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Interviewing for Jobs

So, a big part of finding work, even as a freelancer, is applying and interviewing for jobs. As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, I recently reevaluated my sales pitch / application email and ended up revamping it and improving my response rate significantly.

One of the jobs that replied to the new format actually got to the interview stage this week, and I talked to him yesterday on the phone.

Well, I’ve done some reading on interviewing for jobs (I actually enjoy this kind of reading – yes I am just that strange) and I tried to apply it on the phone with him.

Ask questions – make it clear that you are interested in what he does and how he wants to do it, then show that you understand that and that you’re capable of doing it.

So I did. I asked about who his ideal clientele will be. When he told me it would be for a website, I asked if he was going to charge for access to the information. I demonstrated (or at least tried to) a genuine interest in understanding both his motivations for doing this and his plans.

The job in this case is mostly web content, through he is also potentially interested in sales letters, brochures, etc. The client owns an event planning company that wants to create an educational website for other event planners. He is planning on charging for the content (ie. putting it behind a paywall) and creating different levels of service to help teach them how to be better event planners. He hopes to target everyone from recent graduates to long time planners, and wedding planners to celebrity event planners.

I did my best to follow all of the interview tips I’ve read. But he asked a few times  if I thought I’d be comfortable writing the type of pieces he mentioned needing -I said of course, and that I had sent him samples. He said okay. I then tried to prove I knew something about those topics by naming the kinds of articles I felt I could write. He seemed to relax a bit.

A lot of my reading suggests that if you can get the interviewer to do most of the talking – not because you’re unresponsive but because they are excited about the project and can tell your interested – than that is a good sign for how the interview is going.

So, I got him to talking. I asked about the kind of content he wants. He divided it into two sections – general business education, on marketing and SEO and that sort of thing, and event planning specific content, like how to choose the perfect venue.

Our conversation ended with him saying he had a few more people to talk to and that I’d hear back Monday or Tuesday.

Now I didn’t get that vibe like – wow, I am SO going to get this job, but i also didn’t get that “she is kooky and there is no way I want to work with her” vibe. So I can honestly say i have no idea if I’ll get an offer. But even if I don’t, I figure the interview was good practice and it shows that I can get to that point.

I did learn though, that I probably need a little more practice interviewing for this kind of thing. Go figure. One more thing to add to the to-do list.

Research is one of a Writer's most valuable skills

Knowing how to do research is one of a writer’s most valuable skills. Tonight, I spend several hours researching some of the things Parker mentioned in chapter one.

One of the things Parker does that I like is she includes a real live story from a real live writer at the end of every chapter. At the end of Chapter 1 her example is Kristen King. Within the piece she lists a few sites that Kristen has used to help her build her career, both sites she wrote for and sites she created.

One of the goals I set for myself this week (on my goals page) is to visit the sites mentioned and share my opinions on them with all of you. So let’s get started.

I’m investigating 3 websites:
-www.notes-in-the-margin.com, which King writes
-www.inkthinkerblog.com, which King also writes and
-ezinearticles.com, which King said she wrote for to help promote herself and lead people back to her site.

Notes in the Margin, which I think has a fantastic name, is informative but it’s clear that despite it’s current blog format it was intended as a newsletter. While that may seem like a negative remark, I really don’t mean it that way (I found the piece on how to be a successful internet freelancer very helpful). It’s just not a format that invites comments or reader participation. The writing is very “How-to” – it assumes that you, the reader, do not know anything about the subject matter the writer is writing on. For the time being, I think that signing up to receive it as a newsletter is going to be helpful, so I have. But I think it’s likely that once I break past the “start-up” phase, I’ll un-subscribe. I’ll definitely spend some serious time before then on the site reading though. Just scrolling down my eye caught on several more interesting pieces.

The Ink Thinker Blog, which has a significantly less cool name, also seems less helpful for a newcomer. It is much more oriented toward writers who want to talk about their writing, man. And about the creative process, man. You know how it is. Well, no, you don’t, but I’m telling you. After skimming the site quickly I’m closing the window. It appears that each piece is based around a quote on writing. Fun, if you’re trying to kill time. Unproductive, if your goal is to learn something about improving your writing.

Now, the controversial site. See, ezine.com is a site where you submit articles that you don’t get paid for. I’ve avoided this kind of site in the past because I have no desire to just feed crap out there. I think I’m worth money; I think my time is worth money. Thus, why I want to write as a business. But according to King, writing pieces on Ezine led people back to her sites. It boosted her SEO (incoming links do that) and promoted her as a writer. It was easy to sign up; initially you can post 10 articles, which are then reviewed. If they make the cut then you are allowed to submit an unlimited number of pieces. Since Parker / King recommended it, I gave it a shot and submitted a piece on improving your Google-ability (i.e. when someone types your name into Google, making sure the results they get are really you).

The cons: my piece isn’t up yet, so I can’t link to it here and show all of you my shining brilliance. I didn’t know this would be the case until after I submitted it (granted, I didn’t actually read the terms and agreements section and probably should have). It apparently takes 7 days for them to review the article and actually post it. I have no idea if I will be notified at that time. If I am, I’ll let you know (I was notified, and the piece can be found here).

The pros: It was painless. Total I spent about an hour working on it. It spell checks your work before you submit – it even pops up a reminder box and says, “would you like to spell check this before submitting?” You get to enter your own byline / signature (I included a link back to my site in my signature). You can link to your own work. You can probably even link to articles on similar topics that you’ve done (both on their site and elsewhere) providing valuable incoming links for your site and/or articles  (because incoming links improve your SEO, in case you don’t know that).

Was it worth it? I won’t know until they post it in 7-10 days.

Getting down to Business

Before I start, I have to say I had a total epiphany two days ago (before starting this blog). I realized that as a writer, I should spend some time crafting an appealing sales letter for when I apply to writing jobs on Craig’s List (yes, I know, not the most appealing way to find work but it’s a temporary thing-more on this another day.) I’ve written damn good sales letters (if I say so myself, though my clients say so too) but wasn’t applying those ideas. So I did. And it increased my response rate by some crazy amount (like… 2/4 vs. 1/15). I’ve gotten several responses and there is one client I am actually looking at working with! I know, I totally should have thought of this sooner, but hey… we’re all slow sometimes, right?

Now onto the meat of this post. Chapter one in THE BOOK (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here) tells me I should outline a business plan. So I’m going to give you the dirt folks. Each of these sections will eventually have their own posts as I develop them more fully but for now …

1. The Executive Summary: My Mission is building a freelance business and my first goal is making $500 a mo. by June (when my student loans become due). I will work with people who sell things – goods and services (though hopefully not themselves). Words connect us; they communicate ideas. They are how you persuade someone to buy stuff from you (perhaps, in the case of late night infomercials even stuff you really don’t need). Basically, they are powerful stuff. My job/goal is to harness that power and put it in the hands of my clients.

2. The Management Plan: This is supposed to be about personnel; well it’s just me baby. Though I am going to work to set up a referral network of web designers, graphic designers, Pr people, etc. who I can pass those portions of assignments on to and who will refer clients with writing assignments to me.

3. The Organizational Plan: I need to do more research before deciding how I want to license and structure my business; however my office set up is the “office” in my apartment (note: it is also a sewing room, as my roommate has her own fashion line – see her website here). I will use my current desk, computer chair and Mac computer. I have an internet connection but no fax or landline phone (are there online companies that will allow you to fax documents to a website and then print? I think so…). I’m also supposed to state my timetable here. Well, my timetable for getting this show started is now.

4. The Service & Product Plan: I plan to sell my writing. That was easy. JK. I plan to write sales letters, brochure content, web content, etc. I want to write things that will represent the business or client they are for. This is probably a bit broad and will be narrowed down as I go.

5. The Marketing Plan: Well, this blog. I need to start a twitter account for this too (added recently – @MelissaBreau). Networking. With a Capital N.  Other than that … well I guess this section still needs some development. Eventually, I’d like to have a website, and email local businesses with my info and see if I can get any fish to bite. (Note: This section is also supposed to evaluate competition etc. That will be forthcoming as I do research.)

6. The Financial Plan: Can I just put to make money? No, the book says I need to create balance sheets et al. Bummer. I’ll have to get back to you on this one then. However I did do the math and making $500 a month means doing 1 hr 15 mins a day of paid work. Sounds do-able, right?

Getting Started as a Home-based Writer (chap 1)

In chapter 1, Parker discusses a number of important ideas – but many of them are ones I’ve heard before. Namely, “Until you make it, fake it,” the idea that corporate writing is the best way to pay the bills, and networking. However, there were also quite a few new useful tidbits.

She discusses:
-How to gain skills you don’t have
-How to gain professional associations
-The importance writers writing a business plan & looking into legal requirements

I’ve used this first chapter to set myself a series of goals (see my goals page, which will be updated regularly).

I’m going to continue applying to freelance jobs that have been posted online and work on a business plan outline. I’ll keep you (and whoever reads this) up-to-date on my progress and what’s going on!



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