Freelancing In Crowded Markets

Joe Wallace Freelance Social MediaWhere I live in Chicago, there are record stores in practically every neighborhood. I can count ten that I go to on a regular basis from my local shop (the venerable Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square) to places wayyyyy out in the western suburbs. You might think this makes for a very tough market for record sellers to thrive in, and you’d be right. I myself sell vinyl records, but taking one look at the already-crowded landscape several years ago, I decided a storefront was a scary and probably ill-advised investment.

Instead I sell online and at conventions. My choices on where and when to market myself have kept me in business, however part-time, for many years. And that’s something I learned from being a freelance writer. Choosing where, when, and how to offer things in a crowded market isn’t something I was born with, I had to learn over the course of my career. And sometimes that learning was painful.

For a while, I struggled as a freelancer to make ends meet, and found a “secret” place to land gigs and pay the bills–creative temp agencies. But while the money was very good and the people I worked for equally so, I learned that I wasn’t that happy temping, even as a writer. Long-term clients and short term gigs are what I’m all about, but a good number of the creative temp jobs offered to me required on-site work, often out in those far-flung Chicago burbs where some of my favorite record shops are.

I found myself fretting over wasted time spent in traffic–time I easily could have spent actually working instead of driving–and dreading those rush hour commutes every bit as much as I dreaded not paying the bills. In the end, I ditched the temp work and found more long-term clients on my own. I work for plenty of people I have never met face-to-face, and the entire process is far more efficient when I’m not wasting two hours or more of my day behind the wheel waiting for the lights to change.

Finding the work in crowded markets isn’t easy–I’ve had to get very creative about the types of writing and social media work I can do. I realized I had areas of interest that hadn’t been mined to death in the freelance world and I started moving toward writing about them. I also found there are some topics that I have a unique perspective on due to experience and am very qualified to write about, and a great deal of my work lately is informed by those experiences and skill sets.

Mining my own experiences for freelance opportunities is one of the best things I ever did–looking inward to find my own expertise instead of trying to find editors willing to publish my work in other areas, hoping I might be able to tap into something I’m less experienced with has worked better for me over the long haul. For some, the opposite winds up being true. Which one are you?

–Joe Wallace

I’m not late on this post….

420838710095906257_a873bb3665e9I’ve posted this EXACTLY when I meant to, which is exactly two months later than I should have posted this.

So I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. My apologies. I’m back with a vengeance to share wondrous tales of freelance heroism, hardships and glory!

To begin my tale, I’ve just returned from a trip to New Orleans, whereby I encountered a psychic. Ok, a psychic and a huge amount of booze. But the psychic was the highlight.

As I sat down to have my palm read, the first thing he said to me, while pointing to a little y-shaped crease in my palm, was “I see you are a writer…” Holy telepathy, Batman! Get out of my head!

He followed with “…but you never write for yourself anymore. Only for others. Your writing is out of balance. If you find the time to write for you, the other writing will improve.” Cut to me falling out of my chair. (From shock. Not from booze. I know you were thinking it.)

Of all the things he said to me during my 15-minute palm reading, this stayed with me the most. And whether or not he can see into the future or can read into my soul via my palm, he was onto something. I never write for “me” anymore.

15-year-old me understood the balance: Finish your book report, and then spill your guts to your diary about that “B,” Stephanie, who tried to tell you that your perm looked like fried crap.

20-year-old me understood the balance: Finish your article for the college paper, and then blog about the importance of finding a mini skirt that does double-duty in hiding my new-found pizza gut.

Even 25-year-old me in journalism school understood the balance as I updated my MySpace status with deeply introspective thoughts on the new Rihanna single.

So why doesn’t 3[number deleted] -year-old me understand the balance? All work and no play makes Mandy dull.

So my advice to you, and to myself, is to make as much time for the fun, personal writing as you do for the clients.

Clients are wonderful. They pay the bills, but don’t let them have ALL of your creativity. Reserve some for yourself! Whether you blog beautiful advice to others, or scribble dirty limericks onto Post-it notes, don’t forget why we got into this mess in the first place – because before the clients came along, you simply loved to write. Cheers to that! *hic*

 

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional writer/editor for more years than she can remember. You can find her at the bar, where most writers do their best work. 

 

 

 

Today’s Writing Tip: Efficiency

sig2010by Sigrid Macdonald

One way I have found to be efficient in business and my personal life is to take the thing that I want to do least and do it first. Every morning when I get up, I assess what I have to do for work and what I have to do to keep my fabulous recreational life going. And I decide which tasks are fun and easy and which ones are a total bore or difficult.

I take the latter and knock them off right away. That means that by 10 a.m. or 11 o’clock, my day is filled with things I want to do because I’ve already completed the ones I didn’t want to do.

This works for writing as well. There are always some things we enjoy more about writing than others. This varies from person to person. Let’s say you’re writing a novel and you adore writing the action scenes, but you hate fact checking.

As soon as you tackle your work, devote a specific period of time to fact checking. It might be twenty minutes or however long you think you can tolerate. Then get back to writing your action scenes. You’ll feel so much better knowing that the task you dreaded is already out of the way.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. Her last book, Be Your Own Editor, is available on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/c3az54r

 

Writers – Take The Superbowl Challenge!

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully
Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

by Catherine L. Tully

I think most writers have one.

An article, short story or novel that they keep thinking about, but don’t actually write. Or–they start writing and never finish.

I know I have several floating around up there in my brain. I think about them from time-to-time. Even jot down quotes that would go with the piece or rip out magazine photos that have to do with the topic. And then…well…nothing.

But I am making a pact with myself, and challenging those of you out there with a similar issue to do the same. I’m going to actually write one of these pieces and submit it before the Superbowl. Yep. That’s the plan.

Up for the challenge?

Here’s the road map I’ll be following:

  • The piece will be written during the holiday slump (between Thanksgiving and the Superbowl, where it is impossible to get anyone to answer you about anything).
  • I will work on it no less than an hour a week from Thanksgiving until it is finished. Even if I just sit there jotting down notes for an hour.
  • I will research a market and submit the piece promptly (read – within two weeks) of finishing it.

Now. If you know anything about these vague, dreamy pieces that float around in the head, you’ll realize that this is much harder than it seems. But I feel like these ideas keep coming back to me, so they must have some type of importance/value/potential.

And I’m determined to find out.

Are you in?

Chaos Theory

FractalAbout two weeks ago, I had a bolt of inspiration…or maybe it was lunacy. By this I mean turn my household (including my home office) upside down and reconfigure the way I utilize my work and living space. Not that it wasn’t perfectly functional,  it just didn’t make sense anymore.

It all began last December when my son Will completed his academic curriculum and entered the home stretch toward graduation in May. He already had a full-time job, and since he no longer needed to spend school nights at his dad’s to be closer to campus, I suggested that he come to live with me in my spacious, two-bedroom apartment.  At the time, the logical choice seemed to be that I would incorporate my home office into the larger master bedroom, and he would occupy the smaller bedroom.

At first, I liked the convenience of my integrated office and personal space, but over time, as my son and I got comfortable in our daily rhythms and routines, it became clear that we were both cramped in too-small spaces, while an absolutely lovely 150 square-foot living room went virtually unused. It’s decorated in a Japanese motif, with shoji screens framing a sliding-glass door that opens onto a balcony overlooking a wooded ravine with a creek running through it. Truth be told, I’ve fantasized about making it my personal space since the day I moved into this place eight years ago, especially since I don’t do much entertaining at home.

So…in that moment of inspiration / lunacy, I decided it was time to deconstruct my world. I had no trouble enlisting Will in the process, and the following Saturday, we set about the task of relocating every object we own: clothing, furniture, artwork, books, office supplies, computers, televisions, appliances…absolutely everything. Of course, this would mean living (and working) in chaos for a couple of weeks until all was put to rights; but it seemed a small price to pay for the reward of more spacious living for us both.

The following morning, when I awoke amid a sea of boxes and dislocated furniture in what used to be my living room, my first thought: “Good Lord!…what was I thinking?” As a Type-A personality, chaos makes me cranky, even if I’m the one who created it. But if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m a firm believer in the divide-and-conquer method of task completion. My motto: I can’t do everything, but I can do one thing. And that’s what I’m doing…tackling the chaos one tiny task at a time until my well-ordered world once again approaches an entropy of zero.

CelesteHeiterFZBioCeleste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.

5 Types of Real Magic for Your Story Beginnings

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Story openings are magical. 

There’s something that happens in that first line, on that first page.  Just words.  It seems simple.  One sentence after another.

But these opening words somehow, cleverly, shoehorn the reader into your story and the next umpteen pages. And they do not let them out.

once upon a time

It’s that last piece that’s key. 

Good openings trap them.  Holds them hostage to the story.  Convinces them to select your book over thousands of contenders.

It’s one thing to talk about that magic and examine an already-published passage.  But it’s another thing to come up with it on your own.

There is no magical shoehorn app.  I’ve looked. (Please develop one, someone.  You’ll be a writing badass and a hero to at least one.  Do it.)  For meeeeee.)

Until technology catches up with us, we’ll have to look at manual methods for creating Opening Magic.

Here are mine:

#1 Regret

There’s something about knowing a regret of some sort exists that creates a reader-compulsion to Find. Out. Why.

This seems useful.  The regrets are already in your story.  Trust me.  So, that might be a great way to start.

#2 Mystery, Lies, and Secrets

Again with the compulsions.  If there’s a mystery, I want to solve it.  It’s as if the universe is unbalanced until an equal and worthy solution is found for a named mystery.

And here’s the key.  Mysteries aren’t that emotionally interesting unless they are surrounded by lies and secrets.  Without these two elements, it’s more like “Hey, some frustrating facts are missing over here,” which is not the same as a true, story-worthy mystery.

Secrets and lies imply there is huge and dreadful meaning that matters to a human being or two.  These elements imply an active efforts to create the mystery, an opponent, a devious adversary who will counter every move made to set the universe right.

And that is conflict, baby.  That’s story.

#3 Danger in the Air

Love this one!

Things are, somehow, not right.  Out of balance.  Mis-matched. 

And it all starts with a recognition that something is worth noting.  Small parts of the universe are rubbing together and creating friction. Or even something big, if you want.

That something is Story barreling down on us.  The earth trembles.  The air quickens.  And soon the impact of Story will force the viewpoint character to adapt in order to survive.

It is the need to adapt that speaks directly to our biology of fear.  And fear is compelling story magic.

# 4 Haunting, Specific Imagery

It’s hard work getting  the story to mean something to the reader.

Creating a luminous picture in the reader’s mind, rooting the reader down into the story world, is an immediate bridge to meaning.  It’s as if each, carefully-selected, unique detail imparts an associated memory of time and place.

All you need is the unusual and the (misleadingly) simple detail… leading directly into the mystery of the story.

Suddenly, the reader and the viewpoint character are sharing the same experience.  Memory. Meaning. Ripples of time and place.

In the end, as humans that’s all we have.  So we connect to it all the more.

#5 Worry

Ah, the subtle awareness that things are not right. 

  • The exploration of the edge of normal. 
  • The expectation of normal and the heightened awareness of pseudo control over the outcome of anything.
  • The worry that leads to action.

In the case of beginnings, these can be more effective, sometimes, than The Big Bad stomping all over your characters, because with worry, there’s room to get to know your character and understand context.

As Chuck Wendig says, “Without depth of character and without context, an action scene is ultimately shallow and that’s how they often feel when leading off the first chapter.”

Tell me your Story Magic.  Let’s make this list long and fruitful!

clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1)Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone:Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

Chicago-based content writing, editing, and social media. 1579 N. Milwaukee #220, Chicago Illinois 60622