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Archive for the ‘Step-by-Step’ Category

Pitch, Pitch, PITCH!

In Step-by-Step on November 23, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Phase 2, Step 2-

In the last installment of my Step-by-Step series I discussed getting your feet wet by blogging, contributing to some smaller websites, or writing for residual income sites like EHow and Infobarrel.

In this next step we’re assuming that you’ve gotten some good practice for formal writing, you’re feeling confident, and you’re read for the big leagues…not quite the big leagues but close enough for the moment.

Now get out there and show ’em how its done!

By this point you should already have some publications in mind (if not hop over and read this post).  For even more on where to go hunting for your first clip you can read a previous post on promising opportunities for beginners.

Once you have your sites set on a publication it’s time to consider which route to take – the “complete manuscript route” or the “query route”.  Both can be challenging.  For beginners it may seem less daunting to go the “complete manuscript route”; since a query package calls for clips that you may not have.

In the case of sending out a complete manuscript you have to be sure that you’ve completed these steps:

  • Set your sights on a publication who’s subject mater you feel comfortable tackling.
  • Study at least 3 back issues for their tone, and to avoid duplicating a recently run topic.
  • Pick an idea that fits their intended audience.
  • Review the publications writer’s guidelines and editorial calendar, if they have them.
  • Write an accurate, engaging, and error free manuscript that fits the publication – in terms on word count, tone, sidebars. etc.
  • Finally, you must write a well executed cover letter (for more on the cover letter check back soon).

A query package is similar to the cover letter, except a cover letter is written to accompany a complete manuscript and a query is written before to actual article is written, describing tot he editor in question an idea that you have.  If you don’t have any clips can you still send in a query?  Of course!  there’s no rule otherwise.  But, it may be easier to sell something you’ve already written as opposed to an idea, without some practice selling yourself and your writing first.

It’s easy to procrastinate and get hung up on this step, but no writing gets into print without first pitching.  My suggestion?  Write a couple queries and cover letters for yourself first, with no intention of sending them out, and give yourself a deadline.  Ask a friend or family member to hold you to that deadline.  Maybe even hand over that $50 you were going to spend on a handbag until you finish it.  Once you have it written without bloodshed it’ll be easier to write the next one (you may have to implement the same $50 dollar routine to get you moving on mailing out the real cover letter).

Go get ’em tiger!

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Phase 2 Step 1

In Step-by-Step on November 5, 2009 at 1:58 am

This is the fourth installment of my step-by-step series, designed to outline the steps involved in breaking into freelancing.  This is the method I used, and may not work for everybody in this order.  But if you ask me, all of these steps need to be addressed – the order is up to you.

Phase 1 was the research phase.  In 3 steps I suggested that you research freelancing to figure out if it’s for you, research your interests find some viable topics to write about, and research some different publications that you might like to write for.

At this point you have a good idea of how the freelancing/writing industry works from all your research.  You have a pretty good grasp on your interests and what you’d like to write about, you know the audience that ould most relate to your work, and you know the publications that you’d be a good fit to write for.  But here’s the rub – you have 0 clips.

Get Writing

I know the name of the game is “Pitch, pitch, pitch!”.  But if you’re like me when I first started not so long ago you haven’t written anything formal in months or years.  Rusty would be an understatement.  Some may disagree, but I’d suggest you ride with the training wheels on a while.  That means maybe starting a blog, maybe submit some articles to small sites for free.  More good practice would be submitting to sites like Ehow, Ezinearticles, InfoBarrel, etc.

The goal here is to practice, build confidence, and perhaps get some good writing samples to use in lieu of clips.

Phase 1 Step 3

In Step-by-Step on October 16, 2009 at 11:06 pm

This is the third installment of my “Step-by-Step” series.  I hope you’re all enjoying it.  A quick recap: phase one is the research phase.  Step 1 was researching the freelancing industry to figure out if it’s a good fit for you.  Step 2 was examining your interests to figure out what you would write.

Step 3 is figuring out where your writing will go.

Most books on freelancing touch on this topic, since there would be no writing career without this step.  A book I make reference to very frequently, The Writer Mama by Christina Katz, suggests examining what you read both as a means of generating ideas of what to write and place you might possibly submit some of your material.  This is just to give you an idea – if you love reading Entertainment Weekly perhaps you should set your sites on an entertainment publication, and so on.  (Note: If you’re still in the beginning stages of your career it’s a bit early to submit to national publications, they usually publish only established writers)

Most resources for beginning writers recommend not being afraid to work for free to get your first clips.  Try local businesses and organizations, they may have a newsletter you can write on.  In this case, just call.  The worst they can do is say no.  That first call is the hardest, I promise.  After that you get more and more comfortable calling offices and making inquiries.

Free local papers are also a good place to go fishing for assignments.  There’s usually a contact number in the front of the paper.  Call, introduce yourself, and ask if they accept submissions from freelance writers.  If so who should you submit to?  Do they prefer snail mail or e-mail?  Do they accept full manuscripts or do they prefer a formal query at first?  And last but not least – do they have an editorial calendar and writers’ guidelines and where can you find them?  (Note: Editorial calendars outline the theme for each month’s issue that year.  Writers’ guidelines specify anything and everything editors want you to know before submitting anything to them.  Not all publications will have these things, but it’s worth it to ask.  You’d have a huge advantage if they do offer these materials.)   

For finding places that may accept your work I’d suggest 3 things: the internet of course and a good old-fashioned Google search (using the example above you’d type “entertainment publications”), The Writer’s Market, and FundsforWriters.com (you can sign up for newsletters that have some great opportunities).   

If you’re reading this and looking for a place to submit your work I produce a web zine called Balancing Act and welcome submissions from new writers!

I would love to know how helpful you found this post!  If you learned anything new or simply want to share your own search for freelance success, I’d love to hear from you!

Phase 1 Step 2

In Step-by-Step on September 23, 2009 at 2:44 am

Last week I began a series I call Step-by-Step, with the post One step at a timeThis week I’ll be breaking down the steps even further, into steps and phases.  Phase 1 is the research phase. 

In step 1 I suggested thouroughly researching the freelance writing industry before deciding the take the plunge.  This week I’m talking about what comes next.

What will you write?

So you have decided that writing is right for you.  Now you have to decide what you will write.  This step may be easy for you if you have already begun writing.

For me it was a more enlightening experience than I expected.  I thought I knew what kind of writing I wanted to do.   Mama Writer by Christina Katz (also listed on my recommended reading page) has some excellent exercise for finding your interests, and “best bet” audiences.

First, try taking a good look at what you read.  Do you enjoy reading magazines, or mostly books?  What kind of magazines?  What kind of magazines?  List your top reads.  You may begin to see some patterns emerging.  There’s a good chance that this could be the type of writing you could be doing.

Next, examine your roles & pick your top 4.  Mine are Christian, wife, mother, writer.   Use your instincts with this exercise!  Now your going to draw a circle and divide it into 4 quarters labeled with your top 4 roles or “keywords”.  On this pie chart you’re going to descibe these keywords even more specifically.  For example, you may describe yourself as a creative mother.  or perhaps a theatre mom.

After you’ve completed these two exercises you should have a general idea of what kind of people you’d relate to best and thus what your best “target audiences” are.  Of course you don’t have to be married to this forever.  Interests change and people grow.  The point is to help you figure out where to start.  You want to begin where you’d be most comfortable, and where you have the best chances of success.

One step at a time……

In Step-by-Step on September 14, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I chose to begin writing this blog for a number of reasons, one of them being that I hoped to help beginning writers find their way in this often confusing industry (after all, I’d want someone to do the same for me).  So what better way to do that than to help answer one of the most confusing questions for new writers: So what do I do now?  I frequently still have to ask myself that question.  And in this career I don’t think I will ever be able to stop asking myself this question.  In fact – “what do I do now?” may even be a fact of life no matter what carer path you choose.  But for now I will deal with helping you answer this question as it relates to your writing career.

First I should make it clear that there is no one path for writers to take.  And my word is not the end all & be all in the writing industry, I’m still finding my way in this crazy world of writing just like you.  But I can share with you how I have chosen to model my career thus far, and hopefully you’ll be able to draw from my experiences to carve out your own unique career path.

In a previous post I’ve written about my “first step” creating a writing community callied Mommy Writers. But today I’m going to backtrack even further than that.

Step 1:

Is a writing career right for me?

So you’re curious about a career as a freelancer writer – or perhaps a staff writer.  Maybe you don’t even know the difference, all you know is you fancy yourself good with words and you think the world around you would benefit from what you have to share in writing.  So now what?  You do your reasearch.  You want to figure out as much as possible about this career before you quit your job or invest countless months just to figure out this isn’t for you.

That was my first step.  I had been writing for as long as I can remember, and had some experience writing for my high school newspaper, but no professional experience.  I went to the library and found all the books I could on the freelance writing industry.  One of my favorite books that will help you answer this question is Get a Freelance Life: mediabistro.com’s Insider Guide to Freelance Writing written by Margit Feury Ragland.  It is also listed on my recommended reading page.

Here is a quick summary of the factors Ragland suggests you consider before taking the plunge, in the first chapter of her book:

  • Writing can be lonely work.
  • Do you have any professional writing experience?
  • Can you afford it?
  • Do you hav a fairly flexible schedule?
  • Can you stick to a budget?
  • Are you Organized?
  • Can you separate work & life?
  • Are you self-motivated?
  • Can you sell yourself?
  • Can you say no, and handle being told no?
  • Are you interested in the world around you?

Try not to use the above list as an excuse to talk yourself out of your dreams.  If you’re certain writing is what you want to do with your life then use it as a tool to know what you should expect; you can expect that you will have to be able to find interest in the world around you, you can expect that there may be some lonely days, etc.  But if you’re not sure that writing is right for you then use this list as a guide.  If you’re not self-motivated then think long and hard.

Stay tuned for step 2 next week!