There's an episode of Friends that has stuck with me for a long time, in which Rachel is fed up with her waitressing job at Central Perk. She wants to break into the fashion industry, but a lack of formal education or any real job experience means that her horde of poorly-edited resumes has turned up nothing. Joey and Chandler suggest that she quit her current job, and get "The Fear."
"If you quit this job, you then have the motivation to go after a job you really want!"
It makes sense, but like Chandler, you might be "too afraid" to follow this advice.
Here's the thing though: The Fear really works!
When I started freelance writing, I had no reputation and no published content. The Fear of no more spaghetti in the cupboard, no decent cat food in the kitties' dishes, and perhaps no more tiny one-bedroom apartment to shelter us drove me to seek out all kinds of crazy writing opportunities, and work for less than peanuts to make something of myself. I hooked up with an academic writing company and a content farm (the first of which paid better) and eventually chose to work exclusively with the content farm just so that I didn't have to be embarrassed when explaining what kind of work I did. Well, not as embarrassed, anyway.
After a year of working my ass off, making connections and getting things published, I had a decent portfolio and a few extra job offers, though they were extremely underpaid. I took them, because I still needed spaghetti and cat food, but soon I was able to move up into the world of middle-wage content farming! The day I completed my first Scripted post for $24.50, I felt like anything was possible. Sauce to go with my spaghetti! Tuna for the cats! New sheets!
Several years later I am averaging $50 per hour with my writing, and I've moved my furry gang into a 3-bedroom house with a gorgeous enclosed back yard just for them. They eat some of the most nutritious cat food in the world, and I have time to make pizza, bean burgers, curry and all kinds of fun things for dinner. We can afford to use the air conditioner!
Life is good, and it is all thanks to The Fear. Well, several Fears, in fact: working under someone I don't respect; getting up too early in the morning; commuting; doing a job that doesn't matter to me; and being stuck firmly in one location forever.
There are 3 things I've learned that will take your freelance writing career to the next step:
What are you afraid of? Is it enough to make you take the plunge?
Are you serious about your freelance writing career? I'm going to assume you said "yes." Good! Whether you are a beginner or a relatively successful writer, there are always a few more clever ways to bring in more clients without putting in a great deal of effort. These are my favourite pain-free ways to find new clients and valuable contacts:
Publish Your Own Writer's Website
Mostly, this is about getting your name out there, but it also gives you the chance to solidify your fees and services and prepare a general portfolio. Now, whenever you send queries or letters of introduction, you can easily link to your portfolio and bio without having to rewrite it every time. Easy!
Use an Email Signature
Not only do I regularly share my portfolio page via social media networks, but I also have included it in my email signature. This makes it easy for people to find info on me and my work, and gives them constant opportunities to consider my services and get in touch. Including a link to your website or portfolio with each sent email gives those messages a certain touch of professionalism that is missing otherwise.
Scope Out Twitter
Twitter is a huge hangout for writers, editors and publishers - and they enjoy a good virtual chin-wag or contest. If you aren't already hooked up on Twitter, check it out! Start here to follow us, and then have a look around. Follow your favourite publishers for insight on future queries, and chat with other writers via #amwriting, #amediting, #pubtip and #querytip.
Search Engine Optimization - or SEO - is the practise of creating online content that is easy for search engines like Google or Yahoo! to discover. Basic SEO guidelines are actually pretty simple to use, and they'll make a big difference in your page hits.
Won't they discover my site anyway, you ask? Well, yes. However, unless your site meets certain criteria, Google and other search engines won't bother to list it on the first few results pages even if someone is looking for exactly the topic you've published. Why not? It's about quality and usefulness to the viewer. Remember, Google is just a program - it needs you to explain what your content is about and give it clues about who might want to view it.
Of course, SEO isn't just about getting your own blog seen. In fact, top news publishers around the world have to use these guidelines to ensure their content is right at the top of the search results for readers to find. No matter what you post on the web, you'll need SEO to ensure it actually gets viewed.
So how do you do that? Here are the most important things to remember:
Research Your Key Words and Phrases
These are the words that people will type into a search box to find pages such as yours. For example, if you publish a vegan food blog, you would choose terms like "vegan recipes" "meatless" and "vegetarian" to help explain to Google and other search engines what your content is about. Discover even more key words by looking at Google Trends, or by typing one word at a time into the Google search bar and making note of what appears:
Use Those Key Words in Titles, Like This One
While it's absolutely, extremely important that you not keyword-stuff (pack your content with key words and phrases to fool Google) these do need to be used several times in your content. Most importantly, use them in titles and subtitles, as well as in the first few lines, a central paragraph, and within the last few lines of your article. Never jeopardize the quality of your writing, however. Use your chosen key words naturally, or readers will choose higher-quality content over yours. SEO basic guidelines in Google's own handbook insist that algorithms are programmed to choose quality over quantity every time. *Note: if you are publishing videos or photos, simply use your keywords as tags or in a one-line description.
Articles Should Be At Least 500 Words
The programmers in charge of Google and other online search engines know that people are rarely interested in reading one or two sentences about the topic they have searched for. 500 words of good content is an ideal volume that is more likely to have quality information than a shorter, paragraph-length passage. Want to write even more? Go ahead!
Add Meta Tags to All Published Content
Meta tags are the short title and description that accompany web pages, and show up in online searches:
See? How you add these depends on what type of publisher you are using, but it is always possible and always important. Don't forget to use your key words here as well.
Use Your Keywords in the URL
Look at the photo above. Do you notice how our search words are also highlighted within the URL of each listed website? You need to do the same for your content. Try to keep URLs short and to the point, as well. Extra words and dates can interfere with the main idea of the page, so keep it simple.
Use Basic SEO to Impress Google
Follow these five steps and you're on your way to a much wider readership, thanks to a long-term friendship with Google. If you want to know even more about pleasing the online search giant, check out the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide!
Tired of wondering whether your editorial pitch was read by the editor, or whether anyone even bothered to read your attached clips? Wonder no more! I have two fantastic tools for you to use with your next queries to see just how well (or not) they go over with editors.
You all know that the best way to entice an editor is to write a great query - but waiting to hear back about your proposed piece is frustrating and unproductive.
Enter MailTrack and Goo.gl!
Let's start with the role of goo.gl in your query process, since we've talked about its advantages previously on The Freelancer Society blog. Goo.gl is a Google application that allows you to take a large web address and shrink it down into a more manageable size. This is perfect for Twitter and other mediums where you don't want to clutter a post with a long website address. But how else can it help you? So long as you have a Google account and are signed in when converting web addresses, goo.gl will keep track of how many times that shortened URL was clicked.
So? Near the end of your query you should be including a short About Me section, in which you link to published clips of your work. or a portfolio. Use your shortened URL as that link within the email, and you'll see whether the editor was interested enough to check out your work!
Now for MailTrack. It's a quick and free download that works with your email account to track whether your messages have been opened, how many times they have been read, and whether they are just sitting there in editor-inbox limbo. The program works by adding a tiny, invisible image into each outgoing message. When the image is displayed, MailTrack alerts you that your email has been opened! The image is too small for either you or your recipient to see, so as long as automatic image viewing is enabled, you'll know the fate of your query.
Try to incorporate these tools into your future queries, and see what you can learn!
Well, no, not grocery and chore lists, but the kind of popular list-articles that really sell. Hopefully you've already sorted out the grocery list concept.
So about writing a good list. You've probably been bombarded by lists this year via social media, since the format is hugely popular. Anything from "15 Dinosaurs that were Vegetarians" to "6 Ways to Find Inner Peace" are flying around the webosphere (that's a thing, I swear.) The most successful of these lists have four things in common:
Here's an example!
If you want to create very shareable lists that clients want to publish, you'll need to follow these guidelines. Depending on the topic, you may even need to add pictures - but not just any pictures. Good-quality photos or designs that are not copyrighted. You can find these through many sites, including Pixabay and Creative Commons. Many are free to use!