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Friday, August 25, 2006

Freelance Writing From Anywhere

Can you really write from anywhere? I'm about to find out. For about four years I've been planning a move to the Caribbean. Now the day is finally here - my last day in England for a while.

I'm packing my bags and selling my car and tomorrow I board a plane. My trusty laptop will be with me, so I can start work as soon as I arrive. Or at least I could. What I'm really going to do is have a few days off, go to the beach and relax, if only for a few days.

I've got deadlines in the first week of September, so I can't slack for long. Wish me luck - I'll be back here in early September (provided my Internet connection is up) with an update on freelance writing on an island. In the meantime, all my other writing is linked here. See you soon :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Four Secrets Of Freelance Writing

I've been freelancing for the last year and I've been reasonably successful for the past three months. This doesn't mean that I'm getting rich, but that I have managed to replace the salary I was earning as a part-time lecturer. In fact, now that I've cleared the overdraft I built up over nine months of earning a pittance, my account is in the black. During this time, I've learned a couple of things about freelance writing. I'm sharing those with you for whatever they're worth.

Freelance Writing Is Not A Get Rich Quick Scheme

Many people see freelance writing as a glamorous life. You get to write and earn shedloads of money. Wrong. Freelance writing - successful freelance writing - is a job. Even if you love it, you still have to work hard to pay the bills. More than that, you have to promote yourself feverishly in the hope that someone will give you that first break. And once you start to build up relationships with people, you will still have periods where the earnings are lower than you want.

Freelance Writing Gigs Are Like Buses

The thing is, freelance writing gigs are like buses (or taxis in North America). Nothing for ages, then three or four at once. Every writer has slow periods. The people who run freelance agencies will tell you that writing work slows over the summer and around major public holidays. Freelance writers have to prepare for these slow periods by taking the work when it comes. The upshot of this is that you balance times spent twiddling your thumbs with times where you can't leave your computer long enough to eat. With practice, you learn to estimate how long jobs will take you and when you need to start bidding. Right now, for example, I've stopped bidding for jobs, because anything I get is likely to be due either while I'm mid-air or while I'm wrestling with an Internet connection setup. I've told everyone that I'll be unavailable for a week from next Thursday. But, I've spent the last month preparing for this by taking on lots of work to build up some cash reserves.

Freelance Writing: You Have To Give To Get

As a freelance writer, sometimes you have to take work at much less than your preferred hourly rate. Even if you are worth $50 an hour, the realities of the internet marketplace mean that you will rarely get it unless you have an established relationship with a buyer. Instead, you may have to write for as little as 1 cent a word. This is not a lot, it is true, but if you are getting lots of work at that rate, it will soon add up. The faster you write (and your speed will improve) the better that hourly rate begins to look. Where this pays off is that you earn the trust of someone, who may well be prepared to pay you more the next time round.

Always Say Yes And Panic Later

When the writing work comes in, I sometimes wonder how I'm going to do it. I have a three year old and I do most of my writing three days a week, plus naptimes and evenings. At the moment I say yes to most writing jobs, and then I fit the writing into whatever time I have (in fact, I should be writing an article on credit cards right now). The reasons for this are:

  • to earn some money for writing
  • to increase my writing speed
  • to write about new topics and build up expertise
  • to build relationships with people who might give me more writing work
The next step is to weed out the non-payers and accept more work from those who consistently have jobs and pay on time. That will make it even easier to make a success of freelance writing. The

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Freelance Writing On The Move

How do you keep writing when you have to travel? Here's my situation. My freelance writing career is going well. I have been incredibly busy for the past couple of months. All that is great, except that I am trying not to lose my mind while planning a transatlantic move. After four years of planning, it's almost crunch time. The house is covered in boxes, the shippers are coming tomorrow and we're hassling the lawyers to give us the dates we need to get other things booked into the calendar. Meanwhile, I've had to keep writing.

Organising My Writing Life

I was relatively organised. I scaled back on most of my work so I could help with the packing (my DH has been doing most of it). But the dates kept shifting, so I said yes to things that I thought would be due after shipping (which should have happened two weeks ago). However, nothing ever goes to plan - and this is no exception. So I've found myself with lots of writing to do while the house was being dismantled around me and while trying to keep my three year old from getting stressed. She knows we're moving, but she doesn't like seeing her things packed away. Although we're trying to keep things normal, there's no way they can be.

I kept writing and met most of my deadlines, writing by day and packing by night - until after midnight, some nights. Eventually, yesterday, I caved. For the first time in a long, long time, I told a client that I could not meet her deadline, explained why and asked for some flexibility. She was very understanding and even offered me a day more than I had asked for (which is good, because I'd added a day more than I thought I needed). I didn't like doing it, but it was more professional than missing the deadline without explanation. I've also told a couple of other people that I can't do any more work this week.

Clearing My Desk

All my desk paraphernalia has gone. I'm down to my laptop, with an external mouse and keyboard. Tomorrow we're moving into temporary accommodation and I've got to set up the wireless router so that we can all have access to the internet and I can meet my new deadlines. Surprisingly, I am managing well without a printer - I just print to PDF and save it for later. I realised that I don't need as much stuff as I thought I did. I don't have to print out much because I proofread on screen (I do print out some things, but not as many as I did. After all, I've got to do my part in conserving some trees).

Once the move is complete, I can start work again, but this is only part one of the move, so I'm still keeping new work to a minimum. Part two of the move comes in about two weeks when we finally leave the country. Fingers crossed, our internet connection will be set up when we get there. Then I can unpack my laptop, keyboard, mouse, router and extension cord, set them all up and get back to work.

What are your essentials for writing on the move?

Sunday, August 6, 2006

It Shouldn't Happen To A Freelance Writer

Now that I'm a freelance writer, I'm happy doing what I've always wanted to do, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. For the first time in a long time (and I mean LONG), I had a piece of work returned to me for revision. It's a research job, looking for additional information to accompany articles. The irony is that I'm the one who set the standard for this particular type of work, so you'd think I'd know how to do it right. Not necessarily - and here's why.

The Writing Brief

As a freelance writer, the writing brief is the most important part of your job. After all, how else are you to know what to do? But briefs aren't always clear and when you're working through an intermediary (as in this case) you don't speak to the person giving the brief. So it's a bit like pin the tail on the donkey. You might get it right, but you have an even greater chance of missing the mark completely. (By the way, this isn't the intermediary's fault, but if the client doesn't brief the middleperson correctly, then the middleperson can't brief the writer correctly.)

Now, don't feel depressed by this. Once you're an experienced writer, or you have experience with certain types of writing, your chances of getting the job right first time increase. But this job is an example of being lulled into a false sense of security. See, I did the sample topics, found lots of info and links, but what I didn't realise is that I was tapping into the client's unspoken criteria. And those are the ones that bite you in the butt.

Some clients know what they want and give a clear brief, but they are in the minority. Others have an idea of what they want which becomes more defined when they don't get it. In this case, the client wanted a certain number of links in a certain number of categories, but this had never been put in writing or articulated. The upshot of that was that I submitted one article (that I couldn't find a lot of links for) and had it bumped back to me.

Working Through Rejection

I'm only human. I don't like having work returned. It wasted my time, because I had to spend time redoing work that I thought I had finished. That stopped me from doing other jobs. As a professional, though, I have to be prepared to revise work if it's not right. If I do it quickly and without complaining (except to you), then I'll continue to get work from that source.

The good thing is that now I know what the criteria are. That means I can work more efficiently. And I hope I won't get any more work returned for this particular job.

The moral of the story:

  1. Try to find out as much as possible about what is required (it never occurred to me to ask how many links the client wanted).
  2. Where possible, deal directly with the client (middlepeople sometimes make for misunderstandings)
  3. If you have to do a rewrite or revision, don't complain or argue, just do it (freelance writers need thick skins).
  4. Even an experienced writer can have work returned

Have you had work returned for revision? How do you deal with the knockbacks?

Friday, August 4, 2006

1000 And Counting - Website Promotion

Website promotion works. I love the sound of this number. 1000. It rolls off the tongue and gladdens the mind. I'll tell you why. That's the number of unique visitors to my freelance writing site in July. These are my best figures yet and it's all been done through free promotional techniques (and the contacts I've made here on WritingUp). Now, I know these are small figures compared to a lot of big league sites, but they're not bad for a freelance writer's site that's just over a year old.

To get to this point I have used self-promotion of all kinds, including blog carnivals, writing free articles, and looking around for any articles that will help me find out what the next step is. I've taken advice from Mitch, Haven and gracepub and many others.

But this is not just about blowing my own trumpet. The thing is that you can do this too, if you want to. There's no big secret (especially since I've been blogging about it for a year). It's just a matter of taking the time to do it.

And by the way, just so you know, not everything's going my way. One job has stiffed me for GBP150 - so I need to figure out how I'm going to recover it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Stepping Into Self-Publishing

When I signed up with Lifetips several months ago, I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. Within a short space of time I had written on fruit, video chat and conversational Spanish. Spanish meshed well with my previous experience and fruit was general knowledge, but to do video chat I had to step out of my comfort zone and I mean way out. I'd just about heard of webcams, but had no idea, until I did this site, about their history and the many things you could do with them.

In the last month or so, I've done a couple more sites for them. I did an intro page to freelance writing (not live yet) and some tips on educational travel. Freelance writing was relatively easy, while educational travel was done late at night and in a hurry after my laptop trauma. (Not my best work, it's safe to say, but it was competent and it was delivered on time.

But now I'm really happy, because I've become their expert on self-publishing. To do this, I had to assess the existing site, write 10 new tips and advise on how the site could be improved. In return, I've got a link to my blog and to my new ebook. It seems a good deal to me. Self-publishing, here I come!