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How I Got Two Great New Writing Clients — Guest Post

How I Got Two Great New Freelance Writing Clients. Makealivingwriting.comBy James Patterson

After nine months of being a freelance writer, I’ve decided that marketing my business is like doing the dishes; I absolutely can’t stand doing it, but I feel so much better when it’s done.

I jumped into freelancing head first back in February, leaving my stifling full-time job to see if I could cut it on my own as a health and wellness writer.

I set up a website, found some steady writing work and had a few decent months, replacing my former Corporate America salary. Things were great for quite a few months, but I fell into a trap of complacency and a bit of neglect at marketing my business due to a busy summer schedule.

When I started to notice my revenue dipping in the fall, I decided it was time to start marketing myself again. I tried the age-old methods of pitching magazines and scouring the job boards, but with zero results.

Thanks to some great advice from Carol, who I hired as my freelancing mentor back in the early summer, I decided to finally take a different approach. I set a goal to try two new freelancing tactics and see if they would work.

Boy, did they ever.

Tactic #1: My existing LinkedIn network. Carol challenged me to contact my LinkedIn connections, whether or not they were an editor or potential client, and pitch myself. If nothing else, it’s good practice, she said. So when I sent out 20 or so LinkedIn messages one day, I didn’t think anything would really come of it.

About a month after my LinkedIn blitz, I got a phone call from a former friend and colleague who’s in sales, now with a different company than when we worked together. Turns out he was in a staff meeting when someone mentioned needing a health writer.

He told me later over the phone his ears perked up because of my LinkedIn message, which I had sent him just a few weeks before. He spoke up, said he had someone he could talk to and BAM, a few weeks later I’m getting steady work from a new client who meets almost every one of Carol’s criteria for lucrative writing clients. I’m about to close the books on my best month of freelancing ever.

Tactic #2: Cold calling. After months of pitching organizations and editors with zero results, I was fed up. I told Carol of my pitching woes, expecting to get at least a measure of sympathy. Instead, Carol gave me a virtual slap upside the head and said, “Email isn’t working. So what? You have a phone, don’t you?”

Reluctantly, I made another goal: To make 20 cold calls to hospitals in my region asking a simple question: “Could you use a freelance writer?”

A funny thing happened. My first phone call was a no. My second phone call was a no. My third phone call was a no.

I was about to give up. For some reason, seeing ‘no’ on a computer screen is much more palatable for me than hearing it over the phone.

But I decided to give it one more try. I picked up the phone and dialed the next number.

That call resulted in a referral to the marketing director for a large Intermountain west hospital chain. As I type this, we’re hammering out details for me to come on board and help lighten the load of their current freelance writer.

Good things happen when you try new approaches. Sometimes, you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the dishes.

It may not be fun for you to get on the phone and hear a few people tell you “no.” It may feel like a waste of time to contact former friends and colleagues. But you really never know under which rock your next client is lurking. Why not turn over every one?

How have you found new clients this year? Leave a comment and describe what’s working for you.

When he’s not obsessing over college basketball, James Patterson is a freelance health writer and public relations consultant at OnPoint Writing and Communications. His past clients include the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Diabetes Education Program.

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What Freelance Writers Can Learn from Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin's Advice to Freelance WritersSarah Palin just keeps grabbing headlines, doesn’t she? Most recently, it was her pronouncement that she could beat President Barack Obama in 2012.

Whether you think that’s unreal hubris or that’s totally gonna happen, there’s a lot freelance writers can learn from Palin. To my mind, the former Alaska governor has some personality traits that freelancers often lack. Develop these traits, and you could really rocket your writing career forward.

What am I talking about? Here’s what Sarah Palin’s got that could help you succeed as a freelance writer:

    • She’s bold. Say what you want about Palin, this woman is utterly fearless. She makes gaffe after gaffe, and just keeps on sucking it up and rolling on. Tina Fey made a cottage industry out of making her out to be an idiot (see the video below). Personally, I think that would make me crawl under a rock and die, and I consider myself pretty self-confident! So many freelance writers I’ve worked with in my mentoring program are held back by fears and insecurity. A Palin injection might be a life-changer.

  • She seeks the limelight. Palin is not afraid to promote herself. She’s everywhere, still, with the election far behind us. She lives by the law of publicity — that is, all publicity (negative or positive) is good publicity. By contrast, many freelance writers feel too insecure to even show up at their local Chamber of Commerce mixer.
  • She is not easily embarrassed. Yes, her daughter had a baby out of wedlock while she was running for national office, pretty highly embarrassing for a Republican-conservative candidate. But on she rolls, like the mighty Columbia. Do you think Palin would let one rejection letter bug her? Or be devastated by one editor who dropped her? No chance.
  • Setbacks do not faze her. OK, she is not the vice president of the United States. She tried for that one and bombed. But clearly, she sees that as just one battle in her war. She’s not going to curl up in a ball and mope, like so many freelance writers do when they don’t get a “yes” on a query letter.
  • She’s got a plan. As you could tell by that Obama comment she recently made, she has no plans to be one of those people who’s famous for 15 minutes and then vanishes into obscurity. She’s still workin’ it. You may not like her plan, but she’s got one. A freelance writer needs a plan too, or life just happens, you wake up next year, and you’re just treading water, writing for the same low-paying clients.
  • She’s a climber. Sarah Palin could have gone on being the governor of Alaska. A lot of women would have been real happy with that achievement. But to her, it’s just a stepping stone. She got to that plateau, looked around, and went, “What’s next?” When the Republican Party came knocking, she could have played it safe and said “no.” But she’s always thinking about how she can take it to the next level, an attitude successful freelance writers need.
  • She’s different. Think what you want about Palin, but one thing’s for sure — there’s never been a female politician quite like her. She reminds me of freelancers who have an unusual niche they write about, or a very unique writing style. They always seem to earn the most.
  • She’s memorable. From her “I can see Russia from my house” cracks to her trademark bun, Palin knows how to brand herself and make an impression. She reminds me of this guy I met at a networking event recently. He had turned his name tag into a gigantic, two-foot-wide laminated board he wore around his neck. What a laugh! And a great way to say “Hey, I’m a pro networker, and a fun person.” Most freelance writers could think more on ways to make themselves stand out like that.

What personality traits do you think are essential for freelance writers? Leave a comment and let us know.

If you enjoyed this blog, subscribe to receive free tips via email for earning more from your writing.  Coming up later this week, we’ll hear about how one freelancer got two new clients.

Photo via Flickr user edalisse

10 Best Articles for Writers — November 2010

Top 10 Articles For WritersWhen I’m not writing for clients or for this blog, I read a lot of articles about how to improve your writing or your blog. Most of us writers began as avid readers, didn’t we? I still consider myself a learner, soaking up everything I can about our craft and how it’s best practiced in this fast-changing, new-media world.

When I find great articles, I tend to retweet them. And I recently realized that means I can easily create a fun post on the best articles for writers each month, by scanning back through my tweetstream.

Here’s the first edition — my 10 Best Articles for Writers for November. I will not be including any articles or blog posts I’ve written, either for this blog or elsewhere.

If folks enjoy this, I’ll do it as a regular feature, so please leave some feedback and let me know if you find this a useful post.

The Talmud teaches that it’s important to give full credit to sources, so I am mentioning both the author and the site where the post appeared, so you can see at a glance who was involved in creating these insightful articles.

Without further delay, here are my picks. They may not all have initially published this month, but I discovered them in November. They’re listed alphabetically by title, since I can’t possibly rank them. All great information.

  1. How to Fill a Hole in Your Schedule — the Query-Free Freelancer Way – by Jennifer Mattern, on All Freelance Writing.
  2. How to Plan a Successful Blog – A Step-by-Step Guide – by Annabel Candy on The Daily Brainstorm [NOTE: This post is no longer available.]
  3. How to Remove Emotions From Your Writing Business – by Anne Wayman on About Freelance Writing
  4. How to Sprint to Your Blog’s Tipping Point – by Stanford Smith on Pushing Social
  5. 13 Tips for Beginning Bloggers (which I learned the hard way) by Gretchen Rubin on ProBlogger
  6. 10 Typical Questions From Writers (that are really just fear in disguise) – by Emma Newman on Write for Your Life
  7. 7 Ways to Improve Your Writing — Right Now – by James Chartrand on Copyblogger
  8. Top 5 Query Mistakes Freelancers Make – by Linda Formichelli on Renegade Writer [NOTE: The Renegade Writer blog is gone now.]
  9. Why People Should Stop Updating Their Blogs – by Jered Slusher, on Virgin Blogger Notes
  10. Why You Shouldn’t Write for Revenue Sharing Sites – by Carson Brackney, on FreelanceWritingJobs

Have I missed any great articles about writing or blogging this month? If so, feel free to leave us a link in the comments below. I’d like these posts to serve as great reference tools for learning about the craft and business of freelance writing.

Image via Flickr user sam_churchill

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Should I Send Queries During the Holidays? — A Timely Mailbag Question

The Holidays and Query Letters Don't MixHi all —

I know. I don’t ordinarily post on Tuesdays. But I got a question from Christine Champ that can’t wait!

She wrote:

Do you think it’s a bad idea to send out new pitches during the holidays? Like with Thanksgiving coming up, would you not send any new pitches until the following week? I have a few pitches I planned to send out [Thanksgiving week}, but then thought should I wait ’til after the holiday.

Quick answer: I’d wait.

Editors’ schedules are crazy enough on a normal, five-day week. On the short weeks, they’re really nuts. I think it ups your odds of just getting passed over.

I actually wouldn’t send any out the Monday after a long holiday weekend, either. If I don’t miss my guess, editors will spend the entire day just digging out of email and putting out fires. So I think that’s not a good day either.

It’s frustrating to hit these periods where you have a story idea you love, but you need to sit on it. But I think it’s probably the right thing to do.

I’m sure there’s another school of thought, that a lot of workaholics tend to sit and catch up on email during the holidays, and maybe that means in a weird way they might be more likely to take time to read yours. But I guess I don’t want to encourage workaholism, so I don’t add to the pressure by sending queries in a holiday period.

Finally, if you’re snail-mailing queries, go ahead and send them out — they won’t look at them until next Tuesday, but that should work out fine.

Are you sending out any queries during the holidays? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing to this blog. That way, you won’t miss a fun new feature I’m adding to this blog shortly.

Photo via Flickr user hurricanemaine

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Blogging, Tim Ferriss and the Myth of The 4-Hour Workweek

myth of 4 hour work weekI remember feeling excited when Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek first came out in 2007. I thought — aha! That’s it exactly.

In the future, we’ll all hardly need to work, as our Internet businesses run on autopilot. Selling our information products online will allow us to connect with buyers all over the world, and we’ll make money almost by magic.

Three years of long freelance-writing hours and two years of striving to make my own blog into a money-earner later, I have a totally different view of Ferriss’s manifesto.

I think it’s utter bullcrap.

The proclamation that soon we’ll all only work a few hours weekly reminds me of the predictions a decade or two back that with computers and email, we soon would enter a paperless society. Still waiting for that to happen, as snowdrifts of paper litter my desk.

Why am I skeptical? Because everything I’ve learned about having a successful Internet business — on A-List Blogger Club and elsewhere — indicates that it’s still a heck of a lot of work. I worked far fewer hours as a staff writer filing four stories a week than I put in now as I strive to make this blog a money-earner!

Nobody I know is talking about magical money on autopilot, including top, seven-figure-earning bloggers. (Except the lying, scammy ones.) The real successful bloggers I know talk about grueling ramp-ups, massive guest posting, and working insane hours to make a new product launch a success. They coach others to work harder at burnishing their writing and revamping their blog design to make it more enticing. They encourage writers to create free products they can use to build their audience.

And you know what? It all takes time. Loads and loads and bucketloads of it.

I see really successful bloggers building paid learning communities or launching interactive training courses, which they earn well at, certainly. And it’s absolutely true that at this point, many Internet-based businesses can be done anywhere. Since I live on a small island and work for companies all over North America, I can say that part’s a fact.

But the tiny work-hours thing? Total bunk.

If you have the model of simply slapping a bunch of ads on a site, that might be something where you could outsource every function and live a life of ease. Except at this point few of those type of sites seem to be earning well. Most Web surfers are sick to death of ad-clogged sites and increasingly stay away. Unless you’ve built the next LinkedIn or Facebook or something with a huge audience, forget it.

Which leaves the monetizing-the-blog model. Which I can tell you is work, work, and more work. You can outsource some of it, sure. You can hire a Web developer, get a few guest posts a month, hire a social-media marketer to tweet about what you’re doing. But the core of it, the part where you build your audience by creating amazingly useful, sparklingly well-written blog posts multiple times per week, and then follow that up with stellar products your audience wants to buy from you, where you build your personal brand until you’re hot stuff and everybody wants you…there are no shortcuts there.

Being brilliant and providing lots of value to readers doesn’t happen in four hours a week, for me or anyone I know.

Yes, the Internet allows people to connect in ways that never happened before, and that opens new markets to those seeking to build a business. But the Internet has also created new demands — to respond to your blog readers (in real time, please!) when they leave comments or ask questions, or to interact with the members of your paid community. And that, friends, takes a lot of time. Even in a model like A-List’s, where leaders Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch have deputized a small army of moderators to help them, they still need to lend their own presence and insight to the proceedings. I’m sure if they stopped, membership would plummet.

So I’m don’t know if there is any level at which a four-hour workweek starts to look realistic.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek theory is a load. When I checked in on Amazon to see the reviews, the first three were labeled:

For Sale: One Bridge in Brooklyn — EZ Payments

21st Century Snake-Oil Salesman

Get-Rich Quick Guide for the Shallow

One thing’s for sure — writing a provocatively titled book about how you once got an Internet business to earn for you with little effort (and how everyone else should be able to do it, too) is the surefire way to get rich and end up not having to work a lot of hours. If only we could all work that angle.



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Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest – Vote for Me!

Bring Home The Blog For Writers TrophyThere’s a contest for writing blogs that used to run on Michael Stelzner’s site called the Top 10 Blogs for Writers. Now, my A-List Blogger Club leaders Mary Jaksch and Leo Babauta have taken the contest over. This year’s contest just kicked off on their Write to Done site.

So (gulp), I’m going to ask you a big favor. If you enjoy this blog and find the information useful in your writing life, head over to the contest and vote for Make a Living Writing. If a lot of folks nominate this blog by commenting on the contest post over at Write to Done, I’m thinking a crazy thought: Maybe this blog has a shot at ending up on that list.

As it happens, I have a personal connection to three of the four contest judges. I’ve guested for Brian Clark on Copyblogger. I just mentioned Michael Stelzner, who’s still judging the contest, in my recent post about writing and blogging experts I trust, and we chatted on Twitter about it. And Leo Babauta is getting to know my work through the A-List.

In an interesting twist, Mary Jaksch actually emailed me and told me I should ask you to vote for Make a Living Writing. She made a point of reaching out and telling me about the contest, and encouraged me to get out the word about my blog. Interesting, huh? But maybe she’s just promoting Write to Done there.

Early in my career, I really got a jump-start when I won two writing contests. Which makes me wonder if now I could win a prize for my entire body of blogging work here.

Winning a contest like this one would give this blog more visibility and likely bring more readers. More readers could help this blog generate more income — which in turn means I could spend more time giving you free tips on how to earn more from your writing. So in a way, everybody wins.

Even if you don’t vote for me, and you have some other writing blog you love, go vote. It’s going to be interesting.

If you enjoyed this blog, you can do one other thing, too — subscribe. You won’t want to miss the action here next week, when I call bull*&! on the theories of a certain celebrity work/life author.

Technical note for subscribers: Starting Monday, I am migrating my email list to a new provider. I apologize in advance for any technical glitches that may occur.

Photo via Flickr user Shorts and Longs | The Both And

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