Posts Tagged ‘How To Be A Freelance Writer’

Freelance Writing: Earning Top Dollar

Ten Ways to Reach for the Stars

There’s money to be made as a freelancer. In fact, many writers are now supporting themselves full time with income from their writing projects. Perhaps you want to be one of them. Here are my top ten ways to reach for the stars as a freelancer.


1.      Set clear goals. If you set them, they become real. Give yourself deadlines. There’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline to kick you in gear! Print up your goals. Keep them handy. Give a copy to your accountability partner.

2.      If you write for the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) get a copy of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide. If you’re writing for the general market (American Bookseller’s Association) either buy the Writer’s Market Guide or sign up online. Both of these books will give you names and addresses of publishing houses, along with the needs in those houses. You’ll receive inside information on things like word count, topics, themes, etc. You will also receive other pertinent information: the editor’s name, email address, how he or she prefers to be contacted, and so on.

3.      Type the words, “I am a writer” in large font and print the page. Put it on the wall (or near your desk) so you never forget.

4.      Pay attention to life around you. Don’t just be an observer…be a journalist. Write it all down—what you see, what you hear, what you taste, what you smell, what you touch. Focus—really focus—on the ripple of the child’s giggle. The wrinkles in the elderly man’s face. The lilt in the clerk’s voice. The scar on the auto salesman’s cheek. The mismatched clothes on the young woman in line at the grocery store. The sound of potato chips crunching. The ringing of the cell phone. The more your write these things down, the better you’ll be able to transport your reader.

5.      Write every day. Write even when you don’t feel like it, even if your words are gibberish.

6.      Call yourself a freelance writer, even if you’ve never received payment for your work. You will…soon. Start saying it now. Introduce yourself as a freelance writer, then go on to tell folks what you’re working on.

7.      Study the craft. Take online writing courses. Go to conferences. Ask other writers to take you under their wings.

8.      Start with short pieces. Too many people set out to write a book without publishing smaller pieces first. Figure out how to craft a great magazine article. If you need help, consider taking a freelance writing course. A compelling article will open many doors for you. I know, I know…it’s not a book, but a publishing credit is a publishing credit. Besides, if you’re like most writers, it will be a good experience and will teach you a lot about the world of publishing.

9.      Write in themes. If all of your short pieces are about child rearing, for example, you can later merge those short pieces into chapters for a book on parenting.

10.  Don’t let the naysayers wear you down. They don’t understand your desire/need to write because they don’t share that same need. They don’t have to “get” you. What you do with your writing is your own business (literally) and you have to keep doing the thing you feel called/led to do.


If you reach for the stars, your publishing dreams can become realities. Sure, those stars may seem far away at the moment, but they grow closer and closer with every word you write.

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Freelance Writing: Overcoming Problems

Writers are From Mars, Readers are from Venus

Likely you’ve heard the old expression, “Women are from Mars, men are from Venus.” It’s so true, isn’t it? While we may have common goals, our methods of getting there are quite different. Add the various personalities/temperaments to the mix and you will see the potential for both hilarity and adventure.

As writers, we must remember that we’re from Mars. Well, maybe not really from Mars, but we’re unusual people. We think differently. Story ideas pop into our heads at the drop of a hat. Our characters talk to us. We’re always plotting.

Readers aren’t like us. They’re from Venus. They’re not thinking up stories or writing, writing, writing their ideas. Likely they’re overwhelmed with a heavy workload or changing diapers. They’re on the run, headed to soccer practice or taking a loved one to the doctor’s office. They’re facing health challenges, wondering how they’re going to put the next meal on the table or grieving the death of a loved one. When these dear readers find an opportunity to sit and relax, they reach for a book to take them away from their troubles, and to offer excitement. We are their “Calgon, take me away!” opportunity.

So, if writers are from Mars and readers are from Venus, how do we write the stories, non-fiction books and articles that truly jive with their life experiences? Simple. We’ve got to pay attention to the very real struggles they’re facing and write about those. Our stories don’t have to be morose or even intense. It’s possible to write a light-hearted comedy and still touch on relevant life issues.

If we set out to write stories to captivate readers, our characters will seem so real they practically jump off the page. Our settings will sizzle. The reader will feel transported. Our plotlines will move up, down, then back up again, plummeting at just the right moment. In short, we will take our reader on a journey.

Sometimes we get it wrong. We’re so interested in writing what we want to write…so interested in getting our own way…that our writing doesn’t ring true to the reader. She feels left out. And because she feels left out, she closes the book on page thirty-two, tosses it aside, and mutters, “Well, that was a waste of time.”

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Don’t waste her time. Get to know her. Understand what makes her tick. Then invest in characters, plots, settings, and themes that will not only draw her in, but will give her hope. Our ultimate goal is to encourage, to uplift. (Of course, we want to take the reader on the ride of her life, too!)

You can do it, writer. Even though you’re from Mars. You can travel to the reader’s world and give her what she really longs for. And in the process, you’ll learn a great many lessons about what life on Venus is really like.

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Marketing and Promotion: Got Moxie?

Got Moxie?

Remember the story of the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz? He couldn’t summon up the courage to do the very thing he’d been called to do: be the King of the Forest. His fear held him bound. Dorothy did her best to give him the tools he needed to overcome, but he still run like a scared rabbit when spooked.

Many of us take on the persona of the cowardly lion when it comes time to promote our book. We shiver and quake at the idea of send out promotional materials or singing our book’s praises. Our knees knock when we’re called on to stand before a crowd to deliver a speech. We feel faint at the idea of being a guest on a radio program. And the idea of appearing on television terrifies us. We’re writers, after all. Our place is behind the computer. Right?

Yes. And no. Part of the task of being a writer is to promote what we’ve written. If we don’t champion our own work, who will? And who better to get the word out? We have a passion for our book that even the best PR guru does not possess. So, we have no choice. We must get busy. And we’ve got to overcome our fear to do the best possible job.

Marketing takes moxie. What’s moxie, you ask? It is a combination of courage, aggression, vigor and verve, skill and know-how. Having moxie means you’ve got guts. Determination. Backbone. It’s that “oomph” that energizes us (and emboldens us) to get the word out.

Oh, I know…not everyone comes into this world with this kind of courage. Most of us really do have the cowardly lion syndrome, particularly when it comes to our books. We write them in secret, submit them out of obligation and fret over their eventual release, knowing we’ll be called upon to promote them.

The time has come to “moxify” yourself, writer! Here are some ABC’s to help you summon up the necessary courage:

A: Acknowledge your fear. If you don’t acknowledge it, you won’t do anything about it.

B: Battle your way through. Don’t give in. Fight to overcome the feelings that are assaulting you.

C: Challenge yourself to new heights. If you’ve conquered the art of putting together an interview for a blog tour, give thought to a public speaking engagement. If you’ve conquered your first few speaking gigs, try a radio interview. If you’ve settled your nerves in the radio venue, work your way up to television.

In the end, the cowardly lion received the medal of valor/courage from the Wizard of Oz. You, too, will receive validation, though it won’t come in the form of a physical medal. It will come with the satisfaction that you’ve overcome your fear and stepped out of your comfort zone.

Soon enough, when someone asks, “Got moxie?” you can answer with a resounding, “You betcha!”

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Magazine Article Writing: Sync Up

Sync Up

Do you know what it’s like to be in tune with those around you? If you’re hoping to earn money selling magazine articles, you should. Staying in sync with your target audience is critical. The goal? To meet felt needs (needs the reader doesn’t even know he/she has).

How do you do that? By tuning in. Become a people watcher. Pay close attention—not just to the problems your friends and co-workers face, but how they react to them. Learn from both their victories and their mistakes.

The word sync means harmony or accord. When you’re in sync with your readers, you’re in accord (agreement) with them. In other words, you “get” them, and they “get” you/your article. Being in harmony with someone means you go out of your way to blend your voices. You don’t add dissonance. Your sole purpose is to stand in agreement with the reader and add a lovely harmony to their life experience.

Think about your electronic devices for a moment (your iPod, iPad, Android phone, etc.) When you “sync” them (say, to your computer), they share vital information. Files are easily accessible. The same is true with your reader. When you’re really synced, you have access to what they’re thinking and feeling. As a result, relevant, life-changing topics emerge. You won’t write the same old, same old. You’ll feel compelled to offer solutions to very real problems. And your readers’ lives will be impacted.

When was the last time you “synced up” to your readers? Here are a few easy ways to do so:

  • Listen. That’s it. Listen to your friends as they share their experiences. Don’t feel compelled to fix their problems. Simple allow them to open up and share.
  • Pay attention to the little things. Your friend might say she’s dealing with a weight issue, for instance. But maybe what she’s really dealing with is an issue that goes all the way back to her childhood.
  • Is there a common theme…some issue that keeps coming up in your circle of friends? (Say, an empty nest theme or a health-related situation?) If so, consider writing a themed article, one that many people will connect with.
  • Listen to people outside of your circle. Focus on the underdogs, the ones who can’t seem to catch a break. What are they struggling with?
  • Begin to think of creative solutions to the problems you’re witnessing. Don’t go the usual route. Think outside the box. Give real people real answers, not pat/cliché ones. They’re tired of things that don’t work. If you need help figuring out how to do this, study the writing craft. Take writing courses online. Get the help you need to write in a compelling way.
  • Speak from your life experience. If you have a story that might bring hope, share it. Just be careful not to do so in a condescending way, however.
  • Deep calls to deep. If your friend is dealing with a genuine crisis, (and you decide to write an article on the topic), make sure you express deep/true emotions in your piece. Be sure you protect her privacy by using pseudonyms. Don’t betray her trust.


Here’s a challenge: Over the next seven days, make it a point to sync up with those in your world. The pieces you write will (potentially) change lives…but it’s just as likely the stories you hear will change yours, as well.


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Publishing Trends for Freelance Writers: What’s Hot and What’s Not!

Publishing Trends: What’s Hot. . .and What’s Not!

Publishing houses are governed by what will sell, so understanding the trends is important—both for the houses and their writers. With that in mind, let’s look at what’s hot, and what’s not.


  • Romance: prairie romance, in particular
  • Contemporary women’s fiction (dealing with issues of the heart)
  • Action/Suspense/Thriller: This genre is really hot right now. Stories that keep readers up at night will always be in fashion!
  • Comedy: Romantic comedy has seen a surge in recent years.
  • Amish books/stories: What can I say? Amish/Mennonite stories are everywhere.
  • Sci-Fi, Speculative, Fantasy, Allegory (vampire stories, magical stories, etc)
  • Edgy is trendy, even in the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association)


  • Juvenile fiction: The market for this genre is not as big as you might think. If you do write for kids, make sure you’re writing about relevant topics. No “simple” kids stories (they want real issues/real world)
  • Biblical fiction: This genre went though a boom in the 80s and 90s, but is rapidly declining.
  • Cozy mysteries: This is a tough time for who-dunnits, no matter how beautifully written.


  • Cozies will always have a small audience. Not a lot of houses publish them, though.
  • Chick-Lit: When Bridget Jones’ Diary hit theaters, the world of chick-lit writing blossomed. First person novels about twenty/thirty-something fashion-forward females went ballistic. It’s getting harder to sell chick-lit, however. If you’re interested in selling first-person novels for women, give them a romance slant.


  • Don’t look at what’s popular now. Even if you sell a book today, it’s going to take a couple of years before it releases.


  • Subscribe to Writer’s Market Guide ( You will stay on top of all info related to publishing houses and their needs.
  • Conferences/editor panels will bring you up to speed. They’ll tell you what they are and aren’t looking for (you’ll know what to pitch and what not to waste your time pitching to a particular editor/house)
  • Consider taking an online writing course that caters to published authors. There, you can stay on top of trends.


  • Products run in trends, too, and can “date” a book.
  • Avoid using particular brand names and/or specific styles of clothing
  • Beware listing television shows or song titles as “contemporary” if you want your book to have longevity

There you have it! What’s in today will be out tomorrow, so stay on top of things if you want to impress that editor!

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Seven Days To Better Writing

Seven Days to Better Writing

What if I told you that your whole life could change in a week? You would sit up and take notice, right? The truth is, it can. If you’re a writer, all you need is one dedicated week to turn your career around.

  • DAY ONE: Spend a full day thinking about the topics that make sense to you (and your life experiences). Come up with a dozen ideas (for articles and/or books) to fit your life’s theme. Spend at least an hour free writing.
  • DAY TWO: Set major career goals. Write down where you hope to be in one month. One year. Three years. Five years. Write down your financial goals. Next, come up with a strategy to take you from Point A to Point B. Will you write fiction or non-fiction? Magazine articles? Devotions? Will you “brand” yourself by writing one particular genre, (say, romantic comedy)? Spend at least an hour writing a piece about how your life will change once these goals are met.
  • DAY THREE: Begin to diligently study the craft. When I first started writing, I picked up every book on writing I could afford. I read books on novel writing, magazine article writing, self-editing and so on. I participated in online writing courses, focusing primarily on my passion: fiction writing. My passion to learn captivated me. Inspired me. Motivated me. Perhaps you can relate. You’re ready to dive in. Do so…then spend at least an hour crafting the opening scene to a new book (or a magazine article that you hope to submit). Afterwards, look at it with an editor’s eye, weeding out passive verbs and making sure it has a strong hook.
  • DAY FOUR: Surround yourself with writers. There are a host of organizations you can join, both national and local. Look for a critique group in your area. Link arms with bloggers online. Once that’s done, spend at least an hour working on the book or article you started yesterday.
  • DAY FIVE: Incorporate fiction techniques in your non-fiction and non-fiction techniques in your fiction. Fiction techniques would include great characterization, plotting and strong themes. Non-fiction techniques would include writing tight, clear takeaways and compelling stories. Spend at least an hour adding these techniques to your work in progress.
  • DAY SIX: Figure out which publishing houses you would like to eventually target. If you don’t own the writer’s market guide, then join Membership is not terribly expensive and will open up a whole new world of possibilities. If you’re interested in writing for the Christian market, pick up a copy of Sally Stuart’s “Christian Writers Market Guide.” Look through every publishing house that fits your brand and your genre.
  • DAY SEVEN: Rest your mind, body and brain. Most writers burn out because they don’t take time to refuel.

There you have it, my friends. It’s going to be a busy week, but what wonderful prospects you will face at the end of it!

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How To Be a Freelance Writer: Learn From American Idol

Five Things a Writer can Learn from American Idol

American Idol is in its tenth season and going strong. New judges sit behind the desk, new singers belt out tunes, and new viewers pick up phones to vote for their favorites.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything! If writers pay close attention, they can learn many lessons as they watch American Idol.

  • LESSON ONE: Not everyone is ready to have a camera put in his/her face. C’mon now. You know what I mean. Some of those singers are no more ready to stand in front of the judges than some writers are ready to present their work to an editor or agent. Don’t embarrass yourself by thinking you’re “all that” when you haven’t taken the time to learn the craft. Do what you can to present yourself in the best possible light. Go to conferences. Take online writing courses. Establish yourself in a small venue before going large.
  • LESSON TWO: When a gifted singer feels “the call” to sing, he or she travels from wherever they are to wherever auditions are being held. Same with the writer. She drives from Kansas to Texas for a conference. She flies from Cleveland to Denver to meet the editor of her dreams. Why? Because she’s driven. She knows in her knower that she must go, just as that singer knows he must make it to the audition site.
  • LESSON THREE: Nerves can bring you down in a hurry. You’ve seen those gifted singers fold like a deck of cards during Hollywood week. Pressure can be a horrible thing, even for a truly gifted vocalist. The same is true with the writer. When the pressures of rejection, writer’s block, conference expenses, critique group issues, financial strain, contract woes hit…your nerves can get the better of you. Don’t let them! Make up your mind to stay calm and steady, no matter what threatens to veer you off-course.
  • LESSON FOUR: When the time is right, you will be chosen. Don’t you love it when the spotlight hits the right singer at the right time? Feels like magic, doesn’t it? The same is true with your writing. At just the right time, an editor will fall in love with your manuscript. At just the right time, a heavenly light will shine on your work, and agents, readers, critique partners and publishing houses will take notice. Hang on, writer. Your day is coming!
  • LESSON FIVE: You will be judged. There will always be those ready to offer advice—some good and some bad—regarding your work. Keep a stiff upper lip when that editor asks for a rewrite. Don’t crater when a reader offers a poor review. Celebrate when you’re told the book/article is great, but don’t let it go to your head. More judgment is just around the corner.


You might never sing on the stage in front of millions of people, but it’s likely your words will appear in print for thousands to read. What a wonderful day that will be!

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Magazine Article Writing: Going From Mii to Wii

From Mii to Wii

So, you want to write magazine articles to earn extra money? Great! Freelance writing is a great way to earn cash. Let’s assume you’ve already taken the time to learn the various article types and know how to slant a great piece to fit an editor’s needs. Your writing is strong, your topic compelling, your deadline looming.

What’s missing?

I’d like to suggest one thing you might have overlooked: the Wii factor. Oh, not the Nintendo version. I’m referring to the “we” factor: universal appeal.

Many twenty-first century articles are focused on the writer, not the reader. We need to reverse that. Any piece you write—personal experience, how-to, informative, inspirational—must ultimately be about the reader, not the writer. Engage him. Uplift him. Sweep him into your story with you. Remind him of something that happened in his childhood. Evoke a strong memory. How? You’ve got to shift from the “Mii” mentality to the “Wii” mentality.

So much of this comes down to captivating the reader. You can win him over with a great story that has a compelling takeaway. Make sure the “tiny nugget of truth” is something he can relate to. If you’re writing about a fishing experience you had as a child, for example, drive home the point that your grandfather taught you how to reel in that first fish. His hand tenderly wrapped yours on the pole as that tiny catfish lifted out of the water. Grandpa celebrated alongside you, and taught you by example that quality time spent with a child far exceeds any other gift you could give. (See the takeaway? It’s clear, isn’t it? And it probably reminds you of someone who poured into your life as a child. That’s the point, after all. It’s the nugget of truth that you, the reader, carry away.)

Think about your work in progress. What sort of article is it? How can you take that piece to the next level? Pause to really think about your reader. Who is he/she? Why will this person care about your story? What’s in it for him? What emotions are you trying to tap into? Will he walk away from your article feeling uplifted? Does your story hit the mark or will the reader toss the magazine down on the coffee table, feeling like he’s been left out?

It’s not about “Mii,” even in a personal experience piece. It’s always about “Wii” (us/the human race/the reader specific).

Here’s a fun suggestion, in closing: Cut a picture of a man or woman out of a magazine and tape it to the wall above your desk. Write for him. Write for her. Write for “Wii.”

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How To Begin Writing: Practical Steps to Getting Started

Girls Just Wanta Have Funds

When it comes to the financial, I could probably divide most of the women I know into two categories. About half are financially secure, thanks to a great paying job or a husband with an awesome career. The other half are struggling to make ends meet. Among those who are struggling, some are stay-at-home moms. Others are single moms, working like crazy to pay the bills. Some are caregivers for aging parents, wondering if they’ll ever catch a break. And some are in their golden years, wondering if they’ll ever be able to afford to retire.

Most girls would—as the Madonna song alludes to—rather be having fun. However, with their current job schedules, laundry, diaper changes, and countless hours spent driving to soccer practice, ballet class, PTA meetings and the like, they simply don’t have the time. Nor do most have the energy to think about taking on more work, particularly outside the home. That’s why freelancing is perfect for women, particularly those in need of earning extra money on the side.

So, what’s a weary woman to do? How does she get started writing for pay? I would recommend a couple of great online writing courses on how to be a freelance writer. It’s never too late to start learning, even if you’ve already got a college degree. Freelancing is a competitive game and you’ve got to have an edge.

From there, begin to write what you know. For most women, that will include relationship issues, parenting, empty nest, stay-at-home mom, job-related issues, care-giving, marital issues, home improvement and the like. Your topics should be an honest reflection of who you are. There’s no “fake it until you make it” in writing. If you’re not genuine, readers will pick up on it. (And let’s face it…women are very discerning. They will know if you’re pandering to them.)

Next, write a one thousand word article. Be sure to include a great hook, something that will reel in other women. You want them to relate to you.

Have a good friend—someone you trust—read over the piece to make sure it hits the mark. Ask her these questions: “Does the article leave you feeling better about life?” “Did you grasp the takeaway (nugget of truth) at the end?” “Is my writing style engaging?” If she offers suggestions, take them.

When you’re sure the article is strong enough, visit online and research the various magazine publishers. Query the editor, letting him know about your piece (and your platform, if applicable). If it’s a good fit, he will ask to see it.

From there, you never know what will happen! The next article might get picked up for a larger price, and the next might make a good foundation for a book. A year from now, you could be bringing in more money than you ever imagined.

Yep. Girls just wanta have funds. And they want to have fun bringing them in! So, what’s stopping you? Get busy writing, ladies!

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How To Be A Freelance Writer: Writing Like a Rock Star

Writing like a rock star

Think back to your teen years. What sort of music did you listen to? Country? Ballads? Jazz? Rock? Regardless, you probably supported your favorite musicians by purchasing their albums and hanging goofy-looking posters on your wall. You listened to their amazing tunes for hours on end, wishing you could step into the singer’s shoes for one, brief, magical moment.

Pause to think about your favorite musician. What was it about him (or her) that you wanted to emulate? Here’s what I liked about some of my favorites:

  • They paid their dues. Many sang back-up for years or played small venues before “making it big.”
  • They were fearless. They stood on that stage and sang/played their hearts out.
  • They were talented. Not just a little talented, but over-the-top skilled. They didn’t stand up there half-singing. They gave it their all!
  • They had a certain “sparkle and shine.” They stood out above other artists because they had something special.
  • They were “known.” All I had to do was say the name of the artist or group—Kansas, Styx, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Janis Ian, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Queen—and everyone knew who you were talking about.

These musicians stood the test of time. They weren’t just flash-in-the-pan artists.

Now think about these things in light of your writing. Most of us set out to write that first book thinking we’ll be famous. We hear the words “pay your dues” and pray they don’t apply to us. We’re not willing to play the small venues (i.e. write for the church newsletter, compose blog entries, etc.). We want to jump straight to the big time. More often than not, we’re not ready. We should follow the lead of our musical superstars and work, work, work our way up the ladder. We need to take writing courses, go to conferences and lean heavily on our critique partners.

We have a lot to learn when it comes to being fearless, too. Oh, sure…we say we’re bold. We say we’re brave. But when the rubber meets the road—say, we have an opportunity to sit across from an editor or agent at a conference—we shake in our boots. It’s time to stand straight and tall. Summon up the courage to see this thing through from start to finish.

Our musical stars inspire us with their talent, but great talent doesn’t just happen. Most of us have to work hard to learn the craft. Writers grow into their talent with extensive training.

Sure, rock stars sparkle and shine. They’re in the spotlight, after all. But, what about you? What sets you apart from the crowd? Do you have that little something extra? Writers set themselves apart by using strong verbs and writing tight, brilliant stories and articles.

One final thing in closing: being “known” is great—and many writers have achieved that sort of success. But consider the fact that most writing is done in solitude. We’re not in front of the cameras or the lights, singing our hearts out. We’re sitting in front of a computer screen, pounding out words, then paragraphs, then whole stories.

My advice for the day? Be a rock star! Strive to be the very best you can be.

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