Friday, March 16, 2018

Getting Hired: What is a Freelance Writer?

This is the first installment of a series of posts for those looking to start a career as a freelance writer. For more posts in this series, please check out the Getting Hired as a Freelance Writer tab. 

What is a freelance writer?

This should be an easy question to answer, but for some, it's not. Do you have to write novels to be considered a writer? Do you have to be earning a good living to be a writer? Does a notable list of clients make you a writer?

The truth is the only thing that makes you a writer is that you write. Maybe not every day, but you write. And you find some joy in the writing process. Maybe it's a diary that no one in the world will ever see. Maybe you write epic poems and burn them in the fireplace once they are complete. I don't care what you write—you are a writer.

And when you add freelancing to the word writer, you are saying you want to earn a living from something you love doing. This is a concept we are all taught—do what you love! But as most of us figured out when adulthood smacked us in the face for the first time, it's not always the easiest choice. Sometimes you feel like you don't have a choice to work at doing something you love. All of those disgruntled miserable people who couldn't find their own happiness will tell you to keep it as a cute hobby, but you'll never make a dime from it. They are dream squashers. Avoid those wretches at all costs.

But enough unqualified psych-talk. Want to be a freelance writer? Tell someone you are a freelance writer. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Did you tell them? How did they react? Let me guess—they didn't know exactly what that meant. They equated it to artistic endeavors (which for most people that looks like: artistic = poor) such as acting or being an artist. Or they said, "That's cool. Can I pick your brain?"

WARNING: Some people you know will try to get you to do work for free. They will not appreciate the fact that you have skills worthy to meet a basic standard of living—but we will cover that topic in another post.

Again, their reactions don't matter. You want to be a freelance writer? —POOF!— you are a freelance writer. Give yourself permission to seek out all that comes with the territory. It's not easy, and not every part of it is fun, but as long as there is still a spark every time you sit down to write, you've found something you love to do.

Congrats—a lot of people never get that far.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Weekend Reads: The Radicals

On the surface Eli and Sam seem like any other twenty-somethings—they are attending grad school, they philosophize just for fun, they play tennis together and they develop a social conscience. What sets these two apart is their eventual spiral into life's gray area where good intentions cannot solve the world's problems, only show them that as part of a privileged class, they are really just another part of the problem keeping everyone else down.

Eli and Sam take what was to be a stand against corporate America and its greed a step too far. They start by trying to save the home of a woman in Arizona who was getting a raw deal, but the other social activists that they meet during this time will help shape their outlook on social justice and plant the seed that turns a weekend college protest into a Weathermen-esque plot for violence against one of the one-percenters.

I do like the writing style of this novel, however, I don't have an ounce of sympathy for Eli, Sam, or any of the other characters that grace this book. Even Maria from Arizona ends up being a sellout, with little thanks to those who tried to help her. Eli and Sam are privileged themselves, which quite a lot of college and grad students somehow forget while they are trying to fight for social change, so it makes for a muted argument as to how they could get it in their minds that they are essential to national or global change. Eli in particular is living in a haze of laziness—at any point in this novel Eli could have just stopped, evaluated where he was, hit the parents up for another check, and established a life for himself. But he doesn't. If feels like he has little connection to the Group after Arizona, yet his indecisiveness just keeps him tagging along for it all. With the end not really giving readers any sort of satisfaction (whether you liked Eli or not), it sort of fell flat, just like Eli's good intentions from the beginning. 

Interested in reading this? Check out more information about the book and about the author.  

*Book provided by Blogging for Books

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Rush

The cinematic quality of my brain can be hit and miss sometimes. When I came up with the idea for the script I'm writing as part of my application for a fellowship, it was definitely a hit. I saw all of the details, every piece of dialogue. I had been mulling this around in my brain for months because when I first heard about the fellowship, it was only two weeks before the last deadline, so I wasn't going to rush something that clearly needed more care than that. I thought I had it all and that it would be easy to just get it down on paper. Things are never that easy.

I'm falling into a couple of writing traps that all my work, no matter what genre or format, seems to suffer from in the draft stage. The first is the rush to get the words down. I'm so anxious to get it down that some serious details get skipped over. I try to follow the rule of drafting that says you just sit and write, you don't go back and change things until you get to the end.

That leads into the second major trap--underwriting. I know many writers have the problem of overwriting--they just can't seem to stop with every little detail or aren't able to find the right place to stop the story. I get to the end and find that I only have two-thirds of what I need for a standard novel/short story/script.

I guess I'm not trying to change these issues themselves, but to be okay with them and base any and all future revision sessions on the idea that it will always be this way. It's just the way I write, and it's not a bad way. It may get frustrating at times, but it's always produced something I could be proud of in the end, so I guess it's working.

Does your writing ever give you that sense of frustration?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

March -- Yeah, It's Going to Happen.

I think this cartoon pretty much sums up what's going on in March. 

A post shared by Ruby (@rubyetc_) on

This month is all about writing and tons of reading, because as usual I can't say no to an ARC that sounds interesting. I won't hear back about anything I've submitted so far this year until April (which, if all goes wrong, will really be the cruelest month). April is always a huge month, with National Poetry Month celebrations and Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm spending my March writing time completing the first draft of a television script. I've got my sights on a screenwriting fellowship, and I think I have a story that will get their attention. It's for an existing show (as the application requires), so theoretically it should be a bit easier than coming up with a whole show of my own. Now I just have to figure out how to write it to mirror what it looks like in my head. Ahh, the life of a writer.

What are your writing plans for March?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Communication Conundrum or Just Plain Obstinance?

I know that talking about my freelance work is like walking a tight rope--I could make it harder for myself to find the right clients to work with. However, there's an imposing gap in communication, especially when it comes to my most popular Fiverr gig. I'm putting the blame and responsibility on me--I need to find a better way to communicate exactly what I offer and what I don't.


What I Do and What I Don't Do

My book spotlight has brought in consistent work since I posted it. It's not a life-changing amount of work, but I'm glad I have it. The problem I'm having is that so many people think that it's a book review. It's not. It is a marketing tool used to help promote a book. I do not read the book. I do not need a copy of the book to write up the blog post. It's simply an affordable way for writers to reach a wider audience. It's not a book review. And that's because...

I Won't Risk My Livelihood for You

No. I won't do it. Fiverr, Amazon (and by extension Goodreads) have all banned paid book reviews. BANNED. A big no-no. I'm sure other platforms have similar rules and regulations. What does this really mean? That means if I'm found to have taken money for a book review, the least they could do is pull down that review. The most they could do is ban me from one or all of these platforms. That wouldn't just take away my Fiverr gigs--that would also take away my ability to publish my own work and market that work in the future. I would also like to point out that while clients think they are paying me at least $5 per gig, I'm only taking in $3.92 per $5 gig because I'm hit with multiple fees each time I complete work. Would you risk your job and your entire livelihood to earn $3.92 from me? Didn't think so.

I get that there are a few loopholes to these restrictions, some of which I take advantage of--like being able to get free books in exchange for reviews. And yes, while getting a hardcover with a MSRP of $26.00 or more does seem like being paid, it's still allowed on Amazon and Goodreads with proper disclosure. But this cannot happen through my gig. I would love to be able to take a position with a respected publication to do book reviews and get paid for it. These jobs are few and far between, plus you have to have a wide publishing/journalism/writing network to even hear about them before they are snatched up. I'm still working on that whole networking thing.

I Don't Want to Be One of Those People...

Introverts don't want to be the center of attention. They don't really want to be noticed by too many people. This feeling can carry over into online communication very easily. The quickest way to communicate that a book spotlight isn't a book review is to put it out there in big, bold online yelling: I DO NOT WRITE PAID BOOK REVIEWS. I feel this is too in-your-face, and on the rare occasion I'm on the other side of this needing to work with someone, this immediately signals to me that they are already defensive and would be difficult to work with. So I don't do that. I'd rather be the person in the room that has all the answers but no one listens to than the loudest and most obnoxious.

Then again, maybe I should because a lot of people just aren't listening. This doesn't just waste my time--it impacts my Fiverr ratings and my potential to be promoted. I had a cancelled order a few months ago because someone bought a book spotlight gig and told me to write a five-star review (yes, they specifically requested five stars) for a cab company in Arizona--clearly not the parameters of a gig that promotes books and writing contests. Cancelled orders are bad for sellers, so thanks for that.

Also, once Fiverr switched to rating sellers on a monthly basis, I've conveniently gotten just enough spam messages to ruin my response rate (by the way, Fiverr sellers out there: IMMEDIATELY report and delete spam otherwise you'll wind up like me, which I didn't know until I dug into all the terms of service). This demoted me as a level one seller and now I have to meet the new requirements to get it back, including $400 in lifetime earnings instead of the old $50 in lifetime earnings. This is going to take awhile.

From now on, accurate communication is my top priority. If I have to spend hours rewriting my gig description so that everyone gets the gist, I will. I have all the marketing skills I need. Now I just need to activate those superpowers and save the world--or at least save my sanity.