Monday, July 31, 2006

Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Let's face it, nobody's perfect -- as freelance writers, we're bound to make the occasional mistake here and there. Minor grammar or spelling errors are one thing but as writers there are several mistakes we just can't afford to make.

For one thing, if you give a client your word you must absolutely honor it. For example, if you've promised a client 20 500 word articles to be delivered within one week, you better do what you can to keep to that committment. At the very least, it's professional and courteous to let the client know if you are going to be late on a deadline a few days ahead of time -- NOT 20 minutes before the work is due. To renege on a promise with absolutely no contact is unprofessional and can ruin your credibility among the writing community.

If you're writing a journalism piece, a PR or another article where proper names and titles are required it's absolutely essential to get the correct spelling. Improperly spelling the name of an interviewee, a company or another person makes you look like an amateur and can hinder your career. Similarly, misquoting anyone in your article can, in extreme cases, ruin your reputation and cost you your job. During an interview, it's always essential that you keep a notebook and, if possible, tapes of the interview that will hold up in court should a problem arise because a source said you misquoted them.

Also keep in mind that different publications have various style formats they follow, and it's important to know beforehand what style you need to be using when crafting an article for a particular publication. While this isn't necessarily as detrimental as the previous mistakes, knowing what you're doing beforehand will prevent unnecessary revisions later.

If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to comment. What mistakes do you feel writers should asolutely avoid at all costs?

Have a Happy Day,


Saturday, July 29, 2006

What's in a Name?

Let me ask you: When you're working on personal pieces (a short story say, or a novel) do you choose the names for your characters at random, or do you pick something that *feels* right?

When I'm creating a story, I'm not your typical writer who lays down a plot and character profiles beforehand. I jot down a few general notes, sure -- but I don't create the entire story in rough draft form. What I do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on however is each character's name, especially the main character(s).

I feel that a person's name in a story can convey meaning; as such, it needs to be something that fits with the character, i.e. their personality, traits, habits, etc. Sometimes, names just come to me and my gut instinct tells me to use them, even if I don't particularly care for the name. Othertimes, I literally spend a full time thinking, creating, scrapping, and doing all of this repeatedly until I come up with a name that suits the character.

Am I crazy? Or are there other writers that do this, as well? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Hope all of you are having a wonderful weekend,


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How Much are you Worth?

There have been several thoughts floating through my head as of late, and I thought I'd share one with all of you to get your opinions. As freelance writers, sometimes we may be forced to take jobs that are well below our usual pay rates just to get some money coming in. However, this is not the norm and I for one do not treat it as such.

The pay issue is something that will be argued until doomsday, but I'm curious to know: As professionals, what do you feel are acceptable rates? I'm not asking for specifics necessarily, more of a general guideline about what you think your time, efforts and skill are worth. I have my own opinions regarding the subject and I know the rates that professionals command. Your thoughts?

Please comment below; any and all thoughts are welcome.

Best Wishes,


Monday, July 24, 2006

Writing for Children

For freelance writers who are specializing in the children's writing market or would like to, there are a host of invaluable resources on the internet than can help you on your career path. Need a little help deciding what genres would be most enjoyable to write in? There are a variety of categories you can dabble in to find your freelance writing niche in the children's market, and the following guide aims to inform you of these various choices.

First and foremost, picture books (generally focused towards children 4-8 or younger) are generally up to 1500 words but can go up to as much as 2000 words depending on the type of picture book you are creating. One of the greatest things about these types of children's books are the fact that the pictures really serve to tell the story along with the words, and they can cover a wide variety of subjects.

Easy readers, another category you can branch into, are usually geared towards children who are just learning how to read on their own (typically starting at 6 years old to as much as 8 years.) While illustrations are still present, the stories are generally more "adult" feeling, and can vary in length. The sentences are short and to the point to avoid confusing young minds with unnecessary words.

Transition books, or early chapter books for younger readers are longer than easy readers but typically follow about the same format. They may have several small black and white illustrations, but they are not the bulk of the story. Conversely, chapter books (usually for children 7 to 10) are starting to become a lot more complex, but paragraphs remain relatively short and easy for children to understand.

Young adult books are typically for those children who are around 11 or 12 and up, and are much more complex than other children's genres. There may be several major characters in play, but usually one character takes center stage throughout the focus of the book. The interesting thing about young adult books are that they traditionally revolve around the trials and tribulations surrounding adolescent children of that era so young adults can relate to the subject matter.

There are undoubtedly many more sub-genres in the children's writing world but these are arguably the most common. As a freelance writer, you can decide to specialize in whichever genre you choose or try you hand at each of them. Regardless of what you choose, remember to keep the subject matter relevant to the age group you are writing for and keep the format of the story in line with what's expected for children of specific ages.

Best Wishes,


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Great Tips to Find Story Ideas

As a freelance writer, the story is your life -- it's what pays the bills month after month, after all. However if you're anything like me, sometimes it might be difficult coming up with a great story idea you can use for your next piece. Listed below are the sources I turn to when I need a bit of help coming up with a new concept to write about; I hope they help!

You've probably been told time and again to "write what you know," am I correct? Well, there's some merit in the saying. Drawing from your own personal experiences can give you great ideas for your next story. What's more, most magazines and newspapers have space available for editorials or personal essays, so writing about events that have happened in your own life can be a great way to break into the field. In any case, your past holds a wealth of experiences you can draw from to create a really smashing article.

Your friends are possibly the second best source you can draw information from to create a story. As a freelance writer, it's important to keep your social connections as broad and varied as possible because this gives you more opportunity to network. Not only may your friends be able to get you a lead you may not have gotten elsewhere, but events that have transpired in their lives or things that affect them can be a great way to brainstorm ideas.

Obviously, one of the best tools we have as writers is the internet. By running a simple search in Google or another search engine, we can get hundreds of links to great ideas we can feed off of and create our own spin on the topic.

These are just a few ways I'm able to come up with story ideas when my mind's just not up to the task. Please feel free to share your own creative ways you come up with ideas in the comment box below :) I'd be happy to hear your suggestions.

Have a GREAT weekend,


Thursday, July 20, 2006

What is Copywriting?

Even if you've just broken into the freelance market, you're probably aware of the term copywriting. If you're a little unsure of the definition think of it this way: Copywriters write for businesses. Not only that, the words they create are designed to sell,: sell a business, a product, an idea -- you name it, copywriters can do it.

What's more, copy is EVERYWHERE - literally. Every day, people are bombarded with copy from television, the radio, magazines, newspapers, signs and more. What's more, if you've been writing for a fair amount of time you can consider adding copywriting to your list of specialties. The art of fiction and non-fiction writing both come in handy with copywriting because not only do you need to be able to evoke emotion in readers, but you also need to be able to cut straight to the point in as clear a manner as possible.

Even if you're just starting out as a freelance writer, it's not as difficult as you might think to break into copywriting. With talent and some effort, there's no reason you can't be making an annual income of 6 figures or more -- but hold the phone. It takes time to make a lucrative career out of freelance writing, unless you're one of the lucky few whose talent just knows no bounds ;)

Start thinking about the types of copy you'd be most interested in writing, and get a feel for the type of copywriting you see around you. Also keep in mind that you need to market yourself, and market yourself effectively. No business will know your skills exist unless you get the word out there! Consider crafting direct mail letters to several businesses advertising your skills and qualifications. Even if your targets can't hire you, they may pass your information along to other businesses who could be interested.

If you'd like, feel free to leave some of your tips about copywriting in the comments box :)

Have a Happy Day,


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Overcoming Writer's Block

Whether you're a writer who believes in writer's block or one who thinks it's a product of our imaginations, all of us will suffer from this problem at least once during our career. It can be very difficult to get anything done with this pernicious problem hanging over our heads; I know, I've been there! Below are some tips I've found useful in overcoming writer's block and how to cope.

First and foremost, it's important to create a writing routine and stick to it. As hard as this may be in the beginning, it's well worth the effort. Even if you are suffering from writer's block, it's important to do your best to ignore it and continue writing regardless. Eventually, you'll train your brain into knowing when it's time to write, and hopefully your block will be a thing of the past.

Another reason you could be dealing with writer's block is because your inner critic just won't shut up and behave! Writers are said to be their own worst critics, and I'm afraid I have to agree. While you're writing, don't stress too much over the proper words to use. During the editing process, you can break out the red pen and go at it but while you're writing, do your best to silence your inner critic.

Because our writing is our profession, we need to think of our jobs as exactly that. Even though we have the luxury of working from home, freelancing and making our own hours, we still need to realize this is a job like any other. By training our minds to realize freelance writing is our paycheck, we are more likely to get things done and sail through the problem of writer's block.

Working on more than one project at a time can also help get the creative juices flowing. When we aren't tied down to one project, we're less likely to become bored and start dreading the monotonous task of churning out 30 articles on the same keyword phrase. Juggling a few projects at a time has always helped alleviate writer's block for me. It's also important to remember to take time off when you need to in order to give your mind time to "breathe."

These are just a few ideas I've found worked for me to help reduce writer's block. If you have any ideas that have worked for you in the past, please let me know!

Best Wishes,


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Health Insurance Tips for Freelance Writers

When it comes to matters of medical insurance, many freelance writers find themselves at a roadblock when it comes to getting quality care at affordable prices. Health insurance for the self employed can be difficult to obtain and the wealth of information out there regarding this issue can be very confusing when you don't know where to start. Below, I've compiled the following tips to help you get the most out of your dollar when it comes to providing medical insurance for yourself or your family.

There are a few things freelance writers should know before jumping into the healthcare pool, and that includes deciding on the type of insurance that will meet your needs. Obviously, the type of insurance a single 20-something needs will differ from the insurance a 38 year old mother of two will need. If you were part of a job previously where your health benefits were taken care of, you may want to look through your old policy to see what procedures were covered as well as why you were or were not happy with your coverage.

Additionally, setting up a budget will ensure that you know exactly how much you have to spend each month on medical costs, and of that, how much can be afforded to an insurance plan. Budgeting is especially important when you freelance, because you're not always sure how much money you'll bring in during a given month. To begin your search for quality health insurance, it's a good idea to check with your chamber of commerce, as well as various Writer's groups and associations for the self-employed. They may be able to recommend specific companies to you to obtain health insurance from, and their expertise can generally be trusted.

Think of health insurance as an investment towards your future; purchasing health insurance now will ensure you have coverage in case something happens where you're injured or fall ill. It's important to at least research your options when it comes to health insurance so you are aware of the possibilities. Even better, most self-employed individuals can deduct their insurance expenses from their taxes at the end of the year, resulting in potentially thousands of dollars saved out of your pocket. Basically, do your research before purchasing any type of health insurance and you'll be able to make an informed decision based on what will best meet your needs.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Office Essentials for Freelance Writers

How many of you have an office of your own? My "office" consists of a tiny former patio with a dented filing cabinet, a desk lamp, my computer and an ironing board (yes, I iron where I work. What are the odds?) Of course it would be nice if I could carve out an actual room where I wouldn't be disturbed while I worked, but until the world is perfect I'll have to make do.

Regardless whether your home office resides in your living room or otherwise, it's important to have the basic essentials before starting your home business. Obviously, pens and paper are going to be useful tools but I'm talking about the bread and butter essentials. For starters, you'll want a high quality computer chair and desk that are ergonomic to reduce back, neck, wrist and shoulder strain. Being hunched over a computer all day while working can lead to a host of health problems later down the road, so it's important to be smart now.

Your computer and keyboard are also essential components, especially if you'll be corresponding by e-mail frequently and creating the majority of your work on a word processor. Not all of us are pen and paper writers, after all! Your keyboard should also be ergonomically inclined, and you can buy a relatively inexpensive one at any leading electronics store. A filing system would also be beneficial to use in your home office so you can retain a record of query letters, expense/income reports, contracts, correspondance and the like.

These are just a few of the basic office essentials freelance writers need to create a home office that will work for them. Whether you've carved out a niche in your kitchen to work or have a separate room specifically for your writing, it's important to have these items on hand to help your business run as smoothly as possible. Please feel free to leave a comment about the office essentials you simply cannot live without that weren't on this list. I'd be glad to hear them!

Best wishes,


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Importance of Proofreading

If you're like me, you check, double check and maybe even triple check your writing to ensure it's flawless before sending it in to your editor. Then again, maybe one day you get lazy and quickly scan the article for any errors that jump out at you. Hold it right there! Proofreading is an essential part of the freelance writing business and should be taken as seriously as the writing itself. Oftentimes, it can be hard to edit your own work because you can't necessarily give your work the impartial eye it needs to catch errors. The following guidelines can help you edit your work like a pro, and take the hassle out of proofreading.

Obviously, relying on your word processor's spell check program isn't the way to go. It can catch blatant spelling errors, but it won't catch the improper use of "their" when you should use "there," for example. What's more, the built-in grammar checker is often quite faulty, and should not be completely trusted either. Therefore, you'll want to pay close attention to your work as you are writing to ensure you don't make any drastic mistakes the spell check is not likely to catch.

I've also found that reading your work out loud will give you an idea of how it sounds. This way, you'll be able to catch any errors in sentence structure or grammar because your ear will pick up on any mistakes you might have made. Obviously, proofreading your work with your eyes is just as important but reading your work aloud will help you catch the mistakes your eyes can easily pass over. More importantly, you may want to consider revising and editing after a day or so has gone by, so you can look at the manuscript with fresh eyes.

Proofreading is definitely not the most exciting job you could do, but it's essential to the quality of your work. What's more, a flawless article means a happy editor who doesn't have to clean up after your mess. While becoming a great proofreader takes practice, after a few tries you'll be an expert in no time.

Please feel free to leave any of your tips about proofreading/editing. I'd be happy to hear them!

Best Wishes,


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Free Online Writing Classes

When I come across invaluable resources pertaining to writing, I just have to share them with fellow writers. The following list details various programs that offer free courses in all types of writing, including screenwriting, children's writing, grammar lessons, poetry and many more.

Barnes and Noble University offers students a chance to enrich their minds with various writing courses. Take a peek at their Writing Mysteries Class, or perhaps the course detailing how to write for children. You'll find a wide variety of interactive classes here that are sure to fit your needs.

News University For both aspiring journalists and professionals alike, News University offers students a chance to brush up on their existing skills or gain a better understanding of the journalistic world.

Steve Barne's Writing Class Barne's taught at UCLA for years, and this course compiles all of the information his students have learned. Learn from a pro as you follow this comprehensive 9-week course to improve your writing skills.

If you know of any additional online writing courses that are offered free of charge, please let me know.

Best Wishes,


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Making Money from Freelance Writing

It seems these days the most commonly asked question I see around forums and job boards involves how to make money from freelance writing. Newbies ask this all the time, with visions of riches beyond their wildest dreams. While it's true you can make a lucrative career out of freelance writing, you cannot go into the field expecting to get rich quickly. It just doesn't work like that! As with any other job, it takes time and experience to command the rates of a true professional. I've compiled the following guide to help you increase the profits you can earn from writing. Oftentimes, a few small tweaks in your routine will enhance your overall income greatly.

First and foremost, you want to know the audience you are writing for. Nothing screams "amateur" like a piece that's written with the wrong audience in mind. Whether you're targeting an internet company or a magazine, you want to be sure you know who their target audience is. Gain an understanding of the kind of language they prefer as well as the style of writing that's most likely to be accepted. Once you know who your audience is, you're able to write a piece reflecting that.

In freelance writing, you'll also want to make sure you understand the publication you're interested in writing for. In the case of magazines, check out a couple of past issues to gain a feel for what the magazine is looking for. Make notes on the publication's preferred layout, style and tone. When you know how to write for the publication, your piece will be that much more likely to be picked up by the editor for perusal.

Whether you're just starting out or have been in the business for years, you may want to consider targeting smaller markets with your work. While these markets don't pay as much as larger ones do, sending in multiple "fillers" to various publications is an easy, cost-effective way to increase your writing income. Because the word count for these are so short, it's easy to crank out several snippets a week. Look around in magazines or online for publications that accept these types of submissions.

Possibly the most important rule of thumb to remember when looking to increase your writing income is to constantly write! It seems easy, but you'd be amazed at how much time is lost networking, marketing and otherwise avoiding writing! Granted, all of us need a break from time to time and marketing your services is an essential part of the freelance writing business. However, if you're looking to increase your income with freelance writing, you need to write on a daily basis and keep sending submissions out. With these strategies in mind, you should be seeing a return on your hard work in no time!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Marketing your Services Effectively

For freelance writers, a large majority of our day consists of marketing ourselves and our services to potential clients. When I'm not writing, I'm looking for new job opportunities and ways to promote my talents. While marketing can seem like a complicated, oftentimes difficult task, there are ways we can make this process decidedly easier on ourselves.

I don't know about you, but I send a LOT of e-mails throughout the course of a day. As a matter of fact, most of the freelancers I speak with do the same. Because e-mail is one of my primary methods of keeping in contact with clients, I've taken the liberty to create a signature to go along with every e-mail I send. The signature briefly notes that I'm a freelance writer and contains a link to my blog, writing samples and other pertinent contact information. Believe it or not, I've recieved several inquiries about my services, all because of the signature in my e-mails!

I cannot think of an easier way of marketing yourself as a freelance writer. Believe me, it's worth the two minutes it takes to set up a signature to send along with your outgoing e-mails. If you're like me and correspond with people via the internet on a regular basis, there's no quicker way to market yourself. Granted, you must continue to do what you need to get your name out there, but setting up an e-mail signature is fast, and it works. You don't even have to think about it!

Feel free to leave your thoughts on effective marketing tools in the comment box. I always appreciate new ideas and tips I may not have been aware of before.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fireworks, but not what I expected

Great news! My mother's healing is progressing as expected, and everything looks on the up and up. The goal? In 4 weeks, she should be able to walk without the aid of crutches, but she'll still need to keep them nearby because she hasn't walked regularly for almost a year. I'm very excited for her. I hope everything continues to run smoothly throughout the duration of her recovery. Fingers crossed!

In any case, I hope everyone's Fourth of July celebrations went well. I watched fireworks from the roof. It was a surreal experience, one I won't easily forget. In other news, I must apologize if my updates become less frequent for now; there are a lot of problems going on, and it may be hard to come on and update regularly. We'll see what happens, though.

Warm wishes and happy thoughts,


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I sincerely hope that you all are having a wonderful day. Barbeques, anyone?

Once again, I'll be leaving tomorrow to take care of my mother. Her caregiver fell through, so I'll be away for a few weeks. I'll still attempt to update at least a few times a week, and I'll be sure to keep you posted on her condition. Her next doctor's appointment is Thursday, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything is still holding out well.

I apologize for the brief entry, but it's all I have time for. Here's hoping I see fireworks tonight!


Monday, July 03, 2006

Balancing your Time

Phew, it's only 11:15 and I'm already frazzled! You can always tell when it's going to be one of "those" days. You know the one's I mean - the days where you try to procrastinate as long as you can, entertaining yourself with mindless distraction after mindless distraction simply to avoid writing. Please tell me I'm not the only one who experiences these moments!

In any case, I've decided to devote today's post to figuring out ways to balance time between your work and the rest of your life. As writers, we know that setting up a regular routine and sticking with it is by far the easiest way to avoid distractions and get work done. In doing so, you must also account for the time it takes for everything else that doesn't involve your career. This can be anything from housework to running errands to taking a 15-minute walk in the park, even. Granted, we'll want to leave some wiggle room for those days where things don't go exactly as planned, but I've found a fairly consistent schedule minimizes procrastination for me, and allows me to use my time much more effectively.

You may also want to consider cutting back on your workload, provided you can afford to. Even allocating a week's worth of vacation time in your schedule can make a huge difference in both the quality of your work and your mental health! With any luck, you'll be refreshed and rejuventated, ready to begin your work anew.

I have no doubt that there are tons more ideas floating around out there to help writers balance work and family life. With that being said, any suggestions from the community would be great. Feel free to leave a comment, or contact me via E-mail with your thoughts.

Warm Regards,


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Coping with Rejection

As a freelance writer, it's inevitable that at one point (or several!) we'll be faced with rejection. Whether it's already happened or will happen in the future, rejection can be scary, humiliating, and upsetting all at the same time. There are many things writers do when faced with rejection, but the following are what I've found to be the most efficient methods of getting over it and moving on with my life and my career.

Get angry. Yes, this may seem counterproductive, but it's actually unhealthy to repress emotions. Granted, you don't want to go crazy and start throwing knives at your kitchen walls, but feel free to let out a scream, punch a few pillows and vent to a close friend. In doing so, you're letting go of what's holding you back from pushing forward with your work, regardless of the rejection looming over your head.

Keep writing! You know that old saying, "If you fall off a horse, get back on and try again?" It's the same idea with writing. Just because you've received one rejection slip (or even several) doesn't mean you throw in the towel. If you're serious about your craft, you'll keep at it. At the very least, your drive and determination will push you to show those editors what you're really made of.

Whatever you do, don't send in poorly written work to any publication that comes your way. You want to show the people at the top that you know what you're doing and have the talent to prove it. While it may be a bit of an ego-soother to send in work on a ferocious basis, it's detrimental to your recovery and can actually hinder your climb up the career ladder.

Eventually, you'll get over that slip of paper that you thought spelled the end of your career. You'll get over it, move on and continue writing as if nothing had happened. Because in reality, nothing really did. So what if an editor didn't like your work? You'll work twice as hard to impress the pants off them the next time around. So what are you waiting for? Get writing!