Friday, December 31, 2010

What Are Your Goals for 2011?

As 2010 comes to a screeching halt, it's always a good time to take stock of the past year and look ahead to the next 12 months.

In many ways, 2010 was a great year for me professionally. If nothing else, I finally found a focus area, and hopefully a way to support myself with writing full-time.

My goals for 2011 are both simple and daunting:

  • Build up Fresh Ink Writing Services and hopefully add a few more regular clients
  • Continue to pitch and land more feature-writing assignments
  • Finish my Master's degree (finally...)
  • Go full-time freelance!

What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Here's to a very successful year of writing, reading, and reaching those goals!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Game Changer: The Well-Fed Writer

On Monday I made a quiet announcement about the launch of my new copywriting venture, Fresh Ink Writing Services. It’s a bit of a departure from my normal feature writing, but the more I learned about commercial copywriting, it made perfect sense.

So I felt it would be appropriate to give a little review/nod/kudos (not like dozens of similar “shout outs” haven’t been done before) to the book that seriously changed my approach to my writing career—The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. I’d heard great things about this book and decided to give it a read, but I never imagined how much of a game changer it would be.

I know a number of freelancers who make their living writing features, and until recently, that was the same course I’d set for myself. But the longer I’m at this, the more the panic is setting in. As most freelancers know, for every dozen queries sent, you’re lucky to get one pitch accepted. As most freelancers know, that Idea Well runs dry from time to time. (And for some of us, it’s usually dry, with occasional bursts of inspiration…) If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times—“I don’t know how these freelancers do it.” Maybe I don’t have my brain trained as well as I should (which is a definite possibility), but for me, it’s really difficult to keep the ideas coming. 2010 was a great summer for me professionally, but I get nervous about having to come up with ideas. All. The. Time. So for those of you who have managed to do it, you have my eternal admiration.

But…my fears were put very much to rest when I picked up TWFW. Bowerman is a full-time commercial writer—meaning that he has written anything and everything related to business. Think annual reports, brochures, press releases, direct mail pieces, speeches…all of that and more. I mean, it makes sense—someone has to write all of this. Many companies have cut both their budgets and manpower, but their companies still need to remain visible, still need to have a presence, and there are any number of FT commercial freelancers out there only too happy to help them do it. Suffice it to say, I was blown away. What a beautiful arrangement! I like to think that I have some shred of creativity, but I find that I do better if an editor/client comes to me with the germ of an idea, rather than the other way around. This can work both ways, which is a perfect solution for how I like to work.

I loved this book (and am currently working on the sequel, TWFW: Back for Seconds). I love Bowerman’s conversational writing style, his step-by-step, practical advice, and best of all, I love his down-to-earth, “You really can do this” message that’s sprinkled throughout the book. Plenty of other freelancers have done it. I read this and found myself getting very excited and encouraged about the potential for this type of writing. And just from what I’ve been hearing from local business owners, there seems to be a need for it (even in my very small area). I’ve read a fair share of writing books, but I can’t recall ever feeling so…inspired…as I did after reading this one. He talks about marketing (yes, I hate cold calling, too, but it seems to be a necessary part of getting yourself out there), the types of writing projects you may be asked to take on, networking and forming client relationships, building a portfolio, and even the “nuts and bolts” kinds of things (taxes, etc.) He includes plenty of words of wisdom from other full-time commercial freelancers, as well, which makes this book even more encouraging. There’s a strong sense of “These folks did it, why can’t I?” His blog has become a regular part of my day, as well.
So that’s my little commercial for The Well-Fed Writer. I’m so looking forward to putting the tips and advice into practice.

What about you? What changed your outlook on pursuing writing professionally?

Monday, December 27, 2010

What I've Been Up To

I hope everyone had a nice holiday and is enjoying whatever time off you may have! I went directly from the end-of-semester rush into the getting-ready-for-Christmas rush, but I think the worst of it is now behind me, so I’m enjoying the slower pace for awhile.

In between everything else, I’m very happy to announce that a fellow freelance writer friend and I have officially gotten our copywriting venture, Fresh Ink Writing Services, off the ground. It’s been a real learning experience every step of the way, but so exciting! We’re off to a promising start—we’ve started working with 2 clients and both have enough work to keep us busy for several months. We’re venturing into some projects that are new territory for us, but we’ve been doing a lot of homework and we both feel confident that we’ll be able to deliver. I guess that’s the thing about trying something new—it’s scary but empowering at the same time. I’m curious to see how much business we may be able to secure living in such a non-metropolitan area. Our small businesses need the same marketing materials as any other type of company, and to my knowledge, there aren’t many folks offering these types of services where I live, so I think there’s a lot of potential here. The startup phase has been a busy, but yes, overwhelming, few months, but the fact that we already have some work lined up is very encouraging. So expect to see more posts from me as I move further into this new venture and different types of projects. I think it’s so fitting that things are finally coming together right before the new year—I love new beginnings and fresh starts, and what better way to kick off a new year than with something brand new to me that will hopefully move my writing skills to a whole new level.

What about you? Do you have any exciting ventures on tap for 2011? How will you take your writing goals to the next level?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Already?

On some level I've known that Christmas was coming up--fast!--for the past few weeks, but I've honestly been inundated with so much stuff, it still seemed like a long way off. Now here I am, finally free of teaching/grad school commitments, and surprisingly on track with my Christmas prep (well, at least with my shopping), and still scrambling somehow. I sent out about 3 cards and didn't even make an attempt to put up my tree, but I justify that with the fact that I'll barely be home to enjoy it this week, so I was OK with cutting out that part of the festivities. I'll see what next year brings and perhaps put one up.

But anyway--on to other in, one of the big reasons why I've been so lax in my yuletide preparations:

The copywriting projects are finding their way to me. Last week I had a meeting with a potential client for some ongoing work. I got started on one project and said I'd put together a proposal for some long-term work in the meantime. Tonight he emailed me and asked if I could do a rush job--some copyediting for his website. It was a fairly quick editing job, so that was finished in no time. I also attached my proposal. Let's see if I was efficient enough to be impressive. I really couldn't turn it around much faster--this weekend passed by in a blur of holiday get-togethers, shopping, and the housework that's been sorely neglected over the past few weeks. But I think the fact that I turned it around at all puts me well ahead of the game compared to some other writers, from what I hear.

What about you? Do you consistently deliver, and has this brought you repeat business?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Striking the Right Tone

I have no problem accepting feedback that can help me improve my writing skills and the work I do for other people. I know that no one’s perfect and even the most reliably good writer can miss the mark now and then.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the problem I was having writing effective ledes for a publication I write for regularly. The past few months have been a struggle for me, so I was just thankful to get my assignments done, let alone done well, but I realize this is no excuse.
So I pulled myself out of the lurch I’d fallen into, and have actively worked on writing snappier, more succinct ledes for the projects I’ve done since then—even for the other editor I regularly write for, whose comment on my last story was “Great job on this!” So, really, it is about perception…every publication has its own tone and chord that the writer has to strike just right.

But still—I’m grateful because this other editor helped me to “wake up” and write a little more actively. This just goes to show that when you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally drained, your work really reflects it!

What about you? What shakes you out of your mental doldrums?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Ship, Coming In...

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that I’ve been pretty antsy about trying to break into A. Larger magazine markets and B. Copywriting for more corporate clients.

I’m steadily working on the larger markets thing (and have been pitching to a lot more trade mags lately), but I’m happy to say that the copywriting is starting to happen!

My writing partner and I are working on a big, BIG proposal for a corporate client that is expected to secure us several months’ worth of work and include several different kinds of projects. Talk about jumping in with both feet! As we’ve been discussing this proposal, I had a friend of a friend contact me about doing some writing for her, as well, which I hope will lead to some ongoing projects.

I feel pretty confident in the fact that these projects will lead to more work for us. In a few weeks my schedule will free up considerably, so I'll have more time to spend on marketing and reaching out to more businesses. We’re planning to attend a networking event in early December, and it’s time to work the local contacts, as well. It’s both exciting and daunting, but I’m ready!

What about you? How do you secure more work from editors and clients?