Posts tagged ‘writing’

December 19, 2012

The Best Christmas Gift of All: Encouragement

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So there’s six more days till Christmas and you’re a little panicked. I would be too if I still couldn’t find the perfect gift for that hard-to-shop for family member. Plus there’s no guarantee I would receive online orders in time for Christmas. At this point, most people would tell you to channel your creativity while you make shallow and pathetic attempts to make something. But for those of you who are really desperate and know you’re as coordinated and creative as your children’s math homework, I’m going to tell you the one gift that is even more meaningful than any DIY project or store bought gift.

One word. Encouragement.

You’re probably scratching your head right now. But the truth is, so few know how to be truly encouraging. When encouragement is offered, it always seems to come with some kind of stipulation.

“You want to be a writer. That’s great. You should do it. I just hope you’re not a starving artist.”

“Oh, you’re starting a business? Congrats! Be prepared for some loss. You should do it though.”

“Training to be a chef is so hard. You can do it as long as you take it seriously.”

“Good luck with paying all your student loans this year. You’re gonna need it. It’s practically impossible.”

While these phrases may be said with good intentions, (or so we hope) they carry doubt and the dreaded “but” with them. And even when attached to encouraging words, that “but” can really put a damper on the receivers spirit. I know because I’ve been there before. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “Good for you. But you can’t make a living from that that.” or “Wow I can’t believe you’re writing an ebook! I think you should do it. They are much harder to sell than traditional books though.”

Of course, hearing these things definitely bothered me for a bit. Luckily, writing was something I knew I always wanted to do whether or not I had anyone’s approval. However, I did have the approval and encouragement of my parents. I remember the day, I told my mom that I wanted to quit my job to be a writer. I was still living in my parents’ home, struggling financially, and had a bunch of student loans to pay for. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous telling them my plans. Much to my surprise, I got words of encouragement rather than words of concern and non-support. The words my mom uttered, meant the world to me.

“Go for it. I always said you can create your own opportunities.” 

There wasn’t a hint of doubt or a shadow of disbelief – only genuine encouragement as I took on the biggest risk and scariest chapter of my life. She could have said to me that writers never make it. Or she could have also reminded me that I must still find a way to pay back my loans. But she didn’t. Somehow, she knew I was well aware of what I needed to take care of. But she knew that I needed her support more. Little does she know  that small phrase is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I take her words with me every time I need to conquer a new challenge or each time I’m faced with a business related fear. And my father has been just as supportive since I’ve started this journey.

No, their encouragement wasn’t a Christmas gift per se. But it was a much needed gift at the time. I recommend it, because it is the one gift that can change a person’s world forever. Encouraging words have the power to last a lifetime if you do it right. They won’t die if the battery runs out of life, and it won’t break if you drop it. Deliver it with love and it will stay in the receiver’s heart forever.

So how do you do it? Eliminate the doubt, slash the “what if’s” and sprinkle it with loads of love, sincerity, and pure belief. Do all that and  you’ve got the making of a Christmas gift that would go down in history.  Best of all, it’s priceless!

What was the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received? Have you ever been on the receiving end of true words of encouragement?

TERRIfic Quip: Don’t wait for it. Create your own opportunities.

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February 28, 2012

What Journalists Actually Do (In case you didn’t know)

Keeping up with the trend of the recent “What I do/What they think I do” memes, I figured it was about time I post one for the writers and journalists out there. Here are a few posted on sites such as StuffJournalistslike.com and futurejournalismproject.com.

(Via Stuff Journalists Like)

(Via Future Journalism Project )

(Via Word Thief)

(Via Jelena)

So do you finally understand what writers do? I hope so, because it’s very frustrating when I have to constantly explain it. 

February 21, 2012

How Joining a Forum Can Help Your Writing

So you want to be a better writer and reach out to a particular audience? The solution is simple. Join an online forum. Believe it or not, joining a forum can be very helpful for getting to know more about your target audience.  It offers assistance by doing three things:

1. Allows you to see what members of a particular demographic care about and have an interest in

2. Enables interaction and conversation on in-depth subjects

3. Helps to keep on top of news-worthy topics in the community

There seems to be a trend in which people in forums tend to feel a sense of camaraderie with other forum members. Therefore, it should be no surprise when members are experiencing personal issues and can’t discuss with “real life” friends or family, they go ahead and vent in their online forum of choice. This helps you in three ways. You get to see what makes people of a certain demographic tick, recognize what resources are not available to help them with the problem, and you can write or pitch a story about it. This way, you know exactly how to cater to their needs. Because I’d like to write for publications the reach out to middle-class Arican American women, I belong to a forum called Long Hair Care Forum.  If you want to reach gay right advocates, join an equality rights forum. If you want to reach hairstylists, join a beauty forum, etc.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many pitches and stories have been inspired by forum topic discussions that help me get inside my potential audience’s mind.

What I love about forums is the ability to connect with the potential “client” or demographic in a personal but  intellectual level. (Kind of like Facebook but 100x better!) Unlike Facebook, it seems chances of actually having a conversation of substance is much greater and there are much less passive-aggressive comments (depending on the forum you join). On my forum of choice, I’ve had discussions about education, entertainment, careers, financial planning, parenting etc – things you might see on a host of other forums. The only difference is it was written to and from the perspective of the African American woman. Once you see how audience writes and how they like things written, you have a better idea of what tone and point of view to use in your own writing.

Other than great communication and meaningful interaction, online forums keep you in the know. I was surprised how much I knew about trends and breaking news thanks to the forum I belong to. Sometimes these forums give the ability to learn the news as it’s unfolding. This is good for journalists since its always in your favor to be on top of timely topics.

And of course, I can’t forget that forums allow you to read. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Sure, it’s probably better to read a book, but a forum is better than nothing.

In what ways has belonging to an online forum helped you?

January 8, 2012

How Did You Get Your Start as a Freelance Writer?

It’s a question I get asked frequently. In fact, I get asked so often that if I had a dollar for everytime someone asked me that question, I’d have one million dollars. Ok, maybe it’s not that much, but you get the picture. The point is I get asked so much that it made sense for me to write a blog post about it.

Oddly enough, I’ve always wanted to be a freelance writer. As a child and through out college I never wanted to work for anybody else. I have always had a creative and entrepreneurial spirit so making the decision to freelance was not a tough one. However, that does not mean that it wasn’t difficult to get started. The most difficult part about starting a freelance career is actually taking the plunge. It’s easy to say you are going to do something, but it’s not easy to actually do it. After holding a handful of internships, keeping several jobs, and listening to the naysayers I finally decided to take the risk of being a full-time freelance writer.

The truth is I had already been freelancing for years. However, it was a big step to quit a job with a cushy paycheck to go the freelance route. Because I had been freelancing part-time consistently I already had some clients. The first writing job I took was for Demand Studios. (I know, I know. Content mills are the devil) However, at the time I wasn’t even aware of what a “content mill” actually was. My main concern was finding work and getting paid for it so I could build up my portfolio. It didn’t take me long to learn the error of my ways. After my first and only $15 article, I realized it wasn’t worth it. It was way too much hassle for too little pay and it didn’t help develop skills in anyway . And a major insult to professional writers

I moved on to a beauty website I saw advertising for writers on the web. The pay was better – $50 per story. However, the editor was still too demanding for such little pay. It wasn’t worth it. However, I hung on to the gig for a few months because I was adding valuable clips to my portfolio.

After writing for the beauty website for six months, I moved on and began getting work the old fashioned way – Pitching. I learned the hard way that it is highly unlikely to get valuable experience and decent pay from job ads posted online. And so my writing business began. I would do research or come up with an idea, pitch it to a magazine, rinse and repeat. It wasn’t long until I realized the waiting period between actually writing the article and it actually getting published was too long. Unless you negotiate for payment on acceptance, it can take months till you actually see the fruits of your labor. As a result, I turned to commercial writing.

My first course of action was to vamp up my professional website, and fill my Linkedin profile with tons of keywords to get the attention of local businesses. Next I researched small to mid-sized businesses I was interested in working with and sent them a letter of introduction along with some writing samples. Luckily, I got some bites, wowed them with my business savvy, and closed the deal.  Most importantly I churned out great work and encouraged them to refer me to others. Repeat business is what keeps my freelance writing business alive and well.

I know some of you are wondering how you are going to accomplish what I did without a background in writing or any writing samples. Luckily, I’ve broken it down into six easy steps  for you.

1. Start writing. Even if you don’t have clients, write a feature article, create a newsletter for a mock business, start a blog, etc.

2. Display what you wrote in a portfolio, website, etc.

3. Identify target companies and contact them. Be prepared to show them your writing samples when asked.

4 .Do your research. Read books about writing, follow writing blogs, and contact those who are in your field. Check out my TERRIfic Things page for some great writing resources.

5. Market yourself like crazy to get the word out about your writing business.

6. Do great work and encourage referrals.

January 2, 2012

New Year, New Focus: 2012 Edition

It’s that time of year when everyone decides to break out that New Year’s Resolution post. Since it seems like the “in” thing, I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions for when the clock strikes midnight, mostly because so many things can change from now to the end of a year. Resolutions also seem to lack direction and come off as vague. I usually break my goals down by month – much more attainable and manageable that way. However, I must admit that I do have some things I want to focus on to help me reevaluate my career and the direction it’s heading in.

I’m about to make some moves this year. Here’s where I’m going…

1. Get out of my bubble and mingle. It seems as though I’ve fallen into that loneliness that many freelancers tend to encounter. This year I want to spend more time reaching out to more freelance professionals; especially writers. Not only is it good for personal growth, it’s good for business. Of course, I can’t forget to reach out to the contacts I already have.

2. Work on appearance.Naturally, as a professional writer my focus tends towards content. However, it’s about time I worry about the appearance of my blog, website and marketing material. Expect to see changes.

3. Actually use my Writer’s Market book. Almost every year, some kind soul gives me a Writer’s Market reference book and I always neglect to use it the way I should. It’s about time I start utilizing the gold right at my fingertips.

4. Pitch like mad. Last year, I lost sight of my passion of magazine writing and focused more on copywriting projects and clients. This year I plan to focus more on doing more in the magazine world and pitching more editors as though my life depended on it.

5. Make a difference. The whole reason I got involved with journalism and writing was to make a difference in the world. However, I seem to have fallen short of that. Playing to my passion of volunteering and writing life-changing pieces is of utmost importance this year.

I think one of my biggest challenges is not getting completely consumed in wedding plans! Wish me luck!

Where are you heading this year? What’s your focus?

November 22, 2011

5 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Freelancer

Photo credit: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most businesses know that hiring someone to produce quality work can do wonders for their bottom line. What they don’t know is hiring a new employee or an agency is not their only option. There’s the freelance option. In fact, taking the freelance route, can not only save  money, but insure better work in half the time. Need more convincing? Here are five reasons why you should hire a freelancer.

1. Less is more.

In case you didn’t know, freelancers are generally cheaper than big-time agencies. With freelancers you don’t experience huge mark-ups and extra fees, because freelancers don’t have to worry about big overheads like agencies do. But don’t let the price fool you. Even with lower rates, a good freelancer can produce high-quality work.

2. One contact person

Hate having to deal with the run-a-round at big time agencies? Freelancers eliminate that problem. When working with a freelancer, you are given one contact person – the person who will be working on your project! So there will be no talking to X, Y and Z in the hopes that your information gets passed along to A. You get to speak directly with the person in charge of your project, and not the boss that will eventually give your job to the intern.

3. Motivated professionals

Unlike employees, freelancers only get paid when they have work. Paid holidays don’t exist in the freelance world. Neither do sick days. One bad month could mean a few weeks in the poorhouse. In other words, we work hard for that money… and client satisfaction. Freelancers are extremely motived to churn out high-quality work in the hopes that it leads to more opportunities and a chance to put food on the table for another week!

And remember much of a freelancers livelihood depends on the referral. So if you are happy with the work, pay it forward and refer, refer, refer!

4. Deadlines made easy

Projects that require quick turnaround time are easily handled by freelancers. They don’t need to get approval from their superiors, and it’s much easier for them to adjust their schedule in order to fit your project in. A rush fee may apply, but they are usually much less than the rush fees quoted by agencies. Rush fees may not even be necessary as freelancers usually have quicker deadlines than agencies. Freelancers usually work on one project at a time so they have  the ability to dedicate a lot of time to your work as opposed to an agency employee who probably works on several projects at once.

5. Gift of flexibility

Work on the west coast but have a freelancer that lives on the east coast? No problem. Even though freelancers do operate via business hours they specify, many of them have the flexibility to work around your schedule. I’m pretty sure you’ll have a hard time trying to find an agency willing to make calls at 9:00 pm their time in order to accommodate your time difference.

Are you convinced yet? Visit my website, writingbyterri.com and see what I can do for your business.