How Freelance Journalists Can Use Facebook’s New ‘Subscribe’ Button


When it comes to breaking news, Facebook has got nothin’ on Twitter. Twitter’s rapid fire interface, and news ticker feel makes it the perfect place to get up to the second updates on what’s happening in your world and beyond. But today, Facebook has launched their new “Subscribe” feature, which seems to merge the content control of Google+ with the fast pace updates of Twitter. The gauntlet has been thrown down. But will Facebook be a more effective tool for journalists?

From the Facebook overlords:

Facebook users can now visit another user’s profile and subscribe to receive the person’s public updates in their news feed, without being “friends.” The feature lets Facebook users broadcast public messages to subscribers, like Twitter does, while also keeping their private network of friends separate.

With the Subscribe button, we’re making it easier to do both. In the next few days, you’ll start seeing this button on friends’ and others’ profiles. You can use it to:

  1. Choose what you see from people in News Feed
  2. Hear from people, even if you’re not friends
  3. Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends

Still wondering how this would work for journalists? Jeff Sonderman at the Poynter Institute provided 5 things journalists need to know about new Facebook subscription feature.
Here are a few highlights of Sonderman’s piece:

1. First, you have to opt-in. You must visit this Facebook page to enable subscriptions to your account. Only then can other Facebook users visit your profile and subscribe.

2. Many journalists may find they no longer need a separate Facebook Page. Pages had two primary advantages over profiles: People could subscribe to page updates (by liking them) without being your Facebook friend, and there was no limit to the number of fans you could have.

…There are two possible reasons you might want to keep your Facebook Page: You already have such a strong following there you don’t want to disrupt it, or you need to use the apps and extra tabs that Pages allow you to add.

3. Facebook continues to encourage publicness. By creating a distinct audience for public updates, Facebook is motivating users to share more things publicly.

People who have a lot of subscribers may feel pressure to share most things publicly, and just keep a few personal updates private for friends and family. If that happens, Facebook Search will become a more useful tool for journalists and others who want to search public posts like they do on Twitter.

4. Each subscriber controls how much they see from you. This could be a good thing or a bad thing for journalists and web content writers. But each person can choose to see all of your updates, most of your updates or only the “most important” as determined by Facebook.

5. Facebook is positioning itself as the social network for everything and everyone, by incorporating the most distinctive features of Twitter and Google+.

Now Facebook takes on Twitter with the new Subscribe button (there’s also a feature to send all your public Facebook posts to Twitter). And earlier this week Facebook announced new ways to build and share with lists of friends, similar to how Google+ circles work.



What do you think? Will you be using Facebook’s new subscribe button? Do you think it will help journalists? Let us know in the comments!

Everything Freelance Writers Need To Know About Pitching


Want to get some tips on how to pitch? We’ve compiled some of our classic (or are they vintage?) tips about pitching and crafting queries that are sure to grab an editors’ attention. Pitches are the most important part of being a freelance writer, so we want you to develop the skills to become a pitch ninja.

Here are a few tips:

How To Make Your Pitches Perfect

Figure out who the editor of the publication is, and make sure you contact the correct editor. Your letter should not start with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Editor.” Direct the letter to a specific person and use his or her name. When the first words of a query were “Dear Mr. Editor,” I was not only annoyed, but I was definitely not going to be accepting that pitch.

Even if you are pitching the same idea to several outlets, you need to make your pitch letters specific to the publication. As an editor, I received pitch letters that had the names of other publications instead of mine. Of course, I stopped reading those letters at that point. Tell the editor why this story is a fit for this specific publication.

5 Questions Every Query Should Answer

What’s your angle?
It’s not enough to say that you’d like to cover house foreclosures in your area. Will you cover how this impacts other homes in the neighborhood? Will you talk to recently foreclosed families to see what happens after they leave their home? Will you visit local animal shelters to see if they’ve had an influx of pets from foreclosed homes? All of these ideas offer a potential angle, and it’s often smart to focus on one angle instead of tackling a big, broad topic with lots of little threads that can’t be fully developed in a single article.

Building Confidence for the Big Pitch

Do your homework.
The more you know your target publication, the better equipped you’ll be to craft a winning pitch. For online publications, this is pretty easy. You can score magazine subscriptions by cashing in airline miles through or buy subscriptions through sites like Alternatively, check for back issues at your local library. These should give you a sense of what the publication covers and the writing style it uses, which can help strengthen your pitch and give the confidence of knowing “this magazine last covered X in 2008” or “they typically use anecdotal leads, so I’m going to start my pitch in a similar fashion.”

How to Pitch Podcasts, Slideshows and Multimedia Packages

One way to generate more income as a freelancer is to pitch a package to potential clients. Instead of only pitching an article, throw in a podcast, slideshow, and/or video. But don’t give it away, and charge more if it is edited.

If you’re writing a feature story on an event but you also have great photography skills, ask if you can take photos. But go one step further: propose putting together a slide show. If you also have the equipment and can shoot video, recommend that too. Keep the video clips short though — it’s a good rule to keep videos around two minutes. If you’re covering a local government meeting, tell your client you’ll record the audio of the entire meeting, and they can publish it as a public service on their website. Even better, if you have a laptop and a quality video camera, ask the client if you can “livestream” the meeting so their websites readers can watch it live from their website.

How Freelance Writers Can Make Money and Connections Through Social Media


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


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.

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!