Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Online Identities Discussed on #editorchat

Tonight’s #editorchat talked a lot about online identities. Contributors talked about how we as writers reconcile different identities online, the importance of those identities in terms of marketing yourself and whether that identity interferes with your writing.

The general consensus was:
Yes - we should have online identities to connect with readers.
Yes - our digital lives take us away from the writing, but the benefits are worth the time away.
Yes - it is probably best to have those identities match with each other.

Oh and a new term was born... Procrastitweet. - Love It.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from the night:
(Warning: I did zone out a little for in between, so I'm sure to have missed tweets. American Idol took some of my attention. Sorry.)

@jennipps: Q1 - I used to have multiple IDs online, but a few years ago, I consolidated them all into JenNipps.

@edwardboches: as a blogger, social media enthusiast, pr practitioner and content creator, i have one. consistency, voice, reputation importnt

@jimmcbee: q1: Never gave it much thought till it came up here in your absence, Julia. I mainly try to be me, for good or ill.

@jennipps: I did at first. But now I feel like I have a more complete image of me and I don't have to remember what goes where

@mguerard: If you're tweeting to friends as well as tweeting for your job, it's a good idea to have separate identieies.

@wetzeledit: I thought about blogging anonymously to keep separate from professional life but figure it's too late and me is me anyway.

@edwardboches: you may act differently at party, office, town meeting, but you are the same person, yes? online no different.

@milehighfool: As an online writer myself, I'd argue a well-understood identity is critical. Draw 'em in fast.

@LydiaBreakfast: Q, I've had separate identities for my speaking and writing careers, and diff specialties.

@wetzeledit: My identity is the same but my expression of it is evolving.

@JuliaAngwin: Some academics call this the "unitary identity" that the Internet forces us into.

@wetzeledit: Seems like everything is converging to be online. So isn't some evolution inevitable as we all figure it out?

@jimmcbee: Objectivity is a goal at best; a lie at worst. Let's build a new altar to Honesty.

@elizabethbarr: I think if you're honest about who you are and your conflicts, objectivity isn't as important as transparency.

@wordful: Q5 it certainly gives us more control and reach over our potential to be heard

@milehighfool: Having an identity is a prerequisite to creating a community, which is essential both for writer and outlet, no?

@underoak: Q5 for #editorchat: Yes, digital life interferes with writing focus (as I procrastitweet). But it adds massive sources, links, connections.

@BeckyDMBR: Tons of ways to procrastinate. At least SM offers networking, swine flu updates, etc.

Where To Find Freelance Jobs

There are a number of sites you can scour for writing or editing gigs. I’ve found success with a number of them. Although, I will say all these sites require a lot of work and can often be frustrating as little comes out of the work you put into it. Checking daily is going to be your best bet. A lot of the sites will end up generating dozens of resumes for that company and you don’t want to be sending your resume weeks after the original posting.

I am strongly against the sites that make you pay to get jobs. I haven’t heard of anyone getting a stellar long-term job via these outlets and why should I pay someone else to let me view jobs and pitch material.

The ones I check daily:

Craigslist - I live in St. Louis, but rarely find anything via the STL Craigslist. Check for postings in major cities. (New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and Atlanta) Look under the witing/editing jobs and the writing gigs.

Ed2010 - The site is New York City focused but it does post freelance positions from time to time. Plus it gives little tidbits of advice and answers your questions.

indeed - Type in freelance and you’ll find hundreds of options.

Elance - The site has fewer writing jobs than most, but this is a great site if you are skilled in other marketable for-hire areas like design or web programming.

iFreelance - Features both those looking for freelancers and writers looking for gigs. Create your profile and start looking through the open jobs.

Simply Hired - Again type in freelance and a lot of positions will come up.

FreelanceSwitch - Lists a number of freelance jobs including writing, illustration, design, etc..

Freelance Writing Gigs - This is a great resource for jobs as well as tips on what to do and what not to do.

Twitter - Believe it or not I have actually landed a number of freelance jobs by getting my name out there on twitter.

FreelanceSwitch has a list of 100 job sites. A lot of them are a waste of time, but this may give you a couple more areas to start with.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

But I Don't Want to Social Media...

Today I read a rant by a recent journalism grad who thinks it is ludicrous for a potential employer to demand candidates know the ins and outs of social media sites. This writer then went on to bemoan her unemployed state and I thought - yeah, no duh!

It is almost irresponsible for a writer not to understand the importance of social media and its huge impact on the world. It is likewise ridiculous for those writers not to know how to utilize a select few social media outlets. Does that mean all recent grads need to join Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Plurk, Bebo, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, YouTube, etc? No. But a responsible modern journalist should actively belong to a few sites and know the general feel of the others.

I’m in the process of hiring a summer intern and one of the main qualifications I have is a working knowledge of both Facebook and Twitter. Since I control the web content for the teen site, Twitter and Facebook are used daily. If I have to take the time to explain every aspect of both these sites to an intern it is time spent away from our main goal - building the brand.

So it’s not ridiculous for employers to ask that an applicant know social media. And if you think it is you need to jump on the bandwagon fast.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Write for Free

Anyone who has tried to land a freelance gig through the internet has probably run up against a number of publications that don’t pay a cent for articles. Some writers, and a lot of bloggers, say you should NEVER under any circumstances write for free. Demand to be paid and demand to be paid well for the work you do. I disagree - well sorta.

When trying to expand your portfolio or break into a new niche it’s ok, and probably wise, to take a couple non-paying gigs. You get the bonus of being able to add the article to your clips and the publication to your list of places your work has appeared. 

Choose these sites/blogs/publications wisely. You don’t want your work appearing on a site that looks like the designer took one class in the 1980s on web design and has been using that ‘knowledge’ ever since. You also don’t want your work appearing on a site that looks irreputable or hastily put together. Find pubs that look legit and have been around for more than a month. Longevity is the key. If the site/pub dies your article basically dies with it.

Experiment with a couple different types of mediums for your articles. Think outside the box. Pitch stories and guest blog spots to any of the sites you check regularly.

For articles in which no compensation is attached think of it as a marketing tool. Never agree to a no-pay article that will not include your name. (Some sites will try to get you to ‘ghost’ write for free - HA! That won’t do you any good.) Check with the editor and see if he/she will let you put a link in the article to your website or blog. Also see if they will let you put a one-line bio at the end of the article. Something like: Katie Hinderer is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering real estate, fashion, beauty and hip hop for a variety of publications.

Don’t let the no-pay go too far. An article, or even a few, for a publication/site that is reputable and is allowing you to stretch your writing abilities is great. But it is easy for editors/business owners to take advantage of your eagerness to write. They usually won’t even mention compensation unless you do. After writing several articles, reach out to the person you submit the pieces to and ask if there could be any kind of compensation arrangement.

Sometimes you luck out an get a paying gig (even if it is just a small stipend per article). Other times there really is no money and you need to make the decision - is it worth the clips to keep writing for this publication or do I need to move on?

Nine times out of ten it is better to move on and pursue other paying gigs than to keep with non-pay ones. (With that said, I did take a non-paying gig for months that turned into a lucrative freelance position when the company was a little more established.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Constructing the Cover Letter

I’ve been getting a number of resumes lately for a couple freelance positions I’m trying to fill and as I read through them this week it got me thinking that most people FAIL in the cover letter. Some people don’t even bother to send a cover letter. I got an e-mail today with two attachments - a resume and a clip. Um... delete.

Maybe I’m too demanding, but after spending a summer working in a human resources department in which I was in charge of sorting through the hundreds of resumes that cam in daily I know what I want to see and what I don’t.

Tips to constructing the nearly perfect cover letter:

Address the person by name. (If that is not immediately apparent do the research. I notice the extra effort someone put in to find my full name.)

Do not put To Whom It May Concern: (If you can’t find a name at least put Dear Editor or Dear Hiring Manager.)

Spell Check! (If you are applying for a writing or editing job and can’t get a couple paragraphs right - there’s a problem.)

Do not send a form letter. (You might think it’s not that obvious but it is. The typical: ‘I would be great for this position because I have a diverse background that would fit in well with your publication,’ is blah, unoriginal and thoughtless. Include the publication name, name of the position you are applying for an some relevant info about the pub that says you’ve seen it.)

Tailor the letter to the publication you are applying to. (If it is a gardening magazine, tell the editor why you are the gardening ‘guru,’ why no one else is as suited for the job.)

Don’t be cocky. (Yes, toot your horn! But don’t laud your praises in such an obtrusive blatant manner. Subtly will serve you best in this area. Instead of: “My writing is so outstanding, I’ve landed the lead story several times at XYZ publication.” Try this: “My writing has been featured in XYZ publication, where I was able to pen the lead story on TKTK.”)

Follow directions. (If an employment ad asks for a resume and clips, don’t neglect to send those along and mention them in your letter. “Attached you will find my resume and several sample clips...”)

Talk about you past experience. (Seems obvious, right? Well, a number of people miss this step. They say what they are applying for, how to reach them, how excited they are for the opportunity, and they never say why their past is going to better the pubs future.)
Keep it short. (A cover letter that is more than a few paragraphs is way too long. I don’t have the time or energy to read through all the reasons you’re great. Show your journalism prowess and get to the point.)

Include your name and contact info. (Duh. Yeah, but people leave it out. Send your e-mail, cell phone, home phone, website, blog address, twitter account, etc..)

Name drop publications. (Instead of telling me: 'I've worked for a variety of publications in recent years.' Tell me: Most recently I worked as a staff writer at Garden's Delight. For this southern-garden focus publication I handled the DIY column as well as the 'Profile a Gardener' piece.)

Be original. (You only get one chance at a first impression. Make the editor remember your cover letter, make it sound like you, make it stand out, make it unique.)

Friday Feature: Rachel Doyle

Over the years I’ve come across some pretty neat people doing some pretty amazing things. Friday’s are now dedicated to those people.

Today’s Friday Feature: Rachel Doyle, founder of GlamourGals.

I first crossed paths with Rachel (the middle person in the pic above) while living in New York. I sat on the board of a college group called Fashion Forum, which tries to demystify the fashion industry while promoting positive conversation about women and body image. Rachel came to speak at one of our events about the company she started and the mission behind it - I was forever sold on her.

GlamourGals, as her company is called, helps to bridge the gap between high school teenagers and the elderly women in their communities. Girls open chapters in their town or through their school and at least once a week the members get together and head to a nursing home or long-term care facility. While there the girls give manicures, facials, makeovers, etc.. to the women living there. In turn the women talk about their lives, sharing stories and helpful pearls of wisdom.

The girls involved all walk away with a better understanding of the human person and her innate dignity. It’s beautiful to see. I had the chance to talk with several members from the different New York City chapters and nearly everyone said the same thing: Before they started they were afraid of the elderly and found them unattractive. Now they look forward to the meetings and love the chance to brighten up the day of another.

Rachel’s been featured on Oprah, Seventeen Magazine, and a number of local TV stations. The group is expanding, with chapters in numerous states across the country and plans to grow rapidly.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

J Pet Peeves: THAT

I post journalism pet peeves a couple times a week on twitter and they have begun to get funny comments and feedback, so I'm going to explain the pet peeves on here.

Today's: The extreme use of the word 'that' by writers. It is usually never needed!! Clean up the copy and cut 'that' out.

I've had writers who manage to squish the word 'that' in nearly every sentence. As a journalist you should be concerned about each and every word you type. Ask yourself: Is this word necessary? Does it further the story? Am I just trying to fill to reach a certain word count?

Copy should never read like this: The company, that filed bankruptcy today, said that it would move forward with discussion with the courts within the week. Experts expect that process will take up to four months, and that by June the company will be completely restructured. That said, company officials believe that it will still be able to move forward with the development of the new restaurant that it is building in Oz. UGH UGH UGH!! (I totally made this us - but it's not uncommon.)

By cutting out nearly every use of the word 'that' the paragraph reads smoothly and gets to the point quickly and effectively.

It should read more like this: The company, which filed bankruptcy today, said it would move forward with discussion with the courts within the week. Experts expect the process will take up to four months, and by June the company will be completely restructured. Company officials believe it will still be able to move forward with the development of the new restaurant it is building in Oz.

Past J Pet Peeves:
J Pet Peeve: PR firms sending releases on something that is unrelated to the topic I cover. Ex: Real estate doesn't care about foot fungus.

J Pet peeve: Pitches, press releases sent my way with my first or last name spelled wrong. It's all over the site.. not hard to get it right.

J Pet Peeve: Journalists should not waste a question in a press conference when the answer that can be found on a list the co released!

J Pet Peeve: Except in very rare cases, a comma should NEVER appear before the word 'and.' They serve the same purpose!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Join the Conversation

Writers: Seriously, get on Twitter. Today was #editorchat. Monday was #journchat. Last Friday was #queryday. Each of these events offer pearls of wisdom to the writing community. Whether you are working on your first book or writing for a business publication Twitter is the place to go to work on perfecting your craft.

The events have a moderator, who poses a question for the 'audience' to answer and discuss. It's an open and honest way to talk with others in your field. There is no self promotion or job seeking during the chat hours. Writers can introduce themselves at the beginning of the event and can throw a little pitch in when the convo has ended.

Today’s #editorchat talked primarily about social media and a writer’s online presence. @LydiaBreakfast and @milehighfool moderated.

What you should take away:
  • Social Media is an effective way to further your brand and your publication’s name.
  • If you aren’t utilizing SM, or if an editor thinks it is unimportant, you’re living in the stone age.
  • Some editors are asking writers to utilize SM. Others aren’t interested in it at all.
  • SM can be the way to establish your platform.
  • Some writers said it was important to develop your niche platform through blogs and the like.
  • Others said they didn’t write for a niche but for the people.
  • HARO ( is the site to go to for when in need of fast sources - but you’ll land dozens of contacts immediately.
  • Changing genres is difficult but not impossible.
  • Personality can come across more in blogs, while more editors are looking for hard news and little personality.

To see the pearls of wisdom from #queryday check out my previous blog post.

You can find #editorchat online every Wednesday evening. #journchat is every Monday evening. #journ2journ if every Thursday night. #blogchat is on Sunday nights. #queryday (or #queryfail as it was initially called) is totally random so just wait for it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Follow Up!

For anyone trying to get a little freelancing under his/her belt the follow-up is crucial. As someone who works daily on both the pitching side and the editorial side I’ve learned the importance of sending that short e-mail or placing that quick phone call.

As an editor, there are days when I see hundreds of e-mails; those include PR pitches, assigned stories, freelancers seeking work and general spam. Of course I try to respond to each e-mail but there are things that get lost or put aside till later. I’ve had several writers over the years who I’d be happy to have write more for me, but I don’t have the time to go back through months of e-mails to find their name and email address to contact them about that.

I’d much prefer a writer send me a reminder e-mail. Something short and nice. For example, “Hi. Last month I sent along a pitch on XYZ and I just wanted to follow up with you about the idea. Will it work for your publication? I could have the completed article to you by the end of the week if it is something you are interested in. Thanks.” This will get an automatic response from me.

As a writer I’ve gotten a number of assignments via the follow up. Editors are busy. They’ve got a lot on their plates. A simple nudge helps. Sometimes I get an assignment the same day I send a nudge. Sometimes it’s a month later and the editor writes back with an apology and an assignment. Sweet.

Tips to the follow up:
  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Remind him/her when you sent the initial e-mail.
  • Restate your pitch. (An editor is not going to want to waste their time to go back and look up your original e-mail.)
  • Don’t lose heart.
  • If several weeks have gone by without a response to the follow up. Try one more time.
  • Don’t send an e-mail every day. That’s sure fire way to tick someone off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why I Love Freelancing: Reason 2

The diversity this writing option offers me is absolutely one of my favorite parts of this whole experience.

For example, in total today I wrote 5 articles. For my commercial real estate site I wrote about TFC Financial repaying its TARP funds and a law firm looking to relocate in downtown Milwaukee. For the teen magazine I wrote a review of 17 Again and a mini-celeb profile. For a new site, I'm now guest writing for, I wrote a piece on what to do in Chicago on vacation.

But the diversity doesn't just stop there. I read press releases on hip hop artists and began formulating what the next edition of the ATL-based mag will look like. I assigned stories to my writers on a dance crew, a new teen-heartthrob actor, and a 12-year-old girl who sells handmade flip-flops to raise money for charity.

I know, some freelancers say to find a writing niche and stick to that. And that may be perfect for some people. I've got a friend who writes just about beauty topics. She's amazing and has an endless store of new ideas to pitch to hundreds of publications. But for me, I'm not as enthralled by any one thing as she is. I like to read about everything. I like to be able to discuss the latest sports scores, the newest beauty trend, the recently announced bankruptcy and the newest album to drop. Freelancing gives me that option and pays me to be so diverse.

Why I Love Freelancing, Reason 2: I get to have my finger on the pulse of a number of areas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

#queryday in Their Own Words

I've followed this nearly all day. Crazy, I know. Anyway, here's a summary if you happened to tune out or have more important things to do.

rachellegardner: Tip: Don’t send us something outside of our guidelines and try to impress us with how “out of the box” you are. It’s been tried!

DaphneUn: You need to have a finished manuscript before you query.

danielliterary: Despite the advances made in self-publishing, the average self-published book still sells less than 200 copies

JoeBerkowitz: Don't describe your writing as accessible, unputdownable, or any other vague qualitative term. If it really is, we'll notice it.

KatPaws: Be careful re: protagonists with strange names. If the name isn't easy to grasp, the character may feel less accessible.

danielliterary: One huge mistake is to go on and on telling me how great your book is. Let me be the judge of that.

KatPaws: Don't tell me all the reasons you're positive your book will be the next bestseller. SHOW ME with fine-tuned quality writing.

LeighEllwood: For e-mail queries, use a professional font, no flowery script. And no backgrounds.

DaphneUn: In a query, I want a hook, but not the whole shebang, Save the final reveal (She's a He!) for the full synopsis.

rachellegardner: Tip: I prefer your query NOT tell me what a great movie your book would make. If it has movie potential, trust me, I’ll notice.

elanaroth: Smart cookie author/illustrator: did not attach art to email, but pointed me to link of her art online. Win.

ColleenLindsay: Attached entire manuscript and a head shot. Fail.

HollyridgePress: We always want to know something about a writer's publishing background

KatPaws: Target your submissions. Word count. Genre. These things MATTER. You can't play if you can't follow the rules. Fail.

rachellegardner: Biggest mistake? It's all about the book. The writing is usually not developed enough. Story not unique, compelling.

KatPaws: Don't query that you've written 11 books and wonder if I'm interested in reading them. Focus your efforts, query one at a time.

elanaroth: This query is 2 paragraphs about the virtues of fantasy and 1 paragraph about his book. Uh...

bostonbookgirl: I don't really care if you had an editor for the manuscript. No need to mention.

booksandcorsets: If we didn't think a writer was good, we wouldn't sign them. But we buy BOOKS not careers. Book by book.

rachellegardner: Keep looking for gainful employment. The query is most definitely NOT a good way to plan on paying your bills!

chriswebb: Never tell me "there is no competition for this book." Yes there is. Maybe it isn't a book...

bostonbookgirl: More important than anything: WRITE A GOOD BOOK. Good writing, good plot & good voice trump all.

moonrat: most important thing in your query letter is you (ur platform). 2nd is your 20-word hook. in that order.

moonrat: platform: 1)what uve published, 2) who u know, 3) ur expertise, 4) ur media experience

rachellegardner: My last word on 1 space vs. 2 spaces: Anyone who complains about this should be banned from computer, forced to use typewriter.

DaphneUn: A little advice: read your query out loud before sending it. Are you running out of breath? You're using run-on sentences.

angelajames: Why do we like manuscripts double spaced? Easier to read, room for notes, easier to read, room for making pre-edits,easier to read

LJHatton: You have to have confidence in your MS, but you have to be realistic, too. If it's broken, fix it or tenacity won't save you.

KnightofShadows: I would suggest 'Proper Manuscript Format' by William Shunn of the SFWA as req. reading. I like the 2 space paragraph.

KatPaws: Remain open-minded and be ready to revise. Even if your query is successful, you need to be open to changes every step of the way.

DaphneUn: A manuscript should be seen and reviewed by a critique group, and you can show the query to them, too! In all, at least 3. (regarding edits before query)

DaphneUn: I know we tell you to write what you know, but how many novels do we need about writers? Starting to be a cliche...

patricemichelle: Best advice I ever heard on "where to start your novel": Start your novel where the character conflict and plot conflict collide.

elanaroth: I wish everyone who queried did so from their own email addy, not their husband's or the family's collective acct.

ColleenLindsay: Yes, you really do need to put your phone number and address on e-mail queries. Honest.

What the heck is #queryday???

Aspiring authors are you following #queryday on twitter? If not, what are you doing with your day? In case you’re a little behind...

#queryday is when all us writer types get to ask the literary agents all about the dreaded query letter. Ask anything you want and you’ll get several answers from the agents participating. (You might have to tweet the same question a couple time since there are hundreds of tweets flying around now.)

The agents are also giving their words of wisdom. Some are snarky about fail queries. Some are sincere about what they do not want to see. Some offer links to well done queries.

Want to follow the conversation? Check out this site.

I think these agents deserve thanks. They are taking time out of their day of reading queries and pushing books to give all those aspiring writers out there a little help.

Who’s participating?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grads, Before You Job Search Try This

For those of you in J school you are probably looking at your bleak prospects for landing a job and thinking ‘dang, why did I go into this?’ Never fear. You’ll land a job. You’ll find your way. In the weeks before you are officially pounding the pavement for a job here’s what you need to do:

  • Tweak your resume. Update it with your internships, freelance gigs, jobs on campus etc.. Make it crisp, clear, easy to read and only 1 page. Include all your contact information. SPELL CHECK IT! And if you can run it past someone who’s been in the biz awhile. Ask for suggestions to make it better.
  • Network like your life depended on it!! Hardly anyone gets a job through all those internet job sites. You get a job through connections. So call up your internship mentor and ask for an information interview. Stop by your favorite J prof’s office to talk. Call up former colleagues, upper classmen to pick their brains. You want to get your name out there. Ask each contact for three other contacts. Then call those people and go on informational interviews. Take your resume, look professional and don’t come off as desperate.
  • Start a blog. This is the easiest way to showcase your writing. A potential employer can skim your posts and get a feel for your voice. Obviously, you want to pick a safe and interesting topic. The additional bonus is this will prove to an employer that you are current.
  • Know your social media. You don’t have to be the King/Queen of twitter. Nor do you need 1,000 friends on facebook. But you should know how to tweet. You should know how to upload a picture to flickr, comment on a blog, Digg on an article, etc... With media moving further and further from traditional news sources, the new, hipster companies are looking for people who know the ins and outs of these sites.
  • Clean up your social media. Take off all those drunk pictures of you out at a Thirsty Thursday party. Remove anything that could come across as offensive and improper. Employers now check to see what dirt they can dig up on a potential hire. Don’t leave any dirt out there to be found. Google your name and see what comes up, fix what shouldn’t be out there!
  • Take on some freelance gigs! Even if they are unpaid, a freelance article for a reputable site or publication gives you another clip and shows your interviewer you’ve got diversity. Branch out. Try new things.
  • Read - a lot! What the J profs say is true - you need to be current on the news. Whether you are hoping to focus on the music industry or you want to be a news-breaking political reporter, you’ll need to know what’s up. Daily read the top stories as well as the big stories under the topic you’re interested in. Read books, magazines, blogs, etc... The more you read the better your writing will become.
  • Tell your family and friends you are job searching. ‘Duh, they already know that.’ True they probably do but you might not be fresh in their mind. Send an e-mail to everyone reminding them what you majored in, what you want to do, what you’re good at, etc... Ask for their help in identifying potential opportunities or contacts. Your Aunt will probably respond back with a ‘thinking of you’ but someone might have an idea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dress for Success

Just because a freelancer works out of a home office or the local coffee shop doesn’t mean he/she should bum around in sweats and a t-shirt. At the same time the power suit is not really a wardrobe must.

The first three weeks I launched into the life of a full-time freelance I didn’t bother dressing up. My home office is on the third floor of the house, separated from every noise and distraction and totally separate from people. I figured it didn’t matter what I was wearing. No one would see me. I was just sitting in front of a computer all day.

By that third week, my motivation and excitement was lagging. I began to worry. Then a friend, who incidentally I met for lunch still looking like a scrub, said to me why don’t you dress cute anymore. OUCH. She was right.

And while it’s tempting to sit around in your pjs or workout clothes all day, your production level is going to be higher if you take time with your appearance. Throw on jeans and a nicer top. Leave the worn, discolored college t-shirt in the drawer. Women: do your makeup and hair. Men: Shave, comb your hair.

Dressing up a little will remind you that you’re still working. You’ve got a job to do, deadlines to meet, editors to please, pitches to send. Even a nice pair of jeans and a sharp shirt will help you focus more on the work in front of you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Social Media's A Must

A couple months ago I had a friend and fellow writer tell me that she does not 'do' the social media thing. My first reaction was to nod and say "Yeah it's a big time waster." How many times have you logged on to one of the sites and the next time you looked at the clock it was hours later and you hadn't accomplished much of anything - more than a handful. Maybe she was smart not to 'do' social media

But then, the more I got to thinking about it the more I realized this friend is going to be left behind. In the shrinking world of writing, where a name and a reputation can propel a person forward or cast them aside, social media is the tool to build that name. I've landed nearly as many freelance gigs via social media as I have via pitches and job postings.

Social media, for a freelancer and a writer of any kind, is a must! It's your chance to voice your opinions, showcase your writing style and build a loyal following.

Sure, facebook and myspace can be addictive and a true time waster. And true, people tweet about what they had for their last meal more often than they tweet something profound. OK, Linkedin isn't the same as face-to-face networking. But the key is to figure out how to utilize these sites to your advantage.

Another freelancing friend of mine is a huge fan of Linkedin. She is on there daily updating her status, making new connections and adding clips. Through that medium she's landed gigs from a variety of companies. She's also got news angles and press releases she might not have seen otherwise that give her the ability to pitch mags with new information. Every week when I get my Linkedin updates her name is always on the e-mail with a huge list of things she has done on the site that week. For her Linkedin is the key and she's working that angle.

I've had luck connecting through Twitter. I've interviewed two people for the hip hop publication that I edit for via links on Twitter. I've also landed a couple writing assignments after followers have enjoyed what I tweeted about. Am I tweeting profound words of wisdom in every update. Hell no. But I am mixing in a bit of real life, with a bit of my writing and a dash of humor. It's working for me.

So get out there, get social media accounts. 'Do' that thing!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Feature: Kate Engelbrecht

I’m not one of those journalists who loves to snoop around and dig up hidden secrets and expose big controversy. I prefer writing about straight forward business deals, entertainment reviews, beauty tips and mostly lifestyle/personal interest stories. Over the years I’ve come across some pretty neat people doing some pretty amazing things. So, Friday’s are now dedicated to those people.

Today’s Friday Feature: Kate Engelbrecht, founder of the Girl Project.

I stumbled across Kate and her project via Twitter, followed a link to her blog, followed another link to her website and reached out to her for RelateMag’s She’s the Boss feature.

Kate is a photographer. Actually she’s a failed advertising agent with a sociology major who decided to follow her passion and picked up a camera. She’s been in NYC nearly 11 years now and has been photographing for 8 of those years.

In 2007 she launched the Girl Project, which is a way for teenage girls to photograph their life in all its raw glory. The girls request a disposable camera. Kate sends them one directly and the girls get down to picture snapping. Once the camera is completely used the girl sends it back to Kate undeveloped. She develops the film and the pics become part of the Girl Project. To read more about the project and Kate check out the RelateMag article.

What I find fascinating about Kate and the Girl Project is that she took something she loved and turned it into something that could be shared with more than just herself and the clients who book her. Plus, she’s giving teenage girls an outlet to be totally themselves. They don’t need to pretend. They can’t make much up. They can’t doctor photos or pick which one gets submitted. The developed film is life - life in the raw.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why I Love Freelancing: Reason 1

It’s now almost noon. I’ve spent the morning working on a number of articles. I’ve written two, edited four and sent out a number of assignments for the days ahead. I’ve talked with a fashion designer about featuring his stuff, I’ve talked with the web designer about a site glitch and, of course, I’ve twittered (@hinder) and blogged.

So what does the rest of the day hold in store? I’m going to have lunch with a friend and then hit the gym.

When I was in the midst of job searching I’d look out the window and wonder what all the people who jogged past my window at 2pm did professionally. How could they possibly be away from their desk, out of contact from their computer, phone, secretary? How did they justify working out in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else was still stuck in their offices most likely drinking a mid-afternoon cup of coffee to stay awake? But now I’m one of those 2pm gym-goers. And I love it. Plus, the gym is way less crowded at that time than it is at 5pm.

Why I Love Freelancing, Reason 1: I can workout at anytime of the day.

Sidenote: I’m training for the Chicago Marathon! It’s in October. So I’ll probably bore you with Marathon training updates in the months ahead.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Lesson in Finance

I took my taxes to H&R Block today. To be honest 2008’s taxes weren’t going to be that difficult, except for the partial-year non-resident status I managed to get in the state of Indiana... who knows! Why I really went was to see if they could squeeze any more money out for me to get back and to figure out what the heck I do now in 2009 as a full-time freelancer.

Now with several well-paying gigs in place I’ve been in love with the whole freelancer lifestyle. I still love it after my visit to the tax professionals, I’m just a little more realistic about the whole thing.

Apparently, if all your income comes from freelance work it is wisest to pay estimated taxes quarterly. Otherwise you are left paying one large lump sum at the end of the year and the IRS penalizes you for not paying earlier. UGH.

OK so I was willing to make the payments, but when the tax professional quoted a number I almost fell out of my chair. Thousands of dollars each quarter? No, seriously? Thousands? Not good. And the worst part is she couldn’t quote an exact price I should pay, because my true taxable income this year will be a little uncertain as a freelancer, plus who knows what kind of deductions I can take.

As hard as the news was to hear, I’m glad I went and figure it out. Sure, it is going to sting now to watch that money leave my account. But a little now will hurt a lot less than one huge lump sum and a penalty for 2009! I’ve got to pay by April 15, June 15, September 15, and December 15.

One interesting suggestion my tax professional had, which might work for some of you freelancers, was to get a part-time job that will actually give you a W-2 at the end of the year. When filling out all the paperwork for that job have the vast majority of the paycheck deducted and sent to the government. That way you are paying and can avoid quarterly taxes, and you also can sidestep the huge payment at year’s end. Good for some, not ideal for me who doesn’t have time to take on a part-time job.

Bottom line: Thanks H&R BLock. Bummer I need to pay up by April 15th for the first quarterly payment.

What do you other freelancers do for your taxes?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In the Beginning...

I’m a full-time freelance writer. Yeah, I didn’t think these people actually existed either, until I decided to give it a whirl. Here’s how it happened. In May 2007, I’d had enough of the cubicle world in the big bad NYC. I opted to move back to the Midwest (although I do admit NYC is the best city in the world. I loved it there!) and try for another job.

I didn’t immediately decide to go full-time with the freelance thing. I was already writing and editing for a teen magazine website and loving that. But it wasn’t established enough to pay me full-time. So I continued editing for that site and job searched. Job searching was horrible, especially since I’d decided to move to a city where I had no contacts in the journalism field. Oh well, I was determined to make the most of it anyway.

I thought about going back to school, but writing has always been my passion so that seemed silly. I took a part-time job working as a sales associate at a women’s clothing store and continued to edit for this teen pub and job search. To be honest there wasn’t much time to job search and really Monster, HotJobs, etc... are really just a job-searching waste of time. Has anyone ever found a job that way?

A year went by. One day I decided enough was enough. I was going to try and find more freelance gigs. I started checking JournalismJobs, MediaBistro, Ed2010, and CraigsList daily. I applied for dozen of jobs daily for the first couple weeks. Most of them were just crocks that ended up inviting spam into my e-mail account and did little more. A couple were legit and I managed to get a response back. I pursued those that seemed legit.

I first landed an assignment writing for a young professional pub, that of course no longer exists. But it paid well and got me into the game. I then started guest blogging for an online beauty publication. I found the more jobs I took, the more I ended up stumbling across. While trying to rack up the freelance jobs I kept my writing skills at peak performance levels by submitting articles to Helium.

True, a lot of them have flopped and that is something all writers need to be careful of. I pitched an all-things kitchen site, got my pitch accepted to only be told a week later the site wouldn’t go live for at least a year. Fail. I pitched a green real estate site and was brought on as a writer, blogger, and editor. But the site took literally 6 months to even get off the ground and by that time the job had bloomed into a nearly non-paying work-intensive position that wasn’t smart to pursue.

When word got out to my friends and former colleagues that I was freelancing, a previous employer contacted me about a year-long position. I took the gig without a second thought. I got to be full-time freelance, work from where I wanted and do what I love. Nearly simultaneously, I landed a job as an editor for a new hip-hop magazine based out of Atlanta.

So now, I write as a guest beauty blogger, I edit/write for a St. Louis-based teen magazine, I write/edit for a commercial real estate publication, I edit a quarterly hip-hop magazine, and I guest appear in a number of other publications.

Will all these gigs last forever? No. Will they last till June? Hopefully, but who knows. That’s part of the adventure and part of the fun of what I do.