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The 7 Highly Effective & Profitable Habits of Successful Freelance Writers

Previously Titled: The 7 Highly Effective & Profitable Habits of Successful Freelancers

Learn What Successful Freelancers Do — & What You Can Too to Achieve Success

I’ve been in publishing since 1987, have been a freelancer since 1993 and ran an editorial staffing agency in New York City from 1996 through 2004.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that successful freelancers, eg, those who make their living entirely from freelancing (writing, editing, copywriting, web design, etc.), have the following seven traits in common.

1. Write/design every day: Many freelancers are drawn to their particular career because they love it. They love to write, design, draw – whatever it is, they would do it for free. Once they decide to freelance full time, most work at it every day. They write articles, design sites, doodle illustrations, etc. In other words, they don’t stop working on their craft just because there is no paying client.

Benefit to their career: These professionals always have a body of work to sell, show, update their portfolio with, etc. Beyond that, it keeps their skills fresh and allows them to work that much faster once they are being paid for a project.

As a personal example, when I first started to write articles to promote my business, it would take upwards of two hours to complete one. Now, I can knock one out in 30 minutes if I have to.

Side Note: I have run across more than a few freelancers who don’t exactly love what they do. BUT, because they like the life of freelancing, they discipline themselves to do what it takes, eg, (work at it steadily) to make a living at it.

2. Don’t wait for markets to come to them: Building on this first habit, when you are constantly churning out new material, you don’t have to wait for clients to come to you, you can pitch to them.

If you’ve written a great article on the benefits of yoga, why wait for a national exercise magazine to take months to get back to you. Pitch your local newspaper journalist who covers health. You’ll usually know within a week or two if they can use your story. Your neighborhood paper can’t use it? Pitch the neighboring county’s newspaper, a popular e-zine dedicated to women’s health, a new health website that needs fresh content, etc. Successful freelancers are this proactive.

When I was recruiting, I was constantly amazed at the type of assignments successful freelancers were able to ferret out for themselves. When I’d ask, “How did you get that assignment, come up with that idea?”, the comments ranged from, “I couldn’t sleep last night so I start doing some digging online because I just wrote this great article and wanted to get it published,” to “I was just doodling and came upon this great design; I knew it would make a great logo for this niche, so I put it on a t-shirt and pitched a few boutiques in my neighborhood …”

Successful freelancers are not only creative in their work, they’re creative in how they locate markets to sell their work.

3. Have more than one stream of income: By this, I do not mean that they have second jobs. Most successful freelancers do more than one thing. For example, a writer may design a line of themed t-shirts with their witticisms on them. Illustrators, in addition to creating logos, may sell paintings or drawings. Web designers may also create online games.

I don’t know how many more brain cells creative types use than the rest of the population, but editorial and creative professionals usually dibble and dabble in more than one sector – and quite successfully I might add.

4. Have a niche: While this may seem to contradict the previous habit, it doesn’t. Most successful freelancers do one thing – and do it very well. Eg, they are a medical writer, a direct mail copywriter, a web designer. This is because successful freelancers usually have a professional background in the discipline in which they freelance. Usually, they have built up a reputation and client list based on their expertise/experience.

Benefit to their career: This works well because once clients are comfortable with you on one level, you can approach them about doing other types of projects. In some cases, they will even approach you.

For example, if you are a web designer, you can approach a client about doing some logo design work. Most web designers are familiar with other tools of the trade like logo design software, that makes it easy for them to offer peripheral services to clients.

In the retail trade, this is known as upselling. BUT, you can only upsell if you have established a level of trust and professionalism in your base (niche) skill.

5. Have a website: Without fail, all successful freelancers have at least a basic website. They realize the need to present a professional image to clients and have invested in an online presence.

Every once in a while, I am still asked by those just starting out if they need a website. Invariably, I ask, “Would you do business without a telephone?” I think websites have progressed to this point.

Benefit to their career: Websites save freelancers time – which is at a premium if you are a successful freelancer. You can direct potential clients there to see samples of your work, get pricing info, your professional credentials, your client list, etc. Many times, this is how clients will find you to begin with.

So, is having a website a must to succeed as a freelancer? In my opinion, absolutely. And, it doesn’t have to be fancy and cost a fortune. Most web surfers are seeking information. A basic site will serve your purposes just fine. Just make sure it is professional looking, is easy to navigate, is free from grammatical errors and has your contact info on every page (or a “Contact Us” button on every page).

6. Are Savvy & Consistent Marketers: Revisiting habit three, successful freelancers are masters of marketing their services. They have to be.When you are a freelancer, you have to remain hungry – for the next assignment, the next gig. By being proactive and consistent marketers, successful freelancers don’t wait for one project to be done before looking for the next one.

To this end, these professionals use many marketing tools (free and paid) to get the word out about their business, eg, search engine optimization, article marketing, press releases, e-book giveaways, speaking engagements, seminars, workshops, etc. In other words, successful freelancers treat their careers like a start-up business – which is what freelancing really is.

7. Put in much more than 40 hours/week: Face it, you may be able to go to the grocery store at 2pm when everyone else is stuck in an office, but you probably didn’t log off until 2am, finishing up a project for a client who needed it at the last minute.

Freelancing is not a static career. Sometimes you will have weeks with nothing to do and then you will get slammed with three or four projects at one time. It’s some type of weird Murphy’s law at work. Projects never come when you want or need them too. They invariable come at the most inopportune time (eg, when your kid is sick, when YOU’RE sick, two days before vacation, on a Friday afternoon and needed by Monday).

So, while you may be able to work in your jammies – you may also not be able to go to the beach, hang out with your friends as much, take the afternoon off. Like anything it’s a trade-off (a worthwhile one in my opinion). Just know, while your time may be your own, it will be on an unconventional schedule.

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How to Increase Your Freelance Income During the Holidays

Following are three ways to increase your freelance income during the holidays.

1. Holiday Card: Because it’s the holidays, most people open mail that seems like a holiday card. This alone gives you a leg up, eg, the potential client OPENED your mail.

Inside include a holiday greeting, of course, and an invitiation for them to try your services. Including a holiday discount or coupon is a nice incentive.

To increase your chances of having them call you, pile on the amenities – eg, last minute service, late hours, discounts for future orders, etc.

2. Be Generous: As the holidays are all about giving, take this chance to show your business’ generous side. Eg, let clients know that you donate a certain part of your proceeds from projects to a local charity.

Or, even better, tell them that you will donate a percentage of any order they place with you to a charity of their choice in THEIR name. Be sure to spell out the benefits of this kind of PR long-term. You could even tell them that you’ll throw in a free press release and post in on one of the free PR sites like PRWeb.com for them.

Helping a business get FREE PR – alll for just giving your services a try? Ingenious!

3. Be Proactive: What I mean by this is, let businesses know that you are thinking about their needs beyond the holiday.

Lay out a marketing campaign that shows how you can increase their business by X% in the next year.

This will involve a little research, but, BECAUSE of the effort you put into it, you will stand out to clients, and they will be much more likely to remember you.

For example, I target realtors and mortgage brokers with my freelance writing services. An idea that occurred to me (I simply don’t have time to implement it though) is to do a “State of the Market” report.

Pulling together a 10-12 page report would be very easy. This kind of research would be very valuable to realtors because in it, I would outline specifics like interest rates, foreclosures, what sold the most, what sold the least, future “hot” markets, etc. That way, they would know where to target their marketing dollars.

I guarantee you, if you spent a solid week pulling together a report like this for a niche market and distributed it as a free e-book, you will knock the competition out of the water.

Why? Because most are not willing to spend time putting together a report like this for “no pay.” The reason no pay is in quotation marks is because the payoff long-term for your business could be HUGE.

As a matter of fact, in the 1980s Barbara Corcoran of the powerful real estate agency, The Corcoran Group, built her company using just this method (this was before anyone called it “content marketing“).

In short, she wrote and published a report on the real estate market in New York. She dubbed it “The Corcoran Report.” Once she wrote it, she sent it to reporters at The New York Times. When they needed a quote about real estate in New York, who do you think they called? Her, of course.

This report got mentioned in the coveted real estate section one week. That began her meteoric rise to the top of the NYC real estate market. She had, in fact, branded herself with this published report. It is published annually and is a “bible” of the NYC real estate market – and also a couple of other places like Miami.

FYI, she went on to sell her company for upwards of 70 miillion dollars to Cendant in 2001 – and she’s only in her mid-50s (plenty of time to enjoy the dough!).

The holidays are an excellent time to bring in new business – if you’re willing to think creatively and work when the competition is sipping eggnogg! By the time the competition is thinking about marketing again, you’ll be busy reaping the benefits of the marketing you did DURING the season, not after it.

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make-money-on-backpageP.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.
Copyright © 2010: All material on this site is copyright protected and cannot be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without my written consent (linking to is fine).
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Freelance Writers: What to Look for in a Chamber of Commerce Before You Join

In yesterday’s post, I advised that every freelancer should join a Chamber of Commerce. However, not all chambers are effective. …

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Get Writing Jobs: Why Every Freelance Writer Should Join a Chamber of Commerce

Following are five reasons every freelance writer should join a chamber of commerce. …

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Freelance Writers: 3 Ways to Start Making Money Within One Week – Guaranteed!

If you’re a freelance writer, or thinking about becoming one, then you know that writing is the easy part. Finding places to pitch your writing, ie, marketing it, takes up the bulk of your time.

Well, there are a few ways on the internet where you can start making money right awayas in, within one week. Following are three.

1. Write for Pay Sites (2 Reviewed)

A. AssociatedContent.com: My favorite write-for-pay site. The beauty of writing for this site is that you write what you want and get paid for it – anywhere from $3 to $40 for a minimum 400-word article. They also accept photos and videos for payment.

The reason I like this site is: 1) as mentioned above, you write what you want. No editor guidelines to follow, no writing about subjects you have no interest in and/or tons of research to do. 2) No minimum pay out to reach (many sites have a minimum you have to reach before you get paid); and 3) fairly quick turnaround time. They usually take 5-7 business days to read your submission and make you an offer.

If you have a hobby, a subject you are passionate about, or a subject you want to take the time to write about – for whatever reason – simply set up an Author’s account with them and submit (it’s FREE).

NOTE: On rare occasions, your article will be rejected. However, the editors usually leave a note explaining why and you then have the chance to make changes and resubmit the content. As I said, to be rejected is rare, but on the few occasions I have been, I always rewrote and usually got a higher than normal offer by acting on the editor’s suggestions.

Since I’ve been a freelance writer for over a decade and have a large library of content, I made a couple of hundred dollars in a few week’s time by submitting previously published material.

Didn’t I mention that the material you submit doesn’t have to be original? You will be paid less for it, but as it’s already written and has probably been used for other purposes, it’s like free cash. They pay more for original material and material they specifically request (new topics are emailed from the administrator each Friday).

B. WriteForCash.com: With WriteForCash.com, it takes them up to two weeks to review your article and more often than not, you will have to make some revisions before your article will be accepted.

There are tons of ways to sell your writing online; these three sites are just to get you going and/or supplement what you may already be doing.

2. Start an Article Directory: This takes a bit more work, but is very simple to start. What do people look for on the Internet – information – lots of it! To start an article directory, all you have to do is put up a simple website and start soliciting writers to submit their articles to you – free of charge.

Most article writers are promoters of something – e-books, seminars, software, workshops, etc. They are constantly looking for free and/or low-cost exposure. Soon, you can have hundreds of pages of content.

How will you make money? Add Google ads (details below). Every time someone clicks on one of the ads, you make money. Many article directories take articles on many subjects; some specialize. Only you can decide which is right for you.

I personally prefer niche directories because as the web expands, I think users will revisit a directory that carries quality information on a specific topic more often than one that carries a lot of articles on everything. Even if you separate them out by category, I find the “all-inclusive directories” too overwhelming. Again, it’s up to you.

The real key to making money with an article directory is promoting it and getting good, quality articles for your site. To get excellent articles, surf the web using key words on your subject. Once you find an article you like, contact the author (most will have their contact info in the resource box at the end of the article) and ask them to regularly submit articles to your directory. They will almost always say yes.

Once your directory has been indexed by search engines, many will start sending you articles automatically. This is when your site should really take off. Once you have a few hundred articles in your directory (and this can literally take as little as a few weeks if you put in the time), slap those Google ads on each page, and voila – you have hundreds of pages of content carrying ads that, each time they’re clicked, is money in your pocket.

NOTE: There are many article directories online where you can automatically pull articles from to get started. Do a Google search for “article directory” and about 3.5 million (yes, million!) results pop up.

Article Directory Software: If you want to put out a little money, you can purchase software that will completely automate this process for you. Do a Google search for “article directory software” and close to half a million results come up. With most of the software, you can choose to buy and install yourself or have the publisher install it for you. Note: You have to be a real techie if you choose to go the self-install route.

Before starting an article directory, I recommend taking several hours and doing some reading on the subject. While it’s a relatively simple concept, it can be a lot of work up front – but can pay huge dividends over the months and years to come.

3. Start a Blog: This is becoming old hat, but is still new and fresh enough that if you have a passion for something and can target a highly defined niche, you can start a blog on it, add some Google Adsense ads, and turn it into a few hundred bucks a month without too much effort.

Want to make more? Like anything in life, the more time you commit to it, the more your income will rise. There’s even a new website, Scoopt.com, that acts as a blog literary agent. What do I mean by this? Specifically, they “help you license your blog for both commercial and non-commercial use.” In essence, they help you sell your blog’s content. See full details at their site.

Blogs are no longer just for ranting about your last bad relationship or the bad dye job your colorist did on your hair. They are professional outlets for making money now. Read this blog case study at ProBlogger.net for an example of how a personal interest can be turned into a popular, moneymaking blog:

If this link takes you to another page, go to ProBlogger.net and do a search of their site for “”Back in Skinny Jeans.” The article should pop up. It’s very, very interesting reading.

FYI, to start a blog, go to blogger.com, create an account and start blogging away. It’s FREE!

SUMMARY: These are not get-rich-quick schemes. My mission at Inkwell Editorial is to help creative and editorial freelancers earn a decent living. I will never promise you that you will “make thousands a month by just doing x”, as many will. Don’t believe the hype.

I have been in publishing since 1987 and have been a freelancer since 1993. Believe me, I’ve heard about and tried so many different programs. The only way to make money is to consistently plug away at something. It takes time and effort, effort and time.

The good news is that if you are determined to make a living as a creative professional, the Internet makes it easier than ever. And, it can be done “relatively” easy if you choose effective methods and consistently implement them.

To learn more about getting those Google ads you see on many websites, go to Google.com. Click on “Advertising Programs” (a plain text button right under the search box). Then click on “For Web Publishers: Google Adsense”. Finally, click on “What is AdSense? Quick Tour”. The program will be explained in detail and you can have it up and running in about 5 minutes.

Also, it takes them up to three months to get your article on the web. Another drawback of this site is that they own the copyright to the work (eg, you can’t resell the content) and you have to choose from topics they list on which to write.

To their credit, the list of topics can be wide-ranging and they pay from $10 to $15 per article. But, if you have a hankering to write about, for example, the World Cup, and it’s not on their list, you won’t get paid for it.

C. Constant-Content.com: With this site, you basically put your articles up for bid, setting your own price. However, a lot of writers there offer their articles for free, which diminishes your chance of selling one – especially if it’s in the same genre. Further, you have to keep your price pretty low to sell articles – anywhere from $1 to $5. Although, this can increase if you write for high-paying genres, eg, finance, technical, medical, etc.

On the upside, you can resell content here. So, if you are going to write an article anyway and sell it elsewhere, you might as well post it here. However, another drawback is that you won’t be paid until your account hits the $50 mark. Realistically, this can take months, especially if you are only posting one or two articles a week and selling them for $2 or $3 each.

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3 Things You Can Do TODAY to Make Your Website More Profitable

“Darn, only three orders/inquiries last week. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to increase sales?”

If you’ve ever had this internal dialogue, then you’re not alone.

Most small business owners are surprised to find that the real work of a web site is not in getting one, but promoting it. Outlined below are three surefire ways to increase sales without breaking the bank.

1. Promote, promote, promote: When was the last time you sent out a mailing via direct mail to promote your online presence? People have to know you exist in order to visit you online.

A postcard mailing is cheap and easy to do. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Visit web sites like vistaprint.com, modernpostcard.com, printingforless.com, etc. to get started. Sending out even a nominal amount (250, 500, more if you can afford it) on a monthly basis will increase sales.

Action You Can Take Now! Go to a postcard website and design a postcard mailer. Even if you can’t afford to order it today, at least you will have designed it, will know the cost and can order it when you have enough sales to cover the cost. The point is to take action NOW. FYI, it costs nothing to design a postcard on vistaprint.com.

2. Stay in Touch: Do you collect the names of visitors to your site via automated software? There are many companies that offer software for this purpose (eg, Aweber.com).

Stay in touch on a regular basis — most experts recommend at least twice a month. And, don’t make every contact a sales pitch. Remember, you are building a relationship. Would you want to talk to someone who is always trying to sell you something?

Via a newsletter, you can inform your customer base about things relevant to your industry that help them improve their lives. For example, if you write newsletters for small businesses, you might send an informative article about how newsletters increase sales, general tips on how to increase client mailing lists, etc.

The key is to keep contact timely and relevant. In this way, the next time your target needs your product/service, your company will be foremost in their minds.

Action You Can Take Now! If you don’t already have it, add a subscriber box to EVERY page of your website. If you already have subscriber boxes on your site, to get even more subscribers, offer a free gift.

MARKETING TIP: Make sure the freebie doesn’t cost you anything. People love helpful information. Great giveaways are free reports, evaluations, consultations, etc. Just make sure that it is pertinent to your industry and offers a real benefit to the recipient.

3. French for the French; English for the English: In other words, speak your client’s language. If your audience is teenagers, then your literature and online presence should reflect that. If you are targeting married, suburban couples, then reflect that. How do you develop the correct tone? Use the sitting-across-the-table exercise. What is this?

Imagine your target market is sitting right across from you. What do they look like? Where do they go to school? What are their jobs? Where do they live? What do they like to do for fun? How much money do they make? The list is endless.

When this picture is clear, imagine how would you talk/relate to them? Even if your product/service crosses a myriad of audiences, you should always speak to your “core” audience. Who are they?

Think of these as your die-hard fans. Every bit of advertising your business does should be done with your die-hard fans mind – not peripheral customers. Now, go over all of your marketing literature. Is it fragmented, or does all of it speak to your core audience?

Tip: Write like you talk, not to impress. However, observe proper grammar and spelling rules. Phoniness can be sensed, even in the written word. Be sincere, polite and earnest in all of your communication. If you do these three things on a consistent basis over a period of months, sales will increase.

Action You Can Take Now! Go to your website and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite with your core audience in mind. Pay particular attention to your home and product/service pages.

Good luck!

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coverP.S.: Get the ebook that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hi Yuwanda,

Just wanted to say thank you – as a result of the advice in your SEO writing e-book, I got my first order within 12 hours of sending out my first batch of 10 marketing emails.

P.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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Gut Check! 3 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Full-Time Job for Your Freelance Business

Written by Yuwanda Black

Publisher Note: This piece was originally titled, Gut Check! 3 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Full-time Job for Your Part-time Business

It’s 6:00 p.m. You’re dead tired, but instead of an early night, you go to your second job — your freelance business.

Between meeting an impending deadline, logging deposits into your accounting system and marketing to new clients, it will be well past midnight before you can even think of going to bed. And, this doesn’t include time out for helping the kids with homework, fixing dinner and addressing household duties. How much longer can you keep this up, you wonder?

If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to quit your job and focus on your business full-time.

One of the best ways to ensure success as a business owner is to start part-time, while holding a full- time job. However …

How do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Your FT Job to Freelance Full-Time?

The following checklist will help you decide if it’s time to make the leap from employee to full-time business owner.

1. Money: If you started your business part-time with the intention of one day quitting your full-time job, then that plan should have included setting income aside for this day.

Do you have six months to one year of expenses set aside? Is your business bringing in steady income? If you were able to devote 15-20 more hours per week to it, could you at least double what it brings in now?

Looking back over one to two years of numbers should give you enough data to do some smart (read, conservative) projections. Don’t have at least 12 months of income data to look at? Then my advice is not to quit – unless the business is exceeding all expectations and you are really raking in the profits.

Bottom line: If you have six to twelve months worth of expenses set aside and won’t have to depend on your business to pay you anything during this period, then maybe it’s time to consider quitting, or at least switching roles (ie, working your job part-time and your business full-time).

2. Time: Does your business take up more than four hours a day of your time? Do you find yourself always having more to do with the business than a full-time job allows? Do you work six to seven days a week just to stay on top of orders, inventory, accounting, advertising, etc.?

If this is true and you see sales increase as a result of your efforts, then maybe it’s time to make the move.

Note: As a small business owner, there is always something to be done. However, you must see increased sales as a result of your efforts before you even begin to think about quitting your job.

A majority of what small business owners do in the startup phase does not result in increased sales – ie, setting up ordering procedures, making samples, writing press releases, etc. Wait until your efforts start to produce actual income before quitting. That’s the joy of starting part-time, you can grow at your own pace.

3. Quality of Life: If the quality of your life is suffering because there are only 24 hours in the day and you need 56, then it’s definitely time to consider quitting.

If you’re working all the time, not spending time with family and friends, then both streams of income will start to suffer. If your small business has been on training wheels for a while, then maybe it’s time to take them off and see how she does on her own.

What exactly does this mean? It means that you get up and put in a solid 8, 9, 10 hours (at least) a day to get her to the next level. If you decide to make a go of your business full-time, then this is where the gloves come off. This is where the real work comes in.

Here are some general guidelines to observe as you make the transition.

Leave your job on good terms: That means handing in proper notice, offering to train a replacement, be on call for finishing up any special projects – whatever it takes to let your previous employer know that you are a professional and won’t leave them in the lurch.

After all, you never know if/when you will need to return, or if your company will be able to refer clients or become a client themselves.

Prioritize: Managing yourself is a lot harder than being under someone else’s tutelage. Develop the habit of writing a list of things to be accomplished. What works for me is at the end of every day, writing in my day planner what I need to accomplish the following day. It usually doesn’t work out that way, but at least I have a plan if I start to stray, or feel like, “Now what do I do?

Eat right and exercise: After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, it jeopardizes everything you are trying to accomplish.

Good luck!

 P.S.: Learn everything you need to know to make the transition from full-time to freelancing seamlessly.

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Marketing for Freelance Writing Jobs? How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan to Land More of Them

The following was excerpted in part from the e-book, The Small Biz Owner’s Complete Marketing Kit! Previously entitled: How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan

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Freelance Writers: How to Develop a Profitable Writing Niche with No Experience

Previously Titled: How to Develop a Niche with NO Experience & Make it Profitable for Years to Come

One of the things I stated in the article, 10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 19+ Years as a Freelancer & Recruiter in the Editorial Industry, is that freelancers should develop a niche (see lesson #7 in this article).

“BUT,” you may wonder, “how do you develop a niche with no experience?” It’s actually relatively easy and can be done in three easy steps.

1. Make a list of your experiences, likes, hobbies, etc. Why? Because the first step in developing a niche is to go with your strengths. Even if you have no professional experience in an area, if you like it, chances are you will work to become proficient in it.

For example, in my professional life, I’ve been a real estate agent, a loan officer, a credit counselor, a recruiter and a legal copy editor (among a few other things — but we’ll just stop here). Remember, this is just professionally.

My hobbies are running, real estate investing, reading historical romances, sewing, interior decorating and designing ethnic pottery, among a barrage of other things (I have a very active mind and a hint of ADD!).

Now that you have this list, what do you do with it?

2. Target lucrative markets: Not every interest you have will make a viable niche market. This may be because they are not willing to pay for your services, don’t need your services and/or there aren’t enough of their type to market to.

With your list in hand, choose markets where: a) your services are needed on a continual basis; b) your asking price can be met with relative ease; and c) there are sufficient numbers to market to.

Also, you might want to consider competition; as in, how much/little do you have? While there is always room for one more company to offer a product/service, my thought process is why fish in a crowded pond.

Go after a market that not many others are targeting. Sometimes this market will reveal itself in your list of professional experiences and/or hobbies. Other times, you may have to work harder to find it. Just make sure that however you choose your market, you keep in mind the points mentioned above.

Now that you know who you want to market to, how do you get those all important first few jobs which lead to samples, references, etc.? Simple.

3. Do low-cost/no-cost work: Always try to get paid for any work you do. You can target local charities; do work for friends with businesses; contact start-up companies, etc. Your mission starting out is to get those first 4 or 5 jobs under your belt.

If you’re not having any luck landing paid work, try this. Target a company and do the work without asking them (eg, rewrite their badly worded brochure you received in the mail; rework their ineffective web copy; design their logo; etc.). Then, contact them with their original and your NEW, improved version. Not many businesses will turn down improved work they don’t have to pay for. Just like that, a legitimate credit!

Even if a company refuses, you can still use it in your portfolio. Just change the name of the company to something that obviously reflects that it’s a fictitious company with the caveat that the name has been changed, but the revisions made were to original copy.

Now, you’re on your way!

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How to Get a Job in a Slow Economy

As a former recruiter and small business owner, I am often approached for interview tips. This is a broad topic, so I’ll address what stands out to me as an employer.

I won’t address the obvious of being on time, dressing appropriately, smelling appropriately, and bringing along a clean copy of your resume and references on nice, matching paper. I will address the “human” aspect of interviewing.

Before you pick up the phone, turn on your computer, or slide your resume into a fax machine, prepare mentally for your job search. How you feel begets what you think which governs how you act. A karmic string links all of our thoughts and actions. If they are not properly aligned, our message will not be carried through as fully, forthrightly and forcefully as it could be.

Career Advice: 6 Job Hunting Tips

Keeping this in mind, here are six things you can do to increase your chances of finding a job.

1. Decide with your whole heart that you want the job BEFORE you apply.

This is akin to putting a smile on your face before you answer the phone. Although the person on the other end can’t see the smile, they can tell that it’s there.

What I’ve noticed, especially in this economy, is that applicants apply for jobs half-heartedly because they need to pay the rent, but in other circumstances would have no interest in the position. Then, when they are called for an interview, their heart is not in it, and this shows. How?

The answers to questions are too general, the body language is “slumpy”, the ‘what can you do for me’ instead of ‘what I can do for your company’ attitude is very much on display. It’s an immediate turn-off. Many times after I interview an applicant, I feel that they feel they’re doing ME a favor.

Remember, no one owes you a job. A job is simply a service that someone is fortunate enough to be able to buy — someone worked hard enough and sacrificed long enough to build an enterprise. Because they’ve been successful, they are able to hire others to do what they no longer want, need, or have the time/desire to do.

To paraphrase JFK, “ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company.” This attitude will shine through in an interview.

2. During the interview, smile and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don’t ask about health benefits, days off, etc. (these are questions for later interviews). But, do ask about office environment — do you all work in teams, are there special projects that I can volunteer for after I’ve proven myself, is there chance for advancement, was the company focus always this, etc. In other words, make the interview easy for the person who is interviewing you.

Believe it or not, interviewers are just as nervous as you are sometimes and need your help to ease the tension. Have you ever been privy to a bad interview? One where the interviewee gives one word answers, not expanding on obvious, open-ended questions. Don’t do this. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than a person who drones on and on. Make sure that you’re addressing pertinent points in your narrative, not simply talking to be talking.

3. As the interview is coming to a close, question the interviewer.

Is there anything else that you’d like to ask me or that you feel I didn’t fully address? If not now, feel free to contact me with any questions/concerns. I want to do everything I can to make it easy for you to make a decision.”

This demonstrates that you realize there may be points overlooked, not explained fully, et cetera that the interviewer may be hesitant to readdress. By being open, you make it easy for them to ask you, therefore providing you the opportunity to re-emphasize important points.

4. Don’t appear desperate.

Remember this commercial slogan—”Never let’em see you sweat!” Human instinct is to withdraw from a person who seems desperate, because you feel responsible for them. Hiring managers want to hire the best person for the job, not the most desperate.

I’ve literally had people cry in my office, on the phone, and write letters explaining why they must have a job – now! It doesn’t have to be this obvious, but trust me, desperation kills the natural mood of an interview. Just as we are drawn to, and like to be around, those who display a sense of confidence, we are turned off by those who lack confidence and appear desperate.

5. Remember, hiring managers want you to be the best fit for the job.

If you’ve gotten as far as an interview, we want you to be THE one because it means less work for us. So, go in knowing that we’re on the same side.

Pretend that the interview is just to tie up loose ends. For example, instead of prefacing a phrase with, “If I get the job, my duties would be . . .” A better phrase would be, “As [substitute job title], my duties would be…” It’s subliminal, but it works.

6. Follow up with a thank you note.

I advise both email and handwritten. Email for immediacy; handwritten for a touch of class. Note: Unless you are specifically advised NOT to e-mail. I’ve never heard of anyone asking you not to send a handwritten thank you note.

Without addressing all the obvious do’s and don’ts, these are the areas more applicants should pay attention to.

Good luck!

Yuwanda

coverP.S.: Want to ditch the 9 to 5 and start a successful freelance writing career? You can!

Get the ebook that pushed my freelance writing career to the next levelallowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hey Yuwanda,

I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job. Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!

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FAQs: Starting A Freelance Editorial/Creative Business

Question: I am starting my own Proofreading and Copyediting Company… I’ve designed a biz card, a flyer, a post card, a brochure, a 2-pg. info sheet, my stationery and envelope. I will get a website once I get a few clients.

I have set up a biz banking account, an email address and a PayPal account. I am ready to start seeking clients! Only problem is I’m not sure where to start first. Here are my questions:

MY ANSWERS

1.   First of all, who did your website?  I love it!  Do you think I need to get my website immediately?

Laura, I did my website using FrontPage (this was Inkwell Editorial’s old html site) – a simple software to use and it allows me control, ie, I don’t have to pay someone to update it, as I update it on a daily basis.

As for getting a website right away, as you’re a proofreader/copy editor, I would say no, it’s not absolutely necessary. BUT, as competition is so fierce, it reflects negatively on you as a business person — and you may lose clients.

I always tell freelancers/small business owners to ask themselves this question, “Would you go into business without a telephone?” I think websites have progressed to this point. I rarely, if ever, do business with companies that don’t have websites. Why? My thinking is, how seriously can you take your business if you don’t have a basic website.

Having a website can also be a timesaver because you can put basic info like your rates, hours of operations, services you provide, etc. up. This answers up front a lot of initial questions prospective clients might have.

NOTE: A website doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A two or three page site will work just fine – as long as it is professional and informative. DON’T let not having a website stop you from getting started. Just get one as soon as you can – and put the URL on EVERY piece of marketing material you have – ALWAYS.

2.  Is there an inexpensive way to get lists of schools/collegesAnd who would I contact at the schools (besides the newsletter editor) once I got the list? 

I do a lot of research on the Internet – that’s how I reach out to most of my clients. You might want to Google a certain area for “colleges and universities.” You can purchase lists from a mailing list company.

http://infousa.com/ and http://mip.usadata.com/ are two that I’ve used in the past. Again, read up on mailing list companies and what to expect when you use them before purchasing. There are a lot of scammers out there in this field.

NOTE: The best type of mailing list is the one you build yourself. This is more time-consuming by far, but well worth it in the long run. Using a mailing list company though is good to get you started.

3.  Is there an inexpensive way to get lists of businesses in my area? Joining the Chamber of Commerce is $200!  That’s steep and I’m not sure how beneficial that would be? Your thoughts?  I’m going to check with the library.

See answer above. FYI, you’re likely going to spend more than $200 to purchase names for a mailing list company – and then you have to pay for putting your mailing together (even if it’s just copies at Kinkos) and the postage to mail it.

That’s why I like email marketing. It can be more effective than direct mail and is cheaper by far. Sign up with ConstantContact.com to send professional email campaigns. You can sign up for as little as $15/month. As of this writing, it’s free for 60 days or until you get 100 subscribers, whichever comes first.

Be careful not to spam people and put your name/contact info in the email. That way, prospects know that you’re contacting them with a legitimate business proposal, not some spammer sending out a mass email campaign.

4.  I plan to start advertising in ezines that cater to writers. Is there an inexpensive way to get a list of newsletters that cater to writers?

I don’t know of a compiled list of this type of newsletter/ezine. Google terms like “writing ezines”, “writing newsletters”, “writing groups”, etc. and start contacting prospects that look promising to see if they accept advertising.

5.  Would it be lucrative to contact publishing companies, or do they generally have in-house staff?

Many companies use the services of outside contractors; it’s hard to get a foot in the door because they have freelancers that they’ve been working with for years. However, it’s worth it over the long haul – even if it takes you a year (yes, I said year) to get your first assignment.

Usually, once you get your foot in the door, more assignments will come your way from the same company because one editor tells someone in another department and then they call. Once established, a relationship usually lasts for years.

FYI, I typed “Publisher” and “copyediting test” into Google and several companies popped up who offer copyediting tests to independent contractors to become part of their pool.

6. In addition, I would also like to target websites…I see so many typos on all types of websites.  Any suggestions on how I would approach them?

Yeah, the web is ripe with grammatical/spelling errors. It’s become the norm, I’m afraid (even InkwellEditorial.com is guilty of it!).

As for approaching site owners, I’d suggest proofreading/copyediting a page and sending the corrected version to the site owner with a note – something to the effect of:

I know that as an entrepreneur, you’re extremely busy and don’t have time to focus on the minutiae of grammar/editing, etc. Attached is the XX page on your site, which I edited for you. I provide copyediting and proofreading services to small business owners like you who have a multitude of tasks to perform day in and day out! This is my job, like XX is yours. Please contact me blah, blah, blah …

This way, you don’t offend them by just pointing out that their site has grammatical errors and you can fix it for them.  

7.  I’ve also thought about visiting coffee houses and other places that have poetry readings and other writer related events. And I’ve put my flyer up on a Whole Foods bulletin board. I’d like to find more of these…any idea how I can do that (besides the small listings in my phone book)?

Any community outlet that allows the posting of flyers is fair game. Simply talk to people – everyone, everywhere you go. Contact your local theatre group and find out where the “artsy” types hang out and ask if they have an activities list/calendar of events so that you can see upcoming poetry readings, book signings, etc. NEVER leave home without a card. As a matter of fact, make it your business to hand out X number every time you leave your house.

8.  Eventually, I would like most of my business to come from the internet and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of my competitions great websites out there…and not sure where to begin due to the enormous size of the net! 

Don’t get bogged down or overwhelmed by what everybody else is doing. I’m guilty of this too – it’s hard not to be sometimes. But, YOU have something to offer also. Focus on your dream and take it a step at a time.

One thing I heard Michelle Kwan, the ice skater say, comes to me. She was asked in an interview if she was worried about the other girls in the competition who had perfected some triple jump or other and whether or not her program would be effective enough.

She responded that she never enters a competition thinking about the other competitors. She said her competition was always with herself and that she just focused on doing her program to the best of her ability.

I thought this a marvelous response and a metaphor for life. Why? Because there will always be someone who is more talented, prettier, skinnier, richer, etc. However, the gifts YOU possess are just as important. So, forget what everyone else is doing and do what you can every day, to the best of your ability, with honesty and integrity.

If you do that, you will always be pleased with yourself and you know what – so will most people you encounter. And, when you “fail” (because you will sometimes), at least you can look yourself in the face, knowing that you did the best you could. And, that can NEVER be considered “failure,” just a learning opportunity.

9.  Have I asked enough questions for now?  🙂   Any suggestions on where and how I should start? 

Yes, turn on your computer and put together a list of 100 prospects you want to contact. Get your initial sales letter, brochure, postcard, etc., ready to go.

One final word: Marketing has to become a habit. The easiest way to do this is to make it a habit to contact at least X number of prospects a week (you decide how many works for you).

Some days you may contact none. Other days you may contact a 100. But, whatever your number is, don’t let the week end without contacting them. This way, you will always have some irons in the fire – and before you know it, you will be busier than a fire ant at a Sunday afternoon picnic!

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Good luck!

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Freelance Writing Tips: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I First Started in 1993

Previously Titled: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 19+ Years as a Freelancer & Recruiter in the Editorial Industry

If you’ve read any of my work before, you probably know that I’ve been in publishing since 1987, have been a freelancer since 1993 and ran an editorial staffing agency in New York City from 1996 through 2004.

Some lessons I’ve learned from this crazy journey are as follows:

1. Staying abreast of technology is crucial: Back in 1998, I was pushed to get a website for my company because clients and candidates were asking questions like, “Can I apply online? Can I download the contract from your site? Can I post a job to your website?”

Well, as we didn’t even have a website, I would embarrassingly say no. The “loud silence,” especially from clients, on the other end of the phone line got to be too much.

Going through the process of getting a website taught me the value of staying on top of technology. I learned that while I don’t need to be a hard-nosed techie, I had to know enough to be able to stay competitive. This meant not only getting a site, but learning how to update it myself.

One of the wonderful things about technology is that new tools are constantly being developed for those of us who are NOT tech-savvy, eg, FrontPage software for building websites, autoresponder software, listserv software for building mailing lists, etc.

2. Writing is a skill: “Obviously,” you mutter. However, many writers don’t treat their craft like it. I single out writers because, in my experience, proofreaders, copy editors, indexers, editors, graphic designers, illustrators, etc. all seem to see intrinsic value and take pride in their work.

Many writers take their craft for granted. Maybe it’s because society views writing as just words on paper. After all, once you know your ABC’s, you can write, right? Well, editorial professionals know better than anyone that this is not so.

One thing I advise all professional writers to do to combat this lackadaisical attitude is to treat their writing like a business skill. Just like being a professional coder, artist or web designer – when you put yourself out there, market and treat your skill like the highly valued commodity it is.  

Let it be reflected in your “perfectly prepared” marketing materials – eg, your website, brochure, postcard, etc. Also, when you speak with potential clients, be sure to use a professional tone. No one is going to believe that you write professionally if you don’t talk like it as well.

3. Freelancing full-time is not hard: It’s not easy, to be sure. But building a successful, full-time freelance career is not terribly difficult, if:

     a. You have experience within your discipline. Most successful freelancers I’ve encountered have worked full-time within their discipline at some point.

     b. You are willing to work fulltime and freelance on the side for a period of time. Many freelancers leave their jobs once they got too burned out doing both, or secure a big project that allows them to make the leap.

     c. You plan for it. Some freelancers (the most successful ones I might add) are more calculating about their careers.

What I mean by this is that they plan a year or two out – knowing that they are going to leave their jobs. So, they save 6 months or a year’s expenses, pay off credit card bills, buy equipment while working full-time, etc.; then, they make the leap.

The ones I know who followed this path are, not surprisingly, the most successful – meaning, they have gone on to hire employees.
A few even opened offices and became “official” businesses because their client load demanded it.

Can you build a freelance business if you don’t have these three things? Absolutely! However, it is even more critical that you devise a plan of how you’re going to go about it. Having experience and industry contacts makes it easier, but the web makes it easier than ever today to start a freelance business.

4. Marketing is a skill that must be developed: When most freelancers start out, they may have two or three clients who keep them pretty busy. BUT, the day comes when the projects dry up (it always happens) and you have to scrounge for business.

It’s at this point that many panic and start looking for a full-time job again. When I was recruiting, I received more than a few panicked calls, eg, “I have to find something — quick!”

Invariably, I was unable to help them (see Point #5 below). It usually was a moot point though because within a month or so, some project would come along and they would no longer be interested or available for a full-time job.

It was during this time that I got interested in the whole topic of freelancing as a business. Most freelancers focus on their craft and not the business of freelancing. However, as I preach ad nauseam on InkwellEditorial.com, to be successful as a freelancer, you must, must, must learn how to market if you want a full-time, sustainable career as a freelancer.

5. Employers don’t like to hire freelancers for full-time jobs: It was my experience when I was recruiting that if you freelanced full-time for a year or more, employers were very hesitant to hire you as a full-time employee. Why?

Because most think that you are only seeking full-time work because you have hit a rough patch financially. Logically, it just makes sense. I mean, who gives up a successful freelance career to go back to the 9-5 grindstone? Most employers figured that as soon as the next big project came along, their new hire would be out the door.

I have seen it happen on many occasions – so much so that when I was recruiting, I would screen out those with a significant freelance history because the chances that they would leave was just too great.

I once lost a $6,000 placement fee because the employee quit – 10 days before the 90-day guarantee. [Most recruiting firms give employers a 60 or 90-day guarantee that the employee will stay put for at least this amount of time, or they don’t have to pay.]

6. You can’t change your rates every year: Charge enough that you don’t have to change your rate for three years. I know some make take umbrage with this, but I’ve found editorial (eg, writing, copy editing, proofreading, indexing, editing, etc.) to be a very static industry. It is not one where you can raise rates yearly.

Some of the companies I freelanced for back in 1993 still pay the same rates today – I’m not kidding! So, I advise all freelancers who are just starting out to start out charging enough so that they don’t have to change their rates for three years.

It’s been my experience that after this period, you can increase rates without worrying about losing even one of your clients. Putting forth the “argument” of, we haven’t raised rates in three years somehow seems to make it fair for them.

Working on this time schedule, I don’t ever remember losing a client. I think it’s a combination of clients being comfortable with your work and them thinking, “after three years, an increase is only fair.”

7. You must develop a niche: I’ve known a few freelancers who did several things successfully (eg, designed websites and wrote the copy for them), but this was the exception, not the norm.

Most successful freelancers niche it. What I mean is, they develop a niche and stick to it. In my opinion, it is far easier to become successful like this than being a generalist.

Trust me, those sites where you see freelancers touting that they do everything from writing to web design to illustration are not making that much money, or they are farming the work out to other freelancers.

Most clients like to know that they are getting a knowledgeable professional who has a history and body of work within the discipline they are being hired for. If it is a pharmaceutical company, they want a writer who has done this type of writing before.

So, develop a niche and market the hell out of it!

8. Patience is a virtue: Even after all of my years in the industry, I’m amazed by how difficult it can be to be patient while I grow my business. I have lists and lists of ideas that I want to implement and there just never seems to be enough time.

This is easily a career where you can work nonstop all the time. An idea for an article pops in your head and instead of jotting down the idea, you find yourself writing the whole article; you go online to do some research, and before you know it you have spent two hours surfing the net on an unrelated matter; you log on to check email, and in an instant, you find yourself redesigning a section of your website; the list is endless. 

This is an issue I still struggle with; although, I have gotten better about stopping. So, instead of browsing for 2 hours, it might be 30 minutes before I literally make myself stop and go back to my original task.

The best advice I can give to stop this kind of behavior is to think of your long-range goals – and ask yourself if what you’re doing this very minute is getting you closer to them. If not, stop and get back on track.

9. Retirement is not planned for: I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve had conversations with freelancers about retirement. Most small business owners (and that’s what freelancing is, small business ownership) have an exit strategy, or a day where they envision doing something else.

For some reason, editorial and creative freelancers don’t think this way. Well, while you may be able to write or design websites from anywhere at any age, who’s to say you’re going to want to when you’re 70?

In my quest to get freelancers to think of themselves as businesses, one of the things I wish more would do is plan for retirement. This includes looking into 401K plans, buying investment real estate, building a sellable business, etc.

Again, just because you might be capable of churning out material long past retirement age does not mean that you are going to want to. So, plan for the day when you won’t have to.

10. Longevity pays: The longer you freelance, the easier it gets. My business mentor said to me once, “when you first start out, you are just greasing the pipes. After two or three years, clients will not be quite so hard to come by.”

It’s just like search engine positioning — the longer your site is on the web, the more frequently it is spidered by search engine bots, the more results it shows up in, the more popular it is, more people find it – and voila! – you have a popular site.

If you are constantly marketing and networking, eventually, it will seem effortless and referrals will flow in. That’s because you build traction just by being around. Many freelancers don’t hang in there long enough to get this type of seamless recognition.

In conclusion, freelancing is a wonderful career — if, like anything other venture you enter, you take it seriously enough to work it like a business.

Yuwanda
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Copyright © 2006: All material on this site is copyright protected and cannot be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without my written consent (linking to is fine).

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