Spring Clean Your Writing Business And Boost Your Income: 7 Ways

woman spring cleaning Struggling to increase your income?

Maybe the clutter in your life prevents you from seeing and grabbing the lucrative opportunities around you.

I encourage you to put on your spring cleaning cap, and spruce up your writing business. Because, believe it or not, cleaning can help you boost your income.

This isn’t just about tidying up a room and finding spare change under the cushions.

I’m talking about significantly increasing your revenue by removing physical, psychological, and professional blocks from your writing business.

Just as spring cleaning your house brightens up your environment and makes room for better stuff, cleaning up your writing business will allow you to make room for better clients and more revenue.

Here are seven ways to help you accomplish it.

 

#1. De-clutter to make inspiration and income flow

 

A disorganized workspace doesn’t just make it harder for you to find that pen or style book, it also makes it more difficult to find the ideas and thoughts you need.

A cluttered environment hinders your focus, creativity, and motivation. Clean it up to ensure your workspace is conducive to inspiration and productivity.

De-clutter your desk, your office, your patio – wherever you do your writing. Put away things that distract such as bills, old post-its, and supplies you don’t need.

Also consider clearing your inbox by deleting and unsubscribing from unnecessary newsletters. Got more time? De-clutter your phone by deleting apps you don’t need.

All these steps lead to a cleaner working environment – one that lets you focus better, be more creative, and get more work done. When clients see how quickly and well you respond, they’ll be more inclined to work with you and pay top dollar for your services.

 

#2. Sort mental clutter

 

Nothing curbs effective writing more than a cluttered mind.

Organize your thoughts by writing outlines for your articles. This creates a structure for your post or story, making it easier to flesh out the piece.

Another way to organize your thoughts is through mind-mapping. Use a tool like Magical Pad or bubbl.us to create a visual representation of your thoughts.

Organizing your thoughts will make it easier to finish projects. You’ll increase your hourly rate, and you can use the extra time to find more opportunities.

 

#3. Write tight

 

Embrace brevity when writing. Get straight to the point. Doing so will lead to better content and higher rates.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Nix unnecessary adverbs. While adverbs can sometimes enhance your writing, for the most part, they’ll only clutter up your work. As Mary Jaksch puts it, you’re better off shooting adverbs on sight.

Hit “Ctrl+F” on your document to find words ending in ly and delete the ones that fail the redundancy test (e.g. “smiled happily,” or “ran quickly”).

- Keep your sentences short. Short, snappy sentences pack more punch. They get your point across faster, and make it easier for readers to follow your writing.

- Shrink your writing. Replace two- or three-word phrases with just one word. For example, the phrase get rid of can be replaced by eliminate, nix, or delete, depending on what you mean to say.

- Break up your paragraphs. Walls of text look intimidating and turn readers away. A good rule of thumb is to keep paragraphs under five lines. This makes them easier to read and digest.

Make sure each paragraph communicates only one idea.

 

If you apply these principles to your work, your writing will be more effective. That’s something clients gladly pay for!

 

#4. Recognize that less is more (niche-wise)

 

While I do see the value in being a generalist who can write about anything under the sun, I’ve found that expert writers work faster and command higher rates.

Consider specializing in a handful of topics, instead of becoming a jack-of-all-trades. If you already know a lot about a particular topic, you can decrease your research time and produce articles much quicker, thus increasing your hourly rate.

Another benefit of specialization is that it’s easier to generate ideas if you have in-depth knowledge of specific topics.

Finally, specialization will help you build a stronger portfolio.

All these factors make you more valuable to clients, making it easier to charge higher rates.

 

#5. Say goodbye to problem clients

 

Do you have nightmare clients that are costing you time (and money)? Consider firing them to make room for better ones.

I once had a client who haggled on price all the time. She wasn’t the easiest person to work with either, and I ended up spending more time and effort on her projects compared to those of my better, higher-paying clients.

Parting ways with her was one of the best decisions I made. It freed up my time and allowed me to find more lucrative gigs.

I was also able to eliminate a ton of stress which, in turn, improved my overall well-being… and the quality of my work.

 

#6. Free yourself from negative beliefs

 

Your thoughts and beliefs influence your actions, and your actions influence your results.

Address this by becoming more mindful of what’s running through your head.

Clean up your belief system. Throw out limiting words or thoughts like “I can’t do it” and “I can’t earn that much” to make room for more positive beliefs.

Instead of bemoaning what you can’t afford, think of how you’ll be able to afford what you want. The “can’t” belief is limiting and makes you feel sorry for yourself, whereas “how” empowers you, pushing you to come up with ways to earn more.

You may come up with more article ideas to pitch to publications, or marketing strategies to bring in better-paying clients.

Remember, if you think you can’t, then you probably won’t. So sweep away limiting thoughts and replace them with empowering ones. Doing so will open up your mind (and wallet) to greater things.

 

#7. Spruce up your network

 

You’ll find better opportunities by spending time with positive, thriving individuals.

Successful people can share tons of advice on working smarter and earning more. You can learn a lot by hanging out with them.

You might even find your next lucrative project, partnership, or client around them.

That’s more than we can say for negative people. Think about it. When was the last time you scored leads or great advice from whiners and naysayers?

From here on out, make a conscious effort to surround yourself with optimistic people. You can do this by joining mastermind groups, finding mentors, and networking with successful individuals.

 

Improving your writing business isn’t just about charging on and moving forward.

Sometimes, you need to stop, look around, and unload the unnecessary stuff that you’ve acquired along the way.

This season, take the time to do just that. De-clutter your physical, mental, and professional environment.

I promise you, you’ll end up feeling productive, refreshed, and empowered. And find better clients. And command higher rates.

Got any other spring cleaning advice for writers? Share them in the comments below.

 

About the author: 

Francesca Nicasio (formerly Francesca StaAna) is the founder of CredibleCopywriting.net. She helps aspiring freelance writers break into the business at Be a Freelance Writer. Download her free eBook, How to Land a Client in 10 Days.

Image: Spring cleaning courtesy of Bigstockphoto

Become A Successful Freelance Writer: How Relationships Can Help You

picture of successful freelance writer Are you waiting for your freelance career to take off?

You’ve tried everything, but paid writing projects are still few and far between.

It makes you question whether you’ve got the chops to be a writer, doesn’t it?

The good news is that it may not be your writing. In fact, you may even be a spectacular writer.

But being a successful freelance writer takes more than good writing. Sure, you can be a good writer slaving away in your closet and no one beyond your mother and your cat will ever read your words.

Being a successful writer takes something else.

 

Successful writers know the value of relationships

 

Successful writers need to be good at developing relationships.

You need to build the right relationships with key individuals who can help you achieve your writing career goals.

In today’s freelancing landscape, writers need to be entrepreneurs. You need to think creatively and strategically about your network, and actively cultivate relationships with editors, publishers, bloggers, agents, and potential clients.

Here’s the good news: this is not that hard. You don’t need to be an extrovert. You don’t need to be more charming than George Clooney.

You just need to have some discipline, and to focus your energies in the right direction.

 

How cultivating relationships can support your freelance writing career

 

There are many ways in which cultivating and maintaining key relationships can help your freelance writing career. For example:

  • People like to send business to people they already know, like, and trust.
  • By keeping in touch with editors, publishers and clients, you’ll be top of the mind when new gigs come up.
  • You may find out about writing gigs and projects that are not advertised.

 

6 Steps to establish and nurture relationships

 

Here are six steps you can take immediately to build relationships that will help your writing career.

 

1. Develop a plan for who you want to get to know 

Most aspiring freelance writers let their relationships evolve naturally and organically. That works well for friendships, but it’s a poor strategy for business.

A much better strategy is to write down a list of at least 50 people with whom you want to develop a deeper relationship over the next 12 months.

I call this a “Conversations List” because you are identifying the people with whom you want to have an ongoing conversation over time. Who should be on your Conversations List? You might include people already in your network whom you want to get to know better, people you met at a conference, or even famous writers, prominent editors, agents, or publishers.

Ideally, these are people who you would want in your circle of peers, colleagues, and allies.

 

2. Identify how you can help them

Next, it’s time to start providing value to the people on your list.

Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Network International, says you need to make deposits into the “relationship bank” before you can make withdrawals. Too often, people try to make withdrawals before they’ve made any deposits. That’s a recipe for failure.

What you “give” doesn’t need to be big – even if you’re providing value to a world-famous individual – but it should be relevant. For example, let’s say you included Stephen King on your list, and you know he’s a huge fan of French food. You happen to know of a new French restaurant opening soon in Sarasota, Florida, near his home.

Telling the King of Horror about this new restaurant would be a great way to provide relevant value to him. Even though Stephen King is a world-famous novelist, he would likely appreciate the value you gave him with that recommendation.

 

3. Choose your relationship-building tools

Once you’ve identified who you want to get to know, you need to decide how you’d like to do so. You can choose from the following.

  • Lunches and coffee meetings. A simple tool for getting to know people is to meet for a casual lunch or coffee.
  • Interviews. Interviews are a great starting point for new relationships. Try to use the freelance articles you write as an excuse to interview someone on your Conversations List.
  • Podcasts. I’ve had over 50 guests on my podcast, and it’s been an excellent tool for expanding my network. Podcast interviews are far more effective than informational interviews, or asking someone to meet you for coffee so you can “pick their brain.”
  • Use names in your articles. In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath share how small-town newspapers have long understood the value of including names of people in the local community within their pages. Do the same thing with your blog and any article you write, wherever possible. People love to see their name mentioned. (See how I did it here with Chip and Dan Heath?)

Whatever tools you choose, make sure they play to your strength. If you are nervous on camera, don’t start a video podcast. If you prefer one-on-one to group settings, focus on individual sit-down coffee meetings or lunches.

 

4. Clearly communicate your interest in working together

Once you’ve begun connecting with people, you need to clearly express your interest in working with them.

Find a way to communicate in a low-pressure way that you “would love to work together” when the opportunity arises. This doesn’t mean you should directly ask for work – especially early in a relationship. That’s a sure-fire way to lose a friend.

One way to communicate your interest in working together is to demonstrate your competence by sharing valuable ideas. For example, if you are connecting with an editor of a publication, you could suggest an article that provides a fresh take on an issue of interest to their readers. If they like the idea, you might be the ideal person to write it.

 

5. Create an easy follow-up system

If you want your connections to think of you first when a writing opportunity comes up, you need to always be “top of mind” with that connection. For this, you need to have a good system for following up.

What does this entail? A follow-up system is simply a dedicated way of checking in with people in your network. You can do this manually or put reminders on your calendar, but neither works that well.

I suggest using a simple customer relationship management software such as Insightly or SugarCRM. I use a system I love, called Contactually.

No matter which system you use, you should be able to identify which relationships are in danger of becoming stale, set reminders to follow up, and track your contacts with people.

 

6. Revisit and revise your Conversations List annually.

Around once a year, revisit your Conversations List and determine the people you should cut out and those you should add.

You will meet new people over time. You may decide that certain people on your list are not a good fit for you. You may even decide to take your writing career in a different direction.

Revising your list ensures that you nurture the relationships that are right for you.

 

Now go out there and start

 

It’s time to put these ideas to work.

Create your Conversations List of the 50 people you are going to develop relationships with, and find ways to help them, in whatever way you can.

Developing relationships with people of your own choosing gives you far greater control over the direction or your career and the quality of your freelance writing projects. You’ll find yourself working on better projects with people you like because you chose them, rather than leaving your career up to chance.

It’s a relatively small investment of your time now, but will make a massive difference to your career in the long run.

How do you develop and nurture relationships to support your writing career? Share your tips in the comments!

 

About the author:

John Corcoran is an attorney, former Clinton White House Writer, and creator of SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where he shows business owners how increase income using relationships. Download his free, 52-page guide How to Increase Your Income in 14 Days by Building Relationships with VIPs, Even if you Hate Networking.

Image: Build relationships courtesy of Bigstockphoto

How To Gain Confidence As A Freelance Writer: 3 Ways

picture of confident writer Y’know what’s funny?

There seems to be an inverse relationship between how talented a writer is and how confident they are. Meaning, those who are most likely to succeed are also most likely to be too afraid to send out their work, get in touch with editors, and, well, write.

I’ve been thinking about this conundrum for years now, and talking about it with my Renegade Writer co-author Diana Burrell. We’ve nailed down the top reasons for under-confidence in writers, such as:

  • Perfectionism.You’re afraid of sending out anything that’s less than perfect, so you send out nothing at all. Automatic fail!
  • Lack of feedback. You’re not hearing nice things from editors. In fact, you’re not hearing anything at all. This lack of feedback makes you feel less than confident about your writing. After all, if it were great, you’d be basking in accolades, right?
  • Fear of rejection. Face it, professional writers get rejected – all the time. Don’t send anything out and you never risk getting rejected. Hooray! The downside: You’re not getting published, either.
  • Fear of doing it the wrong way. If you don’t write a query in the “correct” way, or don’t say the exact right thing at the right time, editors will blackball you in the industry and you’ll never get work. Brrrrr.

The good news is, we not only pinpointed what goes wrong, we’ve also figured out some ways to blast past a lack of confidence. Here are our top three ways to become a happy, busy freelance writer:

 

1. Remember: editors aren’t thinking about you.

 

I once read a quote – I wish I could remember who said it – that’s stuck with me for years:

Don’t worry about what other people think of you. They’re not thinking about you at all. They’re thinking about themselves… just like you are right now.

We writers think that our query letter or article is the number one focus of the editor’s day, and if we mess it up, the editor’s head will be filled with thoughts about what terrible writers (and people) we are.

But guess what? The editor is thinking of himself, not of you. He’s hoping his boss liked the ideas he presented at the meeting that morning, or that no one noticed he got to work four minutes late, or that he needs to call the art department.

Working with freelance writers is only a small part of an editor’s job. So if you send a query that’s not quite right, or email an editor asking for clarification on an assignment, or make a typo in an email — it’s just a blip on the editor’s charts.

So take heart – let the fact that you’re just a small part of an editor’s life boost your confidence to pitch more, write more, connect more.

 

2. Don’t take it personally.

 

Here’s a fact of life: Writers get rejected.

And those rejections lead many writers into a downward spiral of self loathing and loss of confidence. With every rejection, the writer thinks, “The editor hates me! I stink as a writer! I’ll never make it!”

However, let me assure you: rejections are a business decision. Nothing more. Your idea may be great, your pitch may be well-written – but the publication already has something similar in the works, or the publication is focusing on the Thanksgiving issue right now, or a new editor just came on board and she wants to change the direction of the publication.

No matter what the reason for a rejection, it’s not about your worth as a writer or a human being.

I’ve been rejected close to 500 times in my 17-year career as a writer. And that’s only counting the ideas that have been rejected. Each one was usually sent out to multiple publications, which increases my rejection rate at least threefold. And yet, for most of my working life, I’ve made a wonderful living as a freelance writer.

The trick to getting around this is to send out your work in volume.You’re less likely to feel like a loser because a piece is rejected when you have 30 more out there making the rounds.

 

3. Act like a shrink.

 

Several years ago I participated in some cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions at an anxiety clinic. It didn’t help with my panic attacks, but it did give me a great tool for fighting under-confidence in writers.

Think about what’s causing your lack of confidence, and then ask yourself: “So what?”

It goes like this:

“If I send out a pitch, it may get rejected.” So what?

“The editor may tell other editors not to work with me.” So what?

“I’ll never get any freelance gigs.” So what?

“I won’t make any money and I’ll end up homeless and alone, living in a cardboard box under a bridge.”

 

Now ask yourself a second question: “How likely is that to happen?”

Be truthful now. The chances that you’ll end up on the streets because one editor rejected your idea, or because you made a mistake,or because you tried to negotiate better terms in a contract, are nil.

Humans tend to catastrophize, which naturally saps our confidence as writers. But when you dig deep and really look at your fears, they dissolve into nothing.

 

Finally, keep in mind that the only thing that will really, really destroy your fears is action. I can write a hundred blog posts telling you that you don’t need to worry, but only pitching, writing, and experiencing for yourself that things almost always go fine will melt your fears and increase your confidence.

So don’t just read the tips here – live them.

What tricks do you use to boost your confidence as a writer?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

About the author: 

Linda Formichelli has written for more than 150 magazines, from Pizza Today to Redbook. She’s the co-founder of The Renegade Writer Blog and the co-author of the new book Become a Confident Freelancer, now available for just $1.99 on Amazon.com. 

Thanks to Bigstockphoto.com for image: Confident writer.

How To Use Your Day Job To Get Freelance Writing Gigs

 

picture of chef

Would You Like to Use Your Day Job to Get Writing Gigs?

Your boss is a demon from the depths of hades.

Your coworkers are his demonic minions.

You’d love nothing better than to say sayonara to your job and pursue your dream of becoming a freelance writer.

But whether it’s due to golden handcuffs or crushing debt, many aspiring writers simply can’t quit their day jobs to freelance full-time.

But you can always write on the side for extra cash—and the great news is that you can leverage your job to land writing gigs. Here are 3 ways.

 

1. Tap the trades

 

If you have a 9-5 job, chances are you are expert at that job—whether you’re a retail salesperson, engineer, business manager, PR rep, or chef.

Well, guess what? Magazines of all kinds need content about retail selling, engineering, business management, PR, and restaurant management.

Trade magazines are an excellent market if you have expertise in a particular field. These are business-to-business publications for owners, executives, and employees in a certain industry.

Believe it or not, you’ll find trades that cover just about any industry you can think of. Here are some my husband and I have written for: Indian Gaming Business, Fiber Journal, Sheep!, In-Plant Graphics, Club Industry, Sanitary Maintenance, and The Federal Credit Union.

If you work in foodservice, for example, you can pitch article ideas to any of the restaurant industry trade magazines, like QSR (Quick Service Restaurant), Restaurant Management, FSR (Full Service Restaurant), Nation’s Restaurant News, Independent Joe (for Dunkin Donut franchise owners), Pizza Today, and more.

Find likely trades in Writer’s Market, in directories like TradePub.com, or through a Google search of your keyword plus “trade magazines”.

A well-crafted Letter of Introduction (LOI) can get you in the door. In your LOI, tell the prospect how you can benefit their readers and sketch out a few appropriate article ideas—after checking through the magazine’s website and online archives to get a feel for what they run. Make sure you don’t pitch something they’ve already covered.

Typically you would need to interview industry experts for any articles you’re assigned, but you can use your expertise to help you first break in, and then to give you a leg up on researching, interviewing and writing.

 

2. Blog it out

 

One of the coolest ways to turn your day job into writing gigs may be to start a blog that entertains, or solves problems for others in your industry. Once you’ve built up a following, you can also sell e-books, courses, and other products to your readers—or market yourself as a writer in your industry.

Using the foodservice example, what if you started a blog that helps professional servers land good jobs, use psychology to make more tips, stay motivated and energetic throughout their shifts, and keep up on industry news? Or one that offers valuable information on how restaurant managers can keep diners happy, bring in more profits, and stay on the cutting edge?

Of course, starting a blog is a huge endeavor—but if you learn how to come up with eyeball-grabbing ideas, write killer headlines, and share great information, you can earn a good income by blogging.

Keep in mind that if you decide to run a blog in your industry, you don’t want to write anything that will alienate your employer. A post on how to bring customers in the door? Cool. A post on the industry’s dirty little secrets for tricking customers into paying more? Not cool.

 

3. Work your network

 

If you’ve come clean to your boss about writing on the side, opportunities abound to write for your employer’s partners, service providers and vendors. (You’ll first need to clear it with your boss and check your employment contract to make sure this isn’t prohibited.)

You have an advantage over other writers since you have expertise in your field—and because you probably have a lot of these prospects on your speed dial!

The trick is to approach each potential client with an LOI that describes how you can boost their profits, bring in new customers, and generally make their lives easier.

Let’s use foodservice as an example again. Choose one of your employer’s service providers, such as a restaurant management consultant, and take a look at their website.

Do you notice anything missing?

For example, the company may have a blog that hasn’t been updated in months, or you may notice their newsletter focuses on selling instead of informing. Or perhaps their website lacks case studies of successful projects, the About Us page isn’t engaging, or the company isn’t active in social media.

Write an LOI that talks up your expertise in the industry and describes the benefits of whatever you want to pitch them. For instance, that a frequently updated blog will boost their SEO and foster a sense of community among the company’s prospects, or that increasing their social media presence will bring in more clients.

 

You may not be able to tell your demon boss to take this job and shove it. But you now have three ways you can can turn your years of hard work into a fun and profitable side gig as a freelance writer!

Which of these have strategies have worked for you? Share your ideas, suggestions and experiences in the comments below!

 

About the author: 

Linda Formichelli has written for close to 150 magazines and 25 clients, and runs the Renegade Writer Blog. Linda’s just-launched e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love will teach you how to make the leap from a 9-5 job to the writing career of your dreams.

Image: Chef courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

Writer Alert: 5 Ways To Alienate Clients

Writer holding cash

Writer, Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

You might be leaving money on the table. Yes, you.

It could be hundreds or thousands of dollars each year – but I'm fairly certain you're leaving money on the table.

How does that make you feel?

Repeat business is good business when you are a writer – at least, that's what I've always been told. But lots of writers out there don't receive as much repeat business as they could because they unknowingly annoy, alienate and completely frustrate their clients (and this, ladies and gentlemen, is why money is left on the table).

Let's take a look at the most frequent ways in which writers alienate their clients.

1. Missed deadlines

Missed deadlines probably top the list of annoyances clients have to deal with. Whether you're writing website content for a client, or a book for a publishing house, you must deliver on time.  Missed deadlines are frustrating and can cause huge monetary losses.

If you're no good at meeting deadlines, be sure to build a safety net when setting them. If a project will take one month, tell the client six weeks just to be safe. That way, if you complete the work within one month you can present the project earlier than agreed (clients love that, by the way!). And if you're behind schedule, you should still meet the deadline because you built in a little room for maneuvering.

2. Infrequent/poor communication

People like to be kept informed – they like to know exactly what's going on. This goes for your writing clients too.

How hard is it to send a quick email update to clients to let them know where you're up to? Even if you do it every few days, your effort will be appreciated.

You may not think it's necessary to update clients, but if you receive an email asking you for updates, you definitely need to respond in a reasonable time frame. There’s no excuse for not responding to your clients' emails. It's rude and completely unprofessional.

3. Error-riddled work

Different people have different takes on grammar errors and spelling mistakes. Some writers think it's perfectly acceptable for them to be present in first drafts.

In my experience, however, a lot of clients roll with the first draft, and might not bother checking it for grammatical or spelling errors. For that reason alone, every single piece of work you hand over to clients must be in a state such that it can be published – whether you consider it the first draft or the final version.

Always proofread and edit work prior to handing it over, no matter what stage of the project you happen to be at.

4. Being unreceptive to revision requests

It's a fact of life that as a writer you'll have to perform revisions for some clients. That's just how things are. Don't be one of those writers who's sluggish to respond to revision requests, or one who contests every last revision with clients.

The customer is always right, so where possible you should make all revisions promptly and professionally. Do this and your clients will return to use your services time after time!

5. Ridiculous financial demands

Some writers practically demand bonuses and tips when they've completed an assignment. This is not on. The price you quote for the job should be the price you expect to receive. Any bonuses or gratuities are paid at the client's discretion.

Another thing to remember is that clients need time to review work, so don't insist that they pay your invoice the second you hand over the work to them. Always allow at least a week before contacting a client about an unpaid invoice.

Now that you know the major ways in which a writer alienates clients, you can make sure you avoid them and rake it in, as repeat business booms!

Have I got it all wrong? Have you been getting it right so far? Only you can answer that one. Tell me exactly what you think in the comments section below – don't hold back!

About the author:

Nick Whitmore is a published journalist and professional website content writer. He provides services to businesses and clients around the world through his website http://contentwriting.org.

Image: Writer with money courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

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