Writer’s Log #16: The Waiting Game

By Joe Dyton

This weekend, I spent a lot of time marketing my freelance writing services with the new LOI I created earlier this week. I’ve sent it out to 40 different publications and companies over the past few days. Unfortunately, most of these were sent out during the weekend, so it won’t be until Monday morning until they’re seen and I’ll find out if they’re any more effective than my old one. Maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I have a good feeling the response rate is going to improve. The fact that the revised LOI touches on what I can do for a company should be better-received than an email that just states what I’ve done in the past. That’s what I keep telling myself at least!

I started sending out my new letter to various companies I searched via Google; mostly communications and marketing firms. The last two days though, I reached out to companies I saw listed on MediaBistro. My hope when I hit up companies with listings on job boards is that they could use a part-time/freelance writer like myself to help plug a hole until they find a full-time replacement.

One problem I run into when I reach out to companies though is not all of them have staff contact information on their websites. When that happens, I’m stuck sending my LOI and resume to “info@”, “careers@”, “hr@”, etc., and cross my fingers it gets forwarded to someone who will review it. So, that’s the question I’d like to pose to you, the readers. Have you had success submitting an LOI into the abyss that an “info@” email address presents? If you go to company’s website, and there isn’t an email address to an actual person there, do you call them rather than email? Sound off in the comments section!

The Links:

Carol Tice tells how she wrote a $2,000 freelance article in one week.

Emily Suess offers great advice on how to build your freelance writing career.

Johanna Payton and Olivia Gordon will show you how to build a successful freelance writing business with their journalism course.

Rachel Gall has advice to help you get over those freelance jitters.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dyton@wande@gmail.com.


Writer’s Log #15: Changing It Up

By Joe Dyton

“Insanity: doing the same over and over again and expecting different results.”–Albert Einstein

I thought about Einstein’s quote recently. I have been reaching out to companies and publications looking for freelance work since the start of 2014. Over the last six weeks, I’ve sent out the same letter of introduction along with my resume. I haven’t landed any clients with that letter; just a few “We’ll keep your info on file” or “We don’t use freelancers” type of responses. And unfortunately, a lot of non-responses. Those are the worst. 

After all of this time with no results, I thought it might be time to change things up a bit. I looked at my current LOI, and realized it was just asking companies if they were looking for freelancers and then listing my experience. I didn’t spell out what I could do for a company if it hired me. So, I went back to the drawing board. I kept my intro about the same, but rather than just list what I’ve done, I listed what I could do for my potential clients. I kicked myself for not thinking of this sooner. I mean part of my day job is writing direct mail letters, which mostly explains how a product will benefit the reader. That’s exactly how my LOI reads now.

I don’t know if the new letter will trigger more responses, but it’s worth a shot. It would have been insane to keep sending out the same letter and expecting a different result. At least according to Einstein.

The Links:

Angela Booth lists four things you can do to increase your freelance writing income.

Jennifer Mattern presents 20 things you can do to market your freelance writing services.

Heather Llyod-Martin offers suggestions for anyone who has ever thought about closing down their freelance writing business.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders explains how to delegate when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.


Writer’s Log #14: Month in Review

By Joe Dyton

Well, today is the final day of January so I just wanted to do a state of union-type post. To be honest, January wasn’t so great in terms building my writing business. I landed zero new clients; I know my goal was to get at least one new client every two months so I have all of February to still get one, but I would have felt a lot better if someone had hired me. Unfortunately, I all I got were responses like, “We don’t have a need right now, but we’ll keep your info on file.” to flat out, “We don’t use freelance writers.” It was a frustrating month for sure. I almost gave up on all of this, but that’s what I’ve done in the past; go hard with my marketing, get nothing out of it and stop for awhile. I promised myself I wasn’t going to do that again. So, I read Jon Morrow’s inspiring open letter again and got back to work. I’m going to stick with this all year, even if I don’t land one new client.

I looked back at my marketing efforts from this month and realized I don’t have a right to be as frustrated as I am. I sent out about 60 resumes/letter of introduction. It felt like a lot, but it’s only about two a day. That’s not going to cut it if I want to get at least one client every two months. I’m thinking I need to reach out to at least five times as many companies, publications, organizations, etc. to increase my chances of getting work.

Like I said, it was a frustrating month but I’m going to keep at it. The Aspiring Freelancer blog isn’t going anywhere. I’d still love to get your feedback; what do you think is best way to search for clients? Is there a magic number when it comes to how many people you should be marketing to a day/week/month? Are there any indicators that it’s time for an aspiring freelance writer to throw in the towel?

Thanks for reading this month. I wrote about every other day in January, but I hope to increase that frequency next month and beyond. Have a great weekend!

The Links: 

Harleena Singh gives a step-by-step breakdown on how to get magazine writing jobs.

Jodee Redmond lists 17 places freelance writers can find magazine markets.

Sara Donaldson shares 10 things you should know before you turn freelance.

Allen Taylor explains how he found four freelance writing gigs from job ads.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance copywriter and journalist in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

Writer’s Log #13: Nice to Meet You

By Joe Dyton

Hello! It’s been a little over a week since my last post. I’ve been traveling and had a few deadlines to meet, but I am back to what I hope will be a regular writing schedule. 

Over the past week, I’ve been hard at work looking for new writing clients. I’ve gotten some responses; they have varied from, “Thanks for the email, we’ll keep your information on file should the need arise” to “We don’t have a freelance budget right now.” It’s frustrating at times, but I know if I want to make a freelance writing career happen, I have to keep reaching out to companies, publications, etc.

As I’ve mentioned, along with looking for clients I have been reading up on how to expand my business, where to find clients, etc. One of my resources has been Shawndra Russell’s “How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days”. Last night, I explored Step #13 which is to join your local Chamber of Commerce. According to Russell, it’s a great way to make contacts and meet potential writing clients. You might even get a chance to write for the Chamber of Commerce itself.

Before I wrote a check to join, I wanted to see what it was all about. Luckily, my local Chamber held a happy hour for young professionals which it allowed me to attend. I’m glad that I went; I got to meet some interesting people from a wide range of professional backgrounds; water cooler sales, public strategy companies, medical centers, home renovations and more. If you’re looking for a way to meet potential clients outside of the usual email/phone/mail route; I recommend looking into your local Chamber of Commerce. If it holds networking events like mine does, you’ll be in a room full of people who work for businesses that could use a writer. A couple of people I met told me that their companies were a little shorthanded when it came to writers. My hope is I will be able to help them down the road.

I decided that I am going to join my local Chamber of Commerce. Here’s hoping it leads to some new business and friendships.

The Links:

Courtney Jones provides 5 do’s and don’ts for handling your copywriting client’s feedback.

No clips? Linda Formichelli has 6 ways to convince an editor to hire you anyway.

It’s Tax Time! John Soares offers up 8 ways to lower your 2013 freelance writer tax bill.

Tom Ewer explains how to make $150 or more per hour as a freelance blogger.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He may be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.


Writer’s Log #12: Back to the Writing Board

By Joe Dyton

During my the first semester of my freshman year of college, I took a English composition course. I wrote my first college paper in that class; I don’t remember what it was about, but I do remember I got a D, and my professor said I could rewrite it. That was almost 16 years ago, and I haven’t been asked to rewrite anything since.

Until this morning.

Last week, I wrote an article about how the product development process worked that was slated to appear in the U-T San Diego. This morning, I received an email from my editor letting me know the paper was asking for a rewrite. Before I go any further, let me just explain; I don’t deal with the U-T San Diego directly. One of my freelance gigs is writing for a company that is hired by papers like the U-T to provide content. My editor works for the company and is a liaison between the paper and me. So, she let me know that the paper wanted me to address some other issues that weren’t mentioned in my story. 

I’m not going to lie; I was ticked off when I read this email. I didn’t get much information about what my angle I should have taken. In fact here’s the info I did get when the story was assigned to me:

500-650 words

Product development is the process by which a company does one of two things: 1) creates an entirely new product that either adds to an existing product line or occupies an entirely new niche; 2) modifies or updates an existing product.

That was it. When my editor let me know the U-T wanted a rewrite; she included the kind of information it was looking for. I let her know  I’d reach out to my sources to get this info for them. I also had to let her know I wished the paper had given her this information the first time. If I had had it then, the rewrite would not have been necessary.

I didn’t stew on this too long because as much as I wanted to blame the paper for not letting me know what they were looking originally, I realized something; this was on me. I’m the writer, I should be asking for the information I need to write the story. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with the little bit of info I was given, but I tried to make a story out of it anyway. That was my mistake. I’ve been doing this too long to not ask follow-up questions and/or request more details.

So, that was the lesson I learned today, and I ask you not to make the same mistake. If you get an assignment and you’re not exactly sure what you’re client is asking for; speak up! Most clients will welcome a lot of questions up front; that will help minimize the amount of edits and changes later (most likely). Do you think the U-T San Diego is happy they have to wait for my rewritten article? Do you think I’m happy about having to rewrite this article? Everyone’s happier when things are done correctly the first time.

Yes, I’m bummed that I was asked to do a rewrite, but 16 years without one was a heck of a run.

The Links:

Bob Bly explains why cold calling may not be the best way to land copywriting clients.

Carol Tice says you should go for your freelance writing dream now.

Tom Crawford lists five ways freelance writers can generate repeat business.

Lyndsey Miles offers six tips to boost your freelance writing income.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He can be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

Writer’s Log #11: No Re-SPEC-t

By Joe Dyton

I made a decision today. 

I’m not longer going to write on spec, take “writing tests, etc. Well, at least not for free. As I mentioned recently, I applied for a writing gig with a website that wanted to me to write three (!) sample articles to see if I was a good fit. I wrote those articles, the site used them and I never heard back that site. Another one wanted me to write a 650 to 1,000 word article (unpaid) to see if I was a good fit; at first I was going to do it, but eventually declined. 

It wasn’t until Saturday that I started to think about giving up on writing on spec forever though. I spent part of my Friday night applying for writing gigs (exciting way to start the weekend, I know). I woke up on Saturday morning to see I had a response to one of my applications already. Wouldn’t you know the response was practically a word-for-word replica of the email I got the week prior that asked me for three (!) sample articles about things that were currently trending. Now, this was for a completely different company/site according to JournalismJobs.com, but they must be under the same umbrella. I mean everything was the same except who was sending the email and what the articles didn’t have to be about. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was tempted to send links to the three sample articles I had already written as a reply, but I thought that would have been a little petty.

Instead, I just decided that I just wasn’t going to this anymore. I have been writing for 15 years and have had articles published in newspapers and magazines. I have spent the last seven years as a marketing copywriter for one of the largest auto insurance companies in the country and have written content for several websites. I feel like my work speaks for itself and if it doesn’t show if I’d be a “good fit” for a company, then I guess I’ll have to find work elsewhere.

Will this decision cost me work down the road? Probably. But, I have to take a leap of faith that there will be plenty of magazines, websites and companies that will be willing to hire me based on what I’ve already written. I’m doing a lot to build a freelance writing business, and I just don’t know if I have the time to work on articles that I won’t get paid  for and/or will go unpublished.

Am I crazy for making this decision? Sound off in the comments section!

The Links:

Yuwanda Black suggests using postcards to market your freelance writing services.

Amber Adrian offers up five tips to make money freelance writing.

Jodee Redmond explains how to deal with difficult freelance writing clients.

Susan Johnston shows how you to tell if an online publication pays well.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC and co-host of The GD Podcast with Mike Grant and Joe Dyton. He can be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.

Writer’s Log #10: Reading is Fundamental

By Joe Dyton

Well, it’s been a few days since I’ve put up a post, so I thought I’d just do an overview of what I’ve been up to since my Hard Day’s Nights.

A lot of my quest to build my own writing business is spent marketing my services either through email, phone calls or snail mail. However, I’ve also spent a lot of time educating myself on what it takes to be a freelance writer. Over the last few months I’ve been reading The Freelancer’s Bible by Freelancers Union Sara Horowitz. This has been a great guide on all things freelance; how to look for clients, manage your business, get insurance, etc. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m also currently reading “How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days” by Shawndra Russell. This book has been good for teaching me new things about becoming a freelance writer, but also refreshing my memory on others.

The last couple of days, I finally cracked open Tom Ewer’s “Successful Freelance Writing Online”. I had downloaded a few months ago, but hadn’t gotten a chance to read it until now. I’m about halfway through and I like how Ewer not only explains how to find clients, but also how to write solid blog posts.

Trust me, there’s a reason I’m rattling off my reading list. As you may remember, I recently had to write three (!) trial articles for this freelance web writing job I applied for. My articles were due last Friday, and I haven’t heard back from them yet, so I have to assume I didn’t get the gig. Anyway, after I started to read Ewer’s book, I realized there were some ways I could have made those trial articles stand out a little bit more. I could have come up with catchier headlines and rather than writing in standard paragraph form, I could have done a “5 Things You Need To Know About…” format. These are things I know already, but sometimes reading them reinforces it.

The point of all this is I think it’s important to never stop learning about this craft. As we get more experienced and get more and more work, it’s easy to think we know it all. I’ve been writing since 1999 and I know there are still things I can learn. I know it’s cliche that a great way to become a better writer is to read, but it’s true. I was reminded of that this week.

The Links:

Horowitz presents The Freelancers Pyramid of Self-Acualization. What kind of freelancer are you?

David Geer explains how to approach each month to make more money writing.

Heather Lloyd-Martin offers 10 tips to keep you from writing for peanuts.

Kristen Fischer has four tips for wannabe freelance writers.

Joe Dyton (@dyton99) is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, DC. He can be reached at dytonwande@gmail.com.