Intro by Angela Miyuki Mackintosh
I'm a Writer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body By Heidi K. Brown
Take Your Heartbreak to the Bank! By Jennifer Brown Banks
A Matter of Negotiation By Laurie Lewis
Confessions of a Book Reviewer By C. J. Domino
What makes a freelancer unique? What ties them together? That's what we set out to discover when we placed a call for submissions. Originally, we were only going to pick one or two freelancers to fill our regular columns, but as the queries rolled in, we were amazed at the number of excellent submissions, all worth considering. As our columns quickly filled, our hearts sank with the impending task of having to send out rejection letters-our least favorite activity. Then an idea struck us; why not examine the state of the freelance marketplace by putting them together in one article? This would create more openings and show our support for freelancers, who are extremely important to us. Of course, we wish we could publish more of them, but since that isn't possible, we decided to choose four freelancers who have advice that we could all benefit from.
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 four freelancers have here.
"I'm a Writer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body"
By Heidi K. Brown
My strategy for building up my freelance writing business is simple: tell every single person I meet (and who asks "what do you do?") that I am a "writer trapped in a lawyer's body."
One day, while living in New York City, staring out the window of my downtown high-rise office building and wishing I could trade places with the deckhands on one of the barges encircling the Statue of Liberty below, I realized that my dream job would be to work from my apartment and write all day long and get paid enough money to enable me to pursue my creative writing interests. Now, as an attorney I did happen to get paid to write all day long, but I was at the mercy of crazy bosses, lunatic clients, erratic court deadlines-and thereby had little control over my life and even less energy left over for creative pursuits. Yes, the pay was good and regular, but fighting and arguing for a living was no longer my cup of tea. That particular day, I decided that, slowly but surely, I needed to transition myself from litigation attorney to full-time writer, whether it takes one year or ten. So far, so good.
My first snippet of advice for pursuing the freelancer's life is to start by trading off of your current talents. I am a lawyer who happens to have a gift for legal writing, so it only made sense for me to start there. The first step I took was to leave my lucrative downtown Manhattan law firm job and transition to a small firm who needed a chief brief writer. I sought out a specific firm I thought would be open to such a dynamic (less established and smaller firms and companies seem to be much more open to freelancers because they can save on overhead). I was pretty candid with the partner who hired me-I had known him for ten years from a prior firm we both worked for at the beginning of our careers-and indicated that I would prefer to be paid hourly rather than salary so I could have more control over my schedule and the freedom to work on other writing projects. I made it clear I did not want to be on the partnership track anymore and I did not want the pressure of business development; I was there to write. Because he knew me (and my work ethic) already, he miraculously agreed. It was an easy sell to his partners: hire someone they don't have to train, who will cost them little in overhead (I offered to work from my apartment in NYC because their office was based in Washington, D.C.), and whom they can let go easily if the workflow or caseload dries up. That was a couple of years ago and I still earn the majority of my income from that law firm each month. Of course, because the legal work I do now for that attorney tends to exceed those boundaries I initially set for myself, I do lose control over my schedule more often than I would like, but it's a start, and a solid foundation to what I hope will be a future career as a full-time author/writer.
When I started announcing to all my friends that I was well on my way into my personal metamorphosis from high-powered attorney to angst-ridden writer (insert image here of me sporting a beret and smoking Gitanes while sipping espressos and furiously penning the Great American Novel), a good female friend who had just launched her own NYC marketing agency perked up. "Hmmm," she mused. "I could use a good business writer to edit some of our Requests for Proposals. How much would you charge per project?" And thus emerged my second freelance gig: editing lengthy Powerpoint presentations for her creative marketing agency. Her company is based in New York while I am currently living on the West Coast, so she often sends me documents at the close of business East Coast time, and I e-mail them back to her inbox by the next morning. She has also hired me to participate in brainstorming and "word association" sessions to come up with catchphrases for new products targeting lawyers and business executives. I have never had more fun with a thesaurus in my life!
Now, with these two freelance gigs under my belt, I legitimately call myself a writer instead of a lawyer, whether I am filling out forms asking about my occupation or meeting new people at a cocktail party. It's my Field of Dreams "If you build it, they will come" philosophy. And somehow it works. A mere mention of my new "occupation" recently landed me another writing "consulting" gig, this time reviewing and editing a marketing executive's application for a grant to an international exchange program. Fun and creative (though not much pay for that one-my remuneration came in the form of a bottle of expensive tequila)!
The key for me, thus far, has been truly thinking of myself as a writer, first and foremost. While I still spend the majority of my average day performing legal research and drafting legal briefs for the law firm, I make sure to work on my creative writing craft every day, in an effort to get one step closer to my "dream job": novel writer extraordinaire. Every day, I do Julia Cameron-esque "Morning Pages" (I highly recommend reading her book, The Artist's Way) and also try to work at least an hour on short chapters of a self-help-type book I am developing with an East Coast friend. I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) in November to keep my creative juices flowing on a novel idea that has been whirring around my head for a few years. I believe stirring my creative pot on a continual basis is essential to moving me one step closer each day to my true goal of the writer's life-though in some respects I already have that life now.
In terms of generating future workload through interactions with potential clients, I usually at some point mention my background in the corporate world but emphasize that I have now chosen this non-traditional path and actually prefer flexible and creative compensation scenarios. This approach has brought me clients that otherwise may not have ever considered a freelancer to do a job that is typically performed by a salaried employee. For instance, I met a corporate attorney who needed someone with a legal background to re-write contracts during only a six-month period but she was having a hard time filling the position because most lawyers want something more solid and secure. I described to her my skill-sets, and explained my comfort level with unpredictable project durations. Together we are working on a solution that will fit both of our needs.
On a routine basis, I also check websites like www.craigslist.com (there are job postings for writing and editing) but have not had much luck yet with paying gigs that way. My personal network of friends and colleagues has brought me a much more constant flow of work.
It is very important to me, at this stage in my transition to the writer's life, that I not get lured back into the corporate world by the so-called benefits and perks. Thus, I buy my own health insurance (check out www.ehealthinsurance.com) and have set up my own retirement planning with a financial planner. While I no longer get paid for vacations, I do take a moment each day to appreciate the fact that I get paid to sit at my desk in my pajamas with my dog sleeping on my feet, and can take a coffee break at any time, sit on my deck and stare at the Pacific Ocean-which I could never do in my prior corporate life. However, when I need a legitimate vacation, I try to tie it into my writing life; for instance, I recently attended a yoga/writing retreat in Mexico to work on my novel (which, call me crazy but, I truly believe is a tax write-off because I wrote for about four hours a day).
Managing my freelancing business does take a certain level of organization and diligence. I obsessively keep all my writing-related receipts (Author's Guild membership, printer paper, toner, even the e-mail address I established to communicate with writing clients, etc.) and set aside one day every two weeks to follow up on administrative tasks such as invoicing and filing. I have a tax accountant to help me attribute appropriate write-offs to my home office space, utilities, and travel expenses, and I keep an ongoing notebook of query letters and other correspondence to track the efforts I make on a continual basis in my "pursuit of the writing life."
My writing life is often a solitary one, but I make it a point to constantly connect with fellow writers (I follow Carolyn See's recommendation to send "charming notes" to writers whose work I admire). When I start to go stir crazy (or realize I have gone eight hours without talking to a single living being other than my dog), I force myself to take a shower, put on an outfit other than yoga pants or gym shorts, and go out into the world for some human interaction.
With flexibility, diligence and focus, I believe any aspiring writer can pursue the freelancer's life. I know now that I could never go back to the corporate 9-to-5 world though I work just as hard now in my own private office environment. This flexible lifestyle fits my personality so much better and gives me the freedom to be myself-quirks and all.
Tips for the Pursuit of the Freelancer's Life:
- Start by identifying your current talents: Mine was legal writing so I started with pursuing freelance work from law firms. It would have been odd for me to leap to something like travel writing or medical editing. Start with what you know.
- Make sure you feel comfortable initially not having that predictable paycheck: I truly believe you can make just as much money (maybe even more) being a freelancer, but the first step is letting go of the addiction or reliance on that predictable paycheck. Start off with a cushion of savings in the bank.
- Start networking with people you know: The best resource for freelance work is people who already know your work ethic and your ability to get the job done even if you are not sitting in a corporate office every day. Start with past employers or work colleagues and friends in your industry.
- Be clear about what you want and don't want: I find that it's easy to get sucked back into the all-encompassing corporate world if you are not clear on your limits. I have to constantly stop myself from crossing my own boundaries. Also, by being clear with clients on my preference for flexibility regarding working hours and compensation arrangements, we have come up with creative solutions they never before considered but which benefit them as well.
- Talk the talk: If you want to be a writer, then simply declare yourself one. "I am a writer." Then go and write-every day. This website (www.wow-womenonwriting.com) is a great example of how submitting articles or entering contests (which, here, do not require lengthy submissions) can make writing a party of your daily life. Get into the routine of writing and submitting your work, and soon you will make money doing so.
Bio: Heidi K. Brown
Heidi K. Brown is a writer trapped in a lawyer's body. Originally from Virginia, she lived in New York City for six years but recently moved to Laguna Beach, California. She has published three editions of a legal textbook for first-year lawyers with Thomson-West Publishing, but her true passion is her creative writing. She has written a screenplay and two novels. She counsels young lawyers on their legal writing, and puts together writing workshops at a yoga retreat in Mexico. She happily resides in Laguna with her better half, Mark, and their adopted Australian Shepherd, Rowan.
Take Your Heartbreak to the Bank!
(Relationship Writing is BIG Business)
By Jennifer Brown Banks
"I am woman hear me roar."——Helen Reddy
Nobody ever told me that being dumped could be empowering! That the lessons learned from loving and losing could not only bring pain, but profit. In fact, whoever said you should never mix love and business, definitely wasn't a writer.
My epiphany began over a decade ago, when as an aspiring writer; I was struggling to discover my niche, my voice. Every "how-to" book I had read said it was a must! For me it was a daunting task, considering the fact I had no formal training in writing, nor any real idea as to how to begin my journey. It never dawned on me that as an incurable romantic, who had survived several love wars, and had earned a "purple heart" in dating, I had already been sufficiently prepared.
I discovered this reality one day when I was at home watching the Sally Jesse Raphael show. The topic of the show was men who were commitment phobic and the women who loved them. For some reason I connected to one of the women on the show, who was very emotional and expressive about her relationship with a guy she had been dating for seven years, who professed to loving her, but refused to get married. I had been there, done that.
Because I thought my "2 cents" was important, I wrote an editorial piece about the show, and shot it off to a local publication in my area devoted to singles. About 2 months later, the editor called me at home and told me I had "serious talent as a writer," and she wanted to run my piece in her next issue! That acceptance began a beautiful relationship. I have now been a feature writer for that publication for 12 years, and have written hundreds of articles on the dynamics of dating!
In fact, my current experience as an online relationship columnist is also a testament to the fact that love pays! Here's how:
I had been dating a guy who had formerly been my friend for about 10 years, and whom I thought might be the knight in shining armor we as women dream of! When much to my surprise, about 6 weeks into dating, he broke it off with me, with no warning, no rational reason, by E-mail, no less!
I was so heartbroken and so embarrassed, that I needed therapy! Well, not the traditional kind, I mean writing. To keep my sanity and sort things out, I began to write. At first I wrote journal entries, then passionate poetry, then articles.
Through my grief, I figured I could help other women with what I had learned, and provide some coping strategies. So I started submitting my work for publication. And you know what happened? A pitch to an online magazine with these writing samples landed me a weekly column! An article from my romantic "horror stories" ended up in an anthology. And the man who initially brought such hurt ended up bringing me thousands of dollars in the process. And I've been laughing my way to the bank ever since!
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I learned amidst this journey, is that it's not what happens to you in life that matters, but what you do with it! Don't be bitter. Be better.
"Don't be bitter.
As writers, there are endless opportunities to make a buck on a subject that most of us are almost authorities on! Think about it. Whether you've been married 20 years, are a man magnet, have been looking for love in all the wrong places, or you're a bitter babe, you have experience and a unique perspective on love.
It's the stuff magazines are made of, lyrics are laden with, and Hollywood screens glorify. Here's how to get in on the action!
Remember to recycle...never let a broken heart go to waste!
- KEEP YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE IN MIND.
- DON'T BE AFRAID OF WEARING YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVES.
- NEVER USE REAL NAMES OR REVEALING DETAILS WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THOSE INCLUDED.
- WHEN APPROPRIATE, ADD EXPERT QUOTES TO SUPPORT YOUR PARTICULAR POSITION OR OBSERVATION.
- ANOTHER NICE TOUCH IS TO USE QUIZZES AND SURVEYS TO ENGAGE THE READER AND PROVOKE THOUGHT.
Bio: Jennifer Brown Banks
For more than a decade, her words have "wowed" audiences worldwide, with over 400 articles, columns, commentary pieces, and poems in online and print publications—regionally and nationally.
She is a contributing author to Simon and Schuster's "CHOCOLATE FOR A WOMAN'S SOUL" series.
Banks is listed in Who's Who in America.
She serves on the Steering Committee of Chicago Writers
A Matter of Negotiation
(You Don't Have to Take What the Client Offers)
By Laurie Lewis
You've been talking with a client about a new freelance assignment, and it's sounding good. Then comes the bombshell. The pay is far less than you anticipated.
Do you swallow hard and take the job despite the low pay? Do you say, "Thanks, but no thanks?" Or do you negotiate fair compensation?
As author of What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants, I frequently give workshops about pricing freelance services. I always ask if anyone enjoys negotiating, and most people say they don't. That seems to be especially true for women, in particular those raised in a time or place where nice girls didn't talk back. But a businesswoman (and a professional freelancer is indeed running a business; don't ever forget that!) needs sharp negotiating skills.
Don't get backed into a corner by a client who insists on knowing immediately what price you'll accept. Tell the client you'll get back soon with your price. Ideally, take a couple of days, but insist on at least a few hours. (Explain that you're on deadline or about to do an interview. Nearly every client will respect that.)
Without the client breathing down your neck, evaluate the job carefully. How much is it really worth? What's the lowest acceptable fee for this assignment? What will you tell the client you want to earn? What will be your negotiating strategy if the client thinks that's too much?
The first step in negotiating is to talk money. Depending on your comfort with negotiating, you can start either with the fee you hope to make or a higher fee. When you start high, you can go lower should the client resist. Suppose you think the job is worth $1,500. You might say you would like $1,800, so you can "compromise" at $1,500 when the client counters with $1,200. Or you can play it straight from the beginning, naming $1,500 as your price.
If you reach a stalemate over money, go to the next phase of negotiation: manipulate the parameters of the job. Perhaps you can interview four people instead of six or write a shorter article. Does the too-low fee include two revisions? Try to talk it down to one. Maybe the deadline is negotiable. Tell the client that with such a low payment, you need to take on more work while you're doing this assignment, so you'll need more time to complete it. (Sometimes this sort of haggling breaks a client, and you end up doing the full assignment for the price you initially asked.)
Suppose the client's budget is set and the specifics of the job are not negotiable. Then try the final stage of negotiating. Ask for something that is meaningful to you but costs the client nothing. Be sure you ask for something worth as much to you as money. When I write for websites for writers, which usually pay poorly if at all, I ask for a mention of my book What to Charge or, better yet, a link so readers can purchase it on the spot. Maybe you can ask for fifty copies of a glitzy piece to use in marketing for other business. If the client produces a product you would like to have, accept a relatively low monetary fee plus a partial payment in kind. I know a freelancer who obtained a set of reference books this way, saving herself the $380 retail price.
To recap, there are three phases in negotiating. The first is money; it's what your client expects, and what you need to pay your bills. If you can't come to an agreement on the price, try to negotiate parameters of the job, such as the deadline or word count. Finally, if you still want the job but haven't convinced the client to pay what it's worth or to alter it so a lower fee is acceptable, ask for something you really want that is a giveaway for the client.
Planning your negotiating strategy in advance gives you an advantage when you discuss the fee with the client. You know exactly what the job is worth and what you'll accept. You can approach from a position of power instead of accepting whatever the client offers.
Bio: Laurie Lewis
Laurie Lewis has been a freelance medical writer and editor for more than 20 years. She is the author of What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants. The book is available at amazon.com or directly from the author at email@example.com.
Confessions of a Book Reviewer
(Six Rules to Success)
By C. J. Domino
After hours, days, months and maybe even years, your novel has finally been published. You're excited, overwhelmed and eager to get the show on the road. Now comes the hard part, promotions. Book reviews are worth their weight in gold and therefore are huge assets to any writer. The process of submitting your novel for a review is usually very simple, but what authors dismiss is the workload of a book reviewer and the time and effort that goes into producing a worthy write-up and not every book submitted for a review is read. C.J. Domino, former Book Editor for The Baton Rouge Weekly Press and author of the upcoming novel, Sideline Ho, offers some invaluable tips as she takes a look in the life of a Book Reviewer.
As you continue on your journey in this crazy business that we refer to as 'publishing' I hope that these tips will become invaluable to you; opening doors that may have remained closed or cracked open only to be slammed in your face. Take off your diva crown and opt for your thinking cap when coming up with creative approaches to catching the eye of a book reviewer and landing that fabulous review.
Rule #1: Don't harass the reviewer! Most of them have a waiting list from here to Cancun. Unless you are with a major publishing house that has taken the liberty to send over a gift basket, lunch or some other major token of appreciation you can forget it! Your book will be placed in a pile marked 'To Be Read.' Continuing along the lines of harassment, don't tell the reviewer where you want your review to appear. Most of these individuals volunteer their services and they have specific publications in which they have established relationships with and know that your review will be published. Harassment only aggravates the reviewer and makes your chances that much slimmer of seeing words of praise in print about your work. And don't ask them to buy a copy of your work and then let you know what they think of it!!!!! That, my friend is tacky.
Rule #2: Send goodies! This increases your chances of them selecting your book to review. Book Reviewers will be more inclined to read a book that came with a t-shirt vs. an envelope with only your book enclosed. Remember that stack of books lurking on their desk. Give them a reason to take a look at yours NOW!
Rule #3: Autographs please! One of the perks of being a reviewer is that they get to keep the books they review. Again, this is a simple step that sets you apart from the other ten authors whose book arrived on the same day as your novel. But one word of caution: if you are going to write a note to the reviewer, make sure you have the correct name. Imagine receiving a book with praises meant for someone else.
Rule #4: Send two press releases; one via e-mail and another one by the postal service. The e-mail puts your book in the reviewers' memory bank. The physical one is a follow up that now has them curious. Do not send more than two releases to a reviewer. Remember the pile on their desk. They are already bogged down.
Rule #5: Make sure your book is properly edited and I am not talking about the spell and grammar check on your computer. Spend some money and get a decent editor. A book reviewer will discard a poorly edited book in a second. It is considered a waste of their time when you haven't finished the entire book publishing process.
Rule #6: Say thank you. Nothing goes further than a little common courtesy. Let a reviewer know that you really appreciate them for taking the time to promote your work (because when they write that review that's what they're doing, promoting your work for FREE), and you never know when you'll need them again.
Bio: C. J. Domino
Winner of the 2006 Margurite Press Award for Best Book Reviewer and the author of 'Sideline Ho', C. J. Domino lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her husband and four kids. A graduate of Southern and Tulane Universities, she is a contributing writer for B-Now and FemmeVip Online E-zines. Her reviews have also appeared in Black Issues Book Review Magazine, The Baton Rouge Weekly Press and The New Social Worker. She is currently at work on her second novel. For more information on the author visit www.myspace.com/coloredgirl to order a copy of her novel visit www.lulu.com.
These four freelancers have shown us different views of their trades and have offered us sound advice on various topics. Whether it's leaving your day job and going into freelance fulltime, cashing in on your heartbreak, negotiating your worth, or marketing your book reviews... the right way. We hope their articles inspire you to reach your goals and to achieve your 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.