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How I Really Found My Freelance Writing Voice

freelance writing voice“How do I find my freelance writing voice?” I get this question often.

Let me tell you how I really found mine.

Years ago I created a newspaper column called, I think, Successful Single Parenting. I sold it to three newspapers, giving me the beginning of what I hoped would become a massive syndicate paying me millions.

It was a Q & A patterned after either Dear Abby or Ann Landers, or maybe both. Each week I’d make up two or three questions, answer them, send them off to the three newspapers. Occasionally I’d get a question from a reader. I think I made something around $30 a month, maybe a tad less.

Magic happened

To my surprise I got a call from what was then one of the largest newspaper syndicates in the country. The call was from a seasoned editor there – yes, it can happen that they call you. He had been reading my columns and maybe even gotten ahold of the book I’d written which was published by a small publisher in the midwest.

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The 80% Rule and Freelance Writers

80% Rule and Freelance WritersI first ran into the 80 percent rule over at MarksDailyApple… an excellent site about the Paleo diet. The idea there is that if you follow the eating plan 80 percent of the time you’ll be way ahead of the game.

I loved it because I knew I could do that. It allowed for transition time, a learning curve, mistakes and just plain old resistance. It’s worked for me. I now follow a low carb diet with, for the most part, real ease, way more than 80 percent of the time and am getting the results I want, slowly.

It turns out that the idea behind the 80 percent rule is the observation that 80 percent of our results come from 20 percent of our efforts. I don’t know how scientific that is, but it’s one of those notions that feels right. It’s based on the Pareto principle, sort of. In business, for example, it is said that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients. Which isn’t exactly the same as I understood it in relationship to diet.

The 80% rule and freelance writers

How might this apply to freelance writers? Although some say we get 80 percent of our work from 20 percent of our clients, that doesn’t seem to fit me. Besides, my first question is, even if that’s true, how did I get those 20 percent that send me 80 percent of my work? Obviously I had to be doing a bunch of marketing to find them.

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In Freelance Writing Overwhelm? Chunk It All Down

freelance writing overwhelmEver feel like you’ve got way too much to do and not nearly enough time or energy to get it all done? That’s what I call freelance writing overwhelm. It’s an unpleasant sense that I’m never going to get any time to just be.

And, in my case, it’s usually not only about the writing I need or want to do. Other things in life start to pile up and if I’m not paying attention I’m soon in overwhelm.

For example, my current to do list includes:

Adding a specific code to my ebook sales pages – which turns out to be way more complicated than I thought and there’s a hard deadline.

I need a cocktail or dressy dress for an upcoming conference and haven’t a clue what I want or where to get it.

I have yet another draft of proposal for a client that didn’t give me complete information to start, and I didn’t realize I needed. As a result, I’m way behind.

Two more blog posts for a regular client – wish I’d done them earlier in the month, but I didn’t.

My house needs a cleaning, really from top to bottom, and I better get some laundry in today or I’ll be out of clothes to wear by tomorrow or so it seems. And these are just what I think of as the biggies. (Off to start laundry right now… okay, laundry started.)

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My Favorite Freelance Writing Hashtags

writing hashtagsProper use of freelance writing hashtags allows you to signal to social media users that your content is of interest to those in the freelance writing field.

Hashtags are those search words or phrases preceded by the number or hash sign (#) that’s found on top of the number 3 on most keyboards. Originally used by programmers to call out something specific. They began to creep into public awareness with the advent of Twitter and their decision in July of 2009, to link hashtag tweets. It was during the Iranian election protests of 2009-2010 that the upsurge in hashtag use really took off.

Hashtags are no longer limited to Twitter – you’ll find them and can use them on almost all social media including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more.

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Freelance Writers Need to Be Bold About Getting Paid

getting paidI often hear from freelance writers who are having trouble getting paid. It turns out many are actually afraid of asking for the money that’s owed them. Could this be you?

It used to be me.

For the longest time I thought  it was rude to ask for the pay that I had earned as a freelance writer. I don’t really know why. When I had jobs I expected to get paid and the one time I didn’t – I was waitressing and the paycheck bounced – I had no trouble in insisting on cash and getting it.

But when someone didn’t pay me for writing when I had expected it, or even worse, actually stiffed me, I rarely took any action toward getting paid. It was as if, on some level, I didn’t feel I deserved to be paid for something I enjoyed doing so much.

I had no idea how rare the ability to write is

It took me a long time to realize that most people don’t love to write the way I do. Nor do they find it, well, almost easy. Words flow out of my fingers onto the page and sometimes it feels like magic rather than work.

Just in case you feel even a little bit like that, let me suggest that the first bold step you need to take toward getting paid is to recognize you have a skill than most of the world doesn’t. Don’t believe me? Widen your blog reading. Pick something other than writing or blogging as your topic – cats, gardening, hair care, fly fishing… anything. Google up some blogs on a variety of non-writing topics and the chances are you’ll see several that are poorly written, and yet they’re out there for all to read. You know you can do better and that’s exactly why you got hired.

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tax deductionsBelieve it or not, tax season is already approaching us. For those on a long term, consistent, career path this is usually an easy process that involves a simple W-2 form and some free or inexpensive tax preparation software.

In hindsight, tax prep for freelancers can be complicated.

An article by Intuit QuickBooks points out that self-employed people typically can write off expenses that fall under the following three stipulations:

  • Things you use exclusively in operating your business
  • Things you eat in the course of doing business
  • Things related to the exclusive business use of the place where your business operates

While these prerequisites are often times a bit vague, the guidelines for the self-employed workforce are outlined by the IRS website.

General Deduction Guidelines for Freelancers

The first step is to account for your yearly income. Then begins the arduous process of calculating deductions. While this may be as painstaking as your most stressful freelance endeavors, taking the time to do this accurately is crucial when it comes to saving you money.

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The Subject is Writing Subject Lines

subject linesSeveral weeks ago, Ed Gandia, who is a writer you might want to follow, sent an email that I think was at least partly about writing the subject lines of emails. The way I remember it the main idea was that your subject line is critically important, particular when you’re working with clients. His recommendation was as I recall that we write those important tiny bits of writing in a way that makes a connection with the recipient.

While I like the idea of emailing you with a subject that’s something like, “Mary, I really liked your article on Entrepreneur” or “Thanks for the great job on my website,” there’s another use for email subject lines that I don’t think I’ve seen written about.

Make subject lines useful

Even more important than connecting I think, is being sure your email subject lines are useful to the reader. We’re all buried in email and when subject lines are vague, or even worse, duplicated because they are picked up from a previous email, it becomes hopeless to try and sort them out except by opening them one at a time. Annoying to say the least.

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How to Boost Your Freelance Writing Income with a Blog

blogMany freelance writers begin their careers wondering if they should start a blog. Others are exploring methods to supplement their writing income. My question, then, is this: Why not kill two birds with one stone?

Whether you blog on your writer website or start a completely new blog to write about what you love, there’s potential to make money and wow clients. Here are a few ways you can use your blog to boost your freelance writing income.

Attract Clients with Your Blog

First and foremost, a blog can help you grow your freelance writing business in the same way any other organization uses blogging as a content marketing tool. The perk is that as a writer, you get to show off your services and skills at the same time.

Blog posts drive traffic. It’s as simple as that. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the stats. A HubSpot study showed that companies who blog receive:

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No Writer Wants to Diagram Sentences!

diagram sentencesNo one wants to diagram sentences! Who was it that invented that High School torture? I just bet that it was probably compounded by poor teaching, too. But that’s another story.

And yet… it’s actually important to know some of that stuff, especially for writers.

Lately, I’ve been reading some writing that reminds me why it’s important to know about things like subject, object and pronoun cases.

I know, that last sentence made my eyes cross, too! But let me talk about it in terms that make real-world sense.

Fortunately you don’t need a diagram for this one

You’ll be delighted you don’t need a diagram for this one.

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Goals Drive You Crazy? Try Projects Instead

goalsOne of the reason I enjoyed Isabel Parlett the SoundBiteShaman‘s day of planning so much was becasue of her take on goals. The long and the short of it is she’s found it much more effective for her to think in terms of the projects she wants to get done, rather than working with very specific goals.

I felt my whole body relax when she said that!

On this solstice day I’ve decided this next year I’ll work with projects instead.


I get the idea that objectives should be Specific, Measureable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Timely and the acronym that results, SMART, frankly makes me want to gag.

Some of my favorite writing friends advocate goal setting. I actually like Lori Widmer’s One Easy Method for Reaching Your Freelance Writing Goals. John Soares is quite eloquent with his 13 Top Techniques For Achieving Your GoalsObviously goal setting works for some writers, maybe even most.

I have two problems with goals

When I look deeply into my feelings about goals I find two objections:

It’s so easy for me to make myself wrong when I set a goal and don’t make it

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