Posts Tagged ‘freelancer’

Active vs. passive in finding freelance work – a website isn’t enough

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter,, “I can write about anything!”®

In a recent LinkedIn group post that had me shaking my head, someone recently said, “I found it very hard to get anyone to respond to my web site for editing. How do you all do it?”

That was it – the entire post. Not even a URL for her site so group members could take a look and offer advice based on how she presented herself, which might be a big piece of her problem.

My response was that a website by itself isn’t enough to find freelance work, whether it’s writing, editing, proofreading – or plumbing. I said: “I had a few years of in-house writing and editing jobs that gave me, in addition to skills and experience, an excellent networking base. Once I was freelancing full-time, I made a point of being active in professional organizations that provided job listings, among other services, and expanded my networking range. Most of my current projects come from people finding me, rather than my having to find them, but I still get new projects through listings from professional organizations. I also get some from being active in LinkedIn groups.

“The key is ‘active.’ A website is passive. You have to be active. You can’t sit there and wait for clients to find you. That means joining, and being visible in, professional organizations. Maybe joining a local writers’ group or writers’ center to meet potential clients, if you want to edit books. Sending cold queries to publishers and being willing to take their editing tests.

“You also have to tell prospective clients why they should hire you – what skills and experience you have, which style manuals you know, what your approach to projects and clients might be, etc.”

I also should have mentioned that, once you have a website, you have to make it as active as possible. That means refreshing, revising and adding information to it regularly – every time you do so, you improve its visibility in rankings. You have to learn a little about search engine optimization (SEO) so you can use language that will help the site do well in searches. You have to focus its content not just on how great a writer you are, but on what you can do for clients with that writing skill and experience. You have to take the lead in making the website work for you by doing something to drive people to it.

Readers of this blog, as members of SPJ, already have figured out the value of joining a professional association. Many of you also have figured out the value of not just being what I call a checkbook member, but of being active and visible. If you’re planning to freelance, you have to make sure that people know who you are and what you can do, and colleagues in SPJ are a good place to start. Just as you can’t just pay your dues and wait for SPJ to make you a better or more-successful freelance journalist, you can’t just sit there and wait for prospective clients to stumble over your website and hire you for freelance work.

It’s easier for freelance writers to find new business than it is for editors, in a way – it isn’t that hard to find publications to query with article ideas, while editors may have to be more creative in finding and connecting with prospective clients. Proving our experience may be easier for writers as well, because we can usually point to our published work, while editors and proofreaders often can’t display their projects – a lot of editing/proofreading work is proprietary, and a lot of clients don’t want the world to see how badly their projects needed our editing skills!

The key to getting more work is to be seen and heard. That means not just having a website, but being active in places like SPJ chapters and online groups, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Facebook – and not just with questions or requests for help, but with the occasional answer, tip and help for colleagues. You can’t always be taking; you have to give a little, too. In fact, SPJ itself is a good starting point – contributing to the Freelance Committee and its blog will help get your name out there as someone with a writing voice, style and substance that is worth recommending and hiring.

It also can’t hurt to let everyone you ever worked with, and even everyone you know in the personal realm, know that you’re freelancing and available for projects. Keep it low-key and professional, but you have to get the word out about your freelance business, at least initially. You can’t assume that people who might hire you, or know of potential clients and projects, will magically know that you’re available.

Getting the word about your business isn’t easy, but no one ever said freelancing would be easy. Having your own business never is – it’s fulfilling, rewarding and often exciting, but it isn’t easy.

For your website to be an active element in your freelance business, you have to promote it and use it; it can’t just sit there waiting for people to find it. Overall, for a freelance journalism business to gain traction and succeed, the freelancer has to move past the “Build it and they will come” mentality and move into one that’s more of “Here’s who I am and what I can do for you.” Don’t be afraid to make the first moves in getting the word out about your freelance business. Once you establish that groundwork or foundation, work will start coming to you by referral, word of mouth and other passive outlets, including that website, but you have to make those first moves.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter has made presentations on freelancing, editing & proofreading, and websites for national SPJ conferences. In addition to her freelance writing, editing and proofreading business (, she is the owner of Communication Central, which presents an annual conference for freelancers. SPJ members are entitled to a colleague’s discount for the conference:

They don’t teach this in J school

How freelance writers stay motibvatedOne of the most important skills for a freelancer to have is one that isn’t taught in J school, nor is it something you can learn on the job. It’s something that requires constant nurturing and attention. Yep, you guessed it. The M word. MOTIVATION.

Motivation is what gets us out of bed every day, that elusive thing that keeps us sitting at our desks or working on our iPads until the story is done. It’s what encourages us to pitch to new publications, endure rejection after rejection, and work at our craft day after day. It’s also what keeps us from getting distracted when doing the dishes or washing a load of laundry seems more appealing than plugging away at the computer. Motivation drives us to earn a paycheck, and it is what causes us to choose work over taking a nap.

For some of us, motivation comes easy. We live for words and we can’t wait to see our next story published or produced. For others, it is a daily battle. To be a successful freelancer, we each need to find something that motivates us – daily. For me, my motivation is two-fold. As a single mother, I am motivated by the desire to care for my small family. Freelancing is my full-time day job, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. But my motivation goes beyond that (most days). I am also motivated by the desire to meet new people, learn new things and to share important stories with the world.

I have slow days like everyone else though, where I just can’t get going. I move beyond those by going through the motions. I get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, have breakfast and sit down at my desk to peruse the latest news. Then I log in to Facebook and go through my friends’ news feeds. Because many of my friends are freelancers or fellow journalists, I see clips of their latest stories. This often inspires me. If that doesn’t work, I log into my @spjdana Twitter account where I follow a number of well-respected journalists. Their work nearly always sparks me to work on my own projects.

And some days I just don’t have it. Unless I’m on deadline, I treat myself to a few hours off to take a walk, go the gym, play with Jelly Bean, or, yep, you guessed it – take a nap! At some point, my motivation kicks in.

These tips might not work for you, but this article offers several dozen ways to get motivated:  Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement for Writers. Find one, or ten, that work for you. You’re portfolio (and paycheck) will thank you!

Freelancer Dana Neuts share tips to keep writers motivated.

Dana Neuts, Freelance Journalist
National SPJ Secretary/Treasurer
2013 Candidate for President-Elect


Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing pro. She is also the publisher of, an award-winning hyperlocal blog highlighting news, events and more in the Kent, Washington community. Most recently, her work has appeared in The Seattle Times, 425 magazine, South Sound magazine, Grow Northwest and Seattle Woman magazine. For more information, or to contact Dana, visit her website,

I Hereby Resolve…

Contributed by freelance writer Eric Francis

Okay, we all know this one. It’s a gimmick, right? This is The Dead Week – no news but space to fill, so hey! I know! Let’s just rehash last year’s list of New Year’s Resolutions then head for the watering hole….

Fine. Be that way. But before you relegate this one to the (virtual) circular file, let’s go over a few things that every freelancer needs to be keeping in mind as they practice writing 2012 instead of 2011.

First off, how many full-time journalists do you know who lost their job last year? Close friends, former colleagues, bare acquaintances. A handful? Maybe a dozen? Now think about all the layoffs you heard about, not just in your market but your entire state, even your region. Scores? Hundreds?

Ladies and gentlemen, what are the odds that most of those folks are going to become freelancers, whether it’s for the long haul or only until they land another full-time gig? Pretty darn good, I can tell you from experience.

As freshly minted unemployed journalists, they have something you might be missing right now: Motivation. There’s nothing like losing a paycheck to make one desperate to find its replacement. Which means they’re going to be calling every potential client in your stomping grounds to see what assignments are available.

And every assignment they get is one you won’t.

That’s a conundrum. You don’t want to wish ill upon your unfortunate fellow journo, naturally, but you also don’t want anyone taking bread from your children’s mouths.  And that is why you need to be making some resolutions for this year.

For starters, forget your current definition of what your market is. If you’ve got a cell phone and an internet connection, the world is your beat. Check your current client list and see how far away, in miles, you are from the most distant publication you’ve written for. Then either take that number and double it and find a new client to pitch at the far end of the ruler, or (if you’re already selling stories coast to coast) orient your compass in a direction you haven’t looked before. Someone in one of those locales needs your work, and it behooves you to find them.

Here’s a variation on that theme: What’s the circulation of your largest client? Double it and find a new client in that range.  Pick one located in a place you used to live, or where you’ve visited, so you can demonstrate more than Wikipedia-level knowledge about the locale.  You might be surprised that new client is right in your backyard, or your favorite family vacation spot.

You can also go small. This country is full of little publications – local weekly papers, small-city websites, special-interest magazines. And yes, most of them won’t pay much. But if you own the rights to your past work and have a diverse collection of evergreen or easily updated stories,  you might be able to pick up some small checks with little or no new effort required on your part. Plus, you could earn the gratitude of an editor or publisher who will pass your name around their circle of friends, or up the command structure if they’re owned by a chain, which could lead to more lucrative work later on.

Finally, go for the Hail Mary pass. You know there’s a publication out there you’ve always wanted to see your byline in, yet you’ve never tested those waters. Make this the year you go all out to get in their pages. True, it might mean devoting a lot of time and effort to a project that may not see print if you can’t convince your dream date to take you to the prom, but odds are you’ll still be able to shop it around – or put it on your website to show what you can do.

Actually, there’s one more thing – track down one of the journalists you know who was laid off and offer to buy them lunch. Tell them what it takes to be a freelancer these days. Offer to help them shore up a weak spot in their skill set, or to pay their SPJ membership fee. Because this profession is going to be in turmoil for some years yet, and if we haven’t been in their shoes yet we might find ourselves there down the road. They may be in a position to return the favor one day, so there’s no harm in building a little good karma today.

After all, they may technically be a competitor, but they’re always going to be another journalist. And journalists look after their own.

Eric Francis is a freelance writer based in North Little Rock, Ark. His resolutions for this year include learning to build and manage a website, finding new clients in at least two other states, and teaching the cat not to sit in front of the keyboard.

Repost: The Future of Book Publishing for Freelancers

I saw this post today on the Northwest Independent Editors’ Guild’s Facebook page:  The Future of Book Publishing for Freelancers. It includes some Q&A as well as additional resources. Check it out!

29 Financial Articles Every Freelancer Must Read

Contributed by reader Kimberly Lee

29 Financial Articles Every Freelancer Must Read – Read online articles about taxes, tax deductions, organization and more!

Should I work for free?

A lot of budding freelancers ask me this question – should I work for free (or for low pay)? The answer, however, is not as simple as the question. While many experienced freelancers would say NO without blinking an eye, I would caution you to weigh your decision carefully.

How do you decide? Consider this – are you getting anything out of being published in a particular venue or from a particular editorial relationship? If you can say YES, then I say “go for it!” If not, say “no, but thanks for the opportunity” and walk away.

For example, several years ago a website called Dr. Hottie magazine offered to pay me $50 each for articles on personal finance, women’s health issues, relationship advice and more. While the pay was below market, the pieces were easy to write, about topics that I enjoyed, and were in a niche where I had not yet been published. [And, yes, I made sure there was no porn or online dating involved!] So I said YES! I got a small paycheck, but the exposure I got in being published in a new niche was invaluable. (Freelancer Michelle Goodman, author of My So-Called Freelance Life, calls this PIE – payment in exposure.)

Other times I’ve been asked to edit eBooks or self-published books in exchange for a percentage of the book’s sales. I always say NO to this scenario, because book editing is a time consuming task that takes me away from my regular work schedule. In addition, I have no control over book marketing and sales, so there is no guarantee I will get paid anything. And, lastly, when an author is not willing to put forth any money toward his project, I question his commitment to his work and investment.

In other words, “freelance” does not mean “free,” but don’t be so quick to turn down opportunities that pay little to no money. Explore the opportunity first, and make your decision wisely.


Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional based in Kent, Washington. In addition to writing for publication, she edits books and is the owner and publisher of and, hyper-local blog sites. She serves as the SPJ freelance committee chair as well as on the national SPJ and SDX Foundation Boards. For more information, visit

Freelance Toolbox: Are you cut out for the freelance life?

Are you cut out for the freelance life?In the December 2010 online issue of SPJ’s Quill magazine:

As our media world changes and adapts to new business models, rules and tools, I am often asked what it takes to be a freelance journalist. Sure, it requires a passion for journalism, some marketing know-how and a lot of business savvy, but to earn a decent living, a freelance journalist also needs skills and resources that are not necessarily obvious to the outside observer. A successful freelancer must also possess specific knowledge and skills, have access to necessary resources, be willing to adapt his or her personality as needed, develop a curiosity about the ins and outs of freelancing and define an exit strategy, or Plan B, should freelancing fall short of fame and fortune. Are you cut out for the freelance life? Let’s see if you have what it takes…

Read the full article here

Collection Q&A: What Happens If I Don’t Get Paid?

This question came to me via email today from a fellow freelancer. Because this is an issue that all freelancers face at one time or another, I thought I’d share my response.

Q:  I wrote four pieces for a regional magazine, ranging from home design to education. Two pieces appeared in the summer issue, published in June, and two were to appear in the fall issue due out in September, but are now past due by two months. I have not yet received payment for any of my work. According to our email agreement, I was to receive payment within two months of publication of the issue in which my pieces appeared. I have called and emailed the editor and the business manager repeatedly, but they do not respond. I received one email form the business manager in September apologizing for the delay, saying he’d mail my check for the summer issue the following Monday. I have yet to receive that check. What resource do I have, if any?

A:   As a freelancer for seven years, I’m happy to say I’ve only had to use a collection agency twice, once for a publication in New York City and another for a wedding planner for whom I wrote web copy. In both instances, I continued the collection process by sending a letter (I’d send it certified or US Priority Mail so you have documentation of its receipt) demanding payment. The letter said something along the lines of “Per our email agreement, I completed the assignments in good faith and was told I would be paid by ______. To date, I have not received payment and am making one final attempt to collect on the debt before turning the matter over to a collection agency.” Give them a date certain and follow through if they balk. Then, when I did resort to collections, I had documentation of my emails, phone calls and final demand for payment. You will also need or want a record of the email or verbal agreement (who said what and when) to send to the collection agency and, if it is legal in your state, be sure you pass the collection fee onto the client. Also, when you choose an agency, choose one that reports to Dun & Bradstreet. That way you are sure the collection will be reported.

Another option is to write to Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly. She’ll sometimes serve as an intermediary to go after payments for freelancers, and she makes it public so clients and media organizations can’t get away with not paying for work used.

Keep in mind first, however, that I wouldn’t take any of these steps IF you want to write for this company or any related or sister companies again. If you do, you need to hang in there. If you are willing to sever the relationship based on this breach, then proceed by all means!

One last bit of advice – as these situations have occurred, I have added safeguards in my two-page business agreement which lets clients know that I will stop work and/or take them to collection if they don’t pay as agreed. This agreement is usually between clients and me, rather than publications and me, but I use it whenever I can.

Good luck and keep me posted!

~ Dana Neuts, freelance writer and SPJ freelance committee chair


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ