Davidsabbath thewriteroom.org winner grand prize

Meet Our 2015 Winner: David Sabbath

Davidsabbath thewriteroom.org winner grand prizeIntroducing our 2015 Grand Prize winner for Best Screenplay:

David Sabbath is a director/writer living in Columbus, Ohio.  His international and national commercials have received 57 advertising awards for his direction.  As the writer/director, his feature film God Don’t Make The Laws was awarded best picture at the 2012 LA Film and Video Festival.  For his writing, David has receive the New Star Award at the 2013 Madrid International Film Festival; Best Movie Script and Best New Writer at the 2012 American International Film Festival; Gold Award from the 2012 California Film Festival and was just accepted to the 2016 Pasadena Film Festival.

How to Negotiate: The Tip No One Tells Writers


Hi, my name is Jessie, and I’m a writer.

I can nail thriller scenes for novels, attention-grabbing article ledes, and persuasive product descriptions.

Yet one form of writing repeatedly eludes me: business emails.

Especially emails that involve my nemesis… negotiating.

Negotiation is an important skill for writers — freelancers dealing with prospective clients, novelists dealing with editors, indie writers hiring cover designers, and anyone who’s ever tried to organize a coffee date with a colleague.  

It seems like negotiating would be easier via email than in person or over the phone, especially for us writer types. After all, you can take the time to craft every sentence and make sure your point is clear and polite, right?

And yet it can be devilishly hard.

Jessie’s Big Deal: a case study

I recently went through a high-stakes negotiation with a prospect, which involved some of the biggest numbers I’ve ever quoted. In a panic over every word, I read my email drafts out loud to my husband, who works in sales.

His verdict? My writing sucked.

In my quest to be polite, he explained, I was weakening my position and opening the door for my prospect to walk all over my quote.

My first email went something like this:

Hi Prospect,

Thanks so much for getting in touch! I’d love to talk with you more about how we might work together. It sounds like what you’re looking for is [Project]. Based on [Variable 1] and [Variable 2] I feel like [My Proposal] might be a good way to proceed. My normal rate for work like that ranges from [$ to $$]. I think I’d need to know more about [Variable 3] before I could narrow that down. I hope that sounds all right to you. If so, let’s chat.



“Is that nice enough?” I asked my husband, who was rolling his eyes. “Is it polite? Is it getting my point across? Am I quoting too much?”

After going back and forth about the wording for about 10 minutes, my husband finally asked if he could just write the email for me.

My husband’s email read, in a nutshell:


Thank you for getting in touch. Based on [Variable 1] and [Variable 2], my rate would be between [$ and $$]. Please let me know how you would like to proceed.


The polite writer in me was appalled at his directness and lack of flowery ornamentation. But I had to admit, it would be much harder to walk all over my proposal in that email than my original version.

I touched up his version with a bit of my personality, but the lesson was clear: My tendency to hedge my bets was killing the negotiating power of my emails.

Minimize “minimizing language” for stronger emails

To show respect, many writers tend to use language that weakens their position. They aim for deference and end up timid. It’s part politeness, part impostor syndrome — and 100-percent bad for business.

The good news is that, like in my email above, it all comes down to a few problem phrases that you can learn to recognize and edit out. Business experts call it “minimizing language.”

It often sounds more polite to avoid direct statements. That’s why we say things like, “I think we need to turn left at the light,” instead of simply telling the driver to turn left.

Observe how the following deferential statements can be strengthened:

  • It seems like 3 p.m. would be a good time to meet up for me.” —> “Let’s meet at 3 p.m.”
  • I feel like [$$] would be a good rate for that type of work.” —> “My rate is [$$] for that type of work.”
  • I think I’d like to see a second draft by the end of the day.” —> “Please send me a second draft by the end of the day.”

In my original email, I used phrases like “sounds like” and “I feel like” to soften sentences that should have been direct statements. After all, it didn’t “sound like” my prospect was looking for a certain type of service; he was looking for that service.

“Do you ‘feel like’ making this proposal, or are you going to make it?” my husband asked. “Do you ‘think’ you need to know more about [Variable 3] before you can make a more accurate quote, or do you need to know it?”

Phrases like these introduce doubt in the mind of your reader and undermine your authority, but they’re not the only culprits.

“Just” is another insidious phrase that undermines everything around it. Look at how its inclusion in each of these sentences makes their meaning sound so insignificant:

  • “I just have a few pages to read from my new story collection.”
  • “I just want you to know…”
  • “I’m just calling to check in on…”
  • “My new novel? Oh, it’s just a story about…”
  • “Hi, it’s just me.”

You should also keep an eye out for reassuring tag lines: phrases that go on the end of a sentence to soften its directness and ask for reassurance. Look out for phrases like:

  • “OK?”
  • “Don’t you think?”
  • “Isn’t it?”
  • “All right?”

When in doubt, throw out your English degree

Tana French’s gorgeous prose and Margaret Atwood’s intricate sentence structures make for a wonderful reading experience – but in a business email, simple is better.

Take a look at my email examples from above again. In the first email, I was hiding my basic message — “here’s my quote, give me a call” — in a whole novel’s worth of subordinate phrases. That kind of email makes it harder for the recipient to know exactly what I’m saying and what I expect in response.

Clarity is critical whether you’re hoping the response will be “You’re hired” or “Great, I’ll meet you then!”

Next time you’re writing a business email, swap your writer hat out for your salesperson hat and cut out the fluff.

I just feel like you’ll probably get better results if you do, don’t you think?

How have your negotiation skills changed as you’ve gained experience writing?

The post How to Negotiate: The Tip No One Tells Writers appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

Beyond Freelance Writing: How to Be an Entrepreneur

Freelancing is often seen as the first step to entrepreneurship.

But as a freelance writer you probably run a one-person business, trading time for money, while dreaming of living the laptop lifestyle, posting pictures from Mauritius and Thailand while working in your yoga pants.

How do you make that happen? How do you stand out from the thousands of others with online businesses who call themselves entrepreneurs?

Every freelancer wants to break free from the time-for-money cycle and become a successful online entrepreneur. But it’s a crowded marketplace, and for your dream to turn real, you must stand out from the competition.

So how do you separate yourself from the rest of the herd?

Here are five offbeat ways to differentiate yourself as a freelance writer.

1. Make your customer the hero

Your freelance writing business isn’t about you. It’s about your customer. No matter how brilliant or unique your product or service may be, do not blow your own horn. Do not project yourself as the hero waiting to rescue a customer in distress.

Your customer is the hero, not you.

Identify what your customers want, why your product or service will appeal to them, how it works, and in what way your customers will benefit. Make it about them. They are the hero. You’re there to assist them in their journey.

2. Have a long-term plan

Writing articles for $100 per hour is okay for paying bills. But it isn’t what is going to help you realize your dream of being an online entrepreneur.

When you trade time for money, cutting down your hours hits your income; while working long hours takes a toll on your health, and sick days mean income loss.

A successful entrepreneur is someone who makes money without burning out. Doing so requires a long-term plan. Your plan could include starting a coaching program for writers or a creating a digital marketing course for small businesses.

Every freelancer finds his footing by offering services at an hourly rate, but you must have a vision to take your business higher than that.

3. Know your limits

Are you someone who takes pride in doing everything by yourself? Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness?

If you answered yes to that, you’re far from being alone. We live in a society where being busy is a status symbol. But there’s only so much you can accomplish in 24 hours, and it’s perfectly OK to seek help managing certain parts of your business.

Get an accountant for bookkeeping, or a web developer for website fixes. If you’re too busy running your coaching program or writing your book, get someone to ghost blog for you in the meanwhile.

Outsourcing tasks helps you focus on the most important aspects of your business. A smart entrepreneur isn’t someone who doesn’t need to seek help; it’s someone who knows their limits.

4. Create brand value

Your customers make you what you are. How is your product or service making a difference in their lives?

As a freelance writer, your brand doesn’t begin and end with writing articles. You must sell promises. Remember, your customers are always looking for ways to improve their lives. They want to be less busy and more productive. They want to be less stressed and more happy. Your brand value lies in helping them achieve that.

Maybe you provide lifestyle stories and tips that inspire women to celebrate their identity. Maybe you help stay-at-home moms build their own online biz. When people identify with your brand, they buy from you because they believe in you.

Make a positive impact. Sell promises, not features or benefits.

5. Be different, not just better

There are thousands of freelance writers out there. If your focus is on being better, then you’ll never achieve that. Focus on being different instead.

In a world where everyone’s trying to be better than the other, the best way to stand out is by being different. Find out the gaps in your field that your expertise can fill in. How you place yourself in a crowded marketplace can make all the difference.

Transitioning from a freelance writer to an online entrepreneur may not be all fun and games, but it needn’t be daunting either. By carving a niche for yourself in the market, you can be a stand-out freelance writer moving steadily towards your dream lifestyle.

What steps have you followed to take your freelance writing business to the next level?

The post Beyond Freelance Writing: How to Be an Entrepreneur appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

Your Online Writing Portfolio: Must-Haves and More

You’ve probably heard it’s important to have a strong online writing portfolio, and maybe you’ve thought about it putting one together. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to revisit this tool — it might be what gets you your next gig.

My site is a simple WordPress one, and I pay $26 per year for my domain name, MerylWilliamsMedia.com.

If you don’t have a domain name on lock yet, don’t wait.

My only purchasing experience has been through WordPress, but there are several sites that sell domain names, and several platforms with which to easily build a basic, great-looking site.

(Ed. note: Frequent readers know we love Bluehost!)

I’ve outlined for you the things you’ll want for your online portfolio, ranging from items you absolutely must include, to things that are pretty much gravy. I’ll also go over some general tips for the creation and maintenance of your site.

Let’s take a look:

The basic must-haves

1. An “about” page

Introduce yourself to your visitors with a photo and a few paragraphs about who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them. The tone of mine may be a little more casual than you want yours to be, and that’s fine — allow your tone to match your writing voice.

2. A contact page or form

Make it obvious how visitors can reach out to you. My site has a simple WordPress-generated contact form, typical to what you find on most sites.

It’s also important to let people know how they can hire you! If you’re a freelancer, whether or not to list your rate is a very personal choice, but at least make it clear what amazing services you offer to get the ball rolling. I have a services page to highlight my social media and personal-brand consulting.

3. Some of your best writing samples

You’ve got the visitor’s attention, so this is your time to shine. Pick the best of your most recent work and link to it. You might consider using visual elements, or you might prefer a simple list of bylines and publications.

Just make sure you’re really proud of the work you display on this page.


1. Up-to-date info about your latest projects

I recently started a podcast and am seeking representation for my memoir, so I’ve got information on both of these projects on my site. That way, visitors see everything I’m working on, but can pick and choose which they’d like to know more about.

2. Links to your social media accounts

If you’ve got ‘em, link ‘em — Twitter, Instagram, your Facebook author page, etc.

Because I work in social media for my day job, I’ve got a separate page all about mine, but even if you just link visitors to your accounts on your “contact” page, that’s a great step forward. Editors and other potential clients want to see what you’re interested in online. If you make it easy for them to follow you on social media, they’re more likely to pay attention to you online.

3. Testimonials

Here’s a page where you can collect all the awesome things editors and clients have said about you. If you haven’t collected that feedback, it’s not too late — make a list of people you feel comfortable asking for a short, two- or three-sentence testimonial and reach out to them.

Just like with a letter of recommendation, give them plenty of time, but I bet you’ll find that editors who love working with you will be quick to respond with some kind words. Return the favor by linking their name to their portfolio or Twitter account.

4. A professionally-done head shot

You should have at least one photo on your “about” page, but if you’ve got the cash, it might be nice to spring for a professional photo shoot.

Or, find a camera-savvy friend and barter for writing services (or dinner). A clear, recent head shot can keep you recognizable in your field.

Pure gravy

1. A downloadable press kit

I don’t have one of these yet, but I’ll want one down the road for when my memoir gets published. A press kit will usually contain a press release about your book, your author bio, book information, a sample chapter, promotional images and author head shot and, if available, blurbs about your book from respected readers and reviewers.

2. A blog or newsletter signup form

If you blog or would like to, knock yourself out right here — it’s a way for visitors to see your recent writing and what interests you. However, if you don’t want to blog, don’t force yourself. It can be a lot to keep up with and distract you from your paid writing projects, unless it’s what you’re passionate about.

Instead, what I’m passionate about is the personal newsletter I send out to readers and fans, linking them to the work I’ve done in the last two weeks, along with articles and pop culture I’ve enjoyed in that time. Because of this, and because new subscribers add to my writer fan base, I have a page on my site devoted to getting new newsletter readers.

3. A multimedia experience

Again, it’s gravy, but a video introducing yourself to clients might be nice. Or, if you’re a podcaster or interested in audio projects, read and perform one of your pieces aloud and host the audio on your site. Even an attractive photo display or slideshow can help you stand out.

A few additional tips

1. Link to other parts of your site throughout

Linking to other pages within your site will make it more likely that visitors will stick around longer to see more of your work and services. My “about” page links to various pages within my site, as well as to outside articles.

2. Use a clean, simple layout

A busy-looking site can easily discourage visitors from sticking around, and you want to make sure the different areas of your site are easy to access.

3. Keep tabs on the data available to you

Check your stats to see what visitors are most interested in, and, if the information is available, how they found you. This can be done through your site host’s statistics and/or through Google Analytics.

Your portfolio is what you make it, and know that once you’ve got the basics, you can always build up the other stuff later.

Just try to keep it up to date, and review its sections once a quarter to ensure you’re always showing off your most recent and best work!

Writers, what’s in your online portfolio?

The post Your Online Writing Portfolio: Must-Haves and More appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

How to Start Freelance Writing: 5 Major Questions Answered

Congratulations! You’re a freelance writer!

When I stepped into the wonderful world of freelance writing nearly six years ago, I naturally had a ton of questions.

How do I find clients? What should I charge? How do I build a personal brand? How do I get started?!

Now, years later, with several triumphs (and a couple failures) under my belt, I want to answer your frequently-asked questions about making a freelance-writing career or side hustle work for you.

Read on for answers to five of your most pressing questions about freelance writing.

1. How do you get started, especially with no prior freelancing experience?

Sometimes getting started is the trickiest part.

The best way to get started, especially if you have little-to-no prior freelancing experience, is to do these two things:

Use the work you have already done to begin building a portfolio.

You may have no “freelancing” experience per se, but I bet you do have samples of the kind of work you want to do on a freelance basis!

For example, if you want to become a freelance writer, you might already have a blog that showcases your writing. If you want to do social media for small businesses, perhaps you’ve already worked or volunteered at a small business and manage its social presence. Use those samples to showcase your expertise and to help you reach toward paying opportunities.

Work for free.

Controversial topic alert, we know. Let me clarify: strategically work for free, in the beginning, to gain experience or to gain exposure.

Throughout your career, you may discover opportunities where writing for free is worth your time. I still write unpaid guest posts for credible websites because I see value in having my name and work associated with those sites.

2. I see so much stuff online about freelance writing from home-type jobs, but I doubt any of them are of much use. How do I find legitimate freelance jobs?

Freelance jobs can be challenging to find because there are a lot of scams out there. You definitely want to avoid these at all costs and be careful as you’re evaluating potential opportunities.

However, there’s a wealth of real, legitimate and awesome freelance writing jobs available online, too. It’s up to you to do the research to determine what’s a true opportunity for you.

First things first: Avoid content mills and freelance-bidding sites. I’ve personally never used one of these sites because it seems like an awful lot of work for a very small reward; the companies are often looking to hire someone at an extremely cheap rate, and you compete with lots of other writers all bidding on the same project.

Instead, spend your valuable time researching and pitching legitimate potential clients.

Networking can also lead to paying clients. I got one of my first major gigs when I mentioned a blog post the company’s founder had written in a post of mine. He reached out to thank me, and from there we developed a professional relationship. I began writing for the his occasionally, and after a couple of months, I became the blog’s features editor. Three years later, we’re still working together!

3. What should I include in my online portfolio?

That depends on what services you’re planning to offer! The items below are great ones to consider for your online portfolio:

  • Blog posts
  • News articles
  • Feature stories
  • Case studies for marketing or social media projects you’ve worked on
  • Design projects
  • Links to relevant social media accounts, websites, etc. where your work has been featured

Testimonials are another great marketing tool for your online portfolio. Be sure to ask the people you’ve worked with to write a brief recommendation for you that you can include on your site or LinkedIn profile. I have a dedicated “Praise” page on my website that features multiple testimonials; I also sprinkle testimonials into my “Work With Me” page.

Don’t have your own website to house your portfolio? Check out Contently or Muck Rack to build a free professional online portfolio.

4. What if my client is pushing me to deliver more than we agreed upon in our contract?

Sometimes clients, whether they realize it or not, ask for more than you’ve outlined in your contract.

Take these steps to manage the situation.

First, evaluate the scope of what the client is asking you to do. Is the task something somewhat simple that you could complete this one time, for the sake of maintaining peace in the working relationship?

If it is, reply with the following: “I’m happy to complete X this month, but because this isn’t included in our agreed-upon contract, I’ll have to charge you X if you’d like me to add this service moving forward.”

Most of the time, after receiving a reply like this, the client will realize they’ve made a mistake (and sometimes it really is an honest mistake!) and will back off.

If the scope of the work is far greater than what you’ve agreed on, explain that. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, instead think of this as a chance to increase your work with that particular client!

If the client isn’t agreeable or you feel uncomfortable, recognize that feeling. Perhaps this isn’t a client you want to work with, after all. Better to know now!

5. How do I figure out what to charge for my services?

Dun, dun, dun…this is the number one question I hear from most new (and experienced) freelance writers.

The honest, and not very helpful, answer is: it really depends.

As a freelancer, you can choose to charge clients hourly, or on a retainer or project basis.

For my blogging/writing clients, I charge per post or per article. Some clients prefer to pay by the word.

For my blog management clients, I charge a flat monthly rate for all the work I do. I choose not to charge hourly for any of my clients because I like to base my fee on the value I provide, rather than the amount of time I put in.

Of course, when I’m putting together a proposal package, I consider how long a project will take me to complete, but I don’t let that become the deciding factor.

In terms of freelance writing and blogging, I’ve found that most blogs that pay tend to offer writers between $50 and $100 for a post of around 500-700 words. For longer feature stories, perhaps in a magazine or other type of publication, the rate can go much higher; between $200 and $1,000, or even more, depending on the project.

Here’s a piece of advice that Alexis Grant taught me: ALWAYS aim higher than what you really expect to be paid for a project. It doesn’t hurt to ask for more, and the worst that can happen is the client says no and you negotiate down (but not so low that you’re uncomfortable).

For more on what to charge, check out this post packed with rate-setting resources.

Have other questions about freelance writing? Leave them in the comments below!

The post How to Start Freelance Writing: 5 Major Questions Answered appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life