In Praise of Failure

By Jake Poinier

If I’m honest with myself—and, yeah, that can be tough to do—I recognize that I have learned as much or more about the freelancing business from failure as I have from success. I’ve been at it for 14 years now, and have enough distance from some of my most major screw-ups to laugh about them. For others, the sting is a little too fresh and harsh.

You’ve got your obvious mistakes, when you bid too low, or let the client run you ragged with scope creep, or simply took on a job that looked boring…and it turned out to be worse than you imagined. But the main thing is to not make the same mistake twice. That’s not failure, it’s foolishness.

There’s another aspect of failure, though, that’s a little more subtle and a lot more under your control. In order to improve your freelance business, you need to try things that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s experimenting with different industries and media types, or trying out different marketing techniques. (If you want a ton of low-cost, high-potential-upside failures, cold-calling is a great exercise.)

The bottom line is that we may expect perfection from our actual creative work as freelancers—perfect grammar, punctuation, turns of phrase—but the sales/marketing/management aspect of the business doesn’t follow the same rules. If your query letters aren’t working, perhaps it’s not that the story ideas are bad. If new clients are haggling on price, it’s not necessarily because your rates are too high. If you’re having trouble finding prospects, it could be simply that you need to take a different approach.

Normally, you think of January as the time to try new things, but I’m telling you right here, that there are freelance clients out there now, coming into the pre-holiday rush, who can be grabbed with just the right pitch or approach—and it might be different from your current methodology. Sure, you might fail. But what would happen if you succeed?

Jake Poinier recently published his first book about freelancing, The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid. He runs Phoenix-based Boomvang Creative Group and blogs under the pseudonym Dr. Freelance.

Part 2 – Why Writers Don’t Need A Website

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

This is the second of 10 Reasons Writers Don’t Need A Website, poking little holes of honesty into the reasons writers are urged to “go get a website.”

Heck, I’ll probably even tell you the real reasons you should have one, the reasons that really matter.

you_are_here

Reason #2. There really are other ways to find you.

There’s a scare tactic that says, “If you don’t have a website, no one can find you!”  Even fiction writers are told this.

Let’s turn this around.  Is it impossible for those writers who don’t have a website to be found?  Totally impossible?

What about…

  • Reviews of Their Writing
  • Guest Articles
  • Interviews
  • Services and Professional Directories
  • Amazon Author Pages
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.)
  • Yelp and Other Review Sites
  • Yellow Pages, Google Search and Google Business, and Other Online Directories
  • Freelance Writing Bureaus
  • Societies, Organizations, and Associations
  • Publisher Sites

TRUTH FOR FREELANCE WRITERS AND EDITORS:

If you offer writing services, YES, you need to be listed correctly online in the key lookup directories.  And YES, a website is a good idea, but if you have bad reviews on review sites, your website may not matter.  (They’ll never click on it.) 

Plus you have many ways to get the word out if you don’t have a site.

TRUTH FOR BOOK WRITERS:

If your book isn’t available where they’re looking, such as a bookstore, that’s a problem.  That’s where they hope to find you, first of all.  And if they search on your name or title, they should find you at any number of online retailers.

SO WHAT’S THE REAL REASON YOU NEED A WEBSITE?

Because many of the other places where they can find you give very little information.  It’s like a 10 second pitch.

If you have your own website…

  1. You can be generous with the information you provide.
  2. You can speak directly to unasked questions and create an atmosphere of trust.
  3. You have time (spent reading multiple pages) to develop a sense of relationship between you and your website reader.
  4. You have the opportunity to surprise and delight your website visitors with non-fragmented information (unlike much of social media)  that you’ve designed especially for her or him.  It could be writing excerpts and samples, free guides, contests, or anything under the sun.

That’s a lot more than just “finding you.” 

I’d love to see writers get websites because of they will wield the mighty website power, not because they feel threatened and motivated by fear.  I’m officially opposed to subliminal blackmail sales techniques.

Long live the sword of website greatness!

TO BE CONTINUED

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.

Don’t Forget to Write (Creatively)

SignatureWhen I first started out as a freelance writer, my stories were mainly observational essays based upon things I’d witnessed or experienced in my travels. The story that opened the freelancing door for me was titled The Fox and the Foreigner, a humorous little anecdote about ordering a bowl of kitsune soba in an off-the-beaten-path noodle shop in Kyoto. Since then, my work has expanded to include interviews, film and book reviews, various forms of service journalism, and most recently, international recipes.

In a span of fifteen years, I’ve gone from: “The days were clear and polished, with enormous banks of snow-white cumulus clouds hovering on the horizon’s blue-purple hills.  At day’s end, in the long rays of the October sun, these cloud banks were transformed into glorious kaleidoscopes of color, soon to be subdued and soothed by the onset of twilight, sparked by the twinkle of the evening star.”

To: “In this age of global connectivity, telecommuting is a rapidly-growing option for businesses of all types and sizes. Some companies allow their staff to telecommute on certain days of the week, and work on-site the rest of the time. Others, especially web-based businesses, may operate with a staff comprised mainly of telecommuting employees. Although telecommuting has its pros and cons, it’s certainly worth considering whether it is a good idea for your business. So take a look at your staff and ask yourself how many of them could be working from home.”

And now: “Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté quickly. Add shrimp and sauté until just pink. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes, scallions and herbs and continue simmering for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes are just tender and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and gently stir in feta cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.”

Regardless of its subject and content, freelance writing pays the bills; and for that, I am endlessly grateful. But lately, I find myself longing to return to my flowing narratives, creative imagery, engaging dialogue, and pithy conclusions. The only cure for that…is to tell a story. And I think I know just the story I want to tell.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Reasons Writers Don’t Need A Website

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

website-building

Why I Have An Opinion About This

So, I’m starting a business where I (a writer) create websites for other writers.

(See, gone for months, yet we pick up exactly where we left off, talking marketing and writing.  That’s how you know we’re BFFs.)

But back to my new biz, Website Happiness.

The gist:  Super awesome sites for writers, no geek speak allowed,  just leading writers through bite-sized, easy peasy steps that accidentally help them with marketing and branding, while costing next to nothing.  Yeah, my slogan is kinda long, but “Just Do It” was taken.

So as I get ready to help some beta clients this weekend, this is a good time to tell you exactly why you don’t need a website.

Reason #1. Websites don’t really promote you (no matter what anyone else says).

Truth:  Websites sit there passively waiting for a human to show up.

cowboy with lassoThey are not a promotion machine with arms and legs, acting as your personal promoter, taking active steps on your behalf.  Nope.  They do not “get out there.”  They do not lasso docile readers or clients, create a stampede to your site, nor generate word-of-mouth by their very existence.

And that’s what a lot of writers seem to think (or hope).

“If I have a website (quality?  who cares!), I won’t have to work.  It will do the marketing for me!  That’s just the genius of web pages.  And I has them.

Soon (mwahahaha), everyone will know about me and all my literary goodness.  Excitement will build because I have an URL.  Finally, I am famous.”

Oh, and I can tell people I have a platform.  Sweet!

What’s that, you say?  It’s not passive?  It really does go out there with the power of Google!

Ah, no.  Getting your site listed in Google searches is also passive.  Google waits for a search to be entered, an invitation, a click.  And even then, seeing lists of sites is not the same as promotion.

Truth

When a reader (or client ) shows up at your website door, if you have an effective website with effective content, yes, it’s possible to educate and influence that reader… if they’re a good fit for you, your writing, or your services.

Your website will passively wait for your reader to decide if this is the case.

And if you really do an amazing job, your reader might tell her friends.  In fact, if you’re amazing, she might tell complete strangers at the grocery store.

So you can see there’s a lot of stuff you have to do right first.  And your website visitor gets to make every decision, starting with deciding to find your site.

That said, if someone does decide to look for you online, and if you’re not there, then you pretty much have zero chance of educating or influencing them at that moment in time.

Just saying.

TO BE CONTINUED….

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.

Books about Freelancing

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorby Joe Wallace

There seem to be quite a lot of books about freelancing. A quick look at Amazon.com shows a number of titles, some of which seem dangerously close to being outdated judging by dates alone. Why do I say that? Because things change so much in this electronic age that the book in 2008 or even 2010 that seemed relevant and on-target is quickly dated by the types of social media platforms and fads used to network, the always-shifting challenges when it comes to the quality and availability of freelance work, etc.

There are two basic types of books on the freelance lifestyle. One I personally have no use for–the ones with titles like, “How To Make Bizillions of Dollars In Freelancing” and “90 Days to Quitting Your Day Job Forever And Ever Amen Because You’re a Hotshot Freelancer Now”. Sure, saying there are only two basic types is a massive generalization, but a quick look at the books out there does tend to make one believe that generalization has legs. Or at least is growing them rather quickly.

The OTHER type of book about freelancing is far more valuable. These are the books with titles like, “How I Went From Being a Day Job Zombie To A Full Time Freelance Superstar”.

See the difference? One type of book is stopping just short of claiming it can help turn YOU into a full time freelancer in 90 days or less (or whatever), the other type is explaining “How I Did It”.

The value in the second type of book? There are NO PROMISES IMPLIED. Unlike the first kind where there’s the implication that if you just follow the magic formula, success can be yours. These selling points are fairly misleading even when they don’t set out to be; “How I Did It” is far more valuable, honest, and worthy of your hard-earned book buying dollars.

Sure, many will disagree. Some will tell me not to judge a book by its cover. But I’m NOT, I’m judging it by the title and any promises implied therein. Maybe it’s even more shallow to judge a book by its title…but I believe in the old idea about truth in advertising. And if your book’s title isn’t “ad one” for your work, what is?

–Joe Wallace

Joe Wallace sells vinyl on the internet, writes articles about personal finance and veterans issues, edits book manuscripts, and is an audio professional specializing in field recording, post production, and sound effects. Contact him: jwallace@freelance-zone.com

Continuing Education For The Writer

by Catherine L. Tully

Catherine L. TullyAlthough freelance writers are self-employed and don’t have to take continuing education courses as part of the job–I’m going to argue that it is still a good idea. It never hurts to expand your knowledge base and it is always helpful to network a bit.

What type of class? Well, now that is entirely up to you. You can take something to enhance a strength you have (for example, if you are a fab blogger you might want to take an advanced WordPress class) – or you can brush up on an area where you are weak (perhaps using Photoshop or learning basic HTML skills?). It isn’t going to hurt you, and it certainly can help.

I would also recommend talking with your accountant to see if you can write off the cost of such a class, plus any materials that you buy for it.

Here are some places you can look for classes that might be useful:

  • Your local park district or community center
  • An area community college
  • Recreation centers
  • The library

As for ideas on what to take? There are plenty of things to choose from. Here are some that I would think could be of use to writers in the digital age:

  • Photoshop
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Basic investing (to plan for your finances in the future)
  • MS Word
  • MS Excel
  • WordPress
  • Grammar refreshers
  • An advanced writing course
  • A fiction writing class

There are many other choices–just grab a catalogue from one of the area facilities and flip through to see what is offered in your community.

Many professionals in many different career fields take continuing education classes to expand their knowledge base and stay sharp. Why should we be any different?

Have you ever taken a class to enrich your writing life? If so, we’d love to hear about it!

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