Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Key to Freelancing is to Keep on Kicking

Freelance writers have to keep on kicking.
It's the Only Way to Score

Want to make it as a freelance writer? Then you have to keep on kicking. Kicking out ideas, query letters, writing and edits. If you're not on the playing field, then you're not in the game.

If your in the game, you might as well aim for the goal. Don't pass the ball off. No one else can take the shot for you. Look for an opening and make your move. It's not an open net, there are goalkeepers you have to get past. The key is to have the right idea, line up the angle, kick it past the editor and score the gig.

Miss? Try again. Score? Awesome! Do it again. If your writing keeps scoring, you might be added to the team roster.

Are you aiming for the goal?

Photo credit: Xsmith / Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Doing the Job Juggling Jig

Break time is over--back to writing, monkey!
Dance, Monkey, Dance!

It's a week of many small assignments for this writer. Multiple articles going out to many sites. So I'm dancing around like a crazed circus monkey, checking guidelines and pivoting from topic to topic. All while juggling dozens of deadlines.

This is what happens when I don't line up better gigs. Not necessarily more enjoyable ones (I do like the topics), or easier, but just better paying. Dropped the ball there, so it's going to take lots of little projects to meet my goals.

I'm going about it in what I prefer to think of as the smart way:
  • Grouping article writing by site, so as to deal with one set of guidelines at a time.
  • Taking advantage of open news beat assignments, for a little topic freedom.
  • Using one main topic and creating separate pieces with different angles, to save on research time.
This way I'm not duct-taped to my desk chair, downing cold caffeinated goodness to keep from passing out on the keyboard. Time management is a struggle, but I'm still fitting in some living. Nothing major, just simple good stuff; like playing with the dogs, talking to my guy, planting day lilies and chit chatting with the neighbors. Sanity-saving stuff.

Are you juggling a lot this week? How do you cope?

Photo credit: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Interests are Ideal Idea Generators

Ideas are a writer's bread and butter, or rather the ability to convey those ideas to others. However, it can sometimes feel like the idea well is tapped out. One of the easiest ways I use to find a topic to write on is to look at my own interests and pick those apart for angles. This also works for assigned subjects.

For fresh news angles, I look at how the event or subject affects a group or topic I am interested in. For example: I find advertising trends interesting. So when the Taco Bell meat lawsuit surfaced, I looked at how other fast food chains were already engaging in ad wars over meat quality.

Entertainment and sports topics often have me wondering one of two things: "Who else has done it?" and "What is the person's history with it?" Those are things that are interesting to me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

HARO: Helping Hand for Reporters

New York Times reporter on the phone, circa 1942.
Website Makes Finding Sources a Cinch

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a tool I consider invaluable to journalists. Gone are the days where we have to spend hours tracking down experts to interview for articles. Whew!

You can simply sign up for the service (even as a freelance writer), type up one query and it is sent out among a huge network of experts. Those interested respond to the query, which is emailed to you. It is then simply a matter of choosing the best expert or sources for your piece.

This year alone, HARO has connected me with average Americans for opinions on the Oscars, a speech pathologist to offer opinions on "The King's Speech," Natalie Portman's ballet trainer for "Black Swan" and "Twilight" fans to comment on "Red Riding Hood." For

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting Over 'Gilmore Girls'

Where is Rory Gilmore now? CNN? The New York Times? Shacked up writing with Jess?
The series ended in 2007 and I still haven't gotten over not knowing how Rory Gilmore's journalism career turned out. That's right--her career. It's what drew me to the show from the beginning and kept me hanging on for seven seasons. Alexis Bledel's book-loving, Havard dreaming, brainiac Rory really resonated with me.

Sure, Lauren Graham was beyond fabulous, Stars Hollow a hoot and the rapid fire pop culture references wildly entertaining. I would have tuned in just for that, but not obsessively. No, it was definitely the writer in me connecting with Rory's own journalistic aspirations that bred the need to see her succeed.

So the series left me hanging. Rory said "no" to Logan's proposal (Yay!) to forge ahead with her career and I was left with an ending that was the beginning of what I tuned in for. Every once in awhile, talk of a "Gilmore Girls" movie pops up and gets me all hopeful. Finally, some answers! But then it dies down and I'm still left wondering.

What television series are you still hung up on?

Photo credit: Jason McELweenie / Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Facebook: Freelance Writer Frenemy #1

Facebook. I rarely get online without checking in there first. It's my virtual social outpost. The welcoming bar I belly up to where the drinks are cheaper, conversation wittier and the games free.
                        "Making your way in the world today
                         Takes everything you've got;
                         Taking a break from all your worries
                         Sure would help a lot.
                         Wouldn't you like to get away"
                                   -- "Cheers" theme song lyrics
Sounds idyllic. Except I'm a freelance writer. Most of my working hours are spent online. So this pleasant outpost of enjoyment is actually a tempting productivity suck.

Me with my #1 Frenemy.
It's not like online writers can ignore social networking completely. Especially the big FB. It's the perfect frenemy. So nice, giving us fan pages to sync up our work, blogs and tweets to broadcast to our network. Providing us with the perfect platform to build our fan bases and connect with clientele, all while insidiously claiming the time we are supposed to be writing.

Damn your usefulness.

So, yeah, Facebook, we can hang--when I have nothing better to do.

What's your Facebook relationship: friend, foe or frenemy?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Enthusiastically Embracing New Writing Endeavors

Yesterday, we talked about diversification, but mainly in terms of writing for someone else. Now I want to focus on our own start-ups, the blogs and websites we enthusiastically create to carve out our own little niches in the world. Out of all the writers I know only a few don't have their own writing endeavors. We're an entrepreneurial lot.

I'm excited about all the writing opportunities we can and do create for ourselves. These passion projects often don't make a dime for months. It doesn't matter. We keep at it because we believe in the idea. We embrace our vision, meld it with our drive and carry the whole shebang out with our storytelling. Sometimes even opening our platforms to other writers' voices.

So, I am sharing  my two newest writing endeavors. They are both still in development stages, but, in the spirit of this blog and to gain some accountability, I feel I should spill the goods.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dreading Diversification? Don't

Writing venues come and go; be it websites, magazines or publishers. Topics become uber competitive or obsolete. Freelance writers get this. We talk endlessly of eggs and baskets--diversification pontification at its finest. Yet many of us dread actually doing it.

We shouldn't, but we do.

Why does diversification make so many of us apprehensive? Fear of rejection (so they say, 'no'. Next!), unsure of how to proceed (100s of websites and books out there to walk you through it), not enough time (Are you really that busy or is it an excuse?)--the list goes on.

My duck-and-run urges and nervousness come along when it's time to submit that very first article. I'm a winner! They want my work--but what if they change their minds? (What good is that acceptance high without a payday? Oh, not a good fit? Did I mention, 'Next!'?)

The thrill of the hunt: Which outlet is your next target?
Diversification is simply a matter of casting as many well-baited lines as possible. See what you reel in. Toss out the gigs that are too small and don't worry about the big one that got away. There will be another chance to hook it proper. Simple as that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Challenging Creative Conundrum

What do you do when you need to write something, perhaps a blog post for a certain A to Z Challenge or any other assignment, and cannot settle your mind into 'work mode'? Do you walk away and leave it undone? Sit down and face the blank screen until something comes?

Wordle or my mind?

I write to myself until capable of writing for others. Dump everything onto the page and delete the document. Clean out the creative house and take out the trash. Making everything tidy to make room for house guests, those articles that visit with me for a spell, before they go on to their permanent homes.

Tonight I'll skip the deleting. After all, I have but minutes to post for the letter 'C'. This topic fits, so I'll let it hang around awhile. Maybe copy this post into a document and send it to the trash bin, so as not to be cheated of the ceremony.

Seriously though, what gets your mind settled when it's not yet ready to write? How do you handle challenging creative conundrums?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Can Be a Bummer Being a Brand

Oh, to be a brand like John Updike.
Can I get an Updike Pass?

On my mind lately--Like it or not, our individual personal brands as writers touch every aspect of our work. What we write, topics we cover, audience, marketing, what our (future for me) book  covers look like and the name we use on these are all packaged together. At least that's how some some marketing experts say it is supposed to be.

Branding is something I've thought about and practiced some as a freelance writer, but it is even more important for an author. So I've been refreshing and adding to my knowledge, hunting down the best tips. One common piece of advice I've keep running across is to pick a pen name for each genre or don't brand at all.

That's a bummer. I'm not sure I will always stick to the same genre. In fact, I'm almost certain I won't. I already write articles on a multitude of topics. A large part of my passion for news writing is the daily variety in subject matter. I use the same name for everything and intend to keep doing so. Am I already in danger of being a weak brand?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Achieving Writing Ambitions with Accountability

A lot of us have writing ambitions for where we want our careers to be at specific times in the future. You may even be like me and have those goals broken down into small obtainable steps. The problem is, not all of those goals are introduced into our reality. This is where accountability comes in.

Accountability to others, that is. Telling someone important to you what your writing goals are, and asking them to check on you, puts it all out there. It introduces the need to achieve ambition into our lives in a very real way. There are now stakes attached, an incentive to perform.
"Accountability breeds response-ability." 
                                                           -- Stephen Covey
It somehow feels like you are more 'responsible' to get it done. "I want to" turns into "I have to." So we do it.


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