Attending a conference or convention, if you do it right, is both highly fruitful and a ton of hard work. When you put in the effort you’re likely to have at least one or two of the following benefits and maybe more.
I just returned from the four-day Netroots Nation Conference in Philadelphia. Although I went as COO of Democracy Counts, I’m way too much of a writer not to be aware of how a conference or convention can benefit those of us who are freelance writers. Netroots is a progressive political organization but it doesn’t really matter what kind of conference or convention you’re attending. Here’s what I mean.
A conference or convention can lead to one or more assigned articles
Once you know you’re scheduled for some sort of meeting – regional, national, international or even city-wide – ask yourself who would benefit from an article about that meeting. That answer can range all over the place, from small-town local newspaper to big international magazines. Don’t overlook industry trade magazines.
Put together a list of likely suspects and using email, see if you can’t get an assignment to provide coverage either of the meeting as a whole, or some, narrow, well-focused portion of it. Contact them, letting them know you’ll be there and would like to write for them. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover you can make back some if not all your expenses, plus get a nice byline.
Try one or more articles on spec
Once you’re back home, sort through any notes and business cards and other documents looking for stories you can either query about or actually write on-spec.
Again, you may find you can get paid for writing after the conference or convention. It’s worth a shot.
Meet a ton of new potential clients
One of the best things from a writer’s point of view about a conference or convention is that like minded people are gathered in one place. If your specialty is left-handed widgets, a conference on the same will put you in touch with the major players in left-handed widgetry, lined up and ready for you to meet and interact with.
Bring plenty of business cards and if you don’t see someone you know, just walk up to someone and say ‘hello.’ Chances are you’ll be talking with someone whom you can help or can help you… or both, or who knows someone, etc. etc. etc.
Meet many new sources
In much the same way, a conference or convention is the ideal place to meet potential sources in your favorite field. Some will be able to give you missing information, others introduce you to folks who may need your services. You simply never know.
Again, this is not a place to be shy, but to practice being charming and open to new people… okay, maybe not charming, but at least open. Remember everyone loves to be listened to and most also want to help. All they need is a question or two to get them started.
With these tips in mind attending a conference or convention is a real career builder. And a whole lot of fun too. Remember, even writers are allowed, even encouraged, at least b me, to have fun.
You’re a writer so of course you can write on any topic!
Okay, maybe like me, you can’t do credible academic writing on rocket science, but on the whole you truly can if not write on any topic, write on most.
Because you know how to do research and how to translate difficult topics into understandable English for the average reader. And you read a lot about a whole bunch of things. You’re curious and you enjoy learning. You were either taught to think clearly or figured it out for yourself.
Clients may doubt you can write about any topic – particularly theirs
This morning we had a discussion in our forumabout how often clients insist you have experience writing about their particular product or process. Many who hire writers don’t understand that a good writer can learn about what the clients wants you to write about quickly and that in fact you actually can write about any topic, including theirs.
The trick is to convince them you can handle the assignment even if you’ve never written on that specific topic before.
3 Ways you can convince potential customers
Here are three ways or approaches that will help you convince at least some of the doubters that you can write well for them regardless.
1 – Explain your approach
Sometimes simply explaining your approach – how you’d do the research for example – will be enough to reassure them. You might, for example, show them how Googling can bring up plenty of information about their topic for you.
2 – Show them something similar
Chances are you’ve written something on a similar topic, or in a way that shows you can do what you want. Dig some samples out and show them how the same approach would work for them.
3 – Offer to do a no-cost sample
I save this approach for pitching a gig I really want. I’ll offer to do a no-cost sample for them – maybe a page or two – so they can judge for themselves if I really can write on any topic. I always have to do some research to make this work, so I keep my sample small since I know even this won’t convince everyone. In other words I limit my non-paid investment. It seems to me this works close to half the time, but in all honesty I haven’t tracked it.
Of course, you won’t convince everyone. One truth about writing is you could have all the experience in a potential client’s area of expertise in the world and you still wouldn’t get the gig. Exactly how any particular client decides to hire you or not is also a mystery.
It seems there’s more going on in life than is readily apparent and the so-called Law of Attraction is apparently one way to access some of it. Of course, the idea that we humans can tap into something beyond our ordinary selves is ancient, and so is the idea that we can ‘manifest’ or create what we want.
I’m far from an expert. What I want to talk about is how some of the thinking there has made life more fun and productive.
Abraham-Hicks, who have roughly a gillion videos on YouTube is where I started. Esther Hicks talks about moving toward what feels good. The idea is the better we feel about ourselves and our lives the more effective we’ll be. I’ve turned that into moving into gratitude. When I’m down, or angry or whatever unhappy, when I remember what I’m grateful for I start feeling better pretty quickly. In general when I feel better I write better and market better, etc. etc. etc.
There’s some real science behind Law of Attraction
Dr. Joe Dispenza, who also has a big presence on YouTube, has done a lot of solid research into this particular brain/mind/body connection. He’s also with his team conducted an amazing number of brain scans of people in his seminars which indicated we have much more influence on our body than we are traditionally taught.
Agnes Vivarelli is another favorite of mine and in fact she interviewed me recently – I’ll be posting that soon.
Two major results for me
There have been two major results for me from all ths Law of Attraction stuff . One is that I’ve come to like, even love myself more – aka increased self-worth. The other is I’ve discovered when I’m I get emotionally funky, getting back to gratitude reconnects me with what I often call my inner Self.
Either of those makes it easier for me to write, combined I find I’m more willing to market as well as keep the house tidy.
No, I haven’t made a million bucks, nor am I soon to be married to the love of my dreams. Yes, those are manifestations many people work toward. What I have noticed is I’m kinder to myself and enjoy life more. It seems like that has a positive effect on my writing. It feels like I’m writing closer to the bone more easily and more often.
Come to think about it, I might even call that magic.
I don’t know of Law of Attraction will work for you… it might. Am I recommending it? Sort of I guess.
There are a whole lot of people my age who aren’t very healthy. This was driven home to me when I ended up in an urgent care facility with a badly cut finger last week. (It’s healing nicely, thank you.) I kept seeing people roughly my age who were just sick and seemed to have given up.
Thinking about it today I realize that I am more healthy many around me who are in their 70s or so. Sure part of it is the good fortune of good genes, but there is I’m convinced more to it than that. As I look at how healthy I am, I see that some of it, maybe even most of it, is because of habits I’ve developed in the last decade or so.
I stopped smoking
Probably the biggest thing I did to get and stay healthy was quit smoking. It’s been more than a decade and although it was the hardest thing I ever did, I’m also very pleased with the results.
I meditate daily
Yes, I’m convinced that my daily, or almost daily meditation practice helps me stay healthy. Sometimes I sit with others, sometimes by myself. Recently I’ve been using guided meditations I find on YouTube. There’s something about being able to focus the mind and/or quiet the mind that seems to do many positive things for the meditator over time.
I exercise often and stay healthy
I’ve always been active. Twenty years ago I learned how to use a gym well. I’m often found in one, or in a swimming pool or walking in the neighborhood or elsewhere. When I slack off my body lets me know by putting on weight and feeling sluggish. Getting back to frequent exercise cures all that for me.
I eat well
I’ve found that eating keto, low carb, high protein and fat, eliminates most of my migraines. Also exploring Indian vegetarian. Eating well anyone can learn to do as long as we all realize when it comes to food one size does NOT fit all.
I’m in charge of how healthy I am
Yes, I also believe in doctors and modern medicine, but I know I’m responsible, when it comes down to it, for how healthy I am. I don’t always follow instructions and that has worked well for me. I read widely which helps. I trust my body and know I’m healthy; I’m convinced that one of the reasons I’m healthy is because I assume good health. My attitudes and beliefs have real influence.
So, what could you do this week to improve your health?
Last week I injured myself. I was fixing lunch and when I was cutting an avocado open with a newly sharpened knife I sliced the forefinger on my left hand. (I thought sharp knives were safer than dull ones!)
Since my finger was curled the cut was a deep U shape along the outside of the first knuckle.
I was supposed to have coffee with a friend. After I stopped the bleeding, got the rather ugly cut taped up, I sent a text telling my friend I was injured and asking if he would take me to urgent care. I then ate my lunch – and the avocado was perfect, because I was hungry and I figured it would take awhile to get this handled.
Four hours and five stitches later he brought me back home. Even though the whole experience went easily enough, and I was treated well and felt well cared for I was trashed when I got home.
The next morning I had no energy. I wasn’t in pain, but I felt like I should do very little but sleep. Another friend who has had several deep hand cuts over time assured me the injury was a real shock to the body and I should just take it easy. Turns out he was right and I appreciated his advice.
Self-care can mean a lot of things
We talk a lot about self-care. Often we mean things like eating well and getting enough rest and exercise. We may give a nod to sleeping more when we have a cold or taking time to deal with something like a migraine. If you’re at all like me I hadn’t given much thought to being injured. Nor had I known a cut that required five stitches could be such a shock. But it was.
The way I was injured and the result made me grateful I’m a freelancer. My hunch is it just doesn’t look like an injury that would require more than an hour or so off from a corporate schedule. I suppose I could have pushed through and I’m grateful I didn’t have to.
Plus as I got back to work I’ve had to learn how to type with nine fingers. Both hands got stiff at first and I still don’t feel like I’ve mastered the skill.
Not all roses and champagne
Fortunately my income is such that I can handle a week with mostly not working, and another week where I’m working slowly. It wasn’t always this way. When you realize we don’t get paid sick days or disability without costly insurance, you may want to think about increasing your savings.
I’ll have the stitches out next week and hopefully won’t need the finger brace beyond that. I suspect my finger will want some babying, but not for long.
I don’t know a single writer who isn’t tempted to quit freelance writing at least once in a while.
While there are all sorts of reasons people quit freelance writing my hunch is the two biggest are:
(1) consistently not making enough money and
(2) boredom with the business and the writing they are doing now.
Not consistently making enough money
The big problem is writers tend to be creative types and (including myself here) we don’t really like marketing much. The other part of this is we’re not particularly good at consistency in business – writing is our strength and what we love to do. The other stuff not so much.
This is usually curable. Assuming you write reasonably well and can follow most of the advice you find here and elsewhere, you too can learn to run your business and do your marketing well enough to survive quite nicely, bringing in not a fortune usually, but a decent living.
There is absolutely no shame in discovering that you can’t keep all the balls in the air that are required to make your business a success. In fact, if this is you the quicker you discover it and accept it the less agony you’ll go through.
Boredom with your business and your writing
Writing and creating and running a business can get old. It’s a lot of work. And much of that work is fairly repetitive. In fact, a good deal of the business side is rinse and repeat over and over again. Which means we do have a chance to really master it, but we also can get bored out of our skulls with it.
Our writing can get boring too… if we’re not writing about things we care about. The cure for that is often a change in topic or niche. Over my career I’ve covered everything from addiction, through sports to writing about freelance writing. I’ve branched off in all sorts of directions.
Another way I’ve brought life to my writing is to become willing to tell more and more of my own, personal truth.
Feel free to experiment with your writing and see where that takes you.
If you decide to quit freelance writing
There may come a point when you discover you really don’t want to earn your living writing anymore, at least while you’re working for yourself. Maybe a regular 9-5 job would suit you better, at least at this time of your life. Maybe you want to throw it all over and cruise the south Pacific. I did that once for five months equipped with only paper and ink. It was lovely and I highly recommend it. Today, with computers, you can take your business with you if you choose.
The decision to quit freelance writing is yours to make. Quit or continue, change up what you’re doing or the way you’re doing it. Experiment, try new things or bringing new energy to old things or something in between. Life is to be lived and some tell us our real job is to be love and be happy.
“A potential client responds after I sent out Letters of Introduction two years ago!” a member of our forum lamented. “Can you believe it?”
She wanted to know how to reply or if she should even take such a tardy response seriously.
Although several advised caution, I encouraged her to take it seriously, respond in a general and interested way and move on, until she was offered a contract. This is of course, my usual reaction when a client expresses interest. Treat them well and keep on marketing.
The only thing that might have made this case different was it took the person who had received the Letter of Introduction or LOI.
I learned the attitude of treating every contact with respect and as if they might buy back in the days when I was selling real estate – actually acreage with homes in San Diego County. We used to advertise in both the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. We often wrote what today might be called info ads – stories about a property or two that waxed lyrical about living in the country, etc. It seemed like once or twice a year someone would appear and gently fish out of his wallet a yellowed strip of newspaper. They’d not only seen our ad some years ago, but had taken time to clip it out and carry it around for all that time. Many of those folks eventually became customers of ours.
Any time a client responds means your marketing is working
Sure we wanted to sell the real estate the same week we advertised, just like as a writer you want an immediate client response to your marketing. And sometimes you’ll get it, or at least close enough to your marketing that you at remember the piece that drew them in.
But when a client responds it’s golden, even if it took them multiple years to get it together. If or perhaps when it happens to you, enjoy it. They may actually turn out to be a good client.
To break into technical writing and be a successful technical writer, it is important to mentally transitioninto being prepared for the journey.
Are you an introvert?
Do you prefer to be the only writer in a company?
Do you enjoy interviewing people?
If you said ‘yes’ to all of these questions, continue to read more about the benefits of a technical writing career.
Technical Writing Jobs are Abundant
In the United States, most technology start-ups and reputable organizations need tech writers. A few examples include Microsoft, Google, Twitter, IBM, the United States Government of municipalities. Technical writing is a necessity in health care, real estate, engineering, construction, manufacturing, technology, oil, and gas, etc. If you have a skill for marketing writingservices, finding a recruitment agency can help you find long term opportunities.
Daily Responsibilities are Always Changing
A day in the life of a technical writer is never the same. On one day, we spend a full day in stakeholder meetings to gather important information. The next day can be spent writing multiple documents at the same time. On the third day, we can travel on site to see the technical aspects of the subject matter to have a thorough understanding of the project. Furthermore, the job requires minimal supervision because, at times, organizations expect these writers to manage a project with the help of a busy project manager.
Contract Work or Full-time Work
Technical writers can start a life-changing journey by contracting, which offers an opportunity to work for some of the top organizations most people will not work. On the contrary, an individual that is seeking security such as benefits, and paid vacation can benefit from being a fulltime technical writer. As with any other line of work, contractors receive higher pay and can ask for rates that typically do not exist for fulltime employees.
Transition into a New Role
Technical writers can transition to becoming a Business Analyst, Project Manager, or IT professional. These positions require a skill for comprehending and writing complex technical topics. If you are an engineer, Systems analyst or enterprise architect, transitioning into technical writing can be done with minimal effort or additional education.
Technical Writers are Respected
A technical writer they can manage multiple projects, produce error-free content, and work effectively with difficult colleagues with a positive attitude is an organization dream come true. A part of the reason technical writers are treated with respect is it requires patience and the ability to receive constructive criticism from multiple people in a company other than a project manager. This job requires an individual with thick skin and an open mind to continue learning.
How to find technical writing jobs
Technical writer jobs are available on websites that include Indeed, FreelanceMyWay, Glassdoor, and Media Bistro. If you decide to freelance, design a website and business cards to self represent your services locally.
The next time you are thinking about starting a new writing career, consider the idea of becoming a technical writer. You can work remotely from home, land a gig with an internationally known company, or interact with executives to complete projects. A career in this role is abundant in North America, and in most cases, you will be the only tech writer at a company. It is a perfect job for introverts or technical professionals with a desire to transition into a less intense career.
My discipline? Sometimes I doubt it exists. Although I’ve been writing for years, last Sunday an acquaintance of mine described how she had spent an hour practicing dance, two hours practicing the piano, and would have spent several hours practicing golf. The golf had been interrupted by rain, which was the main reason we were together.
“You’re really quite disciplined aren’t you,” I said feeling anything but in comparison. She demurred and I spent several minutes arguing silently with myself about whether my discipline means I get enough done.
Fortunately I’ve trained myself to get off that self-criticism pretty quickly. It just makes me miserable and I believe we’re supposed to be happy. Besides, it was Sunday which is one of the days I allow myself serious downtime.
What does my discipline look like?
Obviously, since I support myself writing, I do get enough done. Maybe not because my discipline is in place every single day, but because, on the whole it’s enough.
If you were watching me today, you might not believe it. In fact, much of this week I’ve looked like I was on vacation. Which is unusual. While I don’t write every day, I mostly write five or six days of the week. This week I’ve done more napping and talking on the phone and journaling than anything else.
My typical writing day
I tend to get up around 5 a.m. This started ages ago when I was camping and learned to love first light. It’s a pleasure for me to be up that early. And no, I’m not suggesting you get up that early.
After the usual and Dudley, the cat, I make coffee and sit down to do some meditating. Meditating is something I do recommend. There’s something about calming the mind on a daily basis that makes the days go better.
There are roughly a gillion was to meditate. Find one you like, give yourself permission to do it wrong, and once you mostly master one way, either stick with it or change, but give meditation a serious effort. I also do some reading and often watch some inspiring Youtube videos. I end that period with a list of my intentions for the day.
Next, with a second cup of coffee I move to the computer. Usually I start to write on whatever the most profitable project is I’ve got going. I often can get three or four hours of actual writing in which is plenty. Now life will interfere, like the 90 minutes I spend on the phone with tech support this morning. It’s not the end of the world; just get back on schedule as best you can.
With my writing done for the day I then move on to the non-writing things I do. Sometimes marketing, often doing writing for my favorite side project, Democracy Counts, the laundry, shopping, house cleaning – in other words the stuff of my life that may be related to, but isn’t writing.
Make your discipline yours
My discipline works for me. You are welcome to mimic it, but don’t be surprised you need to modify it. When I had young kids at home I still wrote in the morning, but often before they got up. Then it was after they left for school. Figure out what works for you and work it. And when it needs to change, and it will, change it. Figure out what time of day is your best writing time… midnight is just fine if you want.
Discipline, like so many things in life, is a moving target.
Even with the obstacles, the life of a freelance writer is full of freedom as you can work from nearly anywhere in the world. For this reason it is one of the most coveted positions a person can have especially if they find the right clients. Writing for clients allows the freelancer to learn about topics that otherwise they would have never researched.
Being a freelancer does come with obstacles that most people might not think of. The benefits of working at a traditional job like receiving health benefits but rather having to pay the high premiums is one example. The other larger issue is during the beginning of your freelance writing career it can be difficult to predict monthly income. Setting a budget is far more difficult for your personal life if you are unsure of how much money will be coming in. The following are obstacles that most freelance writers encounter as well as how to overcome these things or eliminate the problem completely.
Productivity Is Low
It can be difficult to remain productive if you don’t have a decent work environment. Because of this, you should do your best to create a dedicated space in your household where you keep your office supplies. This doesn’t have to be a full home office; it can be a space in the corner of your kitchen or bedroom.
Furthermore, with so much freedom, setting an agenda is crucial to your success. Without a real management team overlooking your every move, you have to be responsible for yourself and your deadlines. Time tracking software can make it far easier to gauge how much work you can actually do rather than how much you think you can do. This can also help you organize your day as you might complete certain tasks far faster in the morning versus late in the afternoon. You can also use project management software and task management apps to manage your daily operations.
Client Refusing To Pay
A client refusing to pay is incredibly frustrating and can be tough to deal with if you do not want to lose the client after they pay. There will be certain payments that could be late due to holidays or someone being on vacation. These are not the ones to push on but rather push on the ones that are late without excuse and communication has dropped off.
If a client refuses to pay then uses content you wrote for them make sure you search for this content. Sending a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice to a website that’s published the content is a good step to take, as the client will understand they have not yet paid for the content you have written. A DMCA takedown notice can help prevent your work from being used without pay and without permission. For the most part, clients that are difficult to receive payment from should be dropped as you do not want to chase clients around for money that it rightfully yours.
What can be worse that a client refusing to pay is a client that was happy with the work but now wants a refund. The unfortunate truth is that some companies think that they can take advantage of a freelancer due to them most likely not having legal representation on retainer. Forming an LLC can help protect you as it keeps your personal assets off limits in the case of a client suing you. Before you begin an contract, be sure to have a written agreement that clearly outlines the terms of your work. Keep in mind, no one who writes for this site is a lawyer and you should consult with one–an LLC is expensive and you need to be sure it will work for you.
Trouble Finding New Clients
Trouble finding new clients is one of the major obstacles in the life of a freelancer. It’s important to use your professional network. Plenty of people in the freelance writing community have worked at a digital marketing company at some point so leverage these contacts. Digital marketing companies are always looking for great writers that they can rely on in case of a rush project needing to be done. LinkedIn is a great platform to reach out to those that you have previously worked with to see if they can give you an introduction to someone at their company.
Isolation is another one of the obstacles
The day of a freelance writer is usually not spent interacting with people constantly but rather managing clients and writing. Freelance writing can be lonely which makes it imperative to change up your working routine whether you work at a coffee shop or another place with reliable Wi-Fi. The advantage of working from home is that you can even do lunch with a friend or your significant other to help break the day up. Freelance writers often have other friends that they can go work with if they need some company. Even if you do not speak much having another person working with you is comforting and it is always nice to have a second pair of eyes that can help you edit completed work.
Freelance writers have to be resilient as things do not always go as planned. The way we react to those issues is what will make you a success or a failure leading you to go back to a traditional job.
Samantha Cortez: Samantha writes for the Careers section. She has held previous internships at 20/20 magazine, Marie Claire, the NY Daily News, and Parenting magazine. She is also a contributor for ReviewFix.com. [Sponsored post]