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Do You Believe You’re a Writer?

By Carol Tice

I received a very moving email message from a longtime professional writer and single mom of two. She’d recently been laid off from a lucrative editing job.

Now, looking out on today’s freelance world full of $15-an-article assignments, she doesn’t know how she will support her family. She’d have to work around the clock at content-mill rates to make ends meet, and doesn’t want to do that kind of work anyway.

“I am just not capable of slapping things together and calling it writing,” she says. “I’m truly afraid that things will not get better.”

Well, she wrote to the right person. Because I’m not afraid. And she needs to be fearless too, and so do you.

In this economy and fast-changing writing landscape, attitude is everything. I believe prospective employers can smell the fear and negativity on applicants from miles off, and they steer clear. And that feeds the cycle of no work, and more fear.

I think the secret of why I’ve had such a successful year is that I never feared. I believe that I am really a talented writer, and that I will continue to find paying clients, no matter what. Somewhere in the enormous, multi-million-dollar sea that is the freelance writing market, there’s enough lucrative work to provide a good living for one little me. I believe it. I’m such a small part of the whole marketplace, that there doesn’t have to be a recession for me. That’s my belief. And that’s why I’ve found good-paying clients, all through this recession.

I am not sitting around mourning the shrinking world of traditional journalism. I’m wide open to new possibilities in my field, so I find them. I sign my cover letters for jobs with “Enjoy!” I am communicating my excitement to everyone I meet at the new opportunities that are arising in the world of writing. I think editors find it refreshing – I’ve often gotten responses with an hour.

When I talk with writers, the ones in the worst shape have very negative attitudes. They don’t believe there’s good-paying work out there for them anymore. They waste time mourning the loss of a job, the loss of the old world of journalism, they want to vent about their raw deal, and mostly they can’t stop wishing things would go back the way they were.

That’s never going to happen. And hiring editors don’t want to hear it. The negativity becomes self-fulfilling prophecy, and when I check back in with them, usually they’ve given up and are looking for full-time jobs, or have decided to be stay-at-home moms and forget about having a writing career for now.

Do you believe in your writing abilities? Do you think there’s a place for you in the new media order – and are you excited by that? Then find the good-paying work that’s waiting for you. I believe it’s out there. Do you?

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

3 Reasons Why Writers Don’t Earn More

By Carol Tice

Gripes about pay are an epidemic these days in the writing world. But there’s still a lot of good-paying assignments out there. So why aren’t you making more money? In my experience mentoring writers, there are three main reasons:

#1. You’re not marketing. When I talk to writers who’re stuck making $10,000 or $20,000 a year, I usually begin by asking them about their marketing. Are they not getting responses to their queries? Feel they don’t do well at in-person networking? Need help with their cold-calling skills?

The answers are always the same. It isn’t that they need help improving how they do these things – they simply aren’t querying, aren’t networking, and aren’t cold-calling. To sum up, they’re not marketing their business, aside from perhaps shooting the occasional resume to an online job ad.

You’ve got to constantly be looking for new and better clients to keep your slate full. This is also how you raise rates – you find better-paying clients, and then one day you look at your roster and realize you’re so busy you can drop the lowest-paying account. If you’re actively prospecting, you get more new clients and can drop low payers faster, leading to higher average pay. If you’re writing for $15 an article, it’s because you’re not taking the time to market your business and find better-paying markets.

#2. You’re getting assignments instead of building relationships. New writers often get so excited about having an assignment that they forget — every assignment should be, like they say at the end of Casablanca, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You should link in social media to that editor so that you never lose track of them, even if they change jobs.

When you turn in your story, don’t let the relationship momentum die. You should be ready with two or three additional story ideas. If you don’t have ideas, at least ask the editor what their needs are coming up. Instead of a one-off, try to turn each relationship into a steady gig.

#3. You’re not reselling. One great way to maximize your earnings is to take each story idea you have and sell it multiple places. Personally, I’ve recycled story ideas so much this year I’m dizzy. I’ll write about a business topic for a Canadian conglomerate, then a U.S. magazine, then a corporate Web site. Reselling accelerates earnings because you leverage the research and expert interviews you did once across many paychecks, making you more efficient. You can interview one source and sell the story to their university magazine, a business magazine, a local newspaper…and so on. You fit more articles into each year more easily, you bill more, you make more.

What’s it all boil down to? Be willing to go out and actively look for better-paying clients, and do your writing assignments more efficiently. Do that, and your income is bound to rise.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

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