Tag Archives: how to be a writer

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – should you write for free?

Actually, there is such a thing as a free lunch! My church put on a free lunch on the first Saturday of every month. They offer soup, fresh crusty bread and cakes, and it is very popular. Some of the homeless people in the town are waiting eagerly outside, at 12 pm, ready to come and eat and stay until the end, at 2. I have known people who are struggling, who are down on their luck, or just not making ends meet that month, come and enjoy a free hot meal. Not even a collection is taken – it is completely free.

However, when you are setting out as a writer, where do you find opportunities to write, if not for free? There are job ads everywhere, offering internships, voluntary positions, or even, the old chestnut, more paid work will be along soon! How do you know whether this is a position that will give you good experience and bring along better things, or whether you are just being taken advantage of? Here are three opportunities, where you might consider offering your services for free, and three where you would be well-advised to stay clear.

Take it!

  1. A local charity is looking for someone to help with writing some articles for the magazine. It is a subject that you know something about, and you would like to write more about. Yes – especially if you are looking for some clips for a portfolio. This kind of thing is fine, especially for smaller, local charities. The only time I would be hesitant, would be if this were for a charity that could afford to pay. Also, make it clear that it would take second place to paid work, and limit how much you produce for them.
  2. A friend is starting up a business and wants to set up a website. They are looking for help to put content together. You agree to write some pages for them, if you can link to their website on your portfolio. Yes – but with provisos! Not everyone chooses to work with friends – it can be a fast way to lose a friendship! Decide on the scope of the work before you start – how many articles, and know how long it is going to take you. Again, free work should only be done after paid work is done.
  3. You decide to join an article-writing website. The article titles are chosen by you, so you can write about what you want, and the website puts advertising on your articles. You can collect the money for the advertising, once it reaches a certain amount. Your articles are passed by an editor before being published. Again – a qualified yes! This is something that I did, when just starting out. I liked the idea that the article had to be passed by an editor, so that meant it had to pass certain style guides. It taught me how to write a headline and how to write for the web. I made a little money out of it – but don’t expect to get seriously rich from this kind of set up! Also do some research before joining such a website – some are better regarded than others. It’s best to check out reviews first.

Don’t Touch it!

  1. A company posts on a job board, looking for writers. They suggest that the opportunity will be great exposure and experience for a writer – but they can’t afford to pay yet. They say that there may be payment somewhere down the line… no! The problem is, that you don’t know the person and you have no idea about their circumstances. They may be telling the truth, but they may not. Stay clear or be taken advantage of!
  2. You are emailed by a person you don’t know, out of the blue. They offer minimal compensation, but ask for a free trial of your writing to check whether you are up to the right standard. Not recommended! If they receive enough writers willing to do a free trial – will they need to pay at all? They may have emailed you, but you have no guarantee that this work is going to be worth your while. I have occasionally sent over a trial piece – but on the understanding that if they want to use it, I want to be paid for it!
  3. You offer an article to a publication that pay for print and online pieces. Their reply tells you that they won’t be paying you because your piece will published as a blog post. You are a new writer, looking for clips – what do you do? This happened to an experienced freelancer who pulled the piece rather than give this publication free work. They would not have offered the work if they had thought that they would not be paid. This feels like a scam – and you should value your work too much to be taken in by it. If something doesn’t feel right – then walk away. There will be other opportunities.
Share

Freelance Interview with Sarah Arrow of Sark e-Media

Sark e-Media Logo
Sark e-Media Logo

Sarah Arrow of Sark -Media has agreed to be my next interviewee. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

Name: Sarah Arrow

Writer Alias (if you are willing to let us know)

I have several, including Sarah Stanton, Danielle Stanton, Danielle Field and few others that I’d rather not mention.

How long have you been a writer?

Erm, I’m not sure. I’m not sure that I even like writing at times! However I just can’t seem to leave it alone long enough to allow something else to take over! Rough idea of where you live: I live in Essex approximately 12 miles from London. Which is close enough to love the City, but far enough away to breathe. My house is on a golf course and in the summer I write in the garden, watching the golfers play. The 8th hole is at the bottom of my garden, so the last 10 feet of it is a no-go zone when they play. Sometimes I sneak to the fence and throw a ball back onto the green when they’re not looking.

Are your clients local, global or a mix?

My clients are a mix of global and local. The power of the internet means we can do business anywhere that speaks English.

1. What is the first piece of writing that you remember doing?

My first piece (that I can recall) was an article on Henry VIII. I grew up in East London which is rich in history from the Tudor period. Roads are named after his first two wives and many of the landmarks are related. I found it compelling, yet gruesome to be a Queen in those times and I was thankful to be born now. I still have a fondness for Katherine of Aragon, and I often wonder how England would have looked if she’d have had a son. Did you know she was Regent of the country for a while and she martialled an army to repel Scottish forces? She won.

2. What made you realise that you wanted to write for a living?

It crept up on me! One day I was on maternity leave and playing with the children, the next day I was a blogger! I write prolifically as I’ve found when you do something more you get better at it.

3. How did you get your first client?

My first client came from a blog post and that fascinated me, I wanted to pick apart why that post worked, why the person contacted me to work with them… The rest they say is history.

4. What do you wish that you had written?

Where do I start! Harry Potter (for the money), I wished that I’d written that. I love how children worldwide started to read again with Harry Potter, proving that they don’t need dumbed down writing, but books that make them feel, and understand those feelings. I’d also loved to have written Philippa Gregory’s books, she writes very readable historical fiction. There are so many wonderful women writers, and I’m going to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel next and by the end of it I’m sure I’ll wish that I’d written that as well! If it was a non-fiction book, then Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s the book I read the most, I have it on audio and I pick it up at least once a day. I have a handbag edition, a car edition and an under-the-bed edition (for when I lack motivation). To write this book, I’d have had to live a full life and then share my wisdom, and that’s part of the reason I love it so much.

5. What is the one tip that you would give aspiring writers?

To keep writing. The words are no good if they’re in your head. So write them down, type them.. Just get them out of your head and onto the page. Don’t be scared to experiment, don’t think you can’t self-publish as that’s not real writing (look at E.L James she did it and now lives in the centre of London in a fab home), you can do anything you want to do, but if you keep the words locked up… No one will ever know your brilliance.

6. What is your current project?

Aside from my 30 day blogging challenge, I’m writing an alternate history book about a famous English battle. I’ve mapped the book out, the characters and the basic plot and I’ll soon be ready to start filling the pages!

Sarah from Sark e-Media
Sarah from Sark e-Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find Sarah at her blog, Sark e-Media where she is currently running a 30 day blogging challenge.

Thank you, Sarah for agreeing to be on my blog. There will be more author/freelance interviews soon so keep checking this page for more details.

Subscribe to the newsletter for up-to-date information on this blog.

If you would like to take part as an author/freelance interviewee then email me at sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com

Share

Applying for a Writing Job

Photo on Flickr by Soapbeard

You’ve checked out the jobs boards, you’ve trolled the best sites and you’ve found a job that you are reasonably confident that you could do. Now what?

Now get up the confidence to apply for it! No job ever applies for itself and if you don’t try then you will never know if you could have got it. Here are a few pointers when applying for a writing job.

Send Your Best Writing


This sounds obvious, but its amazing how many writers don’t think of it: if you are applying for a writing job, then you need to write at your best. This is not a time for spelling mistakes or glaring grammar errors!

If you are applying to a job advert, then read it carefully. Some employers put instructions in the ad to ensure that applicants have read it thoroughly. Follow the instructions: if they ask for a CV then write a CV. If they ask you to call, then call; email then email. If they ask you to put “buckaroo” in bold in the middle of your CV, then do it! (They were probably testing you to see if you read the application thoroughly or not!)

Email as though You Were Writing a Letter

If you are applying through a jobs board, then the first contact is likely to be an email. Although these are usually informal, it will do you no harm to approach this as though it were a formal letter. Begin with ‘Dear’ and the client’s name and end with the appropriate ‘Yours Sincerely’ or ‘Yours Faithfully’. It sets you out as a business-like person. It creates a good impression and sets you out from the rest.

Explain why you are suited to the job and why you should be considered for the role. Keep it brief and relevant – no major life stories here. At the end of the letter, say that you look forward to hearing from them and sign off.

Include Contact Details

Make sure that you include full contact details so that any prospective employer can get in touch with you quickly.

Leave your email for a while before sending it (some people recommend 24 hours – but give it as long as you have got). Read it through again and correct any errors. Reading out loud will help.

Attach your CV if required. Send the email. Jobs boards usually have a closing date, so you could have a week or more to run before notifications are sent out. Keep an eye on the site to see if the job closes early.

If you have written on speck, then you may get a reply quite quickly. It may be “no thanks, I’ll keep you on record”, in which case keep applying to other people.

If you got the job, congratulations.

If there is no answer, don’t wait on it forever – get on with the next application. As previously stated: the more applications you send in, the more likely it is that you will get a ‘yes’.

Share

Helpful Blogs

Photo by Matsuyuki

The Internet is a great place to be involved in sometimes, especially for writers. No longer do writers have to sit in a solitary place, banging out another article on their keyboard.

Now we can network, share blogs, contact other writers and share details. We can even write a novel in a month!

Contact with other writers is essential so that we can share success and horror stories and help one another. We are no longer restricted to our own locality, but now the world is in our own backyard.

Here are some of the writing blogs that have inspired me. Go check them out and feel free to add some of your own.

http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com/ Anne Wayman’s blog which is one of the best ones out there for newbies to read.

http://allfreelancewriting.com/ Jenn Mattern’s blog tells it how it is. She has strong opinions and pulls no punches, but her advice is always sound. Her blog is entertaining and she offers a free e-book – on writing e-books!

http://menwithpens.ca/ Men With Pens show you how it should be done. It’s a great blog with good advice.

http://bloggerillustrated.net/ If you want to understand what SEO, backlinks, and web sites have to do with the writing world, then you could do worse than visit Allyn Hane’s site. He explains it all simply and easily in video.

What websites have you found useful?

Share

What Do You Write About?

Picture by StaR DusT

There are many different kinds of writing. The first division is between fiction and non-fiction. When people think of writers, the automatic job description is of a fiction writer, a story teller, an author. The other ways of writing for a living can also bring you satisfaction.

Where do you use writing in your everyday life? Do you tell stories to your children or grandchildren? Do you write articles for small, local magazines? Do you write letters to your local newspaper or reviews on Amazon? Every piece of writing helps to build your confidence and if it is accepted by others, then that confidence is worth it.

Writing Stories

This is the obvious one, I know! But have you thought about short stories? Women’s magazines accept short stories, there are plenty of short story competitions on the Web or for collections of short stories. There are lots of opportunities to create short stories for and if you search, there are websites that will give you story starters and a reason to write.

Writing Poems

Who hasn’t written an angst-filled teen poem when they were younger? Yeah, ok, yes I did! And it wasn’t much good! Some people can really express themselves through poems, though and find that they can end up with lots of scribbled poems in battered notebooks. Just as there are short story competitions out there, there are also poetry competitions. There are poet websites, and small poetry publications if you look. So Google, Yahoo or Bing or whatever Poetry today and see what you can find.

News Stories

These days everyone’s a journalist! Well, maybe not everyone. I’m sure that professional journalists deserve their money, but again, some websites are actively seeking news stories written by ordinary people. Including photos can help your story to be used.

Letters

The power of the written word can inform newspaper editors, be offered in council meetings and complain of unfair practices. Go, write and make a difference!

Reviews

When you have really liked something, or really disliked something, then you might review it. The review is there to inform other potential customers and can be a really useful tool.

Writing Articles

You might contribute to a small newsletter or local publication. This is good experience for paving the way to being a more established writer.

Take a moment to think through what you write and the reasons you write. From your writing experiences, what do you think you could do as part of your writing career? What would you not wish to do? Note down your strengths and weaknesses and search the Web for your chosen forms of writing. See what others are doing and take inspiration from them.

Photo Link: Writing Words

Share