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How Writers Can Get on the Map with Natural Search Results

SEO Guide for Freelance Writers
Earlier this week, Alyssa wrote about search engine optimization, or SEO, for your writer Web site. I’d like to pick up that thread and offer a story on why SEO matters.

I think writers hear about SEO until they’re blue in the face, but many put off working on it because they’re not getting the connection to how it can pay off.

But you should work on your site’s SEO beause increasingly, companies looking for writers Google some search terms and call the writers they find. It really happens. It happened to me last week.

Here’s the story of how a big client found me, and how you can replicate my success:

I got an email out of the blue from a Fortune 500 company based in my town. One of the best-known, still-thriving brands around. They were interested in having me possibly write for a new email newsletter they want to create! As you can imagine, I was ecstatic.

Like any good marketer, before the conversation went too far, I stopped to ask: “Where’d you hear about me?”

Now, in the case of this company, there were any number of ways they might have known my name. As it happens, I covered this company as a reporter for more than six years as a staff writer for a local business journal. They might have remembered me from back then. I currently also write and blog for many business publications…maybe they saw one of those pieces online?

But no. The editor says, “I just Googled ‘Seattle freelance writer’ and looked at the sites of the writers I found.”

I was blown away. SEO win! As it happens, I have been working hard on upping my natural-search results. To keep my site content changing, I try to pick a newly published article at least once a week and add it to my ‘favorites’ box on my landing page, now that my blog has gone off to its own home. I rewrote my landing-page copy to say “Seattle freelance writer” in the heading and body.

Go ahead, Google that phrase right now, and see what happens. Or click that link I left you in the previous sentence. I’ll wait.

Behold! I’m on the first page of results for that search three times out of the top six responses. No wonder he called me!

How’d I do that?

Besides working on my site keywords and keeping my site content fresh, I also got on Google Local, the feature where you can enter your business on their local maps. See it in the graphic above?

Being in Google Local shot me right into the top few listings, as Google promotes itself by putting that map first in results that mention a city name. I’ve also got not one but two other natural-search links, to my main author site and one of my popular blog entries.

One little bitty freelance writer really can do this simple SEO stuff for free and get noticed online by major companies looking for writers. Being tops in search makes you look insanely pro.

I can even also track the natural-search results I’m getting through Google Places. It says I appeared in their search results 238 times last month, and five people went to my site as a result. Wahoo! And the most popular phrases they searched on that turned me up were “blogger,” “mentor,” “freelance writer” and “freelance writing.” Useful, free information for future SEO efforts.

One nervous-making aspect of using Google Local was it wanted an exact address, which I didn’t want to provide since like most of us it’s my home. But I discovered the feature will settle for a general description of where you are, which worked for me.

Have you Googled yourself lately? Googled common search terms for your market? See what you find, and then start working on moving up in natural search. It’s really worth the effort.

I have to conclude this article by giving props to my mentee Lindsay Woolman, who blogs on WM as well, for cannily taking the URL BoiseFreelanceWriter. SEO doesn’t get any better than that for getting local clients! Wish I’d thought of it, but somebody in my market’s already locked that down.

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

Graphic via Flickr user Ethan Bloch

My Make a Living Writing e-book — What’s Missing?

Make A Living Writing Table of ContentsSome of you may have seen me mention that I’ve been writing a comprehensive how-to e-book about breaking into paid writing. Well, about a year later than I imagined it would happen, Make a Living Writing: The 21st Century Guide is shortly headed to the designer for layout.

Wow, am I thrilled to be saying that! What a slog it’s been, trying to get this material written and organized inbetween all my regular writing assignments and all that other life stuff that happens when you have a family with three kids.

But I’m pleased to say the e-book table of contents is ready for review. I invite MALW blog readers to take a look at the table of contents this week and leave comments about any topics they don’t see being covered in the book that they’d like to see me add.

Please keep in mind this e-book is intended mostly for new or low-earning writers looking to learn how to break in and start earning well. I’m planning a sequel with more advanced tactics for moving up to higher-paying writing work, so if I think a topic doesn’t belong in this e-book, it may end up in the sequel.

Today, I’m sharing the table for the introduction and part one, which is all about breaking into writing for publications, either print or online. Later this week, I’ll share parts two and three, which are on copywriting and earning from your blog.

Appreciate your feedback, readers! And hope to have the book ready for purchase soon.

Make a Living Writing: The 21st Century Guide

By Carol Tice




Let’s Get Started

Who am I to give advice?

Freelance writing today

Myths about getting published

Three ways to make good money from writing

What’s your goal?

Watch for unexpected opportunities

The 7 Habits of Successful New Freelance Writers

PART I: Writing for Publications

Get Ready to Write

LOOK IN: What do you know?

Choose a focus

Finding the time

LOOK OUT: 7 Steps to Your First Paid Writing Assignments

1. Identify your writing type

2. Find your rung on the ladder

3. Start marketing your writing

A baker’s dozen ways to look for writing work

Research and The Writer’s Market

4. Use social media to build your writing career

Social media do’s and don’ts

5. Find places to get your first few clips

All about writing for Internet content sites

Six problems with content-mill writing

6. Find editors to pitch

7. Create your pitching toolkit

Your resume

Your bio

Your Web site

Three reasons to organize your clips on your own site

What if I don’t have a Web site?

Your blog

Your in-person pitch

Get Set to Pitch

Finding and developing story ideas

Evergreen article ideas

Submitting unsolicited, completed articles

Preparing your query letter in three easy steps

Step one: Know your publication

Writer’s guidelines and editorial calendars

A look at an editor’s life

Step two: Define an angle

Step three: Match your pitch to the right publication

Online articles vs print articles

In the back door: Online articles for print magazines

Crafting your pitch

Two foolproof approaches to writing queries

Query don’ts

Case study: Pitching Kiwanis

Send the most queries in the shortest time

Three ways to pitch editors

1. Pitching via email

Don’t help your editor rip you off!

2. Pitching on the phone

Sample script for a phone pitch

How to leave a voicemail for an editor

3. Pitching via snail mail

Should you nag that editor about your query?

Go: Writing your first assignments

What to know before you start writing

What determines writer pay?

Finding sources and interviewing

Twelve interview tips

How to find facts for your article—fast

Timesaving tips for fast article writing

Seven tips to beat writer’s block

Making your article great

Getting paid

Final thoughts on writing for publications


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Writing Opportunity: Company magazines

Earn More from Writing for Company MagazinesEarlier this week, I talked about the opportunities out there now that the economy is finally starting to recover. Today I want to talk about one really cool niche I think few writers even consider that could bump up your earnings: Company magazines.

Many big companies put out magazines. Some are for their own employees. Some are for various segments of their customers.

In some professions, there are magazines they can get customized for their business — you’re looking at an example in healthcare in the photo above. That’s a customized healthcare magazine hospitals are buying a template of, and then inserting a bit of information about their facility and bingo, they’ve got a magazine to send to everyone who lives near the hospital. Somewhere, there’s a company creating that magazine and hiring writers to write those articles.

My experience is company magazines are decent- to very-good-paying markets. In part because the knowledge is a bit specialized, and in part because company magazines are just not considered a sexy, glamour place to write like a national newsstand magazine. They have to pay a bit more usually to get quality talent. They also pay well because often their circulations or viewership is HUGE!

You might be asked to write about a company product or service in your article, but many times I’ve found the requirements are no different from articles I might write for a consumer magazine in the same niche. The company just wants to build customer loyalty by providing useful information for their type of customer.

Note that some of these magazines are online. Corporations including Dell and American Express have huge online magazines, for instance. Many have multiple online magazines for various audiences — for instance, here’s Microsoft’s magazine just for professionals who’re certified in Microsoft software programs, MCP Magazine.

My advice: Any time you’re in a store of any kind, look around at the reading material and see if they put out a magazine. You might just turn up a great new possible market to pitch. If you can’t find a masthead, just contact the company’s corporate communications head and ask who to pitch. If you see a company with an online magazine, do some sleuthing and try to find out who’s in charge. These don’t tend to turn up even in the Writer’s Market and other guides, and they don’t tend to post writer’s guidelines, so you’ll have to be a little enterprising to connect with their editors.

Pitching the magazine of a company you patronize gives you an immediate inside edge — you already know their stores or products and like them!

Here’s some information on just a few company magazines below:

Costco: This is probably one of the best-known company magazines around — Costco Connection has a circulation of 8 million, making it one of the most-read American magazines! You can scan their issues online to get an idea of the content.

American Express OPEN Forum: Their online small-business magazine is one of the most highly regarded business Web sites on the Internet. Highly retweeted. And I don’t just say that because I’ve written a few things for them.

Tractor Supply Co: Out Here. If you live in a rural area, check out the lumber and farm-supply chain Tractor Supply’s high-quality magazine for its customers, which is all about rural life.

Best Buy: @Gamer is a new magazine they’re just launching for their game-buying audience. Word is it launches this month, so be on the lookout.

Have you noticed any interesting company magazines? If so, leave a comment and let us know about them.

Photo via Flickr user pr1001

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Writing Opportunity: New Magazines

Writing for New Magazines is a Great PlanBy Carol Tice

This week, I’m trying to get writers to stop whining about the downturn and move forward to find new, good-paying markets. One sure sign that the economy is finally looking up: New magazines are being born.

There’s been a few new magazines here and there, now and again, straight through the downturn. But in yet another sign that the economy is slowly starting to percolate again, in the past few weeks there’s been a raft of new-magazine announcements.

I wanted to talk about this development, because new magazines represent a unique opportunity for freelance writers. New magazines don’t have a stable of established freelancers yet! That’s a wide-open opportunity to jump in and form a bond with an editor at a time when they really need help shaping the voice and subject matter of what they will present in their new magazine. A relationship formed now could pay off in regular assignments from this new market for years to come.

On the down side, new magazines often don’t pay as well as established ones. But if you’re looking to crack the magazine niche, a new magazine might well provide that chance to parlay your daily or weekly newspaper clips to move up the freelance-writing food chain a notch.

Of course, pitching new magazines can require a bit more work than pitching long-established magazines. They often don’t have writer’s guidelines available, and it may be tough to find the editor. Their Web site may not even be up yet. They may not have even a sample mock-up to send you, and likely no sample issue.

But if you can do some research and make a connection, it could really be worth it. (Hints: Check their media kit for information about the audience they plan to reach…and/or get a sample issue if they have one to scan the masthead for names.) My experience is editors at new magazines are more open to working with less-experienced freelancers. After all, their publication is kind of a question mark too — many established writers might not bother, unless the magazine has very high-profile backers. If you have clips in a similar niche and some strong story ideas, you could find yourself in pole position to propose a column or to get a steady stream of article assignments.

Just to give you a taste, here are the new magazines I’ve heard about recently. Most of these came from just two weekly issues of my Wooden Horse newsletter. Where possible, I’ve done a quick look around myself and brought you what I could find in terms of background info and contacts.

Impact Magazine is a Houston-based business magazine debuting in August. This one may really take a little nosing around — I see about a million magazines are named “Impact,” and there is also a “Healthcare Impact” monthly magazine out of Houston.

Connected World is a tech-devices magazine debuting in June. CW seems to be connected to a conference of the same name. [NOTE: As of 12/2016, this magazine no longer puts its media kit up publicly – you can sign up for it here. You’ll likely have to do some extra legwork to query this pub.]

Positive Impact looks like it’s been going online, but is now crossing over to be a quarterly print publication as well.

Traveling with Babies & Kids is a new magazine due out in Fall ’10. Women’s-travel publisher See Jane Fly, which puts out The Travel Book, plans a 250,000 circulation.

Payments Business is a new Canadian bimonthly.

Redoux Home is a new Minnesota-based bimonthly shelter book. There’s a table of contents sample here. [NOTE: As of 12/2106, this magazine appears to be out of publication.]

Capital Business is a new weekly from the Washington Post, and its home page even has an editor contact! This is probably the most heavy-hitting of the new entries on this list.

Honor Student is a new magazine coming out six times a year. It’s got an editor contact as well. Since I write a lot of college and career stuff, you can’t beat me to this one — already fired them off a query. [NOTE: As of 12/2016, this magazine is no longer in publication.]

Noticed any other new magazines? Leave a comment and let us know. Otherwise, put on your detective hats, get out there and make some new connections at new magazines!

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

Photo via Flickr user Stephen Cummings

For Freelance Writers, The Recession is Over — So Start Your Marketing Engines

The Time to Market Your Writing is NowI hate to get cranky on everybody, but I’ve had it with the whining about  how hard it is to find good-paying freelance writing assignments in this terrible, down economy. The fact is, there are a lot of signs of recovery out there. A couple of them:

Retail sales have been rising for several months now.

I’ve had about 10 really solid leads turn up in the past two weeks, way more than I’ve been seeing in recent months. My own personal economic-recovery indicator.

Do you know the first things that happen at the beginning of a recovery?

  • Savvy companies start to ramp up their marketing — a recent FedEx study showed 42 percent of small businesses said they were contemplating increasing their marketing budgets. FORTY-TWO PERCENT! Know how many small businesses there are in the U.S.? Oh, more than 20 MILLION.
  • Magazines begin selling more ads and adding pages or expanding their number of annual issues.
  • New magazines are born — I counted six of them in just one week in my recent Wooden Horse newsletter.

My point: It’s time to stop using the recession as your excuse for not earning.

There’s plenty of writing work out there right now, and there’s going to be more. You can get in on the start of this up-trend, or you can be one of the last to jump on the bandwagon. Put it out there now, because the universe is starting to respond.

I got an email out of the blue this week from a Fortune 500 corporation looking to start a new e-newsletter for its customers. I would bet that this sort of thinking is taking place at many, many big companies right now. They all want to be first in line to get their share of the recovery. And they’re going to need skilled writers to help them achieve that goal.

It seems like twice a week now, I’m talking to some small business person who needs social media explained to them. They’ve heard they need a blog or articles on their site, but they have no idea how they promote that online and use it to drive traffic. The opportunity in this niche alone — presenting complete social-media proposals that include promotion and blogging or article-writing — is huge.

I speak from experience, since 2009 was my best-earning year ever — you can defy the downturn. And now, it’s not even as much of a downturn anymore!

So it’s time to stop moaning about low-paying content sites that rip you off, rear up on your hind legs, and start marketing your writing business. Send queries. Meet prospects. Use LinkedIn or Biznik. Put up a billboard. Whatever’s your speed.

You’re out of excuses, so get out there and find clients who’re willing to pay you a living wage. More and more of them are out there every day, now that the economy is finally thawing.

Later this week, on this blog and on WM Freelance Writing Connection, I’ll be talking about a couple of specific niche opportunities for you to think about as you make your marketing plan for growing your business in 2010.

What will you do to capitalize on the recovery? Leave a comment and let us know your strategy.

Photo via Flickr user psd

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The Awesome Marketing Strategy Most Freelance Writers Are Doing Already

Marketing for Freelance Writers: The Board GameI often hear from freelance writers who say they suck at marketing. They hate cold calling! They’re too shy for in-person networking! Prospecting — ugh! Social media marketing — who has the time!

They look at online job ads, and then complain about how crummy most of the advertising companies pay. They’re stuck writing for low-pay content sites…because, well, they just hate marketing.

Recently, I realized there’s one form of marketing these writers probably already do very well. Here’s how you do it:

Do an amazing job on every assignment you have, for every client you have right now.

Your best form of marketing is always creating really stellar writing, each and every time out. Some important reasons why:

1. Repeat business. Exceed expectations and be ready with more story ideas or copywriting project proposals, and your existing clients will keep using you. That’s a lot less work than having to pitch and get one-off assignments from a long string of different clients. Who needs to prospect when you’ve got a steady stream of work coming from current clients?

2. Referrals. Editors get together and dish about who’s a great writer. They ask each other who to hire. Small-business owners go to chamber networking events and talk about tradespeople they use. If you’re outstanding, you’ll get mentioned. Presto! New clients without you having to cold-call anybody.

3. Better clients. Your awesome clips are your ticket to the big time. Write a sharp advertorial article for a startup, you could be writing one next for a $1 billion company. As it happens, that exact thing happened to me, so I know it works. I also got my first staff writing job for a trade publication — at a really substantial salary — off $100 article clips I wrote for the L.A. Reader. Every once in a while, I meet a writer whose strong clips on a content site got them a good-paying private client. Even in an environment that has a generally bad rep, outstanding work can take you places. That’s what I love about this career — you can literally write yourself to where you want to go.

4. More free time. As much as I’ve come to love the thrill of the hunt in active marketing, if you’re fully booked with lucrative clients and don’t need to block out time to write queries, call prospects or attend networking events, well…that’s more time you can spend with the family.

My work is out there online, marketing my writing services, every minute of every day. So is yours. What’s it saying about you? If it’s powerhouse stuff, it’ll be your marketing machine. If it’s mediocre, it’ll send a string of loser clients your way. You can shape your career direction just by delivering big on what you’re writing today.

Final note — my online buddy Jenn Mattern of All Freelance Writing is the guru on this passive-marketing lifestyle — if you’re interested in this type of marketing approach, you might want to check out her book, The Query-Free Freelancer.

Photo via Flickr user Intersection Consulting

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