Had a Break from Writing? From Potties and Playdates to Pitching and Publishing Online

Writing online

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Lisa Finn has 15 years’ experience as a freelance writer. Only not consecutively. She took a few years off to kiss scraped knees, shuttle her kids to park dates and build forts in the backyard. Meanwhile, the Internet, social media and online writing opportunities exploded. Here’s her story on how, after taking the Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer Online course, she high-tailed it out of Hello Kitty land and billed $1,250 in just one week.

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Once upon a time I went to the book store, bought the Writer’s Market, queried magazine editors (by snail mail with a self-addressed envelope) and waited three weeks to hear if my article was accepted.

If so, the article went to print four months later and I received payment another three weeks after that.

Then I drove to the bank, deposited the funds, went home and queried the next unsuspecting editor.

Yep, that’s how I used to sell myself as a freelance writer. Crazy, right? I should also add it took two unpaid internships at national magazines before I was blessed with any writing gigs at all.

But I’m over all that now and I’m not bitter.

OK, maybe just a bit. But on with the story…

I worked hard and was thankful every day that I could make a living as a freelance writer.

Then something happened. These three little beings invaded my house and started calling me Mommy. My writing career slowed down. Way down.

Who am I kidding? It came to a screeching halt.

From tantrums to Twitter

Fast forward a few years, past the sleepless nights, juice-stained car seats and toddler time music classes, and my kids were now in school full time.

And I had a choice; I could either hang out in the school parking lot in cute yoga pants while dishing on teachers and sipping my Starbucks, or I could get back to something I loved: writing and making money.

So I tried jumping back into the world of freelance writing, and this is what I discovered:

A lot had changed.

My contacts in the beauty and fashion industry had moved on; my once-sharp writing voice was fuzzy; editors wanted contact in a totally different way; and everyone online was writing in these really short fragments.

My confidence was shriveling up like the houseplant I never remembered to water. (I said I was a stay-at-home mom, not a botanist.)

I did score some print assignments with a national parenting magazine. After all, given what I had encountered as a stay-at-home mom, I could write baby-product reviews in my sleep.

However, the personal pieces I wanted to write – like why I think parents of kids with peanut allergies are nuts – didn’t quite fit the audience. I knew I needed to get back to my writing roots — lifestyle, entertainment, beauty and fashion. (And why not? I knew how to swap Tory Burch for Target brand and still look stylish. I think.)

But it quickly became very clear: If wanted to score with certain editors, websites and magazines, I had to roll in the sheets with the people on social media. (No, not literally, silly.)

In doing so, I successfully went from picture drawing and playdates to pitching and publishing in the online world.

Here’s what you need to know to do the same

1. Stop assuming the only ideas you can offer writing clients are those centered on parenting, motherhood or kids

You had interests before kids, remember? You made a living writing on topics dear to your heart. Go back to that authentic place and see if those topics still interest you. You’ll already have the knowledge of the subject matter – all you’ll have to do is spruce up old ideas and give them a relevant slant.

Then dig out those clips and create a website that speaks to who you are at your writing core. In my case, it was still my love of fashion. I know that hemlines go up and they come down. I also know that fashion editors care more about content and tone than the latest styles – but only when it comes to their writers.

They just needed to see that I could sniff out an up-and-coming designer, put my interview skills into play and write some bangin’ copy.

2. Realize that everyone is on sites like LinkedIn for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for what you need. 

Get a LinkedIn profile pronto. I have met established and helpful editors and writers who will unselfishly dole out information on there. Trust me; I’m making a list of who I need to pay back!

For instance, I found an editor at Cosmo who had some clout. I flat-out asked her how to break into Cosmo’s print and online world. She then sent me the name, email and phone number of the person who hires freelance writers. I sent said person an introduction with a link to my website and within an hour got a reply.

There’s virtually no waiting around with online writing – which makes everything from pitching to writing to getting paid really enjoyable. If you’re used to print magazine work, you’ll be blown away at how quickly things move in the online world. It’s a good thing, my friend. Because your kids are out of school at 3 p.m. and you’ve got dinner to cook.Freelance writing online course

3. Follow editors – not magazines – on Twitter

I hopped on Twitter quickly while taking the Freelance Writers Online course (see right). I followed Fame in 140’s Laura Husson; pro-blogger and copywriter, Sophie Lizard; and creator of Boost Blog Traffic, Jon Morrow. I watched their webinars, read the content they tweeted, took notes on how, when and what to tweet, and listened closely as they talked about rates, among hundreds of other helpful tips.

Within two weeks I had sealed the deal with two online clients. The kind of clients that have a huge media presence – I’m talking my parents know who they are. I also earned $1,250 in just one week. Cool, right?

There is no way I would have come close to landing these gigs if I didn’t court them on Twitter. GET ON TWITTER and follow the people and businesses you want to write for. For me, that’s fashion boutique owners, PR agencies, beauty editors, fashion bloggers and freelance writers. Engage for 15 minutes each day and then move on.

4. Solicit 15 connections each day

I make it a point every day to connect with 15 people via Twitter and LinkedIn – but only after I’ve followed them for a week. I research the heck out of their blogs and websites, see who they’re connected to and then carefully craft a very personalized pitch letter telling them why my writing services can enhance readership, sell their products or keep their blog running smoothly while they’re busy with other projects.

How do I know they are busy with other projects? It’s called research.

So, just how am I doing with this formula? Pretty damn good. And you, my fellow mommy friend, can do the same. You can jump into the world of online writing no matter how many years it’s been since you sold a print article. Because the truth is, you have article writing experience.

You know how to use “that” and “which” because you majored in English. Or you can craft a story well because you went to journalism school. You can quickly adapt those skills to the rules of Internet writing.

So maybe other writers have 12k Twitter followers – you have 12,000 hours of writing, editing, proofreading and fact-checking experience on your side. Remember, it’s about quality connections, not the number of followers you have. Seriously.

And most importantly:

Don’t be intimidated. You gave birth – is there anything else in this world more difficult than that? You’ve got grit and guts and a strong backbone. Surely you can handle reaching out online, pouring your soul into pitches and sometimes hearing “no”. Your kids hear that word all day long and they’re still breathing!

So dust off those clips and link yourself up. You’re gonna do great. Drop me a line when you land your first online client. I won’t say I told you so.

Well, I might. But you’ll be too happy to care.

What are you doing still reading? Go. Make. Your. Website. The Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer Online course will show you how.

You can check out more of Lisa Finn and her work over at her fabulous virtual home: www.lisafinn.net.

photo credit: <> via photopin cc

Lisa Finn

13 thoughts on “Had a Break from Writing? From Potties and Playdates to Pitching and Publishing Online

  1. Wow, this is a great article! I am inspired to go ahead and take that course. But if I have to stop wearing my yoga pants, I’m not going to be happy. I draw the line at that. Yay for moms who turn it around to do something, not just talk about it! Love it!

  2. Hi, Andrea! Oh, I still wear plenty of yoga pants … I’m at my computer and not in the parking lot, though! Good luck and enjoy Kirsty’s book. You’ll love it.

  3. Hi Lisa and Kirsty,

    I am not woman and I can’t relate to the parenting side of this post at this current moment. However, the tips you have given, from what I can see, can benefit any freelancer.

    I really like the tip about Twitter and Linked In. I will have to give that “solicit 15 connections each day” tip a go.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Freelance Writer and Blogger
    William Ballard

  4. Hi, William. Glad you enjoyed the article — yes, much of it is universal. Another tip with soliciting is to follow up afterward in about a week if you don’t hear. Your pitch can easily get lost in the shuffle, and it’s important to freelance success not to take it personally also not to assume that means the person or company isn’t interested. I once had a client hire me (sent a contract over) and then I didn’t hear from him for two weeks. I sent him a “my schedule is open this week” (hint) email and he sent 6 articles my way within an hour. So, don’t feel like your pestering people by sending a follow-up (reminder) email. They can always just hit delete. I wouldn’t do it more than once, though, but that’s just my opinion. Maybe Kirsty could weigh in on that. Good luck!

    1. Agreed Lisa – I wouldn’t follow up more than once after pitching either.

      I’m not saying that’s one of those ‘one-type-fits-all’ things – it was probably just my pride that got me into this habit! – but if somebody hasn’t got back to you on two separate occasions, move on to bigger and better things I say!

      1. Hi Lisa and Kirsty (Once again!),

        Thank you both for this great advice.

        You know one thing I am noticing in this whole freelance writing business world is this: newbies want to make more complicated and harder than what it is.

        I have noticed that just getting past the fear of putting yourself out there as strong, confident, and talented writer is pretty much all you need to be successful in this business.

        Thank you for each of your empowering insights amazing industry!

        My gratitude to both of you!

        Freelance Writer and Blogger
        William Ballard

  5. Hi, Lisa. I enjoyed your article. I have been submitting stories on an organization in which I am involved and our local weekly newspaper has been printing them. One of the editors from that particular publisher has moved on to a magazine which is distributed locally. I have been sending her articles and she has been printing them. So, I have a byline, but no income. I’d like to think that’s a start; I just don’t know where to go from here. I’ve thought about blogging. Comments?

  6. Hi, Nancy. If I’m understanding this correctly, you’ve been submitting articles to the local newspaper and also submitting articles to another magazine (where one of the local newspaper editors now works). So, that’s two places you’re writing for free? I’d say you have the clips and now it’s time to stop. It was a win-win in the beginning because the publishers needed content and you needed some bylines. But now I see it only benefiting them. My advice — if you still really enjoy the writing — is to find out what they pay their writers and then ask to be compensated for your next article. For now, I’d take your clips and start pitching other magazines and newspapers within the same industry — but only those that pay. As far as blogging, I’m still getting mine together, so I can’t speak to that. But, there are plenty of blogs that pay writers for guest posts. Check out Jon Morrow’s guide to the top blogs that pay. Start with that list and find blogs that publish the kinds of content you’re writing about. I’m not going to say never write for free — it can be a great way to get closer to your writing goals (whether that’s marketing yourself, getting cozy with a certain editor, etc.). That being said, do it only to get your clip and then go elsewhere for money. Feel free to contact me at my site if you have questions throughout your search. Good luck!

  7. Wow! What an amazing article, Lisa! I swear you were talking directly to me…seriously. In my former life I was an English teacher. Now I’m a mother to a set of 4 year-old twin boys. Most of my early work was about pregnancy and babies, so it was so funny to hear (see) you say that. I think my experience with having twins does give me a unique spin on it, though, so in that sense I don’t feel too guilty pursuing the parenting topic. Anyway, you give me hope. I’ve kick-started my freelancing career but am having a hard time trying to figure out who to pursue. I’ve mainly done blog-writing, website content, and some marketing literature. Now I just don’t know how to find more businesses who need that. I’m also wishing I had some graphic designer abilities. I think a freelance writer with that combination would make a killing. I can draw a mean stick figure but that’s about it. Haha! Thank you for sharing. I am absolutely loving this and all the other blog posts that Kirsty is providing. So helpful and so very appreciated!

    1. Hi Nicole! Do you have published clips? I can tell you some tricks about getting them in front of the right editors. Contact me at lisafinn.net. Also, I’ve never known any editor who cared about graphic design or pictures. That’s not to say it wouldn’t help you, but don’t waste a second worrying about that. All they care about is a good article, unless it’s a personal story and you need a photo to accompany it. Like the article I wrote over at The Mom Cafe recently. They needed the picture of my daughter’s rosary, so I took that and sent it over (not very well, I might add. I’m no photographer!).

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