5 Less Travelled Paths Toward More Freelance Work

As the holiday approaches, you may be winding down your freelance writing business. Or you may be reaping the benefits of less saturation in the market. More writers taking a holiday means more work for you!

If you’re looking for fresh ways to add more work to your portfolio, here are a few tried and true methods that have worked for me in the past and is sure to work for you:

1. Peruse your local pubs.

I get about 5 free local publications sent to my address every few months. They’re like hidden job ads for writers sent straight to my front door. No money necessary. Just read, research and apply.

2. Take advantage of social media.

I never thought this would work in a million years. But it did. I searched for editors in my area and contacted one who’s work impressed me. I didn’t just hear back, but I scored my first assignment for their magazine. And it’s not just LinkedIn that can help you, but Twitter, Facebook and your blog too. Send it out there that you’re looking for new freelance writing gigs and you never know who may respond back.

3. Be opened to lesser paying gigs.

Yes I’m quite sure there are a lot of writing gurus out there who would disagree with me. But I have a good reason to risk selling out. It can open future doors for you. The more work you’ve got to show for, the more evidence you have that you’re an experienced writer. That adds up to higher pay in the long run.

4. Think outside the box.

You may flock to online writing job ads and your local newspaper to find freelance writing work, but if you want to travel the less travelled path, you need to think outside the box. This means being open and curious to every opportunity you’re given. For example, I often research the people who comment on my blog. You know that the people you’re attracting to your blog share your similar interests and passion as your own. They may own an organization you would love to write for or may be able to use a writer like yourself. You never know so make sure to ask!

5. Seek to be a solution solver.

If you’re out there searching for more work, chances are you’ll meet people who need website help, newsletter content or copywriting. It’s the reason why business cards are so important. But don’t just email a contact and ask if they need writing help. Check out their website first. Find out what it’s missing and how your skills can help make it that much better. The more specific you are about what you can offer, the more likely they will be to hire you. Besides that, it’s a whole lot easier for potential clients when you come to them offering help solve their latest problems. No need for busy entrepreneurs to go on a hunt to find the best writer. You’re right there, a qualified writer willing to help and ready to work.

What less travelled path did you venture on to score your latest writing gig?

Quick Creative Writing Exercises

{iPhone photo using my sunglasses as a filter.}

A few weekends ago, I headed out to my first ever writing retreat class. It was great to gab with writers and nosh on good eats while taking in the view of the breathtaking mountains on the Windward side of Oahu. Besides all of that, I got a lot of practical tips to get the writing flowing. I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned with you.

Inspiration from Music

The first one’s pretty fun. Just turn on something instrumental, grab a notebook and a writing utensil, close your eyes and let the music direct your pen. The point isn’t to draw something or have an intention. It’s just to really feel the music. Something about the process releases the fear of writing within you. Try it.

Fun Writing Prompt

Choose three random objects in your vision. Now try to incorporate a story based on what you picked. Our teacher chose toothpick, clouds and elephant. We had to free write on these three topics without pausing. Surprisingly, I came up with a story about a man chewing a toothpick, reflecting on the elephant shaped clouds about his deceased wife. Who knew right?

There is something about the process of writing with wild abandon that frees your mind. It stifles your inner critic long enough to let yourself go. Sometimes that’s all you need to get started; a little push, a little inspiration to get your writing flowing.

What writing exercises work for you?

How Bad Do You Want to Be a Writer?

 

{via Real Simple}

That’s the questions I have been asking myself these last 6 weeks since I officially and finally moved back to Hawaii.

Why?

I know that’s the question most of the world would be asking. Why would a writer have a difficult time writing amongst turquoise hued skies, pearly white sand and a “you could get lost in it” ocean.

Lots of room for inspiration right?

Yes. It’s true. I’ve been writing more for my fiction piece than I did when I lived in California. But on the other hand, finding new writing gigs have turned out to be pretty dismal.

I know it’s only been a month since I started looking, but I learned fast that my usual writing gigs finding route (searching the web) just wasn’t going to cut it this time. In fact, what made it harder was that in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve been getting call after call from recruiters trying to fill writing jobs up there. {*Sigh.}

What I learned is that every state may have a different protocol for finding writers. While I was lucky to have been a freelance writer for the last 5-years in Silicon Valley, where everything is basically online, I now knew that if I wanted to avoid being a starving writer, I needed to put myself out there. Hence my recent transition from shy, introverted work-at-home writer, to pretend extrovert. I’ve been attending networking events like nobody’s business. Not an easy feat for someone who’d rather stay at home with a good book than talk shop and hand out business cards.

But it’s been worth it.

I’ve had one job offer, and a handful of leads since I started networking. It’s not easy, but I think the more you practice your elevator speech, the more comfortable you’ll feel connecting with others. And not in a car salesman sort of way, but in a way that genuinely depicts who you are, what you’re passionate about and what you want to do.

If you do that, you’ll find just what you’re looking for in no time.

Reader Q&A: Advice for a Beginning Freelance Writer

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Q: “I was wondering if you could direct me to your posts that are specifically about how to get started. I am currently in the stage where I feel like this is a field where I could be successful, and my main question right now is where to look for job opportunities (the real ones, not the scams!). I’ve had success with my writing on a very small scale- had some things accepted for publication in a national religious magazine for children, an article accepted for publication in the local newspaper, won a short story contest, etc. I am a stay-at-home mom so the smaller projects are more appealing to me with my busy lifestyle (and my short attention span? :-)). I also blog on my personal blog and on a group writing blog.

Anyway, if you could just point me in the right direction- maybe websites where legitimate jobs are posted, or groups I could join to help me find these kinds of jobs, that would be fantastic.”

~Kasey Tross from Mormon Mommy Writers

A: Hi Kasey. What a great question! I think there are a variety of resources beginning freelance writers can utilize when on the hunt for legitimate writing jobs. Five years ago when I scouted the writing market myself, I learned quickly where to find the good ones and the not-so-good ones. I’ll break down the places I’ve used here.

Searching Online

It’s easy to see why doing a job hunt online would be a beginning writers first line of contact. It’s fast and accessible way to find writing jobs. You may be surprised to know that a lot of the great writing gigs (some I still have currently) I got came via this route. You just need to know where to look and what to look out for. Here are the things you want to keep an eye out for. It’s all the red flags that will help you stay away from writing job scams.

  1. Craigslist. It’s still one of my most favorite ways to get a job. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten a lot of amazing jobs from big name companies this way. You just need to be careful to weed out the real jewels and the fake ones. That article above and this article on what new writers should watch out for should help.
  2. Freelance Writing Gigs. I used this website to troll decent writing gigs when I first started out and I occasionally still check out this site for potential leads. On the positive side, it lists several writing jobs in different categories and in various locations. On the downside, they usually list lower paying jobs.
  3. About Freelance Writing. Anne Wayman offers a helpful and informative guide for writers on her website. Here is her 20 potential online gigs and her job resource list for freelance writers.
  4. Problogger. In the past, I got two legitimate paying writing gigs through Problogger. It’s a great website for writers who want to get paid for blogging.
  5. JournalismJobs. I consider this to be one of the most legitimate website to find journalism jobs out there.
  6. Mediabistro. While I have yet to get a job from here, that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried or that I don’t troll their list every so often. Their list of dream jobs includes high paying gigs from mega media companies.
  7. @Writerjobs lists various writing gigs throughout the US every day.
  8. Gorkana. Sign up for Gorkana alerts and get a weekly job list sent to your email.

Aside from online resources, the best places to get new writing gigs is through networking and cold calls. I’ve been most successful when I’ve kept in touch with old and new contacts and introduced myself as a writer looking for new opportunities. Truthfully, the majority of my writing jobs have come this way. It helps when editors and hiring managers already know you (even if you’re just an acquaintance). Having a face with your resume really gets your foot in the door. You can meet potential networks through meetups, parties, and even through cold calls (via email). I’ve gotten several jobs this way and even career shadowed a reporter for a newspaper once. Contacting him was one of the best things I ever did.

Once you’ve had a successful experience with someone you’ve met, you open the door to potential future clients. And you’ll need to rely less and less on online resources and more on your contacts.

Hope that helps!

Any experienced writers out there want to share where they received their writing gigs? Please share it with Kasey below.

Help This Writer Out!

{flickr photo}

Fellow writer Daylin Van Zandt sent me a message over Facebook today that inspired me. He decided to quit his full-time job to fulfill a dream. I’m so excited for him! One of his dreams is to start a community magazine. While he has the networks and the know-how to get started, he wanted some tips, advice, suggestions on what steps to take to get cracking on this latest endeavor. I asked Daylin if I could post his question on my blog in the hopes that you generous and wise readers could help out. His message is below. Please leave a comment to let him know what you think.

“I was going through old emails and I actually saved the few of them that we sent back and forth last year. I took some time to read them and it really inspired me again. I recently quit my job that I had in a call center and took a part time job tutoring which is really awesome so far. I am left with about 20 extra hours a week to pursue what I am passionate about. I have been working on some film/photography projects (none are paying yet but its good experience). I’m also trying to start a community magazine and start writing and publishing. We have a local company that distributes free arts and entertainment papers (charging for advertising) but I have heard from a lot of people that for one they are too expensive to advertise in and two the articles and coverage they do isn’t a true representation of what’s really going on in the local culture. So I’m trying to find a way to make this happen. I was wondering how you think it would be best to go about creating this. Blog? Printing? I’m really excited and motivated. I have alot of really good contacts in the city and an active involvement in arts/business/music/film/access to writers. I just wanted to know what you thought.”

New Writing Tools for Inspiration

Inspiration doesn’t have to come from tools per se. It can come from waterfalls and mountaintops and from trekking through the forest. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be pretty where you are. I once felt inspired in a bar with my husband watching football.

If you’ve got inspiration covered and are enjoying the free flow of content coming through your fingers, feel free to share your techniques below.

If you’re like me and you occasionally get stuck, you may need additional ideas to keep the ideas coming. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to delve into that unlimited ink pot and recently got a few fresh ideas to do so.

  1. Pinterest. I know. I know. It’s all over the place these days. And for a lot of you Pinterest is just another social media outlet that no one has time for. And I have to say it isn’t for everybody. But for the friends that I know that do use it, it’s been helpful for their business. I’ve been using it to catalog all of my crafts (which would be great for grouping an artist’s portfolio), and recently to create my own make believe community to inspire my latest work-in-progress.
  2. Inspirational instrumental music. Writer Alicia Sparks commented on this post saying that music helps her reconnect when she’s feeling blocked. I’ve always felt the same way, that music lifts the boredom when working on tedious tasks. But it can also spark inspiration. I just discovered Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s Creative Mind System, two CDs I got from Sounds True that has somehow helps to lift the foggy veil of writer mush and helped me to write even when I don’t feel like it.

That’s just a few key tools for inspiration that’s helped me.

What inspires you to write?

Why You Should Consider Getting a Writing Mentor

{guest post written by: Mahesh Raj Mohan}

I’ve always liked the concept of a mentor: a sagacious master of an art, craft, or trade who passes knowledge to seekers, students, and adventurers. Bonus points if s/he is a kind person who patiently corrects rookie mistakes and helps an apprentice grow. Teachers usually fill that role for us, as well as parents and siblings, if we’re fortunate.

I’ve been taught by many wise mentors throughout my life. But more importantly, I’ve learned to face several challenges on my own. Getting to a place of self-reliance can be difficult. But I believe that stretching beyond a mentor’s teachings is just as important as finding a mentor.

Writers just starting out (or still in school) can benefit from a mentor. For instance, writers often learn about form, composition, style, and how to tell a story.

Then there comes a time when you have to move beyond a mentor’s advice. For example, it used to be comfortable for me to perform writing and research tasks exactly as I was taught.

After awhile, I wrote faster and more efficiently using some techniques I’d learned on my own. It was also a huge confidence boost.

Trusting our instincts or critical reasoning can be very uncomfortable. We’re usually scared of making mistakes. But even the wisest among us became wise because they made lots of mistakes!

Mentors also have their own biases, so a mentor’s choices or solutions are not always right (or right for you). This also goes for me. I’ve been a mentor to several writers or editors, and I certainly have my own preferences and biases. (Yay, Oxford comma!) But watching former mentees flourish professionally has been tremendously rewarding. And I’ve learned a few things
from them.

As writers or freelance professionals, the most important thing we can do is to think for ourselves. Mentors can guide us on our journeys, but it’s up to us to plot the course.

What about you? Have you had many mentors in your life? Or are you self-taught?

Mahesh Raj Mohan is a freelance writer/editor based near Portland, Oregon. His reviews have been published by Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper The Oregonian and Hugo-nominated website Strange Horizons. His screenplay, “Indian Errand Day” is a 2011 Kay Snow Award Winner.

Friends for the Freelance Writer

via flickr

It’s Friday.

I’m holed up in bed recovering from the flu.

It’s the holidays. And I have had a lot of Christmas parties and events planned. Plus, writing goals. But I’m sick. It’s Friday. And all I want to do is crawl back into bed in my PJ’s and dream of the day I was healthy and be that way again.

In the meantime, I think I’ll dedicate today’s post to the writers that have really helped me to keep going. They’ve given me much more than I’ve given them.

All around best commenter: @millercathy

Wittiest tweets: @NataliaSylv

Thoughtful commenter: @maheshrmohan

True friend to writers: @jordanrosenfeld

Always up for a fun conversation: @lindsey_donner @DoseofCre8ivity

True supporter: @jmccannwriter

Great sources for writer information: @JaneFriedman @BrianKlems @TheWriterMag

If I haven’t mentioned you, it’s probably because this post took a lot longer than I thought and I’m in need of more rest. Thank you guys for being a great resource for this writer!

What’s Going On Outside of This Blog

{via pinterest}

Ever feel blogged out? Or that your world is filled with headlines and blog ideas?

I sometimes get so zoomed into social media that when I zoom out to real life,  my head spins. (Not the exorcist kind, the vertigo kind)

So to take us all beyond this blog, I’m doing a short post to a few things outside the box:

1. Bit o’ holiday inspiration.

You probably know that I write an online column for The Writer called, “Inspiration Zone.” Well this month I was fortunate enough to interview author and writing coach Rochelle Melander. She’s got great tips on how to make time to write and enjoy the holidays. And she should know. She basically wrote a book on it from participating successfully in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

2. Bit o’ Creative Inspiration.

I was in love with Jill Badonsky’s book The Nine Modern Day Muses. And fell even harder for her blog and email newsletters. They crack me up! Talk about getting out of your box. Instead of boring links taking you to predictable sites, she embeds things like hilarious photos and meaningful and creative quotes to mix things up and keep things on your toes. It’s a fun way to recharge your engines, take a writing break and refuel.

3. Bit o’ Meaning Please.

I just added this one because I’m over on my writer pal Cathy Miller’s blog today writing about meaning in your life. How do you get it when your days are swamped with work, kids, bills, the musts in your day-to-day living? Try reading this.

Anything that you’d like to share in our outside your blog? Please do. I’m always interested in adding to my list of creative and inspiring resources.