From The Dishwasher Froths Success

By C.S. Paquin

Success as a freelance writer has come from the dishwasher— no, not via a lucrative commercial-copy gig bubbling with the attributes of a kitchen appliance, but from the old dishwasher installed in our new apartment.

The state of my kitchen defines my professional success and pre-dishwasher, chaos reigned! Last night’s dishes piled high don’t auger well for a productive morning, but once those counter tops sparkle, well, I’m free to tackle whatever chore is next. The only problem is, I hate dishpan hands, and in avoidance, it’s easy for me to waste an entire day—in fact, the task only takes on a sense of urgency when it’s time for dinner. This disorganization sounds the death knell for my writing career—haphazard working hours, staying up too late to make deadline after hours of procrastination, and working fitfully amidst the laundry, vacuuming, and errands—all impatiently demanding attention once I’m done in the kitchen.

But now, the delight of dealing with dirty dishes without delay, has sparked a catalyst. Each morning, after my daughter goes to school and the baby to the sitter, I tidy the apartment and throw in a load of laundry while the dishwasher sings its sloshy song. By 9 a.m., cappuccino time, I’m opening the mail, and with the rest of the place clutter-free, it’s prudent to keep my desk as pristine and file my papers and pay the bills. I’ve discovered, too, that if I balance the checkbook every few days, then it takes just a few minutes, and I even remember what I bought.

By 9.30 a.m., in disbelief at how early it still is, I switch on my computer and check for looming deadlines. I have regular editing jobs, a small column for a regional magazine, as well as sending out queries to new markets. The difference is, I’m really writing the queries and mailing them. Pre-dishwasher, I’d sit and dream about it, because with a brimming sink, I couldn’t possibly start the query process. So, with my attention not distracted by the chores, I set up and conduct interviews, write and edit what needs to be done, and send in work not only hours, but days before deadline. Ticking off the tasks on my list is addictive and the more I check off, the more inspired I am to find and complete new projects.

Within a few weeks, my flailing career takes new shape—more gigs appear, and checks trickle in. “Aha,” I think to myself, as I add regular banking to the task list: Self-discipline does pay!

This revelation chases away the nagging suspicion that haunted me—that I’m more in love with the idea of writing, than actually writing. These days, as I see my reflection in the shiny plates, I say to myself quite proudly: “I am a freelance writer!”

C.S. Paquin is a nationally published writer in a variety of genres—from news writing to humor. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Journalism, and dreams of being a best-selling author. Her first writing love, however, is creative nonfiction and personal essays.

Four Scary Things Writers Must Learn to Embrace!

monster illustration

Guest post by Francesca Nicasio

When I first started out, there were some things that I tried to avoid as much as possible because they were uncomfortable scared the crap out of me. It didn’t take long though before I realized that my avoidance was getting me nowhere and if I really wanted to succeed in freelance writing, I had to not only face my fears, I had to embrace them.

Below is a list of those fears. I’ve also included the things that I learned from facing them, and what you can do if you share the same fears or apprehensions.

monsterEdits or Criticism

Getting edits and constructive criticism is a good thing. Those red marks on your article may not look pretty, but they will make you a better writer. They can improve your style and develop your attention to detail. As writers, we are often too close to our creations to see flaws or errors. Having someone scrutinize your work will make it sharper and more compelling.

How to deal with constructive criticism: First of all, don’t take it personally. The person scrutinizing your work is just doing their job. Also remember that having your work edited or criticized doesn’t make you a bad writer. It only means that there’s some room for improvement and growth.

When you get the edited piece back, thank the person and revise your work. If you don’t agree with the way they edited your article, say so. Tell them (in a polite way, of course) why you wrote it the way you did and hear out their response. This opens up constructive discourse between the two of you, and you’ll likely pick up helpful insights in the process.

Rejection

The path to freelance writing success is littered with rejection letters. It’s just part of the territory. As writers we must learn to accept — nay —embrace rejection because each “no” that we get brings us closer to that coveted “yes.”

Rejection can teach you some valuable lessons in persistence and resilience. It also tests just how badly you want success. More importantly, rejection enables you to develop a thicker hide–an attribute that you must possess when putting yourself out there.

How to deal with rejection: There’s no shortcut or sugar-coated way to handle rejection. You just have to dust yourself off, learn from the mistakes that got you rejected (if any), and keep going.

You can also think of it this way: If you get rejected by a prospective client or publication, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with you. It just means that you and the other party aren’t a good fit for each other. They’re not the right client or they simply aren’t looking for someone like you at the moment. It’s nothing personal and it’s not anything against you, it’s just the way it is.

Haters

Okay, maybe “haters” is too strong of a word. Let’s call them “negative commenters”.

Unpleasant as it may be though, receiving negative comments should be taken as a compliment. Why? Because it means that what you wrote sparked enough emotion to compel people to leave a comment.

Don’t feel bad when you get negative comments, be upset when you don’t get any.

How to deal with negative comments

If you choose to dignify their comments with a response, always be calm and respectful. Recognize that each person is entitled to their own opinions. Additionally, do not respond from a place of defensiveness or emotion. Instead, state the facts and be cool. And be sure to thank the person for taking the time to comment.

PS: This doesn’t apply to trolls.

Outreach

This is for all the shy ones (myself included). Reaching out to other people may be out of your comfort zone, but it’s absolutely necessary. Reaching success is not something that you can do alone, so get out there and network away. Growing your contact list is essential especially when you’re looking to promote your work or collaborate with others.

Reaching out to others is also something that you must do again and again throughout your career because it’s the only way to find new audiences and/or clients.

How to reach out

Do your research on the person that you’re touching base with. To be effective, reach out with their needs in mind, not just yours. For instance, if you’re contacting them to start a joint venture, tell them why a JV would benefit them and their audience. Remember, they’ll be asking the question of what’s in it for them, so be sure to answer it when you first get in touch.

Your Turn

Have you ever avoided any of the things mentioned in this blog post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 Francesca Nicasio (formerly Francesca StaAna) is the founder of CredibleCopywriting.net and is currently developing Copywriter2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring freelance writers the ins and outs of the biz.

Download her free eBook, 25 Types of Writing Gigs that Pay Well (and How to Find Them) here.

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Freelance Writing

Guest Post by Francesca StaAna

Image of a woman sitting a a table with a pencil and a book, and several crumpled pieces of paper, about to toss a crumpled up paper over her shoulderWondering why your articles aren’t getting a lot of views or clicks? Stressing about the fact that you’re not getting enough repeat clients?  You might be committing these deadly freelance writing mistakes:

Silence (Not following up)

Contrary to what some might think, just because a prospect doesn’t immediately respond to your first call or email, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested. Yes, most of them probably don’t need your services, but there ARE some potential clients who are simply too busy to respond. This is especially true when it comes to sending emails. People are bombarded with emails on a daily basis, so you can’t really blame them if they overlook yours.

Always follow up. Don’t let fear, pride, or laziness stop you from doing it. Whether you’re cold-emailing a potential customer or reaching out to blogs to see if they’re willing to publish your guest post, make it a point to reach out in about a  week or so after you’ve first made contact to see if they’re interested.

Ignorance (Not reading enough)

Reading should be a necessity for writers. Reading on a regular basis allows you to appreciate the beauty of the written word, gives you inspiration, and more importantly, makes you a better writer. It opens you up to different styles of writing and helps you develop your own.

On a more pragmatic level, reading can give you new material to write about. Can’t think of anything new to jot down on your blog? Pick up a recent issue of an industry magazine and see what’s happening in the world. Check out the latest posts on your favorite websites and get different points of view on issues. I guarantee you’ll find something to write about.

Carelessness (Failing to catch typographical and grammatical errors)

Committing typos is unavoidable. Publishing them on the other hand, is a different story.

Typographical and grammatical errors are embarrassing at best, and misleading at worst. One misplaced letter or punctuation mark can shift the meaning of a statement, so make sure that you thoroughly proofread your writing especially when it’s supposed to go out to the public.

Have a second set of eyes read through your work before sending it in. If you’re on your own, step out of the room for a few minutes or do something else for a while then go back and re-read what you’ve written. Personally, I’ve found that changing the font and color of the text, as well as reading aloud makes proofreading so much easier.

Self-Absorption (Focusing on yourself rather than the audience)

Whether you’re pitching to clients or writing a blog post, always remember one thing: It’s about THEM, not you. Think about it. When you’re out on a date, wouldn’t you be turned off by someone who only talks about himself or herself without bothering to ask you about your life?

Similarly, one of the quickest ways to get readers to lose interest is by failing to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (Trust me, they’re all asking that question.)

In most cases, writing isn’t about sounding intelligent. It’s about getting your message across in the most effective way possible.

Unoriginality (Failing to use your own unique voice)

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a writer (and as a person in general) is trying to be someone you’re not. While it’s perfectly acceptable to admire and be inspired by other people’s writing styles, it’s another thing to try and copy them. Instead, study the writing styles of others to develop your own unique flavor. You’ll be a much better writer and have more fun while you’re at it.

Also avoid using words or phrases that are not “you” in an effort to sound smart and important. In most cases, writing isn’t about sounding intelligent. It’s about getting your message across in the most effective way possible.

Close Mindedness (Refusing to try other things)

So you’re set in your ways. I get it. I can be the same way too. However, not going out there to try new things can seriously hinder your growth.

For instance, I know some writers who were reluctant to market using Pinterest because it was too “image based” and they assumed that it wouldn’t be an effective medium to promote their work. I paid no attention to those claims and tried it anyway. I used tools such as  PicMonkey and  Share As Image to make my words “pinnable,” and guess what? The Pinterest community took notice. My site got more clicks and I even got a few client calls because of it.

The takeaway? Don’t automatically turn your back on ideas or tools just because you’re not familiar with them. Keep an open mind at all times and try new things—even if you’re not used to them. After all, you never know how effective (or ineffective) something is until you try it out for yourself.

Social Aversion (Refusing to network or collaborate with others)

Don’t treat all your fellow writers as the competition. Instead, see them as teachers, peers, or even friends. Similar to being closed minded, not opening up your professional circle can stop you from growing and learning new things.

You can pick up a lot of new ideas and connections by attending conferences and networking mixers, so try to be present at these events whenever you can. If you’re more of an introvert, start by networking online. Comment on blogs and connect with people via social media

Your Turn

Are you guilty of any of these sins? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

______________________________________

Francesca is the founder of Credible Copywriting and specializes in writing blog posts, web content and press releases for startups, Internet companies, and mobile app developers. She’s currently developing Copywriting 2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring copywriters the ins and outs of the biz. Sign up here and get notified when the course launches.

Submitomancy!

ETA: Submitomancy fell short of the funding goal, unfortunately, so isn’t going to happen. (Thank you, Zac, for your suggestion that we add a note about the project’s status.)

Guest Post by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

I first experienced the magical power of recent responses on Absolute Write. I had just started sending out my first novel (now wrapped in lavender-scented tissue paper and trunked) and I discovered the treasure trove of agent information here on the forums. It was like I’d gained entry into a secret club. Suddenly I knew that this agent was a quick responder and that one often gave personal responses and how long the previous person had been waiting for a response. I got great insight on what specific agents were looking for and the type of novels that were getting full requests. And most importantly, I didn’t feel so alone.

When I shifted to short stories, I looked for similar resources. I discovered tracking short stories was a bit more complicated than novel submissions. I ended up with a combination solution: I had a spreadsheet, a website and a piece of software called Sonar3 in order to try to track all of the information that was important to me. When the admins of that website changed their system, I suddenly realised, you know what? I can do better than this.

I started a list of everything I wanted: manuscript data, submission history, market listings, recent responses, contract and payment information for every sale, exclusivity clauses, reprint options… it was a long list. And before I knew it, I was writing a detailed design specification for my perfect system: Submitomancy.

The project needed two things: development funds and a critical mass of users. And yet, I wanted to keep it free. It was an easy decision to start with the crowd-funding model, which would defray development costs and also gain a commitment from a starter group who wanted the service.

If the campaign succeeds, then the core development is out of the way before we start. The free services will encourage users to enter their data in return for a basic tracking service. This will include a basic search of the market listings, submission tracking and average response times per market.

But if you subscribe, you get access to the fun stuff! Lots of reports and data, of course: expanded manuscript tracking, power search, recent responses, market alerts and personalised notifications. But you also get access to social options like profile pages, status updates and badges! Badges might not seem an obvious feature for a submission tracker, I know.  But having been a part of such a powerful community, I wanted to make it easy to share the our successes and struggles with each other.

If there’s enough interest in Submitomancy then I’ll be refining the details with the Early Access subscribers. But the reports and the support can only be as good as the people who take part. That’s why I’m exploring this with you as a no-risk project right now. If you think you’d enjoy being a part of Submitomancy, then please support the campaign and tell your friends.

http://www.indiegogo.com/submitomancy/

10 Ways to Annoy a Newspaper Editor

By Joni Hubred-Golden

Almost 20 years ago, I broke into journalism by walking, wide-eyed with fear, into a tiny newspaper office and asking whether the editor would accept a freelance submission. Since I hadn’t thought ahead far enough to consider a topic, he gave me the name of an artist who made rugs. That’s just how he put it, too: “She makes rugs. Go talk to her.” As I left, he added, “And take a camera.”

A few weeks later, the article —in better shape than the lengthy piece I turned in—was published on the front page of my hometown newspaper. And I was (pardon the pun) hooked. It was only a matter of time before a trembling, shy woman walked into my office and said, “I’m a freelance writer.” What a difference a desk makes. Suddenly, it was my job to critically evaluate someone else’s writing to determine whether it deserved a spot in my newspaper.

Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of freelance writers, and some have gone on to successful careers in community journalism. But for every success story, I’ve met someone who took a writing course and heard someone say, “Your hometown newspaper is a great place to build your clip file!”

Guess again, dear writer. Guess again.

Today’s newspapers aren’t the same wide-open playground of years gone by. Over the past 20 years, the Internet has pulled readers by the droves onto the information superhighway. Some newspapers have gone with the flow. Others struggle with significant losses in circulation and advertising revenues, and nationally, newspaper readership dropped 20 percent just in the past two years.

These days, the words, “I’m sorry, I just don’t have a freelance budget” aren’t necessarily a brush-off. Most editors—at least the ones I know—will make room for a well-written, targeted freelance article. And whether you get paid in dollars or copies, it’s well worth your time to make contact with the editor of any publication distributed in your area.

Now, when I say, “make contact,” I don’t mean “show up in her office on a deadline day.” A woman I’ll call Arlene (to protect us both) never quite understood how long five minutes can be when you’ve got a graphic artist waiting on a banner headline for your lead story.

Arlene is a classic Freelance Flop. She convinced people to publish her writing, but never more than once or twice. She made every mistake in the book. These mistakes will keep you from getting published— that’s a guarantee. Placing my tongue firmly in cheek, I offer them to you in no particular order:

  1. Call an editor any time of day, any day of the week. Be surprised and offended when she refuses to take your call.
  2. Drop by the office “for just a few minutes” and don’t leave until you’ve pitched at least three or four story ideas. Insist on seeing the editor in person, because you want to get started right away.
  3. Don’t let anyone—not an assistant, not a reporter —stand in your way, even if they claim the editor is on deadline. Editors are always on deadline. Be firm about your request.
  4. Don’t worry about subject matter, because newspapers will publish anything. Your recap of last Sunday’s guest sermon by a visiting pastor deserves a good placement, too.
  5. Likewise, length is a matter of personal preference. The newspaper pays by the column inch, after all.
  6. Using correction fluid to clean up your mistakes can be messy and completely re-typing takes too much time. Jot down needed corrections in the margins.
  7. Because the editor knows you so well, there’s really no need to clutter up your manuscript with contact information. Or page numbers. Just staple it together and add a little handwritten note about when you expect the piece to be published.
  8. Insist on payment for all submissions, with the exception of a short letter to the editor. You are a professional freelance writer, you have paid your dues, and you deserve compensation for your work.
  9. Follow up with the editor no later than 12 hours after submitting your work. Reiterate your understanding of payment terms and the publication date.
  10. In the event the article does not appear when the editor promised, call to remind her about the promise and let her know you will give your work to her competitor if it’s not promptly published.

Now, I realize most writers are smart enough to steer clear of these mistakes. Some might find the list insulting. Before you start writing hate mail, consider this:

Arlene never realized any of the mistakes she made were mistakes. She thought she was protecting herself and her work, and she lacked one of the most important qualities I’ve seen in every successful freelance writer I’ve ever known: humility.

If you don’t mind annoying an editor, go ahead and ignore her deadlines, invade her workspace and test her patience. If you want to see your writing published, or better yet develop a working relationship, ask when she might have time to chat with you. Come prepared with a few local story ideas. And it wouldn’t hurt to be a little wide-eyed, too.

Joni Hubred-Golden, a writer with 20 years of experience in community journalism, recently launched Michigan Women’s Forum, a news-based web-zine designed to inform and inspire Michigan women. In addition to writing most of the site’s content, she also dabbles in marketing and writes a regular column for the Farmington Observer, based in her hometown of Farmington, Michigan.

Analyze Your Writing Market for Optimum Success

By Annette Young

Check out the latest issue of the Writers & Artists Yearbook and you can find information on a multitude of magazines that accept submissions from freelance writers. But is the information they provide enough? The brief description can indicate whether the publication may be the type of magazine you wish to write for, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of writing, the word length or actual house style may be vastly different from your initial preconception.

There is no substitute for studying your chosen market; although this can be a costly procedure, you can limit your spending and purchase only a selected few of the publications so that you get a feel for the content. Look on these purchases as an investment for your freelance career. To keep your start-up costs down, it is possible to look at back copies of magazines initially, but remember that markets have to study reader trends and their requirements may well have changed since that issue. You also need to ensure that any article you may be working on has not already been previously published within your chosen magazine.

Before making any purchases, begin by working your way through the Yearbook and ascertain any potential publications, then narrow your choice until you have a few favorites and that’s when your research really begins. Choose your publications wisely; try to focus on magazines whose criteria suit your own specialist subjects or interests. Every market has their own needs and by compiling a file that can list specifics, this could undoubtedly increase your chance of success.

Many magazines will have their writers’ guidelines available on their website, but if not, send a written request asking for them. Always enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope and once you receive the guidelines, study them intently; there may be some useful advice which you can add to your file.

Taking time to do the relevant research now will save endless rejection letters flooding through the letterbox. Editors do not want to reject a well-written article or story; they have space to fill within the magazine and if your submission matches their criteria, then you have one foot in their publishing door.

Editors receive a great many submissions each month, many of which are completely unsuitable for that publication. If you have managed to pen a carefully crafted piece that is ideal for that market then you will be in with a chance.

An article that has far too many words or has not been targeted at a specific audience, however well written, will have little chance of success. But when researching, don’t just look at the main articles to get a good overview of the publication as a whole. It is vital that you study every part of the magazine and that means do not overlook the fillers or the advertisements. All of these provide great indications on desired subject matter and it also gives you an insight into the type of people who purchase the magazine.

Understanding the age group for each magazine is imperative. There is very little point writing a short story about teenage problems if your chosen market is aimed at the retirement sector. Whether stories or articles are your main consideration, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can read just one issue and then submit your work. Your comprehensive file will be invaluable so that you know which subjects have been covered, thus avoiding querying any previously published topics. This saves you wasting your time researching and then writing about the subject and it saves the Editor from having to discard it.

Take an average 20 stories or articles and see if you can find a general pattern contained within them. Try and visualize the type of person who would be reading this publication. Double-check the word count and whether it is written in the first or third person. This may sound like hard work but no one is going to hand you a writing opportunity on a platter. Opportunities within the publishing industry have to be grasped firmly in both hands and for most writers, golden opportunities have to be created.

It is worth checking to see if your chosen magazine uses the same writers on a continual basis, but don’t let that put you off. Your submission still has a chance, especially if you have done your homework. Remember to address your article to the right person. Sending your precious manuscript to someone who has not worked for the magazine for some time will only show that you have not researched the publication thoroughly enough. This will not show you in a favorable light.

With Internet access being so readily available to all, research for your article is now much easier, but remember to check and double check your facts. It is worth remembering that it is very easy to upload information onto the web and facts may not always be accurate.

Increase your chances of publishing success by careful research and before you know it, your byline will be appearing in magazines everywhere.

Based in the UK, Annette Young currently works as a freelance writer specializing in healthcare and relationship articles but also teaches creative writing and journalism both at college and for private students. She is currently Co-Editor of a new holistic website advocating the benefits of living a more natural lifestyle. Website: Your Life Naturally. You can email Annette Young at annettejyoung AT hotmail.co.uk.

10 Suggestions for Sticking with Writing

By Penny A. Zeller

I contemplated quitting early in my career as a writer. My reason? A rejection letter.

I received a request to see a bicycling article I had spent weeks perfecting. Excitedly, I sent the article and numerous photographs to the editor. Not a week later, I received the manuscript back in the mail with a note rejecting it. I was devastated. My heart and soul had been poured into those three pages of text. I am ashamed to say that I cried for days and thought seriously about giving up my newfound career.

I wondered if I really was cut out to be a writer. Sure, I’d had rejections before, but never had I worked so hard on an article as I had on this one. If you get stuck in a rut, as I did, here is some advice that has helped me along the way:

  1. Seek out family and friends. My husband was ultimately the one who told me not to let this one editor be the one to make me quit the career I had dreamed of since I was seven. I am grateful that he sat me down and gave me the “you listen here”speech, and I am grateful I listened.
  2. Join a local writing group. Years ago when I walked into my first writing group meeting with my four-month-old daughter on my hip, I never realized just how valuable the Range Writers would be. I have gained insights, confidence, and lasting friendships from this group of people with whom I share the same goal.
  3. Find an editor. Every writer has inborn antennae to “catch” things others may miss. When I heard that my new neighbor was a retired teacher who had once taught English, my antennae went on full alert. Now was the time to find out if I should be writing as a profession. With several manuscripts in hand, I walked over to her house and asked if she would be willing to edit my work. She was honored. Since that time, I have learned extensively about punctuation and have had many typos caught by this woman who I am proud to call my editor. She gives me honest and constructive criticism—and that’s what a good editor does.
  4. Discover your niche(s). So maybe writing about bicycling wasn’t my niche. What about other topics? I believe there are as many topics as there are writers to write about them. So, I found my niches. When I look back on the articles sold, I find that most of them fall under one or more of the following categories: they are geared toward teenagers, include some type of spirituality, or deal with health and fitness. Does that mean I can’t write about other topics? No, it just means that for now I am perfecting, focusing, and honing a few niches.
  5. Develop a “happy file.” I have never kept my rejections (there is a reason why my outdoor garbage can is next to my mailbox!) But I DO keep thank-you notes from people I have interviewed, congratulatory notes, newspaper write-ups about me, and “atta girl” letters from editors. I place all these in a file to resort to whenever I need that extra motivation.
  6. Examine your motives. There is a reason why a person wants to be a writer. For me, it was my dream before I could use a computer. The idea of dreaming up new things to write about and then proceeding with the written project is exciting and challenging to me. Examine why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Write down the three main reasons. File it away in your “happy file”and read it whenever you feel like giving up.
  7. Keep an “idea file.” Ideas always come to me while I am taking a shower or suffering from insomnia. I quickly write these ideas down and file them in my “idea file.” This is a highly motivational tool. If you don’t write those articles and stories, who will?
  8. Realize that opinions are subjective. I realized that everyone has his own opinion and what may not look good to one editor may look acceptable to another. Keep this in mind when you receive a rejection letter. That was one editor. Big deal! There are a million more and they all have different opinions. The chances are good that one of them could easily like the article you are proposing.
  9. Look back to the past. Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I look back at old query letters I wrote at the beginning of my career. I am amazed at how far I have come. Keep copies of the queries you send “this is a great way to track your progress in the future.”
  10. Do not give up. I am a firm believer in perseverance. Stick with your dream, and someday your dream will be realized.

Penny A. Zeller writes for national and regional publications across North America. Some of her recent credits include Women’s Health & Fitness, ePregnancy, Grit, Woman’s Touch, Hopscotch, and WREN Magazine.

Writing Web Copy

 By James Guill

Copywriting for the Web for a wide audience

More and more freelance writing opportunities, including copywriting, occur in the digital realm, as more print publications seem to be closing their doors every year.

Providing copy for an online resource is obviously not as simple as it seems. If it were, there would be many more writers on the Web making a living. Many writers tend to be very focused in the specific topics they cover, and as such tend to have difficulty finding and retaining work. So let’s talk a bit about writing Web copy for a wide audience.

When writing Web copy, your writing needs to reflect that you have in-depth knowledge of the subject and you understand current trends in the area you are covering. For example, up until around 2007 anyone that wrote copy for poker sites could get away with just being knowledgeable in Texas Hold’em and the popular players of that game.

However, trends changed around that time and other poker games began to make a comeback. It was no longer enough for a Hold’em specialist to write content on Hold’em. Readers would begin to go elsewhere and look for content on Stud, Omaha, and other games. As such, those that have a broad range of knowledge and kept on top of the pulse of the industry were the ones that prospered.

Web copywriters need to get away from the notion that frequent posting and quantity is what matters. Going back again to the poker industry, several sites have proven that quality reporting and informative articles will draw just as well as regular updates.

Subject: Poker was a website that gained a large following after the events of April 15th of last year when the major online sites were indicted. Their objective was to bring hard hitting and informative reporting regarding the issues surrounding what was known as the Black Friday poker indictments.

There were periods of time where the site did not update for days or even weeks at a time. However, when they did update, their content was among the best in the industry and they quickly became the main source of news and legal information surrounding online poker in the United States.

While I don’t recommend going for a week or more at a time without posting, there is no need to update numerous times a day with every little piece of fluff news or information. After a while, viewers get tired of having to sort through the fluff and will go elsewhere. Remember: quality over quantity.

Every Website has its own approach when it comes to web content writing. Some Websites do things better than others. However, those that keep their fingers on the pulse of their industry and provide quality content are the ones that tend to survive over the long term.

James Guill is an online content writer who writes almost everything under the sun. He publishes numerous articles for travel, food and gaming sites as a freelance writer. As a freelance reporter, James has covered the poker world for the past five years.

Six Steps to Getting Published

By Georganne Fiumara

Freelance writing is a rewarding way to work at home. As a writer, you have the special opportunity to influence what others think and do. You can touch emotions and possibly even change the course of a reader’s life. Each year, millions of men and women will attempt to have their words published in magazines, newspapers or books but only a very small percentage will be successful. Those who remain unpublished may secretly feel that the published writers have more talent than they do. Although some have more skill than others, talent is not the reason why most freelance writers achieve success. The following six steps can help you get started on the road to getting published:

  1. Now is the time to start. Ask yourself this question: Do I want to be a writer, or do I want to write? There is a difference. Becoming a writer is a fantasy: writing is hard work. If you are waiting for the right time and place to begin writing, you will never find out if you can do it. Don’t wait until the kids start school or until you can afford a computer. To become a writer, the first thing you have to do is write—right now. There is no better time to begin, and waiting is just an excuse to avoid failure.
  2. Learn your craft. There is not enough room here to give writing lessons, but I can tell you what you have to do to become the best writer you can be: Read and write. Read the type of writing that you want to do. Read all of the publications you want to write for. As you read, notice the best and worst traits of each writer. Write down phrases that you admire. You can even type out a good article to get a feel for how the sentences are structured. Then, read about writing. There are many excellent books about writing and most are available from Writer’s Digest Book Club in Cincinnati, Ohio. They also publish an excellent magazine called Writer’s Digest. The most important way to improve your writing is to write. Like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you will get. Eventually you will develop your own style, your unique voice, which will make it a little easier to complete your assignment. But this won’t happen until you write as much as you can.
  3. Choose your topics carefully. What you write about is more important that your writing skill. Your topics must be marketable. Determine if your article is of interest to the readers of the magazine you are targeting. What makes you qualified to write such an article? Do you have expertise in this area, or will you interview those who do? Is your topic one that has not been covered recently, or do you have a fresh angle on the subject? Will you be teaching your readers a skill that they might have to pay to learn elsewhere? Will the information you provide empower your readers? If you cannot meet these guidelines, it is unlikely that a magazine would be interested in publishing your material.
  4. Do what successful writers do. You may have been blessed with some writing ability, but you will not become a published writer until you learn the methods used by working freelancers. Everyone has heard the expression “Write about what you know.” If you want to have your writing published, you also need to write for publications you know. Until you become a regular reader, there is no way you can know the “personality”of the magazine, the type of articles they buy, and which ideas have not yet been used. Just as you cannot draw a picture of someone you have never met, you cannot write an acceptable article for a publication you have never seen. If you read about a magazine that is not available in your area, send for a sample issue and ask for writer’s guidelines. Become as informed as possible but do not write the article until you contact the publication with a query. Experienced writers do not submit completed articles. They do not want to waste their time completing work that has not been assigned. Instead, learn how to demonstrate your writing ability and present your ideas in a focused proposal letter called a query. Splurge on good stationery with your name and address at the top. Always enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for reply. Appearance and professionalism does count.
  5. Effective marketing is as important as good writing. If you view your writing as your “product”; you will understand why it is so important to use marketing techniques to convince and editor to buy what you are selling. Writing is a business, and only those who realize this will have a chance of succeeding. Use your query to explain to the editor why the readers will be interested in your topic and how they can benefit from your words. Unpublished writers have the greatest difficulty selling their work. You can make it easier to become published if you don’t try for the national magazines right away. If you have to, write for the local shopper newspaper for free, but do the very best job you can do. No one will know that you were not paid for your writing and you will have published clips to show the editors of larger publications.
  6. Rejection is part of the process. No one likes to be told that their work is unacceptable, but it is especially difficult to have a creative endeavor rejected. The great majority of people who want to become writers submit one article, poem or short story. When the publication sends them a preprinted rejection slip, the writer feels that his or her worst fears have been confirmed. So, the manuscript goes into a drawer and never again sees the light of day. This is a very big mistake. Publications reject work for many reasons. Bad writing is only one of them. They may have covered a similar topic recently, or the publication does not use poetry, or the editor had a bad day and rejected everything that crossed her desk. Or, maybe this particular piece was not up to professional standards. The reason doesn’t really matter. It is important, however, to decide at the very beginning of your career that rejection is just one part of the acceptance process. Until you are willing to take the chance of being rejected over and over again, you will never have your work accepted. Even the best baseball players strike out more than they get hits. But, the strike-outs do not take one bit of the glory away from each home run. Instant success cannot be expected in any profession. Becoming a published writer is a process. Anyone with a little talent and a lot of focus and perseverance can succeed.

Georganne Fiumara is a writer specializing in home business topics. She has had more than 85 articles published in magazines and newspapers such as Family Circle, Women’s Day, American Baby, Income Opportunities, The New York Times and Newsday. In 1984, she founded Mothers’ Home Business Network, a national organization providing ideas, information and inspiration for mothers who choose to work at home, with a Web site at homeworkingmom.com.

Home Advantage

By Bill Harper

If you’re a seasoned freelancer, then you’ll have discovered the real benefit of working from home: being able to act like a complete slob while you’re writing.

Sure, you tell everyone else about the flexible hours, being your own boss, and not having to drive to work every day. But let’s face it: the best thing about the job is being able to sit at the computer in your underwear, eating ice-cream straight from the tub, and watching your dirty clothes crawl to the washing machine in a desperate attempt to get washed.

Trouble is, once you’ve been doing it for a while you start to think it’s perfectly normal behavior (what psychologists call “Not having a life”). Which is fine, until a client wants to meet you to talk about a possible assignment.

Suddenly your mind is filled with questions. “What do they want me to write about?” “How much are they paying?” “Where did I put my pants?”

Fortunately, you may find just the answer you’re looking for in this list of Frequently Amusing Questions. (Then again, you might not.)

Let’s start with the most obvious question (especially from where I’m standing):

Q. Is what I’m wearing important?

A. Yes, because in today’s business world clothes do more than just cover up your rude bits. They tell the world where you fit in the social structure (or, in your case, if you fit).

Q. So should I wear a suit and tie?

A. Not necessarily. What you’re trying to do is wear clothes of the same “rank” as your client so they feel as if you’re on their level. So you should either:

  • look at what they’re wearing through the peephole, yell out “Just a minute,” and quickly change into something similar, or
  • answer the door in your underwear and ask them to strip down to theirs.

Q. Should I offer them drinks?

A. Hey, why not? Maybe they enjoy a drink first thing in the morning too, although they’re probably used to it being poured from a bottle rather than a cask.

Q. I meant coffee.

A. Oh. Of course. Yes, a cup of coffee would probably be a good way to break the ice. Just remember to have a fresh carton of milk in the fridge. (The phrase “one lump or two?” is meant for the sugar.)

Q. What should I have in my office?

A. Apart from obvious things like a desk and a filing cabinet, there’s no hard and fast rule as to what should be in there. But here’s a table to get you started:

GOOD BAD
Published clips Toenail clippings
Pulitzer Prize Death threats
Your latest book The latest copy of Penthouse

Q. Not even if Penthouse published my article?

A. No one reads the articles.

Well, I’m afraid that’s all the advice I’ve got time for. I’ve got a client coming soon, which means I’ve got just enough time to get dressed before he arrives.

Assuming I can find some clean underwear.

Bill Harper is a mild-mannered public servant by day, and a very stroppy one by night (public transport does that to you). But when he’s not sitting in meetings (and quite often when he is), he’s thinking of something funny to write about for the next edition of Bill-Bored, his weekly humour column.

Check it out at Bill Harper’s humourwriter.com. “Because life’s too stupid to take seriously.”

I footnotes