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A Big Announcement

I’ve been a little scarce around the blogosphere lately, but there’s a good reason. I was ramping up for a big announcement. On Thursday I officially put in notice at the magazine where I’ve worked for the last three years. The magazine has a great team and I will miss all of them, but I reached a point where I felt a bigger goal that I’ve had for a long time was within my reach, so I’m going for it. My last day will be August 15th; then I’ll be freelancing full time.

I’ve learned a lot during my time at Pet Business and have built many wonderful relationships with my coworkers there.Without the chance they offered me, right out of school, I wouldn’t be the writer and editor I am today. I’ve grown a lot, both in who I am and in my skills and abilities, since I first took the job. Initially, the job offered me something few entry level positions would–a chance to immediately begin writing and seeing my work published. Unlike many positions, where I’d be restricted to answering phones and filing work, I’d be able to use the Masters Degree, which at that point I was still in the process of earning.

I’m leaving on good terms, with plans to continue writing for the magazine on a regular basis as a freelancer. My current boss has already asked me to  take over one of the regular monthly columns on a freelance basis. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the publication in that role even once I leave.

My freelance business will have three parts. First, I will continue to write for magazines, pitching articles to various publications including Pet Business. Second, I will build upon the copywriting work I have been doing part time for the last year. Third, I will offer my skills as an editor, working on both copywriting projects and on ebooks and book-length pieces.

I have many big goals for the road ahead, and many many fears that I will have to face–and gradually overcome. More on that later. For now, I’m excited about this new opportunity to grow.

Full time freelancers, do you have any tips for me? Part timers, am I crazy? Share you thoughts below.

Pitch Event for Moxy

July of last year I mentioned a new project I had in the works–an online magazine for women. That project took form over the months that followed and launched officially in November of last year as Moxy Magazine: A magazine for women with big cojones and bigger dreams. Recently I had the chance to attend a pitch conference thanks to the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs and Goldman Sachs. The Social Innovation Workshop involved meeting with several different groups and pitching a business idea. Below is the final pitch I shared for Moxy. Feel free to share your feedback. Continue reading…

Client Meeting Cheat Sheet

In middle school one of my social studies teachers allowed us to use a cheat sheet during tests–he told us we could have a one page cheat sheet with however much information we could fit on one page, front and back. Overachiever that I am, I created a typed student cheat sheet, printed with small, fine, type on both sides. In the margins I wrote additional information in by hand, to cram in as much as possible.

I didn’t have the class until the middle of the day. The morning of the test I showed my cheat sheet to several of my classmates before homeroom. Needless to say, they were impressed. By lunch I was making copies of my cheat sheet for half the class.

While I don’t have written tests to pass as a freelancer (at least, not the same sort), there are still critical moments where knowing what to say or how to handle a situation can make the difference between landing a client and losing business. So, just like I did in junior high, I make a cheat sheet while preparing for important client calls or meetings. Continue reading…

Recommended Read: Divisive Copywriting

One of the single most important things to do as a copywriter is to hit the right target audience with your words. They don’t need to appeal to everyone; just the people who are most likely to purchase the product or serves your words are trying to sell (or the action you’re trying to convince them to take).

Tom Albrighton, on his blog (which is one of my all time favorite copywriting blogs, because he provides such good information) knocks that one outta the park in his recent post on Divisive Copywriting.

He Writes:

This type of shit won’t hit the top ten
But we won’t bend – we won’t switch off, pretend
Rebel MC, lyrics to ‘The Governments Fail’, 1992

I love this couplet, which guarantees the outcome it describes. Acknowledging that his revolutionary stance and street-tuff sounds will never find a broad audience, the Rebel defiantly turns his music’s marginality into a virtue. ‘Those who have ears to hear, let them hear,’ is the implicit message.

It’s like Public Enemy, but with dreads. And not quite as good

By quoting these words, I’ve taken a similar approach. My peoples will see them as confirmation of my edgy, urban flow. Playa hatas, on the other hand, will probably regard the mild profanity as uncalled-for, gauche and a little embarrassing. Either way, the tactic will probably get a reaction. It is, quite literally, divisive – drawing a line between those who are drawn to my tone and message and those who aren’t. For the full article, read here.

A Proofreading Checklist

Before hitting “send” when sending out a new piece or before hitting “publish” on a new blog post, it pays to proofread your piece. Here are some quick things to check when proofreading your own copy.

Homophones

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes when when writing is misusing homophones–words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Spell check won’t catch a misused word; it will only catch a misspelling. A quick read through can catch when your fingers said something other than what you intended. Continue reading…

Requesting References

The most difficult times in a writer’s career are those first few seconds after she hits ‘send’ on an assignment. At that moment you’ve already put your best work down; you’ve gone over it again and again to catch any typos or grammar mistakes and you’ve reworked it at least twice. You’ve leveraged every bit of knowledge about your client (whether a magazine editor or a small business) into that copy, making sure it appeals to the right audience and reads true to the client’s tone.

No matter how many times I comb through a piece, I always feel in those first few seconds after hitting send that I should have gone through it one more time. Checked again to ensure each comma was properly in place and each their, they’re and there were used correctly.

So it was really rewarding recently when I sent out requests to a number of clients I’ve worked with previously to ask if they’d be willing to provide references on occasion, should I need them.

Not a single client said no.

Here’s the email I sent out (feel free to use it):

Hi NAME,

I’m looking for a few prior clients who would be willing to provide an
occasional reference when the occasion arises. Would you be
comfortable doing this?

I’d greatly appreciate it and in return would be happy to offer you
15% off a future project, for you or a friend.

Thanks,
Melissa

I figured the offer of a discount on their next project would provide some incentive–for them to agree to give a reference, but also incentive to come to me with their next project, or to recommend a friend come to me. I don’t offer discounts often… but when I’m asking for a favor, it’s always nice to sweeten the pot a bit.

Is there anything you’ve done to bring back old customers? How do you get references or testimonials?

[Image Credit: Jo@Net]

Recommended Read: 4 Things You Never Want…

Recently two of my favorite people came together–P.S. Jones from Diary of a Mad Freelancer and Natalia Sylvester from Inky Clean’s Soapbox. P.S. Jones guest posted for Natalia and… well… she killed it with this great piece on 4 Things You Never Want Anyone to Say About Your Copy.

She writes:
“Regardless of who your audience is, they care more about themselves than you. That’s not narcissism or selfishness. That’s called being a human being. So when someone reads your copy, she doesn’t want to hear about what the product does or who the company is. Instead, she wants to hear about what those things can do for her problem. Make it all about the reader and why she should care.

How to Tell: Go through the copy and count how many times you said something about what the company or product does versus what the customer gains. If it’s not decidedly more about the customer than the company, go back and make it so.” For the full post with all 4 tips, go over to The Soapbox and check it out!

Let’s Look at Ledes

According to Wikipedia the spelling lede is no longer classified as journalism jargon in major US dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster and American Heritage; this, I’m afraid, ruins its purpose.

Intentionally misspelled so it would stand out during typesetting (as were hed and dek) its declassification makes it irrelevant for its original purpose.

Still, whether you spell it lede or lead, the first paragraph of any written piece has one purpose: to give the reader the information they need to decide if they want to continue reading.

In academic essays a lede is often the first paragraph, which summarizes the outline of the argument and conclusion to follow in the main body of the piece. In news stories the lede must answer who, what, where, why and when. But in magazine articles writers have a little more freedom, leading to many different types of ledes. Continue reading…

Recommended Reading: How to Be Amazing

This week’s reading recommendation was written by Lindsey Donner on her blog, Field Notes from the Writing Life. In it she explains for readers How to Be Amazing at Everything. She writes,

“Amazing people are not mistake-free Type A-ers. On the contrary, they make mistakes, but you don’t care, because they are masters of delivery. They come through early, and then they do something extra. Not too much (that’s for the Type A-ers). Just enough. Just enough to make you wiggle in your desk chair.”

And that’s exactly what she does with this post. Continue reading it here.

And I’d like to Thank…

I had a conversation with a friend last night about the blog-o-sphere and how so frequently it feels like successful bloggers like to share “how” they became successful–but those tips never seem to include thank yous or acknowledgments that they didn’t accomplish their greatness alone.

So while I’m still a far cry from “greatness” I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about how important a solid support network really is–even for a part time freelancer, like me.

Personal Support

No one feels ready to tackle the world all the time. Which is why we each need our own personal cheerleaders. Growing up, I was taught I could do anything. I have my parents to thank for that. But today it’s my friends and my amazing Significant Other who remind me of that when I forget.

A personal support network tells you you’re awesome when you think maybe you can’t do this “thing”–whatever it is–that you’re scared of. You should have at least one person who will listen quietly to your fears, so you can get them out in the open. Sometimes they sound rather silly once you’ve voiced them out loud. You should have one person who will call bullshit whenever you start to say “I can’t…” They’re willing to tell you you’re being f***ing ridiculous; sometimes we don’t realize when we’ve let our fears paralyze us. This person helps give us a jump start to get us moving again. And you should have one person who will gently show you can you do it. They will recount times you’ve done it in the past and tell you over and over again how awesome you are, until you start to believe it.

Professional Support

Have you heard about that whole mentor-mentee thing that the kids are into these days? Yeah, it’s really catching on. Well, there’s a reason for that. Having someone you can turn to and ask even your stupidest questions can be an important part of achieving good things. I have several awesome freelance friends who I turn to whenever I have questions or just want to chat about what I’m up against.

But in addition to being a mentee – be a mentor. You’ll be amazed at how much it boosts your ego when someone comes to you with a question … and you know the answer. It makes all that hard work you’ve been doing worth it.

Peer-to-Peer Support

In addition to talking to folks who have been where you are and those who hope to be where you are, you need to talk to those who ARE where you are. It reminds you that you’re not alone. Often you can help each other.

And A Special thanks …

I wouldn’t be where I am — at my day job, in my freelance career or as the publisher of Moxy Magazine if it wasn’t for the folks who have helped me get here. My SO pushed me to go freelance part time when I was considering taking a waitress job for extra income. Three awesome freelance writers–P.S. Jones, Lindsey Donner and Natalia Sylvester–who have shared their experiences and recommendations as I started freelancing and who continue to share information freely. Peers, who are building their own businesses and who I trade ideas, secrets and hopes with–Ty Unglebower, Leslie A. Joy–and who are in turn willing to listen and willing to accept advice.

None of us can do it alone. Who’s helped you get to where you are today?

[Image credit: lululemon Athletica]



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