Success Secrets of a Freelance Writer
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Learn the Success Secrets of a Professional Freelance Writer
Over twenty fascinating sections, almost one-hundred 'talking head' lectures, and many information packed downloads, including hot market listings, you will discover how to thrive in the freelance writing industry.
Learn everything you need to know about magazine article and travel writing, ghost writing, genre fiction writing, nonfiction book writing, children's book writing, to effective copy writing, and much more - like how to promote yourself effectively, how to track your burgeoning income, and how to easily self-publish for profit.
Get crucial tips and proven tactics, from your lively and infectious host, for quickly setting up your own "home business" based on a career being creative and helpful with words.
This unique course presents a step-by-step, motivational program for personal writing success, whatever your level of expertise.
All you need is your enthusiasm and a willingness to learn and you could begin a new life of independence and freedom within days of taking this fun and insightful study aid.
Who is the target audience?
- If you're new to writing and you're not sure which way to go - fiction, non fiction or toward shorter works, this course is for you.
- Discover your potential on a journey of discovery into the glamorous world of freelance writing.
- Be fully prepared to "GO PRO" if that's what you want!
- No technical skills required. No prior knowledge of the subject is needed.
- No experience necessary: just a love of words and a willingness to try.
- Gain the skills necessary to thrive in the freelance writing world.
- Feel motivated and full of self-belief in a new home based career.
- Discover the many areas in which a creative writer may express him or herself for profit.
- Learn the secret self-promotion tactics of a seasoned freelancer quickly.
- Find out how professional freelance writers keep financially afloat at all times - whatever the prevailing economic climate!
This opening lecture will help you get to know me.
Basically, I have a very relaxed attitude towards writing. I don't believe writing is a particularly sacred craft that only the most gifted should indulge in. The internet proves that pretty much anyone can write well enough for publication and relative success.
The real issue is commitment. Are you committed to creating significant success and to using your time wisely so that you maximize your earning potential?
Thing is, I have been a freelance writer for over twenty-five years. I don't claim to be super-talented or extraordinary. The fact is, if I can do it, I believe that you can too! As long as you...
Many myths surround the craft of writing. There's so much conflicting advice it's a wonder any new writers start.
All you need to know is that your enthusiasm and your focus on writing as a wonderful means of expression are the only qualities that matter.
In this lecture I tell you what you DON'T need: qualifications, experience, and somehow 'knowing the right people'.
The best thing about writing is that it's an autonomous occupation and the only person who matters is YOU. You are in control!
It's not at all necessary for you to have taken that course to take this one. However, if you need guidance in regards to motivation to write and in thinking of ideas to write about then Easy Cash Writing may be a good fit for you.
The crucial aspect of any freelance career is the acceptance of the idea that if you don't work, you don't get paid. Writing is no different. Sometimes the most challenging issue for new freelancers is the fear factor that accompanies 'going it alone'.
Rest assured that, as long as you focus your writing energy on the right arenas, you'll do fine.
How long is a piece of string?
Simply put, you are limited only by:
- How hard you are willing to work and
- Which jobs you take and which you reject.
The smart freelancer knows when to say no to work - and, really, the only work you need to say no to is that which doesn't involve cash!
As an independent contractor, everything you do - and how much you earn - is ultimately YOUR decision.
Dreaming is all well and good until the time comes when we need to take action toward achieving our goals.
This section deals with the realities of writing for money - right upfront - before we get into all the many ways a writer can get paid for freelance work.
The reality is that if you want to make a success of freelancing, you will need to take on every piece of paying work you can get, right from day one.
Plus you'll need to deliberately curtail writing for no money down. Too many writers write for the promise of cash later. Not you. Not from now on. If you want succeed, you need to see your writing time as financially valuable.
The best way to begin is to start small. You're not going to win any major writing gigs worth several thousands of dollars on your first day. But that doesn't matter, because lots of small jobs can create a significant income over the course of a year.
Plus, you will be building your name and your reputation as you go along.
From day one, keep a list going of how you spend your writing time. There is a PDF at the bottom of this description to help you start. This daily list of writing activities will help you hone in on what pays well - and what doesn't.
Making any new business venture work is about balancing time, effort and income.
Clearly if your dream is to write novels all day, praying for some nebulous time in the future when you might start earning royalties, then being a writing freelancer is probably not for you.
For every one success story you hear about an author who gave up everything to write only fiction, there will likely be a hundred thousand more who were knee deep in debt within six months and had to go back to work!
Freelancing success is primarily about getting paid immediately for writing work.
Once you understand this simple rule, your freelancing life will become a whole lot easier and your success assured.
Examining your motivation to work from home and escape the yoke of corporate oppression will, in no small way. determine your capacity for success.
Entrepreneurs are rarely motivated by money alone. Usually there are other, more important, factors:
- The need for independence
- The freedom to be creative
- The desire to give
- The pride associated with autonomy
In this section, I present a snappy definition of two types of people in the world to help get your head around these issues.
The best motivation for a writing career is that you want to help people.
You want your writing to improve your clients' lives, their sales, and the quality of their products.
Even if you're concentrating on fiction, it should be your goal to add value to the lives of your readers, either through entertainment, information or even drama.
In this lecture I explain that all commercial activity is in fact as an act of benevolence, an act which you too should aspire to mimic in your own freelancer business dealings.
The best motivator is passion. You need to write because you want to do that anyway - without any prompting.
Passion for your work will take you further than any business plan or personal investment or venture capital.
You have to want to be a writer first, with all your heart.
When you want that, nothing can stop you!
See below for a download of your Activity to Income Schedule.
If you're going to succeed as a freelancer you need to make sure that you're profitable.
This requires that you spend your working hours on high paying gigs - and limit the amount of time to spend on low to no income writing work.
The best way to achieve this is to properly schedule your time. From day one, list your writing activities and how much you are earning from them. Then check on a weekly basis that you are maximizing your earnings.
This is a simple yet effective tool to ensuring your success.
Sticking to just one form of writing is not to be encouraged if you're to be successful soon.
Many would be authors are tempted to leap right into writing novels from day one of their new careers. While this may seem like a great option, I've known many authors who fail to make sufficient money in the short term to allow them to continue without having to go back to the nine to five.
Don't let this happen to you.
Your first priority is making money in your new vocation.
Once you understand this, you'll be a great position to start - and maintain your dream.
See below this description to download an "Income Tracking Sheet."
If you want to become a professional writer, you need to keep good records. There's no better time to start this valuable habit than right from Day One.
It's your job to make money - and to know where your money is coming from. It's too easy to make excuses and think you'll 'get to' the money side of things when it becomes more relevant. However, you'll succeed more quickly if you're not afraid to face up to the realities of gaining wealth from your words as soon as is humanly possible!
See below for your Freelancer Spreadsheet Template
You should use spreadsheets regularly to track your success but mostly to identify high paying areas so you can target your writing time to the work you're actually getting paid to do!
This may seem like an obvious way to work but you'd be surprised how many writer are too afraid to face the truth - that is, their favourite writing activities are not those that pay money!
Don't get me wrong, if you ONLY enjoy writing that doesn't pay, then you'll be a happy amateur - and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to be a professional writer, you will need to be smarter about your work choices.
Please see the base of this article for access to my Query Template and Market Listings.
This lecture provides you with an easy step by step guide to securing article writing gigs for mainstream magazines.
Note that it is far more productive to query magazines before you write articles for them. This fact has been proved to me too many times to mention - and has been confirmed by other freelance writers to me on several occasions.
So - don't write more than you have to!
Only write articles that editors have asked to see!
The best way to come up with topics for magazine articles is to forget about your own ideas.
First think about your editor. What would appeal to him or her? What does he or she seem to publish most often?
The thing is, salable writing is NOT about YOU. It's about the eventual reader. Once your reader is in your mind, imagine what you could say, do, and write about that would pique a reader's interest.
This is the CORRECT head space from which to invent article topics.
The simple answer to this question is that the demand for nonfiction outstrips fiction by about a hundred to one.
Fiction authors are all engaged in trying to capture the imagination of the 1% of readers that like to devour fiction.
Nonfiction authors have the advantage that many more consumers need and purchase books on their interests. Plus, many people buy 'how to' books in the course of their lives, just so they have the information should they need it.
Consequently there are many more opportunities for the freelancer to pitch and sell manuscripts to publishers.
People often say that fiction outsells nonfiction. This is is only true of the top one hundred bestsellers in the fiction market. 99.99% of fiction outside of the A list titles sells pretty averagely.
However, non fiction titles sell well across the board, which means you're much more likely, as a freelance writer, to make good money writing non fiction, either as a self-publisher, or by using traditional publishers.
Writing what people want to read is the key. But who knows what non fiction people want better than publishers? This is why you can save time by pitching IDEAS and PROPOSALS to publishers instead of actually writing untested books first..
See below for a Market Listing for Non Fiction Publishers.
This lecture provides a simple strategy for getting non fiction books accepted and/or commissioned by publishers without you having to write them first.
Professional writers always pitch book topics and proposals at agents and publishers before they begin working on them. This saves time and effort.
Sometimes it's possible to get an advance of money before you start writing using this very same strategy, so it's definitely worth trying!
The best way to come up with ideas for non fiction books is to study the marketplace.
Contrary to what you might think, most readers don't want unique or different or NEW. They want MORE of what they're already reading.
Look on Amazon or in your local book stores to see what actually sells and see if you can't think of something that would sit on the shelf nicely IN BETWEEN other books already on sale.
That's the kind of book you should aim to write!
Remember the golden rule: if it's a subject that is already popular, there is more demand for that topic.
You often hear that publishers, agents, even readers, want originality. This is a myth. Originality is extraordinarily difficult to sell. Most people read because they want their own theories and observations about the world to be confirmed.
Only rarely do readers want to be challenged, alarmed and taken out of their comfort zones. So, there's nothing wrong with writing about familiar subjects in a new and entertaining way.Indeed, this is the approach I recommend.
Sex and Celebrity sells - but so does social commentary and even the lively retelling of history.
When it comes to choosing non fiction topics to write about, the best way forward is to identify your own interests and then "bend" them into pitches you can submit to publishers. Selling books is about coming up with intriguing angles on well-established areas of interest.
Whenever you have an idea for a book, do research to find out if the subject has been developed before. If it has, chances are you're on to a winner. If it hasn't, there could be good reason for that: perhaps nobody's interested!
Always remember that you don't have to write books before you pitch them to publishers. However, I'm sure many publishers would rather that you did! Of course they would - it's much easier to reject finished products!
Use traditional publishers as a sounding board. Constructing pitches is a lot quicker than writing books. You can pitch half a dozen, perhaps a dozen, ideas for books in the time it might take you to write a whole book. At least pitching enable you to get publishers interested - and will help you gauge your potential impact on the marketplace.
Plus of course, if you have a pitch that truly excites a publisher, it might be a good idea to self-publish that book!
Many creative writers are drawn to fiction writing solely - and say they're not much interested in anything else.
That's fine. To a certain extent, the kind of discipline necessary to write fiction can be all engrossing. Sometimes when I'm in the middle of writing a novel, it's hard to think seriously about any other writing jobs.
The main consideration is to do with money: is your fiction writing going to pay the bills?
It may well in the long term. But how are you going to support yourself until then?
This section will give you a run down of the most commercial genres - with PDF downloads attached to the Lectures. Study these downloads - they're VERY detailed!
These days it's unlikely you'll get the right tone for genre fiction unless you're also a voracious reader of the genre you wish to write in.
Indeed, if you're ever in any doubt as to which genre you should gravitate towards, simply identify the kind of stories you like to read.
If you like aimless stories with downbeat endings, you probably prefer literary fiction. Great, just remember this places you in a minority - and you may have a long wait for book sales to escalate to the point whereby you can live off them!
Best to choose to write genre fiction..
See the attached book, The Easy Way to Write a Romance, at the bottom of this description.
Successful romance stories adhere to fairly rigid genre conventions. It is a brave writer indeed who chooses to ignore what readers want from a good romance.
There are many romance publishers - but almost all of them will want you to stick to their guidelines BEFORE you start writing. I recommend reading as much as you can about writing romance before you plow into a story that no romance publisher will touch!
See the attached book, The Easy Way to Write Thrillers, at the bottom of this description.
If you're a smart, no nonsense, kind of writer, then thrillers will probably appeal to you. Thriller writing requires discipline, pre-planning, and a fascination for mystery, human psychology, logic, and very often nowadays, new technology.
The good news is that thrillers are probably more popular than any other genre form. So there's plenty of scope for easy success if you choose this lucrative writing route.
See the attached book, The Easy Way to Write Fantasy, at the bottom of this description.
It's worth bearing in mind that Fantasy is a growth area -especially if you're not sure where to go, fiction writing-wise. There is much demand for authors who can create entire worlds with their imagination - in books, film and TV.
Everything from Star Wars, Harry Potter to Games of Thrones may be considered Fantasy.
Again, be careful of your definitions. Superhero stories are in fact Science Fiction because the stories would often not work without the super powers that the heroes possess.
SF had its heyday in the 1950s to 1970s when the advance of new technologies made us wary of the future that might await us. The cold war too, I suspect, influenced a creeping sense we might all be on the edge of self-destruction.
Modern Sci Fi can be traced back to Jules Verne and H G Wells: The Time Machine, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc.,
These days SF is often more Fantasy tinged - with a greater emphasis on character development. This lecture deals mainly with the difference between Fantasy and hard Science Fiction.
See the downloads at the bottom of this description for a copy of my book: The Easy Way to Write Horror.
Horror is a fun genre if you're that way inclined. Plus, it's perennially popular.
Also, many stories these days in other genres - crime, thrillers, mystery, fantasy etc., - use horror conventions in their telling. Getting to grips with suspense, writing about feelings of dread and impending doom will help you enormously in all genres.
And that goes especially for TV and movie writing as well as book based fiction.
Independent authors are in a great position to invent their own genres these days.
Traditional publishers, for years, have maintained that they can't sell cross genre books easily - simply because they don't know where to put them in a book store!
Of course now that book buying is increasingly digital, this problem has begun to evaporate.
Besides which, I've always believed that readers don't generally follow genres - they devour authors. And will follow the authors they like into any place the writer wants to go. You only have to look at the success of Stephen King to know this truth is self-evident.
This is a deliberately long and involved section because many new writers are unaware of the many issues that surround children's writing. Basically, it's not as easy as it looks.
However, my wife, Robyn Opie Parnell, has had over eighty five titles for children published worldwide and so I feel I am in a unique position to let you in on many insider secrets that may not be readily available out there.
At the very least this section will give you a good overview as to what you may be letting yourself in for - if you are determined to achieve success in this highly competitive genre.
See below for a Listing of Children's Book Publishers.
In this lecture we examine the motivation to write children's fiction and ask: is writing for children as easy as it seems?
According to children's publishers, it's not easy at all - and most new writers get it wrong!
The lectures in this series act as a checklist: when you've written a children-focused text, check it against the dos and don'ts in this section, to see if you're on the right track, before you send in your submissions to publishers.
Despite what you might intuitively believe, most children's publishers absolutely loathe rhyming couplets!
Partly because rhymes are almost impossible to translate when a book is published in another language. And partly because using rhyme tends to distort the meaning of a text story. Authors will often sacrifice sense or good word choice just because a line rhymes or 'fits'.
Words for children need to be much more precise than poetry.
It's possible to read and write entire books about the concept of showing instead of telling - much confusion and misinformation exists about the topic.
Basically , showing a story is about seeing the story from the hero's point of view in real time. Telling is like stepping back from the action and describing it from a distance.
In children's writing especially, the concept of 'showing', that is, keeping the reader totally involved in the unfolding of the story, is far more important than in say, adult fiction.
Try not to 'tell' stories to children, make a child feel he or she is actually 'in' the story.
Many new writers think that children's writing should be about teaching kids useful lessons about life, relationships and growing up.
However, 'themed' books are probably the hardest to get published, mainly because 'preachy' fiction is not very popular with children - or even their parents (who, after all, are the ones actually buying their children's books.)
Far more popular are tales that deal with one big emotion that a child can relate to, like love, loss, friendship and/or adventure.
Remember that simplicity is the key - that, and total focus on just the element you wish to explore.
I hope this section has filled you with confidence over the children's writing market.
Now, it could be that with the onslaught of digital publishing, many of the rules and dos and don'ts may not apply.
The traditional publishing industry, as I've said often, is very conservative - in the children's writing arena perhaps more so.
However, if you're sure you have a children's book that will sell, by all means break all the rules and go it alone - especially if you're self publishing!
You can't know what will work until you try.
Getting work with offline corporate companies is far easier than you might imagine.
Forget targeting companies with a strong online presence - they probably already have all the writers working for them they're ever going to need. Better to target small to medium sized companies in your local area which might well need assistance with their company literature - including their marketing material.
It's up to you to contact local businesses by letter and tout for their business - in the following lectures I give you clues how to best achieve that outcome.
The best way forward with gaining corporate work is to write letters to small business CEOs, their marketing people and their admin staff. Your letters should simply state you are a writer offering your services and you'd be happy to come in to their offices to discuss their needs at any time.
Follow up with more letters and/or telephone calls. When you do get in to the office, let the person tell YOU about their potential needs. Let them talk. Be a good listener.
Later, send in proposals for work you might be able to do, based on your conversations.
This may not sound like such a brilliant strategy but let me tell you: it's always worked for me!
This lecture introduces you to my surefire secret strategy for maximum earnings.
I discovered this technique all by myself - after years of trial and error - and I'm offering it to you right here and now.
When you quote for a job, give three options, each more expensive than the one before. Use more words to describe each successive job - and add value to the client if they go for the most expensive option.
Result? Nine times out of ten the corporate world will go for the most expensive option!
Your quotation for a corporate job is also your potential contract of employment. Therefore, make sure than your terms and conditions are also part of your quotation - especially your payment terms.
Plus, before you begin any work, make sure you have the correct authorizing signature. In the corporate world, payments cannot be authorized to third parties unless the work was agreed to - and its cost - before the work is carried out.
I used to be a corporate buyer so I knew this to be the case before I became a freelance writer. This information has stood me in great stead when dealing with corporate world writing jobs
A large part of getting corporate writing work is to behave like a businessperson yourself.
Though it might be difficult to convince a company to pay you a little something - a retainer, a deposit or a good faith bond - upfront, remember that this is normal business practice.
If you have trouble getting a small deposit from a company before you start work, you can be damn sure that getting paid at the end of the job will be ten times harder.
Whatever you do, think long and hard before you agree to work for no money down!
Always make sure your projects are submitted with nice clean copy. Use a logo or some kind of personal distinguishing mark. You don't need to use a copyright symbol because, technically, the copyright will belong to the client after they have paid for your service.
Remember to keep everything.
Corporate clients often lose your documents and will ask for copies - especially around payment time.
When it comes to obtaining business work, start small with local charities, schools, and community groups as well as small businesses. If you're easy to work with and give excellent value for money, word will quickly spread!
Or, What I Did On My Holidays!
Travel writing can be a fun and rewarding career in itself. Imagine gadding about the world, meeting people, doing lots of fun things and then simply writing about it for money!
This is the classic image that many writing 'schools' will try to pitch and then lure you into their overpriced courses.
The reality, of course, is a little different. Travel writing is an enormously competitive field. Do you have the right stuff for it? Let's investigate travel writing together...
Counter-intuitively, travel writing is not about describing locations and the things to do there. Anybody can do that.
A good travel writer brings a new perspective to an old location, or holiday topic, that would be engaging EVEN IF there were no mention of a travel destination!
In fact the way to think of it is very similar to coming up with magazine articles. It's not so much the subject matter that is important as the 'angle' you come at the information from.
Plus, travel writing is unique in that the author is often 'allowed' to be within the text.
I think most people have this idea you live an almost James Bond type lifestyle when you write for travel magazines.
My experience is that you spend a lot of time in hotel rooms writing while everyone else is out having fun!
The best way to think about travel destinations is that each location should generate at least half a dozen ideas for travel articles - most of which will probably be written when you get back home!
Use a professional standard camera. Shots from your cell will not cut it! And always use a tripod for location shots, even of people. The quality required by travel magazines is very high - RAW files with at least 300 dpi.
The good news is that travel articles are infinitely more salable if you include photos, but not holiday snaps with you or you spouse in them!
Best to take pictures of scenery when there's no-one around and busy location shots when everybody is ignoring you. Also remember that you can't take pictures of locals - or tourists - without their permission.
See below for a Listing for Travel Writing Publishers.
Payments for travel articles are generally higher than for normal magazine articles, especially if you sell the rights to your photographs along with the article.
Plus, it's also worth bearing in mind that if you go to enough places and have an interesting set of angles, you can always try pitching a coffee table book idea to a mainstream publisher. Books with high quality photos within the pages are usually good sellers in the marketplace.
The biggest markets, like National Geographic, pay up to $25,000 for a unique travel article - so there's something to aim for if you're serious about taking on travel writing as a career!
Here's how to think like a travel writer when you go on holiday:
- Take lots of notes, on the way to your destination, while you're there, and on your way back.
- Think of angles based on how the holiday made you feel and what the location made you think about - even if the thoughts were entirely personal,
- Try a few short article ideas, either writing out templates or constructing dummy articles - just to get a feel for the genre.
- Then study your target magazines and get a feel for the tone of the articles and what your editors like.
- Submit pitches to around four or five markets to see if any editors are interested in your potential articles.
For the right temperament, ghost writing is perfect, especially if you've never been particularly interested in seeing your name in lights!
Plus, getting ghost writing work is, in my experience, surprisingly easy. It seems there are always hundreds of people - all around you - who want to tell their story but do not have the necessary skill and/or patience to write themselves.
In this section we look at the mechanics of getting ghost writing jobs and I teach you how to 'handle' new clients.
Getting inquiries is as simple as putting up a Facebook ad. Trust me, many, many people believe they have a book inside of them that they can't write. Either that, or they know they will never be able to find the time to write it.
So, getting potential clients is not the issue. The problem comes when you explain that writing a book for someone else requires time, commitment and, not least, your writing ability - and all that demands payment!
You should charge at least $1500 for writing someone else's book, if not $5000 or even $15000 - that's about the going rate. Clearly though, many people will be put off paying this kind of money. Some will scoff...
Fear not, however, there will still be plenty left who can and will pay you!
You will need to work closely with a client for a while - usually just a free meeting or two - before you formalize your arrangement. It's best to have a contract in place between both parties before you start any writing.
If at all possible, get the client to give you a down-payment on the work involved. Plus, make sure that there are further payments made on completion of certain tasks.
Whatever you do, don't agree to complete the entire project on the promise of payment later!
If you are writing an autobiography, or even a novel, for someone else, make sure you record all interviews with the client. Purchase a cheap digital recorder if you don't have one.
Also keep all correspondence, no matter how trivial it may seem.
This will help when it comes creating a better product and may also help when clarifying mis-communications that inevitably happen.
Also, should your relationship with your client break down - as does happen from time to time - you will need clear and complete records if you need to get lawyers involved in settling any disputes over payment.
See below for a brief PDF of Ghost Writing Resources.
As I say, it's not hard to secure ghost writing work. It seems there are potential clients everywhere just waiting for a willing writer to appear.
If you have the right temperament, ghost writing can be rewarding and lucrative - as long as you avoid non-paying clients. (Which is easier said than done!)
A word of warning: don't ever agree to get paid later based on some future publishing deal. Though tempting, the reality is this arrangement rarely works out for the best.
You may have heard that writing good sales copy is your ticket to vast riches. There's an element of truth in this assertion though the relationship between gaining the skill of good copywriting and becoming wealthy is, at best, indirect.
The ability to write good sales copy is essential to your ongoing success. However, there are many good writers out there that prefer to get other people to do it for them!
In this detailed series of lectures, I will break down all the elements necessary to write good copy yourself.
(You'll save money at least if you can do it yourself!)
There is much information readily available about the art of good sales copy writing though most of it falls under the category of common sense. Clearly, when you write words to inspire action and impress a reader, you will do your best to choose the right words and to suck the reader into your way of thinking, even when you're trying to write, for instance, the back blurb to your own novel.
Here are the 5 basic rules good sales copy:
- Your 'voice' should be sincere, friendly and in sync with the book, product or service
- You're not selling a book, product, service so much as the benefit(s) your buyer will receive by purchasing the item.
- You need to convey to the potential buyer that the product or service is unique
- You need to create compelling reasons why your buyer needs/wants the product
- And then you must, as far as is possible, stimulate your buyer into taking urgent action
It's very rare that you'll see ads for sales copy jobs.
People tend to go to writers they know with a proven track record, either through recommendation or via friends.
Most good sales copy writers spend much of their time pitching for work: either contacting corporate companies and small businesses direct or by advertising themselves online or via resume.
Payment rates vary enormously depending on your experience. You may only be able to charge a few hundred dollars for a 1000 word sales page at first - but later you can earn several thousand for relatively short pieces if your work is seen to be effective in generating sales.
There are two basic rules of copywriting:
- Never forget you're writing for the reader And
- It is your intention that the reader be impressed enough with your copy to take immediate action.
These rules apply whether you are writing sales pages or pitching for writing work, whether you're trying to raise money for artistic projects (say, on Kickstarter), even if you're trying to get an agent to represent your work.
Heed them well!
Here are the first three rules of writing good ad copy;
- Begin with an Attention Grabbing Headline.
- Follow Up: Use a subheading that enhances the headline and compels the reader to ask themselves further questions based on more specific information.
- Focus on the Reader
It's long been acknowledged that most readers begin reading with only one thing in their minds, and that is, "What's in it for me?"
Or, as one famous marketing guru once put it, "Where's my banana?"
Advanced Rules of Good Sales Copy
- Create Empathy
- Create Imagery
- Call to Action
At some point in your copy, you need to ask your reader to take action. That might be to buy your product, call you, answer your query, publish your article, whatever, but you must ask. You must give a clear, unambiguous course of action for the reader to take.
Create a positive response and your copy writing is considered effective.
Inevitably perhaps, writing sales copy is a largely personal affair.
It has to be - because, if you simply parrot off the usual advice, your sales copy will come across as insincere, thereby defeating its purpose.
In the final analysis, it will be up to you to develop your personal style of selling yourself and your products - and coming up with sales copy to help sell other people's products and services.
Often, the most important thing to remember is that you're not selling a product half the time as much as a state of mind.
When it comes to writing effective copy, perhaps the most important thing to do is to study other sales pages and take a good hard look at advertising blurb.
You can learn a lot simply by seeing how large corporations use words in their adverts to talk about themselves and their products.
Don't forget that these companies spend an absolute fortune on getting the words exactly right for their image and to best appeal to their customers.
Take on board what you like and reject what you don't - this is the best way to hone your own style.
Until recently, self-publishing was expensive and fraught with difficulty and unpredictable results.
No more. Digital publishing has changed all that. Anyone who still thinks that it is only the desperately untalented who resort to self-publishing has never made easy money selling their own books.
Many Amazon Kindle authors are now having the last laugh - all the way to the bank.
Self publishing online is a completely viable way for freelance writers to boost their income.
The truth is, writers no longer have to rely on the whims and vagaries of traditional publishers.
As I mention often to my students, it might take anything up to five years to impress literary agents and publishers enough to get them to accept and publish your manuscripts.
In that same five years you can become a bestselling author many times over on Amazon - and make more than enough money to give up the day job!
The trick is to think like a publisher - and then do it yourself!
It is now possible to design your own career as an author. But first you have decide what you want.
Take some time out of your life to think about what you want from publishing your own books. Often the decisions you make will have a direct bearing of the strategies you employ and, indeed, the results you achieve.
Even just twenty years ago this idea was seen as absurd.
With self publishing it is now possible to create the kind of writer's life that previous authors would never have dreamed possible.
Never underestimate the power you now have at your fingertips!
Traditional publishers use a timetable to prepare and release books and to promote them.
All you have to do is to come up with a similar timetable for writing, editing, and proofing your books, releasing them online, and then promoting them through ads and/or social marketing.
But the best part about self publishing is that you don't have to do anything you don't want to.
Your future is on your hands - and you never have to answer to anyone but yourself.
Now that's what I call a strategy you can live with!
The best part about self publishing is that you have options. You choose.
Many writers these days go straight to Amazon because it's quick and easy and produces results. But there are other platforms too.
Your own website, iStore, Nook, Barnes and Noble, CreateSpace, Google Books are all available for you to research and exploit.
In this lecture I talk about my personal preferences.
Follow the nine tips in this lecture to ensure success on Amazon and Kindle. There's really no secret to selling books with Amazon because Amazon does a lot of the work for you.
As long as you commit to writing the very best books you can - fiction or non fiction - you really have no excuse not to self publish with Amazon.
In this lecture I give you the best advice based on my own experience of having over thirty number one bestsellers in just the last two years.
See below for a download of Useful Websites for Self Publishers
At the end of this description is a download of all the best places to promote your books and to find out more about self promotion online. The list is long and detailed!
Many writers choose to build a mailing list, write a regular blog and indulge in lots of social marketing to promote their books.
This can work. However, I'm here to tell you that none of these are entirely necessary if you don't feel like doing them. With a good book, you can still sell in volume without any marketing.
Amazon is that good for new authors!
Go for it!
Many authors still publish their work offline - especially when they have a ready audience of fans, subscribers, students and helpful family members who may turn a modest print run into a profit.
At all costs, what you must avoid is a large print run with no obvious market for your book. Many vanity publishers will encourage you to print up thousands of copies of your books to take advantage of a cheaper 'per unit' price. However, you may well end up with boxes of books you can't shift. It happens - even to traditional publishers.
The good news is that if you decide to print up real copies of your books - you're in great company. Many of the world's finest and most successful authors started out self publishing.
In general, ALL Vanity Publishers should be avoided. Sometimes it's hard to tell them apart from other publishing houses. Luckily, there is a good indicator. Cost.
If you are paying any kind of money upfront, you're dealing with a vanity publisher.
Using a Print On Demand outfit, a 50 book print run should cost around $500.
If, however, you're being talked into spending much more than that - sometimes up to $15,000 and more - you're dealing with a vanity publisher whose only interest is in your cash.
Some call themselves "Partnership Publishing", where, in theory, you are only paying half the production cost. Don't be fooled: you're paying all of it!
Many reputable publishing houses are now offering Vanity services. My advice? AVOID THEM! They're taking advantage of the fact some authors have more money and ego than good sense.
Much work goes into traditionally published books to remove typos, repair grammar, doctor books and generally format and print a nice looking product. When you self publish, all of these tasks are down to you.
Rather than worry about the enormity of the responsibility, better to break down the task into a process.
Writing is one thing, editing another. Proofing and formatting, more again. Rather than dread the process, think and behave like a publisher and take these things in your stride.
You'll always be glad you did, whatever happens to you self-published work.
See below for a download of Offline Self-Publishing Distributors.
Here are five ideas that will help you sell books offline.
- Be available for interviews, book launches, any and all public appearances.
- Send out press releases.
And not just one. Create a campaign comprising a dozen or so press releases you will send out over a three-month period. Keep tweaking the releases to coincide with news items and current affairs.
- Create promotional material.
Make posters, bookmarks, postcards, fliers, whatever you can think of. Send them out to libraries, bookshops and hand them over to people you know, even those you don’t.
- Arrange a free speaking tour in libraries, social clubs, community groups and schools.
You make your money from selling your books after your talks.
Think laterally. During a three-month period surrounding the release of your book, let your mind embrace any and all ways to bring your book to public attention.
Offline Self Publishing - Conclusion
A PDF download of grants and funding sources is part of this section.
Believe it or not, many companies, organisations and foundations offer money to struggling and up and coming artists. Even state and federal governments have grants too, that encourage artists to keep working.
The down side to grants is the time it takes to fill out the forms. In my time, I have received several grants for various projects - and on each occasion I'm surprised by the sheer amount of work and hoops to jump through to get free money.
Clearly, there is the sense that if you're applying for a grant, you're either very much in need or you are a truly worthy cause.
Finding Organisations That Will Give Grant and Funding
Now, I'm not talking about venture capital here. That's more of a business proposition. Also, with venture capital, you have to give the money back. Not so with grants and funding.
Finding one resource that lists all places that offers grants and funding is difficult. Mainly because these organisations and schemes come and go with great rapidity. Any document collated is usually out of date within days of its compilation!
Attached to this lesson is a list that may provide a start for you. Otherwise a Google search may help you - and keeping your ear to the ground for new grant opportunities.
Filling Out The Forms
Some independent brokers offer to fill out grant and award forms for you - for a fee, of course. Technically this is illegal - as it is the potential recipient who is normally charged with making the submission.
Some grant applications read more like novels - and, for instance, applying for money for film projects especially can require that you write a novel length submission! At least that's what it feels like.
Applying for grants is not everyone's idea of fun - but receiving free cash can be a useful stimulus to a project - and may galvanize team members, for example, in a way that mere rhetoric may not.
Introduction to Helping Other Writers
For every successful writer there will thousands more who need help.
Most writers, even today, are self taught. There's something about the education system that doesn't quite teach good technique, style, and the effective projection of personality. These are generally qualities that emerge over time, as does the discipline necessary to write full time.
Besides, writing is a skill that is never perfected. All writers are committed to a process of constant self improvement.
All this means there is always a ready swarm of clients that the freelance writer can help. In this section we investigate the various forms of paying help you can offer.
How To Get Easy Writing Work
Advertising pays dividends - but you don't need to spend a fortune on marketing to merely alert your local community to the fact you are offering writing services.
Here are some easy ways to attract new clients:
- Place small cards in your local writers' center.
- Run Facebook ads for $5 a day
- Mention your intention in your blog
- Inform your mailing list
This lecture tells you how then to deal with the flood of inquiries.
Here are the facts: many people want writers to help them but only a few want to pay for that help.
It is up to the freelance writer to separate the paying clients from everybody else (the majority.)
Treat everyone the same at first - be polite and courteous and helpful. But when it comes to the job itself, ask for an upfront good faith bond. If your potential client balks, then move on to the next.
Everyone in the arts gets paid upfront these days. Writers too need to perpetuate this trend.
Before you agree to anything, always ask to see the manuscript that needs work. Base you quotation on what you believe needs doing. If nothing much needs doing, tell the client that. Don't do work that is not necessary.
Many writing projects just need new eyes to catch typos and help with punctuation and grammar problems.
Other would be authors have more serious problems to deal with - especially those new authors who don't think they need to do much more than write a first draft!
Over the course of this section we'll look at the various services you can offer.
Even the best and most prolific, even successful, authors need an editor. If you don't believe this, take a look at the Acknowledgments section in most modern books - where the editor almost always gets a 'thank you' from the author.
Only a fool would regard his work as perfect first time out.
Different manuscripts need different amounts of work. Price accordingly. Don't try to change everything in a manuscript, unless the writing is appallingly bad. Most times, you'll make a rod for your back.
Book Doctoring and Mentoring
Once you're good at what you do and have gained a modicum of respect among your peers, it may be time to offer your services as a book doctor and/or mentor.
Book doctors take the entire manuscript and study it for logic flaws, errors, and congruence, and suggest revisions to structure and tone to improve the readability and, hopefully, commercial appeal of a project.
Behind the scenes, book doctoring is big business when it comes to getting traditionally published authors into the New York Times Bestseller list. Fiction and Non Fiction charts.
Plus, being a mentor for a new writer can be extraordinarily beneficial to both writer and mentor.
Pretty much any writer, whatever their skill level or experience, has something to teach about writing.
I do not subscribe to the idea that only the best and most successful authors are qualified to offer advice. In many cases, in my experience, seemingly successful authors in the traditional arena have had their flaws shielded from public view by an army of editors behind the scenes!
Never feel that you do not have something positive to offer a struggling writer. At the end of the day, even the slightest of motivational advice can go a very long way.
Many new authors are under the mistaken belief their careers can only be helped by getting a literary agent. The fact that this notion is false for numerous reasons doesn't stop the myth from perpetuating.
I can reveal I've never met an agent I had any respect for - and I've been signed to a few!
However, many writers will ask if you'd like to be their agent and it's something for you to consider if you're outgoing and can make contact with publishing people who will listen to you.
To me, the best kind of agent would be someone who could help you self-publish your work for a set, minimal fee.
Other Writing Jobs
The more editing, proofing, and general 'fixing' work you do, the more in demand you will become. Word of mouth is very effective in the writing business.
The only thing you will need to vigilant over is the money side of things. There will always be freebie hunters out there who will feign poverty, or blatantly con you into working without pay. A common scenario is the "i'll pay you out of the publishing advance or future royalties" trick. Don't fall for it.
These things never work out well because you just can't predict what will happen in the future. Especially when it comes to writing.
Introduction to Self Promotion as a Freelance Writer
When new writers hear the words 'self-promotion' they immediately think of online social marketing. Like Pavlov's dogs, we've come to think of the two concepts as synonymous with each other.
Trouble is, it's been clearly shown that social marketing actually doesn't work very well for creating book sales.
Writing great books is the only thing that creates book sales - as the traditional publishing industry has known all along. (Ever wondered why you don't see posts from traditionally published authors?)
By all means do your Tweets and Posts and Blogs - just don't expect to sell more than a handful of books doing it!
In this section we look at more sane ways to self-promote.
Offline Self Promotion
Before you scoff at the idea of ignoring your computer when you next want to promote yourself as a writer, bear in mind that - even in this new millennium - the majority of book buyers do NOT use the net to purchase reading material.
Yes, Amazon is making huge inroads and changing the future - but still, the vast majority of books are sold offline, in the street, at department stores, in bookstores, libraries, to schools and colleges. In fact, despite the hype you may hear, real books are actually selling MORE than they have ever sold before.
Bear this in mind the next time you're trying to sell online books to your Facebook friends!
Self Promotion Tactics That Work
The internet can make you feel like you're getting places, making contacts, and pursuing your career when in fact all you're doing is surfing aimlessly and knocking digits off your credit card.
Beware the lure of the technicolor screen! Try these real world alternatives:
- Get Some Cards Made Up
Business cards are cheap to get made up if you go to the right places. The beauty of business cards is that you just never know where they’re going to end up. Sure, most of them go nowhere special - but it only takes one to be in the right place at the right time.
- Be Vigilant
As you go through your day, look at everything as an opportunity for writing. When you read magazines, think about how you could write for them. When you watch TV, think about how you might write a screenplay, or pitch an idea to a TV producer. When you’re at work, think about how writing might help you and/or those around you.
Make it a rule that you will submit something - anything - to publishers, editors and agents on a regular basis.
More Self Promotion Ideas That Actually Work
Getting work and getting your name out there starts from within.
- Count Your Words
This works for me. Counting the words I write on a daily basis helps me to challenge myself over what I’m going to do with them. After all, each word you write takes time - time that you should be getting paid for. Start thinking like a professional. Always think of ways you could be charging for your writing time.
- Offer Your Services
Even if it’s offering to write Granny’s speech at her 80th birthday or constructing someone’s business plan, make yourself available. Show that you’re a willing writer.
- Think in Writing.
Use every opportunity to write, for any reason whatsoever. Absolutely anything is good training, good practice, and good experience for the Freelance Writer. Plus, you’re getting your writing out there on a constant basis.
Self promotion as a writer is really about a change in your mindset. Instead of always trying to think of some new internet strategy, think laterally and ask yourself each morning: how can I do just one thing to help my writing career today?
Just one thing - no matter how minor - will have a cumulative effect over time.
Just don't always resort to the internet for inspiration. Real world success requires real world contacts and real world work.
Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone and meet with real people!
The End of this Course Marks the Beginning of Your New Career...
The real trick to creating success quickly as a freelance writer is to never say no to any paying writing job - and to never consider yourself too good for a job - or not qualified to give a challenging new job a go.
Flexibility and a 'Can Do' attitude will take you a long way toward achieving your dream of financial and creative independence.
Look at me. I spent the first twenty years of my working life worrying over whether I was good enough to work full time as a writer and novelist. Now, I realize those twenty years were essentially wasted time when I should have just been getting on with it!
Don't you make the same mistake.
Self Publishing Again
I want you to succeed as a freelance writer and gets lots of different kinds of work. But if there was just one thing I wanted you to learn from this entire course, it would be this:
Don't be afraid to self publish with Amazon.
Honestly, this one small step will take you further on the road to independence and security as a writer than any other course of action.
If for any reason you are hesitant to self publish online, please, you've got to get over it.
Simply put, it's holding you back from your dreams!
Dealing With Writer's Block
I've left writer's block to the very end for two main reasons.
- I don't believe it exists, and
- If you've got this far, it's unlikely you have a problem with it.
If you're having trouble writing or coming with ideas or the correct way to express them, you're worrying over all the wrong things. What you should really be worried about is having enough time to write all the things that are bursting out of your mind!
For the benefit of those times when you may feel unmotivated, this lecture contains the ultimate advice on dealing with the imaginary affliction called writer's block!
A Little Anecdote About Self Belief
I recently had detailed correspondence with a young British writer who took me to task over my claim that pitching ideas for screenplays was a more effective tactic than writing the screenplay first.
She was of the opinion - entirely rationally, of course - there were so many people out there vying for Hollywood's attention that the possibility of getting a Hollywood producer interested in her movie idea was slim - if not non-existent.
I pointed out to her that, completely contrary to this logic, my partner and I had managed to get two major Hollywood producers interested in two movie ideas this last year - and one was going into production - as we speak - from a one page pitch letter.
She graciously let me know she was convinced by this argument - for about three hours...
During a trip to the shops, she told me, her rational mind kicked in again and she just couldn't bring herself to believe it could be that easy.
There was something I'd missed out - something I'd done she couldn't possibly do - though I'm not sure what. I assured her that all I'd done was write a letter, pitching an idea.
But no, she said, it couldn't happen that way, common sense told her it was impossible...
What could I say?
I wanted to help her but, by this time I knew she'd shut me out, expunged my point of view from her thinking.
She just had to hold on to her own world view - the one where 'reality' reigned.
I realised there was a lesson here - for you, for me, for writers everywhere.
That self belief is far more potent than common sense...
EXTRA: Please post of REVIEW of this course when you get the chance! Thanks, Rob.
Self Belief: Your Secret Weapon.
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