What makes freelancing so popular? With the growth of the online marketplace comes more opportunities for freelancers to obtain contracts, but there’s also fierce competition. Deciding whether to burgeon out on your own can be quite liberating if you have the persistence. There are many benefits to freelancing online: flexible schedule, work at home, wear your pajamas to work if you want, and work for many different publications and fields. Then there are the drawbacks: no steady salary, no insurance, and responsibility for your own contracts. That’s what we admire about you as a freelancer. If you have the courage and determination it takes to put your skills out there then go for that brass ring. And we hope you do, just like these three freelancers have here.
Blogging Your Way to Writing Success!
So, what’s the deal with this blogging thing anyway? What is it, and why do freelancers put their severely limited time into writing for free? That can’t make any sense, can it?
Let’s ask Diablo Cody, the writer behind the Oscar-winning movie, Juno. She started blogging about her experiences in the strip and peep show circuit, which then led to her book: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. Before you know it, she had her first screenplay accepted. Now, she has a couple more screenplays coming out this year, and she’s definitely too busy to think about blogging much.
Stories like this convinced me that the rules for reaching your audience as a writer have changed. The old way of writing your book, and then starting to think about promotion, are history. The new way is to build your platform ahead of time. Create demand for your product before it is even completed. Convince others that you have a product that they will want to buy when it is finally available.
How do you draw and persuade your future audience? With your marvelous writing, of course! That’s where blogging comes in.
A blog, or web log, is an online journal, written, read and updated on a website. It’s there for anyone with an Internet connection to see and comment on. The entries, or “posts,” are organized in reverse chronological order, like a pile of unread mail, with the newest on top and the older stuff on the bottom. Some blogs have graphics, sidebars and photos, others are just straight text.
Today, there are more than 100 million blogs in the world, with about 15 million of them actively updated. Topics range everywhere from politics, technology, gossip, sex, mommy blogs, gadgets, fictional characters, videos, photos, and cartoons, to name a few. Every respected media source maintains a blog including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.
People start blogs because they have something to say on some subject, and hope others will listen. It’s the closest thing we have to total freedom of the press. Up until now, freedom of the press was only guaranteed to those who owned one. Now, anyone can start their own media outlet online. Some call it the age of “citizen journalism.”
Every happening, a war, a hurricane, or a sport, has their own crop of bloggers, who try to outdo the mainstream media in covering the event in a timely, in-depth way, and from an insider or an observer perspective. For example, you can read about the war in Iraq from Iraqi bloggers, from American soldiers, or from scholars who analyze and translate news from the front.
“With this platform, the potential for writing and speaking opportunities appear boundless.”
My favorite blogging success story comes from a friend of mine. She started her personal finance blog:
www.MillionaireMommyNextDoor.blogspot.com on a whim last July. Through her blog alone, she has acquired a well-respected literary agent anxious to consider her first book, and a short spot on the Montel Williams Show. This, all after just four months of blogging. The day after she appeared on Montel, she received 21,000 hits on her website. She’s still shocked at the impact this simple choice has made on her life and her writing career.
I spoke to her recently about how she feels about blogging as an avenue to writing success. When asked what her goals were as a newbie to professional writing, Jen said, “As a new writer, my initial intent was to develop my writing voice through frequent posts. Blogging offered me a unique two-way communication and valuable feedback from my worldwide audience. I also felt passionate about teaching my audience about being financially responsible, and hoped my story might inspire others to embark on their own journey to financial freedom.”
Then, I asked how her blog had changed her life. Jen: “My blog has created a platform from which I see many opportunities to expand. In just five months, I went from launching a blog as a newbie writer, to a national TV appearance. With this platform, the potential for writing and speaking opportunities appear boundless.”
Needless to say, when I met the Millionaire Mommy and heard about her successes, I started my own blog. From this experience, I learned about some additional hidden benefits, especially for the new freelance writer.
- Build confidence and competence
- Assist in finding your “voice” and passion
- Provide direct public access and international exposure
- Provide total and immediate freedom of expression
- Create new avenues of connection & community
- Provide immediate feedback from your readers
- Create a platform for your work, while gathering an interested clientele
- Establish your expertise in a certain field
- Time consuming commitment (Posting a few times per week)
- Requires discipline, consistency, and passion for your topic
- Challenges you to keep your writing fresh and interesting, while continuing to add value for your readers
- Avoid copyright and other legal issues
- Need to learn a whole new technology and type of terminology to promote your blog worldwide
“You must entertain them, while also solving their problems.”
Ultimately, blogs build a regular readership if they are updated regularly, are well written, and cover a subject with passion, humor, and excitement. Remember, it’s all about your audience. You must entertain them, while also solving their problems.
Audiences have gotten used to free samples or excerpts from books. They want a good sense of what they can expect from a writer with some sort of guarantee that your material will be worth the price and their time. Blogging is the perfect inexpensive way to draw an audience and keep them interested in you, and what you plan to offer them in the future.
Laura Lee Carter thought she’d seen it all by the time she hit 40, and then the real changes began. After 25 years as an academic librarian and one additional M.A. in psychology, she experienced a divorce at age 46, and then a job lay off at 49. So she started her own dating service, where she met her new husband by age 50. This was enough to convince Laura Lee to try her hand at a freelance writing career, and to crown herself the “Midlife Crisis Queen.” Please see her bio, resume and clips: www.lauraleecarter.com and blog: www.midlifecrisisqueen.com
How to Make Money Writing Filler
As a freelance writer, you may have heard the term “filler” writing. Some of the magazines that use fillers pay quite well. You can make anywhere from $5 to $300 or more, depending on the publication. It’s a fun way to establish writing credits and make extra cash.
Filler is a short piece that editors use to “fill in” layout space in their pages. It's intended to be a quick and fun read that adds interest or provides information. The next time you are at a magazine rack, browse through several magazines and note the different types of short pieces.
“Filler can be a four-line poem, quotes, an anecdote or joke, statistics, a 250-300 word mini article...”
Before submitting filler to a particular market, review past issues to see the types of filler they use; that will give you an idea of what to submit. Filler can be a four-line poem, quotes, an anecdote or joke, statistics, a 250-300 word mini article, etc. Sometime magazines have a specific page dedicated to miscellaneous short content.
1. Use your computer (or typewriter) to type all fillers, double-spaced on an 8 ½ x 11 page or a standard postcard, depending on the submission guidelines.
2. Check the masthead. If there is no specific editor listed for fillers, address your submission to the appropriate editor of the section or column for which you are submitting.
3. Sending fillers via e-mail, rather than snail mail saves a lot of postage. But always check to make sure that the publication accepts e-mail submissions, so you won't send it that way and waste time and effort. If you submit via snail mail, make sure you include a SASE for your acceptance letter and/or include your email contact information.
4. Mail out at least ten to 15 fillers a week, so you will always have a number of them in circulation. This way, you increase your odds of getting published. Of course, it's not only about the quantity that you send out, but also the quality that will get your work published. Your submission needs to be something that the editor will take notice of and want to buy.
5. Don't send rejected filler to the same market again. Instead, if you feel it's good, send it to another magazine. Don't give up on it. Read it to others to see if they like it and can make any suggestions on how to improve it. It's always good to ask your writer friends for advice. They will give you a more in-depth critique.
6. Feel free to send a filler to another market if there is no word after four or five months. I've done that and editors don't mind at all. Also, there is no need to mention that you have sent it to another magazine. It isn't necessary to send a certified letter that you are withdrawing that filler either.
7. It is always smart to hold your fillers for a few days before submitting. Then go back and read them aloud. See if it's exactly the way you want it to be. You might find typographical or grammatical errors, or sentences that should be structured differently.
8. Don't rule out sending fillers to magazine that pay only in copies. At least you will get to see your byline and have great exposure for your work. Sometimes, another editor will see it and ask to buy your anecdote, etc. If you own all rights, you can resell it.
9. Send only to those publications that use fillers now. It's a waste of time to submit to magazines you hope might use fillers in the future. You will see them returned very quickly and will be disappointed. Do your homework and you will be well rewarded.
10. Most importantly, don't give up. Even if you don't get an acceptance within six months, just keep sending them out. Make sure the fillers are polished and your best work. Sooner or later, if you persevere, you will, no doubt, get that acceptance letter.
Women’s publications always have a need for fillers. You can boost your chances of getting published by submitting to these magazines.
270 Sylvan Ave.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
Needs: Cute kids' sayings, and embarrassing moments: $50 each. Funny signs: $100.
New York, NY 10019
Needs: Tip Talk, pays $50 (send snail mail on a postcard)
375 Lexington Ave. 9th Floor
New York, New York 10017
Needs: Best Reader Tips, pays $50
email@example.com (or snail mail on a postcard)
Best Reader Recipes, pays $50 (send snail mail)
1 Montauk Ave.
New London, CT 06320
Needs: Jokes and anecdotes. Payment varies.
"Sign of the Times" pays $4.
Cracker Barrel or Grandparents’ Brag Board
127 Ninth Av. N.
Nashville, TN 37234
Needs: Cracker Barrel only uses 4-line poems now, pays $15.
Needs: Grandparents’ Brag Board, anecdotes about your grandkids, pays $15 also.
Follow the tips above and try writing all types of fillers, not just the ones you feel familiar with. Branch out and write filler for specialty or trade magazines about topics you know. And when you do research for articles, think of how the information you don’t use in the article can be turned into filler for another similar magazine. Be creative and your odds will be much higher of getting the acceptance letter you crave and that welcomed check.
Suzan L. Wiener has had many articles on writing, short stories, poems and shorter pieces published in major publications such as Mature Living, Mature Years, Complete Woman, Canadian Writer's Journal, The New Writer, Cross&Quill, FellowScript, The Writer's Ezine, Mocha Memoirs, NEB Publishing, Saturday Evening Post, MetroSeven (Australia), Family Circle, Woman's World, etc. She has won several contests. She also has her unrhymed love poems in an e-book, which is available Here.
I before E: Except After 16 Hours
Never is the need for accuracy more evident than when 36-point, bold typos scream from their exalted position at upper right, above the fold. Fifteen years as a newspaper editor provides a great hard-knocks education.
It had not been the best of weeks. As triple-digit temperatures heralded the apex of another August in Texas, I sat at my cluttered dining table, in front of a mammoth green IBM electric typewriter, pounding out a Random Notions column for Thursday’s edition. As the name implies, I generally snatched a topic “from the air” for the bi-weekly column, attempting to inject at least a modest amount of humor. However, this was normally accomplished with the adept assistance of a Macintosh PageMaker program, in the relative quiet of my small downtown office.
That particular Monday in 1989, however, our four-year-old son had awakened covered in angry red welts, which quickly spread from his abdomen to his back, limbs, face, and eyelids—even inside his ears. We settled in to battle an especially nasty case of the “chicken pops,” made even more difficult by my husband’s and my offset work schedules. He worked while I slept and vice-versa.
My publisher quickly agreed (as I basically was the editorial staff) to allow me to work from home, and we established a messenger system of sorts to relay articles to Donna, our already overworked advertising/design manager, who would double as typesetter for the duration of Scott’s illness. Not a perfect system, granted, but those were pre-internet days, at least in our little town of about 4,000 souls.
Sue, in charge of office supply sales, delivered press releases, readers’ requests and contributed photos to my home, and carried them back for typesetting after they’d been edited, written and/or sized. As I struggled through what I feared to be the worst column ever written, she arrived with a fresh batch. “Don’t forget this is the back-to-school issue,” she said, dropping a hefty stack of papers and unopened mail on the table. “I gave the school supply lists directly to Donna this time; didn’t figure you could do much with them here. But we need the registration schedules and new teacher profiles by five.”
I thanked her, silently cursing our rotten luck, as I reached absently for the coffee mug and retrieved instead a sticky and half-empty bottle of Calamine lotion. “We’ll do the best we can,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
Of course I worried. I’d averaged approximately 45 minutes of sleep the previous two nights and was nearing the end of a marathon, frequently interrupted typing session. I’d been forced to revert to our pre-Macintosh headline sizing methods: Donna had printed out “The quick brown fox jumped deftly over the fallen log” in sizes from 14 to 72-point type of basic fonts and pasted them across the six columns of a blank paste-up sheet. I’d choose a font type and size for an article, type however much of the “brown fox” sentence fit column widths in that font, and then type a proposed headline to fit underneath. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it had worked during my first few years on the job, when an ancient headliner machine spat them out in long strips, and I could strike pretty close.
The big news of that particular week was not schools opening, but the dangers posed by a seemingly endless heat wave. I’d spent much of the previous day calling local health officials, and had two handwritten pages of quotes, statistics, and recommendations for the lead article. I’d put it aside, however, awaiting a return call from the county hospital, concerning recent heat-related admissions there.
That call came as I sorted the stack of papers Sue had left, and noticed a “canned” press release from a state health organization on the same topic. I decided to combine all the information, beginning with the local angle and finishing up with statewide statistics and other information from the release. A common practice, this allows several extra paragraphs to either flesh out the piece or be cut and tailored to available space.
I reworked the piece as planned, completed my semi-weekly column (weakly), handed it off to Sue, and ran another oatmeal bath for my itchy and very cranky son, thinking I’d not done too poorly after all. The next morning, in 36-point bold type, the lead story proclaimed, “Hospital Reports Sharp Increase in Hypothermia-related Admissions.”
Almost certain I’d not made that mistake, I quickly called Donna, who said, “Yes, I know. They’ve been calling all morning. We just warned folks about the dangers of freezing to death in 112-degree temperatures.” It seems I’d mistyped the word in the headline, but not the body of the article. Also exhausted back at the office, they’d simply gone with the first choice presented—the wrong one.
Errors like this frequently happen under burden of approaching deadlines, even with benefit of spell-check. As both words had been spelled correctly, the newspaper’s computer registered no alarm. This is one of the hazards of working past what my mom called “the witching hour”—that point during a long day after which everything becomes either hysterically funny, horribly upsetting, or otherwise strangely distorted. We’ve all experienced them—those times when even the word “that” looks weird.
Battling the witching hour phenomenon is especially important to writers, and can be accomplished with a little planning.
Never assume you’re certain what that odd-looking word means, especially if you’re already bleary-eyed and nearing complete exhaustion. Along with Webster’s International Dictionary, I rely strongly on The Elements of Grammar, and The Elements of Style.
While I adore my PC and its built-in research tools, I continue to rely on these old favorites as the ultimate authority. Another resource I’ve learned to love is, The Dictionary of Disagreeable English by Robert Hartwell Fiske, who presents the information in an amusingly grouchy manner.
“Never assume you’re certain what that odd-looking word means, especially if you’re already bleary-eyed and nearing complete exhaustion.”
I understand: writers love to procrastinate. I prefer to attribute this to superior intellect (our interests are many and varied), but other less-gracious souls might consider the adjective: lazy.
Whatever the reason, a writer’s credibility depends on avoiding this trap at all costs. I now try to complete assignments at least three days before deadline, a luxury I did not have in those early days of putting out two newspapers a week with a combined editorial/advertising staff of three, including one part-time floater from the front office. Completing assignments early allows extra time for reflection, fact checking, and revision, which will produce a more polished piece of writing.
“Manuscripts need rest, too!”
Try to schedule interviews early and get research out of the way. My grandfather’s traveling philosophy works well with writing projects: starting a half-hour early provides time to deal with the unexpected. Sometimes interviews must be rescheduled; calls are missed; libraries close early (especially in rural communities).
Manuscripts need rest, too! My worst fears in newspaper work were frequently realized the day after we put the paper to bed. No matter how many times I re-read and edited a piece the day it was written, I’d often find awkward wording, misspellings, or grammatical errors once it returned from the printer’s, the next morning. I now try to allow a piece to “rest” a couple of days, while I get my mind off of it.
Even if strongly tempted, I won’t return to it until I’ve completed other assignments, thoroughly cleaned my house, or just spent a couple of days outdoors to gain perspective. Then, editing is simplified by re-reading the piece with fresh eyes. This brings me to the next suggestion.
Newspaper work taught me a new proofreading method: read it backward. Our brains are marvelous machines. They take in information, fill in gaps, and return processed material. If a letter, word, or even phrase is missing, our minds can and sometimes will just assume it’s there. Proofreading from the end of the article, story, or poem forces us to focus on each individual word. If I’d had the time and energy that day in 1984, the word “hypothermia” would have immediately jumped out as inappropriate.
“Writing is ten percent inspiration, 40 percent perspiration; the final 50 is pure frustration!”
Do you have family and friends? Use them! In the past, I’d drive over to Dad’s to see what he thought of my most recent writing project. An avid reader and writer, he could pinpoint errors, suggest changes, and provide fresh ideas/perspectives. Today, my nearest family lives more than a two-hour drive from our home. But with the internet, I now solicit valuable input and critiques via email.
I rely heavily on critiques from friends and family, and offer them my various creative services in return. Although the majority of my professional experience has been in the area of non-fiction, I also enjoy writing fiction and poetry, and recently completed a short-short story I hoped to enter into a contest. After weeks of polishing, I zipped it off to my usual circle and anxiously awaited a response. The next morning, my inbox held the first reply, from my sister-in-law in Louisiana.
“Wow!” she began. After detailing what she liked about the piece, she added, “Of course, I’m no writer, and everyone else might understand it easily, but I did have to read some of it a couple times to find which character was speaking, because of the way it switches back and forth.” I shrugged it off; it made perfect sense to me! However, the next three responses held similar comments and I reworked the dialogue for clarity of voice. This is an important lesson for writers: of course we understand what we write; our goal is to make the reader understand it. And there’s no better way than to ask a reader (or two).
As my former publisher was fond of saying, “Writing is ten percent inspiration, 40 percent perspiration; the final 50 is pure frustration!” Forewarned of “witching-hour” hazards, writers who take steps to prevent the phenomenon might well reduce that familiar adage back to its original balance!
Robin Keith lives in Archer County, Texas, with her husband and three children. During her 15 years as a newspaper editor/columnist in Jacksboro, TX, she received the 1995 Anson Jones, M.D. Award of Merit for excellence in health communication; Texas Press Association’s second in column writing and fourth, tabloids/special editions, 1993; West Texas Press Association’s first in features (Better Newspaper Contest), 1994; and 1994 Jacksboro Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year (shared with Ray Monroe) for organizing the Candy Cane Club to benefit local children at Christmas. She worked nine years as geriatric nurse in north central Texas before entering freelance writing in 2007.
Her short article, “Dealing with Critiques, Criticisms and Unkind Comments” appeared in The Writing Kid, Sept. 2007; and Mom Writer Literary Magazine purchased her poem, “This Moment” for their upcoming spring issue.
These three freelancers have shown us different views of their trades and have offered sound advice on various topics. Whether it’s breaking into blogging for promotion, writing filler for pay, or remembering to edit your articles carefully, we hope their articles inspire you to reach your goals and to achieve your freelance dreams. Each one of you has your own unique set of skills to bring to the world of publishing. And at WOW!, we will continue to create opportunities for freelancers to shine in any way possible. Please contact us, we are always seeking submissions from freelancers just like you.