How Freelance Writers Can Make Money and Connections Through Social Media

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Keeping up with all of your social media networks can feel a bit like spinning plates. Are you tweeting enough? Are you engaging Facebook readers? Can you even figure out how to use Google+?

Freelance writers put a lot of time into learning new social media platforms to get our work out there and network with new publications. But can all that Tweeting and social media managing actually pay off? Dave Thomas thinks so, and for a post on Freelance Folder, he provides some tips on how to “Turn Those Tweets, Shares, and Links into Paying Projects.”

Here are a few of his ideas:

1. Make clients take notice–While applying for projects and sending out resumes still works, the social media push of recent years has opened a bunch of new avenues for freelancers. The goal is here to put your business profile up on a number of social media sites so that it gets more attention. In a day and age when paying projects are tough to come by, you need to be your own marketing agency and market, market, market.

 2. Know your audience–Before you start your social media push, know the best sites to use. Using MySpace is not exactly a freelancer’s top priority, whereas a site like LinkedIn is a great way to network and build your business profile. Given their increasing number of users, sites such as Twitter and Facebook are also good venues. Many companies in today’s world have fan pages and Twitter sites, so take the time to find those you’re interested in and reach out to them.

3. Proofread your profile or pay the consequences–While the photos from last month’s Happy Hour may have been a hit with your friends, potential clients may think otherwise. How many times in recent years have we seen well-known or even obscure individuals have a Facebook or Twitter photo come back to haunt them? If you don’t separate the business and pleasure aspects of your life, the latter could come back to haunt the former. One good way to go about a “cleaning up” of your site is to have an impartial friend review your pages and recommend what should stay and what should go.

To read the rest of Thomas’ tips, check out the rest of his piece at Freelance Folder.

Have you ever made connections or money through social media? Let us know in the comments!

6 Tips to Create Regular Freelance Writing Clients

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Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It’s a business axiom that means that 80 percent of your work and your income is produced by just 20 percent of your clients. The remainder of your money comes from the rest of them.

Regular clients, or “regulars,” are the successful freelancer’s key to success. So, how do you transform a one-time client into a steady one–or nab more assignments from editors you’ve written for in the past? By making their lives easy with these six simple strategies:

Start at the beginning. Everything you do from your first contact with an editor on will make an impression, good or bad. Just because you don’t get a response from an editor doesn’t mean he or she didn’t read your pitch–and have an opinion about it. So, every query you send should be well-written, detailed, and demonstrate your knowledge of the subject. Let the editor know you’re read her publication by suggesting the section of it that your story belongs in, or mentioning a recent article or piece. Editors want to work with content writers who “get” their magazines and their readers.

Give the editor what she wants
. Mastering the art of the query is the first step to creating a relationship. The next is to simply do what you say you will—in other words, deliver. That means meeting your deadline, following the assignment she gave you, sticking to word count, and basically writing what the two of you agreed to. You needn’t bother your editor unless a problem develops that she needs to know about. Better to give you editor a heads-up, say, that you can’t find get in touch with a critical source than to wait until deadline and drop that bomb.

Be pleasant. Your editor requests revisions? Don’t complain. Make sure you understand what he wants, and deliver the rewrite without bemoaning the extra work. (You can do that to your partner or your best friend.) Rewrites are part of freelancing; doing them without drama will endear you to editors.

Pitch regularly—within reason. Within a week or completing your first piece for an editor, pitch a new one. Querying keeps your name in front of an editor and can help cement a relationship, and increases your chances of getting more work. At the same time, don’t inundate an editor with queries. She only has so much work to assign, and keeping up on email isn’t likely to be her highest priority.

Gather information. Turning a one-time assignment into an ongoing relationship means gathering information about the editor in question—her likes, dislikes, and her vision of her magazine and the direction she wants to take it. I keep notes on the publications I write for so I know what kind of pitches they’re looking for, such as if they’re planning a special issue or are looking for more true-life features or service pieces.

Stay on her radar. Remember that querying isn’t the only way to keep your name to get work from an editor—or to keep your name in front of her. If you see a news release or article she’d be interested, send it along. If you’ve written for her frequently, ask about becoming a regular contributor, or “contributing editor.” Editors tend to assign to their CEs before other freelancers, and being listed on the masthead can boost your visibility as a freelancer as well.

These six strategies will help you develop long-term relationships with your editors. Think like your editors, give them what they want, and keep you name in front of them and you can turn “one-shot” editors into regular clients.

What Happens to Your Articles When a Magazine Closes Down?

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You’ve been writing for this publication for what seems like ages. You’re all comfortable and cozy in the relationship. You have a great rapport with the editor who gives you plum assignments.

Soul satisfying image, isn’t it.  Wait for it…Then WHAM! Everything you thought you knew and counted on turns to a muddy shade of gray when a message lands in your inbox.  Your brilliant editor has been let go, along with the entire staff. And, the magazine, well, it won’t exist after next week. Face it! This gig is toast. In order to keep your career moving forward, you need to do the hustle and find another publication with room for your talents.

Seven years ago, I had a very similar incident happen to me. I signed a work-for-hire contract and began writing for a consumer magazine focused on healthy remodels, energy efficiency and distinctive design. Three editors came and went and I continued to write for the magazine. Then, last year, just as I formulated an email in my head that asked for a pay increase plus a promotion to contributing article writer, the editor sent me an email that stated the publisher had decided to close the publication.

But here’s the question: What happens to the articles you wrote once the magazine you’ve written for is no more? You have rights, but what are they exactly?

Kathy Biehl, attorney in private sole practice and a freelance writer in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, says it all depends on what you sold to the publisher originally. Did you sign a contract for First North American Serial Rights (FNASR) or work-for-hire contract? Find your contract and read all the pages. You did save those contracts, didn’t you? “If you sold your rights it doesn’t matter that the magazine no longer exists,” says Biehl. “Whoever now owns the magazine or is the successor to the magazine owns the rights.”

Biehl explains, “Your job now is to figure out who owns the rights that the magazine bought from you. You could try tracking down the owner to see if you can get your rights back.”  But it could be a very convoluted journey and a time consuming one, too. One you may decide isn’t worth your time and attention.

“If you’ve only sold FNASR to the now defunct magazine, the rights have already reverted to you,” says Biehl. “No problem.”

Here are five tips to keep you in touch with your rights:
1) If you’ve sold your right, think about reslanting the article or rewrite the article.

2) If you sold all your rights to your article, but want to try finding the new owner, go to WHOIS where you can search for domain registration information or who owns the website.

3) Published more than two articles a year? It’s worth springing for membership in the Author’s Guild. As a member you can submit a contract and the staff will review it as part of your membership fee. The Authors Guild Bulletin covers the latest in publishing, copyright, tax, legal and legislative news.

4) Other contract watch dogs include the National Writer’s Union. NWU has contract advisers and grievance officers to help writers understand what they are signing. American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has Contracts Watch, a newsletter to keep writers up-to-date on contract.

5) Align yourself with other writers. There is strength in numbers. What you don’t know, your writer friends will know. And, they share.

Why Freelance Writers Should Learn to Write Sales Letters

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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

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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.

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