Saturday, May 31, 2008

31 Reasons Being a Freelance Writer ROCKS!

  1. Get to use my God-given talents to earn a living.
  2. Being home for my kids when they get home from school.
  3. Gas costs $3.89 a gallon, and I don't have to commute.
  4. Long before wanting to be a therapist, a veterinarian, an accountant, a lawyer, a baker, a school crossing guard, and a professional pianist, I had the dream of being a writer. Oh, but right before that, I wanted to be a ballerina - or a Rockette. It was a toss-up.
  5. I can go to work in jammies, bunny slippers, a bathing suit, or anything (or nothing!) else I want to. Not that I do, but I could.
  6. Never having to ask for a day off again.
  7. Setting your own hours.
  8. Setting your own fees.
  9. Helping clients who either can't write or don't have the time to write for themselves.
  10. The wonderful clients are... wonderful!
  11. The not-so-wonderful clients are... opportunities for additional learning.
  12. You get to learn about some of the most bizarre and interesting topics.
  13. You get paid to learn about these topics.
  14. Once you learn about all this stuff, you're a shoe-in for trivia games.
  15. The (virtual) company of other freelance writers.
  16. The solitude of working without co-workers in the next office.
  17. The challenge - writing beats crossword puzzles hands down for keeping your mind sharp.
  18. The challenge - writing beats... oh, wait - I already said that. : )
  19. Portability. Have WiFi, will travel.
  20. Seeing your words in print. (Okay, it doesn't happen often, because most of my clients publish online, but it happens now and then.)
  21. Hearing your article read aloud on someone's podcast. (It happened once - and it was SO cool!)
  22. Hearing your family introduce you as a writer. Then clarifying that you're the kind that actually gets paid.
  23. Having people ask you to help them get their book of poems published. (Well, it's kind of flattering - and as long as you don't have to actually read the poems...)
  24. Work a lot... Get paid a lot. It's basically under your control.
  25. It's a 'green' job if ever I saw one. No commute, no paper, nothing but internet.
  26. Variety. Bodybuilding articles this week, breastfeeding articles next week.
  27. Freelance writing is the perfect lead-in to information marketing, which could very well bring you a steady stream of passive income.
  28. No overhead expenses. No office space rental. No office equipment.
  29. Every day is bring your dog to work day.
  30. Writing retreats with other writers - write all day, eat a great dinner, write until you drop, do it again.
  31. Lots of coffee - it's kind of expected.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Freelance writing: the website question (again!)

Want to hear the 'yes' part of the answer to the "Do I need a website for my freelance writing business?" question?

Yes... eventually.

Some benefits of having a site:

  • Almost any business is more credible when it's got a website.
  • It's a very inexpensive way to promote your writing business.
  • It's a good place to store your portfolio, so clients can see your work.
  • You might get work from it.
  • It might also spur you on to get into something bigger. (We'll have to talk about that later - just to spark your interest, there are some great ways you can create pretty-nearly passive income online... if you learn how.)
  • Ummmm, there are probably other good reasons to have a site - can you help me out here?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Freelance writing: the website question

Oh, you wanted more of an answer than that? Sheesh.

No, you don't need a website for your writing business... right away. In fact, you probably don't want to even think about one until you've actually GOT a writing business. See, the thing is, once you get started designing, planning, writing, and paying for your website, it can be a major do.

And chances are, once you fall into that hole, you'll never get out and actually write.

See, most of us are famous for running on the hamster wheel rather than actually being productive. It's a lot easier to look busy than to accomplish something.

Ever heard of paralysis by analysis? Writers tend to live in their heads, and once we're up there, it's like walking through tar.

Once you start working on pulling together a website, it becomes like one of those If You Give a Moose a Muffin books. You'll find a great domain name, but then you'll get stuck deciding on .com, .org, .biz, or every other possible extension. And once you solve that, you'll need a hosting plan. And then a graphic header - which means you'll need a logo. And then you might as well get the logo put onto some letterhead and a business card. But then you'll need a business phone line. And because your cable company's got a deal running, you might decide to get an internet-based phone. And that means you've got to have a installer guy come to your house. But first you've got to clean it. And you've been thinking of using green products, so you'll have to some research first....

See what can happen?

So, the 'no' part of the answer is there to help keep you on track. Go out, get some writing gigs, make some money, get your boat in motion!

Then we'll talk about websites.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where ELSE do writers find writing gigs?

Here are just a few places I've found work - or where I know others have found GOOD gigs:

  1. Check out Allena Tapia's column. She's very experienced, super helpful, and can teach you lots and lots of very useful lessons about freelance writing. She's got a good list of places to find writing gigs, too.
  2. Elance
  3. Rent-a-coder
  4. Editfast - mostly editing gigs
  5. Craigslist - a little tip is to copy and paste the ad into an email. This will help you remember exactly which gig you were after.
  6. - look in the forum called Moms Who Write - sorry fellas, this is only for work-at-home moms. Sometimes you'll find posts where a writer's got overflow work you could do. I've met the nicest people here, too.
  7. Warrior Forum - I've heard from several writers that this is an excellent source for work. It's generally internet marketers who know what they're doing, which is awesome. They know that a well-written article is one of the best forms of advertisement.
Alright, that's seven places to look for writing gigs, in addition to Guru. That should keep you busy!

Where else do YOU look for writing gigs? How's the hunting been there?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Writing as a competitive sport?

Can I be perfectly frank with you?

I've never been athletically gifted. Not even close. In fact, it would be a compliment to hear I run like a girl. I don't think there's anything that runs like I do. Come to think of it, last time I took up 'running' (if you can call it that) I tripped over my dog when he freaked because a car drove past. I sprained my wrist, scraped my knee and hip, and had to limp home. Not my most graceful moment.

And I'm not really into competition. It frustrates the stew out of my son and husband when we'll shoot a game of pool and I'm like, "Great shot!!" "Oh, you were SO close!" and other "we're all on the same team" kind of comments.


Something about Guru's ranking system seems to have clicked for me. And it might just be responsible for some of my success on that site.

I don't know what kind of algorithms they use, exactly, but some combination of revenue, feedback, endorsements, and number of projects comes together to give you a ranking on the site. There are about 15,000 writers registered there right now. I don't know whether they've all got the paid membership, or if some are hoping the free level will do it for them. And I don't know what ranking I started with (because I didn't even know rankings existed!).

But over the past couple of years that I've been on Guru, it's been really fun to watch my ranking improve. I remember breaking the 100 mark, then the 50, the 25, the 10, and the top 5. Right now, I'm ranked at #3, and eyeballing the #2 spot.
(Todd, where are you?! Actually, you're probably doing so much work from other sources that you don't have time to pop onto Guru. Congratulations - and thanks again for taking time to chat with me when I interviewed you. You're an amazing, talented, and very generous guy. Um, I'd probably better get back to this post now.)

Anyway, the ranking system seems to have stirred some latent "let's see how fast this baby'll go" drive within me - and it's helped me build my business. It's also brought me lots of project invitations, which is wonderful. Some clients have told me that the ranking system made it easy for them to connect with a writer, too. By checking feedback and all of that, they get an idea of what to look for before they hire.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Instant payment vs. waiting for a check

OK, there's really nothing to say here.

Point, click, and get paid..... or wait for a check.

Probably the easiest decision you'll ever make. If you work with Guru (or another job site like that), make sure to sign up for the instant payment transfer deal... unless you really like waiting.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A well-oiled writing machine

I hired an awesome business coach, Robin M. Powers when I started my writing business. Robin's not a professional writer, but is so smart, supportive, and insightful, and could probably help anyone start any kind of business under the sun.

Anyway, part of the coaching involved working through the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
In a nutshell, the book talks about systematizing your business as if it were going to become a franchise. You know how when you go to McDonalds, it's always the same? And if you were to buy a McD's franchise, you'd get exact specifications for how to cook a burger, how long to fry the fries, and every other detail imaginable. You essentially buy a turn-key business. That's one reason a McD's franchise is so expensive - all the systems have been developed already.

"Hey, I'm writing - not flipping burgers! And I'm not planning to franchise my writing business."

Yeah, that's what I said, too. Until I realized how brilliant the whole concept of systematizing is.

I think I read somewhere that Tiger Woods golfs using an S.O.P., or Standard Operating Procedure. Meaning, he does the right things the right way every time - and that means he can focus on the nuances of each shot rather than sweating the details that remain constant from hole to hole.

The more you can systematize your writing business, the less stress you'll have. The less time you spend reinventing the wheel, the more time you've got for truly productive activity.

How's Guru help with that? One way is with the bidding templates. Once you get your templates into good shape, you can customize them to fit each project's details, each client's needs. But you won't have to rewrite the whole thing every time you go to bid on a project.

In fact, after a while, you can even hire an assistant to place bids for you! With a system in place, it's a lot easier to teach someone else how to do it - and a standing principle is to make the highest best use of your time by having others do what they can so you can do what only you can do.

What steps have you taken to systematize your writing business?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I LOVE Guru's Escrow Service

OK, it's one thing to write for free on purpose. It's a whole n'other matter to get stiffed!

And to be fair, from a client's perspective, it stinks when you pay a writer to write... and they disappear.

That's why I almost always use Guru's escrow service - especially with new clients. It's an excellent way to protect both of us as we start a working relationship.

It works like this:

  1. The client pays Guru.
  2. Guru holds the money.
  3. I write the project.
  4. The client approves the project.
  5. The client releases the funds.
  6. I get paid.
If there's some sort of problem where the client doesn't want to pay, you can have Guru mediate the situation. I've never had a problem like that, but it's good to know it's available.

The downside of using the escrow service is that Guru takes an extra bite out of your paycheck. (Maybe 5%? Hmmm, I should definitely know that!) So I don't use the escrow system with clients I'm working for on an ongoing basis. By the second or third project, we pretty much know and trust each other to deliver what's promised.

So is it worth it? I'll say. In fact, since I started with Guru, I have never once been stiffed on a writing fee. (Not through them, at least. And actually, I've only had one client ever who hasn't paid my invoice. Not a bad record, really.)

Do you use the escrow service? How has it worked for you?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pro's and Con's of Sealed Bids

Alright - I said yesterday that one of the best things about Guru is that the bids are sealed. I don't know whether that's the proper term, but what I mean is that you can't see what other writers are charging for the project.

Why I like that:
  • Especially for new writers, setting prices can be kind of an emotional thing. Many of them have serious doubts about the value of their work. The logic is this - if something comes easy to you, it must not be worth much. So it's often hard for new writers to believe their words are worth more than $2 for a 500 word article. With an open bidding system, it'll take a whole lotta intestinal fortitude to bid 10x more than what other writers are bidding. Better not to see those low bids.
  • Open bidding systems seem to create a kind of undignified atmosphere. It feels like a meat market, with each writer trying to under-bid all the others. "Come on! Choose me!! I'll write your entire autobiography for a buck!"
  • A bidding war tends to devalue the whole profession. Once clients become accustomed to paying peanuts, it's pretty hard for them to stomach paying a living wage. I can always tell the clients who post on Guru who are used to finding really cheap writers - they have this huge long list of requirements and project specs, and say right up front that they're paying $3 per 800 word article. I don't know about you, but that's not exactly my dream client.
The downside of sealed bids:
  • Well, I know you're not supposed to use bullet points if your list only has one item! But the only downside I can see is that it might be helpful to see what other writers are bidding - at least when you're just starting out.
But maybe not! What do you think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where do you find writing gigs?

Oh - do you mean the kind of writing gigs that actually pay? : )

Because there are lots and lots of writing gigs out there that don't! And while there are definitely times when it's a great idea to write for free, I'm thinking you don't want to build a whole business model out of that!

I use a lot. In fact, I've found some of my best clients there. There are a few sites that are similar - Elance, Rent-a-Coder, Editfast, and others - but my very favorite is Guru. (And nope - I'm not an affiliate for Guru - in fact I don't think they've even got an affiliate program - rats!!) Here's why:
  • The bids are sealed. (Let's talk about that tomorrow, okay? Actually, maybe we'll get into each of these over the next few days.)
  • LOVE the escrow service - even though it takes a little more out of your paycheck.
  • It helps you systematize your business.
  • The instant payment option sure beats waiting (and waiting) for a check.
  • The ranking system is an awesome motivator.
  • Clients love it! (This might stir up a hornet's nest, but quite a few of my clients on Guru have used the other sites and ended up with less than stellar results. I've seen several projects where the request is to fix what someone from Elance wrote. Hmmmmm....)

Have you used any of these job boards? Which is your favorite?

Monday, May 19, 2008

How did you get started writing?

That's probably the second most frequent question I hear about getting paid to write.

When I first started my writing business, I spent hours every day looking for work. I'd respond to ads on Craigslist, read every listing on free project sites, pore over Writer's Market pages, and anything else I could find. The results? NOTHING! Skunked. Day after day.

Until I got "lucky" one day. I landed a gig that paid a whopping $2 each for 500+ word articles on mortgages. Oh, and there was a bonus of $100 if I managed to complete one thousand of these articles!

Then I got my hands on Peter Bowerman's books The Well-Fed Writer and Back for Seconds. Boy oh boy, a real eye-opener! Just thinking about my new business in this completely new way gave me hope that it could actually make some money.

Bowerman lays it all out for you. How to get into action and get your business going, what you need to do to get the word out, where to look for jobs, how to build your portfolio, how to think about pricing, even what equipment you'll need. He's got a great free newsletter that comes out monthly, too. You'll hear from other writers who are either full-time or trying to go full-time - what's working, how they've solved common problems, creative ways they've gotten new clients, all kinds of good info.

If you're just starting out, you really need to get your hands on these books. Not every strategy he discusses will appeal to you (cold calling - ick!) - but they're still worth knowing about and experimenting with. Plus, you'll pick up some great tips that'll squash your learning curve significantly.

Have you read the Well-Fed books? What tips and tools are you using? What do you think about Bowerman's approach to building a writing business?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

SO Cool!

AffSphere is awesome! Sure, you're busy writing, writing, writing for other people - but this is a chance to write on pretty much any topic you want - for yourself, for money. It's free to join, and the more popular your articles get, the more you earn.

I've posted a handful of articles there already. Come on over! Get paid to write what YOU'RE interested in for a change!

What Kind of Writing Do You Do?

Do you get this question a lot, too?

Most of the time, I know this is the start of a conversation that's going downhill - at least glamour-wise. Usually when people find out I'm a writer, they're intrigued. It's just one of 'those' jobs that seems really awe-inspiring...

But that's because they're thinking: novels, screenplays, best-selling books!

When I tell them what I really write, it's kind of a let down. It's certainly not going to give them the "You won't believe who I met!!" kind of anecdote they'd get if they ran into John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, or someone else who's got hordes of raving fans.

I mean, sure, I've got fans (sort of!). But they're internet marketers and other entrepreneurs who've hired me to help their businesses succeed. So it's really not the same. And I'm thinking nobody's going to option the movie rights on that series of dieting articles I wrote.

So, what's a freelance commercial writer actually write? Well, there's a pretty wide range of projects. My team specializes in articles, press releases, e-books, sales letters, and website copy. We also do editing for other writers.

But I know of freelancers who do technical or medical writing, direct mail pieces, annual reports, grant proposals, manuals, even greeting card sentiments. Pretty much anything that requires words!

How about you? What kind of writing do you do most often?

Talk about getting paid to write on the Build a Thriving Writing Business Blog

Hi Writers!

Welcome to the Build a Thriving Writing Business Blog! My name's Sue LaPointe, and I work from home as a freelance commercial writer. I'm also a writing business coach, and through coaching and my book, Working Writer Happy Writer - How to Build a Thriving Writing Business from NOTHING, I've helped other writers learn how to get paid to write, too.

You can hop on over to my web site at to get your free report, Top 5 Tactics to Boost Your Writing Business. While you're there, be sure to sign up for the free newsletter, Write Happy! which sends you tons of great tips, resources, and support as you build your own writing business.

Meanwhile, why not take a look around my blog, hang out, have a cup of coffee, click around a bit, bookmark it, and be sure to check back regularly for all the latest in the world of freelance writing.

And don't forget to leave a comment and give your two cents about getting paid to write!