Archive for February, 2009

Seth Godin Interview: How to Become a Leader

Friday, February 27th, 2009

061AD8AA-279A-4D99-91BD-DC134B1E38BE.jpgPick up any how-to book on writing and chances are they will all contain this piece of advice:

Pick your niche and become an expert.

In other words, become a leader in your field of choice. But how does one become a leader?

Seth Godin’s latest book, Tribes, is all about leadership. Today’s copyblogger features an interview with Seth Godin in which he talks about the dynamics of tribal leadership. It’s worth a read if you’re having trouble picking your tribe (i.e. your niche) and getting in touch with fellow tribe members. For example, Seth shares a few “universal principles”, some of which are especially true for writers:

Charisma doesn’t make you a leader, leading gives you charisma.

When in doubt, work with small groups.

Talk to people with respect, don’t advertise at them.

Transparency is your only option, because the tribe will smell artifice.

While these tips might seem general, think about how they apply specifically to your writing life. Here’s an idea: have a look at your blog or writing portfolio. How do you present yourself? Are you a jack-of-all-trades? Or have you focused your writing on a specific genre? Do you come off as preachy or salesy? Or do you tell it like it is, in plain English? Are you trying to address everyone in the world, or have you targeted a specific market?

Being a writer is ALL about being a leader. Why else would someone read what you have to say?

Read on…

Twitter Basics from Janet Barclay

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

skitched-20090210-195806.jpgI recently wrote a post that describes how Twitter can be used to publicize your work and gain exposure to your writing portfolio. If you’re still stumped when it comes to Twitter, Janet Barclay has a great series of posts on Twitter Basics:

For example, today’s post taught me about Mr. Tweet.

Mr. Tweet will look at the people you’re currently following, your followers, and the subjects you tweet about, and provide a list of recommendations.

So if you’re looking for fellow writers, follow Mr. Tweet and he’ll show you the way! And if you’re already a twit, feel free to follow me!

Best Social Media Sites for Writers

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

skitched-20090224-113408.jpgThere’s a great interview with Jennie Crommie over at serenity for the self-employed in which she talks at length about how’s she’s used social media marketing to grow her freelance writing business. I, too, have been adding social media to my marketing arsenal – it’s right up there with my website, LOIs (letters of introduction), pitches and funky business cards.

I agree with Jenny that “social media is all about connecting, building relationships, finding people with common interests, networking, expanding horizons, and learning new things.” But with so many social media sites out there, and new ones cropping up all the time, which are the best social media sites for writers?

I’ve been asking writers this very question and while everyone has a different approach to social media, there are a few specific sites where writers congregate. Check em’ out and dive right in, because as Jenny says, “Social media is not a fad. It’s here to stay… And if you’re in business (and want to continue to stay that way), you have two choices: change or die.”

Best Social Networking Sites for Writers

LinkedIn

LinkedIn_ Answers_ Browse Open Questions-1.jpgOf the writers I’ve spoken to, most agree that LinkedIn is the most useful social networking platform for career advancement. Most social networking sites are all about your personal life, but LinkedIn focuses on your professional life. And with over 16 million users, you’re bound to find other people interested in your niche. The best way to get noticed on LinkedIn is by filling out your profile, expanding your network and getting recommendations from your “connections”. For more details, check out Collis Ta’eed’s article on FreelanceSwitch.com,
8 things you can do to get work through LinkedIn.

Twitter

skitched-20090210-195806.jpgTwitter is like a cross between a blog and an instant messenger, what the “tweeters” call a “micro-blog”. Twitter lets you post short, 140-character text updates to a public website, which people can follow and respond to if they feel like it. Twitter’s a great place to publicize your work, find new work and find sources for work in progress. For more, check out my previous post on Twitter or read Robert Janelle’s article, Putting Twitter to Work For Your Freelance Writing Business.

Facebook

skitched-164.jpgWhen my mom joined Facebook, I knew I was in trouble. But this just goes to show how omnipresent Facebook is. What was once an outlet for college students to keep in touch with friends is now the second most popular social networking site in the world, just a notch below MySpace. This means it’s crawling with fellow writers and publishing professionals. You can find many of them by searching for “Groups” focused on writing. For example, there’s the National Union of Journalists, the Poets and Writers Registry, Science Writers and Writer’s Market.

In addition to Groups, you can also use Facebook to promote your website and blog by linking to them on your Facebook profile. You can even set up your account to update everytime you’ve posted a new blog post, thus driving more traffic to your blog. The sky’s the limit with Facebook, it’s all a matter of how you use it.

Best Forums for Writers

Social media marketing doesn’t end on social networks. Forums can be a great source of advice, job leads, moral support, feedback and good old-fashioned banter. Here are a the most popular writer’s forums. Check em’ out and don’t be shy – everyone is very friendly!

  • Absolute Write Water Cooler – One of my favorites. With over 14,000 members, this forum is huge and its membership diverse. This very active forum has rooms for just about every kind of writing genre, from fiction to freelance to erotica.
  • Journobiz – This UK-based forum has over 1,600 members, many of whom are well-established and a fountain of generous advice. For anyone in the UK, this is a great place to share contacts, information, stories, or ask for help on anything journalism related.
  • Accentuate Writer’s Forum – This relatively new forum already has over 700 members and is primarily focused on freelance writing, blogging and web writing.
  • Mediabistro.com Bulletin Board – This forum is a great place for anyone in the content industry, including editors, writers, producers, graphic designers, book publishers, and others in industries including magazines, television, film, radio, newspapers, book publishing, online media, advertising, PR, and design. Their mission is “to provide opportunities to meet, share resources, become informed of job opportunities and interesting projects and news, improve career skills, and showcase your work.”

What are your favorite social media sites?

Is there anything I’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!

And feel free to connect with me in the social networking sphere. You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Hope to see you there!

Taking Care of Your Writing Clips

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

We’re in the business of helping writers create online portfolios, so naturally the subject of writing samples comes up a lot. Even so, we don’t often discuss the challenge of managing printed writing clips such as those that have appeared in newspapers and magazines. Specifically, how should you store your printed writing samples so that they’re easy to find when you need them?

Terreece Clarke has a few suggestions on today’s Freelance Writing Gigs. Her key point is: make sure you have electronic versions of all of your articles stored in a convenient place so they’re easily accessible when it comes time to send them to editors or job employers.

Specifically, if your article appears on the web, save it as a PDF. If your article appears in print, save a JPEG scan of the article and store the prints in flat folder or file.

Whatever your style, you need to develop a system. Save time with web articles and keep a list of links and the PDF versions easily accessible to cut down on the amount of time you spend Googling yourself to find your clips. Keep your print article clips organized and in good condition – no one wants to look at a rumpled piece of paper in a submission packet.

My advice is to save all of your electronic writing clips on your website so they’re easily accessible to you and anyone else who wants to read them.

Taking Care of Your Writing Clips [freelancewritinggigs.com]

Find Success in a Subpar Economy: Capitalize on Trends

Monday, February 9th, 2009
skitched-20090209-162408.jpg

It had to happen sooner or later.

Last week I sent out a few pitches to some UK newspapers and magazines. Today, the emails started rolling in…

I’m afraid I’m not commissioning anything at the current time.

We’re not commissioning at the moment. Sorry.

Would they have commissioned my article otherwise? I guess I’ll never know.

I’m not the only writer who’s struggling at the moment. Many of you out there are feeling the pain. But there’s good news for us freelancers: we’re in a prime position to weather the storm.

But how?

Yuwanda Black of Copyblogger explains, “we live in the information age. No matter what’s happening in the world, information needs to be disseminated.”

Yuwanda suggests that we start thinking of ourselves as “information consultants” rather than freelance writers.

“When you become an information consultant, your mindset shifts. Then you start looking to capitalize on trends.”

Kristine Hanson, a freelance writer and author, agrees that the ability to spot trends is vital to surviving a tough economy.

“Any person in any career right now needs to think outside of the box to not only adapt, but succeed,” says Hanson on The Golden Pencil.

Where do you spot these trends? There are plenty of places to look: newspapers, blogs, radio, the people around you. Still overwhelmed? Then check out Inkwell Editorial’s 2008-2009 free industry jobs report. The paper outlines hot niches in areas such as finance, technology, health, green writing, politics, online marketing and travel writing. This one got my attention:

Gerontology: The study of old people. With an aging population, this field will provide plenty of gigs for new and experienced freelance writers in the years to come… eg, diseases most likely to affect the elderly,
healthcare cost, care facilities for the elderly, careers possibilities for college graduates, medical advancements that increase life span, what living longer means for natural resources, etc…Get the idea?

Niches that never go out of style? According to Inkwell:

Pregnancy;
Babies;
Some mentally challenging diseases like autism;
Cancer;
Smoking cessation;
Alcohol and drug abuse; and
Psychotherapy

2008-2009 free industry jobs report [Inkwell Editorial]

Where have all the freelance writing jobs gone? [Copyblogger]

Image credit: respres

Are you an Accidental Freelancer?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Have you found yourself out of a full-time job, suddenly forced to cobble a living from various freelance, contract and part-time gigs? Then you’re not alone. Tina Brown calls this “The Gig Economy”, and according to her poll in The Daily Beast, one third of Americans are now working either freelance or two jobs, with nearly one in two (45%) taking on these additional positions in the last six months.

Of course, just because you’ve been wooed into freelancing by the Gig Economy doesn’t mean it’s easy to run your own show. To help all you new freelancers out there, Michelle Goodman of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide has an article on ABC News sharing her 10 recommendations for navigating your newfound freelance status.

In addition to some softer recommendations such as “the alarm clock is not your friend” and “your bed is not an office”, she also includes some really useful advices about taxes (their not optional), contracts (don’t do work without one) and health insurance (a necessary evil).

Read on at ABCNews…

10 recommendations for navigating your newfound freelance status

Andrew Crofts on Writer’s Websites

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

skitched-20090204-122044.jpg

Ghostwriter Andrew Crofts is my personal hero of the writing world. His book, The Freelance Writer’s Handbook, is perhaps the single most influential book in convincing me to take the plunge into freelancing. More than a mere how-to guide, The Freelance Writer’s Handbook manages to deliver a solid dose of motivation along with all the essential tips on finding markets, making contacts and pitching stories.

skitched-20090204-122701.jpgOne of Andrew’s key messages in his book is the importance of marketing. Marketing is how you persuade people to pay you to write. Recently, I was very fortunate to have an email discussion with Andrew about marketing and how a website should fit into an aspiring writer’s marketing machine. Here’s what he said:

Setting up a website was the best marketing move I ever made. It has brought in a host of interesting enquiries and leading to a dozen number one bestsellers and trips to a variety of places from Bermuda to Lahore. Within a year of starting it was virtually my only marketing tool, permanently out there in the ether waiting to be discovered and followed up by potential clients. I firmly believe that every writer should have one.

Unsurprisingly, Andrew is using his website as a marketing tool to promote his new book, The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride. In this case, Andrew is taking web marketing to a whole new level by creating a website for Steffi McBride herself, with a Twitter feed and Facebook page to boot. Some say it’s going a little far, but even so, he’s getting attention and that’s what marketing is all about. But it also proves that marketing is tough and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it right, even with a simple website. No wonder so many people are nervous about biting the bullet and building a website – what if it doesn’t work?

One of our goals with Writer’s Residence is to take this worry out of the website process. As such, I was very happy to read Andrew’s kind words about our product:

A website can be expensive and time consuming, and seem a little daunting to a newcomer. What Writer’s Residence has done is create an easy to understand and easy to afford package which removes every excuse for avoiding taking the plunge. A brilliant concept, beautifully presented.

Thanks, Andrew.

Andrew Crofts
The Freelance Writer’s Handbook

6 Website Tips from Laurie

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Tim and I are back from our respective holidays and so excited to see how many new people have signed up for Writer’s Residence.

For those of you who are new to websites and online writing portfolios, Laurie at Quips and Tips for Freelance Writers has posted a great set of 6 Website and Blog Building Tips. This is a great list for Writer’s Residence users, and anyone who has a website.

My favorite tip is explain yourself. In other words, give you and your website a little personality by describing who you are and why your website exists. For even more personal touch, use an image. Laurie quotes website consultant, Scott Ellis:

It’s extra work to find a suitable image, resize it, upload it… but images draw attention and can pull the reader’s eye toward a particular paragraph or phrase… Images can also bring a reader’s attention quickly to the top left where they will start reading. Give your images meaningful and accurate names, too. This is also good for Search Engine Optimization as images are commonly sought on the web and no one is looking for IMG0022388.JPG.

Other tips include keep your website clean, easy to read, and easy to open, know your competition, and get involved in social media.

For more, read on…

6 Website and Blog Building Tips