Awhile back I was working with a Life Coach, something I’d done with great success off and on over the years. I’ve also had great luck with therapists when I felt I needed some help. Learning to ask for help has been a good move for me.
This time, however, the Life Coach I was working with stopped in the middle of a session and asked me if I had ever considered becoming a Life Coach.
I laughed and said that I’d noticed coaching writers often meant doing some life coaching since it was hard to separate one from the other. It turned out he trained coaches and invited me to work with him to learn the ins and outs of the business. I was tickled.
After several days of thinking about it, and talking to three coaches he’d mentored, I decided to say ‘yes.’ As some of you may recognize I’m a big believer in the power of yes.
Of course I’d change it a bit, perhaps to this: “A life coach is someone who helps others find their own answers, so they can make, meet and even exceed their goals in their personal and professional lives.”
My firm belief is that each of us has within the answers we need, or at least the questions we need to ask. My job as a coach is to help you uncover that inner knowing so you can move in the direction you truly want to go.
A great Life Coach knows how to listen deeply
Listening is probably the key skill of a good Life Coach – listening deeply so we truly hear where our client is coming from. This kind of listening often results in questions that bring clarity for the client and the coach.
Good Life Coaches provide accountability
Providing accountability for the client is another key skill a good Life Coach will use. It works like this:
Together, the client and the coach decide on something or several somethings the client will do to move forward on their goals before the next session. At that next session the client reports that the task was completed or not, and much can be learned by either response.
A Life Coach may also bring:
The right questions can help the client discover what they really want
Help the client set achievable goals
Act as sounding board, and the client see things from a different angle
Reflect back to the client what they’ve said and felt, and more…
What does this have to do with you?
The addition of Life Coaching to my freelance writing career may have nothing to do with you. And it is an addition – can’t really imagine life without writing.
Or maybe I can be a model for expanding one’s life work into new areas of endeavor.
Perhaps you will decide you want to work directly with me, either on your writing or your life or some combination.
I do offer a no-obligation gift coaching session. You can learn more about it and request your meeting with me over the phone at my coaching website, Life Coaching On Purpose. You’ll find some testimonials there and more about my philosophy and skills there. You could also check out Gordon’s comment about my coaching – a delightful surprise for me.
Why a labyrinth?
The reason I’ve used a labyrinth as the image for this page is because it’s also the logo for my coaching business. Walking a labyrinth has helped me go within to solve multiple problems. I find a labyrinth a great metaphor for the twists and turns of life.
Writing consistency – that is, the ability to write if not daily at least on a regular schedule – is a must for freelance writing success. (Yes, there are other types of consistency for writers which I’ll address at another time.)
Here I’m talking about setting up the habit of writing regularly. Done over time you’ll get to the place where you can trust yourself to get the writing done.
I’m reminded of what my father claimed was a typing exercise he learned when he learned to type, on a manual typewriter no less. It went like this:
The chains of habit are too small to be noticed until they are too strong to be broken.
No, no idea why this instead of the well known “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy white poodle.” I’ve always admired that sentence and the fox and the poodle because it uses every letter of the alphabet.
Once you create some chains of habit around your writing you’ll (usually) find it easier to write.
patterns are easier to repeat
1. Figure out a writing schedule you can keep
Setting up a writing schedule that you’ll keep, at least for several months, is probably the first step in creating writing consistency. It may take several tries before you find what actually works for you. Don’t worry if it seems odd or ‘unprofessional.’
This is your schedule and if it means writing for 30 minutes over lunch, or just on weekends, it’s fine as long as you repeat it regularly.
By the way, I’m not a believer that serious writers must write every day. I don’t and I never have. In fact, I’ve found, when I think to ask, that most women don’t, or so it seems. I write five or six days a week unless I take some deliberate time off. Which isn’t to say that writing every day is a bad thing. If it works for you great, if it doesn’t find what will work.
2. Know when your best writing time is
Each one of us has a ‘best time’ for writing. For me the earlier the better, provided the sun is up. For you it might be midnight, or after work if you have a regular job. A regular writing time helps you create the right kind of habit.
If your schedule won’t permit writing at this time, make it a goal. Decide how early or how late you can be productive with your writing and guild your schedule around that. In my case these days, I start getting stupid around 4 in the afternoon – so the writing gets done before that.
3. Reward yourself
Rewarding yourself is a great way to build writing consistency – or any consistency you want actually. The rewards should be small – 15 minutes reading a novel, or making yourself the cup of coffee or tea that pleases you. A short walk or time outside can be great. Petting a cat or a dog, or spending a few extra minutes with your kids. Whatever it is, by treating yourself to pleasure at the end of a writing session makes it easier to repeat.
4. Bookend for writing consistency
Bookending is a great way to build consistency because it creates real accountability. In this case you’d enroll a friend to support you. Then just as you’re getting ready to write, you call or text the friend saying something like “I will write for 30 minutes.”
Then when the 30 minutes is up you call or text again. If you completed the time you committed, just report that. And if you didn’t do exactly what you said, you report that as well, closing the bookend.
Keep it simple and if you call and reach your friend, no discussion about anything! Accountability is all that’s going on. Leaving a bookend on an answering machine is fine.
Be consistent in your writing schedule over time will make your writing life much easier, I promise.
What’s been your experience with writing consistently? Tell us about it in comments.
Back in the day, I’d look forward to the occasional email from a fellow writer asking if they could do some guest posts for me. Often it would turn out to be an exchange – they’ do one for me and I’d return the favor.
Sure, we knew it might give us more ‘google juice’ and raise our rankings a bit. But the primary reason was mutual support.
Some place along the way the spirit of mutual support has been replaced by a rampant commercialism. Which shouldn’t surprise me but it has. In fact if you google paid guest posting or who pays guest posters etc. you’ll begin to understand my problem.
Like many bloggers I’m a one woman band. These days in spite of posting some pretty clear rules about how I will accept guest posting, it’s obvious most of those who submit queries have never looked at the site, in spite of their assurances to the contrary. (That page will soon be changed to refer people here – I’m hoping at least a few will learn from this and quit spamming.)
In come requests to add guest posts here by the dozens – literally – in a month. If I don’t respond many of them will continue to fill my in box reminding me I haven’t responded. I guess whoever teaches these folks doesn’t include the idea that if a blogger doesn’t respond, hit ’em up again and again until they do.
Directing them to the directions has not resulted in any increase in quality of submissions.
When I’ve said yes, the quality has been, with a few exceptions, poor.
Okay, it’s not writer’s block. I know, because look, here’s a whole blog post.
Actually I don’t believe in writer’s blockfor me, which is another story.
Today I spent about an hour trying to get started writing my regular Thursday morning post. Finally I just stopped and looked inside, asking myself what was going on. My next thought was another question, “how do you feel?”
Well, I felt tired. You know, that sense close to tightness around your eyes when you don’t get enough sleep? Like that. Except I got good sleep last night.
My next realization is I feel as if I’ve done way too much work this week.
Perhaps I have in a way. The problems of this site were draining and they started exactly a week ago. That Thursday I realized I couldn’t do anything myself. I had, however spent several hours talking to various techs and being on hold. Although I’d been calmer than normal over tech problems, it still was a drain I’m sure, even though I wasn’t really aware of it… in fact, it might have been less of a drag if I had noticed that I was upset.
Here are my methods of dealing with this not uncommon problem:
When writer’s block starts, get quiet and go within
Ask yourself a question like why can’t I write? Chances are you’ll get some sort of an answer, even it is well this is a dumb exercise!” Don’t be surprised if a bit of understanding creeps in. It may be enough to get you started.
A friend of mine recently lost her mother and told me it’s was awfully hard to get started writing in the beginning – grief will do that to you. She also said that her grief has eased a bit now and writing actually helps distract her and feel useful again. Emotions can cut either way. Honor you emotions – suppressing the often makes it worse, at least in my experience.
Change your state
This morning I gave up and went to the kitchen to start breakfast. By the time I’d gotten the bacon and eggs started I had the title for this peace firmly in mind. In fact I turned the stove off, rushed to the computer and wrote the title just in case I developed a case of forgetfulness.
Moving away from the computer, standing up, pacing around your office, or, if weather permits taking a short walk – any of these will help your mind stop thinking about how poorly the writing is going and allow your creative part to generate some ideas.
Ask for help with writer’s block
If your ability to write last more than say several days, or you sense you’re starting to get stuck on the idea you can’t write now, it may be time to reach out for some help.
That help could come from a writing friend, a writing group or even a therapist who has come understanding of the creative process and how it can get blocked.
What do you do when you get stuck and the writing won’t come? Tell us in comments please.
A friend of mine thought she’d landed a good literary agent at a writing conference. I was happy for her because she’d been working for several years on her memoir.
I’d never read any of her writing but she’s a great story teller with a lovely self-deprecating sense of humor.
I understood her excitement. She shipped her manuscript off and waited, which is normal.A couple of weeks later she called me in tears.
“That agent called back,” she told me. “He says he really likes my book but it needs editing.”
This didn’t surprise me. Every book needs copy editing and many need more work than that before they salable. I was shocked, however, when she told me the rest.
“He says,” she continued, “He’d love to show my book to several publishers and he’s pretty sure one or two will be interested. He even said we might have a bidding war on our hands. You can imagine how excited I was!”
I could imagine because a bidding war usually signals a big advance. I was wondering when she’d tell my why she was crying.
“And then he told me how much getting my book edited would cost me!
Ahh, I thought as I asked her how much.
“He says it will only cost $2500!” Her voice choked and I she started to cry again.
I wanted to weep with her; although that’s a low price for substantial editing it’s also money she just doesn’t have. I was suspicious of the price and the agent. Just to be sure I asked, “Who are you supposed to pay that to, the editor?”
“Well, no,” she answered. “I’m to pay that in advance to the agent.”
This felt utterly scammy to me and I said so. It had been awhile since I’d worked with agents and I know the book industry has changed a whole bunch.
I told her to wait and I’d do some checking. I googled will an ethical literary agent charge for editing? It didn’t take me long to discover Rant: Hiring an editor by Janet Reid who is a literary agent. Let me quote her:
“Once more with feeling: a legitimate agent does NOT refer you to an editor or an editorial service in which s/he has a financial or any other kind of interest. It’s NOT ethical to do so. Don’t just take my rant for it. Think about this: if running an editorial service on the side is ok, why are they going to such pain to conceal they do it? And truly, the problem here isn’t even they’re running this scheme, it’s that they’re not actually delivering the work they promise.”
Believe me, the whole article is worth reading.
Which doesn’t mean a literary agent won’t make suggestions about your manuscript. Of course they will and they may even suggest it needs a total editing – books often do. The legit agent may even suggest an editor or two or even three, but they won’t have an financial interest in the deal. And if by some chance they do have a finders fee arrangement it won’t be several thousand dollars and they and the editor will disclose it.
Freelance writers often find themselves getting hired as a result of a phone interview. While probably less nerve wracking than a face to face interview, if you’re new to being interviewed for a writing job by phone, there are some things you need to know.
Understanding what the interviewer is trying to do
Remembering to interview your interviewer
Do some prep work
Make sure your phone battery is fully charged
Don’t get too comfortable
Feel free to ask these questions too
What is the interviewer trying to do?
The person or the company that is interviewing you has a problem. They need someone to do some writing for them. Something in your response to their ad has given them hope you might be the one. Understand that your job will be to solve their problem and you have taken an important step to getting hired.
Make sure you understand, as best you can, what exactly they need you to do. Now you’re in a position to let them know you know how to do exactly that. And if not exactly, close to, or that you’re willing to learn on the fly. Let them know you can solve their problem and you’re close to getting hired.
Interview the interviewer
You also want to interview the interviewer. Be sure you understand what they want done. You also need to know why they want it done – after all, knowing the whys will help you help them. Ask who will have final approval and how the approval system works in their shop. Ask not only how much you’ll be paid, but how (check, PayPal, some other system), and how long after completion of the project. If the project is a big one, ask getting paid at certain milestones.
Some feel they shouldn’t interview the interviewer – after all, the reasoning goes, they have a job I want and I don’t want to risk offending them. Not so – they have a job you think you might want and interviewing them in return is the only way you can determine if the gig is for you. Besides, you’re a peer, a professional, and professionals don’t walk into new jobs without finding out about the fit.
Do some prep work
Sure, spend a bit of time finding out what you can about the company. If they are in Glassdoor, that makes your life easier. If not, see if you can find them on the web. Dig a little deeper if they don’t have a web site – ask in your favorite writers forum or LinkedIn group. Don’t, however, drive yourself crazy. You don’t need details, just a sense of the organization.
Make sure your phone battery is fully charged
You can probably guess why I include this one… it’s darn embarrassing if your phone quits in the middle of an interview – I know!
Don’t get too comfortable
You want to be comfortable while you’re on the phone, but not so comfortable you find yourself slouching. Sitting up straight, even standing, will all make your voice stronger. Smiles actually come through your voice on the phone, in fact your whole demeanor is pretty obvious when you’re talking on the phone. You want to be professional, but not stiff. Probably being yourself is the best way to increase your chances of getting hired.
Take notes during the interview. Get answers to your questions and write them down. If they make an offer to hire you those notes will help you in any negotiations. I often will open a file and take notes right on my computer. I don’t keep them if I don’t want the job or it turns out they don’t want me.
Try these questions too
If the interview is going well and I think it’s a gig I want I ask these two questions:
How’s the response to your ad, are you finding what you need?
How do I stack up against the competition?
The first tells me a bit about my competition so the answer to the second is more meaningful. In my experience the interviewer is glad to answer both these questions – perhaps not in detail, but in general.
A final tip about getting hired
Back in the day when I was a head hunter we taught our clients to tell the interviewer they wanted the job. Turns out many prospects leave without giving a clue. A simple statement like “Thanks for the time; this sounds like a job I’d really like to do.” can turn the tide in your favor.
“How can writing possibly be like a piece of string,” you ask?
“Ah,” I say nodding sagely, “because most questions about writing have at least two or three answers if not more!”
Yep, it’s true. Ask any two seasoned freelance writers a writing question and you’ll get answers that are not at all alike. They even may be contradictory!
Take for example the often asked question, “Should you write for free?” There are all sorts of ways to answer this question and they range from “No” right on through “Yes” and on to “Maybe.”
Just for fun I googled: write for free site:aboutfreelancewriting.com. I think I counted 5 or 6 entries on the first page alone… and without reading them I know they don’t all agree.
Is my opinion about writing inconsistent?
No, not really, or at least not always. See? It’s the ins and outs of freelance writing that are far from predictable.
That’s why it bugs me when an editor says something like “our pay is standard” or “we use standard contracts.” And yes, I know Writer’s Market and others publish pay rates for writers, but they at least use a range. They don’t really have a choice since they gather pay information from both writers and editors. In truth the prices are all over the map.
On the other hand, some of my opinions about writing are consistent, like freelance writing is a pretty good gig. My mind immediately comes up with reasons why that might not be true for everyone, but I’m going to ignore it for now.
What about spelling and grammar?
It would seem spelling and grammar might be an exception.
No, not really. Both, of course, have rules. But since English is a living breathing language it’s also ever changing. Don’t believe me? Peruse this article about the history of spelling.
If you’re old enough, remember when ‘he’ always referred to both men and women. That so-called generic ‘he’ has changed in my lifetime to something more inclusive. It started with the awkward attempts to combine he and she, and now seems to be defaulting to the non-gendered, formerly incorrect and awkward ‘they.’ Yeah, I’m likely to still get arguments on this one. Put ’em in comments please.
From issues of pay and getting paid, to the real meaning of copyright, I can think of only one thing about freelance writing that stays the same. That is, if you want to be a writer you’ve simply got to write. It used to be words on paper, now it’s words on the screen. Tomorrow, who knows, but somehow the writing will need to be done.
If you want to land freelance writing gigs you need to do a bit of preparation. This includes:
The ability to write reasonably well.
Deciding what kinds of things you want to write.
A list of writing credits, portfolio, or resume.
Learning to find and read job postings.
Picking and choosing.
Following the directions.
Write reasonably well
You don’t have to be a Hemingway, or write like Maya Angelou or any other famous author you might dream up. Like you, they weren’t born writing. They learned it by practicing, a lot.
You do, however, have to know how to construct sentences and paragraphs that follow the rules of the language you want to write in. On this blog that’s the American version of English.
If you were born and raised in the United States that may be enough, although I see lots of native writing that is pretty awful.
I’m often embarrassed to turn down guest post from people whose English is obviously their second or even third language. I usually know nothing of their language (or any but my own to tell the truth) and they get awfully close to using mine in a natural way – but in this game close isn’t enough.
Writing well enough is, for many, a learnable skill.
Decide the kinds of things you want to write
Taking your writing ability into account, decide what you want to write. This may or may not be your niche. Think about what you know and enjoy, or what you’d like to learn. Pick two or three areas, like health, or marketing, or insurance, or – well the list is about endless.
For now, this is where you’ll get your writing chops. I got mine writing narrative classified advertising for my father. He sold land and other real estate and we tracked every ad closely. Talk about training! Many people start with small newspapers when they can find them.
Gather a list of writing credits to land freelance writing gigs
No clips? No problem! is an article I wrote ages ago that still applies. Add to that two or three articles as samples on your own website, making clear they haven’t been published elsewhere, and you’re probably all set.
Be thoughtful about the freelance writing gigs you apply for. To do a good application takes some time. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t reach high, but cherish your time.
Follow the da** directions!
It seems like very few would-be writers read the ads and follow the directions about how to apply for the freelance writing gig they think they want! There’s no excuse.
Sure, putting your resumes in a .pdf or even printing them out to snail mail can be a pain. Pasting them in the body of an email guarantees they’ll look ugly wherever they arrive. Consider, however, that when you don’t follow the directions your automatically eliminated. If you don’t want to submit the way they ask you too, skip the job posting entirely.
I need some help updating my Jobs and Gigs pages. If you’ve got a source you like that I’ve missed and you’re willing to share it by all means do so, in comments or via email. I truly appreciate the help.
Freelance writers must find freelance writing jobs throughout their whole writing career. It’s one of those facts of life it seems.
It should also be said that there are hundreds if not thousands of ways to find freelance writing jobs. Not only that, but the way to find them is always changing.
The trick is to find what works for you, and to stay open and aware of the changes to the job hunting process.
How to find freelance writing jobs in 2018
Here are 13 tools or methods you can use to find good freelance writing job. This list isn’t definitive, but if you did several of these regularly for six months or a year you’d probably find yourself with more writing gigs than you could handle.
Market yourself daily – find something you’ll do every day or every week day. Lori Widmer’s ebook Marketing 365 may be the best not-quite-$5 you ever spend. She gives you something you can do every day of the year.
Check your favorite job boards, notifications, etc. daily – set aside 30 minutes or so and apply no later than the next day – freelance writing jobs go quickly.
Add an hour each week to seek out new sources of writing gigs – google things like freelance writing jobs, or remote writing gigs – chances are you’ll soon discover sources that are new to you.
Go through your client list at least quarterly. Give them a call – send an email – something. You want to remind them of you, and get referrals.
Build or tweak your website to show off the kind of writing you do best and want to do for clients.
Tell everyone your a writer – an automatic cold pitch
Check for ‘write for us’ or something similar on websites you’d like to write for and apply, following their directions, of course.
Call on, in person, local businesses you’d like to write for – strike up a conversation and if they don’t need you ask who they know who might.
Always ask clients for referrals.
LinkedIn – make sure your profile there is inviting people to contact you with writing needs.
Add yourself to freelance writing directories – many are free or low cost like Jenn Mattern’s.
You may even find good job leads on Reddit – just go carefully there – it’s a zoo but has some surprisingly good leads.
Persistence and experimentation are key
If there are any secrets to marketing yourself successfully it’s persistence and experimentation. Keep at it until you find what works for you. And even then experiment – you’re changing, your writing is improving, and the market is changing.
Turns out this is going to be a series that takes an updated look at finding freelance writing jobs. If you’ve got questions or suggestions put them in comments please.
If you’re not subscribed to our free newsletter, you can do so here – and you’ll receive a free ebook as well.
My cats, Dudley and Toulouse, all rights reserved, by Anne Wayman
Photos and other images are something that freelance writers often want to add to their work. Sometimes clients request this service and sometimes we just want to use photos to attract attention to our own work.
These images come in two varieties, the ones we create ourselves and the ones we get from some other source.
Photos and images you create
When you take a photo or draw a picture you own it. In the United States you own the copyright to it. You can use it on your own writing, or sell the rights to a client. You can sell one time use, all rights, etc. If you sell all rights you can’t sell it again without the buyer’s express, written permission. When your photo includes identifiable people you may need a photo release from them if you plan to sell or use the picture in a public way.
As the creator of the photo or image you’re also entitled to credit. Since I took the picture of my cats I’ve added a credit line to it. I could have included the copyright symbol and the date, but I don’t know how to get those in the caption box here, so I skipped it.
Photos and images you didn’t create
If you didn’t take the picture or create the image, you can’t use it – unless ou buy the rights to it or are otherwise given permission to use it.
Fortunately there are plenty of places to get photos and other images for free. Some require attribution, others don’t.
I use Pixabay a lot. All their images are free and require no attribution. You are free to alter the photos and drawings anyway you like. Currently there are more than 1.3 million images – mostly photos that have been contributed for free use. When you’re feeling grateful it’s easy to tip them by buying the artist a metaphorical cup of coffee. Another site I like is Pickwizard.
Of course there is the huge library of photos at Flickr: Creative Commons. Here the rules are different. You can search for photos and images that allow you to use the art on commercial sites, with alteration or not, with attribution or not, etc. Generally attribution is required but it’s pretty simple.
Additional sites offering royalty-free images can be found here.
If you don’t like these sites you can google up many more with searches like royalty free photos, free photos, etc. Just be sure you’re following the rules.
Keep in mind that I live and work in the United States of America. Each country has it’s own set of laws about copyright. You need to know the law where you work.
What questions do you have about using pictures and images? Ask in comments and I’ll try to answer them for you.