Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

The problem-solving nature of freelancing

Look around. No matter where our eyes land, we see words.

It may be just one small word, such as “off” or “on,” but the process that led to printing the word required someone to come along and write it. Decisions were made, assignments were given and the words we see around us were formed.

If prospective and novice freelancers keep that in mind, the emotional challenge of finding writing and editing assignments will become little easier to take. Understand that the world needs writers of all kinds, and that one of those particular needs is bound to fit a freelancer’s special talent.

Of course, nobody will know that until it’s made obvious to everyone. Thus, self-promotion and marketing are as important as the actual creative actions of writing and editing.

This is tough for most freelancers just starting out. The very notion of having to sell themselves and do it daily takes them out of their writing and editing comfort zones and plops them in front of risk, challenge, uncertainty, frustration — things certain to make even average people squirm and sweat. Worse still, shopping for clients takes time away from the writing and editing processes.

Thus, marketing is where a freelancer’s ego runs up against reality. And repeatedly banging into reality this way can be bruising.
There is, however, one element of reality working in a freelancer’s favor that can cushion the psychological blow and act similarly as a sales tool.

You see, people who know how to use words effectively are, above all else, problem-solvers. They bring to bear talent and wisdom nobody else has or can use in precise ways, and that precision helps answer questions, surmount obstacles and open doors for other people.

Whereas managers organize a given situation and technicians wrestle with the fine details of it, writers and editors are responsible for communicating initial needs, communicating the problem-solving processes, communicating the analysis and conclusions of the final result. And let’s face it, nothing gets accomplished without strong, effective communication at multiple levels.

Thus, freelancers are instrumental. They find and write the words that help address important issues. They are, in essence, problem-solvers. And if prospective freelancers think carefully about this before tackling the onerous task of self-promotion, that task may start to seem less onerous. By pitching themselves as problem-solvers, freelancers expand the definitions of who they are and what they can accomplish. Clients will see them as more than just communicators, too.

It’s a psychological game, certainly, but it’s one all freelancers can win. And once they start to play, it can become much easier to switch their careers from “off” to “on.”

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.



Making Your Best First Impression with Editors

Contributed by Freelancer Carol Cole-Frowe

Love hurts.

That is — love of yourself — enough to put yourself out there in a positive way.

Good self-marketing is probably the toughest part of being a freelancer. Journalists have been taught from day one to make themselves secondary to the story. But as a freelancer, how you put yourself out there says a lot about how much you believe in yourself and your talent and how many quality freelance jobs you get.

When I became a freelancer, I did a search on the Internet for business card templates. I figured that I had some newspaper design training in college and surely that would translate to picking out a good business card that would represent me well. I knew that was important and my first impression with any editor.

I found lots of inexpensive templates and one spoke to me that day. I ordered up cheap business cards that had sort of a curly, flourishy thing on them. Heck, I thought they were even sort of pretty.

A couple of weeks later, I was having lunch with one of my friends, who is retired from the largest newspaper in the state — and my 70-plus year-old veteran journalist friend took one look at my new cards and grinned.

“Didn’t know you had started writing romance novels, Carol,” she said.

Not that there’s anything wrong with writing romance novels, but that’s not exactly me. I think of myself as a lot more serious journalist, with a strong investigative streak.

Those business cards ended up in a bottom drawer in my desk.

I went back to the website, looking for something that more reflected my essence as a journalist. And I found a nice template with a vintage typewriter that probably dated back to before I was born. I printed those babies off and in a few days, they were in my mailbox.

And once again, my journalistic friends had something to say about it.

“It makes you look old,” was almost the universal reaction.


Who wants that? Nobody, especially when journalists are promoting themselves as tech-savvy, multi-platform producers.

I showed a graphic designer friend of mine, Shirley Morrow of Morrow Design, my two card efforts and she had a strong reaction (after she stopped laughing.)


Shirley has been in a few newsrooms and she’s known me for quite a few years. She volunteered to tackle the problem.

She riffed off the copyright symbol, designing a round business card with a circled C in the middle and the F by it’s side, much like the way I often sign off as C2F.

Shirley added the perennial joke about drinking coffee in newsroom, with a “coffee stain” on the round white card, with my professional memberships on the back of the card reversed into a latte color.

It’s just so darn cool, if I say so myself.

And we printed a whole bunch of smaller stickers that I can apply to everything from envelopes to invoices to reporters’ pads.

I confess that when Shirley proposed a circular business card, it gave me a bit of heartburn. Would people put it into their Rolodexes? Would people type in the info into their address book because it wouldn’t go into one of those business card scanners. Would people save it or lose it? Or would they use it as a coaster?

The answer to all of the above is — yes.

The best reward was when Los Angeles freelancer Bruce Shutan, a member of SPJ’s national freelance committee, held up my card in a freelance workshop at SPJ’s national conference as an example of doing it right. It was a surreal and wonderful moment.

What did it cost me?

I paid for the printing and even splurged on an emboss of the circle C and the F in the middle. Shirley and I will trade out my writing for her design on the “friends of Shirley” plan. I’m at her beck and call on projects that are appropriate for what I do.

I would encourage you to spend a little more on anything that directly reflects your image as a freelancer, whether it’s a business card or your website. Using cheap business cards just positions yourself as being a freelancer who may or may not perform professionally.

If you have a friend who has those graphic design talents, remember that there are things you can do for them as well to trade out your talents. Write for their website. Write some press releases for them. Brainstorm on their clients. It all creates a synergistic effect with your creative friends.

But even if you don’t have a friend with graphic design talents, it’s still worth it to have something that reflects you.

And love yourself enough to improve your image on what you’re putting out there. It will reward you in kind.


Carol Cole-Frowe is a full-time freelance journalist working primarily in Oklahoma and north Texas. She is president of the Oklahoma pro chapter and co-chair of the SPJ Region 8 spring conference April 8-9 in Norman, Okla., at the University of Oklahoma Gaylord School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

How to Keep the Freelance Fire Going

Contributed by Maya Payne Smart

“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” —Reggie Leach

For years, that quotation was taped to the screen of the computer I used to hammer out articles that explained everything from the aluminum-market outlook to the best ways to organize your home. The legendary hockey player’s words were a constant reminder that self-motivation is key to victory in the competitive field of freelance writing. Unlike staff reporters, who even on slow news days get paid just for showing up, freelancers must constantly hunt for new assignments and their next paychecks.

And boy can it be tiring!

Writing and reporting alone, often at the risk of rejection, can take a lot out of you. Throw sales, marketing, invoicing, collecting and business planning into the mix and burnout starts brewing. Setting yourself on fire occasionally is one thing; kindling your efforts daily is another. There are many days when my to-do list outweighs my motivation level — and the term “self-starter” feels more like a punishment than a redeeming quality. Like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill only to have it roll back down, freelancing can feel laborious, tedious, even futile…

You can read the rest of the column here, on Maya Smart’s Writing Coach website.


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