Writing a Book on Writing

How to Survive as Freelance WriterWell, I’m finally going to do it. That’s right, I’m putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, rather) and taking the plunge. I am writing a new book on how to freelance effectively.

(Groan) Hey, I heard that! I know, I know just what we all need another lame, “Buy my book,” or “Pay for my webinar,” sack of useless crap. Another wonderfully adept attempt at separating already struggling newbie freelancers from their hard-earned money with claims of  fame and fortune.

But wait! If you act now, I’ll throw in my personal system for unbridled happiness and a whiter smile! (Ding!)

(*Sarcasm always implied and included)

Maybe, you’ll say we don’t need another book like this and for a long time I was inclined to agree. Though I have read countless books, blogs and attended FREE webinars on the subject, it’s been very rare that I walked away with more than one or two nuggets at most, that I could apply 1) immediately and 2) to any great effect. The exception to this rule was Jenna Glatzer’s Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer. This little gem did exactly what a book with a title like that should do — gave me REAL, practical “How to” advice that allowed me to apply it immediately. In fact, I credit Jenna for helping me move my freelance career from part-time journalist to a full-time freelance writer.

Though Jenna’s book gave me what I needed to get started, most of what I know about freelancing was hard won. A lot has changed since she put out her book in 2004.

The publishing industry was in the midst of changing, downshifting, as I struggled to take my freelancing full-time — pregnant with my first child as print markets worldwide began to crumble under the weight of Web 2.0 technologies. Charging through the halls of writing came social media sites, blogging went platinum, ebooks got hot, Kindle became cheap and apps were all the rage.

My brethren could be heard caterwauling on chat boards and in LinkedIn groups about how content mills like Demand Studios and bid-for-jobs sites like Elance (as well as outsourcing content production to India) were sounding the death knell for our way of life. Magnifying it all, was that the market had became supersaturated with freelancers due to record layoffs in newspapers around the country — loads of local and a handful of larger magazines began to fold. All this, while as a nation, and then in a domino effect — our world, took a brutal economic dunk.

Endless tomes on writing

It was not the best time to go full-time into freelancing . . .or was it?

What I learned in that time, could fill volumes of books. I could spend time pontificating on the real meaning of all of this aggregate technology on our lives, on the spiritless action of reading an electronic copy of a book versus the tactile sensations that accompany one in your hands — the smell of a book, the crack of the binding as you first open it and the feel of the pages beneath your fingertips, exhilarated by the promise of a new adventure. I could lament that an industry I dreamed of since I was a 12 year old girl, spending her summer reading encyclopedia entries and books from the library on the history of journalism (Edward R. Murrow and the muckrakers filling my young mind with glamorous visions of investigative journalism with me as the star reporter) was now turning into something called info-tainment as print media was being slaughtered mercilessly, their worn and crumbled pages left blowing in the wind like tumbleweeds in a Sergio Leone movie.

The truth is, I did all that and more. I agonized about the shifting marketplace and complained, like my brethren, to anyone who would listen. I bemoaned the new technology and the growing Borg of newly minted adopters (I still don’t have a cell phone — I did back in ’97 before it was cool, now I’m on to bigger and better things — WINK). Then, when I could no longer stand my own whining, I did what I always do when I need to quell the fear inside — research.

Research is a writer’s best friend and on the many occasions of my life when someone has pointed out how brave I am, I always feel the need to correct them — “Not brave,” I say, “one of the most fearful people you’ll ever meet. But since I refuse to live in fear, I do research. It calms the nerves.” Do you remember the theme to the Old School House Rock cartoons they’d show on Saturday mornings (yes, I’m that old) it went like this:

As your body grows bigger
Your mind grows flowered
It’s great to learn
Cause knowledge is power!


Well, I think I bought in big time because whenever I’ve felt utterly powerless, I’ve turned to learning to ease those fears and this time was no different. I began to build my website. I’d already been blogging for the Oregonian’s website since 2005, so I knew how to blog but I needed a space to store clips and share ideas and hopefully cultivate work. But how to get traffic? I began reading about SEO and thinking that there was much more to it than the brief 400 word articles were giving me, I signed up for one of the first collegiate SEO programs in the country. Not only that, I got a scholarship (without which I could never have attended) to the program courtesy of SEMPDX for an essay I wrote – natch.

This course would put me on a path that would mean the difference between success and failure, between understanding the new paradigms of the marketplace and believing the dream was over. My SEO knowledge, lead to SEO writing gigs (along with offerings of a little WordPress website design and keyword analysis), which lead to social media expertise and apprenticing under one of the foremost authorities on the untapped potential of LinkedIn.

All of which gave me some kind of super vision, like those killer Raybans in the Roddy Rowdy Piper cult movie, They Live, but instead of aliens everywhere, I saw all the hidden potential in the realm of writing and I could see that the future meant more and a wider selection of diverse content needed to drive the new technology. Writing wasn’t going anywhere, it was just morphing into new forms and outlets. I tried shouting this from the mountaintops to my compadres, some listened as I mentored, some threw in the towel. But what I’ve found repeatedly, is a need for a REAL, practical survival guide to freelance writing in the world of Web 2.0 (and 3.0, semantics anyone?)

And since it doesn’t exist — I’m going to write it, over the next 90 days.

I hope you, my friends and readers, will hold my feet to the fire on this one. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Happy Writing!

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