Sources are Crucial in Freelance Writing

If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you need to produce quality content. Having valuable sources is an important part of producing quality content.

How do you find good sources?

Network and build bridges between yourself and people who are well versed in the subjects that you write about. Ask friends and family, ask around in chat rooms and forums (to find out who experts are, don’t use a chat room as a source), and search online. Interviews make for good articles and associating with experts will boost your credibility.

If you primarily use the internet as a source, make sure that you favor the sites of experts with credentials, government websites and .org sites that tend to be educational. See if you can contact the experts behind the websites via email or phone.

Go to the library. Do not underestimate to quality of hard copy information. Some facts change over time, so it is best to show preference to later additions. You may be able to fact-check online to make sure the information you are using is up to date, but don’t be afraid to crack open a book.

Using Sources Properly

The way that you use those sources is vital as well. An improperly used source can be worse for a writer’s reputation than not using any sources at all. Remember to always cite your references, particularly if you spoke directly with them. Be sure to use quotes and researched information within context. Always record interviews (unless the source totally objects) to ensure that your quotes are accurate. Make sure that if you paraphrase, the words still carry a similar meaning to what was originally stated.

A “References” or “Sources” list at the end of a short online article may suffice. If you are writing for a magazine, make sure you follow their recommended citation process.  Mentioning your sources within the content will strengthen your points. Familiarize yourself with a variety of citation styles and stick to one that you are most comfortable using.

Productive Business Calls

As a freelance writer that works primarily online, I seldom need to use the phone or skype with my clients. I do, however reluctantly, speak with clients directly from time to time. Knowing how to sound professional and make a positive impression on a client (or potential client) can make the difference between making money and missing an opportunity. Here are a few pointers that can help you survive the dreaded vocal exchange and somehow resonate competence and offer quality customer service.

Generally, you should speak clearly, concisely, and professionally. There is no real need to be totally formal if you are courteous. Some small talk is fine, as this can help you build a relationship with the client. Be careful, however, not to drag the conversation out too long.

Phone Call Etiquette

The greeting is important. Smile (they can hear that believe it or not) and say hello. You can start your conversation off  by saying your name or business name. You might say something like, “Hello, this is ____. How can I help you?” This assures the caller that they have dialed the correct number and that you are interested in helping them. It does set the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Once they let you know what they are looking for, it is good practice to ask questions for clarification. If you think you understand what they need, rehash what it is so they know that you understand. This can quiet the nervous type who feels like they need to repeat themselves. You are also demonstrating that you have good listening skills, which can inspire confidence in a potential client that you will give them what they ask.

It is perfectly fine not to give straight answers right away. I don’t mean ramble or avoid questions, but you don’t have to agree to a project over the phone if you aren’t ready. If they need a quote, make sure that you understand research requirements, deadline, piece length, etc. before you blurt out a price. You can always tell them that you need to call them back or email them within a day with a more solid answer. This is particularly a good idea if they caught you in the middle of something and your mind may not totally be in the conversation.

Before you end the chat, ask if they need anything else. Be polite and let them know when you plan to be in touch again. You might also want to be specific about the actions you will take before you speak again. For example, you might say something like, “I will have a more accurate quote for that ebook on arthritis you need by tomorrow night.” After that, it is up to you to deliver as promised.

For some freelance writers, it is much easier to type up a nice professional email than to actually speak to a stranger. Do you dread business calls like I do?

Overcoming Distractions When Writing

Every writer faces distraction from time to time. Email, Twitter, Facebook, phone calls, texts, television, family, friends, etc. Here are some tips to help you minimize distractions and stay focused on your writing.

What is distracting you?

The first step is simple. Figure out what your weak points are. What is distracting you and why?

Once you determine what is luring your attention from your special craft, you can begin to brainstorm a way to counteract it. Can you resolve distractions before writing time? For example, if social media is drawing you away from getting words on the page, set a timer and visit those sites first. Limit the time you spend updating statuses and check new posts of only a few select people. It will satiate  your curiosity temporarily while you work. If you can take care of whatever tends to steal your focus before your writing time, you will be less likely to stop writing because of those curious thoughts. This method works well if household chores or errands bother you the most.

Try using the distraction as a motivator. You can also use your distraction as a reward. Using the social media example, tell yourself that you can find out what is happening as soon as you write 500 words. Set some sort of goal that must be reached before you allow yourself to indulge.

Limit your writing time. If you are a writer, then at some point you must have decided that you love writing. Tease yourself and limit the amount of time you can spend writing per session. Once you get into a consistent habit of writing, you will enjoy it so much that you don’t want to stop when it is time. Take a few extra minutes if you have to finish a thought, but leave it alone. This will motivate you to come back again and dive right into your work next time.

Personally, my main distractions are household chores and family. What distracts you from your writing?

Wrestling with the Fear of Successful Freelance Writing

I have been dealing with some underlying issues that have affected my writing career recently. One of them is the fear of success. I was reminded of this when I came across a blog post about the fear of success and it talked about self-sabotoge and it really spoke to me. I must admit that there are ways that I have certainly self-sabotaged my writing subconsiously, and I am starting to realize why.

The fear of success can be paralyzing and distracting. I have found myself really wanting to succeed and yet I have really struggled at following through with my plan, purusuing the goals that I have set because I worry that I may not continue to be as successful as before or that if I do one thing well I will be exposed as some sort of fraud or someone will realize that I am not perfect and the clients will change their minds about me.

I am overcoming that fear now. I am ready to be successful, finally and I am not afraid of it anymore. I am ready to take the bull by the horns and just do what I need to do to make it.

Have you struggled with the fear of success?

Should you have a daily writing goal?

I read a blog post about Effortless Writing which offers some tips on how to allow writing to flow more easily. The first point struck me and made me think. The author, David Turnbull, suggested that setting high daily goals like thousand of words or sitting at the computer for eight hours can take away from the feeling of fulfillment that comes when writing occurs without pressure.

I can testify to the fact that a tall goal can take the fun out of the writing process. It is much easier to set a tiny goal and surpass it than it is to set an extremely challenging goal and barely make it. I can see how demanding a certain amount of writing from ourselves everyday can be a bit difficult, and dry.

So I wonder now: Should a specific amount of writing should be done everyday? Certainly we all need a certain amount of money, and therefore we must do a certain amount of writing to get it. Aside from that, what kind of writing goals should we set? I think a freelance writer should definitely set some sort of goal, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be the same everyday.

In order to truly enjoy the experience, it is important to relax and not be hindered by self-imposed standards that can remove the joy of writing. At the same time, we should aspire to challenge ourselves to improve the quality of our writing and be productive enough to keep the business growing…I would propose that one good way to approach daily writing is simply to “accomplish something.” Perhaps that can be a certain number of words, or a certain amount of time spent writing. It depends on each writer and what will motivate them.

For me, I think that focusing on the overall purpose of my business, and the broader goals of my writing business (producing high quality writing, helping others promote their businesses, and teaching others what I know) motivates me more than a certain amount of money or a goal of a certain amount of words everyday. That might be too general to motivate some freelance writers, but that works for me. Setting a word count goal or a dollar amount does not.

I work within my deadlines and think about why I do what I do, as opposed to how much I am doing.

What about you? Do you need a specific measurable amount or words, time or money to motivate you to write?

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