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Posts Tagged ‘Writing tips’

Whether you’re already a freelance writer or are interested in becoming one, you likely already know 319196_the_future_2about the feast or famine aspect of this career. Rarely does work come in at a steady pace. Instead, you might be writing for ten hours per day and still barely meeting deadlines for several weeks, followed by a month of listening to crickets chirping away in your home office. Though this disappointing economy certainly doesn’t mean less writing is needed, it does often seem like employers are beginning to spend less on writing than before. This often means you have to search for more work just to pay the bills.

If you have some downtime lately, don’t spend your days freaking out and feverishly calculating your bill to income ratio. Instead, spend your time doing something about your situation. Even if you don’t see results right away, you might find you’ll stress less and feel more productive when you take the fate of your writing business into your own hands.

The first step toward giving your career some new life is updating your resume. Most people don’t tend to do this every month, yet they might lose and gain clients that often. If you have a few older, less impressive, or short-lived gigs, eliminate them from your resume. You should only do this if you can replace them with jobs that are sure to catch the eye of your potential clients. You will need to have at least a few jobs on there to show that you have experience, yet your resume should not be more than a page or two long unless your career has lasted decades.

The next step is sending this resume to as many companies as possible. Check out online job lists everyday, or at least a few predetermined days per week. It is not unheard of for freelancers to spend an hour or more per day scoping out possible jobs. You may choose to spend your first waking hours doing so, as long as you have had enough caffeine to address the right employers in each job you apply for.

Though sticking to a few tried-and-true job lists is great, you might need to step it up. You probably read several websites everyday, whether through your research for articles or your search for the latest celebrity gossip. If you’re like me, it might take you a while to realize that the owners of the website don’t usually write the content; they typically hire freelancers like you. There are a few sites that I used to visit often for research that I now write for, simply because one day, a light bulb went off in my slow, caffeine-deprived brain that made me realize that I was missing out on a major client. Even if you have never seen a help wanted ad for the sites you visit, it doesn’t hurt to contact them with your resume.

346146_web_browserAlong similar lines, you can always post ads advertising your services rather than waiting to apply to jobs to which thousands of other writers have also applied. In fact, I’ve received some of my highest-paying, most loyal clients through ads I randomly placed throughout the Internet. Whether you make a website, post your resume on a job board, or simply place links to your work in your email or forum screen name signature line, you never know who will read your writing. The point is to get out there and market yourself in creative ways if you want your business to stay alive and well.

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1146398_vampireWhile in the middle of writing a blog, I got distracted by the Internet, and somehow found a story about a day in the life of a freelance writer. I read it, along with a few similar articles by different authors, and was amazed to have much in common with each story. Now one would think that since I am a freelance writer, of course I could relate to tales written by others of my kind. But that got me to thinking…I guess at times I still don’t think of myself as a freelance writer.

It’s ludicrous, but true. I graduated with a degree in Journalism, wrote a huge thesis related to the media, and have been writing on my own for a year and half. I have been able to pay the majority of my bills each month with just my content writing services, and lately, I’ve been more than able to pay my bills. I’ve progressively worked toward and met my goals, as I have multiple long-term clients that give me a steady stream of work. For the last month, I have been almost too busy to keep marketing, and apparently too busy to write a new blog.

All signs point to me being a freelance writer. Yet when I hear about other writers, whether through their business blogs or fun articles, I automatically assume they are more successful and more of a writer than I am. I’m guessing it’s because I’m a perfectionist, so unless I’m the picture-perfect image of a particular role, I don’t consider myself to fit in that position.

The funny thing is, according to these freelance writing adventures, I do fill the bill. In nearly every article I’ve read regarding the typical writer, they lounge around in sweatpants and shirts that don’t match. Of course, Arizona calls for comfortable shorts rather than sweatpants, but the ratty shirts that don’t match definitely describe my best work attire. The fact that I hate shoes and binding clothes in general makes this outfit perfect for me, so it looks like, based on clothes at least, my career choice was excellent.

Most writers of these articles also claim to get their best writing done late at night, somewhere in the vicinity of 3 AM. I’m naturally a night owl, and the fact that my husband also true_blood_s1e7-500x332freelances means finishing work at 4 AM is a perfectly normal night…er, morning. However, client communication is best done during waking hours for the non-vampires of the world, so it is frustrating when I have a question late at night that no one can answer until the next day. I try to refrain from sending emails past regular business hours lest some proper client should raise an eyebrow in disapproval at such unprofessional conduct. But I’m beginning to realize that most are probably used to dealing with emails at such hours if they’ve ever worked with a freelancer before.

Last week, a change in schedule prompted me to start waking up a bit earlier than normal, at 7 AM. The funny thing is that I was beginning to feel more like a professional freelancer since I had regular office hours, until I read the articles detailing most of their waking hours. Apparently to be a real writer I need to go back to odd hours. Maybe then I’ll finally fit the freelance writer title in my mind.

Is your work day as a freelancer at all like the ones so often described? Do you think of yourself as a real freelancer, and if not, what will it take to do so?

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While perusing a few writing blogs,966154_old_typewriter_and_typist I found an article that reminds readers of the importance of quality website content. The author asserts that many business owners put content last during the web design process, often to save money. As a content services provider who works closely with a web design company, I have to admit that we have encountered this situation with many clients. Usually they decide to add web content at the beginning of the project, but eventually decide to spend that money elsewhere, such as on a extra module,  to pare down costs at the last minute.

It’s unfortunate, because while they might save money initially by writing their own content, the site is almost always delayed by weeks or even months because no one in the company wants to write it.  They don’t even know where to begin, and often offer up excuses as to why it’s not done yet every time we call or email. Some clients even give the web design team a tight deadline, and then wonder why they can’t make the site live in the allotted time; we don’t put the site up without content. In fact, we like to have at least one blog or press release ready to go when the site goes live, but some clients don’t understand the importance of this.

I know the economy has only tightened many budgets, but skimping on good content is likely to turn off readers, who are all potential customers. This costs a lot of money down the road. Whether you are a website content provider or just have a website for your business, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue.

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1138273_button_for_web_pages_1If you’re ever unsure of where to place those darned hyphens, I recently came across a helpful guide regarding hyphenation. A “friend” on Twitter posted it, which is just another way that site can help you progress in your chosen industry.

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If you plan to make a living as a writer, you should get to know some positive habits that will improve your work. Everyone has at least a few habits that they practice often, if not daily. It might be checking your email as soon as you wake up, or maybe even just doing laundry on a certain day every week. Not every habit is a good one, as you well know, but it is always a positive when you can learn a new good habit, especially when it relates to your job. This is just a short list of habits that I’ve found helpful after a few years of being a freelance writer:
1.) Read Often


If you love to write, n2178341you probably grew up loving to read. Now that you know how to write well, don’t drop your reading habit! It is easy to proclaim that life has made you too busy to read, especially when you’re in school and forced to read textbooks. But you might soon find yourself losing your writing ability, or at least stagnating, when you don’t make time for books. Even when I let a few months pass without reading anything new, my writing seems a little stale. Books are not only a great way to relax, but an easy way to make sure you keep growing in this business, whether you learn new words or sentence structures. My favorite authors who routinely plant new words in my brain are John Grisham, James Patterson, Charlaine Harris, and Patricia Cornwell.

2.) Love Learning


This is somewhat related to reading, but there are other ways to improve your writing, as well. One easy way to do this (that I have yet to get around to) is to buy a word-a-day calendar. My favorite heroine, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse, planted this idea in my mind. It is a great way to constantly improve your vocabulary without fail. If you already know the majority of the words, it is likely to be an ego boost, which is also great!

3.) Keep Up with the Industry


On the heels of learning more, another idea is to stay current on news in the writing industry. It might seem like nothing too exciting happens in the non-fiction writing world, but other writers are constantly coming up with new ideas and ways to get ahead in this field. You don’t have to stick to news articles only; opinion blogs in which writers and editors share their experiences and suggestions are also helpful to your growth.

4.) Write for Fun


This especially goes if you are a non-fiction writer. Fiction writers write creatively all the time, but I have a feeling many content service providers do not make time for free, fun writing. Whether you have a blog online or just keep a hand-written journal, writing for fun provides both a break and an opportunity to grow as a writer. You can write about your life, or you can make up a detailed story. You can even try out some writing exercises.

5.) Take Breaks


Some writers might think this is counterproductive, while others already make sure to take plenty of breaks. Personally, I can’t write for hours at a time without a short break. After two to three hours of writing constantly, my brain is fried. This is probably why most people who write from home do not work l_9052ef598b8f39ef73ebae220d457de0full eight-hour days. On my busy days, my breaks consist of getting up for more coffee, responding to emails and job ads, filling in my calendar, and Internet marketing for my business. On my more relaxed days (like today), during my breaks I write for fun, read, or chase my pug around the house for ten minutes (these are her favorite days). No matter what you decide to do, a five to ten-minute break every hour or so will help you feel much more at ease during your workday.

Do you have any other suggestions for growing as a writer? Let me know; I could use some fresh ideas.

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If you have recently made the switch from print writing to Internet writing, you might notice there are a few differences between the two. Though good writing skills and interesting topics are popular anywhere you go, Internet readers do have different expectations online than they do when reading a newspaper or magazine article. Be sure to keep the following facts in mind when writing for the web:

1.) Be Concise


concise2ndlarge1This is one of the web writing rules I sometimes struggle with, but it makes sense. People go online to get things done; they are typically looking something up and want to find the answer ASAP. When a Google search takes them to your page, you’d better have their answer staring them in the face or they will hit the “back” button within a few seconds. If you can say it in a short, sweet sentence, do it.

2.) Illustrate Your Point


1172286_pen_and_lineI never used to believe it, but pictures do help when writing for the web. They break up your page into sections, which makes it easier to scan. That means it is more Internet reader-friendly. Even if you can’t find a picture that refers to your content directly, throw in a few icons, or perhaps a pretty image of your logo.

3.) Use Informative Subheadings


1Adding subheadings also breaks up your content into scannable sections. Whether you’re writing your own blog or providing content writing services for another website, remember to use subheadings that clearly summarize in a few words what that section is about.

4.) Stop Using Buzzwords


Recent studies have shown that readers can easily see through much of the marketing jargon that populates the web. I have heard that one of the most overused words in the corporate world within buzzword_largethe last few years was “synergy.” According to many tales, the very hint of this word now causes most employees to spin into an Office Space-inspired rage involving an on-the-fritz copier. Other severely disliked terms now include “win-win,” “solutions,” “paradigm,” and “value-added.” Feel free to add your own terms, but you get the idea. If your content writing services ever lead you to write for a professional website, please be sure to banish those words from your vocabulary.

5.) Use Facts


1117094_basic_math_1Use facts as often as possible, and when you do, make it obvious. For example, rather than write out a number under 10 like we were all taught to do, use the numeral. Linked sources are also good, as readers love both facts and the proof to back them up.

Just consider the websites you visit when you’re in a hurry. Think about what you like to see on the sites you actually stop to read, whether you’re looking for a way to prove a friend wrong on a point or just researching for an article. Have any other web reader-friendly ideas? Post them up!

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Those with full-time jobs often have ways of dealing with their day so that it is more enjoyable, particularly if they are not happy with their career. Though many freelancers are quite happy with their choice of jobs, work is work, and they therefore still need some help in getting through their day. I love writing, but there are definitely days I can’t seem to get started, or perhaps can’t finish what I did start before my break. I have a few ways of making both my jam-packed and more boring days a little more fun (and not to mention more organized).

1.) Desk Calendar


Though I am always on the computer, I find I prefer to make notes and appointments by hand. It is probably more time-consuming and less 601035_sk_lg1organized than simply making a Notepad document full of notes. However, it’s just how I work. I decided to compromise and clean up my desk a little with a giant desk calendar. Not only can I write deadlines and things to do on each day, but I can also take notes about writing assignments. In fact, before I write any business guide for a particular company, I jot down the three main points to write about on some area on my desk calendar. By the end of the month there is so much chicken scratch on the calendar it’s ridiculous, but it definitely beats the piles of Post-it Notes covering my desk.

2.) A Good Monitor


I was getting along fine with my 15-inch monitor for years (actually, 6 years to be exact). But when my husband bought me a 22-inch monitor for 1046708_881141321Christmas, my vision seemed to improve enormously. I can now put two web pages side-by-side on my monitor and still read them easily, which helps when researching while providing content writing services. I could have chugged along for a few more years on my old monitor, but this one just makes my job a little easier. My eyes are thanking me, as well.

3.) BlackBerry


Though I wouldn’t say I’m addicted, I do appreciate the increased mobility my BlackBerry has brought to my business. I can email clients from the pink-blackberry-pearlstore, or even when I’m out with friends. I have also done research for projects while waiting for my car’s oil to get changed. The only issue I’ve found is that it makes it a bit more difficult to separate work from free time. However, when you have your own business, you likely find that sometimes personal issues come up during your normal business hours, as well, so it usually evens out.

4.) Music


I listen to much more music now than ever before, thanks to being alone in my office all day. I find that many people that provide content writing services do the same. I usually alternate between Pandora and the 1151325_listening_to_music2500 or so songs on my PC. I find my favorite artists to listen to while I write are Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate, Death Cab for Cutie, Mae, Splender, Lifehouse, Jimmy Eat World, and Keane (to name a few). Of course everyone has different taste, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that some of my favorite authors listen to many of the same bands as I do when they write. Maybe listening to these bands enough will inspire me to write the next great novel. If not, at least I have some good music to listen to while I work.

5.) Caffeine


I don’t know if it is a mental thing or I am just addicted to caffeine, but I typically have some sort of caffeinated drink before I write. 1154374_coffee_preparation_11Last year the drink of choice was Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, but it was recently discontinued. Since then, I have taken up drinking coffee instead, and I am pretty sure I am not alone on this. I can get through the day without it, but a tasty drink that happens to boost energy doesn’t hurt.

What are your pick-me-ups throughout the day? Whether you’re a freelancer, a business owner, or work the typical 9 to 5 shift, I want to know what gets you through your day.

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