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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.
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.
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