So you wanna be a writer…Step 3: Puttin’ on the Blitz

No…I said BLITZ

Blitz: 1. an intensive or sudden military attack. 2. a sudden, energetic, and concerted effort, typically on a specific task

We don’t need to involve tanks or bombers, so let’s focus on definition #2. Although, I do like the word “attack.” It’s really what I’m recommending you do next: Attack job opportunities with ferocious effort. So really, that first description of your blitz is fairly accurate.

To secure your first jobs as a freelance writer, you should complete an application blitz. You’ll develop a plan of attack, then execute it. If you aren’t a military strategist, that’s ok. You don’t need evasive maneuvers or heavy defenses. What you do need is energy, effort and perseverance.

My Recipe: The Spaghetti Toss

Keep in mind, if you do a search for job-hunting tips, you’ll get a plethora of results. Many will disagree with what I’m suggesting. Many will say that you should remain very focused in your job applications, spending time applying only to the ones with an ideal fit. “Don’t waste your time applying to dozens and dozens of jobs.” “Focus on networking rather than anonymous online applications.” “Don’t bother with a cover letter.” And on and on.

In certain situations, each of these might be good advice. But…these ideas didn’t fit with my plan, and they might not work with yours either.

My approach was an all-out freelancing blitz to get my name and portfolio in front of as many people as possible – in hopes to get a few things to stick. You might say I prayerfully played the odds – figuring for every dozen or so jobs I applied to I might find someone interested in giving me a shot. With very little experience, I hoped to find a few among the potential clients who would let me prove my writing talent to them. And…it worked. God answered those prayers.

The main reason my job search looked different from others was my end goal. I wasn’t trying to secure one 40-hour-a-week job. My goal was essentially several part-time jobs. I hoped to put together enough writing gigs, working with many clients, to create full-time income. I didn’t want to rely on one company to supply all of my pay, and I also wanted to ultimately work for myself. I only wanted jobs that allowed me to work from home, on my own schedule. I would decide what hours to work, what rate to charge and what jobs to accept.

Of course, I didn’t get all of these things at once. When you’re initially looking to establish yourself, you have less freedom in what you can turn down. You may have to start with lower pay than you want, and accept jobs that aren’t your favorite, just to get some writing under your pen. But, my point is, I wanted variety. I wanted lots of jobs.

So, I had to apply to a lot of postings, in a variety of fields and formats. That meant an application blitz.

What does an application blitz look like?

I’m glad you asked. Here’s what mine involved.

1. Search for job sources.

Here’s a few that I came up with:

craigslist: This was a top source for my blitz. It was time consuming to set up, but I’m still reaping benefits from it. I hopped on craigslist, chose a major US city, clicked “writing/editing” under the jobs section, checked off “telecommute” and saved the search. Under my saved searches, I turned on alerts, so I would receive an email notification any time someone posted a new writing/editing position. I did this for pretty much every major US city (since I can write from anywhere).

Of course, I started by applying to the opportunities that come up in my original search. But, once you’ve applied to all current jobs that interest you, you can continue to apply as new notices arrive in your inbox. Two years after setting up this search, I still receive alerts and occasionally find something that peaks my interest and results in a new opportunity.

Job boards: I didn’t find these helpful. I tried saving my search as I did with craigslist, but I quickly discovered I received many jobs that didn’t match my criteria (despite the selections I made when saving the search). I also become the target of recruiters for jobs in which I had no interest, like insurance sales. Ugh. I eventually turned off all these alerts (Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder). Maybe you’ll have better luck and want to include them in your initial blitz, but I don’t recommend them for freelance writing job searches. 

Freelance sites: I have found these to be hit or miss. In my experience, the people who use these sites to find freelancers are often expecting to get writing done dirt cheap. They expect to pay little to nothing for work, offering way less than market value for your skills. But…if you have very little experience, taking on a few of these tasks might be worthwhile to get some things on your portfolio. These sites include:

A quick Google search for freelance writing sites yields a host of results. To get started with each, you typically complete a profile that others can view as they search for freelancers. If they like what they see, they will contact you. You can also search posted opportunities and, on some sites, put in bids for specific jobs. Some are more user friendly than others. Again, I’ve found these only marginally helpful.

Newsletters: Why search for writing jobs when someone else can do it for you? I signed up for a couple of free newsletters which the creators are kind enough to compose and send out to job seekers. They include daily postings from across the world wide web of opportunities. Here’s a couple I’ve found helpful.

Shhh…Hidden jobs: Did you know a majority of jobs aren’t actually posted online or advertised in any way? This makes two things important. Networking and fishing.

You probably know what I mean by networking. Get your LinkedIn profile complete. Make good connections to get your name out there. Yadda yadda yadda. I’m personally sick of the term and hate the “schmoozing” sound of it. But, it is effective.

As far as fishing goes…I’ve found this to be just as effective as networking when I was first starting out. By “fishing,” I mean applying when there’s no job posted. As far as you know, the company isn’t even hiring. But, you’d like to work for them, so you inquire anyway.

Perhaps you’d love to write newsletter articles. So, you search for newsletter companies and send a cover letter and resume to a slew of them, introducing yourself and letting them know you are available for any opportunities they might have. The same goes for magazines or other media. To some, this may sound like a waste of time, but I actually got one of my best on-going writing gigs this way. Just sayin’.

2. Blast away, blitzer

Once you’ve assembled your list of job sources and have new job notices coming in regularly, you can blitz. Apply like crazy. When I was starting to build my business with the goal of writing full-time, I applied to dozens of jobs each week. Initially, it was dozens per day.

3. Get organized

It’s important to stay organized in this process. Track everything you apply to. Start a spreadsheet, or a journal (if you like low-tech options) or save each job posting/application in a “Freelance Jobs Applied To” folder in your email. These will be helpful to reference if someone gets back to you regarding one of the zillion jobs you’ve applied to, since they all start to run together eventually.

Why don’t you go…where writing fits…

Cast a wide net. Explore new possibilities. Apply. Apply. Apply. Eventually, you’ll find some things that stick. From there, you can find a few more. With experience, you can become more selective in your applications and job selections.

For now, your goal is simply experience. To find what fits…we’re puttin’ on a blitz.

Up next: So you wanna be a writer…Step 4: Check the Price Tag on Your Soul

 

So you wanna be a writer…Step 2: Get Yourself on the Interweb

Ask any of my high-tech friends, and they will tell you I’m pretty low-tech. I was one of the last people on the planet to start texting. I’m just not into the latest gadgets or apps. I’m not anti-computer or tech illiterate. After all, I am using this , not this 

I’m pretty savvy at learning new programs when I need to. I’m just a bit old school and prefer to keep things simple.

And yet, if my dad were here, he’d be blown away by my tech skills and all the technology I use every day. I guess it’s all about perspective.

Whatever viewpoint you come from, the reality is this: Whether you like it or not, writers today need an online presence. Exactly what this looks like will vary based on your goals, but you at least need a website. 

Don’t panic. You don’t need to be a programmer. You don’t even need to know HTML (and if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s ok too!)

What you do need to do is use a simple system like WordPress to establish a home for yourself on, what I like to call, the interweb. (Just ‘cuz it’s fun to say.)

Setting Up Shop

There are many free or cheap options to choose from to create a simple site. I chose WordPress. I’ve been happy with it. You’ll eventually want to have your own domain, be ad-free, and enjoy the ability to customize your site. These all involve cost. (All totaled, I pay about $100 a year for these privileges.) If you’re just starting out and have zero to invest, just go with the free stuff to get started. This site used to be nennpen.wordpress.com, and I eventually forked over the cash for the domain so it could be nennpen.com.

What should you include on your site? Again, my motto is keep it simple. If you don’t have any freelance clients yet, you simply want a place for prospective clients/employers to go. Even a one-page site with your general info is a place to start.

Here’s the essentials:

A site people can find. Choose the name carefully. The simplest solution is to use your name. If you wanna get a bit creative, go for it (I’m pretty proud of the Nenn Pen, Ink name). But, don’t get so crazy that people won’t remember it or associate it with you.

General info. If the goal is to get people to contact you about job opportunities, then…make it easy to contact you. Include an email address on your site (and make it prominent/easy to find on the site) and include a contact form. Don’t worry, the contact form is a built-in feature you can simply select and insert into your site when you set it up.

Include a blurb about what you offer as a writer. A good rule of thumb is to emphasize three traits. Establish what you want to be known for. This is a good tactic for any type of job hunt. Nail down three things you can quickly rattle off as your strengths, that will make a solid impression on employers. Be ready to back up each trait with a sentence or two that explains what each means or what makes it true about you. Think of them as your super powers. For example, when you read: Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…who comes to mind?

You’ll see from my home page that I am creative, concise and consistent. What are you?

Portfolio. This one’s the biggie. Everyone is going to want to see writing samples. You need an online portfolio you can point people to. In fact, this is really the initial reason for your site. Every application/resume/cover letter you submit should include “For samples of my work, please view my portfolio.”

Don’t have any samples yet? That’s a tough one. It’s the vicious need-experience-to-get-experience cycle. If no one has hired you to do any work yet, you may have to create your own samples to feature. Pick a topic and write about it. Interview a friend who has an interesting job or life story and write it up. Find a writing contest and enter it, then include your submission in your portfolio. Do a search for writing prompts and create a sample that way. The goal is to provide proof that you can write – and, that you can write in different voices and styles. I promise it gets easier. As soon as you have a job or two, you should have some additional content you can upload to your page, or live content you can link to. 

Better done than perfect. This one is extremely hard for me to remember. If you’re anything like me, you might get frozen in this process. You want to tweak, and edit, and change designs, and continue perfecting…and your site never goes live. Just accept up front that it won’t be perfect. Give yourself some grace. Put it out there, and you can always make changes as you go. Don’t let perfectionism or fear hold you back.

On your mark…

Ready to get started? The interweb isn’t going to write itself! Find a WordPress theme that suits your personality and get set!

Get yourself out there!

Go!

Up next: So you wanna be a writer…Step 3: Puttin’ on the Blitz

So you wanna be a writer…Step 1: Face the 7 Deadlies

No, I’m not an expert. I don’t have a degree in writing. In fact, I majored in social work because I wanted to help people. Turns out, that wasn’t a good fit. Now I’m a writer (which is really what I wanted to be all along) – and I still want to help people. So, here goes.

I’m going to share my journey that took me from retail, to real estate, to writing, and lots of other things along the way. Mostly, though, I’m going to share what has worked and what has crashed and burned as I’ve been on this path.

Sound interesting? Great! Keep reading…

My goal is to help others who, like me, dream of being a writer but aren’t sure how to get there. Do I have all the answers? Heck no. But, I’ve learned a few things, and I am currently making a living as a freelancer. I’m hoping that means I have a few helpful tips to pass along.

Two years ago today I was in the midst of trying to decide if I could really “make it” writing full time. Now, I’ve been doing just that since November of 2015. Praise God for helping me achieve the dream I’ve had since old enough to wield a pen!

I am certainly far from reaching many of my goals, but I am excited about where I am on this journey and the progress I’ve made so far. My plan is to share the many small steps I’ve taken to get to this point. This series will be writer-focused, but much of it will be applicable for anyone wanting to forge out on their own in any kind of business – from freelance writer to furniture maker to farmer (or even other careers that aren’t alliterative)!

I pray you’ll be encouraged and inspired by my tidbits and tips. I’d love to hear the experiences from your own journey, too. May we all spur one another on toward love and good deeds in whatever we’re pursuing.

Where to begin…

I’ve decided the only place I can start this series is where I started: facing down the 7 deadly sins for writers. If you can’t overcome at least Sin #1, you’re stuck before you even start.

I wrote these up in a previous blog series, if you want to check out those posts. I’ve also crafted them into a FREE ebook. It’s my gift to you for joining me on this writing adventure.

If those sins don’t scare you away from the craft, watch for the next step:

So you wanna be a writer…Step 2: Get yourself on the interweb

Video Can’t Kill This Radio Star

This week, Nenn Pen, Ink hit the radio waves!

God provided an awesome opportunity to share what He’s done in my life as a writer and to promote the 24 Ways book series. I had a blast with Two Bald Guys and a Microphone on their morning radio show.

The show airs on 101.3 WHIW Harvard Community Radio every Monday, 6-9 am CST. If you’re not local – that’s ok. You can listen live on Harvard Community Radio or on their Facebook Page. 

Meanwhile, check out the video of my radio debut below. The entire show is filled with encouraging, inspirational and humorous content. If you’re specifically looking for the segments about Nenn Pen, Ink and the 24 Ways book series, slide to these times in the video: -2:35, -2:30, -1:44, -0:60, -0:48.

  

Find the book series here.

Share your experiences on the series Facebook page.

How God Made Me a Writer

As I sit in my recliner, I glance up from my keyboard to gather my wordsmithing thoughts. I suddenly pause. As I take in my surroundings, I am struck once again with the realization of what God has done. He really made this my reality. He really did it. It’s still hard for me to believe. He made me a writer.

I love this recliner. I love that this is my office. I love that wherever I want to take myself and my laptop becomes my office. I love that I can “clock in” and “clock out” on my own time and terms. I love that I can hide inside when it’s cold and never have to commute in the snow anymore. I love that I love my work. I love that God answered my prayer.

I love that God made me a writer.

How it happened

I wasn’t always a writer. At least, not by profession. It’s been my dream since I was old enough to wield a pen, but it took until I was in my 30’s to pursue it. What happened then? Well, God used a snowstorm, a country song, a supportive husband, and encouraging family and friends to make my dream come true.

When I shared my snowstorm story, I promised to fill you in on the details of the process God used to do this, so here it is.

By the time I finally found this career, I had wandered down four other paths. A degree in social work and various jobs in retail, real estate and photography had produced a single realization: I still hadn’t decided what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I guess that’s not entirely true. Like I said, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The problem was, I just hadn’t figured out how. I didn’t see that as a realistic goal, so I continued to putter along, trying to find something else I could enjoy. And, I actually had. My job as a photographer was a good fit. After several years, though, I realized I still wanted more. Somewhere in my heart I knew that writing was still the best fit.

Starting down a new path

So, I started to dabble. As a school photographer, I had the summers off. This gave me time to pursue side jobs here and there as a freelancer. (Please note the God-at-work aspect of this – providing this job to prepare me for the next one!) I did some web content. A couple blog articles here and there. I found the work exciting, challenging and enjoyable.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post, I saw this simply as a side gig. I didn’t really believe at the time it could be much more. Once God convinced me it could be, I dove in.

Was it scary? Heck yeah! (Read about facing this fear here.)

It was scary to truly go after this goal, but this process was also SOAKED in prayer. I prayed for guidance, for wisdom, for blessings in my writing pursuits. I prayed for God to help me achieve this dream. I prayed. I asked others to pray. We prayed.

And, I put in a lot of hard work. With incredible support from my loving husband, (I kinda thought he was a little crazy when he first told me he thought I could do this full time and be successful at it) and encouragement from my friends and family (whose accountability continues to help me with writing goals today) – I dug in.

What digging in looks like

Like I said, I had already snagged a few writing jobs here and there. Now, though, I didn’t want side jobs. I wanted this to be my only job. My goal was to put together enough regular freelance work from multiple clients that I could do it full time (setting my own hours and working from home).

Achieving this goal required several key steps.

  1. Pray – Frequently and fervently.
  2. Apply for writing jobs – A lot of them. When I really decided to get serious about this, I was applying to at least a dozen jobs some days. (More on where I found these jobs in a later post.)
  3. Pray some more.
  4. Set up a website – You’re lookin’ at it. Previously, I had a blog-only site. I now needed to add info about my writing, including the all-important portfolio. Thankfully, I had those “dabbling” jobs to include on the portfolio page, so potential clients could see samples of my work.
  5. Keep praying.
  6. Choose – Make the leap? Once God brought several opportunities my way, and the writing jobs started building, I had to make an important decision. I had reached a point that I could no longer sustain both jobs – writing and photography. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day. I had to start turning down writing gigs or make the leap and quit my other job. I reached a point when I was making 80% of my photography income through writing. I felt that if I built it up that much, I could quit my photography job and continue to build the writing income to completely replace it (and hopefully grow it even more!) So, that’s what I did. I gave notice to the photography company and officially started working for Nenn Pen, Ink full time on November 1, 2015.
  7. Guess what I did next? Yep – kept praying.

And God continues to answer! He has blessed me with great writing opportunities. He has grown my income to significantly more than I was making before – and I get to do what I enjoy – from home! Praise the Lord!

God would still be an amazingly good, good Father if none of this had happened. But, I am grateful that it did.

I’m thankful that God made me a writer.

How a Country Song Made Me a Writer

Have you ever seen the TV show, Leverage? It’s one of my favorites. I own all five seasons.

Here’s the gist of it:

It’s lighthearted and fun, with enjoyable characters. My favorite is the “hitter,” Eliot, played by Christian Kane. I didn’t realize until I watched the season-three episode, “The Studio Job,” that Christian is also a country singer. I fell in love with this song the moment I heard it:

I liked it so much I did a search to see if I could buy it. That’s when I discovered Christian Kane had an entire album. So, of course, I bought it. Turns out, that’s not the only song of his I like. There are several that I really enjoy.

That brings me to the title of this post. (Did you think I’d never get there? What can I say? We’re talkin’ country music here, so I moseyed to my point.)

When I got this CD, I was working at a job that involved, at minimum, a 40-minute commute. During that drive, I usually listened to the radio, listened to CDs, prayed, or talked on the phone (hands-free of course). As I mentioned in my snowstorm post, some days this commute was bearable. Others, it was not. Either way, it certainly gave me time to think.

I thought about the fact that I had been dreaming of being a writer since I was five. I thought about my hesitation to truly pursue my book ideas. I thought about my “some day” attitude that wasn’t ever going to make my dreams happen.

I liked my job, but I knew I really wanted more. I wanted to be done with commuting. I wanted to set my own hours. Be my own boss. Write.

But, how? Pursuing that dream sounded scary. Should I really go for it? Even with the resolve that the constant snowfall had created, I still had moments of uncertainty. I knew I didn’t want to do “this” anymore, but I didn’t know what “that” looked like, or how to get there.

It was in the midst of this turmoil that I heard what became my favorite song on the album. Here it is:

Did you catch that chorus?

I’ve been sittin’ on the fence for way too long

Warmin’ that bench as chance moves on

And believe me, that ain’t no way to live.

And this barely gettin’ by is really gettin’ old

And it’s hard to turn a wrench on a rusty bolt

But someday something’s gotta give

The lyrics poked me right when I needed to be moved along. In truth, they did more than poke. They reached right into my heart (like good songs do) and plucked a few cords. They were exactly what I needed to hear. They pushed me off that fence. Got me off the bench.

I knew it was time to make some changes. Go for the life I’d been dreaming of. It would be a lot of work, but then again, it’s hard to turn a wrench on a rusty bolt. As I listened to this song, I decided “Someday is today…and something’s gotta give.”

Book Launch Giveaway Today

It’s here!

The new installment of the 24 Ways series, 24 Ways To Serve Through Your Day, is now available.

As promised, in celebration of the book’s release, I am offering FREE content!

Purchase this paperback TODAY and receive a FREE digital copy! AND receive a FREE digital copy of the first book in the series, 24 Ways To PRAY Through Your Day (2016).

That’s TWO FREE digital books if you purchase the paperback, 24 Ways To Serve Through Your Day, on its launch day, March 24th!

Simply submit your receipt and email info here, and I’ll send you your FREE digital books.

Get your copy here.

      

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