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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Freelance Round Table Event on May 1 on Successful Freelancing

Weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a Freelance Round Table event on successful freelancing. Good thing I was reminded about it, as it's this Thursday, May 1st, at 9:00 a.m. EDT. Well, I now have it on my calendar and am looking forward to it! Find the details--and plan to join us--by visiting here

Please comment if you plan to join, and bring your questions! I'll be happy to answer them. 

Best Tips From 2014 ASJA Conference

I'm back from the 2014 ASJA Annual Writers' Conference. After five days in Manhattan, I'm exhausted but also energized, with plenty of great ideas, new contacts (and friends!), and new pitches to send.  

I attended about a half-dozen panels, and picked up tips from a number of editors, agents, and fellow freelancers. Some of the tips I gleaned included: 

  • Focus on your strengths in your pitch to a content marketing agency. Dan Davenport of Meredith Xcererated Marketing (formerly Meredith Custom Publishing) doesn't like it when writers list nine different things they can do. He prefers that you limit yourself to one or two things you do well. (After meeting him in a client connection appointment, and hearing this advice, I completely rewrote my follow-up letter to him, focusing on what I do the best--service-oriented fitness writing.) 

  • "There's never been a better time to be a freelancer," says content marketing writer Jennifer Goforth Gregory.  "It used to be that when corporate bigwigs wanted to promote products they did it with advertising. Now they create more effective content which saves them money--and that advertising money is now in their content marketing budget so it's available to us." She defines content as "anything produced by a company that provides information with the purpose of increasing trust for the customers to have in the brand." 

  • If you're self-publishing a book, have 10 online reviews up before you start sending it out for publicity, suggested Miral Sattar of BiblioCrunch. You get those reviews ahead of time by sending your e-galleys out to readers will who will review it on Amazon. (Great advice and a tip I'm going to use from now on with Improvise Press!)

  • Don't ever say, "I don't think you know how good I really am." This was advice from keynoter Daniel Jones, who talked about his dreams of his writing career (making a living as a writer of short fiction) and the reality (he's the editor of the Times' Modern Love column). I missed the last half of his speech (I had to run to the Apple store at Grand Central Station to replace my iPhone which went for an unplanned swim in the toilet the day before), but my takeaway was to focus on your work, not on bragging about it. He also shared some hilarious emails from writers responding to his rejections, which were a big hit.  
  • If you're a new writer, or new to the market, pitch something you have personal experience with, says Lynya Floyd of Family Circle. (Gee, I've been saying this for years!) The question she asks of pitches is "what is the service here?" and says each story has to have national, not regional appeal. 
  • Amy Rushlow, of, suggests that writers come up with an attention-grabbing headline, and then write the story. "Click-bait" headlines do grab readers. (In your pitch, make sure to include the headline or working title." 
  • Think ahead, says Marissa Stephenson of Men's Journal. "We work about six months out, so we're already looking at October/November pitches, and thinking about our January fitness package." She said Men's Journal pays $2/word and $150-300 for quick online posts; $500-600 for slide shows. 
  • There are three places to find content work, says Jennifer Goforth Gregory: agencies; brands; and content services company like Ebyline and Contently. To get your foot in the door, "write a killer LOI that packages your experience and shows how you can help your clients. Include publications you've written for that are relevant to them. Make it really easy for them to say yes." 

Friday, April 25, 2014

More about the Business of Freelancing

Last post, I spoke with Debra Gordon, who's offering a value-packed webinar, The Business of Freelancing: Getting to Six Figures. The first 10 people who register will receive a free copy of my  book,Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, a $20 value!

Just use the code “BOOK” when you register for The Business of Freelancing: Getting to Six Figures

Imagine: Not only do you get 9 hours of coaching on how to grow your business, but you also get this fantastic book with thousands of tips from me. Let me know if you decide to take the class! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Learn from a Master: Debra Gordon's New Freelancing Class

I'm a big believer in learning from the best, so I was intrigued by Debra Gordon's new class, The Business of Freelancing: Getting to Six Figures. I've known Debra for years and she's a smart, very successful freelancer who's now branching out into offering classes. I asked her to tell me more about the class: 

Q: As you know, I’ve written a book on the topic of this class, Six-Figure Freelancing, and I think the title captures readers’ attention. Why did you decide to name your class what you did? 

A: I've served on two panels with this name in the past 14 years and participated in numerous discussions on listserves. I think the phrase just resonates with small business people (as you know, since you used it for your book!). I also think that the idea of earning more than 100,000 a year on your own represents one of those goals that many of us have.

Q: I completely agree with that. So, why did you decide to offer the class? 

A: I've been speaking about the business aspects of freelancing at the American Medical Writer's Association ( and American Society of Journalists and Authors ( for years now. Every time people come up to me and tell me how much they learned -- even those who have been in business for years--and often come up to me years after my talks to tell me how it helped them improve their business. 

I finally decided I had enough knowledge and content to pull it all together and reach a broader audience.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your freelance background. 

A: I have been freelancing for 14 years now, with 100 percent of my clients in the healthcare and medical fields. I write for a variety of audiences, including consumers/patients, physicians and other clinicians, and business-to-business. I have an English degree from the University of Virginia and a master's degree in biomedical writing from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. My specialties include most therapeutic areas, as well as writing, speaking, and training on healthcare reform and the healthcare system.

Q: Debra, what common misconceptions do you think freelancers have about being able to make a good living, including six figures (and more)? 

A: Relying on one or two clients; not treating the business like a business (ie, not saving money from every check for taxes and retirement); not taking marketing seriously; not being creative enough with their marketing; not planning ahead; getting caught in a rut and not continuing to grow themselves (and their businesses).

Seriously, though,  I think of this course as providing them with a good solid foundation upon which they can build their business -- as high as they want.

Q: So, what type of writer is the class aimed at? 

A: It's aimed at anyone who has their own small business, not just writers. I think graphic artists, web page designers, IT professionals, even Realtors could benefit from this course. Of course, I expect the majority will be writers. So . .any kind of writer, regardless of your experience and specialty. One caveat: I'm not going to talk about writing—but about how to build and run a writing business (if that's your business). 

Q: Anything else writers should consider before signing up for the class?

A: I will assign "homework," such as writing a business plan . .. but there's no grade! Also, I'll be setting up a private Linked In group for participants so we can continue the discussion . . .They can also get a discount off one-on-one coaching with me. The webinars will be recorded and available on demand as well as live.

**If you're serous about your freelance career, I highly suggest you consider this class as a worthwhile investment. It's one more way to help you take your career from so-so to stellar. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

4 Ways to Get More from ASJA (or Another Writers' Conference) This Year

I'm gearing up for the annual ASJA Writers' Conference April 24-26 in Manhattan next week. Please let me know if you're planning to attend, and I hope we can meet in person! 

I've posted before about the benefits of attending writer's conferences. They offer a chance to learn new skills; keep up on publishing trends; network with fellow writers; and meet editors, agents, and potential clients in person. I make a point to attend at least one each year, whether I'm speaking there or simply going as a participant. 

I’d only been freelancing for eleven months when I attended a Magazine Writers & Editors/One-on-One, a Chicago-based conference for magazine freelancers. I was finding that making a living as a writer was harder than I’d expected, and was started to wondering if I should look for another job to support my fledgling career. I thought the conference might be a chance to meet some editors and hopefully get some more assignments.
Well, that happened--I walked away from the conference with a $2,100 feature from a market that was new to me, and a lead that turned into another regular relationship--and a growing sense of confidence in my freelance career. I also made a new freelancing buddy--and 17 years later, Kris and I are still close friends.
But I didn’t just make a writing buddy at the conference. I found a home. I’d never met a freelancer, let alone a successful one, before I’d quit to write full-time. Now I was surrounded by them. I eavesdropped on conversations. I watched how they chatted with their colleagues, and how they talked matter-of-factly about contracts and assignments and juggling work and families.
Being around dozens of smart, articulate, enthusiastic writers boosted my confidence. These men and women didn’t seem all that different from me, even if they were further along in their careers. If they were doing it, why couldn’t I?
That conference led to multiple assignments from one of the editors there, which repaid my investment many times over. Its true value is impossible to calculate. In just three days, I was transformed from someone who had been freelancing on little more than a whim to someone who decided to take charge of my business and commit to it for the long haul.
Interacting and networking with other writers is only one reason why I find writers’ conferences so valuable. Conferences also let you hear from other pros in the publishing trenches--book and magazine editors, literary agents, other freelancers--about what is happening in the industry today. You learn what editors like and are looking for from pitches or book proposals, what rates different markets are paying, and how authors are harnessing social media to build their platforms. Even if I’ve left a conference without obtaining a specific assignment, I’ve always found attending them worthwhile.
ASJA's annual event is aimed  at freelancers who write nonfiction books, articles, blogs, you name it, and features dozens of editors and agents. It’s the best networking I get all year long, and I recommend it to serious freelancers.
Here are four tips to get the most out of attending a writers' conference: 
  • Before ASJA or any other conference, take a look at the schedule and decide which panels you’ll attend. (Panel turns out to be a dud? Don’t feel bad about leaving to check out another one.) Sign up for one-on-one appointments if they’re available and do some research about the editors you're going to meet. 
  • Even if you’re a wallflower by nature, introduce yourself to the people around you. Swap business cards and contact information. If you can't think of anything to say, simply smile and ask the person what he thinks of the conference so far.
  • Take careful notes at panels you attend. Sure, you can Tweet, but pay attention to what editors and clients say they want. Get your pitches out and follow up with people during the week after the conference. (Most freelancers won’t bother, so you’ll stand out.)
  • Finally, let yourself soak up the energy of the freelancers around you and be open to the information that’s shared. You’ll come away with new ideas, new perspectives, new contacts, and new enthusiasm for your freelance career.

**Readers, let me know if you're attending ASJA! And if you can't be there, check out my books on freelancing, like Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition and Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Build a Better Bid: A Template for Freelancers

Readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of sharing templates, or examples that readers can adapt for their own purposes. Last post, I shared four tips on better bidding, and promised an example of a written bid for readers. Here it is, with my comments in blue

Dear Alice: 

First, thanks so much for getting in touch with me earlier this week. I'm really excited about your book concept and the possibility of us working together. I think you have a lot of good ideas, and also feel that I can bring a lot to both the proposal and the book itself. (Oh, and thanks for sending the research you sent last night—I read through it and there's a lot of good stuff there as well.) [It may seem obvious, but no one minds being complimented, at least when your compliments are genuine. Use the first paragraph to set the stage for a congenial conversation.] 

The seeds for the book are there. There's still much to do, however. Working together, we need to come up with a title and subtitle; an overview; the "hook" (i.e., what makes this book different from everything else out there); competitive analysis (a rundown on the book's likely biggest competitors and how it's different than/better than the other titles, which relates to the hook); the audience (is it all career-oriented busy people, or more aimed at women or men, for example); marketing/promotion (again, you've got a platform already but we really want to showcase this in the proposal); about the author(s) (depending on whether you want to include me as coauthor in the proposal—I think that's a selling point but that's your call); the overall structure (i.e., total number of chapters, pages, appendices, and the like); the chapter summaries; and one well-written sample chapter of approximately 15 to 20 pages. The total proposal will come in at 30-40 pages. [Wow, I have a lot to work to do, don't I? That's what I want the client to realize. I'm not only giving her a description of the work that I expect to do, I'm showing her that it will take some time to carry it out.] 

Sound like a lot? It is. But the end product—the finished proposal—will be worth it. I'm assuming that you're willing to do some of the research and work with me on the sample chapter and overview in particular; that will save me some time. As I told you yesterday, I typically charge $5000 to $10,000 for a typical proposal, but considering the subject matter and the level of your involvement, my fee will be $4,500. This includes all of the elements of the proposal including one sample chapter, to be delivered within four to six weeks (at a date we agree on.) I'd like $2,000 on going forward/signing a collaboration agreement (see below); $1,000 upon delivery of the draft proposal (without the sample chapter): and $1,500 upon delivery of the finished proposal with the sample chapter. [I've given my bid, finally, with an explanation of how I reached the figure I'm asked for. I've also made it clear that I need a retainer to get started.]

With the polished, finished proposal in hand, you'll be ready to pitch agents and editors—and you'll have the framework for the book completed which makes the actual writing of it easier. I know you want to use the book to take the next step in your career, but I also think you have a saleable idea, a strong platform, and the dedication to see the project through—all of which is necessary to succeed as a book author! [Here I set out the benefits to my client of having the book proposal completed. In retrospect, I would have swapped this paragraph with the one above, providing the features--the description of the elements of the proposal--and then the benefits before giving my bid. I think that may have been more effective.] 

Another thing to consider is when you want to sign a formal collaboration agreement that sets out our expectations for working together. We can sign one for the proposal itself, or for a potential book deal, or work something out that you're comfortable with. I can send you a sample one that you can tweak/modify how you see fit. [Again, I'm underscoring the importance of a signed contract.]

What else? I think we've got a good rapport, and I'm reliable, professional, and easy to work with. If I tell you I'm going to do something, you can count on me to get it done. I love collaborating with smart people to get their ideas in print, and helping them become book authors. [Just reminding the client of how awesome I am. :)] 

Please let me know if you have any questions about my bid or the project—I hope we’ll have the chance to work together! If this is a go, I can make your proposal my first priority, and I think you (and hopefully a wonderful agent and editor as well) will be delighted with the finished product. Let me know if you're ready to take the next step. [I like this close; it's direct but not pushy.]

All good things,


**Readers, what do you think of the proposal? Do you like the tone and format? It worked--my client hired me to write the proposal at the fee I requested. While our agent wasn't able to sell the actual book, my client was happy with my work and hired me several years later on another project. 

**Want to see more bids that worked? Check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs, and More, Second Edition; the print version will be in print from Improvise Press by September, 2014.