Tag Archives: freelance writers

Why you still need a good website

We blog, tweet and keep in touch with friends on Facebook, but is it enough? Not if you want to appear professional and gain more freelance work.

Before you can snag a great assignment, you need a clean, organized way to impress an editor, who most likely is in a big hurry.

webscreensEditors work with dozens of people on a daily basis. When they are ready to hand out an assignment, they often view writers websites to see work samples.  They do not want to view your Facebook page, check your status, look at baby pictures, or read a stream of tweets about what your friends are doing.

A good portfolio means business

Editors look for a freelancer with a professional portfolio, giving them the confidence to hire you to write for them. They want to know you’re serious about work, not about spending time the beach. They want to see samples of recent work, so they know they can count on you.

At a minimum a writer’s or artist’s portfolio should include:

  1. Credentials
  2. Expertise
  3. Recent work
  4. References
  5. How to get in touch

What about a blog?

A blog is a great tool for a free website equivalent. Most people blog at blogger.com or worpress.com, both of which are free. You can choose a style that replicates a website with pages and tabs. However most blogs intentionally list new content in chronological order with the newest posts at the top. That can be disorienting to a visitor expecting to easily find your credentials, work samples, etc. A blog, separate from the one you use socially, can be styled to remain static, rather that showing posts and updates. Search a few templates at blogger or wordpress and you’ll find some are suitable to replace a website.

Here is a brief masthead sample, using the ‘mimbo pro’ design at wordpress.com. Looks just like a website, doesn’t it?

If a blog template won’t do, then expect to pay $200-300 if you can’t do a site on your own. Most web designers will take on a small client for a five-page site in that price range.

Some freelance organizations offer free or low-cost member sites as part of their benefits. If you belong to a national author/writer group, such as authorsguild.org, check their member benefit list.

Free web  templates from sites like 1&1.com, webs.com, and wix.com.

Social media is fine for keeping in touch with colleagues and friends, but your website is the best chance you have to make a good impression.

Give yourself a cohesive predictable place to display your credentials, show clips of recent work, state your preference for types of media you work in, and make it easy for an editor to hire you for your next assignment.

I maintain one site for my tech business, one for assistance with self-publishing, and one specifically for my freelance work. It shows editors exactly why they might want to hire me for a specific assignment, and includes a brief tagline that assures them I’m reliable. Curious, visit gallagherink.com and then comment here to share your own writer’s website.

A clean, informative website makes it easy for editors to turn to you again and again. It showcases your work to get your more business, and invites referrals when an editor wants to pass your information on to a colleague.

The Day Job

boatIn late 2011, Abraham Verghese, author of “Cutting for Stone” described his writing life for the Washington Post.

For dedicated writers and those in the publishing business who freelance “part time,” simply because no one will pay us to write full time, there is the need for the dreaded…. “Day Job.”

This quote may help you lose some of the resentment of the day job, as you read how it benefits Verghese’s writing.

“Indeed, when I am asked for writing advice, which is rare, I offer this: Get a good day job, one that you love, preferably one that consumes you and that puts your boat out in the river of life. Then be passionate about it, give it your all, get good at what you do.”

Even though his work and family life left insufficient time to devote to writing, he persisted writing in the time he had available. Perhaps it is his lack of resentment over work as the thief of his writing hours that let him settle down and make the most of his limited time to write.

“Joyce Carol Oates produced two books while I was working on a long chapter. But I am not in a hurry to get the book out, just to get it right — my day job allows that luxury.”

Full Verghese essay here.

BIO: Helen Gallagher joined Freelance-Zone.com to share her thoughts on small business and technology. Her blogs and books are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com. She is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Words and Reason: Getting Back to our Roots

by Cynthia Clampitt

Cynthia Clampitt

Cynthia Clampitt

Because a lot of freelancers work in educational publishing, I thought I’d offer a little help with something that is increasingly demanded by publishers—because it’s demanded by state and national standards. I’m offering this because I worked for years as an in-house editor at a major publisher, and I saw over and over again that this is an issue.

It has been my experience that few freelance writers understand how to teach Greek and Latin roots as a skill to aid students in comprehension and language acquisition. I’ve already mentioned, in a previous column, the most frequent (almost universal, in fact) error I saw: teaching that export and import mean coming out of or going into a port. Even in situations where we’d had meetings with development houses where I stated explicitly, “Do NOT send me a lesson that teaches that export and import are things moving out of or into a port,” I’d still, often as early as a week later, get the dreaded lesson. (Of course, if you were following my earlier suggestion to look everything up, you probably wouldn’t be turning this in.)

That is an example of a lesson that understands the concept but gets the information wrong. The other problem I’d see is a complete lack of understanding of the concept. I received many lessons that ran along the lines of, “The word “volunteer” comes from the Latin voluntarius, which means, “voluntary.” Umm, yeah. But what have you just taught?

The point of teaching Greek and Latin roots is to help students understand English, not to teach Greek and Latin.

So what is the concept? Taking the export/import example, a lesson might go something like this: The Latin portare means “to carry.” We can see this root in export and import, which mean to carry out and carry in. It is also in transport, which is to carry across—if you transport something, you’re carrying it across some distance. A porter is someone who carries things. The word portable also shares this root. Using what you know about the suffix “able” and the root “portare,” what do you think portable means?

You might, if there is space (though there rarely is) add a note that student should not confuse this with the port in seaport or airport. That comes from the Latin portus, which means entrance, passage, or harbor.

Always remember that you have to have more than one word derived from a root. If, as in the “voluntaris” example above, there is only one word in English related to the root, you have not given students a useful tool for understanding new words—and that’s the objective—handing out tools.

Here are some examples of roots with multiple derivatives—though there are many others. Continue reading

Resilience

It looks like 2012 may be the year of the resilient freelancer. Turmoil in the economy and around the world didn’t stop us. We’re still here, still reinventing ourselves, and still successful.

time-moneyWe survived the cash crunch when magazine markets cut their budgets. Whether you freelance in writing, graphic design, or photography, you likely felt the squeeze.

For many authors, the ebook flurry dropped the value of our writing, while some got rich on 99-cent books. Distracting gadgets shifted the reader’s attention span toward video integration, drawing us away from the serenity of the written word.

But, we adapt and we keep working. We publish essays, write memoirs, articles, build new networks and plan new projects. Paying markets are still there, especially online.

Yet, we occasionally run into a dry spell, and have to make the choice to do more work for less pay. If that happens to you, consider a few strategies to keep you at peak efficiency.

1. Stay organized – whether on paper or electronically, keep track of your time, make lists so you can group calls and errands to save time and money. Make notes of follow-up dates and remind yourself of upcoming deadlines. And chase client for payment if  they are slow to pay you for your work .

2. Blog – Work your writing muscle every day. Keep visibility, stay connected, and create some buzz for yourself every week. Need help finding a source, or need an editor? That’s what social media is for: Use it to reach out to your online networks to find what you need.

3. Publish -  Nothing revs you up like a few quiet hours to look back at your previous work and find a way to freshen it up. Repurpose an article into a ten-point list, or create an ebook with a fresh spin on an old idea. Because you blog, you’ve got an audience ready to buy your ebook.

4. Spend less -  When clients are slow to pay, try to spend less money. Cancel a membership you’re not using. Resist the trip to the office supply store, where you’ll convince yourself life will be better with new color-coded file folders.  Instead, shop online . Shop where you can take advantage of rebates, use online coupons, and deal sites. Always use vendors who offer free shipping. If you need new tech equipment, shop online for refurbished items. There are great deals on yesterday’s tablets and laptops. Even if you prefer to shop locally, look online for the best deals before you buy.

cloud

Before you invest in a software upgrade, consider a move to the cloud – next week’s post will explore the growing trend to work on the web with cloud-based programs. In fact, you’re using many of them already. Check back next week for the details on living in the cloud.

BIO: Helen Gallagher joined Freelance-Zone.com to share her thoughts on small business and technology. Her blogs and books are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com. Address questions to Helen@cclarity.com.

What Writing Blogs Do You Read?

freelance-zone com business cards side one (10)

by Catherine L. Tully

Here’s the chance to promote a writing blog that you love, one that you write–or one that you have just recently discovered. I’m putting a call out here for people to check in and list some of the writing blogs that they keep up with. What are your faves?

Blogs about freelance writing, fiction, non-fiction and any others that deal with writing are welcome. From time-to-time I like to go out there and try and find something new on the web. Some writer’s blog that I haven’t seen yet. And I’m hoping you can help direct me to some of them…

So with that in mind, let’s start a big list here in the comments section, shall we? Who are you reading these days? What sites do you find offer the most helpful advice about writing as a career? There are so many out there–I know I haven’t come across them all! Here are a few that I check in with on a regular basis: Continue reading

The Realities of Travel Writing

Omega Music Dayton Ohioby Joe Wallace

I just read a blog post on a blog that shall remain nameless that stated “travel writing is as exciting a career as it is glamorous”. Having recently finished driving cross-country as part of my Vinyl Road Rage blogging trip writing about indie record stores across the USA for Turntabling.net, I feel uniquely qualified to both agree with (slightly) and make fun of this sentiment.

Really, travel writing is NOT sparkly fun. I hate when people try to gloss over the hard work involved with this type of freelancing by saying how glamorous and exciting it can be. It’s every bit as glamorous as you think it is–as long as your idea of glamour is a 16 hour day.

On my cross-country blogging spree, in its third year now, I’d think nothing at all about touring, photographing, and writing notes on six record stores in a day. Only once did I have the pleasure of hitting those six shops in the same city. New York was cool that way, but I spent a lot of highway time getting to the rest. So many little country roads, so little time.

Then there’s the challenge of finding a place to work and post, keeping freelance clients happy while I juggled them and the travel writing. And I think I managed to eat twice a day. I’m sure of it. Snacking in the car doesn’t count as dining, in my book anyway. But I did manage to eat the free hotel breakfast and find decent places to eat somewhere near the breaking point when I just…couldn’t…drive…anymore.

But it WAS exciting, I’ll give you that. There is something about hitting the open road all by yourself, nothing but your self-imposed deadlines and client demands standing in your way. But GLAMOROUS? Well, maybe if you like the smell of your own dirty laundry as it festers away in the back seat.

And we haven’t even come to the part where you review the notes and photographs and try to remember everything that you did.

That, folks, usually comes at the end of the day after your body tells you it’s time to sleep, either behind the wheel or in the hotel bed. Sit there bleary-eyed with Jon Stewart on in the background and just try to recall which places you saw that day and the funny thing that one guy said about his craziest vintage vinyl collector customers. Was that Provo? Or Box Elder? Maybe it was back down near Woman Hollering Creek?

Honestly, the toughest part about doing that type of travel writing–as opposed to the kind where you jet off to foreign lands and such–is having to explain to the family and friends you might have scattered across the route why you can’t really spare the time for a visit. They already think we don’t have jobs, now they see us doing this glamorous and exciting travel stuff and they want us to play with the kiddies and eat barbecue, cuz we’re not THAT busy.

If only.

Joe Wallace writes about and sells rare and obscure vinyl records at Turntabling.net. He also writes for a variety of finance websites and covers military topics as a 13-year Air Force veteran. Contact him: jwallace (at) turntabling (dot) net.