I happened into entrepreneurship without anything resembling a business background. What I had instead was a B.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, a good chunk of publishing industry experience, boxes full of how-to books, and a love of the written word. But my abilities as a writer didn’t translate into business success, and so I created my own continuing education.
I read books on freelancing, entrepreneurship, and how to make money as a writer. I read blogs about the business of writing. I even took several online workshops put together by Launch Coach Dave Navarro.
What I learned from most of these resources is that, when building a business, your mailing list is key. That built-in, loyal readership will help you market your products and services more easily than if you were cold-pitching your business every damn day.
I’ve been writing Word Nerd News for over a year now but, two weeks ago, I made my very first attempt to deliberately grow my mailing list and build up the word nerd community. In that space of time, my mailing list grew by over 100 percent. It’s still growing. How’d I do it?
I send out Word Nerd News once a month and, in each issue, I try to deliver something of value to my readers. I write up unique how-to content that has not previously appeared on this blog. I share the stories of seasoned freelance writers and fellow word nerds. I provide additional resources from around the web, and I share content from other writers that I think you’ll find interesting.
Still, many of us are already experiencing inbox overwhelm, and are loath to sign up for yet another newsletter. What’s in it for us? What will we get out of it aside from another email in our inbox?
This is where the “cookie” comes in.
I learned about the cookie through a fantastic video series — How to Failproof Your Business — put together by Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford. Basically, the cookie is something of value you offer people (aside from just your brilliant newsletter). Something with practical application for them, that also showcases your abilities as an expert in your field. It can be an ebook. An industry report. A case study. The most amazing info product ever.
Despite how amazing your info product will inevitably be, after developing it, you don’t charge for it.Â No. You give it away.Â Well actually, no. That’s not true. Instead of giving you sweet, sweet money, all the reader has to do in order to receive this fantastic freebie is sign up for your mailing list.
It’s like the gateway drug to future awesomeness, and it’s a win-win for the both of you. You build up a mailing list filled with loyal and devoted readers who inspire you on a day-to-day basis. They receive — and continue to receive, if they stick around — content that improves their lives.
Which is where Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit came from. I developed an info product based upon processes I myself found helpful in my own business, and then I offered it to my subscribers, urging them to tell their friends about it if they found it helpful, too.
Then — because I didn’t want to rely upon subscriber word-of-mouth alone — I went on a magical mystery blog tour, drawing up guest posts for a slew of bloggers I had long admired… some of whom had been instrumental in my own self-education as a beginning freelancer. I knew our readerships would overlap, and I hoped that creating content for these other readers wouldÂ eventually lead them to hop on over to my site, sign up for my mailing list, and someday exchange friendship bracelets.
As each new guest post went up, I saw my subscriber base grow.
Do you have a mailing list already? You should get on that if you don’t. (I use MailChimp for mine, and I love it.) If you do have a mailing list, ask yourself: What can I offer to subscribers that will really get them fired up?
But before you go and do all that, take a trip up on my magical mystery blog tour. Here are all the places I was at when I wasn’t here:
I did up a post for Michelle Rafter’s WordCount blog on the 5 Steps to Freelance Awesomeness.
I told Brazen Careerist readers how they, too, could become freelance hardasses and get paid what they’re worth.
I came up with some creative ways to pay the bills over at Thursday Bram’s blog.
I shared tips on building an author platform with the readers of Lisa Romeo Writes.
I told Susan Johnston’s readers how they could create eight story ideas in one sitting, over at the Urban Muse.
And because I apparently like the number 8, I gave Linda Formichelli’s readers eight different ways to find accountability as a freelance writer, over at the Renegade Writer blog.
I did a podcast on putting together a freelance startup plan, over at Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den. You can access a recording of the podcast by registering for Carol’s online community.
And finally — in a bit of fortuitous timing, and having nothing to do with my blog tour — I gave advice on how to choose a writing coach (again at Susan’s blog), I showed Kristin Offiler’s readers my super-exciting home office, I gave networking advice to the introverts who read DMAGÂ (check out page 16) and, in a happy surprise, I realized that Stephanie Dickison had highlighted me and my blog on page 23 of The Writer‘s March 2012 issue, as one of the blogs that are “worth a writer’s time.” (!)
Whew! That was exhausting. Enjoy your tour. Me? I need more coffee.
In the five years since I first launched this blog — and in the 1.5 years since I began coaching — I’ve learned a thing or two about the things that can hold a freelancer back.
And aside from the lure of a smooshy couch, a good book, or a curated list of sparkly jewelry on Etsy, a lot of the roadblocks we put up around ourselves stem from the pitch process.
You’ve asked me so many questions about query letters over the years:
How do I find publications to pitch?
Which editor should I target?
What do I do if I have no clips/experience/personal connection?
How long should I wait before I follow up?
Is my letter really good enough to send out?Â
I had the same questions when I started out and, over the years, I developed my own system for making the pitch to publish process go smoother.
So what’s my trick to busting query fear?
For the past few months, Â I’ve been working on 5 Weeks to Freelance Awesome: An Action Plan, a workbook that takes you from idea generation to the building of your freelance brand. This workbook, which will be available for sale in the late spring, will be pretty damn fantastic. But as I worked on it, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Is there a way I can use this information to show gratitude to my loyal word nerd readers? Is there a way I can share this information with readers without ruining the big reveal?
Yesterday, I emailed Word Nerd News subscribers with a download link to Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit, a FREE mini-workbook containing the five worksheets necessary to jumpstart your freelance writing career. These worksheets comprise the system I’ve put in place for making my own pitch process a helluva lot easier. I use them on an almost-daily basis.Â They help me:
- generate story ideas
- conduct market research
- write kick-ass query letters, and
- track pitches and assignments
These worksheets take the self-doubt out of story pitching, and help me keep the freelance momentum going.
Because I don’t want you to miss out, I encourage you to sign up for my mailing list as well. As a subscriber to Word Nerd News, you’ll receive instant access to my starter kit. Not only that, but you’ll receive a once-a-month email containing freelance success stories, solid advice, and valuable resources from around the web. I’d say it’s a win-win.
Once you’ve downloaded my .pdf-powered word glitter, I only ask one thing in return: If you find my starter kit helpful… if you think I have something valuable to offer… if you think my hair is pretty… if you think I could be a service to someone else you know, tell them to sign up for my mailing list, too.
(If you don’t want to sign up right now, you can always come back later. There’s a simple sign-up form in theÂ right-handÂ sidebar of this blog, and a sign-up button on my professional site as well.)
I should also tell you that, next week (Thursday, February 9 at 12 p.m. PST / 3 p.m. EST), I’ll be appearing on Carol Tice‘s weekly podcast, over at the FreelanceÂ Writer’s Den, to talk freelance startup plans. (You may recall that Carol is one of my favorite freelance writing bloggers.) This is a members-only event, so be sure to registerÂ beforehand!
Finally, I want to give a big thanks to Lyz Lenz, my writing partner, for ripping my workbook to shreds and then helping me put it back together again; Melanie Ostmo, a fantastic designer, for making my starter kit all sorts of pretty; and Milena Canizares, a former coaching client who was kind enough to read through my kit and give me her feedback before I shared it with the world.
Go forth and rock it, y’all.
Related: How To Pitch: The Basics
Those of you who have been reading Freelancedom for awhile may have noticed a shift in tone recently.
Part of this has been due to a shift in focus, and in changing goals. Part of it has been due to the emotional/mental shift that comes with improved work/life balance, and with more consistent income (alleluia!).
But a big part of that shift has come from the fact that I now hit up my local yoga studio four to five days a week.
Is that crazy? Maybe. But I’ve come to realize that freelancing and yoga go together like Nutella and pound cake.
Let me explain. When I go to my morning and lunchtime yoga classes, I’m simultaneously pumped up for productivity and made more relaxed despite freelance-related stress. When I go to my evening class, focusing on the poses and meditating in savasana help me turn off my brain before bedtime. Yoga also helps me stretch out the muscles that perpetually ache after hours at the computer. And I’m healthier: mentally and physically. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good without the help of mood-stabilizing medication.
In fact, yoga has become such a big part of my life that I plan on entering a teacher training program in January 2013. Yoga won’t supplant writing and editing and coaching and singing, but it will become a big part of the mix.
But I know you came here to talk writing. And entrepreneurship. And the freelance life.
Still, I feel that there are a lot of writer-yogis out there, so I thought you might find this interesting.
Basically, to give the rest of you non-yogis a break, I’ve created a Tumblr on which I will now gush about everything yoga. It’s called OMmygod, and I think it’s OMazing (stop rolling your eyes).
Interesting, yoga-related links? Got it.
Fun, funny, and just-plain amazing yoga comics, photos, and videos? You bet.
A picture of me in headstand? Yes. I’ve allowed that to go out into the world.
Also, I’ve been kicking around the idea of planning a yoga/writing retreat for word nerds. Would any of you be interested in that? Let me know, and we can chat about making it the retreat you’ve been dreaming of.
Anyways. Yoga has changed my mindset, and I’ll continue bringing that new sensibility to my Freelancedom posts. I hope you don’t mind. But with this new outlet, I’m hoping I can keep things — dare I say it? — balanced.
How has your freelance focus shifted over the past few years?
Related: Inch By Inch: How Small Steps Lead to Big Success, You’re Doing Great. You Should Give Thanks and Chill the Eff Out.,Â How Choosing the More Difficult Path Leads to Awesomeness (and a Cuter Butt)
I don’t usually promote events here that don’t have a direct link to writing, freelancing, or entrepreneurship, but writing brought me to this odd spot, so I wanted to share.
This coming Friday, July 29, I will be a guest on Late Night with Logan, hosted by sex educator Logan Levkoff. The topic? Oh, the usual. Vibrators. Sex. That kinda thing. The venue? The Trojan Vibrations Truck.
Basically,Â Trojan is going on a truck tour in the style of the city’s popular food trucks, dispensing free Trojan Her Pleasure condoms and Trojan Vibrating Rings while also promoting sexual health awareness. You can read more about it here.Â Each night, the truck will also become a destination for a late night web talk show, Late Night with Logan. During this talk show, Logan will interview “some of the industry’s greatest visionaries and experts who have helped pave the way for making the conversation around sex and vibrators positive, healthy, and open.” (I’m going to start telling my mom that I’m a visionary.)
I practically squeed when I was invited. I had already seen Logan tweet about the truck tour, and had thought it was a fantastic idea. I myself have been writing about sex for 10 years now, and my initial sex toy reviews have led to a fulfilling career in which I’m able to destigmatize sex issues for my peers using openness, honesty, and humor. I’m thrilled for the chance to participate in something that seems so closely aligned with what I try to do with my writing.
How did I get here? I’ve been doing a lot of work for Ian Kerner and his Good in Bed site lately, and my most recent project was to copyedit Logan’s latest Good in Bed manuscript: How to Get Your Wife to Have Sex with You. (Such a fun — and totally necessary! — book.) She must have found my notes to be helpful because, only a few hours after passing them along, I was contacted about being a guest on her traveling web talk show.
I love how opportunities pop up and surprise me like that!
(In fact, my Good in Bed work came about simply because I’d interviewed Ian for an article in Time Out New York… and he liked what he saw.)
This Friday’s Late Night with Logan taping will take place from 8 – 10 p.m., outside the Williamsburg Waterfront at 93 Kent Ave.
You should visit! Not only will I be there, but the truck will be stationed outside a free concert with guestsÂ They Might Be Giants, Patton Oswalt, and Kristen Schaal.
If you can’t make it, though, the show will also be broadcast on the Trojan Facebook page and website following the event.
So tell me: What’s the oddest opportunity your writing has brought you?