4 Easy-to-Avoid Freelance-Writing Mistakes Every Rookie Makes

Congratulations! You landed your first client.

Getting a positive response to a pitch or application can give you a writing high that lasts all week…that is, until you start working with the client and things start going wrong.

As a new freelancer, getting any job may be so exciting we’re willing to accept jobs that aren’t always the best fit. I certainly made some mistakes (and continue to make new ones) that ate up a lot of my time and energy at the beginning of my freelancing career.

The good news is I kept track of my rookie freelancing mistakes when landing a new gig, so you don’t make the same mistakes!

1. Not clarifying if you get a byline

The job ad said “writer”, not “ghostwriter”, so I assumed I would have a byline…wrong.

When landing a new client or gig, this is one of the most important things you can ask, especially if you’re working to build your portfolio. Having a byline helps build your brand and can even draw inbound leads — a dream for all new freelancers!

Clarify up front if you’ll be able to have a byline. If the answer is no, ask if you’ll be able to link to the writing in pitches, or if you can get a testimonial. If the answer is still no, think carefully about if the time is worth it. You may want to raise your rates if you’re not getting any exposure.

There’s nothing as disappointing as spending a lot of time writing a perfect article, only to not get the recognition for it you thought you would.

2. Writing about a topic you don’t believe in

You’ve responded to an ad or cold pitched, and they’ve responded. You’ve talked about average word count, if you’ll have a byline and how to submit. You’ve even agreed on cost per word and how you’ll get paid.

It’s finally time to write.

Then they send you the topic and your heart drops. Not only is it something you’re completely uninterested in, it’s also something you don’t believe in or agree with.

There are certain niches where this happens more than others, but it can happen to anyone. In my case (health niche), I was being asked to write about a specific supplement. I don’t really believe in supplements and diet pills, and I hadn’t used this one myself, so I felt really uncomfortable with the post.

I wrote it anyway, but I wish I hadn’t. Not only did it take forever (since I wasn’t familiar with it), but I hated every second of it. Freelance writing isn’t all fun and games, but the writing part is still supposed to be enjoyable!

Plus, my name was now attached to a piece I didn’t believe in.

When the client asked me to do another piece reviewing and recommending a very specific diet pill, I declined. I wish I had declined the first offer, too. Not only did I spend a lot of time on the writing, it actually made me dread writing. And even though it was bylined, I don’t like to use it in my portfolio. I did make some money, but I wish I’d spent my time on more positive work.

3. Not adjusting rates for word count/research

You may have a standard rate per word or per project you charge, and if the client is willing to pay, you’ll accept.

Especially starting out, the rates you’ll accept are probably pretty low. You’re just trying to build your portfolio, connections and skill set.

But just because the rate is the same as other work you do, doesn’t mean you should accept it without knowing other parameters. Writing a 3,000 word article might take more than three times longer than a 1,000 word article, depending on the research or interviews involved. My cost per word was the same, but my effective hourly rate sank dramatically at this word count.

The same thing can happen if the article is research-intensive. I had another client that wanted an average of 25 sources for a 1,000 word article. While I’m happy to accomodate, I can’t accept the low end of my rates for that work.

If your time is your most valuable asset, you need to take on work that has a good effective hourly rate.

4. Not reading any legal documents or disclaimers

While this happens infrequently, sometimes clients will have you sign a non-disclosure or some other legal document. Make sure you read these documents before signing.

I once had a client put a 10-year non-compete in my non-disclosure agreement. Luckily, with a lawyer for a father, I always read any contracts before signing. As a freelancer, a non-compete is simply unacceptable. I recommend asking if they’ll remove that language.

If they won’t, don’t sign it.

Above all, always value yourself, your work, and your time.

Don’t take work just because you’re excited about finally getting a gig and making some money. Ask the right questions, read requirements carefully, and price accordingly.

And don’t be afraid to walk away if the opportunity just isn’t right.

The post 4 Easy-to-Avoid Freelance-Writing Mistakes Every Rookie Makes appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-05-04T10:54:32+00:00 May 4th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Womanly Panther: A Conversation with Director Mimi Leder

Scott Glenn and Director/Executive Producer Mimi Leder on the set of THE LEFTOVERS Season 3 in Australia. Photo: Ben King/HBO

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

Mimi Leder is one of the most respected directors in film and television. Her ability to bring out the subtle nuances of the human experiences has made her a highly sought after artist and collaborator. Helming films such as The Peacemaker, Deep Impact, and Pay It Forward, Leder has brought her talents to some of the most beloved franchises in the world of television in recent years – ER, Nashville, The West Wing, and Shameless, just to name a few. She has also been a key voice in guiding HBO’s The Leftovers, directing ten episodes of the show.

Leder sat down with LA Screenwriter’s John Bucher to talk about her career and her experiences.

John Bucher: You’ve said in other interviews that The Leftovers, and especially this season, is really about the story that we tell ourselves. That seems to be an on-going theme in a lot of your work. Can you unpack that?

Mimi Leder: Well, we all have stories we tell ourselves to get by, to make things all right in our individual worlds and the world as a whole. We see a lot of coping mechanisms. We see how people on the outside look, and then in private moments how they really look and feel, and see the things that they do to get through the day. Kevin putting a bag over his head, getting near the point of death so he can feel alive in The Leftovers is certainly an example of that. We see how each and every one of our characters exists, does things so they can exist in a place where they can breathe.

John Bucher: You have directed more episodes than anyone else over the course of the show’s run. You’ve become one of the chief storytellers for this show, especially where it’s taken off from Tom Perrotta’s original work. It seems like the audience that has developed for the show are really thoughtful people, and that has a lot to do with how the show is directed. So, what’s been your approach in connecting with that audience?

Mimi Leder: I feel that my approach to directing the show is always somewhere very honest and grounded in a real place from the character’s point of view. We dig deep when we approach a scene. We discuss the hows, the whys. I feel I just approach it from a storytelling point of view, and it’s really been an exciting journey to be able to be with the show since mid-first season and really experience it from the characters’ points of view. Even location scouting, finding the right house, the right landscape, how it fits the characters and how the character will fit within it.

John Bucher: Since you brought up locations, let’s talk about Australia. Were there films that were influential for you in approaching the Australian storytelling? Was it different than Austin?

Mimi Leder: Well, going to Austin, Texas, felt like the right place for season two, and going to Austin felt like they had such great little towns that we could find our little town that was untouched. It just felt right for Miracle, Texas. The blue skies and the vast landscapes, the open sky. When they talk about Texas and the open skies, they’re not kidding. They’re hypnotizing. They really are. You just watch clouds a lot of the day. It’s hypnotic.

Going to Australia and finding the right place to shoot, for example, in episode three, in the outback, was something we did last February when we decided we actually were going to Australia. We had to go find the right outback because the outback exists everywhere there. We didn’t quite know the storyline at that point, but I knew that I was going to be shooting an episode in the outback with Kevin Sr. on his journey with his flood narrative to save the world. Scott Glenn is one of the greats. He gave every ounce of himself to this role, and it’s a very beautiful, honest portrayal of a man trying to save the world.

We went to a place called Broken Hill, which is out of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales. Broken Hill is where they shot Wake in Fright that Ted Kotcheff brilliantly directed. It was a very beautiful and haunting and magical place to film. It was a great experience for all of us. We took in every moment. We didn’t take it for granted.

John Bucher: It feels like one of the re-occurring themes throughout the seasons that’s really coming to a pinnacle in season three is this idea of family, of fathers and sons, and the idea of saving the world but also saving yourself, saving your family. You have a daughter who’s beginning to enter the filmmaking world. Have you been able to draw from your own life at all in approaching these stories about families and the intricacies and nuances of families working together?

Mimi Leder: Yeah. I’ve definitely been able to draw from the intricacies and the moments in my life and the connections with my family: my husband, my mother, my daughter, my stepchildren as well. Family is everything, and it’s very complicated. This is the telling of that story, and the scripts by Damon and Tom especially spoke to that. Every ounce of The Leftovers, in so many ways, speaks to family and what the family means, and how could we live without our families. How could we go on? And how do our characters go on? That is what we’ve been exploring in depth.

John Bucher: Nora got a tattoo of the Wu-Tang Clan symbol to cover her children’s’ names. Were you given a Wu-Tang Clan’s name like the writers of that episode?

Mimi Leder: That was really funny. Mine was great. We were on set shooting one night, and everyone was getting a Wu-Tang Clan name. Mine is Womanly Panther.

John Bucher: That’s quite fitting.

Mimi Leder: Isn’t it amazing?

John Bucher: Has there been anything that you’ve learned from your earlier experiences or the earlier projects that you’ve done that you’ve been able to put into practice or that you’re really proud of or glad that you’ve been able to exercise?

Mimi Leder: Well, I would say that The Leftovers has been one of the best experiences of my career in that the material is so extraordinary. It opened me up in so many ways. I believe that it has opened me up as a director. I had many years of experience and it has in some ways made me more open and fearless and a better collaborator. It has made me explore my inner spirituality more. It has allowed me to be more free and somehow has cracked something open inside of me. I’m loving the work that we’re doing, that I’m doing. It’s been one of the great experiences of my career. I’m very grateful for it.


John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-05-04T10:54:36+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

5 Crucial Tips if You Want to Write for Local Publications

If you’ve pitched stories to national outlets before, you know to expect a rejection within two weeks or so. That’s because these media organizations typically have larger staffs, and might call on another editor to look at your pitch.

However, local publications are often much smaller and might not have as quick of a response time. That’s why the first pitch is so important.

After freelancing for almost a year, I finally broke into an independent regional magazine.

Now, I regularly contribute to city-specific publications, including an alternative weekly and hyperlocal, neighborhood-specific news blog.

In addition to discussing my experiences, I reached out to a few editors and writers about breaking into local publications for the first time.

1. Find a local angle

You may be tempted to pitch a national story to a local newspaper or magazine, but think again.

Although national issues affect the smallest of towns, you need to find a hook to make them locally relevant.

Do look for local angles on national stories,” explains Ken Schlager, editor of New Jersey Monthly. “Don’t pitch the obvious, like a review of a new restaurant. Do pitch local trend pieces that might not be obvious to the average observer.”

For instance, in February, some local punk bands hosted a benefit show for a 24-hour LGBTQ suicide hotline. Although the story began as timely coverage of an event, the story was an opportunity to localize transgender rights and discuss bathroom bills in different states.

“Get a good sense of what’s been done already and try to find uncharted territory, or perhaps a different angle on a story that’s already been told,” says Lindsay Lennon, who regularly contributes to her local Patch site and other regional publications. “If there’s a seemingly great story that hasn’t been covered yet, try to get the scoop on why.”

2. Always look for stories

If you’re truly committed to telling your community’s stories, try adopting a new mindset. For every event you attend, remind yourself that you are the storyteller in the room and rock it.

“Walk your beat,” Lennon stresses. “Talk to people. Go to local government meetings. Pick up the phone. Do not just send out emails. Sit down and have a chat with the mayor or the town supervisor or anyone who is considered a local magnate.”

While many journalists and writers search for sources on social media, especially those in the millennial generation, Lennon prefers to stay within her own network. When you’re working with strangers, including those you’ll never meet face-to-face, credibility could be taken for granted. That’s why she prefers to only interview those she knows.

Personally, I have used the internet to get connected, but I usually try to contact sources to verify their interest in going on the record before pitching a story.

3. Pitch far in advance

Especially for print publications, you want to give editors a lot of leeway when it comes to timeliness.

For example, in February, I pitched a local print magazine editor June, July and August stories.

A lot of times, local magazines have annual themed issues — top doctors, best & worst surveys, best new restaurants — and you can easily find out what month those issues come out, so you can time your pitches,” explains freelance writer Kate Andrews, who has been reporting on local issues her whole career and currently contributes to several publications specific to Richmond, Virginia.

Andrews recommends pitching magazines three months ahead of time, as well as looking over the submission guidelines. “Of course, read the publication thoroughly before pitching so you know what they cover and know what they have written about recently, so you can avoid pitching the same story,” she adds.

4. Know your competition

If your community has multiple publications dedicated to local stories, it’s best to familiarize yourself with all of them. Likely, they’re all competing with each other.

As a freelance writer, you might not have to commit yourself to one, but reading different publications helps you understand the tone and style of each one.

“If there’s a competing publication, pay attention to what they are writing about, so you don’t pitch that story to the first publication,” Andrews mentions. “I guarantee the editors for both are paying attention to the other one. That’s not to say you can’t write for both, but it’s probably smarter to pick different subject areas so one publication doesn’t feel ‘robbed’ if you write a story for the other one.”

The writing world is a small one, especially when it comes to local publications.

“Be aware that if you’re in a smaller or midsize city/region, most of the editors/staff at local and regional publications know each other,” Andrews adds. “So, if you burn bridges in some dramatic way at one place, word will travel and you may not get any work. On the other hand, if you have a good reputation at one publication, you may get work at a second place.”

5. Emphasize your familiarity with the area

Show the publication you’re an expert, and make a personal connection.

Shoshi Parks, a contributor to Hoodline who lives in San Francisco, contacted the publication first with her qualifications. In her introduction email, she explained her familiarity with the neighborhood —in addition to having lived there for a decade, she owns a small business in the city and is active in a few local nonprofit organizations. She also included a writing sample.

“Your perspective on your city is valid and unique,” Parks elaborated. “Think about what’s in your world and use it to convince editors that you have a valuable point of view. Having a writing sample or two is also helpful, even if it’s self-published, so that editors can see your skills for themselves.”

When reaching out to local publications, you should take pride in where you live. Promote yourself as a local authority who is qualified not only as a writer, but an expert, to report on regional issues that matter the most to the surrounding community.

“I find writing for local publications to be so fulfilling as both a storyteller and a consumer of information and lore,” Lennon adds. “Having a sense of place is one of the warmest and most oddly comforting phenomenons I’ve experienced in my life, and I think writing about a place and its inhabitants only enhances this sense.”

Challenge yourself as a writer to find interesting stories through events, people you know, and of course, everyday life. Ask yourself what your community needs to know through local journalism, using your insight as a community member.

Chances are, you probably have a lead under your nose to break into local publications.

The post 5 Crucial Tips if You Want to Write for Local Publications appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-05-04T10:54:32+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |