A Necessary Evil - Money 101 for Freelance Writers
By Amanda Abiola © 2008
Most writers consider themselves right brain people. They utilize their creativity to spin fantastic tales, but ask them what their writing expenses were last month and they're at a loss. Unfortunately, to have a successful freelance writing career, there are certain aspects you must handle that you feel are unsavory or are outside of your comfort zone such as tracking income and expenses for both tax purposes and to ensure you're earning enough to survive in your chosen career.
Track Writing Income
Separate your business income from your personal income. If you simply put all the money you make through writing into your bank account with any other money you and other household members earn, you will have a harder time tracking the writing income you should report to the IRS. You will also have a difficult time knowing if your freelance writing career is profitable. This isn't to say you can't pay bills with this money; just make sure you track what you make and how it's spent.
The best way to accomplish this task is to open a separate checking account. You can tag this account "Writing Account" or look even more professional by giving yourself a business name to use on your checks. Put any monies earned strictly from writing into this account.
You can also use your bank account for checks and balances when comparing what you were paid compared to the invoices you need to create for each project. Some publications require you to send an invoice, but even if they don't, create one and keep it for your records so you can refer to the agreed-upon terms for each assignment. Billing software will help greatly in this area by making this task easier for you.
Keep Expense Records
Whether you keep receipts in a shoebox or a fancy filing cabinet, you must hold on to any receipts related to your writing business. These writing expenses will come in very handy when the taxman has his hand out at the end of the year and you need something to offset your earnings.
You should mark at the top of each receipt what kind of writing expense it is, such as office supplies, entertainment expenses, professional subscriptions or standard utilities. If you want to save time separating these later, keep a separate file (or shoebox) for each type of writing expense. You can also create a spreadsheet to keep a running total of each of these expenses and print out the totals for quarterly or end-of-year taxes.
Write Down Mileage
Mileage is one of the biggest deductions you have at tax time. Anytime you go to a writers' conference, go on a writing assignment, have lunch with your editor across town or just pop over to the local office supply store for some more paper or ink, keep a log of the miles you travel on each trip. To make this job simpler, keep a small spiral notebook or logbook in your car so you won't forget to write your beginning and ending mileage or use a tripometer for added ease.
Tracking your finances doesn't have to overtake the time you'd rather spend doing what you truly love - writing. By spending a little time each day on financial tasks, you'll save yourself a ton of work, many headaches, and a great deal of wasted time.
Overcoming Writer's Block
By Amanda Abiola ©2008
Stuck. Totally, completely and absolutely stuck. Writer's block can feel as if you are literally stuck in a cement block. The clock is ticking, a writing assignment is due, and your creative juices are not flowing. Instead of beating your head against a wall, try freewriting.
Take a blank sheet of paper. Sit quietly, and just write whatever comes to mind. No censoring. No analyzing. Simply let the thoughts roll out onto the paper. You can edit later. Freewriting by hand on unlined paper with a pen or pencil works for many writers. Scribble as fast as the thoughts flow. Soon, writer's block gives way. Your subconscious mind takes over, and you find your writing is on track.
Losing track of ideas that seem quite feasible, but float around in your head, never making it onto paper, is an occupational hazard of writing. Getting coherent thoughts onto the paper or computer screen is the hard part of being a writer. After all, who can read what's floating around in your head?
In Finding Forrester, a movie about a young man who discovers a reclusive writer and begs him to teach the secrets of the craft, he soon learns about overcoming writer's block. Forrester and the young man sit at typewriters, facing one another. Forrester wants the young man to begin writing. Serving as an example, Forrester begins typing furiously. The young man sits and stares at his own typewriter, hands poised, with a look of deep concentration on his face.
"What are you doing?" demands Forrester.
"Thinking," says the young man.
"Thinking about what?" asks Forrester.
"Thinking about what I'm going to write," says the young man.
"NO!" Forrester yells. "Don't think! Just write. You can think later."
In her book, Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit, author Mari Messer looks at creativity as a "dance" between the conscious and the unconscious mind. She says there are two kinds of thinking: rigid thinking and creative thinking.
Thinking rigidly, you tell yourself to stay in control. You mustn't "dance" through life (or writing) without always following the proper procedures. Rigid thinking promotes writer's block. Writing is a creative process. When you think too rigidly, you stifle the process, limit your capacity for creative thinking and refuse to think outside the box. Messer says, "Many writers and other creative people get bogged down because they cling so tightly to control that they can't dance in rhythm with the creative process."
Creative thinking says that you must give up some control. Creative thinking is not thinking, at least not consciously. Let your unconscious mind take over while letting inspiration flow like a stream. Messer says, "Giving up control and allowing the process to have its own way removes a lot of stress. You can always edit later."
Trust yourself as you write. That's the hardest part of the whole process. Fear of failure plagues authors in writing, as in many areas of life. Fight fear if you hope to break free from writer's block. TV psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, says, "Walk through your fear and behave your way to what you want." The behavior of a writer is to write. Fear paralyzes. Fear stifles creativity. Fear keeps you from going where you want to go and doing what you want to do in life.
Push past the fear of failure and have faith in your writing.
By Amanda Abiola ©2008
Objective writing offers the reader multiple points of view on a subject and uses a non-judgmental approach to language to appeal to the masses. The following guidelines will help with objective writing and encourage a neutral point of view.
Focus on the target audience. Objective writing will appeal to all readers because it includes multiple points of view. Research the other points of view to add balance to the article and use quotes from reputable sources for added credibility.
Choose words carefully. Objective writing can be produced successfully using third-person, active voice. Omit word choices that provoke an emotional response, and instead focus on maintaining neutrality. Keep sentences concise.
Present only verifiable facts with objective writing. Although you may have an opinion on a topic, journalistic writing, with the exception of editorials, is not the place to display your stance. Concentrate on providing factual statements to avoid interjecting your opinions in the article.
Know your role as the article writer. Your responsibility as the topic moderator is to present differing points of view both factually and equally. Your job is not to sway the reader, but to give a well-rounded and thoughtful presentation of the facts in a way that allows the reader to form his own opinion.
If the audience is unable to guess your political affiliation, religious background or your stance on hot-button topics, you have mastered objective writing.
Internet Marketing for Freelance Writers
By Amanda Abiola ©2008
Technology for freelance writers has progressed since the days of typewriters and correction tape. Like others in the professional world, they now have the modern conveniences of laptops and high-speed Internet connections readily available. Likewise, freelance writers no longer need to rely on word-of-mouth advertising to get their businesses up and running. The Internet is the perfect place for a freelancer to market herself and to brand herself.
Start a blog. One of the most simple and cost-effective means of Internet marketing is the blog. Freelance writers can advertise their talents and services, usually for little or no cost, making themselves available instantly to those in need of a writer. A blog serves as an open portfolio that gives a prospective client immediate access to freelance writers and their writing samples.
Publish a monthly newsletter. Freelance writers should view every blog reader as a prospective and probable business partner and use their success as a blog author to market themselves further using a secondary source such as a newsletter. It can offer a brief synopsis of published works, writing tips, terms of services and more.
Join a social networking site. Other Internet marketing tools that freelance writers should utilize are free sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, which work to promote a symbiotic relationship between writers and clients. A social networking site enables freelance writers to connect not only with other writers to offer support, but also with professionals in their related industry who are looking for particular services.
Include an email signature. Freelance writers should think of email as a means for mass Internet marketing and always attach their Website address and contact information after their name. Freelance writers often find work in the unlikeliest of places, and they should take advantage of every opportunity to promote their business.
Be unconventional. Freelance writers should step out of the box and advertise their services on Web sites, such as Craig's List and eBay.
The acquisition of even just one client is a positive step toward success.
Writing ad copy that sells
By Amanda Abiola ©2008
The world of online advertising is very competitive, and writing ad copy that sells can be quite challenging. Generic ads are seldom effective and to successfully sell your product your ad needs to stand out from the crowd of ads for your competitors. It may seem like you need a professional copy writer to create ad copy for you, but by following these simple steps, virtually anyone can create successful ad copy.
1. Use Other Ads for Inspiration
If you are new to writing ad copy a great way to get inspiration and find ideas is to look at other ads. Read through as many ads as you can find for both similar and unrelated products. Some of the ads will immediately catch your attention, these will leave you wanting to know more or make you interested in the product or service.
Write down all of the similar traits in the ads that you find compelling as well as the traits of the ads that did not inspire you or make a good impression. You will then have a list of strategies and ideas you can use to make your ads more compelling and some ideas of what you should avoid.
2. Determine Your Goal
Before you start writing your ad, decide what you want your ad to accomplish. Not all ads are designed to sell a product and some ads are very vague and never clearly state their purpose. After you decide the purpose of your ad you will be able write an ad that compels readers to take your desired course of action.
3. Reveal the Benefits of Your Product or Service
Effective ads usually contain specific reasons why a product is beneficial or how it will help to solve a problem. Make a list of all of the benefits that your product offers and all the positive features before you write your ad. These aspects should be the focus of your ad because most readers will want to know how purchasing your product will benefit them. Be as specific as possible with this information, including descriptions, statistics, and concrete evidence if it is available.
4. Make Your Product or Service Stand Out Among Competitors
If your product or business has a lot of competition or highly successful competition, your ad may also benefit from highlighting the positive differences between your product and the competition. Mentioning your competition outright is not always a good idea, but comparing your product's superior features to other features common amongst your competition will give readers a reason to make a purchase.
5. Appeal to Your Target Audience
The last and perhaps most important aspect of writing ad copy is to identify and appeal to your target audience. Before you write your ad, decide exactly what types of people are likely to buy your product or be interested in your web site. You can then write an ad that appeals to the emotions and impulses of this demographic, which will more successful than an ad written for a generic audience. You should also include any perks or incentives that your customer will receive after taking action such as free services or information, support, or consulting. If you are selling a product, stating your return policy and other information that will instill confidence in your buyers is also beneficial.
Writing Your Best Ads
Ads are a critical way to attract potential buyers to your business. Regardless of what you're selling, when you use these strategies to write ads for your products and services, you can stand out among the sea of competitors.
Writing Motivational Copy
Who of us hasn't written advertising copy that we thought was great only to find out it flopped big time? Why? When you wrote it, it seemed very persuasive. You included lots of benefits and even gave a money back guarantee. It got YOU up and moving so why did your customers turn their heads?
The reason is usually quite simple. They are not you. While one thing might motivate you and excite you enough to open your wallet and buy, there are other personality types who respond to different motivational factors. If you know the factors, you hold the key to copywriting success!
There are several names for the different personality or behavioral types. Myers-Briggs labels them with letters (E = extrovert, I = introvert, etc.). Some psychologists label them with types ("A-type" personality, "B-type" personality, etc.). The DISC model (which I find the easiest to follow) labels the different personalities with descriptors (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, etc.) Regardless of what they're called, I encourage you to get to know them. Once you decipher the inner workings of your customers, you can write copy that will motivate each and every time.
Let's look at a few of the descriptors used within the DISC model and I'm sure you'll see what I mean.
The Dominance behavioral style is usually described with the following attributes:
The Influence behavioral style can be described like this:
Those who fall into the Steadiness behavioral style usually are described as:
The last of the four styles is Compliance. These people usually have the following attributes:
As you can see, these simple hints already open new doors for copywriting effectiveness. From what's written above, you are probably getting some good ideas about how to adjust your copy to fit your target audience.
For example, when writing to people with a Dominant behavioral style you'll want to be direct and to the point, focus on the business at hand, show them how this will help them get results and offer a win/win situation.
Influential people will want to allow time for socialization (so include some "chit chat" when possible), to have fun, offer new and innovative ideas, give a way for them to respond quickly and offer praise and strokes for them making a good decision. Steadiness types make up the majority of the population. Over 40% of Americans fall into the Steadiness category. These people need to see a logical approach to your product or service, they need time for thinking before buying, they want to see how your solution will benefit them and they need a sense of security about buying.
This explains why most copywriters will tell you to write long copy that is full of benefits and offers a money back guarantee. However, while this does work for 40% of the population, the other 60% has an issue with it. This is why I continually preach that you should know your target audience! If you are marketing to a group of CEOs (which most definitely fall into the dominance category) you can't provide long copy... they simply won't read it. They are looking for the bottom line and may ask for more details later if they feel they are necessary. If you have lots of information to provide, you'll have to break it up into sections to suit a "dominance" type.
It all boils down to giving the customer what they want. Even in your copywriting techniques. If you don't, you'll lose the sale - plain and simple. As an example, I'll tell you about a real estate agent I once worked with. I was looking for a house and had specific criteria for the exterior and interior. Rather than scheduling an appointment with the realtor every other day to view houses, I wanted to be given the addresses and view the outside at my own pace. If the outside didn't have specific features, there was no need for me to see the inside.
One Realtor emphatically told me, "Mrs. Thackston, that's just not the way I sell." To which I responded, "That's a shame... that's the way I buy!" He wouldn't give me what I wanted and therefore lost the sale.
I encourage you to learn as much as you can about your target audience. Their likes, dislikes, personality traits and behavioral traits. When you do, you'll be able to write motivational copy that creates a desire to buy