Why Freelance Writers Should Learn to Write Sales Letters


Like it or not, being a freelance writer takes a lot of sales skills. Whether you’re pitching an article to an editor or trying to convince a publisher to pick up your column, freelance writers are selling a product. Sean Platt of Ghostwriter Dad recently provided some tips to help reluctant freelancers learn the ways of sales. In an article for Copyblogger, Platt tells writers why they should learn to write sales letters:

Whether you want someone to buy your product, join your email list, retweet or +1 your post, you’re doing one thing — leading your audience down a path at the end of which liesthe action they’ll take.

You want them to do something.

In other words, you’re selling.

Platt is right. Words are a commodity and as an entrepreneurial journalist, it helps to know how to sell your product. If you need more convincing, here is an excerpt from Platt’s 5 Reasons Why All Freelance Writers Should Learn to Write a Sales Letter:

1. Never create crap content again

Some clients want nothing more than keyword-stuffed filler content for their sites, and they’re willing to pay you very little for the privilege. They don’t want to hear anything about how Google’s Panda update has made this approach silly, they just want mountains of low-quality content, stat.

Writing crappy content in bulk sucks. Do it for too long, and you’ll wonder why you thought writing online was a good idea in the first place.

Worse than being paid by the pound is the feeling of indentured servitude that comes with being a breath or two beyond running in circles, but nowhere near where you need to be to break away.

Knowing how to write a sales letter elevates your skill set, meaning you can make more money for every word you write, virtually overnight, whether or not you’re a wordsmith for hire.

2. You’ll only need a few clients a month

Managing low-paying copy usually means juggling a long list of clients because you’re stitching one job into the next, quilting your ends until they hopefully meet.

With the much higher earning average of longer form sales copy, just one or two jobs per month can fund the rest of your writing business.

Every sales letter you write makes you a better technical writer than you were before.

Constantly write, continuously improve, and quickly build a long list of people willing to pay you top dollar for your time.

When you deliver a sales letter that converts, you’re never hired only once.

3. You can develop streams of passive income

Once you know how to write an effective sales letter, you can become your own best client.

Write an eBook, put together a training course, offer a special suite of services, then write a letter to sell it.

You’re doing it for others. Why not do it for yourself?

If you’re a writer, you have the unique ability to synthesize and simplify information.

It’s the next logical step to package what you know and put it online.

To read the rest of Sean Platt’s piece, check out 5 Reasons Why All Freelance Writers Should Learn to Write a Sales Letter at Copyblogger 

Have you ever written a sales letter as a freelance writer? Let us know your tips in the comments!














5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a New Assignment



You’ve just landed an assignment from a new-to-you editor. Congrats! Pat yourself on the back, do a little happy dance, bust out the champagne, whatever you do to celebrate. But before you dive into the writing, there are a few questions you should get answered first. Many editors will include these details in your assignment email, but not all do. Ask these questions to minimize revisions later and ensure that your article hits the mark.

1. What types of sources should I interview? You might be surprised by some of the quirks you’ll run into with different publications. For instance, if you’re writing for a website that’s published by a credit card issuer or an insurance company, they probably won’t want you interviewing anyone who works for a direct competitor. Would they prefer professors? Or can the editor hook you up with an expert who’s affiliated with that company? Many companies are entering the content marketing space so it’s not unusual to have restrictions like this. Even on the traditional publishing side of things, they may have sources who’ve recently appeared in the publication and they’d want you to find other experts.

2. Is there a style guide I should follow? Does the website or magazine follow Associated Press style? Do they have a house style guide? Few technical writers worry about these nuances, but I’ve had editors thank me for asking because it shows attention to detail and a desire to meet their needs.

3. Do I need to gather photos? Some magazines have their own photo staff, but many websites expert freelance contributors to turn in photos with their assignment. Often, this is as simple as asking the PR person for photos or downloading them from the company’s online press room. But it’s easier to request photos as you’re gathering information than it is to email your source months later when they’ve all but forgotten about you. Oftentimes art directors can “make it work” with what you send them, but sometimes there are more specific requirements about size or resolution, so it never hurts to ask.

4. What’s the fact-checking process? Nowadays, many publications expect writers to fact check their own stories, so if that’s the case, you should spend the time to cross-reference job titles, geographic locations, spellings of names and companies, and any other information. If the publication has a formal fact-checking process, you’ll want to know that upfront so that you can give your sources a heads-up and be ready to send in your notes along with a source list.

5. Any pet peeves I should avoid? Writing styles and pet peeves vary from editor to editor so the sooner you know your editor’s preferences, the quicker you can become her go-to freelancer. Some editors hate excessive exclamation points or over-use of quotes, others despise anecdotal leads or paragraphs longer than three sentences. They’ll usually tell you these preferences if you ask, so be sure to follow their advice to the letter.

Top 5 Myths About Freelance Writing

Carol M. Highsmith

Carol M. Highsmith

I am the envy of many of my friends. My life as a freelance writer conjures up in their minds a life of leisure, a daily uniform of pajamas and bunny slippers, and mid-day Margaritas.

The reality?

I’ve logged in several hours on my laptop before most folks rise for morning coffee.
I don’t get any paid vacation days, have had more meatless meals than a vegetarian, and my social life has been known to be “anti-social”. Truth is, the freelancing life is mistakenly glamorized more than the fashion industry.

Don’t get me wrong; I love it and wouldn’t trade it.

And chances are, so will you, if you know what to expect in order to go the distance.

With this in mind, here are a few common myths that many buy into that can sabotage the chances for a profitable career.
See how many you‘re guilty of.

1. Anybody can become a successful freelancer with a computer and an Internet connection. Wrong! (If you believe that, I have some land I’d like to sell you). Successful copywriting services requires business savvy, discipline, diligence, creativity, and resourcefulness. Not to mention, with this line of work, you have to wear an array of “hats”. From accountant, to marketer, to negotiator.

2. You can quit your day job and make a living at it right away. That’s as likely to happen as winning the lottery. Here’s why: the competition is fierce in today’s tough economy; clients don’t always pay as promised; emergencies happen; leads fall through; and you don’t have enough experience under your belt initially to know how to project your income, expenses, or time. Better to moonlight in the beginning until you have a comfortable cushion to fall back on. Experts advise 3-6 months’ wages.

3. Blogging is not as profitable as other forms of writing. That depends on the client, your area of expertise, and the circumstances. From my professional experience, I’ve made anywhere from a small pittance to a nice “dent” in my monthly mortgage payment. So don’t count it out as an option.

4. Working as a freelancer means you have no accountability. Think again. Though you do have more freedom, flexibility, and decision making ability, you’re still accountable to clients, publishers, editors, and advertisers.

5. In order to get published and paid, you must perfect the art of querying. Actually, it’s entirely possible to break into certain magazines and online publications with a simple letter of introduction, brief bio, or well-crafted Email accompanied by a polished piece. In fact, I’ve built my career off of this approach. The exception would be if their “writers’ guidelines” state query first.

Keep these five principles and practices in mind to help you make educated decisions and move you forward in your journey.

As they say, “the truth shall set you free.”

Narrow Your Freelance Focus: Six Reasons to Specialize


As a freelancer, you’re constantly pitching yourself and your work to clients. What if there was a way to stand out from the pack and create a memorable identity in the minds of editors? What if you could save time pitching and writing articles? What if you could increase the number of articles you sell? And what if you could boost your hourly rate regardless of the kind of work you do?

There’s an easy way to do all of these things. Specialize.

Yet freelancers often resist the idea of limiting themselves to a subject area or two. After all, we’re often attracted to freelancing because of the freedom it gives us. We’re able to choose the types of work we perform, the clients we work for, and even the hours we work. The idea of being told what we can write, or can’t, makes us itchy, right?

It shouldn’t. I’ve been freelancing fulltime for more than 14 years and more than 90 percent of the writers I know who make a good living as self-employed writers specialize. They’re not trying to write about anything and everything–they’re choosing to limit what they write about for these TK reasons:

1. Deeper background. Much of your time as a freelancer is devoted to researching articles. Specializing lets you develop a knowledge base in a particular area, which means you spend less time researching and more time actually writing. If you write about nutrition, for example, you probably already know how many grams of protein an egg has, or why coconut oil is a hot topic right now. If you cover parenting, you’re familiar with terms like “family bed,” and “attachment parenting.”

2. Higher assignment rate. You’re an editor who gets two pitches on the subject of growing your own herbs. One is from a generalist; one is from a writer who specializes in cooking and food. If the queries are of similar quality, the editor’s more likely to choose the specialist because of the perceived value that the specialist knows more–and she probably does.

3. More money. That perceived value I just mentioned? Editors will pay you more when you have experience covering a subject. I’ve used the fact that I’m a health/wellness writer to ask for, and get, higher per-word rates for stories.

4. Memorable identity. You want your editors to remember you, and think of you for assignments. I just had an editor contact me today asking if I have any articles on breast cancer, because she knows I cover health. Other editors contact me specifically because they have fitness-related stories to assign and know that I write workout pieces.

5. Deeper inventory. Most content writers don’t bother trying to sell reprint rights to their stories because the publications that purchase them don’t pay much for reprints. Well, when you specialize, you have a whole trove of stories to offer, which makes you more likely to sell multiple reprints–and again, develop an identity that editors will remember.

6. Potential platform. Want to write a book or e-book in the future? Then you’ll need a platform, or an ability to sell the book to readers. For many writers, including me, specializing is the first step to developing a platform.

Still waffling? Remember, specializing doesn’t prevent you from writing about anything you want to. You still have that option. (Even I venture out of my health/fitness/nutrition pigeonhole occasionally to tackle new subjects.)

Specializing does mean that you focus on your unique strengths and background, especially as a new writer. Specializing can get you into print. It can help you sell more of your work. And over time, it can transform a so-so freelance career into one that lets you reach your dreams and monetary goals.

How To Find Writing Inspiration From Unlikely Sources


They say inspiration springs up from the most unlikely places. But Tracy O’Connor at the Ghostwriter Dad blog has found that gazing at a computer isn’t the best way to encourage creative growth. “Have you ever sat for hours, staring at your screen, hating yourself for procrastinating, but struggling to think of a single sentence to write? The blinking cursor mocking you from a blank screen might be the world’s worst place to search for writing inspiration.” As an antidote to a creative drought, O’Connor wrote about 34 unexpected places to find inspiration. Take a look at some of her tips:

1. Walk as much as possible. Sometimes you’ll tune out the world and let your thoughts roam free. Other times you’ll absorb the details you would never notice while imprisoned behind the wheel of your car. Either way, some of your best ideas and flashes of inspiration will come from walking and observing the world around you.

2. Visit the public library and lose yourself among the stacked spines looking for a single spark to start the crackle in your creative fire. Don’t worry if what you find isn’t relevant to your current project. You’re not doing research, you’re feeding your mind.

3. Eat or have a drink alone and people watch. Resist the urge to bury yourself in a book or your phone every time you find yourself sitting outside. Tune into your surroundings and take note of what’s around you instead.

4. Watch a foreign film or television show without subtitles or dubbing.
 Make up your own story and dialogue. You’re not trying to win an Emmy, you’re trying to tap into the natural flow of human emotion –– the same ingredients that can spark your ideas, or even better, help you become a great writer.

5. Visit or call elderly family members or friends. Ask them questions about life. What was life like when they were young? What were the main similarities and biggest differences? What is the most shocking change they’ve seen happen in the modern world? How about their biggest heartbreak? A single conversation could give you enough food for the soul to keep you writing with a full mind for a while.

To read the rest of her inspring article, please read: 34 Unexpected Places to Find Writing Inspiration (And Become a Better Writer) at Ghostwriter Dad’s Blog.