sabotage writing

This word can sabotage your writing business

As freelance writers, we are our own bosses. We choose our clients and projects, the hours we work and where we work. As a freelance copywriter, I have one rule taking priority over everything else: I don’t turn work down.

I say yes more often than I say no.

In my six years of freelancing, I’ve refused work twice, maybe three times.

When work comes to me instead of me having to chase it, something in my DNA refuses to say NO.

I’ll bang my head on the keyboard, pull all-nighters but I.will.get.it.done – at a huge personal cost to me (little sleep, hurried meals) and missed time with my family. Saying yes landed me more work but it also side tracked from my big goals and left me stressed.

Recently, I said yes to a project at a time when I needed to slow down. I ignored the whisper that told me I wasn’t suited to that particular industry.

I didn’t say no because I worry (sometimes) the client will go elsewhere and the work will dry up.

After submitting the project, it was clear my instinct was right. I wasn’t suited to it. So I let the work go. I was gutted for a long time and it sometimes plays in the back of my mind. What could I have done differently?

It was a blow, but I learnt what I needed to and moved on. We were not the right fit. I sabotaged myself by saying yes when I actually needed to say no.

The one word that can sabotage your business is: YES

Are you:

  • saying YES to everything that comes your way?
  • accepting work that you know you can’t deliver (not every writer is suited to every industry, that’s why niches are so popular)
  • helping a friend or colleague out for free because you didn’t want to say no and disappoint them?
  • willing to let a client treat you shabbily because you don’t want to drop them?
  • accepting low rates and struggling in your business?

These situations mean stress, tears and an unspoken question which niggles constantly ‘ what if I’m not cut out to be a freelancer?’ You probably wonder if everyone else is having a hard time or is it just you.

When that credit card payment is due, you’ll have to say yes. It’s fine if it’s the exception and not the norm. But leave yourself open to better opportunities by saying no more often, especially if you know (and heard that voice) saying it’s not right for you.

How to not say YES immediately

Next time the word YES is on the tip of your tongue, pause and say: Can I have some time to think about it? If it’s by email, then don’t answer that email straightaway, leave it for a few hours so you can think about it. It’s that simple.

Ask yourself if that’s what you want to do. If the answer is yes after a few hours, and there’s no doubt then go for it.

I’ve said YES many times in the last 6 years. I’m not saying yes now unless I think it’ll help me get closer to my goals in 2018.

What are you currently saying YES to that should actually be a NO?

Photo by Nico E. on Unsplash

freelance writing predictions 2018

What will freelance writing look like in 2018? 9 experts reveal all

What will freelance writing look like in 2018?

I like reading predictions about where the freelance economy is headed. It’s a good way to keep an eye on freelancing trends and identify gaps.

To answer this important question, I asked 9 experts to share their thoughts on where they believe the industry is headed in Australia, and what freelancers need to do to stay relevant and in-demand.

For this week’s blog post (4 of 52!) I’m publishing 9 predictions for the gig economy (including one of my own). Thank you so much to all the experts who contributed.

SEO adds value to copywriting

I’ve seen clients have little to no knowledge of how SEO can impact their content creation and marketing efforts. As copywriters it’s our responsibility to be experts in what we do so it’s crucial to have that understanding of how SEO marries with copywriting and marketing. Improve your SEO skills by seeking out proven, practical courses because increasingly clients will demand results for their copywriting investment in future. I offer SEO along with copywriting and the satisfaction of seeing tangible results like increased sales for clients is amazing especially after they’ve been struggling for a while. Rashida Tayabali Copywriter

The complete package

One trend we’re increasingly seeing in the freelance writing world is that it’s no longer enough just to be a great writer. 2018 will be all about how well you package your pitch, and that means thinking about digital repurposing of your stories and offering a package of copy, multimedia, tweets, web-ready images. We’re now seeing some publishers (print and digital) demand all of the above as part of commissions, so it’s always good to consider your pitch and how it might work on multiple platforms in order to be easier to sell.

Another trend? Your work doesn’t finish when you file copy. Granted, it’s not something many journos are fans of, but there’s no doubt that if you have a strong online presence and aren’t shy about spruiking your work you’ll get more of it. It might be sharing a recently published story, copy you’ve written for a client, a project you managed, a social campaign that did well. Not only will you score brownie points with the one paying your invoices, but it’ll keep the work flowing as well. The passion for audio stories and podcasts continues to grow as well, with 58 percent of publishers saying they’ll be focussing on these areas in the near future. Finally, we’re also seeing a rise in the use of journalism crowdfunding platforms – which could be worth a shot if you have a strong, loyal readership which loves your work and what you do. Rachel Smith & Leo Wiles www.rachelslist.com.au

Freelancers as edupreneurs

I think the biggest trend for 2018 will be freelance writers starting to think of themselves as entrepreneurs. As the number of people working as freelancers grows worldwide, there is a strong movement towards freelancers becoming “edupreneurs”. I think this will translate into seeing freelance writers stabilise and diversify their income streams by producing e-books, resources and courses. It seems like a smart trend – freelancing can be so fickle and developing your own intellectual property that you can then share with your audience makes use of freelance writers’ communication and entrepreneurial skills. Lindy Alexander The Freelancer’s Year

F2C Freelancer to client

There’s a definite trend in businesses skipping the whole ‘big agency’ model and heading straight to a freelancer, if not a freelancer working in conjunction with a production company. If no serious hardcore research or substantial strategy is needed, savvy, self assured marketers and business owners are seeing great opportunities and serious savings in utilising specialist freelancers, who not only write and ideate expertly, but can think strategically and work collaboratively. More than ever, quality freelancers, in my mind, are ‘go-to’ suppliers in the marketing food chain. It’s never been easier for companies to tap into their expertise, similar to how they’d engage a production company, web developer, or sound studio – most of which work independently to a core agency. No longer are freelancers simply the poor cousins of the big boys. Steve May Rockatansky

Niche freelance writers

I’ve definitely noticed more clients are looking for freelancers who have some experience or knowledge of the industry they’re in. As a health writer, I’ve experienced an increasing number of clients in the health space, who want to work with me. While they definitely value my broad knowledge of the current health ‘climate’, and knowledge of where to source information, they’re more concerned with HOW to communicate to their constituents. (i.e. tone of voice, language etc.). Some health topics can be fraught with fear and overwhelm so finding someone who can break down this information into ‘easy-to-understand’ language that empowers, rather than scares, is increasingly important to my clients. I would imagine that the same would apply to other niche industries such as legal, fintech, finance. Nerissa Bentley Write to the point communications 

Agencies adopting freelance model

I’m seeing more digital agencies in particular use a freelance model instead of employees. It frees the agency of staff related burdens and costs. And it gives them the luxury of picking and choosing a combination of freelancers appropriately skilled for the job. I’m on a roster for a few digital agencies working in this manner and selling that approach as a benefit to clients. Kate Merryweather Dot Com Words

Professional development on the list

2018 is the year for freelance writers to take charge of their own professional development. Keep up with industry trends, new technologies and audience behaviours. No matter your niche, we live in a fast-moving world. You need to be across why a Facebook algorithm change is important, or how voice recognition will change content. Businesses, brands and agencies are keen on the freelance model, and they warm to freelancers who bring industry smarts as part of the package. Amanda Vanelderen WorkWords

Video copy

2018 will be the year where businesses see the value in using freelancers who have specialised knowledge in particular industries. Whilst there will always be low cost overseas alternatives, as a financial services and fintech copywriter, having an in-depth understanding of the Australian market and financial products brings a unique advantage to the table. I also see an increased demand for copywriters to provide video copy. Traditionally, a blog post might include some social media snippets but being able to bring a strategic approach to leverage the content to its full potential via video is what smart brands are looking for. Catherine Fowler Cath Fowler Marketing

Authenticity

There is an increasing need to engage with the consumer in an authentic a way as possible, particularly in the professional services sector. This will influence the choice of communication channels, propel reluctant social media users onto the platform and hopefully result in more genuine messages of real consumer benefit. What does that mean for freelance copywriters? One of the main areas of increased involvement will be assisting clients to find this authentic message. Working collaboratively to drill down through their marketing messages for a greater understanding of their purpose and philosophies which should shape better communication. It could mean more time needed for this process or a change in mindset when shaping a brief. Lyndall Talbot LTD Consult

What do you predict for 2018? Share your thoughts by posting a comment.

 

feature story

Where to get even more feature story ideas (Part 2)

Last week, I listed 7 different sources of feature story ideas which I use to brainstorm ideas for feature articles. Here are more ways in which I find story ideas that editors might be interested in.

Personal experiences

I’m a fan of using my parenting experiences to write articles but not comfortable sharing extremely personal things. So if you don’t mind sharing your experiences, there are some good magazines especially online that you can write for, like Daily Life or a weekly print magazine that shares people’s experiences – like I lost 80kg in 2 months.

At my last job, I experienced some situations that led to this article for Women’s Agenda:

Blurred lines: When should you add a work colleague as a friend on Facebook?

Local newspapers/magazines

Do you read your local area newspaper? If you do, then keep an eye for stories or profiles of people that can have national appeal. Sometimes people have unique businesses or hobbies which make a good roundup article for a national magazine.

Organisation newsletters

If you’re thinking of writing for health related publications, newsletters from research organisations are a goldmine for cutting-edge ideas that haven’t made it into mainstream media yet. Or bookmark their research/publications page and visit them frequently to see what’s happening and if there’s an idea that would appeal to health or food magazines for example .

Custom magazines

Just yesterday I noticed that shops like Chemist Warehouse are now publishing their own health newspapers with tie-ins to their products. These can be a good source of income if you’re interested in this area as usually they need seasonal ideas like how to get ready for summer etc.

Lateral thinking/multiple angles

If you have a great idea to write on a certain topic, think about what other niches/magazines would be interested. For example, if you’ve found latest research for adults addicted to sugar, check if there’s research for children addicted to sugar for a parenting publication.

Podcasts/TV/Radio

If you listen to talk back radio or podcasts often conversations can provide a good springboard for a feature story idea. I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and listening to channels you wouldn’t normally pick to spark some great ideas that can be turned into interesting feature articles.

Journal articles

Constant research is being done in various fields and it can be hard to stay on top of everything – I wouldn’t get anything done if I sat down to read all of it.

So I tackle this in one of two ways – signing up to get alerts (I use another email address to avoid being submerged) or I use an app like Pocket or Evernote to bookmark links to read later.

These are some of my sources for feature story ideas, this list is by no means exhaustive. So add your own to this list and never run out of ideas.

story ideas for feature articles

7 amazing sources of feature story ideas (Part 1)

The most common question I get asked by other people is: where do I get good story ideas from?

The short answer is: I use a variety of sources to find interesting story ideas for feature articles. Sometimes I’ve fallen down the Internet rabbit role following one article after another – but on the flip side, I’ve also found some great ideas and research studies for future articles.

In this post, I share 7 ways I find interesting feature article topics. I’ve also pitched these ideas to magazine editors and been commissioned.

1.Reading a magazine or newspaper 

If I’m interested in writing for a particular magazine, I read it cover to cover, sometimes twice or thrice. I get ideas simply by reading the articles, because while I’m reading, my brain is thinking of other ideas.

You can brainstorm angles from these articles, so if there’s a story on why nuts are not good for you in one issue, you can pitch a story on why nuts are the new superfood and refer back to the first article.

When Cory Monteith from Glee died, TV, magazines and radio were reporting on it constantly. I got the idea of pitching a round-up article to Essential Kids (parenting section of Sydney Morning Herald) on what to do when the television worries your child. This was my first successful pitch to EK.

My first published article for Fitness First magazine titled ‘ An internal spotlight on stress‘ came about because of my weekly gym visits. I saw there was an article on dealing with stress every other month in their monthly magazine. The symptoms and effects of stress are well known – so I flipped the idea on its head and focused on what happens inside our bodies when stressed.

2. Conversations with friends and family

When I’m chatting with friends and family, something they’ll say will trigger a great idea for a feature article. A friend who told me her six year old daughter kept lying to her and then denied it even when she was found out led to when your child won’t stop lying for Essential Kids.

Another friend who was planning her wedding and handling crisis after crisis during the planning led to Destination Weddings: the good, the bad and the ugly for Life & Style, SMH.

So the next time you’re talking with someone, keep an open ear for any complaints or juicy bits: there might be a story in there.

3. Websites that publish press releases

If you’re at a loss for trends or ideas, browsing through websites that publish press releases like Media Connections can be a valuable source of ideas or to find interesting people with a good backstory. PR Log and PR newswire also publish press releases. You can filter the press releases by country. These websites can have good story ideas for trade publications.

The downside: too many press releases to read. I’ve signed up for these in the past and regretfully had to unsubscribe because my inbox got flooded.

Tip: Skim the headings and if they’re of interest click through to the PR.

This story on Eric Agyeman for The Newcomer magazine came from a press release on Media Connections.  I did pitch him for another story to an editor for a major magazine but after an initial interest and multiple follow ups from me, unfortunately it didn’t get picked up.

4. Upcoming events

Upcoming events like markets, red-carpet events, celebrity visits and movie launches are a good way to hook an editor’s interest especially if it’s high profile.

I recently pitched a profile of an actor (in an upcoming movie) to his local suburb newspaper and it got accepted. Thinking local sometimes can lead to a paid story. Be creative in looking for publications to pitch to and don’t ignore niche publications and your local area newspapers.

5. Blog posts by other writers

You can get good ideas from reading posts by other bloggers. Often, they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening and can be a great interviewee/case study especially if they’re also writing on a similar topic you want to pitch.

Reading a parenting blog led to why fatherhood scares many dads-to-be for Essential Baby. The blogger was a perfect case study for my article as he’d written on this subject previously.

Reading another blog post on holiday etiquette led to this story on dealing with oversharing relatives on Facebook for Life & Style. This time, I interviewed the blogger as an expert since she had a business focused on social media.

6. Community festivals

I live in a multiculturally diverse suburb so we have various cultural festivals throughout the year. By attending an Africultures festival two years ago, I got an idea to write an article on group drumming after taking part in it.

It led to my first in-flight magazine article for Kenya Airways titled To the Beat of the Drum on the benefits of drum therapy. I also didn’t have to look too far for the expert – I interviewed the instructor who was supervising the group drumming at the festival. Turns out he owned a drum therapy business and was more than happy to be interviewed for the article and supply photographs.

7. Niche websites

Niche websites are a fantastic source of statistics and research because they publish the latest research and data. I like Psychology Today and Web MD because they have a treasure trove of articles from which which I can quote research and support my pitches.

If you can find and bookmark a few niche websites on health or fitness or whatever subject you’re interested in writing about, then you’ll never run out of timely ideas to pitch.

I hope these ideas help you to find your next winning feature idea. Tell me in the comments if they worked for you or what you use to find great story ideas.

 

special word 2018

Why I decided to choose a special word for 2018

I’ve seen a few bloggers and writers whose work I follow choose a special word to define a new year. This ‘special word’ helps them choose the right work and whatever else they’ve decided to achieve.

For the first time, I’ve decided to do the same. Somehow, in previous years, the idea appealed to me but I never got around to actually choosing a word. Because of a change in my mindset and how I’ll be approaching everything in 2018, my word is: COMMIT.

Why commit?

While writing my 2017 wrap-up post, I saw that I started a few projects in 2016 and 2017 which are currently unfinished. I’ve not put any effort into it so there’s been no progress because I lacked the motivation or circumstances stopped me. I don’t like unfinished business.

‘Commit’ will help me stick to my goals and remind me that I need to keep going and more importantly – finish what I started.

I once read a quote about the importance of plugging away at something until it’s finished. Why? Just like a book, the ending may surprise you.

So this year, I’m planning to surprise myself by committing. Committing to typing ‘the end’ on my novel, completing a fabulous copywriting course and knocking out 24 interviews for my magazine.

To help me stay on track to complete all these fabulous intentions I:

  • Bought a passion planner diary from the US which includes my why, where I want to be in 3 months, 6 months, lifetime. While I’ll still be writing a to-do list, a planner shows me the bigger picture and my whys are guaranteed to help me stay on track on the slow days. I’ve only filled in the page for January but already I love this diary and so glad I bought it.
  • made a vision board filled with things I want in 2018, why I chose to be self employed, to remind me of what I’m working towards and why
  • positive affirmations listed near my desk to remind me of some important things I need to be told each day e.g. I intend to run my own race in 2018 and not worry about comparison-itis
  • My list of goals and timelines stuck near my desk to remind me of all the things I need to achieve in 2018 and how I’ll complete them

I’m all set to commit and achieve this year. Have you chosen a word to guide you in 2018?

Happy New Year!