Friday, February 25, 2011

Should Freelancers Get Advanced Degrees?

As I've said before, I'm in the home stretch of my Master's in English (I should be wrapped up in December! Clearly the longest home stretch of my life...!)

I seem to be an anomaly in the freelance writing world. I know several highly successful freelancers who haven't gone beyond a Bachelor's; others haven't gone on to higher education at all. You certainly don't need an advanced degree to build a successful writing career, but it can certainly add another level of credibility to your portfolio. I'm a bit of a nerd and like learning for learning's sake (for the most part), but I find myself anxiously looking forward to wrapping up this program!

So why did I pursue a Master's degree? Well, mainly, it stemmed from a deep dislike for my job (that's gotten stronger since...), and the realization that I needed to figure something out fast if I didn't want to stay where I was forever. Of course, this was post-recession, and the job market isn't looking much more promising now. Unless something really amazing happens, it probably won't be much better in December, either. But I'm trying to stay positive--recession or not, I'll still have my degree and that should be impressive to someone. The main game plan is to use it to land part-time teaching jobs to supplement my freelancing gigs.

Much like freelancing, I've pursued topics and classes that I normally wouldn't have otherwise, so I think it's definitely helped to broaden my scope of knowledge. It has also helped me become more disciplined and sophisticated in my thinking, which I hope will help me with client projects.

What about you? Have you pursued an advanced degree? Why did you decide to do so? How has it helped your career?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Playing the Waiting Game

We're officially in business. We have a business name. We have a website. We have letterhead and business cards, for goodness' sake!

My business partner and I have been doing some networking. I've been strategically spreading the word via social media, and this week I started sending out some sales letters, which have helped many commercial freelancers land business.

Now, we wait.

I wanted to take this opportunity to pick some of your brains.

Freelancers, how long did it take you to build your initial client base?

What methods did you use to land business?

How did you get the word out among your existing contacts? Plenty of people know I write, but I'm not sure they got the memo that I'm part of a real business venture now.

So, what advice can you offer? How did you get your business off the ground?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Freelancers, Do You Ever Use a Resume?

It’s pretty common for editors to request clips from new-to-them writers. Many freelancers don’t wait to be asked—some automatically send samples along with queries and most almost always send them along with LOI’s. I’ve done the same many times. But twice in the last few months I was asked for something new for me—a resume.

I have a professional, non-writing-focused resume, but it never dawned on me to have one for freelancing. Awhile back I started a comprehensive CV where I list all of my clips, which now amounts to about 5 pages and is a little too lengthy to send to every editor that requests it (since most resumes are a page, 2 pages max.) But I update the CV as needed because it helps me to keep track of my clips and, should anyone ever want to see the beast, well, it’s right there if I need it.

I did some reading and, as usual, found mixed views on using a straightforward, traditional resume. Some freelancers use them and others rely more on their websites and samples to land work. It didn't seem like a bad idea to have one on hand, so I started from scratch and put something together for this particular editor. Instead of listing everything I’ve done from A-Z, I grouped my links by category and tried to include as many relevant clips as possible. Then a second editor requested the resume, so I just made some adjustments to what I had. I’m just wrapping up my first assignment for the second editor (still going back and forth with the first one), so I’d say it was worth it.

What about you? Do you have a freelancing resume? Has it helped to secure work? What tips or advice would you offer?