Freelance for Beginners: Where to Start

This is the first in a series of posts on freelancing by Mazie Bishop. You can find future posts on Freelancing and read the rest of the series here.


One of the most daunting aspects about a freelance writing career is figuring out where to start. Upon searching this topic at the beginning of my journey, many freelancing professionals claimed that the best way to start is just to jump into it. After taking their advice and not doing the research that I originally wanted to do, I found that this method was not realistic whatsoever.

I found myself hunched over my laptop, scrolling the seemingly infinite list of freelance jobs and trying to submit my bids. I spent endless hours tweeting about my services and my experience as a writer and editor, but after almost a week of no responses, I knew that just jumping in wasn’t the right decision, and that I had to take a different approach.

So, if you’re looking to start a career in freelancing, here is my step-by-step guide on how to get started!

Step One: Do your research

Find out what kind of freelance you want to get into. Do you want to write fiction, non-fiction or maybe even reviews or news? Do you want to edit or transcribe? There are so many options for us because as writers we have a wide skill set; not only do we have the ability to write, but we also have the ability to edit and type fast!

Step Two: Pull together a writing resume

Now this isn’t going to be as structured as a normal employment resume. Instead of selling your skills as an employee, you are going to be selling your service as a writer. This resume is to include all levels of education, all non-institutional education that has contributed to you as a writer, and any and all writing experience. Your goal is to show people why they want you to work for them. They want to buy your skills, and you want them to come back to your service with all future projects.

Step Three: Find a secure venue

For your first couple of freelance gigs and beyond, it’s important to find a venue where you will will be securely and regularly paid for your services. You need to make sure that there are contracts and that there is someone watching your transaction to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Hopping on Twitter and finding a client that wants to work with you over email and PayPal is not the ideal first gig, but there are tons of other websites that make for a safe freelancing environment.

One example is Fiverr, which is a simple marketplace style website with tons of traffic. You create an account, build your profile and offer your services. The catch is that the base price for each gig is $5, so you want to consider this for how much you want to get paid in the end. On my profile, I have a very popular service that says I will proofread 2000 words for $5, but other people on the website sell their editing of 700 words for $5. There are so many options for gigs, from press releases to copywriting; all for $5 and the clients come to you! The best part is that you can create custom offers for customers that want larger projects done.

Step Four: Build client relationships

In my experience on Fiverr, most of my bigger projects have come from the same clients I had when I started. They liked my work and they came back. So I started thinking about ways to get more business from them. I started messaging them occasionally, asking them if they needed any work done for their books, websites, or projects and 9 times out of 10, they would say yes. Then I took the step to letting them know that they could refer their partners and friends to my service as well. This is all based on the workload you are interested in taking on. Sometimes it gets a little bit stressful, but it’s worth it in the end.

Step Five: Don’t get discouraged

If freelance is what you want to do, than you need to know that it’s not going to be easy from the get go. Even after these steps, I had a hard time with a few set backs. You just have to keep telling yourself that it will get better, business will pick up, and in a year from now, maybe even a month from now, you will have a successful freelance career as a writer. As long as you keep working for it.

In my next post, I’ll be clearing up any confusion you might have about what to charge for your services, how much is too much, and how to get your client to keep coming back! I hope this helps inspire you to try professional freelancing and I look forward to hearing any stories or experiences you have along the way! Feel free to leave any questions below and I will try my best to answer them for you!
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Mazie-BishopMazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Writing Stellar Product Descriptions: How To Write Back Cover Copy That Sells

product descriptionsNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

Product description, blurb, back cover copy. It doesn’t matter what you call the text that goes on the back of your book, inside the dust jacket, or on your website – that text is one of the most important things you’ll need to successfully sell your book.

Why is that? Think about what happens when you come across a book you’ve never heard of before. Sure the cover might draw you in, but what’s going to sell you on actually buying that book? The description.

In order to help you write the best possible product description, I want you to ask yourself this question: If you were at a bookstore and picked up your book, what would need to be on the back cover that would entice you to open up the book, flip through the pages, and buy it?

Here’s my list of elements for a successful blurb/product description:

  • Mention any pertinent awards or prestigious publications you’ve achieved as a writer.
  • Got any great reviews or accolades for the book that you can pull from? Stick the best possible quote or tagline on there.
  • The feel of the book should be conveyed through both the description AND cover.
  • For fiction: give a few sentences that describe the main plot points. Introduce your main character(s), your general storyline and the challenge/consequences that the character(s) is facing.
  • For non-fiction: note what the book is about and what it intends to do (answer a question, teach someone something, etc.).
  • The summary should make the genre evident. If the book is a sci-fi book, make sure the summary reads that way!
  • Engaging, vivid language.
  • Tone that is consistent with the book and the marketing language you’ve used so far (like in your launch).
  • Include a call-out to your ideal reader. Is this the perfect book for fantasy lovers? Great for people who enjoy a quick, lighthearted read?
  • Keep it relatively short and very digestible. Potential readers will often skim over this section. Make it skim-friendly with bold terms, italic quotes, headings, paragraph breaks, etc.

If you’re looking for some examples of great product descriptions for self-published books (particularly fiction), I’d recommend checking out books from David Wright, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant. For example, check out their product descriptions for Yesterday’s Gone and The Beam. When in doubt, browse through Amazon or Nook and see what you think works and what doesn’t for different books.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to do a couple different drafts/rewrites of your product description. Give it the time and attention it deserves. If you throw something together last minute, it will show – and your sales will likely reflect it.

You can always hire someone to write your copy, but unless one of your beta-readers or editors is a great copy writer, I’d suggest you write it yourself. After all, you know your book best!

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Any thoughts, suggestions, or questions about writing product descriptions? Let me know in the comments below!

#WriteFit Challenge – 4 Steps to Using Fitness to Fuel Your Writing Life

WriteFit Blog Title PictureBack when The Sprint Shack was first founded, a fun hashtag was floating around the Twitterverse: #WriteFit. With such a simple yet descriptive name, I immediately knew it’d catch on quick.

From there, I witnessed the very first beginnings of the #WriteFit challenge, which encompasses something every writer I know struggles to balance: the goals of sedentary writer life with the goals of a fit and healthy life. How can we be productive writers–something that requires hours of sitting, often with harmful posture and bright screens glaring against our straining eyes–while still maintaining good health? Poor habits for the sake of productivity aren’t sustainable–just ask the writer and cartoonist Howard Tayler, who had to get spinal surgery from too many hours of sitting at his desk.

Unfortunately, the challenge took place during an extremely busy month and I was unable to participate, but good news: the #WriteFit challenge is back, this time for a whopping three months instead of its usual one!

Here to talk to us more about the challenge are its founders, Jessi Esparza and Katie Siuta O’Shea.

Can you tell us the basics of the #WriteFit challenge for anyone who’s new to it? The what, where, and when?

#WriteFit combines writing plus fitness (hence the Write and the Fit) in a month-long challenge with a social twist. We’ve found that a fitness regimen really helps us stick to our writing goals. There’s something about exercising that helps us clear our minds and focus on getting words onto the page.

By setting goals, we take the first steps to actually meeting them, and by sharing those goals with the #WriteFit community we have people cheering us on and ensuring that we do.  Participants tweet, blog, or otherwise share their progress in word counts, number of steps, number of miles, minutes of yoga (however they’ve decided to keep track) and encourage other participants. You can do #WriteFit anytime, anywhere—it’s meant to be flexible to fit your lifestyle!

Each challenge typically lasts for a month, but right now we’re doing a few consecutive months. People can start at any time!

How do people interested in the challenge participate?

It’s easy! You set goals, achieve goals, share your progress, and support other participants in the challenge.

Set Your Goals: Set specific goals for yourself, such as writing 20-30 minutes every day (or 3x a week—whatever you choose!), paired with fitness goals, such as 30 minutes of exercise a day or reaching 10,000 steps a day. It doesn’t even have to be “writing” new words—some people are in the revising or querying stages and set their goals to spend time on those things.

Achieve Your Goals: This part’s simple—you actually sit down and write, and jump up and exercise (or visa versa–the timing’s not important)!

Share Your Goals: Use the hashtag #WriteFit on Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site to check in and share your progress with your friends and the other participants.

Support Each Other: Check the #WriteFit hashtag and tweet other participants encouragement. Favorite, retweet, friend – it’s easier to stay on target when you have a community around you. The more involved you are, the better your results will be. You can even schedule writing sprints (or real sprints!) with each other.

Why did you decide to start the #WriteFit challenge? What was your initial inspiration?

Jessi originally came up with the idea a) to make actual progress on her novel, b) to keep up with her other writing projects, and c) to counteract working a 40 hour desk job followed by coming home and sitting more.

Katie, who is way more social media savvy than Jessi, saw how much progress Jessi was making and decided that #WriteFit should be a legit thing. She posted on her blog and Twitter and invited others outside our small circle of friends to participate too.

What has participation been like in the last challenges?

We’ve done the challenge several times in the last two years and we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm. It really spread and took on a life of its own. Even when we weren’t specifically running a #WriteFit challenge month, we loved seeing that people were still making their own challenges, or keeping up with their goals.

After starting her YouTube channel, Katie O’Shea Books, Katie posted several official YouTube #WriteFit Challenges, and it has continued to grow from there.

From what I understand, there’s also a #ReadFit for non-writers and those who just want to read more! How does that work?

The same way as #WriteFit, except instead of writing goals, it’s reading goals. A lot of our friends who didn’t write but loved books wanted to join, so we created a hashtag for them too!

Will #WriteFit and #ReadFit be back in the future? Do you have a set schedule for future challenges, or are they as you have time?

Definitely! Our current challenge is going on through at least July. We don’t have a set schedule but typically we run at least two official challenges a year. Of course people can also continue to use the hashtag throughout the year.

Jessi Esparza is a writer, designer, and nerd of all tradesJessi Bio Picture, who loves cuddly animals, witty people and yummy food. You can find her on Twitter @jessimesparza or on her writing blog, jessiwritesthings.tumblr.com. She has an ongoing serial about what happens when the fairytale realms and modern day world collide. Read it at http://www.wattpad.com/story/1616693-tales. You can also check out her artwork at jessisketches.tumblr.com.

Katie Bio Picture

Katie Siuta O’Shea is lawyer by day and a writer by early morning/late night. She loves photography, music, traveling, and setting way too many goals. You can find her online on Twitter and Instagram @ktoshea, her YouTube Channel Katie O’Shea Books, or her blog, katieosheabooks.blogspot.com.

Twitter for Writers: 3 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections

Twitter for Writers: 3 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comWriting can be solitary in nature, but that doesn’t mean you have to scribble down words all by your lonesome. Now you can connect with people all over the world, right from the comfort of your write cave. The internet is a wonderful thing, no?

In my previous post in the Social Media for Writers series, I walked writers through six steps to a Pinterest traffic flood. Today we tackle another titan of the social media world: Twitter.

If you haven’t given Twitter a try yet, you’re missing out—it provides a plethora of opportunities for writers. You can connect with fellow writers, find new readers, seek out inspiration and let your creativity shine, if you know where to look and what to do.

Ready to delve into the fast-moving, exciting (and highly addictive) world of Twitter? Let’s go.

Know Your Writerly Hashtags

The trusty hashtag is one of the most useful tools for writers on Twitter, yet sadly many people give them a wide berth because they aren’t sure what hashtags are or how to use them. But no more! Time for a quick hashtag lesson.

Using a hashtag in a tweet is a way to categorise your message and reach others who have used or searched for the same hashtag. For example, the #amwriting hashtag is commonly used in tweets about (you guessed it) writing. If you click on ‘#amwriting’ in a tweet, you’ll bring up a list of messages that also include that hashtag.

Why is that useful for writers? Connections, my friend. You can use writing- and reading-related hashtags to find fellow lovers of the written word and be found by them in turn. Including these types of hashtag in your tweets can help you to make new friends, find new readers, build a network of contacts and more.

So what are these magical hashtags for writers? You can find a more detailed list on our Writing & Sprinting Resources page, but some of the most popular ones are:

  • #amwriting
  • #amediting
  • #amreading
  • #writetip
  • #writerslife
  • #writerproblems (one of my personal favourites)
  • #writingprompt

Give it a try yourself if you’re new to hashtags and take full advantage of the hashtags for writers listed here to make new connections in the writing world.

Take Part in a Twitter Chat or Two

The beauty of Twitter, I feel, is it’s real-time nature, which becomes highly apparent when taking part in Twitter chats.

What are Twitter chats? In a nutshell: live conversations in which participants use the same hashtag to discuss the host’s questions or topic and chat with each other.

Some regular Twitter chats for writers, creatives and bloggers are:

  • #StorySocial, hosted by @ShesNovel and @BlotsandPlots. Held on Wednesdays from 9-10 p.m. EST.
  • #StoryDam, hosted by @StoryDam. Held on Thursdays from 8-9 p.m. EST.
  • #K8chat, hosted by @K8Tilton. Held Thursdays from 9-10 p.m. EST.
  • #createlounge, hosted by @kayla_hollatz. Held on Wednesdays from 8-9 p.m. EST.

Join Creative Challenges

Want to exercise your creative muscles and/or let others see your skill? Join in a creative challenge or event on Twitter and do both.

My top Twitter challenges for writers include:

  • #FridayPhrases, hosted by @FridayPhrases. Can you tell a compelling story in under 140 characters? If you can, you can #FP. (You can find out more about Friday Phrases here.)
  • #sixwordstory, hosted by @WriterlyTweets. This challenge invites you to write a story based on a prompt in six words or fewer. Can’t get much more micro in your microfiction than that, eh?
  • #AuthorUp, hosted by @ShesNovel. Author Up challenges writers to 30 days of intentional improvement of their craft, and to make sure you can do that, it includes a free course (which you can find out more about here).
  • #WriteChain, hosted by @WriteChain. Want to make writing every day a habit? Set yourself a daily goal and create a chain with every consecutive day you reach it. You can sign up for the challenge here.

Whether you use hashtags, chats, creative challenges or all three in conjunction, the aim for writers on Twitter is to make meaningful connections. Share your writing journey, talk to others about the craft, enrich the lives of every tweep you meet, and enjoy the ‘social’ side of social media—because writing might be a solitary pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

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How do you use Twitter to make new writing connections?

Pricing Your Self-Published Book

$Note: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

When you’re getting ready to upload your formatted masterpiece to whichever platform(s) you’re selling on, you’ll come across one tricky question: what will your book be priced at?

Finding the right price for your book might take a little research and experimentation. To take some of the guesswork out of the process, I’ve got a couple points for you to take into consideration.

 

Make Sure Your Price is Competitive and Appropriate

  • Do a little research: check out other books in your genre/niche. How long are they in comparison to your book? What do their ratings look like? See what they’re charging, then price yours in the same ballpark.
  • Keep in mind that, if you’re a new author, it might be hard to get readers who haven’t heard of you to buy your book if it’s overpriced.
  • Ultimately, charge enough to communicate the value of your work, but don’t charge so much as to scare readers away.

 

Should You Consider Putting Your Book on Sale?

  • Some authors benefit from putting their books on sale from time to time (knocking an ebook down to 99 cents – or free – for a day or two to drive downloads/purchases/exposure to new readers).
  • On the other hand, some authors rarely ever put their books on sale because they believe it teaches their audience to WAIT to purchase until the book goes on sale.
  • The bottom line here is: decide what works for you! Running promotions/sales may help grow your readership and audience. However, you don’t want to set a precedent that you might regret down the road.

 

What About the Perma-Free Funnel?

  • Many self-published authors make use of the perma-free “funnel” where the first book in a series/collection is permanently free (or just one book in an author’s body of work if they don’t have a series). The theory is that readers, once they’ve completed the first book, will be “funneled” toward buying other books from the author if they enjoyed the free one.
  • This method sometimes pays off, earning more readers and more sales. But sometimes it doesn’t. Again, make sure that you do what is right for you and what you think will pay off in terms of gaining new readers/fans.

 

Experiment!

  • Keep in mind that, since you’re an indie author, you get to decide how much your book is priced at at any given time!
  • YOU’RE in charge! So play around with different price points, run some sales (or don’t!), and consider giving the perma-free model a spin. See what works best for you and run with it!

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Have any pricing-related questions? Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Mashing Mediums: How Switching Gears Can Improve & Refresh Your Writing

In March, I wrote a postUntitled on my first-ever 10KWritathon and the valuable writing and productivity lessons I learned from it. While I didn’t achieve the 10,000 word goal I had originally set for myself, I did get quite a bit done, and there’s one thing I attributed my final push to: switching mediums when my current fiction project was becoming a chore.

During the 10kWritathon, I devoted a good chunk of my time to my fantasy WIP. Several hours in, the writing became stale—I was tired and no longer interested. The words were coming slowly. I needed some space to clear my head, so I switched to writing a blog post. And just like that, the words flew.

You don’t have to be shooting for a challenging word count or personal record to reap the benefits of variation and experimentation, and the benefits aren’t limited to a boost in word count; after all, as motivating as a hefty word count can be, you’ll never finish Project A if you keep diverting to Project B. But whether your goals are to finish a current project, edit X number of words on any of your multiple projects per day, or to just sit down and write, working within multiple mediums will likely give new life to your voice.

What do I mean by switching gears or working within multiple mediums? Simply spending some time writing outside of the genre or form of your current project, or better yet, your comfort zone–such as a fiction writer dabbling in poetry or screenwriting.

Real-life example: After the 10kWritathon, which took place on a Sunday, I returned to work. At my day job, I spend my days writing newsletter and blog content for a staffing and recruitment firm. The content is very straightforward, professional, and to the point: pretty different from the fantasy and young adult fiction I enjoy writing in my spare time. I had noticed some of my pieces getting a bit repetitive around that time, not in content but in voice—it seemed like all of my articles sounded the same regardless of their subject. But that Tuesday, I wrote an article that was much more prosey. It used imagery and metaphor, avoided the standard numbered-list style that my latest articles had all utilized, and told a story much like a short work of fiction would. When I handed it in, I was a bit nervous; I’d never written an article like that before, especially not to represent this company, with its very corporate appearance and professional style. I expected the pages to come back bleeding red, marked up with my boss’s many edits.

It came back pristine.

My boss loved the article and didn’t suggest a single stylistic edit, which is rare. Spending all of Sunday working on fiction and making that transition to blogging in the last few hundred words sparked a connection for me, one that blurred the lines between the writing styles of fiction and nonfiction and allowed me to utilize them tangentially. This can happen with your writing, too.

Think about each major form of writing and how different it is from whatever it is you do: fiction, poetry, screenwriting, nonfiction writing:

  • Fiction: focuses heavily on description and plot and, in most cases, insight into a character’s thoughts
  • Poetry: makes great use of imagery, metaphor, and other useful tools that can add life to other genres
  • Screenwriting: carries a story through dialog and minimal description/action
  • Nonfiction: focuses on the facts and a logical flow of information

Of course, there are many exceptions and these aren’t hard lines—they too get blurred, and there are many more factions they can be broken down to. But I think many would agree these are typically the main characteristics of each.

While these differences may be daunting when you aren’t used to writing in a certain way, playing within them can open your writing up to so much more within your usual form. Struggling with dialog? Write a short scene of a play or movie. Over-describing a scene and taking away license from the reader? Try writing poetry or flash fiction, both of which are typically evocative but clipped. Having a hard time getting to know a character in your cast? Try writing a scene from his or her point of view, long-form, to learn more. The list of possibilities goes on.

Have you found switching gears to be a useful tool for your writing? What else do you typically try when you’re having trouble with your current project? Let us know!

Top Tools for an Easily Distracted Writer

Are you an easily distracted writer?

Chances are, if you’re reading this instead of writing, the answer is a ‘yes’. That’s okay; I’m easily distracted too. That’s why I’ve collected a range of resources and tools over the years to help me shut out those distractions and boost my concentration. Today I want to share those tools with you, dear writer. Let’s get focused and wordy, starting with…

Tools to Enhance Concentration

Focus@Will

Focus@Will is a music player service with tracks specifically designed to enhance focus. Developed in partnership with neuroscientists, the tracks on focus@will can enhance your concentration by up to 400% when writing. How awesome is that? (You can find out more about the science behind focus@will here.)

Calm

Have you ever tried meditating before? It’s a powerful way to focus your mind, very useful for an easily distracted writer. Give a five minute meditation a try before your next writing session and use the Calm app to guide you. With its guided and timer-only meditations, it’s perfect for beginners and pros alike.

Tools to Block Distractions

Enhancing your focus is one thing, but if pesky distractions draw your attention away from writing, then it’s all for nothing. Kick those distractions to the curb with the following tools.

Web Blockers

Don’t let the call of the internet tempt you away from writing—block it out altogether with the power of the web blocker. This handy tool comes in all shapes and sizes. There are extensions, apps and programmes galore that can block the internet or particular websites, permanently or only after a certain amount of time spent on them. Perfect if you go on Facebook for a quick status update before a writing session and close it three hours later without a word written.

Here are my pick of internet/website blockers, which I recommend to all the members of my daily writing challenge:

Timed Writing Sessions

As soon as you introduce a time limit to something, there’s less room for procrastination. Give yourself a strict time limit—say, 15 minutes—and it’ll block out distractions like no one’s business. That’s the guiding principle behind the word sprint, the Sprint Shack’s favourite method for boosting productivity, motivation and focus.

How can you use time limits in a way that shuts out distractions? Here are the tools for the job:

Feeling more focused yet? If not, give these tools a try and see what works for you. Experiment until you find the perfect combination of concentration boosters and distraction busters—a combination that will make your writing sessions that much more efficient, productive and enjoyable. Good luck.

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What tools do you use to keep you on track during a writing session?