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.

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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?

Freelance Writer’s Schedule

I came across an interesting post asking writers whether or not they use a set schedule. It really made me think. There is a set of questions to answer for those who do follow a schedule and a different set of questions for those who do not. Here are my answers to the questions for writers who do not follow a schedule.

1. Why don’t you force yourself to work a schedule? Have you ever tried?

I don’t have an hour to hour schedule because I work better without one. I have tried a million times to set specific hours and create some sort of consistent daily routine, but I always felt restricted by that. I enjoy being a freelance writer because I don’t have to work at the same time everyday or for the same amount of time everyday. I am able to plan the rest of my life around work much better.

2. When do you do your best writing? Are you able to do it then, or would working a schedule around that time work better?

I do my best writing when my house is clean, I’m all showered, and no one is around. This can be at 7 in the morning or noon. This time may even be at 8 pm. I do my best writing when my chores are out of the way, the apartment is quiet, and I have energy. As you may be able to tell, scheduling wouldn’t work because I really don’t know until that day when my most productive wave will come. That is not to say that I don’t sit down and write unless the mood strikes (that is hardly the case), but my best writing comes on demand. All I have to do is clear my head of the rest of my busy life, sit down, and focus.

3. Does it make you anxious to not have a set schedule? Why?

No, not at all. I plan to work to meet deadlines, and I use any extra time to write for myself. (Blogging, posting articles online about topics I enjoy, etc.) I make sure that I put in the time to finish what needs to get done, and then I do the writing that I most enjoy. I break when needed, and that works for me.

4. Have you ever had a problem as a result of the lack of a schedule?

Yes. As I indicated before, I do my best writing when my chores are done. If my chores fall behind, my writing may fall behind as well. I can get really stressed out if things pile up. I have overcome this problem with discipline and eliminating procrastination. Rather than forcing myself to write x time to x time, I get rid of excuses like laundry, mail sorting and vacuuming.

5. How do you benefit from not keeping a schedule?

I am able to relax more and I can write better when my stress level is low. I am able to go out during the day and take care of errands when most people are at work. I have actually grown in discipline because I can honestly buckle down when deadlines are approaching or I can get ahead of deadlines because I can focus on productivity and not logging hours. It is less stressful to me to focus on getting work done as opposed to feeling guilty if I didn’t write from one specific time to another. It is also less stressful to work long hours because I don’t feel like I am putting in overtime.

6. Are you a part time writer or full time?

Full time.

I would love to read answers from you freelance writers out there. Check out the post for the other questions if you do follow a schedule.

Freelance Writer’s Sick Days

Freelance writers get sick, too. One of the downsides to working from home as a freelance writer is that you don’t get the benefit of paid sick days. Either you finish the work or you don’t get paid. Granted, most clients will understand if you let them know that you are sick. If they can wait an extra few days to get things done, it’s not a problem.

I have definitely worked through sickness before and it is not fun at all. Everything  gets done, only in slow motion; typing every word is almost painful; thinking becomes a strenuous task.

How can a freelance writer get sick time?

First of all, make sure that you have a cushion of funds in case your payment is delayed. Plan ahead, unless of course you are immune to everything or you are always swimming in money.

Alert your client(s) if you think there is a possibility that your work will be late. Even if you think you will make it on time, let them know that you aren’t feeling well. I like to make sure that they know I am trying my best to meet the agreed deadline. If their needs are urgent, they will express appreciation for meeting their needs.

If the client can wait, they will tell you to take care of yourself. This approach is better than waiting until the last minute and telling the client, “Sorry I’m late with this assignment. I was sick.”

Your other option is to outsource the remainder of the project. This may not always work, and I only recommend doing this if the client needs the work on time and is not flexible. Otherwise, make sure that you edit so that the voice is unified and the language is cohesive and consistent.

It is important to be careful with any work that you do when you are not feeling your best. I know for a fact that I make numerous typographical errors when I am sleepy or under the weather. Double check to make sure your work is clean or, better yet, have an editor look at it. It is better to be safe than sorry.

My final piece of advice is to take good care of your health. Do what you can to prevent sickness. If you do get sick, make it a priority to get better. At the same time, don’t let your service fall behind too much.

Can you make a living as a blogger?

I watched an interesting news report about blogging for a living and it made me think. How many people actually make a full-time living as a blogger? According to recent statistics, about 1.7 million people are profiting from their blogs. Less than half a million of these bloggers call it their main income source. (according to WSJ) Many of those who profit from their blogs are earning money from ad revenue, while others are paid per post or per word or per hour. How likely is it that the average person can earn a decent living from blogs alone?

I suppose it is possible if you are a prolific creative writer who knows how to market well. I doubt that you can make a living with only one blog, however. From the freelance writer’s perspective, I would say one can earn a humble living running three to five blogs for different companies/people/websites. How you charge for your blog posts makes a difference as well. Getting paid per word can make a significant impact on your bottom line as opposed to getting paid per post (again depending on what you charge).

Back in December of 2008, Problogger posted an article about earning money blogging that explained that blogging not not a quick way to get wealthy or earn a serious living. It is not easy, it takes a great deal of work and time to get to the point where you can earn a full time income, let alone a significantly above average income like $100,000 a year. According to the survey on this article, a little over half of participants earn less than $100 a month blogging.

If you are looking to make money in a quick and easy way, blogging (and freelance writing) are not for you. It is possible, however to make a profit from blogging as a supplement to other income streams. If you use your blog as a means of advertising, and you create other products related to your blog (like ebooks) you can certainly drive traffic to your sales websites and gain more web presence with your blog. You can also write paid ads on your blog for money.

So, can you make a living as a blogger? It is possible, but unlikely.

Daily Freelance Writing Tips Coming Soon…

Welcome to my Daily Freelance Writing Tips. It is my goal to share my knowledge and inform other freelance writers, and aspiring freelance writers, about the business. I am passionate about my freelance writing career, and I love to teach and help others. While I have not yet learned all there is to know about the freelance writing career (who has, anyway?) it is my hope to pass along the tips that I have personally learned while being in the business, and spreading the knowledge that I have learned from other successful writers.

Whether it is based on my first-hand experience, research or other experts in the field, you will always find valuable information on this blog. Freelance writing is a special career, and I hope that whether you are just embarking on the journey or have been at it for years, you will learn something new.

Feel free to offer suggestions or ask questions on anything related to freelance writing. If I don’t know it off-hand, I will find out and let you know. You can contact me through my main website at http://www.freelancebychesley.com

Thanks so much for visiting, and here’s to your freelance success!

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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