Posts Tagged ‘freelance writing’
Tom Ewer is enjoying his well-deserved popularity as he runs the popular and authoritative blog Leaving Work Behind where he writes about quitting your job and building a career that’s right for you.
While his posts aim to help you realize your goals of quitting your job and running a successful online business, he focuses a lot on freelance writing/blogging which makes it very relevant for writers.
But another thing that makes Tom’s posts relatable is that he is not so far gone in his freelance income that he’s doing $500/hour copywriting gigs or $1/word magazine writing jobs.
Yes, he could accomplish that if he wanted to but with his current schedule he has the time to work on other projects. And flexibility is one of the best things about working for yourself.
He encourages you to take well-paying, respectable jobs but he knows that if you’re just starting out, you might not want to pass up on $30/piece blogging gigs, especially if it is from a growing, respectable company.
He started taking gigs on the side before he left his full-time job.
He’s all for passive income, but he suggests you improve your writing, and start making money through it because passive income streams take a lot of time and effort to develop.
Tom also offers useful additions to topics when you think you’ve heard it all before.
Below are 3 of my favorite posts:
This is primarily a video post, and I’m usually more into reading than watching or listening. But he makes great points on how to pick the best jobs on job boards by actually following all the links, looking at and analyzing the employer’s site and giving you the pros and cons, including educated guesses on what the pay might be.
This is by far the most comprehensive and useful post I’ve encountered about job boards.
This post isn’t just for freelance writers. It points out how internet marketers/online business owners shouldn’t disregard the power and potential of blogging. Even if they don’t get paid for it, writing good web copy plays a crucial part in making money online.
But if you could, why not get paid for it?
This is a great guide that covers how/where you should go about looking, how you should apply (including the template of his application) and how to handle the project once you land it.
Tom Ewer’s Leaving Work Behind is informative, easy to relate to and fun. Established writers are following him too, so I suggest you take a look if you haven’t already.
“Write what you know” is one of the most overly-used advice in writing. It’s such a cliche that you feel like people should stop writing about it already. So why the hell am I doing it?
Because it is a very useful cliche. It works, people take advantage of it and that’s why it has turned into a cliche in the first place. And it has definitely worked for me:
- My first two writing assignments were travel articles on 2 cities I knew well.
- The next one was a 5-piece article series on business management. I have a BA in Business.
- I wrote articles on social media based on everything I had learned blogging.
- I wrote several articles on Freelance Switch, closely related to freelancing.
- My article on writing while holding a part-time job (I loved) got published on Make a Living Writing.
- A city inspired an entire story, while a PR lecture inspired the premise for a novel.
The list goes on.
As obvious as it is, sometimes we underestimate what we know, or we fail to pitch our knowledge in the most intriguing way.
Brainstorming about things you know is a great exercise for finding ideas but sometimes we can make things a little too broad or narrow. And sometimes we focus on our degrees and researches so much that we forget that what we know also includes our failures, what we have experienced, what others have experienced, what we have seen and so on.
Make a list of areas you’d like to write about. Make a list of what you know, in the broadest sense. Then keep brainstorming, developing ideas, pitching and writing.
I am not saying you should only write what you know. I’m just telling you not to underestimate what you know. It can be a great starting point, whether you are just starting out or just feeling blocked.
It’s not a coincidence that the ultimate bestseller of legal thrillers is John Grisham, who holds a law degree. It’s also not a coincidence that he has gone on to write dramas revolving around baseball since he plays and coaches.
Go ahead. Make your list. You might be surprised about everything you’ve overlooked.
Normal? What do you mean normal?
“There are two types of people: those who think they are normal, and those who know there’s no such thing.”
I love this quote, and recently I heard it again from Jeff Daniels’ character in the series Newsroom. I couldn’t get into the show, but I’m happy it reminded me of the quote.
I hate the term normal, because it is relative, invented by societies and cultures, and tons of people just kept trying to match up to it, without even questioning it. And the lot that questions it often gives up without trying enough, or believing that they can change anything.
The most common “normal” seems to be having a good job in a respectable corporation, climbing up the ladder while paying off a mortgage, having 2 kids and making a marriage work. Of course as time passes by, people work more and more, see those kids less, expect more from them (since they will face even a harsher competition for the best corporate jobs), have less fun and the vicious cycle continues. They do treat themselves to expensive stuff and some luxury holidays if they can afford it, without ever being able to appreciate it.
Bleak, right? I never wanted a corporate job. I never wanted a full-time job. I never believed marriage or having kids is a must. You want to get married? Fine. You want to have kids? Fine. But there is nothing wrong with doing things the way you want to.
And because I don’t want these things, I have been considered to be different/quirky/strange/eccentric by my friends and most of my family. They always believed that it is a temporary phase, just like I was expected to stop caring about the music that plays in the background. To get a stable job. To have a panicking biological clock because I’m past 25. What the hell?
I don’t fit in, because I have different dreams and plans. I aim to make it big as a writer, and even if I don’t, I’ll keep working as a writer. I’ll continue freelancing, writing those novels and screenplays, traveling and having the time of my life doing these. Of course this can be a lonely road since people around you either think you are crazy, or appreciate your guts and wish they could join you, but they won’t. It’s safer to stick to “normal” and “expected.”
So you do feel the need to read/meet people who feel the same way about things. People who do their own thing, and lead the life they want to lead. Johnny B. Truant is one of them.
I first came across his writing while reading Copyblogger where he guest-posts, but frankly, I could never really relate until I read his “Why Your Blog Is Going Nowhere (and the Truth about Getting Traffic).” on Jon Morrow’s boostblogtraffic.
Now don’t think that it is going to be the same old post. Just because everybody has discovered the draw of the “how-not-to-succeed/what-you-are-doing-wrong” sort of posts, don’t think his going to be similar. For one, he is blunt and uncensored. He also gives a lot of tough love, taking into consideration that it might just not be applying the wrong strategy, but you might also suck as a writer. Ouch.
But he does give advice that will work (if you apply them) whatever your problems might be. Now, I never let a good post go to waste-meaning I don’t just read and forget about it. I check the links, and see if the author is taking his own advice. I also read the posts the links take me to, because I always end up finding valuable resources and ideas for my writing. There’s also the benefit of reading more, which in turn makes you a more informed, varied and prolific writer.
So I did read the blog post he linked to, the one about how he wrote and published a novel on Kindle in 29 days, and the uncensored one (the other one he linked to,) and I decided, again, that he knew what he was talking about, and that I liked how he was talking about it. So I downloaded his free e-book How To Be Legendary.
HOW TO BE LEGENDARY – Review and Quotes
His analogies about Matrix got to be the second thing I liked about the series, the first one being Keanu Reeves. I might be alone in this, but I wasn’t remotely into the world where Neo wasn’t a slave to- it was just as bleak and lifeless and full of weird characters as the first one he didn’t feel he belonged to.
But the enslaving world in the analogy is the “normal” life as we are expected to live, and the liberating path is the one we choose for ourselves. It might end up being “normal” but it is important that we chose it willingly, and will be happy that we chose it to the last second we have on earth.
It is honest, fun and in-your-face.
“You’ll get old and then you’ll die, so there’s no point in hedging your biggest bets. It’s truly now or never.”
Not only doesn’t he book reinvent the wheel, but he openly admits to it. He admits his own procrastination and the period where he did things for the wrong reasons, and how he made them right.
You aren’t probably going to get any epiphanies reading the book, but it is a great motivator if you are struggling to put in the work for what you want to do, or presenting that work to the outside world. It will also remind you of how legendary people actually got to be legendary, and that not everyone will put in the work they need to.
So the book is helpful, though not everyone might feel that way. It helps, and will help, only if you are ready to get going. Like I completed this post in the midst of a major cold I’m fighting off. And yeah, it is nice to feel on track instead of feeling depressed over the obstacles/excuses (aka the lack of energy/lack of time/lack of inspiration…)
“The ‘I don’t have time’ excuse is the lamest excuse to ever exist. It makes me angry, because it is so fragrantly bullshit.”
Pay extra attention to what he says about trying to make things perfect. You can find the book here.
How Mads Mikkelsen and Gerard Butler Can Motivate Writers Like Hell: The Ultimate Gerard Butler and Mads Mikkelsen Guide to Freelance Success
What can two popular actors possibly have to do with us writers, our careers and motivation levels? First let’s take a look at who and where they are:
Mads Mikkelsen played the James Bond villain in Casino Royale, won Best Actor at Cannes this year, and he’ll also be starring as Hannibal Lecter. Yep, the very one played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Oh, and did I mention he’s Danish?
Gerard Butler is probably the one you are more familiar with. After all he’s that actor who shouted “This is Sparta” before kicking a cocky Persian right into the bottom of an endless well in the movie 300. He’s known for his dedication to his parts (that Spartan body was really his!), diversity (the guy played the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera), and ability to tackle accents. Why else directors would cast him as American or Irish instead of hiring equally or more popular American or Irish actors?
But whether you like them or their movies isn’t the point. The point is what they accomplished, how they accomplished it and what you can learn from it.
Writers are prone to depression, lack of motivation, bouts of self-doubt, fear of ruts and writer blocks. They also worry about their age, nationality, talent, the competition, rejection, income…and that’s why I like to look at Mikkelsen and Butler when I experience any of those.
1 ) Nationality:
Mads Mikkelsen is from Denmark. Gerard Butler is Scottish. None of them grew up in L.A. Now, if they can make it to Hollywood, you should definitely not be discouraged about your nationality when it comes to your writing.
While your location or citizenship can prevent you from submitting to some magazines (for instance some Canadian publications only work with Canadian writers, or some contests require you to be a legal resident of the country the publication is based in), there are tons of other contests and markets that don’t really care about where you are from. They just want good work.
Butler was 25 when he decided to really pursue acting, instead of just wanting it. He was 28 in his first onscreen appearance.
Mikkelsen studied acting, but his first onscreen appearance was in 1996, in a short film. He was 31.
Granted, late 20s and early 30s can seem very young, or young enough, depending on how old you are (or how you look at things), but remember that they didn’t start a writing career-they started an acting career, from other countries and competed against people who had been building industry connections since they were pre-teens, whose family members were in the business and so on.
Your queries and manuscripts don’t give a damn about your age. Neither do your editors.
Even if you are trying to write for a magazine whose target audience is way older or younger than you are, it is still all about getting the tone of the publication, understanding what the editors need and coming up with an attractive idea.
Your age doesn’t matter. Not that this is an excuse to delay your career efforts for decades. Make your move now-just don’t obsess over your birth date.
3) Industry connections
Like I mentioned above, Butler and Mikkelsen weren’t born into Hollywood families. I’m not saying the good actors who knew the right people don’t deserve to be where they are. But let’s face it: all things equal, the guy who knows people will be one step ahead of you. He doesn’t even need to be getting favors-he’ll know how things work, he’ll know who to talk to. More studios will know his name. And there is a big chance he has started before you. More experience, better CV and all that.
Imagine you started your writing career without knowing much, if anything, about writing queries, markets, genres, networking….Most of us did. We had to familiarize with ourselves with the process, jargon and fight against people who thought we were dreamers…
The point is that it can be done, whether you initially know someone or not. But once you get started, you have to start building that network of yours. Gerard’s first connection came from a theater backstage gig he got after deciding not to be a lawyer.
Not all dancers win Best Actor at Cannes, nor do they get to play Bond villains. And I’m not sure there are many Danish dancers, if any, that got worldwide critical acclaim for their acting, leading and supporting roles in many different countries (not just Denmark, or the States.)
Butler has a law degree from Glasgow University. He just hated his job the moment he started working as an intern.
This is not to say their careers didn’t benefit from those backgrounds. Mikkelsen always has a certain amount of grace he carries around him, and he is not camera shy when it comes to interviews.
Butler always seems like he is chatting with his best friends and having the time of his life during interviews. And the fact that he knew a bit about persuasion and body language didn’t exactly work against him. And hey, knowing what contracts are about can’t have hurt either. Oh, and one of the reasons he was chosen to play the phantom in The Phantom of the Opera was that he had a rock’n’roll voice? Complements of singing in a rock band.
Whatever your day job is/was, there is always something you can use about it to come up with ideas, build relationships, form an audience, etc. You may want to check out Carol Tice’s “How My Crappy Day Jobs Made Me a High-Earning Freelancer” post on Freelance Switch for tips.
Of course your day job doesn’t have to be crappy to help you. John Grisham is a lawyer, in addition to being one of the most famous bestselling authors, who comes up with brilliant legal thrillers and dramas. Needless to say, he doesn’t ever have to worry about using the correct words, seeming off with his descriptions or doing that much research. He also created his first book, second bestseller, A Time to Kill, based on a real life court case he witnessed. A bestseller that went on to become a movie starring A-List actors.
Not that my success is anywhere near his, but I did get published on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing with my article “One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career”,detailing how my part-time job (one that I still have) helped my writing career in so many ways. Just thought this example might be a tad more relatable than John’s.
5) Persistence, dedication, hard work
If there is any other job that comes with the risk of rejection at least as much as writing, it has to be acting. It’s audition after audition, trying to persuade the director and/or the casting people or the starring actor that you are the best person for the job. It is not easy to pick up your courage and motivation after hearing no, but you do it anyway because the award awaiting for you will make you so much happier than the rejection made you miserable.
Butler’s director in the movie One More Kiss Vadim Jean was quoted to say that he never knew anyone that worked so hard to make his career happen.
That’s the attitude that got him where he is today: sought-after, successful and easy to work with. You are easy and fun to work with if you really want to be where you are, and put in the work where you are. And editors, as well as other clients, love easy and fun to work with.
P.S. John Grisham could only get A Time to Kill published after he finished and found a publisher for The Firm. A Time to Kill wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t put himself out there again and fight back with another manuscript.
6) Going from fighting for gigs to gigs being offered to you
Gerard Butler played Attila The Hun in the mini-series Attila in 2001. The producers originally wanted someone more famous. And maybe someone with less of a Scottish accent. But they couldn’t find someone they liked better than Butler, and he showed them he could change his accent. 2001 was way before 300, The Phantom of The Opera or P.S. I love You. Before nobody really knew who he was.
People joke that any Danish director casts Mikkelsen whenever they want to secure box office success or awards or both.
More familiar names are not always the best choice. More established writers may not always provide the better ideas.
7) Room for self-improvement, fun and other important things in your life
Mads Mikkelsen speaks Swedish because he lived in Sweden for a while and they couldn’t understand his Danish so he learned Swedish. He speaks German because a German director wanted him as the German lead. He speaks French and Russian because he played Igor Stravinsky in the French film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. He is obviously fluent in English, having had roles in American movies and constantly giving interviews. And his favorite method for learning languages? Watching movies.
He is also married and raising 2 kids with his wife.
You were saying you couldn’t find the time for…what?
So you are working hard. It doesn’t mean you can’t take time for hobbies, learning, family and friends. Living a full life will make you happier, more full of ideas and more equipped.
8) Proving talents in more areas than one.
Mikkelsen has done drama, romantic drama, period movie, comedy, action, adventure and fantasy, horror, romantic comedy…
Butler has done musical, action, adventure, thriller, horror, drama, romance, romantic comedy, fantasy…
You don’t have to choose between business writing and article writing. Between fiction and non-fiction. You don’t have to pick topic to write about. Go out there, show your best work and keep trying until you get the gigs that make you happy. I don’t know about you, but variety makes me happy.
9) International success
Well, you all have a pretty good idea what these two actors accomplished so far. Why not set your sights on writing for the most established magazines worldwide, writing a best-selling book or being sought-after by well-paying clients worldwide?
You know what it takes. You know it is all about how much (and well) you work, improve and motivate yourself. And you know it doesn’t mean you are not going to have time for other things. In fact, it is all about benefiting from all areas of your life, even things that initially seem like obstacles or motivation-busters so you need to live a life outside of your office too.
So go ahead. Work. Live. Have fun. Make it happen. Gerard Butler and Mads Mikkelsen made it happen, and they are only few examples in a very, very long list. Why shouldn’t you?
And don’t worry, I’m a big fan of practicing what I preach. I’m taking my own advice as I keep pitching to publications, running various blogs, having a busy social life and working on my fiction.
There are many ways of running a successful blog, and you’ll see that a lot of successful bloggers have followed (and/or broken) a different set of rules to get to where they are now. Sometimes breaking the rules will work in your favor. Sometimes they will stall your progress.
But as long as you don’t break the rules in the name of procrastination, being a sinner might just work in your favor.
So today I’m sharing my blogging sins, and my reasons for committing them:
1) I don’t post frequently as I should/want.
As a writer, I’ll be the first to admit that despite my best intentions, I don’t always write as often as I should, or as often as I’d like.
In addition to life getting in the way (and by life I mean getting sick, approaching deadlines and the ultimate enemies-procrastination and depression. Come on, who doesn’t get writer’s blues? And, no, you are not allowed to say Stephen King. :))
Then there’s the other writing I like/have to do. Fiction and non-fiction. Posts for me and other publications.
And while writing is one of the things I should be doing, as researching/marketing/blogging/finding inspiration in different places are also vital parts of freelancing description, I don’t write as much as I should. And without writing, you don’t have something to pitch, market or edit.
Oh, and there isn’t only writing fiction or non-fiction, and with non-fiction, there are several blogs of mine as well as markets to pitch.
Now, while I love my blog and I’d publish once a day in every one of them in an ideal world (where the days last at least 48 hours), sometimes I get lost in a blogger’s other important tasks, or writing other things.
Do these sound like invalid excuses? Maybe you are right. But guess what I did right after the pain from my severe ear infection – I wrote 3,000 on the novel I’m working on, wrote and published Resources for Writers & Bloggers:Travel Blogger Academy Review, researched markets, organized bookmarks and my home office and…well, did this post of course. I might be a sinner, but I do work hard to compensate for the sins.
2) I don’t post on a constant schedule.
Sometimes I post twice a week, sometimes twice a month. Partly because of the sin covered above, but mostly because I like to write things that not everybody else is already writing. I don’t want to read another post about how to optimize your blog for the search engines. Yes, we need that post, but there are a million of them out there. You don’t need to read them here as well.
And yes, there have been other posts on the deadly sins of blogging- but these are my personal sins, and their reasons and why they don’t have to be deadly.
I also don’t want to write about killer headlines. Not because I am not fond of the topic, but so many people have done that, and they have done it well. You might want to check out Headline Hacks, where you only need to give your email address to download Jon Morrow’s free report (52 Headline Hacks) for instance.
3) I don’t treat a current topic as timely- because ultimately, even the current topics I’m interested in tend to be evergreen.
I saw Bryan Adams live in August this year, and I’m yet to post my review/experience post in the music category of my entertainment site. Partly because of sins number 1, partly because…well, a Bryan Adams concert isn’t something that’ll go out of fashion. I was a fan 12 years ago, and I still am. So the important thing is to find the current element in the post, highlight what matters and publish the post in its relativity.
After all, I have a couple of more slants I have up in my sleeve. For instance, why concerts are a great way of staying fit (for my unconventional beauty and fitness blog), why I tend to get over the worst colds at concerts (motivational post)- oh and then there’s the musical aspect – the testament to how Bryan’s rocking skills are “aging like wine.” So you see, maybe I missed out on my “Sarsborg” or Norway audience (not that I am saying I had audience there.)
So maybe it is not that sinful to commit this delaying sin, depending on which angles you are taking and why.
4) I don’t comment frequently enough on other blogs.
In the world of blogging, some marketing tactics don’t always remain valid. Some do remain valid, but lose its level of impact. And some are too valuable to be dismissed as a marketing tactic.
To me, blog commenting falls into that “too valuable” category. I genuinely like commenting on other blogs, and I enjoy it when people comment on mine. Of course when I say commenting, I mean actual commenting- comments that say something personal, meaningful and related to the post.
So I don’t think it is a great idea to try and comment on every related post, regardless of where they are posted. Because let’s face it: forcing yourself to leave 20 distinctive and worthy comments are going to come out as just that: forced.
I comment when I want to say something others haven’t mentioned, or I want to share my own personal experience. Or I just have to say that post made me laugh/cry/think/feel inspired and why.
Then there is also the commenter’s block. It just exists for me. I don’t feel like commenting, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the post. So I either save and come back, or have a reading marathon when I’m in the commenting/researching mindset. This saves time, and makes commenting a natural act, and not a promotional tactic.
Oh, and then there are these powerful blogs who have disabled comments for their own reasons. Now, they definitely want us to commit this sin.
I like reading comments where my readers have shared what’s on their minds while having fun doing it. That’s what I like to do when I’m commenting.
Chores are boring. Promotion might feel forced. Instinct and passion, on the other hand, make for better comments, don’t you think?
5) I write for my audience- even when the audience is me.
As wonderful as it is to be read, and as valuable as it is to write for your readers (and write what they want/need), I can’t write a post I have absolutely no interest in writing, even if my readers were dying to get it.
Some bloggers will definitely disapprove of me saying this, but for me, blogging is an amazing form of expression- and as a writer, the freedom to express comes first. I love being read, and it is an awesome feeling when somebody reads, and hopefully resonates with, your work. But in order to be read, you need to write. But I can’t write something I don’t want to read.
Yes, I love having readers. Yes, one day I’d love to have thousands, millions of daily readers. But I want those readers to come because they identify with what I write. I can’t do that if I am not happy with my topics.
Yes, I write for my audience. But guess what? Before anyone else sees your writing, you still get to read, proofread and edit your writing. You’re the first set of eyes to see the work, and if you are not happy, you won’t want to pass it along.
Audience comes first. But don’t ignore the needs of your first ever reader.
6) I write more than I market. Or pitch.
This is a sin I’m not proud of. But it is a sin I find very hard to stay away from, because as you can see from the name of the blog, I’m addicted to writing- first and foremost. This of course can harm future earnings, or delay how much you are going to make. It might also stall your career. But I try to use this to my advantage.
Because guess what? As much as I often drown in ideas and have a hard time keeping up with them despite my best efforts, sometimes even I get writer’s block. It doesn’t mean I don’t write anything for days or weeks. I wouldn’t have managed that even if I tried.
But I know it goes against my nature to stop a writing flow to market or do anything else. So I let myself write until I drop, or the ideas stop exciting and/or entertaining me. Then I move on to other tasks. Then I organize, plan, market and do all other things on my to-do list- until inspiration comes flooding again.
Is this the most effective way of marketing? Absolutely not. Can/Should it be improved? Hell, yes. But does it result in a happy writer who doesn’t get depressed over lack of inspiration, eager to learn more about self-promotion and improve her marketing skills? Certainly.
It is a big sin. But it is not a deadly one as long as you have a counter-attack plan.
7) I have many niches.
I can’t be a generalist, and I don’t want to be a generalist. Meaning I don’t want to write about anything. However I also can’t be a specialist in one area and keep writing in only one area. I’ve published 545 posts on my entertainment blog at time of writing this article, and over 400 of them are on movies. And despite my obvious passion for movies, I have also written novel/book reviews, album and concert reviews and so on. I am passionate about music and reading too.
And while I’d have probably have come a longer way in any one area, but it is impossible for me to work that way. I’m passionate about a lot of topics, and I love writing about a lot of different topics. I have either the experience, enthusiasm or both to justify this need and want of mine.
I also realized that writing in a lot of different areas is a great way to prevent writer’s block, or at least a chance to move to another topic when one road gets blocked.
So here’s the thing. If I wanted to write about one thing alone, I’d have gotten a desk job. It may not be so for everyone, but diversity is a part of my definition of freelancing.
Verdict: A Sinner With A Cause
So there you go. I’ve just shared my 7 sins. I’m proud of some of them, seldom ashamed of a few and determined to improve on the shortcomings. But I like knowing what I do and why I do them.
While I make some mistakes along the way, I tend to come up with more ways to compensate for them. Committing some sins are also a nice way to learn what works, what doesn’t and how to get where you want to get to faster, without compromising your personality and passions.
What about you, fellow bloggers? Should you been forgiven? Have you sinned? : )
6 Reasons Why You Should Write About What You Love &
(Why I Don’t Work as a Copywriter)
Starting and managing a successful freelance writing career while writing about things that interest you, things that you love, is the central theme of this blog. Yes, it features articles about writing and blogging (writing better, finding writing jobs, productivity, marketing your writing, reviews of writing/blogging-related books and products….etc.)
But it doesn’t include any articles about how to become a better copywriter/commercial. There are great blogs on the subject and if you are interested, I strongly recommend you check out the following writers’ blogs (I go to their blogs when I need information on how to write better copy- I have blogs and the pages and my product reviews need good copy after all. I just don’t take copywriting jobs.)
Some of My Favorite Copywriting Resources
- Carol Tice – Make a Living Writing
- Peter Bowerman – The Well-Fed Writer
- Ruth Zive- Ruth Zive Copywriting
So having left that broad topic (copywriting/commercial writing) to the experts, let me tell you why I don’t do it: I just don’t enjoy it!!
Yes, it is a lucrative field, especially if you can educate yourself well – including learning how to get clients that pay well (and you can establish a good, professional relationship with).
But don’t think that I’m a stranger to the field or that I made up my mind without trying. I took the class at university (I double-majored in Business and Advertising so copywriting was a part of the curriculum), I constantly read the tips of the blogs mentioned above along some others) and I applied to copywriting jobs (back when I thought the only way to find writing gigs was to reply to job ads, and I was trying to get clips.)
I didn’t enjoy it one bit. Not the class, not the jobs. I’m not motivated or inspired.
Being a copywriter – freelance or otherwise- would feel like any other corporate job to me. And I hate cubicles, fixed working hours and supervisors. I’d be miserable doing it, even though it is writing. So I don’t.
I’m guessing you too chose to be a writer, because you love writing. You probably couldn’t stop even if you tried. It doesn’t matter if you write fiction, non-fiction or both. And this post is still relevant if you do like copy. Because the question remains: Which would you rather do: Write copy for a website whose topic bores you to death, or a website that you (would) enjoy reading?
So whether you like writing copy or not, below are 5 reasons you should write about what you like:
1) Researching becomes fun. After all, you are writing about something you love finding about- whether it is to find a good query idea or not.
2) Researching is easier. It is much easier to dig deep into your target publications archives because a) there is a chance you are one of the subscribers (so you won’t have to add that to your expenses) or if it is a free publication, or solely an online publication, you probably read a lot of it anyway.
I don’t know about you, but if something has given me a good time and/or extremely useful information, I instinctively internalize it. This is a lot more convenient than getting lost in the research about something that puts you to sleep or frustrates you to no end.
3) You can put yourself in the readers’ shoes more easily. This is closely related to the first two reasons. The right slant is all about knowing the magazine and its audience.
4) Coming up with ideas is easier. You know the audience, you know the magazine, you know the subject. Now you have everything you need to start brainstorming. Ideas will come naturally. And after you’ve got your ideas, you’ll adjust them with the right slants.
There are some publications that cover topics I’m interested in, and even though I studied them quite a bit, I haven’t been able to get my queries through yet. Why? I had good ideas, but not the right slants. And even though I did some thorough researching, those weren’t publications I read regularly, so it was harder to get to know the target audience as well as I needed to.
5) You will have fun and you’ll be paid to do so. Below are the lines from a scene from the movie Catch and Release. The guy, Fritz, works in advertising and his hobby is photography.
Fritz: I used to take pictures all the time.
Grey: What happened?
Fritz: Started getting paid for it. Took all the fun out of it.
But unlike our friend Fritz above, getting paid had the opposite effect on me. That effect is reason number 6.
6) Writing has just become more exciting, challenging and fun for me after it became a paying profession.
For instance, I wrote for Freelance Switch three times (my 4th article will be published in May). And when I pitched to guest post for Carol Tice, I had read more posts than I could count. So at first it wasn’t about studying it as a publication, but to learn everything I could about making a living writing.
But before I got the pitch, I dug deeper. I analyzed the tone, word count, headlines, philosophy, other guest post articles…
I got the gig, and the best part was that %75 of my work had been done before I started writing. It was published, and it also appealed to another freelance writer I admire: Ed Gandia, co-writer of The Wealthy Freelancer. He wanted to use my article in his e-book Land Work Now (whose review I’ll publish here pretty soon, and my article is there, unchanged.)
No matter what you are writing and who you are writing for, you need well-targeted and marketable ideas. These Ideas have to appeal to the publication’s readers. The process of finding your ideas and slants, and ultimately querying, gets easier if you at least have a little bit of passion/enthusiasm about it.
I thought writing advertising copy would be exciting when I was taking introduction classes where we analyzed the good, the bad and the ugly of ad copy. Some of the good were just amazing, and they did wonders. Two of my favorites are below.
I don’t think these ideas would have come if the people behind it hated their jobs. I’m just saying.
What about you?
Do you love what you are writing? Do write about what you love?
There is no doubt about the fact that 21st century made a writer’s job a lot easier. Maybe the markets became more competitive, but at least now it is so much easier to contact editors, submit queries without waiting for the post office to do its job or wait for a conference to be able to get the editors to notice you (although this is still a great method for this purpose. It is just that you can’t always attend all the conferences you want to due to time, money or place constraints.)
And there is so much that we need to do on the internet – from billing to sending e-mails, from researching the web to updating our blogs…It is so easy to get worked up when our internet connection fails us. Usually this glitch is temporary, and it doesn’t cause that much of a disaster-given that we’ve saved all our work, and we haven’t left anything to the last minute.
But whether the problem lasts for a minute or a day, and whether you experience it in your office or at your favorite coffee shop/co-working space, there is no need to lose your temper or patience. There’s so much you can do in the name of productivity and creativity while you are offline. From organizing your files to taking a break, from making a list of your goals to brainstorming, you can turn the glitch into a productivity fest.
The original version of this article was published on Freelance Switch and is called Freelance Tasks To Do Without the Internet.
Enjoy your list, and save it somewhere offline for a rainy an offline day. : )
You can leave your comment here or on Freelance Switch.
Surprise, surprise – I have a cold again. I hate colds probably more than any other person you know. Yes, having a weak immune system (no matter how healthily I try to eat or how well I try to take care of myself) and getting colds a lot more often than anyone I know is truly annoying.
Even though my cold symptoms aren’t typically that serious, they are bad enough to limit my social life and decrease my productivity nearly to zero.
Being a one person-company doesn’t help either. After all that’s how many freelance writers operate. We write, edit, research, query, organize, brainstorm, market and a lot more. Having a head that feels like 40 pounds or feeling dizzy as soon as you get up doesn’t really help with any of our tasks.
But while there is not much I can do about the colds, I can at least think of the benefits (and lessons learned) to avoid feeling blue and frustrated.
1) You save money. Assuming you have a solid insurance, having a cold means you don’t go out much and therefore you don’t spend much. This way you have a lot more to spend when you are feeling all energetic and healthy. Maybe you can put some of them in your saving or traveling accounts. And I am not making this up. You should see how good my account balance is right now.
2) You can procrastinate, and not feel guilty about it. There are many ways to procrastinate, and despite our best efforts we find ourselves doing it. I know that we need our relaxation moments but we often spend a lot more time resting/delaying/dealing with less challenging stuff/depressing over queries more than we should or need to.
If you are not feeling terrible, there are of course productive things you can during a cold. But chances are you are not going to be nearly as efficient as your healthy self. So take this time to procrastinate away. Watch mindless TV, feel upset, eat some comfort food….
3) You can reach a whole level of motivation and drive. The longer a cold sticks around, the more driven I become to do more for my career, and do it sooner and faster. You realize how important time is one more time, and when you have the energy to do things to reach your goals, you should just do so.
4) You can get the not-so-exciting tasks done. Not all tasks require much energy. Try organizing your desktop, getting rid of all the resources you don’t need, rearranging bookmarks, going over your markets lists. Note all your ideas. Go over your old posts to see what you have covered so far.
Once you get your health back, you can get back to work with guns blazing.
How do you deal with your colds?
Most writers in the 21st century have embraced both fiction and non-fiction. The reason can be money, promotion, the need to engage with readers, the need to connect with the world…You name it. But there are very few writers left who engage only in fiction or non-fiction.
I started creating stories when I was 9. I started writing them down when I was 12. And even though I didn’t try to get anything actively published until I was 24 (my bad, don’t follow this example!), my writing efforts never stopped. Whether it was finding the idea for a novel because of a true story my PR professor told me or passing from most of my courses (Human Resources, Organizational Theory…, etc) with flying colors because of the engaging essays that I wrote, I wrote. Non-fiction and fiction. Together.
In 2009, I realized that blogs were so much more than personal diaries (if you knew how to take advantage of this, that is), and Facebook was for so much more than just connecting with Friends. So my non-fiction journey started online.
I realized I loved writing for the web, while I kept researching about writing for magazines. I came a long way when it came to using blogs and social media, getting writing gigs and getting published on successful blogs and yet something was missing: My fiction.
My characters were still very much in mind, hardly able to wait to find their voice on paper and yet I hadn’t actively written fiction for 2 years. No wonder I was uncomfortable and was feeling that things were missing in my life.
But how was I supposed to balance fiction and fiction? How was I supposed to blog for me, others, keep my part-time job for stability and sanity, keep researching and have the time to write fiction? And did I mention I also happen to be very social?
Easy. I needed to be productive. I needed to stay focused. I needed to prioritize according to deadlines, my readers’ content needs and my inspiration levels. Some days I can have a blast writing movie reviews all day. Some days I can’t wait to go out there and market my writing, and sometimes it is the fiction that drives me.
And the best part is, these moments of pure inspiration and motivation can be managed, compartmentalized and different types of writing work can be done during the same day. Just keep reminding yourself the reasons you keep doing both:
I write non-fiction because:
- I love it.
- It gives me a platform to share my ideas and passions with like-minded people.
- It gives me a platform to promote my writing and get more writing gigs.
- It gives me a platform to connect with other writers.
- Oh, and when my fiction is ready to be published and promoted, it will be a platform for that too.
I write fiction because:
- I love it.
- I wouldn’t be able to stop even if I wanted to. Remember how I said I hadn’t really written fiction in 2 years? I meant that I hadn’t sit by my computer for days trying to get the full story finished. It did however meant lots of scenes written separately waiting to be connected, lots of dialogue and different turn of events going constantly around in my head.
- I do want to see my name on a paperback book. And I’ll have that, even if it means I go the self-publishing route in the end. I think I have wanted it since I read my first John Grisham book.
- I want to connect with more people. I want my fiction to be read too.
- Did I mention it is an addiction and no 12-step-program in the world could help me get over it?
How do you balance fiction and non-fiction? Do you think the two can/should go hand in hand?
This Writer’s Solution for Writing What She Wants: My Guest Post on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing
You know I took October off from writing because I was taking the CELTA course, and then I returned to writing with a vengeance. I’m 19.000 words into my first novel, I’ve been a regular contributor at Europe A LA Carte travel blog, redesigned and revitalized my blogs. Oh, yes, and I’m really excited to announce that I have a guest post published on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing Blog.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock as freelance writer, Carol’s is one of the most popular blogs for writers and it is among my favorites (as One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career, as well as being one of the favorites of WritetoDone and Copyblogger.)
I’m having a blast with my writing right now. I no longer have to worry about applying to gigs I’m not passionate about because I have to pay the bills. I no longer have to choose between fiction and non-fiction. I also no longer suffer from the lonely writer blues. So what the hell changed?
Keeping a full time a job gave me depression. Not getting a regular paycheck affected my writing, motivation and productivity badly. So instead I found the perfect solution: I took a job in a field that really excited me, paid me enough without taking too much of my time and filled in all the missing pieces. I explain it all on One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career.
Looking forward to your comments!
Image via baneofyourresistance.wordpress.com