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A Great Source of Hidden Writing Gigs Revealed

Magazines are Often IntertwinedWhen writers think about pitching magazines, many tend to just think about well-known newsstand magazines. But there are a lot of hidden writing opportunities at magazines and other periodicals.

I first got exposed to this hidden world when I got an opportunity to write $1-a-word advertorials that went in a trade publication I was working for as a staff writer. It was news to me that I could write those, too! That became a nice little side income for several years.

Over the years, I’ve discovered many national magazines are merely the best-known flagship of a larger enterprise. Many publications sell annual guidebooks, subscriber-only bonus issues, or they put out books of lists that may need freelance articles.

Some magazines don’t just have the flagship pub — they have additional magazines that aren’t as well known. Entrepreneur, for example, also publishes a newsstand-only quarterly, Entrepreneur StartUps!. And the company also publishes business books. They buy online-exclusive articles and have a blog, too. I’ve written for all of those except the books arm, adding many thousands of dollars in revenue beyond what I would have earned if I’d just stuck to the main magazine.

Some publications have college editions that include special content for students. For instance, some years back, I wrote an article for a college edition of the Wall Street Journal. AARP has its magazine, but also a newsprint bulletin.

Regional magazines may be owned by a corporate parent that publishes similar magazines in other markets, to which your article might possibly be re-spun and resold for an additional fee. For instance, Tiger Oak, for whom I’ve written at Seattle Business (which led to writing for sister-pub Seattle Magazine), also publishes five bride magazines in different markets, and eight regionals in the meeting-and-events niche. Get in the door with one of those, and that could allow you to rework and re-source stories to quickly resell them to sister books that come out in other cities.

In this age of consolidation, many publications are part of a publishing family. Conde Nast, for instance, has about 30 magazine and online properties, and several trade publications as well. Once you’ve written for one book in a family, it’s often easier to get a warm referral to an editor at another.

After I wrote as a staffer for one trade pub that covered a niche in retailing, and later freelanced regularly for a sister pub in another retail niche. The editor there knew my name and the awards I’d won during my tenure, and was thrilled to have me write for them, too.

When you’ve scored an assignment from a publication, don’t sit back and think “I’ve arrived!” Instead, think of it as a starting point in your relationship with that organization.

Once you’re in, start looking around and see if you can discover other pieces to their little publishing kingdom. Ask your current editor about the organization’s other writing needs. You may discover lucrative new writing opportunities. You’ll have a leg-up on getting assignments, and usually, these more hidden parts of the beast get fewer pitches, upping your odds of success.

Know any other hidden writing markets? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to Make a Living Writing for more free tips on how to earn more from your writing.

Photo via Flickr user House of Sims

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Why Writers Need Contracts

Make A Freelance Writing ContractBy Carol Tice

Have you ever taken a freelance writing assignment based on an oral agreement? Somebody calls you up and says, “Write this! I’ll pay you this much!” And you get all excited and say “Great!”

This leads to messes such as the one below, which a writer recently asked me about. She’d recently written a lengthy marketing manual for a client.

I never signed anything with the client I did the manual for. Would it be legal for me to put a few pages of it on my author site? And what about selling the same manual basically to other clients?

Ah, the fun that begins when writers don’t sign contracts. This writer is now in a big legal gray area. The ownership of this manual is unclear.

The company might well slap a copyright notice on it and send it out to their employees and marketing agencies they’re working with. If they register it with the copyright office, they’ll be able to prove they own it. This writer could also do the same and possibly beat the company to the punch.

If it were me, I would feel free to put a few sample pages on my Web site. Legal mess aside, few companies in my experience would object to a writer using a sample of what they wrote for the business in their portfolio.

The stickier issue is reselling the material. While the writer might be able to resell this manual and could well get away with it, I personally wouldn’t do that without asking the company’s permission. That just rings my personal ethics alarm bell.

Get a reputation as a writer who plagiarizes off previous clients, and that is not going to help you get gigs. And with the Internet, it’s amazing how word can get around.

In general when you write for a company, you are most often writing work-for-hire. Translation: The company owns the work, forever. Generally, they pay very well for this privilege. They usually also ask you to sign a contract that says you won’t disclose any confidential matters they tell you about their company’s inner workings, and spelling out who will own the work. Though rights apparently weren’t discussed here, I’d bet the company imagines they own the work.

In this case, as I recall the pay was squat. And no contract. My take: This company screwed up and didn’t protect their rights to their own marketing manual.

The question is, do you want to take advantage of that? I’m betting the company never imagined the manual would be resold. Even though technically they didn’t preserve their exclusive rights to the manual, they could be upset to see it appear in another company’s hands.

They might not have a legal leg to stand on for stopping you, but do you really want a pissed-off former client? It’s not worth it to me to have that negative energy about me circulating in the universe.

My recommendation would be simply to ask their permission to recycle the content. They may not mind, especially if you sell it to companies that aren’t competitors. Maybe if you cited their manual as a source in the introduction, they’d be pleased and proud. Since they clearly don’t know a lot about copyright, you might be fine.

And of course, if you substantially rewrite it, a subsequent manual could be a new, original work. You’re always free to do that. Concepts are not copyrightable. I personally have taken articles I’ve rewritten and completely rewritten them into new articles with a new slant or approach for another market. That’s kosher.

Full disclosure: I am not an attorney. This blog post is based on my decades of experience as a working writer. Have questions on ownership of your work? Get legal advice.

But word to the wise — sign a contract! Know the basics of what belongs in a writer’s contract and protect your rights.

What advice would you give this writer? Leave a comment and let us know.

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

Photo via Flickr user Horia Varlan
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GUEST POST: 9 Time Management Tools for Freelance Writers by James Adams

Note from Carol: I am not necessarily the world’s most highly organized person. I have to admit I’m still tracking my jobs and payments in a Word document…works for me, but I’m sure there are better ways. (I use a Google calendar for my personal life…but somehow, my writing assignments just work for me in a list with deadlines. Weird.)

Turns out there are some great cheap and free time-management tools out there — and U.K. writer James Adams knows about them. Here he is with some tips on time-management programs! (And that’s his gravatar over there — conclude what you will.)

Yoda Dog Insists on Planning Your Freelance Writing ScheduleFreelancing can be compared to looking at the menu at a sushi bar — there is plenty of variety in which one may indulge. A freelancer lives each day working on many different projects at once and may find solace in proven techniques to effectively manage their time.

Everybody has a different habit of work that they follow, so it can be a great help to have access to a simple and free time management application. If you find yourself missing deadlines a few too many times, get yourself organized by using one of these top tools for time management. All of these tools are free or have free trials, and they all work cross-platform.

  1. Toggl ($5 – $79 per month):This tool allows you to manage your time, create reports with a single click and create numerous tasks. Signing up for this service is free, which allows up to five users on your account, or you can purchase a plan for something more user-friendly.
  2. Todoist (Free):This is completely free and is a simple tool to use. Use keyboard shortcuts, set your deadlines and see works that are either about to be overdue or currently are. It is a web based tool that can also be integrated directly into your Gmail account.
  3. Get Harvest ($12 – $90 per month):This is a sleek tool that offers style that integrates well for micro or small businesses. This tool tracks time and also comes with the ability to easily invoice clients, and you do not even need to deal with making the invoice itself. You can try its services for 30 days before having to purchase a plan.
  4. Google Calendar (Free): Sign into your Gmail account (signing up for one is free if you do not already have one) and use the free services of Google Calendar. Track everything you need to in a single place and allow clients to share in your set schedule. Reminders can be set and customized, and you can even have alerts sent to your desktop, email or by way of SMS – this is especially useful for folks on the go.
  5. Tickspot ($9 – $79 per month): Not only can you track your time, but you can also track your budget with this service. You may sign up for a free 30 day trial of this simple, easy to use interface, and later on upgrade to enjoy the rest of its service.
  6. Rescue Time ($6 – $15 per month): This tool is very helpful for those who are helplessly addicted to social media and similarly useless browsing. It does not technically manage your time so much as it tracks it, working in the background and graphing the way you spend your time on the Internet while you work. You can use the free version, but more features come to you with a purchased plan.
  7. Remember the Milk (Free): All cheesy names aside, you can sign onto this website for free to manage your tasks wherever you go, whether through your iPod Touch, iPhone, Blackberry, Gmail account or computer. This is definitely a capable rival for Todolist as it offers numerous outstanding features for easy organization.
  8. NowDoThis (Free): If you find yourself confused about all of the features in the previous mentions, this is the polar opposite. Click “edit” to make your list and keep clicking “done” when you are… well, done.
  9. Ta-da List (Free): Folks who have heard of Highrise and Basecamp may be pleased to know that the brains behind the two have created this tool. It works as a free online wall of post-it notes. Create your necessary tasks and simply check off the ones you have already done.

Working as a writer at an ink cartridges store in Manchester for the past 18 months, James Adams has written everything including product reviews, trend stories and news releases for their design blog.

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The Best Writing Job I Ever Turned Down

Saying no is okThis is the story of the greatest freelance writing gig I ever turned down. It happened just last week.

About a year ago, I met an editor at a MediaBistro networking event who develops online content for a very large software company. Based here in Seattle. Yeah, that one.

In shmoozing him up, I discovered that he was best friends from childhood with one of my past editors…an editor who’d loved my stuff. He also knew another beloved editor of mine as well. To sum up, he was my dream prospect!

He didn’t have anything immediately, so for once I did a really good job staying in touch and following up.

And last week, he finally called me with an assignment. He needed someone to write a half-dozen articles, one a month, over the next six months.

The catch: It was on a brand-new version of one of their software programs. Hmmm…I’m not much of an early adopter, so I wasn’t using this new program yet. Small, dim alarm bells began to chime in the back of my head. But I was so psyched to work with this client!

We investigated a little more, and discovered the program doesn’t run on Macs, which is what I use. I’d have to buy a computer to do the gig!

My husband was in favor of buying the new computer and taking the gig. But he’s always in favor of buying new toys.

At this point, the alarm bells were louder. In reality, the assignment would be for me to buy and break in a whole new computer AND software, and quickly become an expert in using it so I could write about it. I don’t ordinarily write a whole lot about tech.

I was starting to get the ugly, real picture. I wasn’t actually a fit for this gig.

If I took it, I’d stand a decent chance of sucking at it. And that is the one thing I don’t ever want to see happen. The last thing I need is to disappoint a client at a major corporation.

So I passed.

My hope is another assignment may come along from this client that’s a better fit for my background, which is mostly writing about a range of other business topics. Maybe I’m nuts and should have bought the computer and given it a whirl. But my feeling was the huge ramp time that would be involved to essentially acquire a whole new expertise area probably would have meant I earned less net in the end, as I’d have less time for other clients.

I’d also run the risk of alienating an editor and never getting any future assignments from him.

The whole experience was a reminder to me that writers need to not jump at every offer that comes down the pike, no matter how great they may sound at first. Ask yourself, “Is this assignment really me?” I try to stay with assignments where I can answer that with an enthusiastic “yes.”

Ever turn down a major gig? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it.

Photo via Flickr user roland

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Finding sources — fast

The Source Sleuth

By Carol Tice

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for new writers is locating really great sources for stories on deadline. I recently had one of my mentees say she was doubtful she could finish a story she’s started this month, because she was having so much trouble finding sources! I think I solved her problem that day.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to develop skills for quickly locating the sources you need. Unless you need a one-armed Burundian camel-driver or something else really out there, you should feel confident that you can find what you need.

I find these days you can often use social media to find sources, even pretty arcane ones. I tweeted a few months back that I needed a small business owner who had applied but been turned down for a particular new type of loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. I got a response within 24 hours, and had a great source.

Aside from asking around within your own networks, tweeting, or doing a good ol’ Google search, the two main Internet tools for searching that I use are ProfNet and HARO, or Help a Reporter Out. I’ll often do an Expert Search on ProfNet to see if I can just turn up a source immediately. If not, I’ll put out a HARO query. One HARO tip — be specific about what you need, or you’ll be inundated with responses!

The most important thing about finding sources is to just be unstoppable. Don’t give up until you have the person you need!

Recently, I had a source-finding crisis. I was on a one-week deadline for a story relating to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. I needed to find a small business that had been affected, and had done some disaster planning. I pitched the story in part because one of my expert sources for the story had assured me they had plenty of possible small business owners I could talk to. “You are going to have a GREAT source!” puffed their PR woman.

I did some looking on my own, but I wasn’t too aggressive because this source had been so confident they could refer me. Well, you guessed it, they kept stalling and stalling about handing over their source names. Finally, 24 hours before my deadline, I was emailed their contact names, and whaddaya know, none of them were workable.

So I took a deep breath, and started all over reporting the story. I had a pretty substantial article fee on the line, so I was going to find the source I needed! I started from scratch and thought about resources I hadn’t called yet. Thought about industries likely to have good stories about the impact of the spill on their business. Tried the Louisiana tourism board, they sent me to one local chamber, and in about an hour, I was on the phone with a resort business that had a great story.

It was noon. It took me half a day flat to solve this source problem.

This exercise reminded me of a truism in writing — the work expands to fill all the available time. If there isn’t much time and you’re really motivated, it’s amazing what you can get done. I try to remember this when I have longer deadlines, and still try to not let the work expand to take up more time than it should!

Have any creative source-finding methods I haven’t mentioned that are working for you? Feel free to share them below.

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

Photo via Flickr user Tony the Misfit

4 Tech Tools For Higher Writing Income

4 Tech Tools For Higher Writing Income. Makealivingwriting.comI recently did my half-year analysis of my writing business. Earnings are looking good for ’10, and one reason is that over the past year or so, I have acquired some new technical skills. Those skills, combined with my writing portfolio, have led to some great-paying online writing opportunities. I think this knowledge really made the difference in getting me fully booked with lucrative writing jobs.

Now, those of you who are longtime readers of my blog know that I am not a naturally tech-inclined person. Tech malfunctions make me cry. I pay a Webmaster to create my Web sites.

So believe me when I say that all of these tech tools are easy to use. I didn’t spend more than 10 minutes or so learning to use any one of them.

In this Internet age, having some technical ability is a great way to set yourself apart as a writer. It’s a value-add — something you can offer clients that saves them money on the back end, so it supports your earning a higher rate.

Here’s a look at the tech tools I think writers should be getting to know if they want to position themselves for higher earnings. Right now, I’m finding companies are fairly open to training people up a little on these, if you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the tools already. A year or two from now, I think knowledge of these tools may well be required to get many better-paying online writing gigs.

1. Basic HTML coding. If you don’t know how to code a link (that’s <a href=http://www.yourwebsite.com> words you want to enliven </a> except without the spaces), well, that’s how you do it right there. Know how to code to bold, underline and italicize words. That’s about all I’ve needed to know, but you can learn more about html at the handy free site W3Schools. In many platforms you don’t need to know HTML anymore, but it’s useful for adding links in blog comments, so great for those who are pitching writing packaged with social media marketing.

2. A blog program. I was thrown into this arena on Movable Type, which is pretty clunky, but have since learned Blogger, WordPress and most recently Joomla. Blogging programs are very easy and intuitive to use, and all the popular programs are quite similar to each other, so learn one, and you pretty much get the drift. I acquired this skill just in time to use it on my major gig blogging for BNET (part of CBS!). I’m not sure I could have gotten the tryout there if I hadn’t been able to say, “Yeah, I’ve used WordPress before.” I’d used it for about two weeks, and still didn’t know a lot of the features…but they didn’t need to know that. Blogging basics you need include how to enliven links, schedule posts, and add photos.

3. How to add free photos to blogs. In June, I signed a big ghost-blogging and Web content client who hired me an hour after I sent my resume, and deposited a $300 up-front payment directly into my bank account before the end of the day. Why? I was able to solve a big problem he had — this marketing-agency owner was way behind in blogs for his clients. When I told him I could write posts directly on his clients’ Joomla blogs and have them ready to post, complete with photos, he was sold. He’s paying me $100 a blog, a rate he let me know he had not paid previously. The technical skill made the difference and supported my rate. I know I should know how to add videos too, but so far that has kind of eluded me…still working on it.

There are several sites where you can get free photos to use — I like Flickr Creative Commons, which I’ve used for this post you’re reading right now. It’s easy to add them to a post two ways: either right-click on “Save image to the desktop” or “Copy image address.” Then click whatever the ‘add media’ icon is in the blog program and fill out the little menu to select and download the .jpg file off your desktop, or put the image URL directly into the address line. Ta-da! An illustration to enliven your post.

4. Virtual team software. Right now, I get my BNET blog ideas approved in a virtual newsroom on Campfire, where we all crack wise, support each others’ efforts, and stay off email for all our BNET doings. I also work in a virtual team for that ghost-blogging client above on Basecamp, posting and updating files and getting information about my projects. These virtual-team platforms are so easy it doesn’t take five minutes to learn how to use them. They’re only a half-step above the Yahoo! Groups or BigTent forums you may be using in your personal life. If a prospect asks if you know about them, just nod your head.

What tech tools are you using to earn more with your writing? Have I left any good ones out? Leave a comment and let me know.

 

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