writing aids

Why Freelancers Charge so Much

When writers decide to go freelance, they sometimes compare their hourly pay for freelance work with the hourly rate they made at their former job.

This is like selling your HVAC system at cost.  First, you don't make money.  Second, you lose money because you still have overhead.

Writers have overhead, too.  They have to consider home office costs, health insurance, retirement plan and other costs.

Sometimes you think writers are charging too much per hour of writing.    It's not just the time it takes to write, it's also the years and years of experience.  The hours spent learning, honing, and mastering the craft.  Many of those were done without any kind of pay.

In the same way, your hourly rate take into account your skill level, your professionalism, and the experience you have.  When you know you do excellent work and satisfy your customers, you feel confident charging your hourly rate.

What is wonderful about this world is that we can each work to our best skill levels.   I promise I will never try to fix my heater or air conditioner.  I'll leave that to the experts.

And you may decide it's not worth your time to write your brochures, web pages, or newsletters.  It's so much easier to leave it to the experts and focus on what you do best.

 

 

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Understand Your Customers without Talking to Them

I came across this powerful video of Jay Abraham.  Here he clearly explains how to use Amazon and their mass of data to focus and improve your copy.  If you want to connect with your customers the best way is to talk to them and see what they want and need.  If you can't do that.  Here's another option.

Listen and learn.  It's insightful information.

When you read the headlines, sub-heads and editorial copy you may find words or phrases the resonate with you and your reader.

You can create a Customer Profile Using Amazon Customer Reviews

  1. Find a book your audience is reading
  2. Go to the customer reviews
  3. Study their comments
  4.  Note their likes and dislikes
  5. Use those comments to sketch a customer profile
  6. Use the comments to make sure your copy addresses the things your product will do for them (based on positive reviews) and the things I'll eliminate for you (based on the negative reviews.)

As you do this, you understand your customer, you think like them and you use their voice.

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The ONE Essential skill for Success

One skill that will help you dominate your market

Sometimes writers or writer-wannabees think Great Talent is essential for success.  They believe one must be born with an innate gift with words.  These blessed writers succeed.  If you’re not so gifted…. Stinks for you.

Like genius, talent is rarely all it’s touted to be.  Unless it’s combined with other skills, it can be more of a detriment than a blessing.

Educators say that you can be trained to write.  I agree.  There are rules of successful writing and if you follow those rules and practice, you can certainly become a skilled craftsman with words.

But that alone, will not bring you success.

I’m convinced the essential skill necessary for success in writing—as well as many other endeavors—is persistence.   Stick-to-it.  Gritty determination to stay with the project until it’s mastered.

That doesn’t sound nearly so pleasing as, “Oh, what a talented author!”  Or “The words flowed so skillfully!”  But the truth is: behind that talent and skill lies a whale of a lot of practice, training, and persistence.

It takes persistence to get up and write day after day.  Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outlier, says it takes 10,000 hours to master something.  Ten thousand hours.

If the average person works 40 hours a week… and that’s WORKING at mastering a skill… he or she will have put in 2080 hours at the end of the year.  Not coffee breaks, not checking emails—working.

If you put in 20 productive hours a week, in 10 years you will have mastered the skill.  Um.  And that’s the skill of writing.

Then you have to market.  The most exciting piece of writing will not find a broad audience without marketing.  Who will buy your masterpiece?

Thus, you enter another apprenticeship to gain skills in query letter writing, cover letter writing, finding agents, or publishers, learning how to self publish, finding businesses looking for copywriting…. And so on.

I don’t mean to be doom and gloom.  Writers do write good stuff.  They find places to sell it.  And some do it in MUCH LESS than 10 years.

But the pathway to writing for income is littered with souls who had talent and training… but could not stay the course.  They lacked persistence.

You can find persistence in several ways:

1. Don’t expect instant success.  Cut yourself some slack.  Give it time.

2. Believe in yourself and your work.  Believe that as you keep writing, you are gaining skills that will put you head and shoulders above the competition.

3. Find a support group that will be your kindly critic and exuberant cheering section.

4. Redefine success.  Make it producing work, practicing craft, researching, instead of selling. (At least until you have your 10,000 hours in.)

5. Know, know, KNOW that if you just keep writing and improving, Success WILL Come!

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AWAI—Amazing writing opportunities

Writers serious about making money: Pay Attention.  Businesses need writers… and they pay… sometimes VERY WELL!

I talked last blog about AWAI and its introductory course Six Figure Copywriting in my blog AWAI: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

Today I want to share with you the vast resources AWAI has.  I wish I’d known this when I first started learning from them.   I don’t KNOW that they keep it a secret… But I also didn't know where to look.

Delve into the AWAI catalogue.  I signed up as an affiliate with AWAI because I thought their courses would benefit my readers.  But I was blown away at all the choices I had.

 WHAT TO CHOOSE?

If you’re like me, you think:  I could do that!  Or I’d like to try that!  And if you’re not careful, you can end up over your head in classes, courses or commitments.

So I’d encourage you to go to the AWAI catalogue page and scroll down through all the choices.  I had a friend who took The Pro Resume Writer Program.  She wanted to be able to help people in this down economy.  The teaching must be excellent, because Johanna has gotten rave reviews from her clients. Check them out at http://perfectresumeservice.com/

There are many classes for those who want to write web copy. Try Copywriting 2.0: Your Complete Guide to Writing Web Copy that Converts

Or if you want to master Search Engine Optimization (SEO) take a look at the SEO Copywriting Certificate Program.  If you love Facebook and other social media—earn money with Become  a Social Media Expert.

They have courses for those wanting to specialize in niches such as the financial, health, catalogue or Christian markets.  You can become a publicist or a speech writer or a researcher.

Are you starting to get a feel for all the opportunities for writers to earn good money out there?

 SERIOUS ABOUT MONEY?

I have been inclined toward the info-marketing course and the business to business (B2B) courses because of the sheer volume of writing needed in those areas.  There are so many clients and businesses needing good copy.

Consider Secrets of Writing High Performance B2B Copy or Writing Case Studies: How to Make a Great Living by Helping Clients Tell Their Stories.

After you take the copywriting course, you’ll look at websites and products and say. Pfff.  I could do better than that.   Or Gee, this writing really needs some improvement.

Now, if you’re inclined to exercise a bit of tact, you really can approach those businesses with an offer to give their writing the power that will attract more paying customers.  Tact is essential.

The person you speak to … may have been the one writing the copy.

So spend some time looking at the vast array of writing opportunities.  If you have skill with writing, you might be able to save a little and start writing for these markets on your own.

Even with the AWAI assistance the money will not just fall into your lap.  People won’t come begging for your services.  You will still need to promote yourself.

But.  If you learn through an AWAI course, you will gain the confidence and skill necessary to go out into the market place and say, “Hey!  I can write!  And I’m good!!” And, of course, modest and tactful, too.

So check out the AWAI catalogue.  Choose one or two of the areas you’d like to explore… and delve in deeper.   They actually have a program that allows you access to ALL the courses.

But since you can’t read them all at once… I suggest you start with one at a time.

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AWAI Review: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

After writing for a number of years, the publishing scene changed.  The internet and e-publishing reshaped the way books and literature come before the public.  No longer are publishing houses gate keepers… On the other hand, the quality of material is more varied while the quantity is unquestionably more massive.

I decided to check out the writing possibilities in copywriting. You can find many books on the subject.  Bob Bly has some good ones out.  I decided to go with AWAI—American Writers and Artists Institute—and enroll in their Michael Masterson’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. I had seen a copy of his program several years ago and been impressed with its thoroughness.

AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting
Six Figure Copywriting

 Here’s the good:

  •  The course is directed to the novice and takes baby-steps to get you to a professional level.
  •   Part1 throws a whole lot of material at you, but the next sections take each aspect of the copywriting skills and break them down into manageable chunks.  If you follow the program step-by-step, at the end, you have a polished sales piece.
  •  They cover, IN DETAIL, the skills needed to write selling copy.
  •  They are very encouraging.  You have a cheering section within each chapter.
  • You join the AWAI members area with a forum for support and with daily emails giving you more information on the writing life, the tips, skills, methods, and goals of copywriters.
  •  You get up to 4 editorial reviews on copywriting you produce and turn in.  This is extremely valuable and something you just can’t get from a book!
  • Y0u are exposed to the wide field of copywriting
  •  AWAI posts a jobs section where you can search for jobs in your area.
  •  You learn how writing sales copy differs from other kinds of writing.

The Bad:

  • You are immediately sold to!  Every email is encouragement to sign up for another course.  Every email says… well, maybe you don’t know enough, if you REALLY want to make big bucks, sign up for this… and this… and this.
  •   Jobs will not just fall into your lap. (Well, okay, so I was excited enough to talk about my copywriting… and leads did come easily.)  But no one walked up to me and said, “Please write for me and I’ll pay you 6 figures.”

 The Ugly:

Here’s what I wish I had known:

Michael Masterson’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting is excellent and outstanding at teaching you how to write sales copy—most especially direct mail.  If you want to write letters to people explaining the desirability of a product and driving clients to want to buy what you offer—this is the course you need… and you CAN make big bucks doing it.

I am more attracted to persuasive writing—soft selling, encouraging.  The copy writing field is WIDE OPEN!  There are massive areas for making money!  You can do search engine optimization (SEO), writing white papers, e-books, reports, newsletters, online copy that’s simply informational, blogging, speeches—the list is mind boggling.

You can choose your niche according to format: Online or print.  You can pick whether you want to write to the consumer or business to business.  And most important, you can choose your niche according to  field, career or hobby.

For example you might decide to write in a specific field: finance, health, food, automotive.  And to specific consumers: dentists, attorneys, realtors.  And to people who enjoy a hobby: hiking, golf, travel, antique cars, quilting.  And the highest paid copywriters may narrow their fields down further: financial planning for dentists, travel for realtors, or attorneys who specialize in dental legalities.

This kind of niche marketing makes Masterson’s program a stepping stone.  Yes, you need AWAI’s Six Figure Copywriting course as an introduction.  (This is an affiliate link.) You need to understand the structure of a “sales letter,” what motivates people to want to buy, headlines that capture attention, why guarantees are important-- even if it appears as copy on a web page.

But most likely, as you progress, you’re going to want to choose a niche that appeals to you and focus on that.  Then you will need additional courses or books.

In the next few emails, we’ll cover some of the other courses they offer and why you might… or might not… want to take them.

In the mean time... take a look at Six Figure Copywriting and decide if it's for you.

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Keep your options open

My military husband moved our family to Okinawa early in my writing career.  It was a great move for writing! I was finishing up a middle grade novel and planning my next fiction.  And there were so many new ideas, places, stories, and events to explore.

I found US children’s magazine hungry for authentic foreign stories.  One of my early articles was on Japanese Girl’s Day (Hopscotch Aug/Sep 1998).  I saw a fantastic photo I wanted to use for my article on the front cover of Okinawa Today so I called the magazine to see if I could connect with the photographer.  When we met and talked, he asked if I’d be interested in writing for Okinawa Today.

I had thought of myself as a children’s writer.  I wanted to write fiction… did I want to write for adults and nonfiction?  I know you’re thinking, Duh!  Jump on the opportunity!  And in that way, you’re smarter than I was.  I did agree, but it took a little thinking.

It turned out to be a great decision!  It was fantastic practice writing LOTS of beginnings, middles, and ends.  Nonfiction has a story arc of its own.  And my writing skills increased with the practice and the variety.

Matsui-san would say, “Go make nice story about dam.”  Oh really?  You see in Okinawan culture, there were lots of exchanges of favors.  If Matsui-san’s magazine had a nice article about someone, then, somewhere down the line, something good would come her way. So my challenge was to write something that would please the publisher AND be of interest to my English speaking audience.  One of those interesting facts was that 90% of our drinking water came from the dams that collected rainwater… and if it didn’t rain for 6 weeks… we were likely to be on water rationing.

I learned about the bushido way of doing business that exists today, of gorgeous hikes to waterfalls, ruins of castles, and of high class resorts. I was to write about each in such glowing terms my readers would jump at the chance to go there.  And it was easy to do.  They were fun, exciting, interesting, and inviting.

Writing for Okinawa Today started my love of interviewing people and sharing what I learned with readers. I loved unscrambling the complex and making it understandable. In all ways it broadened my writing and my career choices in writing.

So, when you are faced with new choices—with a writing career path that might not be like the one you envisioned… take a chance.  Risk.  Try it on for size.  And see what you can learn from that experience.  Likely, there will be times it stinks.  But more often, you’ll look back and say, “Duh!  That should have been a no-brainer.  This was a GREAT experience!”

If you’ve had a time when you tried a new writing path- will you share with us how it went for you?

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Writer’s Digest Magazine

I wrote stories as a kid… none of them brilliant….and I was an avid reader.  I loved words.  The nuances, the shades of meanings, the coloring of a topic by the way it was addressed.  I loved how you could influence people’s thoughts and decisions and feelings by the kinds of words and the phrases.  People could create worlds… and escape to those worlds… and even invite others to come along.   I discovered  amazing facts—coral reef fish, how to make cardboard boats, mysteries of the Aztecs, or what courses to take to become a radiologist—by the connection of words in nonfiction.

And I thought I want to DO THAT!

So I studied what it took to be a writer.  First I subscribed to Writer’s Digest Magazine.  I have to tell you, it was a good step.  I felt like I’d joined a community of like minded people.  Instead of people saying, “You can’t make money doing that.”  I saw evidence of people who did!  And those people were kind enough to take me by the hand and say, “If you do this, you can become successful, too.”

What I liked about Writer’s Digest, was its blend of topics.  I found how-to articles and articles about successful writers.  They exposed me to different genre.  I’d try on each genre.  Did I want to write mystery?  Romance? SciFi? Biographies? Did I want to write books?  Magazine stories or articles?  What age did I want to write for?  Ohhh.  The possibilities were so exciting!  And the articles encouraged.  Try it.  Take a risk.  Rewrite.  Polish again.  You can do it.

At my solitary desk, I had friends whispering from the pages of Writer’s Digest.  And because of the confidence and skills I got from them, I did submit.  And I sold my first piece under their tutelage.  I continued to subscribe as I began to publish more.  And to this day, I have faded, yellowed pages ripped from the magazine that hold treasured bits of information I refer back to.

There are a variety of writing magazines out there.  But if you’re starting out, I’d recommend Writer’s Digest Magazine as your first go-to magazine.

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How to Get Happily Published

You've had that perfect story dancing in your head.   Or that powerful how-to you're sure will make you millions.  Now, you're ready to go for the gusto.  I want to recommend one of my favorite books.  It's sensible, thorough, and packed with information.  I know, I've made it sound pedantic.  But actually, it's a good read.  It's especially good if you really want to check out your manuscript and see if it's truly ready for publication.  Then it helps you navigate the publishing field-- chose a house, write a query letter, send it in proper format, and in total-- look like a professional write while you do it.

Writing for publication is much different than simply writing... or writing for your (or your family's) enjoyment.  There are treasured places for that kind of writing, however writing for publication requires you consider the audience: first of the editor and the house he or she represents, and second the audience of the publisher.  You must take into account their goals, wants, and needs and make sure your writing exceeds those goals.  Published writers understand and love those readers.  They charm and delight them.   They speak with a voice so unique it can't be dismissed.  Judith Appelbaum, author of How to Get Happily Published, helps you review your manuscript with an eye to these ultimate readers.

Once you've determined your audience and insured you will, indeed, charm them, it's time to connect. It's SO important to make a good first impression.  You only have one chance.  How to Get Happily Published helps you make that good first impression.  Judith walks you through the steps of a proper introduction.  She guides you through the formatting process so your manuscript looks polished.  She covers different publishing options so you can be confident you are choosing the best one for you and for the material you are presenting.  You will feel like you've got a friend with you during this sometimes daunting process.  I encourage you to get to know her.

Judith Appelbaum has extensive experience in nearly all phases of the publishing industry.  She's spent many years asboth editor and author. You can check out more about her and her helps at: http://www.happilypublished.com/  (Affiliate link.)

 

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