lived  in foreign countries, business cards, plugs, and plentiful helpings of good food & wine . Also, the blogosphere & Twitter have allowed me to network with people as far as New Zealand and as close as the Southside of Chicago, Illinois and the hits just keep on coming!

5. Enjoy what you do

I think this last bit of advice when embarking upon growing your freelance writing business is a given. If you don’t like the long hours, hard, and sometimes tedious work… if you’d rather be out and about having fun with your friends, instead of sitting in front of a computer screen 99% of the time or just abhor waiting for a response to a query… if rejection causes you to go into a eternal funk; Maybe you’d better get out now while the getting is good!

Have you considered how you’re going to do 2010 differently? What do you think are the most important habits you need to develop for success in the year ahead?

Extraordinarily Cocky Freelancing Newbie Gives Advice For 2010

Well, a shiny new 2010 is upon us. For a lot of you old hats, it’s another year of freelancing-as-usual. For rookies like me, though, it’s a new year of challenge. We have to keep working hard to establish ourselves, hoping to attract a steady stream of clients. Me, I’ve been passing out business cards at meetings. I get some good work that way. I just slide one to a colleague when her boss isn’t looking, and after she checks “yes” under “Do You Like Me”, she slides it back.

I’ve been at this for six months or so now. It’s been an interesting, confusing, annoying-as-hell ride. Now that I’m a bit wiser, I’d like to share with you the valuable lessons I’ve learned on this journey. If you’re a new freelancer, take heed – the lessons contained within will serve you well. If you’re an experienced freelancer, I hope this list inspires fond memories of your own early freelancing years. You know, like that one time you said to yourself, “I think in ten years I’ll read an article by a funny new freelancer so I can tell all my friends to give him work.”

Now, you may be thinking, “Why should I take advice from a newbie?” I’ll tell you why below:


(Above words of wisdom not available in free version of this article. Please purchase a Professional Edition license to unlock.)

LESSON ONE: For the love of God, don’t become a freelance humor writer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love writing humor. And since writing what you love is one of the best reasons to start freelancing, I’m set. But because of it, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle. Other forms of writing like copywriting and technical writing are far easier to sell to companies. Not so much for humor or magazine features, as I’ve discovered. And I’ve been sending out offers like crazy. Really nice ones, too. Like how I sent an editor my favorite trojan horse and offered to remove it when he published my column.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on writing humor or magazine pieces or whatever, but get smart about it. You’re going to have to work harder to develop your presence, which is why you should…

LESSON TWO: Spend time developing a monster platform.

A “platform”, when not holding the weight of video game characters, is just a bunch of your stuff spread out on the Internet. We’re talking blogs, videos, articles, guest posts, whatever. By creating and spreading valuable content, you’re establishing yourself as an authority in your niche, which will help attract clients. As a bonus, it reminds everyone how great you truly are. Do this enough, and you can get your own holiday just like me. (By the way, happy Matt Willard Ultra Rad-tacular Appreciation Day Explosion 2.0 Maximum!)

Now, I’ll admit my platform is still in development, but I’ve already seen results from it. In particular, a guest post I wrote for CopyBlogger has gotten me attention and a job offer. I don’t know how my platform is going to take shape in the future, but I earnestly believe that it’s worth the time to develop. Personally, I don’t know any other way to fill my weekend, especially since I was forced to retire after several successful heart attacks.

Since how to build a platform is beyond the scope of this article, I’ll go ahead and suggest…

LESSON THREE: Find a “mentor”.

There’s a reason I put “mentor” in quotes up there. By all means, if you can find an experienced freelancer willing to show you the ropes, pounce on the opportunity. But if you can’t find such a person, there’s another option which does not involve a last meal of rat poison crumble in a light bleach and gasoline sauce.

I got this neat tip from SEO writer Yuwanda Black. She recommends finding a good freelance writing blog to serve as your main source of information. And trust me, with loads of blogs out there, it’s easy to suffer information overload unless you apply this tip. If any questions pop up, you can just refer to your “mentor blog” for the answers. Of course, you should learn from other sources, but having a mentor blog will keep your head straight. (Though don’t get me wrong – it’s your head’s choice to be straight or not. I mean, if a male head wants to make mouth whoopie with other male heads, who am I to judge?)

Me, I chose AllFreelanceWriting.com, run by Jennifer Mattern. As I commented on that blog and others, I became more acquainted with Jennifer, developing an informal relationship that’s similar to having a personal mentor of my own. This leads into…

LESSON FOUR: Get chummy.

Make genuine friendships with other people. Yes, there’s a business angle behind this. It’s that demon word called “networking”, which all the business books harp about doing so you can promote your services. They say you should network everywhere, even in the pool. “Hi there! That was a beautiful cannonball you just did, but I think my company can increase your splash radius at no cost to you.”

But here’s the thing. When you look to make genuine friendships, you forge a personal connection that bare-bones networking can’t top. This connection doesn’t just earn you job leads or advice. You get someone you want to hang out with, someone in your corner. That’s a pretty nice bonus. And if your friend IS a corner, that just cuts out the middleman altogether.

Of course, friendships are just as beneficial as normal networking connections. In fact, a lead from Jennifer helped me snag my first client. In return, I drew up a guest post for AllFreelanceWriting.com. As a friend, I wanted to pay her back for helping me out. It’s only fair. (By the way, Jennifer, I want to thank you ahead of time. Just remember – when Frank kicks down your door and asks for the money, stay cool. Mostly because he can cook a turkey by benchpressing it.)

Now, making connections online is easy. Sign up for the right forums and social media, then talk it up. But be respectful. And remember…

LESSON FIVE: Do your own research first.

Ever heard of “Let Me Google That For You”? It’s a website you’re supposed to link to someone when they ask a question that could be answered with a simple Google search. Now, I don’t do this since I am a forgiving angel, but I understand why it’s done. There is no quicker way to tick off your new friends than to bombard them with questions you can research yourself. (Another way is to end all your questions with, “Can you get on that for me, mortal?”)

It might seem cruel, but think of it like this. Successful freelancing is fueled by initiative. If you’re not willing to do your own research, how can you be expected to market your services or meet your deadlines or plan for the future? Yes, writer friends ARE willing to help you with your questions, but YOU need to be proactive and look for the answer first. Freelancing is not a career for those without self-direction. Make sure you know where yours is. Mine has my address on it so people can send it back if it gets lost.

Then again, accepting that kind of responsibility can be tough, so keep this in mind…

LESSON SIX: Don’t give up.

Building a platform takes time. Getting a steady stream of clients takes time. Making enough to live off your passion takes time. Freelancing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. (More like get-rich-by-digging-between-couch-cushions.)

Again, I’m a newbie, so it may not feel authentic when I tell you not to give up. But I’ve got enough experience in other fields to know it’s true. See, I’m a bit of a personal development junkie, and one of the challenges I’ve faced is changing a bad habit into a better one. It takes time and preparation to make a lasting habit change, but once you pull through…man, is it worth it. (Especially since I know how to sell habits to other people.)

That’s what I’m talking about here. You’re going to spend time and energy on this venture, so you need to stay focused and pull through. Hell, sometimes I feel nervous about how my own adventures are going to work out. But I’ve succeeded before, and with that never-yielding determination, I can do it here as well. So stick with it. Let’s get prosperous together.


So, with 2010 before us, what will I do next? I haven’t made any arbitrary New Year’s Resolutions, that’s for sure. I’m still working on old goals from last year, as well as setting new ones to expand my fanbase and develop my presence. That’s my last bit of advice – make plans for each of your goals. Follow them, and update them when they change. Achieving a goal isn’t as simple as making a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a project, an adventure, and you gotta prepare accordingly. (Which is why I’m glad they let me retake the course.)

Well, that’s it from me. Thanks for letting me impart my wisdom, and have a great new year. I know I will. After all, I don’t make calendars. I’m not going to get laid off when the demand for them drops after 2012.