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How to Move from Blogging to Writing for Publications

By Carol Tice

Today, I hit the mailbag to answer a question from WM reader Anna McDonald. Here’s her situation, and her question:

I live in a very wealthy area and have a blog on a women’s view of sports. Because of my connections in the community and the population that I live around I am getting some positive feedback.

My goal is really not to run a successful blog, I do not have the talent or time for such an endeavor.

However, I would like to be a freelance writer for periodicals. I am having a bit of difficulty figuring out how to begin this. I have contacted the local sports editor for the newspaper in town and they have said they are not interested in hiring right now. Do you have any suggestions for me? I strongly believe I have a very unique niche. My website is www.thegirlfriendsbatterseye.com.


As I see it, there are really two issues here: The first is that Anna has the impression that it takes more time and talent to write your own blog than it does to get published in print newspapers and magazines. I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

When you write your own blog, you can write about anything you want, at whatever length you want. You edit it, and you publish it if and when you like. That’s sure a timesaver!

Maybe Anna is saying she doesn’t have the promotional and marketing talent to draw traffic to the blog and make it earn, and certainly that’s a skill unto itself. But generally speaking, getting bylines in print publications is a great deal more challenging than writing for yourself, as you have an editor to please.

But on to the meat of Anna’s question: How to break into periodicals?

It appears that many parts of this challenge have been handled by Anna — she located a local newspaper editor, approached them, pitched them, and got a response. The catch is that the answer was no.

Your experience here is pretty common, Anna. A lot of the people I’ve mentored go through this process. They want to get published. They contact the local paper. They are rebuffed. Then, they give up.

Which is sad, because your local paper is just one of thousands and thousands of possible markets for your work. What you have to do next, Anna, is lather, rinse, repeat until you find a publication that’s interested in your sports column. (Still think your own blog takes more time?)

Having a column with a point of view can be a real moneymaker. If you can find a single place to publish it, you can then try to syndicate it nationally from there. Syndicated columnists can appear in dozens of publications in different cities, leveraging the same column each week to earn more from each paper.

Another possibility is to try other publication types besides a daily paper. What about a women’s magazine, a sports magazine, or an online magazine or e-zine in one of those niches? A natural way to build up to your goal might be to go from your own blog site, to having your blog appear on a larger sports-blog portal somewhere for perhaps a modest per-post fee, and then use that greater visibility to sell an editor on a newspaper or magazine column. Crack your Writer’s Market and start browsing for more places to pitch. Approach other online sports bloggers and see if you can guest post or become a regular blogger on their site for more exposure.

There are fewer columnist slots out there than there are places for reported stories–just take a look at your newspaper. Then take a look at the sportswriting in your newspaper’s sports section. In most papers, it’s some of the best writing in the whole paper–funny, snappy, literate, sharply observed. If you think you can play in that arena, write crackling-hot columns and keep sending them out to editors until you find one willing to take a chance on you.

For a success story in doing this type of move-up, I’d point you to Jenny Isenman–Jenny from the Blog–who has leveraged her hilarious parenting-in-suburbia blog, Suburban Jungle, into a range of paid blog, TV and print gigs.

Good luck!

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

Photo credit: Flickr user fotographix.ca

21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services

Optimal Writers' Networking Machine

In my mentoring work, I often find myself introducing my mentees to a basic fact of life for freelance writers: If you want to earn more, you’re going to need to market your business aggressively. Answering Craigslist or Kijiji ads is unlikely to get you $1 a word or $100 an hour gigs. To find really good-paying work, you will have to prospect.

This often produces a reaction along the lines of, “I’m shy! I’m no good at networking.”

But there isn’t just one marketing strategy in the universe, there are many. So today I’d like to kick off a two-part post highlighting some of the multitude of ways to market yourself as a freelance writer. Today, it’s 11 different 3-D-world marketing approaches. Somewhere in here, there’s a strategy that would be a fit for who you are and the kind of writing work you want to find.

1. In-person networking. I know you don’t want to hear it. But in-person networking is not only very effective, it can actually be fun. Just think — you get out of your writing cave, have a drink and a nibble, and meet new people who could help you make more money. Unless you are catastrophically shy, I want you to try it.

Bring business cards. Walk around and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Overcome any shyness you have about plugging yourself by spending most of your time asking others why they came, what they do, and if appropriate what they’re looking for in a writer. If that description doesn’t fit you, try to recommend them someone. Networking is about learning others’ needs and helping each other succeed, not shoving yourself down other people’s throats. You don’t have to be pushy–be helpful. Personally, I have been to two in-person networking events and got great connections that led to wonderful paying clients both times.

Experiment with places to network–I’ve had good success with MediaBistro events here in Seattle, but your city may be different. I’m told the Linked:Seattle in-person events rock, too. Find your networking sweet spot and visit it as often as you can.

2. Direct mail. I’ve never tried this, but many of the top copywriters in this field develop a prospect list, and then audition by sending direct mail–makes sense, huh? One of them is Pete Savage-he sent one DM letter and got $64,000 of new business, and he sells a kit that describes how he did it. I don’t usually plug products, but if you’re interested in copywriting work, this may be worth a look. I can vouch for Pete–he’s the real deal. I can give you one tip I’ve gleaned from Pete’s newsletters–I gather he advocates including a bumpy novelty item in the envelope. Makes it irrestistible to receipient…apparently they feel compelled to open it to learn what’s making the bump.

3. Cold calling. That’s right–just pick up the phone, call a company you’d like to do copywriting for, and ask for the communications or marketing manager. Or call the editor of a publication you’d like to write for. Ask them if they use freelance writers. Be ready to pitch your ideas for stories to editors, or your copywriting services to companies. Many will say no, but persistence can really pay off here. Everyone who tries it reports they get new accounts, and that every 10 or 20 calls, they get a “yes.” Give yourself an edge and check out their existing Web site or other materials before you can call, so you can point out specific weaknesses in their current marketing and describe how the materials you’d create would bring address their needs and bring in new customers.

4. White papers. Create a white paper about the value of your copywriting service, demonstrating the benefits to companies that use you. Much like the direct mail strategy, this one’s especially great if you want to write white papers for companies. If you haven’t written white papers, you should learn about them because they’re the hottest sales tool in copywriting right now, and they pay very well.

5. Free or paid seminars. They can be in-person, over the Web, over the phone, you name it. But holding a class in a topic such as “How copywriting can help your business” can put you in touch with many good prospects in one fell swoop. Some like charging a little for the class as you screen out looky-loos and get more qualified, highly interested leads who are more likely to become clients.

6. Free downloads. Create a helpful article article with advice or tips on how to communicate your business’s value or some other related topic, which ultimately leads to a conclusion that hiring a professional writer will help your business. Put it on your Web site as a free download in exchange for which you capture their email address. Presto,  you’re building a great marketing list and exposing your name to prospective clients while presenting yourself as an expert. (OK, this tip involves a computer…but it’s not social media, so here it is in the 3-D list.)

7. Tshirts and car decals. That’s right, think of yourself like any bike shop or car wash would, and promote the fact that you’re a freelance writer everywhere you go!

8. Contests and polls. Hold a contest for the worst business Web site and give the winner free home-page content, or write their bio page, or whatever you want to offer. Or take a poll on the most important thing to say on a business Web site, and give the winner a free consultation. Entrants will, of course, have to submit their contact information, giving you an instant list of companies that need copywriters. This one doesn’t just get you prospects and a great before-and-after sample, you could tell the local papers and get written up, too.

9. Charity donations. Doesn’t your kids’ school have an annual auction? Donate an article for a business, or a free brochure. Great way to let the whole town know you’re a writer.

10. Put out a press release. Have you expanded into a new field? Hired a virtual assistant? Moved your office? Many local papers have business columns that publish these news tidbits, along with your photo in some cases. If not your local paper, try your Chamber newsletter (you belong, right?).

11. Partner or reciprocal deals. Do you know a business whose products or services you  use, who could use Web content? Make them a barter deal–you do their site over in exchange for free stuff, including a free plug on their home page that you wrote the content.

Tune in later this week for the final 10 marketing tips in 21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services: The Social Media Edition.

Photo source: Flickr user Richard-G

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Mailbag: How to Successfully Blog

Cover of blogging bookNow that we’re getting settled into our new home at Make a Living Writing, it’s time to open the mailbag and answer a reader question.

Maureen recently wrote me with this introduction and a question about blogging:

I worked for years in book publishing, [for] 2 literary agents, then finding books to adapt into screenplays and teleplays.  I had a health catastrophe which has been straightened out in the past two years, thank goodness.  Before that health crisis occurred, I had already decided that I wanted to be the writer.  So I am an apt pupil to anyone who is a good writer, and able to support him/herself through this.

I’m outlining a book which will be less of a memoir and more of a cautionary tale to other people who suffered the same health problem, and don’t feel I’ll have any problems with that.  Also, drafting two screenplays.

My question for you is how does one successfully blog?

I’ll take a stab at this even though I’m not entirely sure what Maureen means. If you’re asking how blog format is different from writing articles, I think it is distinctly different — more casual, shorter and ideally offering links to readers that allow them to read more on other sites if they’re interested.

Don’t know if you saw this post I did on whether blogging is for you – maybe useful in thinking about blogging success.

Or maybe you’re wondering how to physically get your own Web site where you can blog? There are lots of sites that can help you with that — just discovered this one recently, which is free:  Yola.

If you’re asking how you earn money by having a personal blog, I would recommend you check out Leo Babauta’s great free ebook on how he got 100,000 subscribers for his very lucrative blog, Zen Habits. Essentially there are only a few ways to make money off your blog — affiliate marketing, selling ad space for an up-front fee on your site, selling information products, and using the visibility to get other writing jobs.

For me, I feel like I am successfully blogging. I hope I’m a success in that I’m providing useful information to my community. As far as earning from it, I’m just launching my monetizing strategies. So I’ll have to see how it goes.

Also, what’s your definition of success — You have 100,000 subscribers? You make $100K a year with it? You get a major publishing-house book deal? You simply manage to post two blogs a week? You get a lot of comments? You get linked to a lot? You get to polish your writing and develop your style? You get article assignments from $1-a-word magazines?

Everyone defines success differently. Also, what’s your blog about? Different blog topics monetize in different ways.

I haven’t made a dime directly from my blog at this moment but consider it a huge success in building a community of writers who’re interested in earning more from their work. That has been my immediate goal, and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made on it.

It’s helped me get great-paying jobs blogging for companies. The exposure has been great, I’ve met wonderful new writing friends some of whom will help me promote my ebook in future, and it has helped me learn a lot about how to write impactfully in this new format.

It also led to the great opportunity I got recently to be a regular blogger for the WM Freelance Writing Connection, exposing me to a whole new audience.

I’m getting 300-400 visitors a day, or was before the move, which I’m very happy about for just starting this blog in ’09. I’m hoping to explore ways to earn from my blog that help my community and don’t annoy them…count on all of you to let me know how I’m doing.

Maureen — write back and let us know if you start a blog, and if so how it goes.

Readers — how do you define blogging success? And how is your quest for blogging success going? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think it takes to successfully blog.

Photo credit: andyp uk

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10 Negotiation Tips for Writers

Negotiate Your way to Better Writing JobsOne of the questions I get a lot is how to negotiate a good rate. Writers who’ve written for mills usually have no experience with the dynamic of working out a rate with a client.

You’ve seen a million job ads that insist you send a rate quote, even though you’ve been provided almost no details about the proposed project. Or you meet a prospect at a networking event and they ask you to send a bid on the white paper they want done, or on rewriting 10 pages of their Web site. How to respond?

Here are some of the negotiation strategies I’ve used:

1. Be vague. If you absolutely must submit a bid to be considered, give them a big range. As in “In the past year, I’ve done copywriting jobs ranging from $.30 to $1 a word. I look forward to learning more about your project so I can pinpoint an appropriate quote for you.” This way, if they’re a penny-a-word or $10 article type of client, you can screen them out fast and move on, but if they’re paying anything remotely appropriate, you can hopefully stay in the game long enough to learn more. Then you can decide if the pay rate makes it worth your while.

2. Ask, ‘What’s your budget?’ If at all possible, get the client to tell you what they can pay. Try to put the onus back on them to quote a price. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve discovered the figure they had in their heads was bigger than the one I had in my head. I asked a business-book agency this question recently, with the thought that I’d ask for $10,000. Their figure: a range of $17,000-$21,000. Let them speak first, and get paid more.

3. Defer quoting. Ideally, you’d like a prospective client to get to know you well before you put in a bid. So I resist blind bidding in response to online ads. When I respond to job ads that ask for a price quote, I usually indicate that I’ll need more information to develop a quote. This gives me a chance to show how thorough I am, while putting off quoting, hopefully until after I’ve had a more detailed conversation with the prospect.

4. Don’t lowball bid. Many online job solicitations and jobs on portals such as elance or odesk set up a competitive-bidding contest where the job will go to the lowest bidder. I personally don’t get involved in these, as when you win, you lose – you’ve gotten yourself a slave-wage gig. Though I’ve heard from people who say they’ve ended up with good-paying clients through these sites, I believe it’s a real long shot, and there are better ways to get good clients. In general, companies that would hire whoever bids lowest regardless of qualifications aren’t companies you want to work for.

5. Bid per-project instead of by the hour. This is always a better way to go for both sides. You know exactly what you’ll be paid, the client knows exactly what they’ll have to pay, and if you’re new and it takes you a bit longer to do the project, the client doesn’t suffer for it. Clients also seem more satisfied with per-project rates than when they’re thinking, “Sheesh, this guy is making $95 an hour!”

6. Bid by the word instead of by the hour. One quick, easy way to come up with a project bid is to simply add up the proposed wordcount and multiply. I usually bid somewhere between $.50 and $1 a word, depending on degree of difficulty and client size. As with a flat fee, this gives the client the reassurance of knowing exactly what their project will cost.

7. Consider all the hours involved. Remember that projects take a bit of time to get set up and rolling, especially with new clients – files need to be created, initial emails exchanged, contracts negotiated, meetings taken. You should bill every hour of this time, and figure those hours into any per-project bid you submit.

8. Know industry rates. Try to do some research to help you determine an appropriate rate. You should belong to some writers or copywriters forums online where you could describe your project and prospective client, and ask members to comment on your rate proposal. I’ve gotten really useful feedback this way.

9. Get details. I’ve developed a questionnaire at this point for clients to fill out to help define their project. One of the biggest problems in copywriting is that companies know they need some content…but they’re often very fuzzy on exactly how much, what form it should take, when they’ll need it by and other issues that can greatly affect my quote. I’ve had proposals for 400-word quick blogs turn into 700-word fully reported stories I’m ghostwriting rather than getting a byline on. Scope creep is a major problem in the writing world — so get it in writing so you can renegotiate for more if the client changes the project parameters.

10. Make a counter-proposal. There is no law that says you have to accept the first price a client throws out there. See How I got paid $300 a blog on The WM Freelance Writers Community for details on how to successfully bid up your contract during negotiations.

I’m proud to report that I took my own negotiating advice this week. I was approached out of the blue by a major company I’d actually had on my list of prime targets, to write articles for their site. I was excited…until I heard their rate, which was a lot lower than I was expecting. I told them I was surprised by their price, and could they do any better? They raised their flat fee $50 a piece immediately. I could easily end up writing 50 or more articles in a year for them if the relationship continues…if so, that’ll be $2,500 more I make just for asking the question.

Got any other negotiating tips? Feel free to share them with the group in the comments.

Photo source: andyrob

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7 Great Ways to Break into Freelance Writing


By Carol Tice

For those of you who have begun freelance writing in the past few years, I’d like to provide a short history lesson. Up until six or eight years ago, most writers who started their freelance career did it without ever writing for a content mill. Content sites didn’t exist yet. How ever did we manage it?

Each of us found some other way to get our career started. I bring this up because as I read the writer chat forums, it’s difficult to recall that there was ever another bottom rung of the writing-career ladder! But there was. And I think the pre-mill routes are still better ways to quickly establish your career and start earning well.

Even better, the traditional routes to good pay have been enhanced in the past few years by all of the new pay opportunities that have arisen online.

What are the other ways to start a writing career that can get you earning more, faster? Below, I count the ways I earned in my first couple years. Almost all of these paid more than mills from the very first assignment. The hourly rate wasn’t the greatest at first because I had so much to learn and wasn’t efficient, but they very quickly became good earning options on an hourly-rate basis, and led to work that paid very well.

1. Win writing contests. I won two of these early on, and they led immediately to long-term editor relationships and $500 article assignments in major publications. Great visibility, and it starts an “awards won” page for you that impresses prospects.

2. Write for the alternative press. I did this for years, and worked up to writing cover features. Alt papers are a great place to develop as a writer and get paid $50 an article or more off the bat. It can lead to a lot of other great opportunities — I got a full-time reporting job that paid more than $40,000 a year to start from my alt-press clips, and one of my feature stories was optioned for a movie for $20,000. Alt papers have gained reporting cred over the years, as so many highly successful writers such as Elvis Mitchell have started there and spun off to national radio, paper and TV gigs.

3. Write for daily papers. Yes, many have disappeared, and some don’t have freelance budget anymore. But many of the major papers need freelancers more than ever. The pay isn’t great, but I get $300 an article for Seattle Times pieces that aren’t terrifically complicated, which beats $15 an article any day.

4. Write for small, regional papers and magazines. When I first moved to Seattle and needed to find my first local markets, I wrote for Today’s Careers, a free local job paper, for about $200 a story. Easy, interesting work.

4. Write for local nonprofits or small businesses. The first small, startup business I wrote for paid me $750 an article. My second client was a $1 billion-plus global corporation that paid $85 an hour to start and sent me more than $20,000 a year of work for several years running. Moral: It doesn’t take much to get launched in the world of copywriting if you can write clear, compelling content. Walk around your town, hit your Chamber breakfast, approach your favorite nonprofit, and find a business or organization that needs something written. Now you’ve got samples and you can pitch anybody, including the biggest corporations in America. And writing a business profile for the business can lead to writing an article about business for a magazine — the two realms cross over quite easily.

5. Write online content. Businesses across America are waking up to the reality: their Web sites suck and aren’t attracting customers because they are static and dull. They need writers! Study the Web sites of your local business establishments and call the ones that look the worst. Suggest they add bios, case studies, a blog. Despite what you see on Craigslist, all Web content gigs do not pay $5 a page. Demand decent rates, and you’ll get them. And some great samples.

6. Write a couple free samples. You may be surprised to hear me say this, but I’m a big believer in just writing a few sample articles on your own, to create your first clips. I like it because you don’t get confused and think what you’re doing might be a living. You’re clear about moving on quickly to paying gigs. Here’s a great story from this week’s Writer’s Weekly about how this paid off big for one brand-new writer.

7. Take a class. I got into journalism kind of sideways, from songwriting. When I realized I wanted to write reported stories, I went and took some UCLA Extension classes in journalism. While I don’t believe basic writing talent can be taught, you’ll never regret taking the time to study and learn about this field, particularly about reporting technique, article formats and ethical issues. Many writers are coming into the field now without any training, and it limits their options. Getting a bit of education can jump you ahead of the pack.

Just being in the class may help jump-start your career. You may write for a school paper or online site, getting a few clips that can lead quickly to paid assignments. Your professor might refer you if they like your work — editors do call them. The school’s career center could connect you with internship opportunities where you could compile solid clips. Possibly most importantly, you’ll leave with increased confidence in your ability to write for a variety of markets.

Yes, all of these alternative routes I’ve outlined for breaking into freelance writing involve a bit more work. Most involve actively marketing your business. If you love writing quick, easy articles and don’t yearn for more, keep writing for mills and enjoy your life.

But if you’re focused on earning as much as you can right away, explore some of the other paths to earning well. They’ll likely offer you more interesting assignments with more opportunity to grow as a writer, and get you earning more sooner.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

Photo source: pedrosimoes7

Subscribe–or Resubscribe–to Make a Living Writing

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Time to subscribe!

Hi all —

It’s been a rocky week trying to get everything working here on the new Make a Living Writing site. A couple problems remain that only you, the reader, can resolve.

If you subscribed on RSS to this blog back on caroltice.com…you need to resubscribe if you want to keep getting the posts. If you’re on email, we should be able to enter you from here. But if you’re on RSS, we don’t have your contact info, and apparently we cannot flow you over here. You have to do it.

Of course, if this is your first visit here, please feel free to subscribe for the first time! Generally I post free tips and thoughts about how to earn more from your writing twice each week.

There’ll be lots of great stuff coming up, including special subscriber discounts for my upcoming ebooks. Hope to be giving you details on that before too long.

Until then…if you missed Content Mill Week over at The WM Freelance Writing Connection…head on over there for a full week’s worth of perspectives on this often-controversial subject. Here’s my entry from last week: Content Mills: Why Aspiring Writers Should Avoid Them.

This is my last double-post that’s going on both sites…so if you’re getting this from caroltice.com, migrate over here and subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

Thanks all!

Source: derrickwa

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