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6 Self-Confidence Tips for Writers

Nobody is Going to Hand you Freelance Writing Success
by Carol Tice

Do you think you deserve a good writing income? As I browse the writing chat forums, it seems as if many writers don’t think they’re entitled to a decent living from their work.

In short, they’ve got a self-confidence problem.

For instance, this week on About Freelance Writing, Sarah Elisabeth wrote:

The other hang up is how do I know if my writing level is up to a $1 a word? I’m a newbie with a few published credits but lack the confidence that I would qualify to write on that high paying level.

I know that feeling of unqualification well. Since I got into writing prose sort of by accident from songwriting, I walked around with that anxiety for years.

I kept expecting somebody to tap me on the shoulder and say in some kind of snobby-waiter voice, “Excuuuse me, but we’ve noticed you’re not really a freelance writer. You’ll have to leave now.”

Never happened. Writers like to bitch about the economy, the collapse of print publications, the editors who don’t respond to their queries…but they don’t like to face the core truth of their career. All that’s really stopping you from earning $1 a word is you.

If you have self-confidence that you’re a strong writer, you become an unstoppable force. You keep going until you make top dollar.

I recently analyzed my marketing strategies here on WM. I described a success I had calling publications that post full-time job ads and asking if they use freelancers. I found a new, $1-a-word market that way.

“I tried that once and it didn’t work,” one commenter said.

“Oh,” I replied. “I tried that 30 or 40 times, until it worked once.”

What’s the difference in these two marketing approaches? The difference is self-confidence. If you don’t feel self-confident about your writing, what can you do to build yourself up? Here are my tips:

  1. Morning affirmation. My dad taught me to look in the mirror every morning, smile, and say, “Damn, I’m good!” If your dad didn’t, you can start now.
  2. Get a perspective. Are you worried about what people will think of your writing? Back when I was a songwriter I used to get bad stage fright. I’d snap out of it by reminding myself that no matter how my gig went, one billion Chinese could care less. Keep a perspective on the relative importance of any screwup you might make.
  3. Learn more. Often, writers lack self-confidence because deep down, they realize there’s something they don’t know. And they’re trying to fake it without that knowledge. It could be how to write in blog format, or how to get really great quotes from sources, or how to write strong query letters. If you sense your nervousness stems from a knowledge gap, fill it.
  4. Ask: Why not me? I think many writers think “Why me? Why should little old me get to earn six figures from writing?” That’s the wrong question. Why not you? Haven’t you read tons of mediocre novels and how-to books? You’re better than that. You deserve that success, too.
  5. Create a gratitude list. Insecure people tend to dwell on their failings. Instead, dwell on your strengths. Make a list of everything that’s great about you — all the unique assets you have to offer the world. Review as needed to appreciate how special you are.
  6. Look at previous clips. When I was fairly new to writing and had a big, feature story due, I’d always be really nervous. So I’d take out my clip book and look over past articles I had published. I never failed to be uplifted by this. Wow, I wrote all that? Guess I can write this one, too. (Reading your clips online works, too.)
What do you do to build your self-confidence as a writer? Leave a comment and let us know.

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

Photo via Flickr user SqueakyMarmot

Writer Survey: Who are You, and What Would You Like to Know?

Survey for WritersI find it a little hard to believe, but it’s been two years since I wrote my very first blog entry, back when this blog was on my writer site. After blogging sporadically for a while, I committed to at least twice-weekly posts, and began to attract an audience.

I’ve since written more than 100 entries about the business of writing. This blog has taken me a lot of places — to guest-posting weekly for WM Freelance Writers Connection, for one. To the A-list Bloggers Club, where I’m hoping to learn more about how to serve my blog readers better.

It also helped me break into paid blogging. After a while, this blog made me realize there was a need for a comprehensive guide to earning well as a writer in our new-media age, and the Make a Living Writing e-book was conceived (and I’m hoping it’s going to be born in the next week or two!).

I discovered something about myself, too: I have a passion for helping writers earn more money. I love it! When a writer or one of my mentees tells me they got a better-paying gig based on my advice, I am over the moon. I look forward each week to posting more advice to help writers earn well.

It kind of blows my mind, but this blog now gets around 100,000 views a month. Clearly, the days when I personally knew every reader are gone!

So let’s get better acquainted. If you would, please leave a comment below and tell us:

Your name and how long you’ve been writing.

Are you already writing for pay, or are you hoping to do so in future?

What type of writing do you do?

Do you have a blog? If so, provide a link and tell us your goal for the blog.

Do you have a writer/author site? If so, provide a link.

How did you find this blog?

Most importantly: What do you most want to learn about on this blog? Ask a specific question and if it’s of general interest, I’ll try to answer it on the blog as soon as I can.

I look forward to learning more about all of you, so I can provide the exact information you need to earn more from your writing. I really want to hear from you — in fact, if you leave a comment on this blog entry this week only, I will send you a code that will give you 50% off the price of my new Ebook, Make a Living Writing: The 21st Century Guide.

If you aren’t already a subscriber, you can subscribe to this blog here.

Photo via Flickr user SMJJP

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Mailbag: How Can a Writer Find Publications?

How Can a Writer Find Publications?Today I’m back in my role as the Dear Abby of freelance writers, as we turn to a question from Marina DelVecchio. She read my recent post on querying without experiencing rejection, and commented:

This was a great post, especially since I belong in your #2 category [getting emotionally attached to a single query]. Is there a specific source that you can recommend that lists consumer magazine and online mags to query? How does one go about finding these sources?

Carol, I am overwhelmed with the internet online mags and other internet sources out there. I write articles and submit them to Harper’s, Ms., Brain-Child, and such, but with no luck. I have about seven articles that I have written on motherhood and women’s empowerment, but have no idea how to begin to find sources interested enough to query them.

I just got an agent for my book, but [freelance writing] is a venue I am really interested in breaking into, but don’t know how. It was easier, I think, when it was just print mags and newspapers. Now there are too many for me to count…

OK, lotsa thoughts here about how to break into more paying publication markets:

Is there a specific, single place to find consumer and online magazines? No. Especially online magazines, which are springing up like weeds in May. But there are several places that form a good starting point. The Writer’s Market lists hundreds and hundreds of magazines (get it with online support for more useful ways to slice their data).

Wooden Horse has a magazine database and a newsletter that lists editorial changes weekly, which I find is a great way to discover new magazines and a new contact. Often, new editors seem more approachable and open to new writers, so I consider that information gold. MediaBistro’s paid level gives you access to about 300 “how to pitch” guides with info on various magazines. The Writer’s Market online also has a daily column of updates and announcements about new magazine launches.

You can also Google the Internet for various compendiums of magazines. Generally, it’s research, research, research. When you find an interesting publication, Google “editor [publication name],” or do that search on LinkedIn, and see what you can find. Ask your writers’ forums and groups if they know anything. Reach out on Twitter. Beat every bush.

To me, it sounds like your real problem isn’t finding magazines. Your problem is overwhelm. Yes, there are a million magazines in the naked city, but which ones should you be trying? That’s the real question.

Since you just landed a book agent, we’re going to assume that you write well. So that’s not the problem. A few possibilities suggest themselves to me:

You’re aiming too high. I don’t know Brain-Child, but the other two publications you mention are very highly regarded national magazines. You might try a regional or smaller-circulation equivalent type magazine instead as a starting point. In general, it’s difficult to crack major national magazines cold, without a track record of having written for similar local, regional, or national smaller publications of a similar type.

It’s sort of a farm system out there, just like any other industry. You start at a smaller place and work your way up the ladder. There are exceptions, but that’s generally how it works. Once you have a published book these entrees will get easier, but until then think of perhaps a slightly lower target which could give you a great clip with which to query the big guns.

You’re sending articles instead of queries. You say you want to know more magazines to query, but then you go on to say you have already written seven articles and want to send them out. I very strongly recommend against sending finished articles to markets that are new for you. As you’re finding out, it almost never works. You just don’t know enough about that editor’s needs as a new freelancer to hit the home run needed to place an article cold. So send succinct, one-page queries.

You need to beef up your query skills. If you aren’t getting responses from your queries, read a book about how to write killer queries (there’s a couple in the Amazon toolbar at right). This post on WM Freelance Writers Connection about why editors aren’t responding to your queries may also help. Queries are really an art form unto themselves, and taking a little time to learn the craft can pay off big. For instance, I recently got $6,000 of articles assigned off a single query letter I sent. Really — it’s worth learning how to do this!

You’re only thinking big consumer mags. When you limit yourself to the big-circulation, known-name consumer mags, you’re only looking at a small part of the overall publication pie. There are trade publications, company magazines, union and professional organization magazines. Look at other types of publications. Often, building some good clips in another channel can help build your credibility for jumping to the major consumer mags.

You need a tighter niche focus. One way to keep yourself from going crazy is to pick one niche area and query publications in that niche only. I think this could help you. From your blog it appears that feminist issues are core to your being, so you might work the Mother Jones/Utne Reader/Ms/HipMama type vein. Develop a list of a dozen or more appropriate publications at various pay and circulation levels and try them. If that doesn’t work, try another niche. It’s just trial and error as you see where the publications universe will respond to you.

Finally, I have to disagree that it was easier back when there were only print pubs. I think now is the golden age for getting published! More magazines online mean more opportunities for freelance writers to break in. And many of those online mags are quickly acquiring solid credibility and provide great clips.

Anyone else have tips for Marina? Please leave them in the comments below.

Have a question you want answered about how to earn more from your writing? Tell us that, too. If it’s of general interest to readers, I will try to answer it here on the blog.

Join my freelance writer community: Freelance Writers Den


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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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