Finding Work in Commercial Writing — Session 2, AIW Going Freelance Seminar — I’m liveblogging the AIW Going Freelance! seminar today at Johns Hopkins University. Forgive the typos, as I’m trying to keep up. You can handle it. Trust me. -kk

 LESTER REINGOLD: The “serendipity” approach to finding work as a freelancer

In short, make your own luck and capitalize on opportunities. He didn’t start off with the intention of writing commercially, but he ended up doing it. He transitioned from full-time to freelance work. He went to Columbia for journalism but found himself not really using it. He wrote for some steady clients, including a trade pub, Conde Nast Traveler, and the magazine of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Principles that have worked for him

  • Achieve the right amount of specialization. The right amount is the amount that makes you credible but doesn’t close you off from other fields. Identify subspecialties within your specialty. For aerospace, you have air safety, regional carriers, national and international carriers, etc. The value in specializing is that you learn the jargon and the issues you’ll need to be able to speak the language of your field. You don’t have to be a professional in the field to be a specialist in the field. You might not fly planes, but you can right about them.
  • As you write in one field, be on the lookout for related areas. There are many organizations in a single field, as well as organizations interested in the field or in the organizations within the field — and they all need writers. Very often, they want to hire people to write their publications.
  • Build on ideas, topics and research you have compiled for previous assignments. Repurposing your research, knowledge, and concepts can yield dozens if not hundreds of articles.
  • Maintain enough momentum in a field so you become a known quantity. When people know who you are and know what kind of work you do, they will prefer you over unknowns.


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The Business of Freelancing — Session 1, AIW Going Freelance Seminar — I’m liveblogging the AIW Going Freelance! seminar today at Johns Hopkins University. Forgive the typos, as I’m trying to keep up. You can handle it. Trust me. -kk

The Business of Freelancing

AL PORTNER: So you want to be a freelancer…

Before you dive in, you need some perspective. There are only 3 jobs in the whole world.

  1. People who make things
  2. People who sell things
  3. People who account for the people who make and sell things.

Freelancers do all 3 jobs at once.

Ask yourself why you want to freelance, what kind of work you want to do, why you’re qualified, who you will work for, what’s our business plan, how you will market, whether you have a natural client base, whether you’ve set benchmarks to signal success, how much you will charge, and what you expect to earn.

Remember that business is separate from your personal life. However small, it’s still a company.

Things new freelance writers believe they will write largely for publication. But most of your income will come from work for hire projects, not magazine and newspaper articles. This is in part because of a shrinking pool of traditional magazines and other publications, and the time lag in periodical publication in terms of the lengthy process of pitching, writing, revising, and then getting paid.

Potential customers include AD and PR agencies, associations and nonprofits, general business, colleges and universities, foundations, government, embassies, health care providers, newsletters (a vertical population, or those who need information for their jobs), internet, technical documents (lots of money to be made), think tanks, etc. Commercial writing generally pays the best and is the most dependable source of income, including advertising, PR, annual reports, editing, grant applications, marketing materials, newsletters, photography, RFP responses, speeches, etc.

Consider certificate programs through professional groups, such as JHU’s editing program or IABC, PRSA, and Council of PR Firms, Association of Proposal Writers, etc. Those three or four little letters after your name make you more marketable in certain areas.

In a tough economy, some of the bet jobs are the ones that lead to revenue for your customers: grants, proposals, and fundraising materials. You become an investment rather than an expense. Also, any required documents like annual reports, technical manuals, documentation, etc.

Keys to freelance success:


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The Fine Line Between “Writing” and “Being a Writer” — On Monday, I posted about my experience thus far with My First NaNoWriMo. Today, I did my first “morning pages” before settling down for my NaNo session (I fell asleep on the floor of my office on some comfy pillows before I got to the NaNo part, so that’s to come as soon as I finish this post).

For those not familiar with morning pages, it’s a technique devised by Julia Cameron that grabbed the writing public through her book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. In simple terms, first thing every morning (after peeing and brushing your teeth, before working or doing chores), you sit down and write three (3) pages of longhand. You can write whatever you want so long as it’s something and you fill up three pages. Says Cameron in The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch,

Work with the Morning Pages awakens our intuition. Synchronicity becomes a daily fact. We are more and more often in the right place at the right time. We know how ot handle situations that once baffled us. In a very real sense, we become our own friend and witness. Morning Pages are the gateway to the inner and higher self. They bring us guidance and resilience. They make us farseeing.

Most if not all of the extremely prolific writers I know, the ones who immediately spring to mind when I think of when I think of the label “writer,” do morning pages. And now I do. I’ve decided. Today was the first day of a new habit. Who cares if it supposedly takes 21 days (depending on whom you ask) to form a habit? I’m declaring it a new habit. Just like NaNo aside, I’m going to devote time each day to write 2,000 words for myself before I write anything for anyone else. These are my new writing habits.

In the three days of NaNo, I’ve realized that I lost something of my identity as a writer when I began writing for a living. Bizarre, isn’t it? But as I have shared with some of you previously, I am often so busy writing for others that I hardly ever write for myself anymore. I have become a person who writes, rather than writer. This is not what I want for my life. This is not what I fantasized about when I dreamed of my life as a full-time writer.

Don’t get me wrong: It doesn’t totally suck or anything like that. I do work I enjoy and I do it from a home I love and it allows me the lifestyle I want. But writing only for others is not what makes me happy.

I feel like I’ve been on a road trip on a major highway and I just realized that I missed my exit about 50 miles back. It’s been a pleasant ride and I’m going approximately in the right direction, enjoying myself, but if I keep going this way I won’t make it to my destination. So, it’s time to backtrack.

Are you astonished at this great revelation, which has come a mere three days into a month of writing with reckless abandon and a mere day into these miraculous morning pages? I know I am.

Whether you’re NaNo-ing or not, what have you learned about yourself as a writer in the last day, week, month, year? Leave a comment. Let’s talk about what it means to be a writer.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King


My First NaNoWriMo — In a fit of creative bravado, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month this year. Although I’m on track with my word count (3,700 at the moment), I’m still not entirely sure what I’m writing about. This became abundantly clear to me last night at the Richmond-area kickoff party, when I gave a different answer to everyone who asked me to tell them about my novel. Here’s what I ended up deciding on for my NaNo profile page, subject to revision:

Kaylee Marsh is a college junior who knows what she wants in life. That’s the only reason she can manage her 18-credit course load and three part-time jobs. But when her younger brother dies back home, the bottom falls out of Kaylee’s world and she has to figure out what’s really important.

To anyone who knows me, it’s obviously an autobiographical novel. I don’t usually recommend that format for most writers because they are too in love with their words to understand the need for revision or why their brain dump is not immediately publishable. But I’ve been needing to write about my brother’s death for some time now, and I think this will give me a means to do it while still enabling me to distance myself from it.

But who knows. I’m expecting this bad boy to evolve over the next month, and I’m looking forward to it with a mix of apprehension and excitement. It’s been a long time since I’ve made time each day to write something for myself, so regardless of how the month ends, I think this is going to be an invaluable process and experience.

Are you NaNo-ing this year? How’s it going as of Day 2? Leave a comment sharing something about your book or your experience thus far.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King


VIDEO: Office Space Meets eBooks — 
Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

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All Freelance Writing Releases Two Free Word Count Trackers in Time for NaNoWriMo

From my pal Jenn at All Freelance Writing… Woohoo!


All Freelance Writing Releases Two Free Word Count Trackers in Time for NaNoWriMo

Contact Information
Jennifer Mattern

Philadelphia, PA — October 29, 2009 — All Freelance Writing (, a business blog for freelance writers, launches a new collection of free interactive tools for writers starting with two free word count trackers. The word count trackers are being released in time for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so writers working on their 50,000 word novels during November will have new tracking options available.

The first word count tracker focuses entirely on word counts, but enables users to easily customize the size and color of their progress bar to fit the design and space on their own site. Users can also choose from two pre-existing size options — a small progress bar that will fit even narrow blog sidebars and a much larger progress bar that can be used within blog posts or forum signatures. This word count tracker can be found at

The second word count tracker can be used for much more than tracking word counts during NaNoWriMo. Users can choose from preset options to track word count, pages, or posts (if they want to set monthly blog posting goals for example). There is also a custom option where the user can enter anything else they’d like to track — weight loss, vacation count downs, days until a baby is expected, income goals, and much more. Three size options are available for this word count tracker, and it can be found at

Both free word count trackers will provide the user with code for their custom progress bar after they enter their goal and current progress. That code can be embedded on any Web site, blog, forum, or anywhere else they’re permitted to embed the code.

About All Freelance Writing

All Freelance writing is a blog for freelance writers, founded by freelance business writer and professional blogger Jennifer Mattern. As of October 2009, a new team of freelance writers was assembled, converting All Freelance Writing into a group blog. The site is dedicated to providing no-nonsense business advice to both new and experienced freelance writers and features a collection of free downloads, interactive tools for writers, daily listings of freelance writing jobs and blogging jobs Monday through Friday, and more.


Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King