Archive for November, 2008

Twitter: How Embracing The Mundane Could Be A Boon To Your Writing Business

Sunday, November 9th, 2008
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A while back I wrote that social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are great ways to get people to visit your writing website and online portfolio. Today I took my own advice and signed up with a Twitter account.

Twitter 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.

At first glance, Twitter seems like just a bunch of people writing messages about nothing.

“I’m at the airport!”

“Politics is stupid.”

“Spilled an entire coffee in the back seat of my car. Starting the day off right.”

Sound pointless? That’s what I thought at first. But after a couple days of using Twitter, I am starting to see its purpose, especially for writers like me.

Publicize Your Website and Writing Portfolio

Like all social networks, Twitter lets you have a profile where you can add a link to your website. While this is great in itself, Twitter takes this a step further by letting you post a message whenever you’ve made a change to your website or blog. Write a tweet whenever you’ve published an article and post a link to Twitter.

Deborah Ng of FreelanceWritingGigs.com does this whenever she’s updated her blog. She uses “Twitter Feed” to send these announcements automatically:

What I like about it is how posts are automatically tweeted out everyday, even if I didn’t do it manually, and even if I didn’t write the post myself. Anything on my RSS Feed is sent out over my Twitter Feed.

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Freelance writer Robin Shreeves also uses Twitter to get feedback on her website:

It’s a good way to promote my writing – especially my blogs that thrive on page views. It’s also a good place to go when a post isn’t doing so well to ask people to trade a stumble or a digg.

Network With Other Writers and Make New Friends

This is undoubtedly the best thing about Twitter. Deborah Ng has used it to amass quite a following:

I started out with one follower and now have about 1200. I met new people, did some business, swapped ideas and stories, and received breaking news. Because Twitter is 140 characters or less, I’m not committed to some deep conversation.

In fact, this 140-character limit completely changes the face of conventional “networking” by embracing the small details of life. These may seem trivial at first, but as social media strategist David Griner argues, these trivialities let you get to know people in a more “three-dimensional way” than ever before:

…if all you do is post little tidbits like this, it’s true that you’ll probably never get much of a following. But if they’re sprinkled in with thoughts from your professional life, the result will be a well-rounded expression of who you are. (You might also find someone else to get coffee with in the same airport, or some suggestions for better places to buy scones.)

Find Sources

Need to interview someone for a story? Twitter is full of useful subjects. Robert Janelle follows people in the sector he covers, which often leads to insights that can lead to a story:

From the tweets I follow, I can see who likes or dislikes a certain product, who holds certain views on a subject and well, almost anything folks are willing to share with their followers.

Learn From Writers Like You

If you’re an aspiring writer, why not follow other writers and see what they Twitter about? As writer Stacie Connerty points out, you may learn a thing or two:

I also follow a lot of people on Twitter who I find interesting or seem to do the type of work that I would like to do. I learn a lot that way.

If you having trouble finding writers to follow, check out this list of UK journalists on Twitter for a start.

Show Interest In Others and They Will Show Interest In You

This is the golden rule of Twitter. Like all social media platforms, Twitter is a community and you’ll get as much out of it as you put in. What you put in may seem trivial at first, but those details will actually help people get to know you on a more personal level. That way, when you do post something work-related, people in your community will notice.

But don’t take it from me – I’ve only been using Twitter for less than a day. What do other writers have to say about it?

Robin Shreeves:

Building a network went slowly at first, but the more followers you have the more you’ll get. I now get a few new followers each day, and about once a week I actively go looking for followers.

Stacie Connerty:

I absolutely love Twitter. I have gotten some great leads and some fabulous ideas. Twitter really works and I think that I am developing an addiction but it sure is fun!!

Are you on Twitter?

Let us know, and don’t forget to follow me @MonicaShaw.

Nov. 8th: Improvements and Updates

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

We just released a set of improvements and updates to Writer’s Residence.

You can now reorder entries within your résumé/CV which makes it much better for adding new jobs, qualifications etc. Click on the Reorder link next to the section you’d like to change.

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We’ve doubled the individual picture and attachment upload limit to 10mb from 5mb for larger scans of tear sheets and the like.

There are a bunch more fit and finish improvements like:

  • Title based links for writings samples. Rather than /samples/8 in the link you now have /samples/this-is-the-title-of-the-article. This will help with search engine optimization on your site.
  • Recent blog entries are listed in the dashboard to keep users up-to-date with the goings on at Writer’s Residence.
  • Your information is now pre-populated into the résumé/CV and contact information pages so less typing is required.
  • Clicking the sign in link on the home page will take you straight to your dashboard if you’re using the “Remember Me” sign in feature.

We really hope you find the improvements useful and, as ever, please let us know if there’s anything we can do for you.

Thank you,

– Monica and Tim

Getting Published Without Writing Clips

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

One of the biggest challenges in starting out as a freelance writer is getting your first article published. But to get published, you need show editors what you can do. How do you do that when you’ve never been published before?

To find out, check out my guest post at The Freshman Writer, a blog for new freelance writers. My article, Getting Published Without Writing Clips, features a few tips for dealing with clips in the early stages of your career.

5 Ways To Get More Exposure to Your Writing Portfolio

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

If you’ve already created a writing portfolio website for your clips and writing samples, then congratulations: you’ve just taken the first step in getting your work seen by others. But how do you get people to actually visit your site?

The key to gaining traffic is to get as many websites linking back to your writing portfolio as possible. Here are a few simple ways to do that without look like a spam-bot:

Signatures

Add a link to your writing portfolio in your online signature. This not only goes for email – add it to posts on forums and blog comments, as well.

Participate in Writing Forums

Related to your signature, forums are a great way to interact with fellow writers and build a name for yourself in the field. Add a link your writing portfolio in your profile and your signature. Not sure where to start? I’m a big fan of Absolute Write, but there are loads of similar forums out there for every type of writer.

Social Networks

Join social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr and make sure your profile links back to your writing portfolio.

Get Blogging

Blogging is a great way to gain exposure and establish yourself as a professional in your market of choice. You can start your own blog or guest post on others. As always, remember to link back to your writing portfolio wherever you go.

Business Cards

Business cards may seem old school, but they’re still a great way to market your writing when you’re interacting with people in the real world. Put your portfolio website address on your business cards and give them out whenever you can – at conferences, in meetings, or at the pub. Always keep a few extra in your wallet; you never know when they’ll come in handy.

Writing as a Business

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Remember, you’re not just a writer; you’re an entrepreneur. Treat your writing like a business. Your words are your products and clients must pay in order to receive those products. It makes it much easier for you to take yourself seriously and to project a professional image.
Lori Widmer (via The Golden Pencil)

A couple weeks ago I took a free course on Becoming Self Employed offered by the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs. Although I always knew that I should treat writing as my business, I never really knew what that meant until taking the course.

I suspect I’m not the only freelance writer out there who takes business sense for granted. Most of us are so focussed on getting published that we forget about the business altogether. This is a mistake – learning to run a business is extremely valuable for freelance writers, and it’s one of the few things that make the pros stand out from the wannabes. It’s also the only way to keep track of your income, save on taxes and stay organized.

So where can you begin learning about business?

Take a course

I highly recommend signing up for a course or workshop that covers business basics. You could pay for a college or university course, but don’t neglect the wealth of free stuff out there.

In the UK, HM Revenue & Customs offers several free workshops, including Becoming Self Employed, and Self Assessment (Tax Return) for Self-Employed People.

In the US, the Small Business Administration offers free online business courses, including a Small Business Primer, Developing a Business Plan, and Marketing 101.

Read all about it

There are loads of blogs out there that regularly feature articles about the business side of freelance writing. Here are just a few.

Talk to people

And I don’t just mean freelance writers – get in touch with other entrepreneurs. I find that talking to other small business owners actually energizes me to be more business savvy.

There are plenty of online business forums full of people giving out free advice and support on marketing, accounting, PR, and anything having to do with running a successful business. I participate in the A1 Business Forums and ukbusinessforums, both of which have been great resources for advice and conversation.

You can also check the freelance-focussed forums, such as freelance folder, Absolute Write and Freelanceswitch, where you can talk with more people like you who are trying to make it as a freelancer.

And of course, never forget the value of talking to someone face to face. My friend Rory told me about something called The Tuttle Club here in London, a “loose association of people finding a way of working better together both online and off”. There are loads of clubs like this all over the place. Search Google or check on craigslist. And if you can’t find one, start your own, just like George is doing in Wasilla, Alaska.

Do you have business sense?

How did you learn? Where did you start? What have I missed? Leave your tips in the comments.

Writer’s Residence: We’ve Added a New Theme

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
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Users of Writer’s Residence now have a new theme to choose from. We’re pretty excited about this one – it’s our first theme that uses an illustration for the header rather than a photograph. We like the cool, bright colors and hope you do to!

To activate the new theme, sign in to your account and click on the Themes tab.