10 Ways to Become a Writer (That Gets Paid)

If you’re looking to transition your love of writing from hobby to vocation, keep reading – this post is just for you.

1. Own Your Talent – You are a writer. No matter how listless and gray your cubicle is, or how many people tell you “that would never work”, your passion is the fuel that will drive your career. Whenever you are in doubt, say to yourself (out loud if possible) “I am a talented writer and am in the process of building my successful career.”

Action: Check out The Secret for an emotional jump start.

2. Pick a Niche – Trying to be everything to everyone makes you nothing to nobody. Instead of trying to be a Jill-of-all-trades, pick a passion and write about that. Do you want to be a travel writer? a food critic? a copywriter? a fashion writer? a business writer? a sports writer? Owning a niche also helps others connect you with employers more easily.

Action: Start a blog about something you’re passionate about and use it as part of your portfolio.

3. Will Write for __________. While I am not necessarily an advocate for giving your writing away (see below for pro bono work), writing for barter is an effective way to beef up your portfolio without feeling like you’ve sold out your talent. When I first started, I bartered with a nutritionist, a life coach and a couple other services so that I could get my career off the ground. (Disclaimer: there are specific tax implications for working on barter and I would suggest discussing them with your accountant.)

Action: Write a list of services that you’d use given the opportunity. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know when an opportunity will come your way.

4. Pack Your Portfolio. As a writer, your portfolio is one of the most important tools of your trade. Pack it with your best work, testimonials from clients and visuals. Organize it based on category. For example, mine is a red, leather-bound three ring binder (office store under $15) with tabs labeled: Testimonials, Direct Mail, Web Copy, Press Releases, Fliers, Advertisements, and Articles.

Action: Purchase a high quality portfolio and nice, heavy paper to print your writing.

5. A Testament to Testimonials. In addition to the testimonials in the front of my portfolio, I also have testimonials beside their respective project. It helps reinforce the success of a particular piece and is a major selling point for using my skills.

Action: Send out a request for testimonials to all of your clients. No clients? Try friends, teachers, or family.

6. Pro Bono Can Pay Off. Charities and non-profit organizations are constantly seeking volunteers. Offering your services to reputable organizations can help you make connections, bulk up your portfolio and give back to your community.

Action: Do a web search for organizations in your area. Contact two that you find interesting and inquire about opportunities to volunteer your writing.

7. Publish Yourself. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to market yourself. Capitalize on networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Lulu.com. Submit articles to aggregate sites like work.com or about.com. And most importantly, have a blog and website to make your portfolio searchable.

Action: Set up an online portfolio using a simple web tool such as Yahoo! or GoDaddy.com

8. Make Business Cards. You are a writer, right? Then lend yourself some credibility with professional business cards. And don’t skimp on the quality. Nice, heavy stock paper with a clean design is an investment well worth the effort.

Action: Go to http://www.vistaprints.com and order business cards with your new title.

9. Designers Are Your New Best Friends. Want to get lots of clients quickly? Attend a networking function for graphic designers with your new handy-dandy business cards. Clients often go straight to a designer when they need work – seldom do they seek out a writer. And designers usually hate writing and will be glad to refer the writing portion of the job to you.

Action: Find an area networking event geared to graphic designers. Attend, shake hands and make friends.

10. Stop Whining. Start Writing. Quit complaining that you could be something more. If you want to be a writer – write! Every day. No exceptions. Becoming a great writer takes hard work and dedication. Don’t waste your talent.

Action: Write something every day. No exceptions.

Related Links

A Few Words on Laziness and Responsibility by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Do You Call Yourself a Professional Writer? by Laura Spencer

How to Be a Professional Writer by L.C. Peterson

Becoming a Writer Seriously by Thomas Colvin

How Do You Become a Writer by Amanda Eyre Ward

A Fun Game Between the Superbowl Ads (And I’m Not Talking About Football)

Ok. I admit it. When it comes to sports, I could frankly care less. I didn’t even know who was playing in the “Big Game” until this afternoon (sad, I know).

But I still get super jazzed around this time of year…for the commercials!

Last year, I created a survey (I know, I’m a dork…I get it) to poll the party I attended to find out what people thought of the ads. What started out as a tremendously nerdy exercise on my part ended up being the catalyst for some very interesting debates (Rodney, I’m not going to let you throw Frito’s at people you disagree with this year!)

If you’re like me, you may want to partake in the fun. Here’s the list I came up with last year. Take this list to your party and let me know what you and your friends think by posting a comment below. Additional categories welcome. 🙂

  • Best Use of a Celebrity
  • Most Controversial
  • Most Effective
  • Best New Product/Service/Idea
  • Funniest
  • Best Tagline
  • Biggest Waste of Money
  • Most Likely to Be Blogged About/Talked About Around the Water Cooler

Or, you can skip the whole “fooseball” thing all together and just attend an “Adbowl” like the one hosted by the Richmond Chapter of the American Marketing Association 

Either way, have a safe and fun Superbowl Sunday!

Brainstorming vs. Editing

So I have the green light to continue with the blogging (you may notice the lovely disclaimer under my picture, just to be on the safe side). Horray! Let the blogging continue.

Here’s a thought…

How should you respond to someone who says “OMG – We could (insert crazy idea here).”

a) “That would never work.”

b) “Maybe, but we’d have to do a lot of things to make it work.”

c) “What a great idea! We could also (insert a different crazy idea here).”

The correct answer is c.

There are two parts to creation – brainstorming and editing. You brainstorm first and edit later.

In brainstorming mode, rules do not apply. You have an unlimited budget, no legal problems, and zero logistical hurdles. The goal is to purge the crazy and wacky ideas from your brain and get them down on paper. The sky’s the limit – dream big!

Then….much later…..

You edit. You look at your crazy ideas and say “This is a great idea, how can we make it work in the real world?” You’d be surprised how achievable many of those crazy ideas actually are. Don’t kill them – incubate them!

A Potential Adieu

cat-out-of-the-bag-2.jpgWell, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. I’ve accepted a position as a Senior Copywriter for a large Fortune  500 company and I’m super stoked about this opportunity.

See, landing a job as a full-time copywriter is sort of like a singer who makes it to Broadway. There are simply too few organizations who can afford a full-time position that most of us end up freelancing to make the best of it. I’ve certainly enjoyed freelancing and I’m looking forward to working with and learning from a team of top talent.

So….the question remains. What am I to do with my blog? I won’t have the time to dedicate like I did when I was freelancing. Yet, my readership is decent and I don’t want to disappoint. I’m considering continuing to post once a week or so as long as I have people who are getting value out of what I have to say. Like I said in my bio – I don’t want to be blogging just to hear myself type.

So, please, let me know your thoughts. What do you enjoy reading the most and how can I continue to serve you through this blog? Leave your answer in the comments below.  🙂

To your success,

Andrea

Does a Mac Make You More Creative?

mac-haircut.jpg
The other day I was typing away at a local coffee shop when a stranger approached me and asked me what I did for a living. When I responded, “I’m a writer,” he furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “But you don’t have a mac,” he replied with sincere disbelief. “How can you be a ‘creative’ and use a PC?”

Simple. I’m a writer and I need one program – Word. That’s it. No fancy schmancy programs like graphic designers need. When I first went out on my own and needed a computer I looked at several different options. At the time, my PC was about a third of the price of a mac – which is quite a difference when your operating capital is hovering around $12.

I’ve known some apple-heads that won’t buy anything unless it’s been blessed by Steve Jobs. However, using a PC does not make me any less of a ‘creative’ than these zealots. A computer is a tool and it’s only as powerful as the mind behind it.

I’m sure I’ll get some comments about how I’m wrong and apples are the best thing since the invention of the wheel, but I’m still not convinced. In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch mac commercials as a part of my daily entertainment. 🙂

Related Links

The Cult of Mac Jr

A Video of a Guy Who REALLY Hates Macs

A Blog about Why Macs are the Best Choice

Update: I wrote this post before I took the new job. As my sister-in-law pointed out in her comment, my new job requires me to work on a mac. Oh, the irony.

Humble Thoughts On Blogs, Social Networks, and other New Media Stuff

Last week Geoff Livingston and I participated in Smart Business Ideas(TM) Magazine’s Ready, Set, Grow event where the topic focused around blogs. Since our presentation I’ve been receiving e-mails from those in attendance regarding my opinion on social media. So here it is – humbly submitted, of course.

Who should blog?
Blogging is not for everyone. Keep in mind that although the operating costs are minimal, you still have to invest a significant amount of time to research, write and promote a blog. In my opinion, here are the three things you must have to start a blog:

1. Passion for a subject – I’m passionate about marketing. I could talk about this stuff all day long. To me, it’s easy to find stuff to write about because marketing is a topic to which I naturally gravitate. And you can tell just from reading my blog that this is really my life. My personality comes through because I’m passionate. Now, if I were to write a blog about, say, accounting (not a subject where I naturally gravitate) because someone said I “should” it wouldn’t have nearly the same effect because every time I would sit down to write a post I would hate it. Inevitably (if I had a blog about a subject I wasn’t passionate about) I would try to take shortcuts by reading and repeating what everyone else is saying without interjecting my own thoughts. At that point I would simply be regurgitating instead of contributing positively to a conversation.

2. Time – While the actual overhead expenses of maintaining a blog are (generally) low or no cost, you can’t forget about the time it takes to maintain a blog. Keep in mind there is more to blogging than simply sitting down to write.

A. Research – Reading related blogs so you know what’s going on around you takes time.

B. Writing – Hashing out your idea into a cohesive thought takes time.

C. Editing – Revising your cohesive thought so you don’t sound like a bumbling idiot takes time.

D. Analyzing – Checking your stats, referrals, and understanding what your readers like takes time.

E. Promoting – Registering at Technorati, putting widgets, continually adding to your blogroll, responding to comments and the thousands of other ways you can promote your blog takes time.

If you blog once a week, plan on investing at least 5 hours a week (especially in the beginning when you are getting everything set up) to produce a quality blog. For each additional post per week – add 2 hours. (Oh, and for those people who tell you they crank out a post in 10 minutes – I don’t buy it. Quality writing takes quality time.)

3. Dedication – I really liked how Geoff put it in his presentation last week – “Bloggers must be sharks. Not in the sense that they are aggressive – but in the sense that if they stop swimming, they die. Blogs where the author stops posting die.” With that in mind, you must commit to posting on a regular schedule. Yes, it’s tough – but it’s the way it is.

Facebook vs. Myspace vs. LinkedIn
Social networks are popping up everywhere. Yes, they can be amazing business tools. But they’re kind of like address books – they’re only as useful as the information in it. My advice? Don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick one and go deep. Don’t bother with other ones until you’ve mastered the first. If you’re new at all this, I personally think LinkedIn is designed to be the most effective in a business setting (and is the most intuitive to set up in my opinion). Myspace is more personal. Facebook is a little bit of both.

Widgets, Twitter, Second Life & Other Randoms
This July at the New Media Nouveaux Conference, speaker Brian Williams mentioned how learning about all this new Web 2.0 stuff is like “drinking from a fire hose.” And it’s an accurate description. It can be overwhelming, especially when you feel pressured to participate in every single type of tool available. Here’s how I see it – there are enough new tools out there to keep you busy for 27 lifetimes. So, if the premise of the strategy doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t feel like you “have to” participate. I don’t use Twitter or Second Life because at this point in time, it isn’t a good return on my time investment. As I said before – it’s more effective to go deep into one tool instead of spreading yourself thinly across many.

I know my opinions are more down-to-earth than most – but hey, it’s what I think. What about you?

Ditch the Pitch

phone.jpgWhen I was 16 my dad gave me a gift. Our neighbor had just opened an insurance office down the street and my father got me a job as a telemarketer. Granted, I wanted a new car. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the thought of calling people during dinner to solicit auto insurance quotes. But as I look back, this part-time job shaped my entire career. It’s where I learned that if I wanted to be successful in sales, I needed to ditch the pitch.

My first day of work our neighbor sat me down at my desk, gave me a stack of cards filled with names, addresses & phone numbers, showed me how to dial 9 for an outside line and gave me a pink piece of paper with “the pitch.” My job was simple. Call people and get them to agree to getting an auto insurance quote.

The “pitch” proved to be worthless. This sorry excuse for a script was probably written by some sort of insurance monkey at the corporate office who didn’t know a lick about sales. Here were my first 30 calls:

Andrea: Hi, Mrs. So-and-so. My name is Andrea from Blah Blah Blah Insurance Company.

Mrs. So-and-So: <hang up expediently>

or

Andrea: Hi, Mr. Someone. My name is Andrea from Blah Blah Blah Insurance Company.

Mr. Someone: Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? <hang up>

Andrea: (mumbling under breath so her new boss doesn’t hear) Of course I do. I’m sixteen and could be out partying with my friends.

People don’t want to talk to insurance agents. I was seen as a big fat waste of time. So I decided to try things my own way.

I tried all sorts of things, like:

  • Talking in a (very fake, but I tried so hard) British accent

and

  • Being blunt by saying “Hi, I know I probably just interrupted your dinner and I’m sorry. I’m just doing my job. would you like an auto insurance quote?”

After all sorts of trials and errors, I stumbled upon a method that actually worked.

First a little back story; I grew up in Ashland, VA which is a town so small we actually had a town song that we would all get together and sing at the town talent show each spring (true story). Think “The Music Man” meets “Leave it to Beaver” and you’re close.

So being from a small town I noticed that I personally knew half the people on the list – or at least their children.

I changed my sales pitch to something like this:

Andrea: Hi, Ms. Smith. This is Andrea – I go to school with your daughter Amy.

Ms. Smith: Hi, Andrea. How are you?

Andrea: I’m doing great. How about yourself?

Ms. Smith: Pretty well, thanks. Did you want to talk to Amy?

Andrea: Actually, I was calling to talk to you. See, I have a new job working at Blah Blah Blah Insurance Company. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m just collecting information so we can send you a quote, followed up by a nice hand-written thank you card and then you can decide if you want to do anything with it.

Ms. Smith: (slightly taken aback) Oh. (usually a pause) How long will it take me to fill out?

Andrea: About 3 minutes.

Ms. Smith: Well, OK. Go ahead.

Yep, it was that simple. Eventually I outsold everyone in the office (and made darn good money).

So why did this method work when everything else failed?

  1. Establishing a personal connection. Once it’s established that you and your prospect have something in common – it takes your chances of closing to a whole new level.
  2. Removing the pressure. No one wants to be “sold.” When is the last time you went to a sketchy used car lot seeking the thrill of being pressured into something you don’t want to buy? Saying “you can decide what you do with it” signaled to my prospects that I respected their time and wasn’t going to pressure them into something they didn’t want.
  3. Cutting ties quickly. Occasionally I’d get the “No, thank you.” My reply was always, “Thanks for your time. Have a great day.” The way I saw it, it was much easier to dial more numbers than it was to convince someone that they really did want a quote. In the end, if a customer is sold because of pressure, the likelihood of them being a loyal customer is greatly diminished.
  4. Sincerely believing in my product. Most of the people who stuck it out to get a quote ended up saving money. I thought this was a good thing, so I felt like I was providing a great value. Later in life, I sold advertising in a low-quality and very expensive print publication. I knew the ads were a bad investment and learned quickly that you can’t “fake” belief in your product. And if you don’t believe in it – you can’t sell it.