The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 144
Keep on Keepin’ on
If it’s Monday, and it is, then it must be time for the Mailbag!
Welcome back to the show that never ends. As I’m writing this the sun is out and my spirits are soaring, so let’s do this now while my mood remains elevated.
Blogging for Businesses
From Susan: “Now, you were talking about blogging for businesses. Have you written an article about how you got involved doing that? If so, please share. :-)”
Susan, I actually did write an article, many moons ago, about this topic. I would have to sort through my 1,200 articles to find it and honestly, I don’t have time right now to do that. Let me instead give you a quick summary of how it happened.
When I was 62 I abruptly quit my teaching job. I suddenly found myself unemployed, and since I get bored very quickly I started looking for something else to do, something that would allow me to work for myself, keep my own hours, and be in control of my financial future.
I settled on freelance writing! Now mind you, I knew next to nothing about it, but that wasn’t about to stop me. I did my research, read countless articles and books, and then dove into the deep end of the pool. I started out answering an ad on Craigslist for a content writer. I got that gig, for a content mill in Texas that actually paid pretty good money. Shortly after that I got another gig writing for a real estate company in Los Angeles.
That was almost six years ago and I’m happy to say I still have those two customers who provide steady work for me. I’ve had other customers over the years. They come and they go, but the thing to understand is that once you get established, and once you’ve gained a reputation as doing quality work, then the work is always there for you.
At some point, about three years ago, I decided to skip the middleman (the content mills) and just contract out to businesses locally. I have a couple here in Olympia I work directly with, and that has worked out quite well. Today I’m not really looking for new customers. I’ll take them if they contact me, but I’m comfortable with the load I currently have.
Please note this all took time. I was lucky because I could draw early Social Security, so I had a partial-income coming in while I built my business. That certainly helps and relieves a great deal of the pressure.
Anyway, do the research, learn the business, start at the bottom and work your way up. It is not a get-rich-quick business, but once established it is a steady business that allows you some freedom.
Thanks for the great question!
Another Blogging Question
From Patricia: “I’m about to create my own blog and I was wondering which blogging service you used and why?”
I use WordPress, Patricial! At first I used it because I could start out with a free blog, but I’ve stayed with it because I find WordPress to be a very easy site to navigate and operate. Two of my business customers also use WordPress, so I’ve had a great deal of practice on it.
Bottom line: for me it’s WordPress because of the familiarity and ease of it. I’m sure we’ll have comments from others suggesting other hosts, and they will all have great reasons for it.
One site I’ll never have is Hibu. One of my customers has it and I absolutely hate it! Stay away from it at all costs, no matter what kind of great offer they may give you.
But again, that’s a purely subjective opinion.
From Andrew: “Hi! I’ve got several articles about gardening that I think are pretty good, and I was thinking of approaching a gardening magazine about getting them published. Any suggestions who I should approach?”
Andrew, I’m going to assume, from the lack of information and the question itself, that you’ve never done this before. If that’s the case, let me first suggest you don’t waste your time with the big mags….Better Homes & Gardens should not be your first attempt!
If you are, indeed, just starting out, start small. Find a small, local or regional gardening magazine, or better yet find an online gardening magazine, and approach them first. You have to build up credibility in this business, and you do that by starting at the bottom.
Next, learn how to write a query letter. Read articles about it….”Writer’s Digest” has some very good information about query letters….learn how to write the perfect query letter and then send it out to those small magazines. And then prepare yourself for rejection. It happens early on, and it happens often.
In other words, only the strong survive!
AFRAID IN WISCONSIN
From Sheila: “I have this book I’ve been working on for two years now. I’ll get real excited about it and work on it for a couple weeks, but then I walk away from it because I’m afraid I’m wasting my time and I’m not good enough. Any suggestions?
Sheila (the first character in my first novel was named Sheila, by the way), you could be the best writer on the planet right now, but we’ll never know that if you don’t finish that damned novel. Heck, my friend, you may finish it, it may be great, and it will never be recognized by anyone. That’s just the nature of this business. I’ve said this before and I mean it: if John Steinbeck were just finishing his first novel in the year 2017, there is a better-than-even chance he would not get it published. Such is the nature of this business.
I don’t have any quick fixes for you regarding confidence. I can’t protect you from rejection. All I can tell you is it would be a damned shame if you quit now.
From Linda: “How do you feel about the use of contractions? I was taught (101 years ago) that contractions are "informal" and not to be used in serious writing. I know that they can be used in dialogue because using contractions is how most of us speak. But at the moment I am working on nonfiction, no dialogue. Somehow not using contractions at all sounds stuffy and stilted. A penny for your thoughts.”
Linda, that’s just about the worth of my thoughts. LOL
I do quite a bit of freelance writing for businesses, and I’ve always used contractions. There is a school of thought that says you shouldn’t, and I understand the thinking behind it, and there will be customers who do not want contractions, but if there are no restrictions then I say go for it. I agree that not using contractions leaves one’s work a bit stuffy and stilted, and that’s something I, as a writer, want to avoid at all costs.
SHORT BUT SWEET
That’s it! Five question, five answers, another Mailbag in the . . . well . . . bag!
Remember, if you have a question, either leave it in the comment section below, or email this old writer at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure it appears in the next installment of The Mailbag.
Thanks for spending part of your Monday with me, and I’ll see you all next week.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”