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12 Steps That Make Blogging Clients Think You’re a Genius

Tips for The Blogging EliteI recently got a type of paid blogging assignment I hadn’t had before. Instead of writing blogs from scratch, as I usually do, I was asked to improve the existing blog of a small business. I found this an interesting challenge.

This CEO had been blogging and was giving out some great information, but the blog wasn’t in very sharp blog format. As a result, the blogs came off as uninteresting. Readers sort of had to dig to find the nuggets of useful stuff.

I did a lot of what I thought of as very basic, obvious things to his blog…and this client was just thrilled! It was time-consuming to clean up the blogs, but to me didn’t involve any magical abilities.

It made me realize that if you know some fundamentals of blog style,  you can really wow a lot of businesses that need help with their Web sites. Of course, you can also do these things to your personal blog and improve your own posts.

Here are my tips for making yourself look like a blogging superstar:

  1. Write shorter paragraphs. Many of this client’s blogs were one giant paragraph! By simply creating short, two- or three-sentence paragraphs, the blog became much more readable.
  2. Write shorter sentences. Blog sentences shouldn’t go on for eight lines. Many of the sentences on this blog required a AAA road map to follow, so I broke them up into two or three sentences. The result was an instant improvement in clarity.
  3. Add photos. At this point, images are really important in blogging. They make a blog so much more enticing. And adding an image is a chance to do something fun. For instance, for a blog aimed at startup businesses, I found a funny photo of a sign at a town apparently called Startup. The client was blown away by this little bit of creativity. Moral of the story: A little Flickr goes a long way.
  4. Be concise. I trimmed out all repetition in the blogs and made them as short as they could be and still convey the information well. You can’t go wrong saying it in less space on the Internet. One of my very favorite blog posts ever is still this one on writing, by Copyblogger’s Brian Clark. It’s less than 40 words long. Won’t work for every topic, but it’s a great example of how brevity is beautiful.
  5. Remove all tangents. This business owner had a habit of going off to discuss side issues to the main point. But blogs are too short for wandering off onto side roads. Blogs need to stick to their topic. Trimming out tangents made each blog entry more focused and easier to follow.
  6. Remove repetitive words. We all have words we tend to use when we write. In this blogger’s case, it was “basically,” “so,” and “actually.” Trim those out, and you automatically get a more engaging post.
  7. Use good grammar. You might be a financial genius or amazing business coach, but that doesn’t mean you know its from it’s, or when to spell out a number and when to use the numeral. The more closely you can follow a style guide along the lines of what newspapers use, such as Associated Press Style, the more readable viewers will find your posts. Cleaning up my client’s grammar foibles made him sound more authoritative.
  8. Eliminate jargon. Be clear about who your audience is and what they understand about your industry. My client’s blogs were cluttered with insider references and acronyms the average prospective customer wouldn’t get. Out they went, in favor of spelling out abbreviations and explaining industry terms.
  9. Have smooth transitions. I liken article and blog writing to knitting a sweater. Each paragraph should logically follow the one before it, with no dropped stitches — random new thoughts that show up abruptly. Once I’d cleaned it up with the steps above, I went back through my client’s blog to make sure each blog post had a smooth flow from beginning to end.
  10. Enliven the byline and kill the signature. So many people miss this great link opportunity. Rather than just letting the blog program put a generic “posted by admin” notation at the top and leave it at that, write an actual byline, and make your name a link to your site. It just looks pro. Like many who are new to blogging, this client was instead signing his blogs with a stationery-style signoff, with his name, professional designations, company name, and phone number. Too formal! I chopped that off in favor of the enlivened byline.
  11. Link to busy places. Like many new bloggers, my client was only linking to other pages of his own, low-traffic Web site. This obviously wasn’t helping the company site build its search-engine rankings. I dropped in a few relevant links to major industry organizations and articles in major publications on the same topic to help search engines view the client site as more credible.
  12. Make sure links aren’t naked or dead. All of my client’s older blogs had naked links, where the URL address is showing (https://www.makealivingwriting.com), rather than adding links the classy way, where key words are enlivened with the appropriate link (Make a Living Writing). Even worse, most of the naked links were also dead like that naked link above, meaning they were not coded properly and nothing happened when you clicked on them. I killed all the naked, dead links and made them live key words. Now, it’s a blog!

Have any other tips for making your blog look professional? Please leave them in the comments below.

Photo via Flickr user wharman

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Make More Money Writing With This Foolproof Strategy

Use Your Scheduling Difficulties to Earn More
By Carol Tice

It’s the number-one question I get asked: “How can I make more money writing?” I’ve given a lot of answers in past posts, but today I’ll focus on one great technique any writer can use to up their income.

I learned this strategy back when I had my first business in the mid-1980s. I lived near a couple of the movie studios in Los Angeles, and I had a script-typing business.

I had a fee for typing scripts.

I had another fee for typing scripts in a big hurry. It was nearly double the regular fee.

Sometimes, screenwriters would come to me all disheveled and hung over and say, “Oh my God! This draft is due in two days, and I just finished it. Can you get it typed up tomorrow?”

And I’d say, “I sure can…at my rush rate price.”

Occasionally, they’d ask me to do it at the regular price. But I’d say no. It’s the rush price, take it or leave it. And they’d take it, every time.

Doing rush work at regular rates means you’re taking a client’s crisis and letting it become your crisis. Now you’re up working until midnight, and not earning anything more for the inconvenience.

Charge a premium, and you make more for your willingness to drop everything and tackle their project pronto. Now, their crisis is your opportunity to earn more. That’s how you should view it: your crisis is my opportunity.

It works the same way in freelance writing. People who plan badly are everywhere. They create emergencies. Suddenly, they need tons of writing done on a tight deadline!

That’s where you come in.

What’s the foolproof strategy for earning more money from writing? Put out the word that you specialize in rush jobs.

Let folks know you’ve got what it takes to crank out writing under the gun, and you’ll have a great new niche that raises your rates. Contact local marketing agencies and pitch yourself as a rush specialist. If you write for publications, be sure to let your editors know that if they ever have something that needs a quick turnaround, they can call you. If you have any background in filing same-day news stories, either in traditional news or for online blogs, mention it.

Once you get one rush gig, word will spread. People you’ve done rush work for often know other dysfunctional people or companies, and they pass along the word that you were their clutch player. Just a few rush jobs a year can make a big difference in your income.

Real examples of rush-work charges

I’ve had a couple of great rush projects in the past year. One is a white paper I just finished for a small employees’ union. They needed it done before contract negotiations so they could use it as a bargaining tool…but they dithered a lot about what it should say and took a lot of time getting organized. Then, they changed their mind a couple times, having me write different versions so they could compare them. I was charging $500 a page, and one of the versions was longer than our original bid, so I got to add that onto my fee.

The result? A $3,000 price tag instead of $2,500.

One of my biggest rush-work assignments ever came last fall. I was approached by a major financial-services company. They’d decided their company Web site needed a very active blog they wanted to launch in just a couple of months. They wanted to create a stockpile of more than 150 short, reported blog entries, so they could put up several items daily. They’d spent too much time conceptualizing what they wanted, and now there was only six weeks left to launch!

They began by offering $200 a post. When I pointed out it was essentially a gigantic rush job, they immediately upped their rate to $300 per. At that rate, I agreed to get 20 posts done on their crazy deadline — pocketing an extra $2,000 because it was a rush. Their reaction? They were thrilled I took so many of the posts, meaning they wouldn’t have to find as many writers as they thought to work the project.

As it happens, I found the work utterly enjoyable and I had the time in my schedule to do it. But they still needed to pay me more for rush work, because rush work costs more.

Everybody knows that, which is what makes this strategy so easy to deploy. You really don’t have to explain to a prospect that their rush project will cost a premium. They get it.

I just in the past month signed up a client who is essentially a perpetual rush job. It’s a weekly trade publication where they need people who can react to news on Monday and file it by first thing Thursday, every week. They pay $1 a word.

You may not be busy when a rush job comes along. Maybe you don’t have a single other writing gig that week. But that doesn’t matter. The client doesn’t need to know that. They just need to know that rush jobs cost more…a fact they will usually accept without a blink.

Remember the famous work triangle — good, fast, cheap. Pick any two. You can’t get all three at once. You want good AND fast? It’s not going to be cheap.

By the same token, if it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good, as I’d often point out to my script clients. To which those screenwriters would always reply, “Oh! But I need it to look really good.” And then they’d pay the upcharge.

What to charge for rush jobs

You deserve more for doing things on a rush basis. So if a prospective client comes to you with a rush project, remember to up your rates.

Charge 30 percent to 100 percent more, depending on how desperate the client seems, the size of the problem, how fast they want it, and the difficulty level of the assignment.

Rush jobs are a great niche, because you make more money, and you look like a hero for riding to the rescue of someone who was in dire straits on their project. Rush customers are often super-grateful, even though they paid a premium.

Have you taken any rush work lately? If so, did you charge more for it? Hope so! Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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

Photo via Flickr user flik

The One Trait All Successful New-Media Writers Share

New Writers Must be FlexibleWhat does it take to be successful in today’s world of blogging, Web content and online articles? This question was on my mind yesterday as I listened and learned at a writers’ conference in Seattle sponsored by my local Society of Professional Journalists.

I was a presenter on a panel called “Diversify or Die! — How to Expand Your Services.” We panelists had varied experience — one had moved into PR, and another had a side business selling his photos.

As we told our stories, though, a common thread emerged. At some point over the past few years, someone had approached us and asked us to write something different. A type of writing we’d never done before. In one case, it was press releases. In another, it was doing radio. For me, it was ghost blogging for a company founder.

We all had the same reaction to this out-of-the-blue writing opportunity: “Sure! I think I can do that.”

In every case, that response led us in new directions that diversified our writing careers and increased our income.

All the successful writers shared an openness to new ideas. Our reaction to being presented with an unexpected new challenge was curiosity and even excitement. We were willing to stretch our writing in new directions when opportunity presented itself.

In short, we were flexible. We had career goals and plans, but when something different came along, we were willing to try that path as well.

In the questions at the end of our panel, we heard a lot of questions that started like this: “I worry about trying this new thing because….” or “I’m afraid if I try adding this type of writing, it’ll cause a problem…”

My answer? “Stop worrying. You see an opportunity? Just try it!”

In talking about the conference afterward with my husband, I realized that in our fast-changing media world, flexibility is the key. People with rigid mindsets about what journalism is, where and how reporting should happen, what kind of writing they do, what an article should pay, are being left behind. Those willing to keep an open mind and try new things are flourishing.

What’s your new-media mindset? Have you tried a new type of writing lately? Leave a comment and fill us in.

Twice-weekly tips for increasing your writing income available here. If you subscribe to Make a Living Writing, you won’t miss a single post.

Photo via Flickr user wsilver

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Why Writers Should Know Their Daily Rate

Increase Your Freelance Writing IncomeI’ve written frequently about the need for freelance writers to set a goal of having a high hourly rate. I’ve written about how to raise your rates. I’ve talked about how you can earn more bidding per-project than per-hour.

Today, I’m going to take the rate discussion to another plane and talk about daily rates. That’s the rate you want to earn per work day in order to bring in the amount you want to make in a year.

Why is it important for you to know your daily rate? Several reasons:

1) Quick tracking mechanism. If you know your daily rate, at the end of each day you can evaluate how you did. First, look at what you billed. If you didn’t actually bill any clients that day, review how much work you put in on ongoing projects. For instance, if you estimate you’ll work parts of 10 days on a $1,000 project, attribute $100 of earning on that project for today.

Now add up the total estimated earnings for the day. Does it add up to the daily rate you want? If not, the time to take action to find better-paying clients is now — not at the end of the year, when you do your taxes and are confronted in black-and-white with the reality that you aren’t meeting your earning goals.

2) Good weekly yardstick. Once you have a daily rate, it’s easier to track how you’re doing each week and each month. I find these calculations help me schedule deadlines throughout the month so I have revenue in each week, instead of having a lump of work all stacked up at the end of the month, which leads to late nights and stress as I frantically try to keep projects from hanging over into the following month (thereby screwing up my revenue projections for that month!).

3) Another way to view earnings besides hourly rates. While I’ve often said freelance writers need to aim to make $100 an hour, not all your work may be at your goal rate. Or you won’t be fully booked every day.  A daily rate can give you a better sense of whether you’re charging enough based on other factors including how busy you are, how many hours per day you’re willing to work, and how long it takes you to complete projects.

4) Quick quote ability for exclusive projects. Every now and then, a client may want to lock down all your time for a project. They want you to go cover a trade show for several days. Or they want you to drop everything and work on a rush project for them for a week or two solid. Maybe they need someone to write in-house for a month at their office. Or they’d like you to spend two months ghostwriting their e-book.

How do you know what to charge?

If you know your daily rate, you know how much revenue you would lose by being locked down on an exclusive project, unable to work your usual clients. Without a daily rate, you’re just guessing whether it’s worth it to you financially to take the assignment, so it’s easy to end up shortchanged.

How to figure your daily rate

Now that you know why you should care about your daily rate, let’s figure it up. Say your goal is to earn $100,000 from freelance writing this year. (Think big!)

There are 365 days in the year, but 104 of those days are weekends. There are also roughly 10 holidays a year where it’s virtually impossible to get much work done — Christmas, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. Family members will likely expect you to shut off the devices and pay attention to them on these occasions.

Let’s hope you’re not working weekends or major holidays, and that you also plan to take at least two weeks off a year (which you certainly should). That leaves around 240 real, viable work days in the year.

Divide $100,000 by 240 and you get roughly $417 a day. That’s your daily rate. Want to earn $50,000 a year? That’s around $209 per working day.

Have you calculated your daily rate? Ever needed to use it for client quotes?  Leave a comment and let us know whether you think it’s useful to know your daily rate, or whether hourly rates are more important.

If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to Make a Living Writing — tips on earning more as a writer, delivered twice weekly.

Photo via Flickr user bigburpsx3

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How Writers Can Send Query Letters Without Facing Rejection

The Face of a Rejected WriterOne of the biggest hurdles many writers face is sending query letters. They don’t want to take the time to research, write and send them because of the seemingly low odds that a particular query letter will result in an assignment.

In summary, they can’t take the rejection!

In an age of social-media connecting and online blogging, some see querying publications as hopelessly old-fashioned. But sending a well-crafted query letter is still one of the most powerful methods available to freelance writers who want to make great new connections with editors at publications where they are currently unknown.

Like a ninja throwing star, your query can slice through all the barriers to seeing your byline in great publications and vault you straight to an assignment. You don’t need to know anybody — the power of your story can take you there. Isn’t that awesome?

Also, despite the complaints you see on many writer forums, crafting query letters doesn’t have to be an all-day project. If you know how to re-slant and re-pitch similar topics to different publications, you can have plenty of queries out without doing a ton of work.

This year, I had a goal of adding to my client list at least one or two more national publications that pay $1 a word or more. I sent many query letters in pursuit of this goal. Most of them were rejected.

This did not bother me in the slightest.

After nine months of making time to send a few queries each month, I finally connected with two new publications — one online, one off. Both pay at or above my target.

How did I keep from getting discouraged? Why didn’t I give up?

The many queries I sent that flopped didn’t bother me because I never experience rejection.

How do I avoid feeling rejected? I follow these four simple rules for querying:

1) Maintain an unshakable belief in your abilities. Many writers seem to take the echoing silence that greets their query as a personal condemnation. They suck as a writer!

Instead, consider the likely reality — the editor never had time to read the query, they already had a story on that topic planned, they’re ceasing publication, remaking the pub and not needing that type of topic anymore, just hired a staffer to  handle those type of stories, etc. There are a million possible reasons you didn’t hear back from the editor, or got a polite “pass” email. Often, it’s not about you.

Resolve not to take a “no” personally. Believe in your talent, and press on.

2) Don’t get emotionally attached to any one query. This is a big problem for many writers. They spend way too long crafting one, single query. It’s for a big, national magazine. They’re so sure this idea is perfect for this magazine — it’s definitely their ticket to the big time!

So the writer waits anxiously for a response. They’re paralyzed into inaction on their other query ideas. When they never hear back, or get a “no,” they’re crushed!

This is like the person who decides they’ve met their future spouse on their first date. You’re getting too committed too soon.

I’ve had really awesome ideas that I thought were perfect for Parade and other major mags, that never went anywhere. Such is life. Happens to all of us.

The antidote to falling in love with your query is to have lots of great ideas and send many queries. Make querying a routine part of your monthly marketing plan. Then you won’t stake too much emotional capital on any single query.

3) Seek a match, rather than an acceptance. Rather than thinking of querying as a one-sided activity — “I need an assignment! Please give me one!” — I think of it more like the old Match Game TV show. I have ideas, and I know editors have needs for interesting articles. I play the querying game until I find a match. You really want it to be a fit from both sides.

If a publication passes on my query, I’m not bothered, because I know editor relationships are a two-way street. And there’s lots I don’t know about this publication and editor.

Maybe the editor is a raving lunatic. Maybe the publication is about to go under. Maybe they’re the type who’d edit my piece into an unrecognizable mass of goo. Or the kind that would have me gang-edited by three different people.

So if it’s a ‘no,’ I assume I’ve just been saved a ton of heartache with a situation that would have turned out to be a terrible fit. It wasn’t a match! So what — no biggie. Move right along and send more queries.

4) Be unstoppable. Back when I covered home-improvement retailing as a staff writer, I once went to a great trade-show seminar on how to break prospective customers’ existing relationships with their current lumberyard and get them to buy from you instead. The speaker advocated staying in touch with prospects even if they seemed very happy where they were.

How long did he advise continuing to try to sell the prospective customer?

“Until they buy…or they die,” he said simply. If they die, the company will name a new person to that buyer’s job — and you can start right in trying to sell the new guy.

I think of querying the same way. Keep going until you get the acceptance you need. (Like Dory in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming…”) Keep learning and sharpening your skills.

One day, a new editor may come on at that publication you’ve always wanted to bag. Then, query them. Never stop trying. Those who take this attitude usually get where they want to go eventually, while those who’re easily discouraged give up.

How do you cope with query-letter rejection? Leave a comment and tell us your strategy.

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Photo via Flickr user Orin Zebest

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Why I Joined a Monthly-Subscription Bloggers’ Learning Community

Why join a writer community. Makealivingwriting.comI’ve been curious about monthly-subscription course models. I’ve interviewed more than one person who I know is making over $1 million a year with their subscription courseware. I decided I need to learn more about how this works, in case I want to do it myself!

I have some real strengths as a writer — years of staff-writing work honed my discipline and helped  me learn how to meet deadlines and come up with tons of story ideas. But blogging — now that’s fairly new for me.

Yes, I’ve found some success as a paid blogger for others, currently including and Entrepreneur magazine and Forbes along with some small-business clients, too. Many months now, I find half or more of my total income is coming from blogging! So in one sense you’d say I’m a successful blogger.

But what I’d really love is to find a way to make this blog into more of a paying gig. That way I could spend more time helping other writers earn more, which I’ve discovered is an activity I truly love. Have to say, when one of my mentees tells me they’ve gotten a lucrative assignment by following one of my tips, I feel more excited than when I land a fat client myself! If this blog generated income, I could offer more free tips on the blog and spend more time helping more people realize their dreams of supporting themselves through writing.

I’ve already got a partial plan for monetizing my blog with my upcoming Make a Living Writing e-book (we’re proofing it now!), and with more e-books to come. While I’ve found success blogging for others, I know there’s a whole lot I don’t know yet about being successful here on my own blog — how to grow the subscriber list, engage readers, and reach a broader audience.

This week I got a great offer from two bloggers I’ve been reading for a long time and whom I think are among the top niche bloggers today, Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch of Zen Habits and Goodlife Zen, respectively.

The upshot is… I’ve just joined their A-List Blogging Bootcamp, which I can already recommend (and yes, that is my affiliate link). At last, that graphic’s making sense now, right?

They were doing a special deal where it was just $20 a month (cancel anytime!) and we got a lot of freebies for signing up now. I thought at that price, given what I could reap from having a blog that earns, it was such a tiny price that I couldn’t say no. I gather there are 700+ of us in the community right now, so lots of folks to connect with in there as well as great learning.

I haven’t had much time yet to participate and work their courses, but I’ll report back when I’ve gotten a chance to do so. So far, I got to look at a video of Mary’s frank assessment of how her blog initially sucked, and what she did to make it more successful — and I got one really valuable tip out of it I’ll be implementing for my site soon. Watch and see if you can spot what I change!

Have you joined any of the monthly-sub learning communities? If so, what did you think? Was it worth the money? What did you learn? Leave a comment and share your experience.

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