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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Money Talks

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you readers if you had any questions for me. Since this is a busy work time for me, I thought I would tackle the writing and freelance questions from Stationary Queen, Stacie and Lucy.

Stationary Queen wants to know how long I've been freelancing. I started a little over two years ago, because there aren't very many outlets for news in my area to maintain a full time job. I already worked as a reporter, columnist, photographer, designer and editor. I went on to another area newspaper and was brought in as a partner. That meant much less writing and much more management and training. Realizing I was teamed up with two brain dead partners, I began planning my exit and freelance career.

Stationary Queen and Lucy want to know if I have any tips or secrets about this freelancing stuff. I guess the main thing is not giving up. There is a ridiculous waiting game involved in this business. Some places take months upon months to accept work or to pay for a completed job. Some don't even bother to tell you, "Thanks, but no thanks." I guess the hardest part for me is waiting because I tend to be impatient.

Just looking back, if I could have a do-over, I would syndicate my column first. Next I would search all publications that accept e-queries, because they tend to be quickest in response time. I would then tackle the mailing, which is extremely costly during this waiting game.

Where do I find this work? I use so many outlets but The Writer's Market was like striking gold. It was a $50 book that came with a one year subscription to the online edition. It has more than paid for itself.

My second "It takes money to make money" investment was joining IWOC. If there is a group like this in your area, I would highly recommend joining. Membership dues can be costly but you can make that money back rather quickly. It is also a great way to find publications that will later come to you after giving them something top-notch.

Nothing beats seeing an unexpected, "We need you" e-mail sitting in your inbox. So much of the freelance stuff is writing queries, waiting, searching for work, researching publications, selling your skills and thinking. The interviewing and writing are my favorite parts, however, they seem to take the least amount of time in the big picture. It's a very hurry up and wait business.

I also use Craig's List and Freelance Writing dot com. Both, however, have few high paying jobs and both take an exuberant amount of time to sort through. Typically, those are my last options.

Tapping into local media is easier than any other form of freelance. You can just show up to their office, hand them a resume, a few clips and casually let them know you are there should they ever need you. I've done this successfully with TV, radio and newspapers.

I've written several stories for free also. I hate doing that but keeping my name out there and having some new clips from a variety of sources helps in the long run.

The key to tapping into any of the places you wish to be associated with is writing really clear concise letters. I suck at letter writing but unfortunately that query letter can make or break you.

Although I can't list the publications here, my work has been in a lot of places, from newspapers to trade journals, magazines to newsletters, e-zines to blogland (There are actually paid gigs out there. Who knew?). During slow times is when I cover meetings and events for local radio and TV stations. Neither pay very much, but having steady work keeps me from giving up my dream and taking some shitty job I want no part of.

I also write sketch comedy and as soon as one of my pieces is produced, I will likely share that here. (Unless my real name is used.)

Stacie wants to know what inspires me to write. I don't know really. I have been writing as long as I can remember. She also wonders where I write. I do most of my writing from the big comfy chair in my living room with my feet on my ottoman and my coffee at my side. There are no quiet places in our house but this is the most comfy and inspiring place for me.

The last question from Lucy is, do employers know about my blog? Only a few. I try to keep this place as work-free as possible. This is my fun writing outlet. A blog is in no way something that should be listed as your experience when looking for writing gigs. One may think, "I keep a blog, update daily and have a good following. That should account for something." It doesn't. In fact, a lot of editors whom I know, hate bloggers. They see us as wannabes who will never be taken seriously.