So, when Deb offered me the opportunity to be one of the FWJ Network columnists, I was beside myself with excitement! You see, I’ve been reading Freelance Writing Jobs for years: in fact, it was the first “blog” I ever read. Seriously! I laugh now, thinking how I was trying to pick a RSS reader so I could keep up with one blog. Those were the days.
Anyway, I picked up many of my writing tricks here and am now looking forward to giving back to the community with some of my own experiences. I’ve published a book [a real one] and I’ve written features in a lot of print and online publications. All in a fairly short space of time, actually. So what I thought might be nice to help introduce myself is share some lessons I’ve learned over the years. I feel like a bit of a dunce after Deb’s blockbuster 40 lessons learned in 10 years of writing, but perhaps you’ll find some inspiration of your own in these as well.
Online publications and Offline publications really aren’t that different – especially if you want to get hired. You might think that you can relax and take it easy with online blogs, but the truth is the good ones work very similarly to a traditional magazine. You still have to research if they accept submissions and how, you need to figure out what they pay, and you need to treat the editor with respect. As I also manage and edit my own online travel magazine, I am sometimes appalled at the lack of professionalism with writers.
Your own online real estate is worth its weight in gold. You must have your own website where you feature all of your work together – an online CV or resume, as it were. I’m not saying you have to have your own blog – that’s a double edged sword, to be honest – but having a place where you can put your stamp is priceless.
Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time, so keep showing up. Yes, I know, it sucks: you pitch and query and nothing happens. But you’re planing seeds, so one day you’ll have a very nice garden to live off of. I’m telling you, it works: I pitched everything that came though on Travelwriters.com and got nothing. Maybe a nibble here or there, but nothing. Then one day, I got a book deal. If I had quit halfway, I would have had nothing. So keep showing up.
First impressions really do count, regardless of the medium. You need a clean, easy on the eyes website. You need to have an email address that isn’t [email protected]. You need a professional email signature. If you want to be considered a professional writer, then act like one.
Don’t burn bridges. Ever. After a couple of attempts, I landed a very good piece with the Matador Network, a best-in-class online travel magazine. I was elated, and worked with the managing editor to clean up my article. But before it was scheduled to publish, a shake-up happened with the editorial team, and the new editor didn’t want my piece anymore. I could have thrown a tantrum and stomped my feet, but I just left it – burning a bridge wouldn’t have fixed anything. But instead, since I bowed out gracefully, I was actually offered a separate, long-term role as the network’s social media ninja.
Ask your clients for feedback on an ongoing basis. Don’t assume everything is ‘ok’ with your clients because they didn’t say anything. I actually had a client get really upset with me because of some formatting issues with the pieces I was sending across each week. Had I asked earlier on, we probably could have avoided friction, but since I didn’t know the issue was causing hassles, the problem built up until it got a little ugly. So check in with your customers – they’ll be happy to know you’re looking out for them, as long as you aren’t trying to sell all the time.
You have to get on the treadmill to get off of it. I actually had this conversation with Naomi Dunford the other day about something else but I think it also applies to writing. A lot of people will throw pitchforks and light torches when the topic of writing for free and writing for low pay comes up. There’s plenty of articles about it here, but I am not linking to them because I’m not interested in rehashing old topics. My point is that you have to start somewhere – I don’t think you can’t land an amazing gig without something behind your name. So take a few things that are a great fit for you regardless of the pay, rock them, and update your portfolio. You might disagree with me, and that’s ok – you don’t take my advice. 🙂
See you here next time where I’ll be examining an actual query letter of mine that worked, and tweaks to make your query letters work better!
Photo by geoftheref