Tag Archives: freelance writing

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

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

 

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

A Totally Non-Scientific Look at Books On Freelancing

book and script editor for hire Joe Wallaceby Joe Wallace

I was browsing through Amazon.com today looking at all the books on Freelancing, wondering what the market for “teaching people about freelance work” is like these days. Full disclosure–I have an Amazon Affiliates account and the links here take you to Amazon where if you click and buy, I do get a wee cut for referring you.

That said, it was interesting to see all the different titles. Some looked good, some books seem out of date, and some seem like snake oil. I won’t really go into which I thought was which…but I do urge careful attention to titles, implied promises, and caution.

Is it really possible to take some of these book titles at face value? “How To Earn A Bizillion Dollars Freelance Writing In 90 Seconds Or Less” and similar titles just seem off-putting to me. The exception to this rule is a book titled Break into The World Of Freelance Writing: How I Went From $0 to $1,100 In One Month With No Experience.

Written by Megan Kutchman, this book (which I have never read) has a title I very much respect.

Kutchman doesn’t make ANY promises with this title. I love “How I Did It” books, and the title of this says it all. She doesn’t say YOU will do this, and doesn’t say “And YOU CAN TOO” in her title. This book has earned my respect…

One book I won’t mention by name DOES imply a promise in its title, basically saying YOU can earn THOUSANDS per month–not as a freelance writer, but as a professional BLOGGER. This is a bit more misleading. Yes, you may be able to do this. Hell, I myself do this. But it’s getting into sticky territory to write a how-to book about something as nebulous as pro blogging unless your advice itself is fairly nebulous. (Update: I welcome anyone to contradict that statement…as I like to say, “Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll believe you”. But please be sure to tell me WHY I’m wrong!)

Again, full disclosure–I HAVE NOT read that book, either. But I’m talking about first impression factors here and “should I buy this book” things. If it were my money on the line, I would gravitate more toward “how I did it” titles and farther away from “YOU can earn ZILLIONS By Freelance Whatevering”.

In the end, it’s your call…but setting and getting realistic expectations are important. Sure, marketing hype sells copies, but at the end of the day if you don’t sell some steak with your sizzle, you’ve failed as a writer. Some people are better marketers than writers, a fact of life in this biz…so let the reader beware.

–Joe Wallace

Today’s Writing Tip: Establishing Authority

sig2010

Often writers want to sound modest, so they say things like “I’m not an authority,” or “I could be wrong.”

This may work well in general conversation or on a message board, but it doesn’t fly in a book, blog post, or an article. Why not? Well, if you’re not an authority, why should I care what you write?

Let’s say you’re discussing bullying. If you preface your remarks by saying that this is just your humble opinion and you may not be right, readers have no reason to give your words any credibility.

Take the time and the effort to establish and substantiate your position; then don’t undermine yourself by saying that you’re not an authority.

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, a manuscript editor, and the author of three books including Be Your Own Editor. BYOE is available on Amazon in soft cover (http://tinyurl.com/3xkoths) and on Kindle (http://tinyurl.com/3y3nuzb). Or get 20% off the regular price by writing directly to the author at sigridmac@rogers.com. Read more at http://beyourowneditor.blogspot.com.

Tools of the Freelance Trade–And An Announcement

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

I’ve been investing quite a lot of cash recently in the tools of the freelance trade. For me that means a lot of different things including professional grade microphones, studio monitors, recording equipment and other necessities. I haven’t given up writing, not by a long shot, but I’ve added multimedia producing to my list of talents available for hire and that work requires owning gear.

But I’ve invested in my writing work, too. One of the tools I’ve discovered I cannot live without as a freelance web writing professional is the iPad. Freelance writers are very slow to catch up with the times in some cases–you’ll find plenty of outdated websites still chugging away, with writers being especially guilty of missing the boat when it comes to being tech-savvy.

But for anyone who writes online, the time to start switching to mobile devices is NOW, if you haven’t already. You’ll be shocked at how your website looks on a mobile device. Or your work as it appears on other sites. You will also be surprised at how easy it is to get your writing work done using a Bluetooth keyboard paired with a tablet or iPad. The portability of tablets makes them a dream to use professionally, even compared to a 13-inch Macbook or notebook computer.

Here’s a gigantic mea culpa–Freelance-Zone.com itself is far behind the times with its own web design.

On tablets and the iPad, the three-column format leaves far too much to be desired, and a re-think of the entire look of the site is underway. But it’s a reminder to me personally how easy it can be to fall behind.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve made one anyway—this space will be cleaned up and mobile friendly in 2013, and when I look at it on the iPad it will be something to be proud of rather than a reminder that I’ve been the tortoise, not the hare, when it comes to new tech. It’s soooo easy to dispense advice about these things, yet fail to look in the mirror to see what’s staring back. We aim to change that in coming weeks and some of the transitions might be a bit painful, but we’re heading into a new look for a new era as tablets, the cloud, and mobile freelancing become more and more mainstream.

Joe Wallace has a thing for gadgets. He loves producing video, audio, and writing for the web. He is also polishing a short indie film, preparing to release two new albums via iTunes and Amazon.com, and contemplating having his highlights done. He blogs about audio production at www.now-sound.com and writes on financial topics for a variety of websites.