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Guest Post: Email Time Management Domination by Jessie Haynes

Jessie HaynesThis week’s theme is better time management for writers. I’ve invited productivity columnist Jessie Haynes to tell us how to kick email addiction. Since picking up email once…per minute…is a real problem for me, I was anxious to get these tips!

For more on the email problem, see this great blog by Trust Agents co-author and wildly dominant blogger Chris Brogan.

Organized, Productive Email Time Management Domination That Works…Now!

By Jessie Haynes

Email is the source of stress and sorrow, so many freelancers say. Try this step-by-step overhaul of your current email practices and see if you can’t ease those woes.

1. Organize your email by function – as you read top to bottom (and you cannot skip anything in this process because you read each email once and once only as you process) and either move it to a folder that corresponds to that function or archive or delete the message and make a note in your task manager / planner / to-do list.

Functions could include:

-waiting – all of the things that require another action / event before you can do something about them. Tip: write down just what you’re waiting for in some note because you should rely on your brain for very little beyond thinking of something once and remembering where your reminder is.

– read

– research

– share

– and you get the point! Remember that no function means no reason to have the email: to the trash.

Sort through those emails in your inbox by what you need to do with them. After you’ve done this once, you should have everything sorted for future function-processing. Having your needs fulfilled for later inbox processing brings us to the next step in email time management domination…

2. Half your current email checking frequency, at least. Schedule your “processing and doing” sessions. Tip: you can always process immediately after a “do” (like when you get new emails as you’re sorting through what you have already) but you can never go to “do” while processing.

I say to strive to check your email only once per 24-hour period, but this is terrifying to most freelance writers. Because of how much time most freelancers are spending swimming in their email, this seems like a logical allotment. Theoretically, anyone properly processing and doing their inbox functions could check their email as much as would allow them to complete their tasks. Regular, proper processing means you can find your own balance. My once per 24-hour period rule may or may not make you more effective: find out for yourself just what will work for you.

3. Deliver the right amount of energy per message. Spending too little effort in a response backfires like dominoes with an email train messier than that simile, and too much effort just wastes your time. Be conscious of how much effort you expend.

4. Divorce immediacy and think like a business owner. You are your CEO–and janitor as Carol likes to say–of your own business and you don’t scurry forth at the whims and beckons of others. Organize your tasks and get to them as you sort them–conquer fuction by function after you’ve had time to sort them. Work on your own decided urgency. A business owner’s time is valuable. It is also just that, the business owner’s time and not anyone else’s.

5. Find your best practices. Telling you exactly how I manage my email won’t really do much for you–mileage varies. Your own trial and error alongside attentiveness, observation and flexibility will help you discover your ideal email policy.

Please, leave feedback. If you want some advice on your email situation, leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as I can!

About the Author: Jessie Haynes owns JHaynesWriter, Web writing services for the organization and productivity niche. 

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21 Ways to Market Your Writing: The Social Media Edition

Tools to Market Your WritingEarlier this week, I discussed 11 ways to market your writing services. In this post, we’ll delve into 10 more marketing methods, this time using social media and the Internet.

1. Use LinkedIn. If you subscribe to one of the paid levels on LinkedIn,  you can send InMail messages to anybody you want. At the $25 level you can send three a month, at the $50 one, 10 a month. The people don’t have to be connected to you. You can just identify prospects and send them a pitch letter. Here’s the kicker: LinkedIn reports sending InMail has a 30 percent response rate. Apparently it’s just so new and novel that it gets you noticed. That’s right–for every 10 of these you send, three prospects will contact you. Killer!

Other ways I use LinkedIn: Look at the “Who’s viewed my profile” box and click on “More.” Sometimes you’ll get an exact name, and then you can send them a message. Great way to connect with prospects. LinkedIn is also a happening place for job ads–many of them are exclusive to the site. Just toggle the search bar to ‘jobs’ and put in your key words.

2. Publish articles on Biznik. Writing a strong, informational article on the networking site Biznik is a great way to attract attention and find clients. Each week, many members (including me) get a digest of the most highly read and rated articles of the week…great way to get your expertise in front of a large audience of business professionals.

3. Find contacts on Twitter. For those who haven’t discovered this 140-character wonderland yet, Twitter is like the Wild West of networking in that it’s wide open–tons of companies and publication editors are on there learning and meeting new people. You can do searches on key words (such as a publication name you’re targeting), find people, and follow them. They’ll often check you out and follow back. You can use their profile to learn more about them, lurk around and see what they’re into, build up your cred on the system with followers and insightful post, and then direct mail (DM) them a very short intro or pitch, or contact them on email. You can also attract prospects by tweeting about what you’d like to do, i.e. “Looking to connect with more business magazine editors.” Twitter is also an increasingly popular place to find job listings. I set up a list with a bunch of writing-job tweeters on my page, so I can see a realtime feed of them at a single click.

4. Use your blog. Your blog can be a place for you to slap up your daily musings, or it can be an amazing showcase for your best writing. Read great bloggers who discuss the art of this format–Problogger, Chris Brogan or Write to Done, for instance–to get a sense of how brilliant you need to be. Then write it, circulate it around in social media, and they will come. Leverage your blog to get better blog assignments from more highly trafficked sites, and clients will find you through reading your posts. Happening to me all the time these days.

5. Comment on other people’s blogs. Participate in popular blogs on your topic. Sign with your URL and mention your latest blog post to draw interested visitors to your site. Then…see #4. I just got a serious mentoring prospect from a single comment I left on the About.com site for freelance writers along with my site URL, for instance.

6. Email marketing. Build an email list from prospect nibbles you get and business cards you collect at networking events. Create an e-newsletter with business writing tips. Send information every couple of weeks or so to keep your name in front of prospects — maybe a tips article, or a piece of news you noticed that you think would benefit your potential clients. Be helpful.

7. Facebook fan pages. Got a blog? Set up a fan page for it. Even if you don’t, set up a fan page just for you as a writer. Hold contests, take polls, get people interested. A growing way to connect with prospects, particularly those looking for writers who understand social media.

8. Web video. Video is an exploding online marketing tool. Make a short video describing how you work with clients and put it on YouTube. It’s one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet. Need I say more?

9. Google local and Citysearch. A lot of writers aren’t aware of Google’s local feature that allows you to put your business on the little map that often appears at the top of keyword searches. Great way to jump to the top of natural search results. Likewise, Citysearch recently went back to allowing free listings. So go get yours. When I did mine, there was like a big one other writer on there for all of Seattle. Score!

10. Your neighborhood forum. If you’re looking for small business clients or local publications, check out local forums. I’m on one on BigTent for moms on the island where I live, and it’s an amazing resource for knowing what’s going on in my community…and a specialized, intimate setting to get out the word about my writing.

Are you finding clients through social media? If so, leave your success story below. If not, what questions do you have about how to go about it? Let me know–I’m happy to answer reader questions here on the MALW blog.

Photo source: Flickr user webtreats

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How to Move from Blogging to Writing for Publications

Move from blogging to magazine writing. Makealivingwriting.comBy Carol Tice

Today, I hit the mailbag to answer a question from WM reader Anna McDonald. Here’s her situation, and her question:

I live in a very wealthy area and have a blog on a women’s view of sports. Because of my connections in the community and the population that I live around I am getting some positive feedback.

My goal is really not to run a successful blog, I do not have the talent or time for such an endeavor.

However, I would like to be a freelance writer for periodicals. I am having a bit of difficulty figuring out how to begin this. I have contacted the local sports editor for the newspaper in town and they have said they are not interested in hiring right now. Do you have any suggestions for me? I strongly believe I have a very unique niche. My website is www.thegirlfriendsbatterseye.com.

As I see it, there are really two issues here: The first is that Anna has the impression that it takes more time and talent to write your own blog than it does to get published in print newspapers and magazines. I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

When you write your own blog, you can write about anything you want, at whatever length you want. You edit it, and you publish it if and when you like. That’s sure a timesaver!

Maybe Anna is saying she doesn’t have the promotional and marketing talent to draw traffic to the blog and make it earn, and certainly that’s a skill unto itself. But generally speaking, getting bylines in print publications is a great deal more challenging than writing for yourself, as you have an editor to please.

But on to the meat of Anna’s question: How to break into periodicals?

It appears that many parts of this challenge have been handled by Anna — she located a local newspaper editor, approached them, pitched them, and got a response. The catch is that the answer was no.

Your experience here is pretty common, Anna. A lot of the people I’ve mentored go through this process. They want to get published. They contact the local paper. They are rebuffed. Then, they give up.

Which is sad, because your local paper is just one of thousands and thousands of possible markets for your work. What you have to do next, Anna, is lather, rinse, repeat until you find a publication that’s interested in your sports column. (Still think your own blog takes more time?)

Having a column with a point of view can be a real moneymaker. If you can find a single place to publish it, you can then try to syndicate it nationally from there. Syndicated columnists can appear in dozens of publications in different cities, leveraging the same column each week to earn more from each paper.

Another possibility is to try other publication types besides a daily paper. What about a women’s magazine, a sports magazine, or an online magazine or e-zine in one of those niches? A natural way to build up to your goal might be to go from your own blog site, to having your blog appear on a larger sports-blog portal somewhere for perhaps a modest per-post fee, and then use that greater visibility to sell an editor on a newspaper or magazine column. Crack your Writer’s Market and start browsing for more places to pitch. Approach other online sports bloggers and see if you can guest post or become a regular blogger on their site for more exposure.

There are fewer columnist slots out there than there are places for reported stories–just take a look at your newspaper. Then take a look at the sportswriting in your newspaper’s sports section. In most papers, it’s some of the best writing in the whole paper–funny, snappy, literate, sharply observed. If you think you can play in that arena, write crackling-hot columns and keep sending them out to editors until you find one willing to take a chance on you.

For a success story in doing this type of move-up, I’d point you to Jenny Isenman–Jenny from the Blog–who has leveraged her hilarious parenting-in-suburbia blog, Suburban Jungle, into a range of paid blog, TV and print gigs.

Good luck!

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

21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services

Optimal Writers' Networking Machine

In my mentoring work, I often find myself introducing my mentees to a basic fact of life for freelance writers: If you want to earn more, you’re going to need to market your business aggressively. Answering Craigslist or Kijiji ads is unlikely to get you $1 a word or $100 an hour gigs. To find really good-paying work, you will have to prospect.

This often produces a reaction along the lines of, “I’m shy! I’m no good at networking.”

But there isn’t just one marketing strategy in the universe, there are many. So today I’d like to kick off a two-part post highlighting some of the multitude of ways to market yourself as a freelance writer. Today, it’s 11 different 3-D-world marketing approaches. Somewhere in here, there’s a strategy that would be a fit for who you are and the kind of writing work you want to find.

1. In-person networking. I know you don’t want to hear it. But in-person networking is not only very effective, it can actually be fun. Just think — you get out of your writing cave, have a drink and a nibble, and meet new people who could help you make more money. Unless you are catastrophically shy, I want you to try it.

Bring business cards. Walk around and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Overcome any shyness you have about plugging yourself by spending most of your time asking others why they came, what they do, and if appropriate what they’re looking for in a writer. If that description doesn’t fit you, try to recommend them someone. Networking is about learning others’ needs and helping each other succeed, not shoving yourself down other people’s throats. You don’t have to be pushy–be helpful. Personally, I have been to two in-person networking events and got great connections that led to wonderful paying clients both times.

Experiment with places to network–I’ve had good success with MediaBistro events here in Seattle, but your city may be different. I’m told the Linked:Seattle in-person events rock, too. Find your networking sweet spot and visit it as often as you can.

2. Direct mail. I’ve never tried this, but many of the top copywriters in this field develop a prospect list, and then audition by sending direct mail–makes sense, huh? One of them is Pete Savage-he sent one DM letter and got $64,000 of new business, and he sells a kit that describes how he did it. I don’t usually plug products, but if you’re interested in copywriting work, this may be worth a look. I can vouch for Pete–he’s the real deal. I can give you one tip I’ve gleaned from Pete’s newsletters–I gather he advocates including a bumpy novelty item in the envelope. Makes it irrestistible to receipient…apparently they feel compelled to open it to learn what’s making the bump.

3. Cold calling. That’s right–just pick up the phone, call a company you’d like to do copywriting for, and ask for the communications or marketing manager. Or call the editor of a publication you’d like to write for. Ask them if they use freelance writers. Be ready to pitch your ideas for stories to editors, or your copywriting services to companies. Many will say no, but persistence can really pay off here. Everyone who tries it reports they get new accounts, and that every 10 or 20 calls, they get a “yes.” Give yourself an edge and check out their existing Web site or other materials before you can call, so you can point out specific weaknesses in their current marketing and describe how the materials you’d create would bring address their needs and bring in new customers.

4. White papers. Create a white paper about the value of your copywriting service, demonstrating the benefits to companies that use you. Much like the direct mail strategy, this one’s especially great if you want to write white papers for companies. If you haven’t written white papers, you should learn about them because they’re the hottest sales tool in copywriting right now, and they pay very well.

5. Free or paid seminars. They can be in-person, over the Web, over the phone, you name it. But holding a class in a topic such as “How copywriting can help your business” can put you in touch with many good prospects in one fell swoop. Some like charging a little for the class as you screen out looky-loos and get more qualified, highly interested leads who are more likely to become clients.

6. Free downloads. Create a helpful article article with advice or tips on how to communicate your business’s value or some other related topic, which ultimately leads to a conclusion that hiring a professional writer will help your business. Put it on your Web site as a free download in exchange for which you capture their email address. Presto,  you’re building a great marketing list and exposing your name to prospective clients while presenting yourself as an expert. (OK, this tip involves a computer…but it’s not social media, so here it is in the 3-D list.)

7. Tshirts and car decals. That’s right, think of yourself like any bike shop or car wash would, and promote the fact that you’re a freelance writer everywhere you go!

8. Contests and polls. Hold a contest for the worst business Web site and give the winner free home-page content, or write their bio page, or whatever you want to offer. Or take a poll on the most important thing to say on a business Web site, and give the winner a free consultation. Entrants will, of course, have to submit their contact information, giving you an instant list of companies that need copywriters. This one doesn’t just get you prospects and a great before-and-after sample, you could tell the local papers and get written up, too.

9. Charity donations. Doesn’t your kids’ school have an annual auction? Donate an article for a business, or a free brochure. Great way to let the whole town know you’re a writer.

10. Put out a press release. Have you expanded into a new field? Hired a virtual assistant? Moved your office? Many local papers have business columns that publish these news tidbits, along with your photo in some cases. If not your local paper, try your Chamber newsletter (you belong, right?).

11. Partner or reciprocal deals. Do you know a business whose products or services you  use, who could use Web content? Make them a barter deal–you do their site over in exchange for free stuff, including a free plug on their home page that you wrote the content.

Tune in later this week for the final 10 marketing tips in 21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services: The Social Media Edition.

Photo source: Flickr user Richard-G

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Mailbag: How to Successfully Blog

How to Successfully BlogNow that we’re getting settled into our new home at Make a Living Writing, it’s time to open the mailbag and answer a reader question.

Maureen recently wrote me with this introduction and a question about blogging:

I worked for years in book publishing, [for] 2 literary agents, then finding books to adapt into screenplays and teleplays.  I had a health catastrophe which has been straightened out in the past two years, thank goodness.  Before that health crisis occurred, I had already decided that I wanted to be the writer.  So I am an apt pupil to anyone who is a good writer, and able to support him/herself through this.

I’m outlining a book which will be less of a memoir and more of a cautionary tale to other people who suffered the same health problem, and don’t feel I’ll have any problems with that.  Also, drafting two screenplays.

My question for you is how does one successfully blog?

I’ll take a stab at this even though I’m not entirely sure what Maureen means. If you’re asking how blog format is different from writing articles, I think it is distinctly different — more casual, shorter and ideally offering links to readers that allow them to read more on other sites if they’re interested.

Don’t know if you saw this post I did on whether blogging is for you – maybe useful in thinking about blogging success.

Or maybe you’re wondering how to physically get your own Web site where you can blog? There are lots of sites that can help you with that — just discovered this one recently, which is free:  Yola.

If you’re asking how you earn money by having a personal blog, I would recommend you check out Leo Babauta’s great free ebook on how he got 100,000 subscribers for his very lucrative blog, Zen Habits. Essentially there are only a few ways to make money off your blog — affiliate marketing, selling ad space for an up-front fee on your site, selling information products, and using the visibility to get other writing jobs.

For me, I feel like I am successfully blogging. I hope I’m a success in that I’m providing useful information to my community. As far as earning from it, I’m just launching my monetizing strategies. So I’ll have to see how it goes.

Also, what’s your definition of success — You have 100,000 subscribers? You make $100K a year with it? You get a major publishing-house book deal? You simply manage to post two blogs a week? You get a lot of comments? You get linked to a lot? You get to polish your writing and develop your style? You get article assignments from $1-a-word magazines?

Everyone defines success differently. Also, what’s your blog about? Different blog topics monetize in different ways.

I haven’t made a dime directly from my blog at this moment but consider it a huge success in building a community of writers who’re interested in earning more from their work. That has been my immediate goal, and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made on it.

It’s helped me get great-paying jobs blogging for companies. The exposure has been great, I’ve met wonderful new writing friends some of whom will help me promote my ebook in future, and it has helped me learn a lot about how to write impactfully in this new format.

It also led to the great opportunity I got recently to be a regular blogger for the WM Freelance Writing Connection, exposing me to a whole new audience.

I’m getting 300-400 visitors a day, or was before the move, which I’m very happy about for just starting this blog in ’09. I’m hoping to explore ways to earn from my blog that help my community and don’t annoy them…count on all of you to let me know how I’m doing.

Maureen — write back and let us know if you start a blog, and if so how it goes.

Readers — how do you define blogging success? And how is your quest for blogging success going? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think it takes to successfully blog.

Join my freelance writer community: Freelance Writers Den

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10 Negotiation Tips for Writers

Negotiate Your way to Better Writing JobsOne of the questions I get a lot is how to negotiate a good rate. Writers who’ve written for mills usually have no experience with the dynamic of working out a rate with a client.

You’ve seen a million job ads that insist you send a rate quote, even though you’ve been provided almost no details about the proposed project. Or you meet a prospect at a networking event and they ask you to send a bid on the white paper they want done, or on rewriting 10 pages of their Web site. How to respond?

Here are some of the negotiation strategies I’ve used:

1. Be vague. If you absolutely must submit a bid to be considered, give them a big range. As in “In the past year, I’ve done copywriting jobs ranging from $.30 to $1 a word. I look forward to learning more about your project so I can pinpoint an appropriate quote for you.” This way, if they’re a penny-a-word or $10 article type of client, you can screen them out fast and move on, but if they’re paying anything remotely appropriate, you can hopefully stay in the game long enough to learn more. Then you can decide if the pay rate makes it worth your while.

2. Ask, ‘What’s your budget?’ If at all possible, get the client to tell you what they can pay. Try to put the onus back on them to quote a price. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve discovered the figure they had in their heads was bigger than the one I had in my head. I asked a business-book agency this question recently, with the thought that I’d ask for $10,000. Their figure: a range of $17,000-$21,000. Let them speak first, and get paid more.

3. Defer quoting. Ideally, you’d like a prospective client to get to know you well before you put in a bid. So I resist blind bidding in response to online ads. When I respond to job ads that ask for a price quote, I usually indicate that I’ll need more information to develop a quote. This gives me a chance to show how thorough I am, while putting off quoting, hopefully until after I’ve had a more detailed conversation with the prospect.

4. Don’t lowball bid. Many online job solicitations and jobs on portals such as elance or odesk set up a competitive-bidding contest where the job will go to the lowest bidder. I personally don’t get involved in these, as when you win, you lose – you’ve gotten yourself a slave-wage gig. Though I’ve heard from people who say they’ve ended up with good-paying clients through these sites, I believe it’s a real long shot, and there are better ways to get good clients. In general, companies that would hire whoever bids lowest regardless of qualifications aren’t companies you want to work for.

5. Bid per-project instead of by the hour. This is always a better way to go for both sides. You know exactly what you’ll be paid, the client knows exactly what they’ll have to pay, and if you’re new and it takes you a bit longer to do the project, the client doesn’t suffer for it. Clients also seem more satisfied with per-project rates than when they’re thinking, “Sheesh, this guy is making $95 an hour!”

6. Bid by the word instead of by the hour. One quick, easy way to come up with a project bid is to simply add up the proposed wordcount and multiply. I usually bid somewhere between $.50 and $1 a word, depending on degree of difficulty and client size. As with a flat fee, this gives the client the reassurance of knowing exactly what their project will cost.

7. Consider all the hours involved. Remember that projects take a bit of time to get set up and rolling, especially with new clients – files need to be created, initial emails exchanged, contracts negotiated, meetings taken. You should bill every hour of this time, and figure those hours into any per-project bid you submit.

8. Know industry rates. Try to do some research to help you determine an appropriate rate. You should belong to some writers or copywriters forums online where you could describe your project and prospective client, and ask members to comment on your rate proposal. I’ve gotten really useful feedback this way.

9. Get details. I’ve developed a questionnaire at this point for clients to fill out to help define their project. One of the biggest problems in copywriting is that companies know they need some content…but they’re often very fuzzy on exactly how much, what form it should take, when they’ll need it by and other issues that can greatly affect my quote. I’ve had proposals for 400-word quick blogs turn into 700-word fully reported stories I’m ghostwriting rather than getting a byline on. Scope creep is a major problem in the writing world — so get it in writing so you can renegotiate for more if the client changes the project parameters.

10. Make a counter-proposal. There is no law that says you have to accept the first price a client throws out there. See How I got paid $300 a blog on The WM Freelance Writers Community for details on how to successfully bid up your contract during negotiations.

I’m proud to report that I took my own negotiating advice this week. I was approached out of the blue by a major company I’d actually had on my list of prime targets, to write articles for their site. I was excited…until I heard their rate, which was a lot lower than I was expecting. I told them I was surprised by their price, and could they do any better? They raised their flat fee $50 a piece immediately. I could easily end up writing 50 or more articles in a year for them if the relationship continues…if so, that’ll be $2,500 more I make just for asking the question.

Got any other negotiating tips? Feel free to share them with the group in the comments.

Photo source: andyrob

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