Tag Archives: freelancers

Five Stupid Mistakes Freelancers Make

stupid-mistakes-freelancers-make Before I launch into this, understand that no single freelancer experience triggered my urge to write this entry. Instead it comes at the realization that every single freelancer I have ever hired has made some of these mistakes. 99% of the time, they are completely avoidable.

Editors have precious little time and it costs every time we have to stop and tell a freelancer stuff like this. If you want to become an editor’s favorite–and quickly–all you have to do to get started is make sure you aren’t doing any of the following:

5. Submitting Copy Full Of Mistakes. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve regretted yoking myself to people who seem to have a pathological fear of spell check AND who can’t tell the difference between a possessive and a contraction. Folks, the apostrophe has been abused enough, don’t you think? Can you please make some DIFFERENT mistakes from now on? A little variety would be nice. Here’s the trick. If you don’t know how to properly use the apostrophe, DON’T GUESS. Stop using contractions, for a start. The contraction for “it is” is “it’s”. The reason it is called a contraction is because it is an abbreviated word–the apostrophe has a SPECIFIC purpose.

4. Not Telling The Editor If A Deadline Won’t Work. When the editor says “This piece is due in 14 days,” and you accept, the editor assumes that you understand the deadline is firm and will live up to it. The freelancer who has trouble along the way does well to let the editor know as soon as it’s apparent the deadline won’t be met. Letting the deadline fly by and THEN explaining that your sick cat had a pedicure that went horribly wrong is bad for the editor, but it is worse for YOU. Always try to establish yourself as a reliable “go-to” person, even when you have to blow a deadline. Anything less, quite frankly, means you get less work from that editor.

3. Not Listening To Specific Direction From Your Editor. I have worked with writers I specifically told, in no uncertain terms, to stop using specific personal cliches in their copy. The “personal cliche” is a line that appears in a writer’s work again and again. For some, it’s the phrase, “You can’t go wrong.” For others, it’s stuff like “Additionally, the xyz is an ABC.” How do you think it makes me feel about your work to see those cliches coming back a week after I told you to edit them out of your copy? Yeah–you guessed it–it makes me think you’re a moron who can’t follow instructions. I can forgive it once or twice, because people forget in the beginning. You have to re-emphasize it a few times before some people get it. But folks, if you KEEP DOING the stuff your editor tells you NOT to do, you get branded as an idiot.

2. Not Submitting “Stand Alone” Invoices. I can’t tell you how many freelancers send me invoices in e-mails that discuss other business. Sounds petty and insignificant to complain about that, doesn’t it? But folks, remember that every editor in the business is swamped and has six different issues that all need addressing at once.  When you send along an invoice in an e-mail that is cluttered with other issues that need taken care of, it’s VERY easy for a distracted editor to overlook the fact that your invoice is in there. Don’t delay your money–send that invoice ALL BY ITSELF and clearly marked as such. Otherwise you WILL have to go back and remind the editor to pay you–it’s just a matter of time before it happens.

1. Not Submitting Your Payment Address In Your Invoice. You would NOT BELIEVE how many freelancers have sent me invoices with no payment address. What the hell? How am I supposed to pay this? What’s more, if it’s a larger operation with an accountant, how is THE ACCOUNTANT supposed to know? Don’t make this mistake–it slows down your pay, and in this economy who can afford that? Here’s the kicker–EVERY SINGLE FREELANCER I have EVER hired has sent me an invoice with no payment address. Usually it’s the first one, too.  Even if we have paid you a hundred times in a row, send that address in your invoice.  You never know when the person who pays the freelancers gets sick or goes on vacation and hands the job off to somebody else.

Digital Magazine News Offers Glimmer of Hope for Print

digital-magazine-newsFaithful FZ readers know I’ve been saying the bell tolls for print mags for quite some time, but Digital Magazine News begs to differ. In their latest issue, Digital Magaazine News shows that some publishers not only have a clue, they are actually using it to extend the lifetime of their publications.

Behold US News & World Report galloping right into the 21st Century with an online/print combo idea that is designed to keep the enterprise going. Rather than rely on print or the online version is the mainstay, US News has taken the “value added” angle–using both editions to give more to both readers and advertisers.

Now for some of us, this is a “well, duh!” approach. But why it has taken so many magazines so long to do what Wired has gotten right for years is beyond me. Simple laziness? The old “We never did it that way before” excuse? A complete and total lack of a clue? Hard to say. But it’s shameful, whatever the excuse.

If there is one bright and shining hope for newsstand mags, this approach is part of the equation. Hey, Chicago Tribune–wake up and smell the newsprint. This is the way to go. Freelancers, keep your eyes peeled for more enterprises like this–this is your future on the newsstand.

So Many Pet Peeves, So Little Time

Some wise old sage out there has the answers I seek. Why, oh why does every public library stock Writer’s Market books from four years ago but not the most current version? Why do people write books claiming to help you with your writing or writing career that are filled with generalities rather than specific common-sense advice? Ever notice that all the magazines for writers are filled with plenty of encouragement but precious little info on critical issues like where you’re going to find your health insurance when you go fulltime?

I could complain about this stuff til I am blue in the face. Instead, I’m going to offer some suggesions that we writing bloggers and blog readers should take to heart to make our world a better place. I’ll direct these comments to myself and anyone who wants to jump on my bandwagon is welcome along for the ride: Continue reading So Many Pet Peeves, So Little Time

Clean, Well Lighted Sentences

Janis Bell takes more than three decades of teaching experience and distills it all down into a single, helpful volume I would personally love to buy for every writer in the world. When do you use “you’re” as opposed to “your”? It’s just one example, and seems obvious to some, (and it should seem obvious to more) but these writing hangups occur with annoying frequency, especially in cover letters and queries.

It wouldn’t shock any regular FZ reader to learn that I routinely delete cover letters that contain abuses of the apostrophe, but for new writers this may seem a tad excessive. You won’t have to worry about YOUR letters getting the axe if you follow the simple, clear instructions in Janis Bell’s great book.

Clear, Well-Lighted Sentences is a must-own for any beginning writer. How do you make the name “Charles” possesive? Bell spells it out. Do possessive pronouns have apostrophes? Find out. Yes, this is what many would call “the boring stuff”, but if you want to know WHY it gives me the screaming fits to see a storefront sign which reads “Closed Sunday’s”, get yourself a copy of Clear, Well-Lighted Sentences and learn how to improve your writing in ways you never even imagined.

Secrets of a Freelance Writer by Robert Bly

secrets-of-a-freelance-writer-book.jpgIn the early days of my career I cut my teeth reading Robert Bly’s books on freelance writing, and while I daresay that most of the people who read this great book will NOT make $100,000 a year, they CAN earn more than enough to keep the beer and chicken wings flowing freely thank you very much.

For my money, the real value for books like these is as much about showing you that other people can and do earn a living doing nothing but freelancing as it is giving you the advice on queries, research, taxes and all the other stuff. One day somebody will write the definitive book on how to avoid writing, blow off deadlines and ignore your creditors, and we can all learn some lessons in reverse. For now, I highly suggest books like Bly’s, but please take that dollar amount with a grain of salt until you can look back on your career from the time you first cracked this book open and laugh about whether that figure applies to you or not.

Maybe I am a bit biased against dollar amounts on the cover–if only because I keep finding used books with titles like “How to earn $25,000 a Year as a Photographer”. HAH! How dated is THAT one? Why not just call it “How To Take Pictures While Starving.”

Buy for $11.56 

Five Ways To Use MySpace to Advance Your Writing

Bloggers use social networking sites like MySpace for self-promotion all the time. But how can a struggling freelance writer take advantage of the same type of strategies bloggers use? It’s easy. Here’s the breakdown in five easy steps:

1.  Cultivate lots of “friends”. The law of averages says the more MySpace friends you have, the higher the response rate will be when you post a link to your material or send a bulletin saying “Hey, look at this!” The extra eyeballs on your work means the greater likelihood that your article will get comments and feedback. The more activity on a given article, the better you look in the eyes of an editor who has to decide whether to use you again.

 2. Add “targeted” friends. Got somebody else in the biz you want to make friends with? Maybe an editor or a publication you want to get published has a MySpace site. Add them as friends and start up a casual “relationship” with them by sending the occasional message or posting a nice comment. This is standard MySpace behavior, but when it comes time to strike up a conversation with someone at that publication you won’t be such an unknown quantity at a medium-sized or smaller operation. The key here is to be a semi-regular MySpacer, posting and commenting without mentioning your own work–until you need to.

Continue reading Five Ways To Use MySpace to Advance Your Writing