Tag Archives: Freelance Writing

‘No’ Is My Favorite Word

On your own, without any way to gauge whether or not your ideas are practical or wise, you might get carried away with your creativity. That’s why the word “no” is an essential part of the professional creative life. Hearing it helps me incorporate another perspective into my vision. I actually like hearing it so
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A Chance to Join the Copyblogger Certified Content Marketers

The other day, I was talking to a friend who has a very cool business. Lots of customers, lots going on, very profitable. He just has one annoying problem: He’s had a really hard time finding strong writers. He tried a bunch who have a decent knack for putting words together, but not much understanding
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Writers: It’s Time to Get Paid What You’re Worth

This week is for our professional writers — whether you’re a freelancer or you work for a bigger organization. We’re tired of you missing out on the great gigs and the plum jobs, while you watch people zoom past you who can hardly type The Cat on the Mat. Poverty is overrated. Let’s get you
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7 Ways to Coach Writing Clients on Finding Their Remarkable Voices

Cover your ears for a second. My wife can sing. I can’t. There, I admitted it. But, we do have one thing in common — we both think we can. Only one of us is right (ahem). In the world of business, we all put out a tune. A vibe. A voice. Customers flock to
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30 Tips that Help You Become an In-Demand Freelance Writer

You may or may not know that I haven’t always been Copyblogger’s editor. For many years, I was a Copyblogger reader. I didn’t know Brian. I didn’t know Sonia. But I pretended that I did. Of course I didn’t tell anyone that … I just received so much guidance from Copyblogger that helped me position
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Killer Resources for Freelancers … and an Option for Those Who Don’t Want to Go It Alone

This week, Stefanie Flaxman and I yielded the floor to a pair of smart gentlemen who we don’t hear from quite as often as we used to. And we featured a writer you haven’t seen on Copyblogger before. Her debut post for us is a must-read for writers who like being able to pay their
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How to Make a Living as a Writer When Creative Writing Isn’t Paying the Bills

I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. Growing up, I filled journals with poetry, drawings, and stories. I studied playwriting and performance in graduate school. The thought of running a business or putting a price tag on my creativity was icky. Then real life happened. Newsflash: landlords don’t accept poetry for rent. For a
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When to Send Article Pitches (and Other Important Emails)

"Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe." – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

It feels good when you’ve done your research before pitching an article idea to an editor:

  • You know the publication’s audience
  • You know your topic offers value in unique ways
  • You know the editor’s content preferences and pet peeves

But you’re not done yet.

Although hitting the “send” button on your email seems like an inconsequential step in your article pitching process, I recommend pausing before you take that action.

That moment of excited impatience could spoil all the important research you’ve just performed.

Caution: avoid these days of the week

Have you ever suggested a fun activity to a friend, significant other, or family member when they’re in a bad mood, and they immediately decline?

Although they would normally love your idea, you’ve asked them at a time when they don’t want to be bothered.

I compare that experience to submitting an article pitch to an editor on a Friday or Monday.

Friday is a day to wrap up the workweek before the weekend and organize upcoming tasks.

Monday is a day to catch up from the weekend and start juggling pressing priorities.

When you reach out to someone you don’t know, your email might get lost in the hustle and bustle of those busy days. If you’ve worked with the editor before, it still might not be a priority to review your article pitch promptly.

Another warning

My theory about Fridays and Mondays is absolutely not a strict rule. After all, an editor may have requested that you submit a pitch to them on a Friday or Monday.

It’s simply a way to think about reaching out to someone when they might be more receptive to hearing your idea.

Keeping that guideline in mind, I’ve had a high success rate of getting responses from editors over the years.

Short-term and long-term to-do lists

We all have to prioritize our work, and there are two common types of to-do lists.

  • Short-term to-do lists: work that must get done that day … or that week
  • Long-term to-do lists: work that is not a top priority but needs to get done eventually

If you send an article pitch on a Friday or Monday, the editor might want to respond. But as they prioritize their work, your email could end up on their long-term to-do list (or even their I-keep-forgetting-about-that list).

Instead, if you send an important email on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, replying to your email might be viewed as a short-term to-do list item. It’s often a lot easier to tackle work as it comes in once the week is rolling along.

I used the phrase “an important email” above because this advice can also be applied to optimize your chances of reaching anyone (coworkers, managers, dental hygienists, etc.) at a favorable time.

People are people

You’re not sending a message to a continually enthusiastic robot that reviews all of the emails they receive with perfect objectivity and care.

You’re emailing another person … a human being.

Ask yourself:

How important is the content of this email for the recipient? Is it helpful to have this information right now? Or, is it just important to me because of the time and effort I’ve spent crafting it?

If it’s mainly important to you, is there a better time to send the email?

There may not be.

But pausing here gives you a chance to think about whether or not the person may prefer to receive it at another time.

What do you know about their current schedule? Do they have more free time the following week? If it’s an article pitch, would waiting to submit your idea until later in the year be beneficial?

Unless an email is urgent, I’ll wait a few days and then decide if it makes sense to send it or continue to wait.

What if you don’t hear back from the editor?

Of course, there is no guarantee you’ll get a quick reply — or any reply — even if you carefully choose when to send an email.

I like the Two-Week Rule when following up with an editor. One week can go by quickly, but after two weeks, it’s reasonable to check in to see if the editor is considering your topic.

And if you do get a response, it might not be the “Yes” you want to hear.

Pitches that are poorly researched or have grammar errors and typos will likely get marked as spam.

If you submit an article to a publication that doesn’t review unsolicited pitches, you likely won’t get a response no matter how compelling your topic is.

For example, Copyblogger does not currently review unsolicited guest post pitches.

There are also many factors out of your control, so be patient and don’t take any response personally.

Trust the editor’s judgment.

A different publication may be an even better fit for your idea … and a rejection from one editor creates an opportunity to explore other options.

Over to you …

What are your tips for sending article pitches to editors? Are there any days of the week or traps you avoid?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Tough Love Week on Copyblogger

Tough Love Week on Copyblogger

I got an email from my team last week saying, “Seth Godin just wrote a post about an interesting new program he’s doing. Should we try to get him on the podcast?”

The answer to that question is always Hell, yes. It’s always great to talk with Seth, and he shared a little bit about his interesting new seminar, and a lot about his thoughts on communicating to create meaningful change. I got a lot of value out of the conversation, and I think you will, too. His seminar is also well worth checking out, but you have to do that by Friday.

This week on the blog was all about seizing responsibility and making your professional life better.

My conversation with Seth sparked some thoughts that I explored in Monday’s post — about how we can quit putting up with not-so-great clients and attract more of the wonderful ones instead.

On Tuesday, Robert Bruce told us to shut up. In a nice way. A mostly nice way.

And on Wednesday, Stefanie reminded us that the world does not actually revolve around us, no matter how it may seem. She gave some solid advice for how to get over an obstacle that keeps a lot of web-based writers from reaching their goals.

The Showrunner published their 100th episode this week! They celebrated by answering your questions about podcasting. Never let it be said that Jonny and Jerod do not know how to party.

Enjoy all the straight talk … and let us know what you do with it!

— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


it isn’t just ability that makes a writer successful — it’s also wise positioning5 Elements that Build a Roster of Terrific Clients

by Sonia Simone


shut up and listenHow to Become a Great Copywriter

by Robert Bruce


In order to work, pre-internet writers had to follow a publication’s editorial standardsMaster This Writing Practice to Find More Loyal Readers

by Stefanie Flaxman


How to Recruit the Best Talent for Your Online BusinessHow to Recruit the Best Talent for Your Online Business

by Sean Jackson & Jessica Frick


Seth Godin and How to Create ChangeSeth Godin and How to Create Change

by Sonia Simone


How Senior BuzzFeed Writer and Author of ‘Startup’ Doree Shafrir Writes: Part TwoHow Senior BuzzFeed Writer and Author of ‘Startup’ Doree Shafrir Writes: Part Two

by Kelton Reid


We Answer Your Questions (and Celebrate 100 Episodes)We Answer Your Questions (and Celebrate 100 Episodes)

by Jerod Morris & Jon Nastor


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5 Elements that Build a Roster of Terrific Clients

"It isn't just ability that makes a writer successful — it's also wise positioning." – Sonia Simone

In the podcast episode I recorded recently with Seth Godin, we talked about storytelling — and he made a point I thought was fascinating.

Seth’s version of storytelling isn’t just crafting a plot in the traditional sense — the classic “The queen died, and then the king died of grief.”

He also looks at the implied stories in everything we do. We tell a business story with our tone of voice on a podcast, and the color choices on our website. Our pricing, our response time, our “Contact Me” form … they all come together to tell the story of your business.

Some businesses tell scary or ugly stories. A lot of businesses tell boring ones. Seth got me thinking about the elements that I believe tell a more inviting story for a writing business — the kind of story that attracts more clients and better revenue.

If you’re a professional writer, of course you need to write well. But it isn’t just ability that makes a writer successful — it’s also wise positioning. It’s the implied story that your business tells.

Here are my thoughts on five “story elements” that help writers attract the right clients, at the right pricing, in the right numbers.

Story element #1: your voice

For any business, but particularly for a writer, the voice of your marketing is one of the most important story elements you have.

What does that look like on your site today? Do you sound stiff and formal, or loose and conversational? Like tends to attract like, and the personality you put into your writing voice will tend to attract those qualities in your clients.

Do the choices you’re making invite the kinds of clients you want?

Ask yourself what qualities your writing voice is conveying:

  • Informally relaxed … or train wreck?
  • Reassuringly professional … or uptight?
  • Charmingly approachable … or sloppy?
  • Attentively detail-oriented … or nit-picky?
  • Creatively agile … or distracted?

These are always subjective. What might seem annoyingly uptight and controlling for me might feel appealingly detail-oriented to you.

Because you’re a pro, you have more control over your writing voice than regular people do. Use that skill to convey the kinds of qualities you want to see more of in your clients.

Story element #2: your site

Good copywriting clients today don’t just want wordsmiths — they also want content strategists. (Whether or not that’s the phrase they would use.) They want writers who understand how the web works today.

It’s hard to come across as informed and web-savvy when your site design looks 10 years out of date.

You don’t have to chase every design trend, but you do need your site to look current, uncluttered, and fresh.

As someone who would rather work with words than web design, my tool of choice for web design is a good-looking premium WordPress theme. And I’d make the same choice even if our company didn’t offer dozens of great ones.

They’re reliable, they’re easy to work with (particularly if you go with a solution like StudioPress Sites), and they offer a lot of professional design value for a modest investment.

Story element #3: your pricing

Price is one of the most powerful nonverbal elements of any business story.

  • American Express tells a different story from Visa
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape tells a different story from Two-Buck Chuck
  • Mercedes tells a different story from Kia

Now, Visa, Two-Buck Chuck, and Kia are all things that a lot of consumers choose and even like.

But trust me, you do not want to be the Two-Buck Chuck of copywriting.

When you sell services, you sell your time. Hours of your life — the one thing you can never get any more of. Selling those hours at a discount just doesn’t make sense.

Of course, if you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t expect to command the same rates as an experienced writer. That’s why your first priority is to work very hard to get very, very good, so you spend as little time in “Two-Buck Chuck” territory as possible.

Crummy clients want cheap writers to produce generic CRaP that, truthfully, no one particularly wants to read anyway.

Great clients want professional writers to produce wonderful words that delight and serve their customers.

Two very different stories. The second one is much more fun.

Story element #4: your specialization

This is where a lot of smart writers start when they’re thinking about their positioning — and it’s a great story element.

None of us is good at everything. What are you great at? What could you become great at?

When I was a freelancer, I specialized in email newsletters, autoresponders, and other content that nurtured relationships with prospects.

I’m really good at that kind of writing. I have a lot of experience with it, which allows me to work efficiently. I enjoy doing it. And clients wanted it. It was easy for clients to understand that I’d probably do a better job with relationship-building content than an unknown writer on Upwork would.

I found the intersection between what I liked to do, what clients wanted, and what I could produce efficiently and well.

Lots of wise freelancers focus on robust topical ecosystems, like healthcare or law or technology. They stay up to speed, so they can write with authority on those topics. And they command fees that are significantly higher than a “jack of all trades” writer can.

Story element #5: your professionalism

This one is really old school … and really important.

When clients leave a query on your “Contact Us” form … do you get back to them? How long does it take you? Do you have a solid process to handle those inquiries?

Are you hitting your deadlines? Every time? Putting in as much thought and care for a client’s 50th piece with you as you did when you started working together?

Anyone who works with a lot of freelancers will tell you: Reliability is an issue. When clients find a writer who does what she says she’s going to do, every time, it makes a major impact.

Respond to client inquiries quickly. (This alone will make a significant difference in your revenue over a year.) Follow up. Manage your deadlines.

No bandwidth for new clients right now? Set up a quick waiting list on your site. Add a simple autoresponder to let them know you’ll connect as soon as you have the time to give them your full professional attention.

When you want to attract and retain wonderful clients, you need to take care of them like the treasures they are. It will get noticed.

Your writing can be seen as a commodity or as a valued service. The cool thing is — because you’re a professional wordsmith and you’re smart about marketing — you get to choose.


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Our Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful tool to position your writing business for greater success. Add your email address to our waiting list below to be the first to hear about when we reopen the program to new students.

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