Report: How Do Freelancers Diversify Their Income?

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Last week, we presented a report by Kelly James- Enger of Dollars and Deadlines who reported on the different ways freelancers make their money. Most were writing for the web and and consumer magazines, while others were blogging and freelancing for newspapers. This week James-Enger investigated freelancers’ sources of income outside of their writing work. She found that many freelance writers perform many different tasks on the side to make ends meet. Here are a couple of the non-traditional sources of income for freelancers:

  • teaching online writing classes
  • proofreading/copy editing
  • public relations
  • translation/research
  • project management
  • articles for educational publishers
  • market research reports

To find out the rest of the list of freelancers’ sources of income, visit Dollars and Deadlines.

What other ways to you supplement your freelance writing income? Let us know in the comments.

Narrow Your Freelance Focus: Six Reasons to Specialize

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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.

Report: Where Are Freelancers Working?

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When it comes to income, freelancers are working for a wide variety of outlets. That’s the results from a report by Kelly James-Enger at Dollars and Deadlines. She issued a survey to 191 freelancers to determine where freelancers were getting their money. Most freelancers are getting paid for online work, either writing for web editions or blogging. Newspaper writing has declined to only 5% of freelancers’ income. The results may surprise you:

  • 15 percent are writing for the web (excluding blogging)
  • 12 percent are writing consumer magazine articles
  • 11 percent are writing for corporations/businesses
  • 10 percent are editing (all types)
  • 9 percent are writing trade magazine articles
  • 8 percent are blogging/copywriting services
  • 8 percent are writing custom magazine articles
  • 5 percent are writing for nonprofits
  • 5 percent are writing newspaper articles

For more results, please check out James-Enger’s piece at Dollar and Deadlines.

How has your own freelance income changed over the years? Have you gotten more work in surprising ways? Where are you getting most of your freelance income these days? Let us know in the comments.

Freelancer Operating Costs You Can’t Afford to Live Without

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It was 10: 43 on a Sunday Morning. Anxious to tie up some loose ends, I clicked on my computer to check my emails for the status of clients’ projects. Much to my horror, there was a warning message in the bottom of my screen that alerted me to “corrupted files.”

I panicked. The last time this happened, I ended up losing some important files and some unbillable hours to boot. Both of which were difficult to recover.

Immediately, I picked up the phone to leave a message of S.O.S. to the tech support hotline associated with my recent computer club membership. To my surprise, a live person answered on the third ring! I almost fell over in disbelief.

In a matter of minutes, the person  was able to troubleshoot my troubles, and get me back in the mix. This was proof positive that my decision to pay for a more expensive form of virus protection was worth the investment. The peace of mind that it provides is priceless.

Let’s face it: often times, in an effort to operate “lean and mean” in our freelancing businesses, we cut fat more than the local butcher. And we should. Part of being able to go the distance and stay in the black, is contingent upon our ability to be good money managers and strategists.

But be forewarned: being penny wise and pound foolish can be very costly. Here are four expenses you should never nickel and dime yourself on.

1. Virus protection-–I learned the hard way when I originally opted for a “free” software program recommended by someone else. Though no virus protection program is 100% effective in combating attacks, paying a little extra money to get the best you can afford, makes good business sense. Go even further and invest in backup and technical support through a computer club.

2. Image in marketing materials—Have you ever gotten a business card that looked like it was created by a kid in an art class, or one where the person scratched out old info and wrote in the new information? No doubt, It looked cheap and sent the message that the person might be a little less than professional. Don’t be one of them. Remember, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

3. Professional affiliations—Even if you can afford just one a year, choose wisely. The benefit is that the better ones offer perks like medical insurance, press passes and a job bank. And keep in mind that it’s also a business deduction at tax time, perfect for freelance writers on the go.

4. Eyewear—Okay, so admittedly, I used to wear reading glasses that I scored at the local Dollar Store. But, after a lecture from my mom, I upgraded. And boy, am I glad I did. It really helps if you can read clearly as you compose your creative pieces. It typically means fewer errors, less eye strain, and a greater acceptance rate with editors. As they say, “there is none so blind as he who will not see.”

A Swing and a Miss: Staying Positive When Your Pitches Get Rejected

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When I was six, I was the star defensive player on the local kiddie kicks soccer team. And by star defensive player, I mean I mostly sat on the field and picked dandelions. But year after year the season ended with a giant pizza party and trophies for all—which I had obviously earned by my superior dandelion picking skills.

At about the same time, it became in vogue to refer to short people as “vertically challenged” and perpetually tardy people “punctuality challenged.” And when it turned out I wasn’t very good at math, I was sent to a “special” class, not a remedial one.

Needless to say, I grew up thinking I was pretty much awesome at everything.

And then I became a freelance writer.

Getting rejected is just a part of life as a freelancer. But, it’s how you deal with rejection that determines whether you become a successful, contributing member of the media or that crazy-bitter blogger whose posts reek of self-loathing.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to freelancing. Even the best writers get rejected, so know you are not alone,” offers Victoria Wiseman, a Honolulu-based freelancer who has made a career writing for local newspapers and magazines.

She adds, “It can take years to get over the ‘I suck’ mentality.”

Here are five tips to help you kick said “I suck” mentality and get you back on the road to publishing after even the most crushing rejection.

1) Never take a rejection personally. A “thanks, but no thanks” really has little to nothing to do with you as a person. When I was a fashion magazine editor, part of my job was selecting models for photo shoots.  Not a single one of my selections ever had anything to do with a girl beyond the look we were looking for at that moment—your query letters are no different. Often, rejected queries don’t even reflect on your skills as a writer—it wasn’t like the other models weren’t pretty—it just isn’t the right fit for the publication at the moment.
Wiseman offers this insight “Hopefully, the editor knows their magazine better than you do. They’re looking for very specific things written from specific angles.”

2) Find a way to rework the rejected query into something that might work for an alternate publication. Say, for example, that National Geographic rejected your story on mountain pine beetles in Rocky Mountain National Park. Consider tweaking the idea for a smaller, more niche publication like National Parks Magazine or Conservation Magazine, or go local and pitch the story to a Colorado-based publication. It’s a good way to deal with that “I wasted so much time working on this, and it’s all for nothing” feeling.
3) Take a break to do something you’re undeniably good at. For me it’s a long, hard run, but for you it could be baking those awesome brownies your friends always rave about or re-organizing your DVD collection or crushing it on Words with Friends.

4) Ask for professional help. If there’s an editor you’ve worked with extensively, ask them if there’s something your professional resume is lacking, or if there are common grammatical mistakes you’re repeatedly making that might make a new editor wary of trying you out. It’s also ok to ask them for help networking. If they’ve been in the business for a while, chances are, they’ll probably know people at other publications.
5) Lower your standards. Sure, everyone loves seeing their byline in big, glossy national magazines and crown jewel newspapers. But that means that many of those publications are inundated by queries—on average, a national publication accepts around 4 percent of the queries they receive. Writing for small local publications, community papers, and even guest blogging on popular blogs can get you that “yeah, write it up” you need after a pile of rejection letters.

Wiseman suggests you “Start very locally. As long as local publications are paying, you’re in a smaller area with a smaller pool of writers, and you have local knowledge to bring to the publication.”
The result will be fewer rejections, more assignments and more published clips, which will keep you focused, positive, and better able to deal with the “thanks, but no thanks” when they do, inevitably, come.

 

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