Posts Tagged ‘freelance writing’

Marketing yourself? Get ink and get out.

get ink get outSerious about landing writing opportunities and freelance gigs? Looking to make your emails more eye-catching? Memorize the following mantra: Get ink and get out!

Why? Let me explain.

I spend much of my full-time job writing, editing, and analyzing marketing emails. Often these emails are crafted for Fortune 500 companies, spreading awareness about their tech products (you might even be reading these very words on one.) After getting up-close-and-personal with hundreds of these emails covering countless topics and audiences, I’ve noticed a crucial commonality that always makes them better: cutting to the chase.

With so much yadda yadda yadda filling up our inboxes, it’s crucial to narrow messaging to key points that stand out. There’s enough bland content in the world. When you really need to capture attention, it’s often best to get ink, and get out of there.

I use this philosophy when pitching ideas to editors or applying for freelance opportunities. This very week I reached out to a respected national brand calling for humorous women-friendly content. Although I don’t recommend such a playful approach every time, I showed I knew their audience. I sent the following email:

Greetings,

My name is Crystalee Beck and I’m responding to your call for freelance writers.

If I could, I’d put on a party dress, bring the kazoos and balloons to your office, all while holding my handmade sign: PICK ME, PICK ME!

Then again, I guess that’s what cover letters and resumes are for. (See attached.)

Let’s party, yeah?

I’ll bring the confetti,


Crystalee Beck
Freelance Writer & Managing Editor
delightedtowrite.com

And guess what? Apparently they like kazoos too. Although they had hundreds of interested candidates, their reply appeared in my inbox two days later, with a contract for me to sign.

Your turn: How do you make your message stand out in the inbox?

 

Meet 6-figure freelance writer Carol Tice

Meet 6-figure freelance writer Carol Tice

 

The Energizer Bunny has nothing on Seattle freelancer Carol Tice. She seems to be everywhere at once, writing for big name publishers like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and more. Carol keeps up with Fortune 500 client demands, authors books, and in her spare time(!),  serves as Den Mother of the 700+ member writers’ community Freelance Writers Den. I’ve spent many hours reading her words of wisdom at Make a Living Writing and I’m thrilled to introduce her to you. 

Q. As a six-figure freelancer (wow!) you’ve definitely made it big time as a freelancer. What do you want to be your legacy as a writer?

A. I want my legacy to be that I was a good mom. I work hard to make time with my kids.

As far as writing, I think I’m creating it now on my blog. Helping other people earn more money is incredibly fulfilling work, and I love that those tips just keep on helping people.

Aside from my own blog, I’m hoping my legacy will be in writing nonfiction books, and maybe fiction ones, too. I love all the how-to, helpful business writing I’ve done over the years, and now I’m focused on doing that at the book level. I love big projects!

My first business book, How They Started, came out last year, and I have another one, The Pocket Small Business Guide to Starting on a Shoestring, coming in July.

I love telling great business stories…hope I get to do more of it.

Q. With so many deadlines, what does a typical day look like for you?

A. I don’t know if there is one, but here’s what I try to make the day like: I get up at 6:30 and get my daughter and son off to school, then try to work out — often walk the hills around my house for about an hour, or hit the NordicTrak. By about 9 I want to be at my desk. Or I’ll do a quick email/Den check and then work out.

Once I’m in, I usually try to dive-bomb through email, blog comments, Freelance Writers Den forum comments, and social media. I keep trying to shift this later in the day, but it’s hard — living on Pacific time, there’s already so much going on by 9 am my time!

From there, it’s time to send out requests for interviews, write queries, or write blog posts or articles. Or if I’m presenting, that’s usually from 12-1 pm — I try to inhale my lunch during the sound check right before we start! Or eat right after. It’s always something quick…leftovers and some raw veggies and fruit to snack on, usually.

I tend to write and report in batches — so one day I might write several posts for Freelance Switch, or research several Entrepreneur feature stories, or write a week’s worth of my blog posts. I find this way more efficient than doing a bit for each client every day.

I always take a break from 5-8 pm to be with my family.

Then I’ll do a few hours at night if there’s more to catch up on, which there usually is! This is when I might work on Den bootcamps or write ebooks or work on other long-term projects.

But I’m trying to cut the night shift back these days. It’s not easy though since I basically have two full-time jobs, my freelance writing AND then my own blog and work helping other freelancers. I keep trying to find more Den tasks I can pay someone else to do.

Obviously, this is a day in the office, not when I’m out at a conference or interviewing sources.

I always am completely off from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, and usually through to Sunday morning, when I’ll do a quick email/Den/comments check just to make sure there are no emergencies and nothing’s broken.

I strongly recommend everyone take at least one full day off from the computer. Your productivity will explode, I promise.

Q. How do you keep from being distracted by social media?

A. It’s not a big addiction for me. I play Bejeweled with my Facebook friends about once or twice a week for maybe a half-hour. I get on Twitter usually once or twice each weekday, share my stuff, post my blog post to Facebook, engage in a few conversations and I’m done. I might come back once in the afternoon.

Q. Recently you tweeted you were doing “3 days’ work all at once” so you could spend time with your family. With so many deadlines, do you ever really get to take a break?

A. Now that I have a laptop and an online community to serve, it’s harder and harder to be totally off of all work!

But when I’m traveling, I rarely do any of my freelance work — I plan my deadlines around the vacation. I just try to keep email from backing up too far and keep Den Members’ questions answered. My tip: Set your email bouncer to say you’re gone for 1 day before you leave, and an extra day when you get back. Give yourself breathing space.

But to answer your question — my goal is to take 6 weeks off a year. One of the big reasons to be a freelancer vs an employee is more vacation time! The standard 2-3 weeks we get in America is appalling. I haven’t done well on this the last couple years while I was building the blog and launching the Den, but I am getting back to it. I want to take all my kids’ school breaks and long weekends – winter, spring, etc, and then several weeks in summer. That’s my goal…not always easy to get there!

It is hard with the Den to be totally gone. But I enjoy helping the other writers so much, it doesn’t really feel like work to spend 15-20 minutes answering a few questions. I don’t consider that as ruining my vacation! And at this point my kids get what I do — my younger son who’s 11 is actually learning from me now and building his own Apple fan blog, which I think is awesome.

Connect with Carol Tice

See her site: caroltice.com

Check out her blog: makealivingwriting.com

Join her community: The Freelance Writers Den

 Like learning from Carol? Me too. Let her know in the comments!

 

6 must-know writing tips for entrepreneurs

6 must-know writing tips for entrepreneurs

 

Shout out to small business owners and writers – this one’s for you.

In an ultra-competitive landscape, freelance writers must think of themselves as a small business. Even if you’re not a writer, if you own a small business, wrangling the right words helps your business to stand out. I wrote the following list of tips for Alex Lawrence’s StartUp Flavor blog – check out his site for clever startup ideas.

6 tips to make your business writing worthy of eyeball time:

1. Know your audience. Marketing homework complete, you’re keenly aware of your target market. Think from their perspective. What is relevant and meaningful to them? Personalize your message to meet their innate business needs and goals, and articulate in a way that will be both relevant and valuable for them.

2. Resolve a tone. What tone or voice should you use? Your writing voice can range from formal and technical to witty and playful. Do you use “we” and “you” or keep things third person? Each piece (website, ads, email marketing, etc.) resonates differently, depending on the chosen voice. Your credibility rides on your ability to keep voice and tone consistent.

3. Understand messaging. Long before sending ads to print or buying AdRoll space online, spend thoughtful time with messaging. Dive into key takeaways and clearly define them. Make sure your overarching communication plan offers valuable information for prospective customers, and not merely sales jargon. Always remember to keep the “so what?” factor top of mind.

4. Write tight. Skip the fluff. Every word counts, so weigh the importance of each phrase. This doesn’t mean sacrificing eye-catching words, which paint a picture or slam-dunk an idea. Effectively communicate with a dose of creativity, but realize audiences prefer bite-sized, palatable sections to verbose ramblings. As a rule, vary sentences both in terms of length and word choice.

5. Incite action. Purposeful marketing writing provides readers with a recognizable call to action. Often the success of your writing is measured by click-through rates or sales stats. When you’re looking for quantified results, you must persuade readers and invite them to act. This could be as simple as, “Call now for a free trial” or “Sign up for our next webinar by clicking here.”

6. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Dodge this one, and you’ll regret it. A large mall recently sent me (and countless others) an email advertising an event. I might have opened it, had it not born a grammar-offending subject line: “Your Invited.” Really? With a quick edit, the correct “You’re” could have saved their invite from my trash box. As a rule of thumb, if you’re planning to share with potential customers, get a trusted colleague/friend to give your words a second look before you press send or approve the printing press.

 

Anything else I missed that’s been helpful for your small business? Feel free to chime in with a comment.

 

Peek into a freelance writer's word-savvy soul

Peek into a freelance writer’s word-savvy soul

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Meet Samantha, called Sam, a freelancer who writes a blog called Scarlett, Called Scout. I knew Sam and her boyfriend-now-husband when she was Samantha Strong, student columnist extraordinaire at BYU. Sam’s mesmerizing way with words draws you in, and I’ve always admired the sheer honesty in her writing. She’s also a talented photographer and has an eye for publication, as you can see on her blog. I see no limits to her career potential. Get to know her in this Q & A and her essay titled “Wedding Demons.”

Q. Scarlett, Called Scout gives me a peek into your soul. How does it feel knowing many others read your personal thoughts, especially those you’ve never met?

A. I have a love-hate relationship with blogging. I love that it encourages me to write regularly, but I hate that I feel obligated to write when I don’t feel inspired. If you look back in my archives, you’ll see that there are times when I’m downright prolific and there are times when I’m silent for weeks. I love the feeling of fulfillment that comes when I know that what I’ve written reflects what I think and feel, and I hate the countless times I’ve felt like my abilities of expression have fallen short. I love the thrill of making myself vulnerable to an audience, because I truly believe it’s the best way to improve my writing, but it is, at times, a terrifying thing. Inevitably, I end up worrying about the things I say and the things I censor.

That only half answers your question. We bloggers are too accustomed to doing whatever we want.

Q. To create your thought-provoking phrases, do you have a quick concept-to-words writing process, or do you belabor over edits and refining?

A. It’s either there or it’s not. I have a file full of blog posts I couldn’t finish, because the words just didn’t come. I do belabor a bit over editing, but only because I want a lot of my writing to have a specific audio quality that can be a little tricky to achieve sometimes. I make my husband read the posts back to me and if they sound different out of his mouth than they did in my mind when I wrote them, I shift the punctuation around until I get it right. I’m definitely a descriptivist when it comes to grammar. I don’t hesitate to break the rules if it gives me the effect I want.

Q. With your deep wit and sassy way, you sometimes share honest specifics about your relationship with your husband. I guess this is more a question for him, but I’m curious: what does Trent think of these confessional-type pieces?

A. Trent has a love-hate relationship with my blog as well. He loves that it makes me happy, but hates that I have to be robustly honest to get there. People tell me constantly that the blog makes him sound completely endearing, but he thinks I make fun of him too much. In blogging, as in all things, we compromise a lot.

Q. After your journalism degree and being Associate Editor at a magazine, you’re now embedded in the freelance scene. What’s the best/worst parts of freelance writing?

A. For a long time, I thought freelancing was a myth, a euphemism for “unemployed.” I was wrong. I’ve been extremely blessed to find so much freelance work with so many fantastic publications. The best part is that it requires that you give your absolute best with every piece you write. There’s no guarantee you’ll get another job with any publication, so the stakes are always high. It’s incredibly motivating. Making my own hours is also fantastic. Most full-time writing gigs are 9-5, but I’ve always been a night owl. Most nights I tuck Trent in bed and then get to work. The worst part is probably that my personal hygiene has suffered. I’ve got a professional wardrobe in my closet going out of style and a blow dryer in my drawer collecting dust.

Q. Think back and tell us: When did you first know you wanted to spend your life writing?

A. I went through a major “Harriet the Spy” phase when I was eight or nine. Trent always jokes that I never left it, that I spend my days at home in Atlanta spying on our neighbors and writing my observations in a composition notebook. He might just be right.

 

“wedding demons”

I have wedding demons.
Like my own hell-bent ghosts of Christmas past, they follow me, haunt me, shame me. They keep me company.
The dress — cheapest one I didn’t hate — picked to prove something.
The flowers, rushed.
The cake, expensive and tasteless and who cares about cake?
The tables, sloppy vision, blah and blah.
The photographer, perfect. Just perfect. But it’s hard to forget my misplaced pickiness and bridezilla moments with her — ugly moments hovering in retrospect.
The organization at the reception, messy timing, needless waste.

I could go on. I do go on — in my head in moments of weakness, too frequent moments these past 20 months. I stew and regret and then hate myself for caring — and for still caring — and for seeing no end to the caring in sight. Click here to read the rest on Sam’s beautiful blog.

 

 Connect with Sam

Scarlett, Called Scout blog

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