Friday Find: Hot Freelance Tips from Kelly James-Enger

The primary concerns of the Practicing Writing blog focus on the craft and business of writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. But you’ve probably noticed that freelance writing is something of an overlapping concern here. Speaking personally, I’ve been trying to sustain a part-time freelance practice alongside my “creative” writing AND my “day job” for the past several years, and lately, I’ve been trying to take a good hard look at how I can improve it.

All of which is by way of explaining why I’m so pleased to learn that Kelly James-Enger, another contributing editor for The Writer magazine, has published a new book: Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets for Freelance Success. And to help introduce it, Kelly is featuring a series of “Hot Freelance Tips” on her Dollars and Deadlines blog. (She was also kind enough to arrange for me to receive a complimentary review copy of Writer for Hire.)

But wait—there’s more! Kelly has agreed to provide another free copy of her new book to one lucky Practicing Writer. All you need to do to be eligible is to read the Hot Freelance Tips and come back here to comment on this post. Please tell me (and Kelly) something you’ve learned from the tips, something they make you wonder about, or something that simply “speaks” to you when you read them.

We’ll collect comments until through next Friday (May 11), and then the trusty random number generator will do the work of choosing a winner. Thank you for playing along!

UPDATE: The random number generator has selected CAROL J. ALEXANDER as the giveaway winner. Carol, please email me with your mailing address and I’ll get it to Kelly ASAP. Thank you all for participating–I enjoyed (and agreed with) your comments, and I’m sure that Kelly appreciated them, too.

23 thoughts on “Friday Find: Hot Freelance Tips from Kelly James-Enger

  1. Erwin K. Roberts says:

    Hi Erika,

    Lots of interesting information over there. Not all of it can apply to a New Pulp fiction writer like me. But one sure does. “Write what the editors need/want.”

    I’m building a bit of a reputation in New Pulp by being willing to write for character anthologies. Sure, I want get my own creations out there, but raising my “hand” when a project is announced makes publisher/editors more willing to listen when I pitch my own ideas.

    Last month, at PulpArk, it paid off. A publisher pitched a licensed character to me. One I never expected to be available. I’m eagerly awaining the character bible.

  2. Kizzy says:

    I never considered asking a client what sections of their publication they’re having trouble filling. I always assumed that most publications had an abundance of writers for every section. This is information I will definitely use moving forward.

    Thanks for the tip.

  3. Lisa Romeo says:

    The tip about finding markets which you can sell to again and again makes so much sense.

    I recall once listening to a master salesperson (not a writer) talk about how much less it “costs” to sell another product to an existing customer than to find, pitch, and sell to a new prospect — in terms of actual expenses, as well as time and mental energy.

  4. Donna Parrey says:

    Loved following the trail of blogs to more and more tips! I’d never considered the FOB material as something I should query on, instead focusing on feature articles. Well, now I will pay a little more respect to that strategy for getting my foot in the door. And I can’t wait to create, order and wear my new “Ask me about Write Brain Wordsmiths” t-shirt! Thank you!

  5. Mihku Paul says:

    Hello Erika,

    One thing about the tips that struck me is the suggestion to diversify, and to consider a range of
    possible assignments rather than focusing in on just one feature possibility. The reality is that
    even though a smaller assignment may not bring big bucks, or have tons of status attached, each of these credits build your foundation and increase your visibility over time. I still sometimes do work for no fee, if I’ve got time and I want to support a project. I consider everything I do a building block for my career, marketing and outreach for a brand. Me.
    Very happy to find this excellent blog. Thanks for all you do.

  6. Susan Silver says:

    I always feel so confused about contacting former clients. I know this is a no brainer, but it feels strange. Like I have to come up with an excuse to write them. I never know how much to share either. They aren’t your friend, and you don’t want to pitch them. Where is the line? What do you talk about?

    It was nice that Kelly shared her tips about how she manages keeping in touch with clients. It is too important to ignore.

  7. Great suggestions and ideas. I need to be reminded to get out of the office. Seeing and listening to people is a perfect “fill up the well” project. Ideas and perspectives come from everywhere. Listening to other writers can be inspirational

  8. I was glad to see the Hot Tip to “Get out of your house”; this is an area that freelancers of all industries struggle with, and it’s something that we need to make time and space for on a regular basis.

    I’ve participated in a few writers’ groups in the past, where we’d meet once a week, share weekly goals and ideas and cheer each other on, but I’ve found these to have a shelf-life. Even getting out of the house solo—with no specific plans to meet up with anyone—can do a writer a world of good.

    This is a big reason I’ve been excited to learn about a new coffee shop opening in my neighborhood—a nice little place in a renovated historic building that’s not only within walking distance of my home office, but the route that takes me there is through a park.

  9. Hello Erika,

    I love receiving my newsletter and learning of this giveaway opportunity made it even better. I went over to Hot Freelance Tips and found that I am doing some things right. Yeah me. But there are still many many things for me to learn.

    I always give more than expected according to most of my clients abut I often undercharge according to some of them. Not that they mind paying less, but they always tell me I am under charging.

    One thing I didn’t find on the list of freelance tips was what to do if you have missed an opportunity to market yourself adequately to a former client or editor. Would a letter mentioning that you workd for/with them previously endear you to them, or illustrate that you didn’t impress them enough the first time for them to remember you?

    Just one of the many things about writing and marketing that makes me go “hmmmmm” during the day.

    Peace to you all,

    Andora Henson

    1. Erika Dreifus says:

      Andora, thanks for your comment. I don’t know if Kelly will be able to weigh in, but I can’t imagine that saying (for instance) that you’ve enjoyed working with the editor/client in the past and hope that you can work together again soon would be a problem.

    2. First, I really appreciate Erika featuring/mentioning Writer for Hire, and love that she’s doing this giveaway! So thank you, Erika. Andora, your question about missing an opportunity–I think it’s never too late. I’ve reached out to former clients *years* after I worked for them; in fact, I have a list going of “former” editors and clients I’ll be emailing in the next week or so in an attempt to drum up business.

      The nature of your former relationship will determine your approach. But here’s an example of what I’ll say to an editor I worked with three (or four! eek!) years ago. (TK is a publishing term that means “to come.” In other words, fill in the blanks with whatever):

      Dear TK:

      I just saw the latest issue of FANTASTIC MAGAZINE and enjoyed it. Loved the stories on TK and TK, and thought, it’s been too long since we worked together. I want to remedy that. (You may remember that I wrote TK piece for you back in 2008, along with TK>). Would you keep me in mind if you’re looking for writers? If you’d like me to come up with queries, I’d be happy to do that, too. Let me know; looking forward to rekindling our working relationship.

      Thanks for your time! [etc]

      For a former ghostwriting client (I tend to work pretty closely with these people over the space of several months, so personal info gets exchanged), it will be something like [note that this is someone who is local and who I got to know. I’m not always so chatty about my non-work life]:

      Hi, Dick–

      I hope you and Florence are doing well. Things are busy but good here; Ryan is finishing up first grade (!!!) and Haley will be two and half in June. They’re not kidding about saying your kids grow up in the blink of an eye!

      I just published a new novel, and a new book on freelancing, so I’ve been busy promoting both. But I’m also looking for new ghosting/editing gigs. Would you please keep me in mind if you know of anyone who wants to become a book author (and, as you know, is willing to pay a ghost to make that happen)? I’d really appreciate it. In the meantime, I’d love to see you both if you have a chance to have lunch, etc–my treat. Let me know.

      Thanks! [etc]

      Hope this is helpful–let me know if you have other questions, and thanks! 🙂

  10. Chryselle says:

    I love Kelly’s blog and have been a long-time reader. Her posts are full of good advice and I find myself bookmarking a lot of them for re-reading. Her tip to ‘Get out of the house’ was a reminder to shake off my cocoon and look outside for inspiration and I hope to put that to good use in the coming months. I have found her advice and templates for LOIs to be invaluable. So much a freelancer can learn from her blog.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. I’ve really enjoyed reading Kelly’s tips each week! I think my favorite ones so far are to market many ways and to get out of the house.

    Marketing a number of ways has helped me leverage clients. Social media, in particular, has been fruitful in terms of meeting potential clients and developing a relationship with them before we talk business. Writing on other sites has also garnered attention from clients that are looking to hire someone just like me for their business!

    I also enjoy Kelly’s suggestion to get out of the house. I have a hard time remembering to do this when I’m working because, from past job habits, I’m so used to working eight hours straight with limited breaks. As a freelancer, I’m happy to enjoy the flexibility that includes going to the store in the middle of the day or taking a walk when the world feels cloudy and my work ethic is low. For a while this season, my husband and I were down to just one car, so getting out of the house was challenging. However, I still had a chance to walk to our local library and find some helpful books for business! Had I not left the apartment I might not have had this opportunity.

  12. Getting an anchor client makes so much sense. I had never really thought about it ,but it sure seems as though that might save a bit of time.

  13. Ann Goldberg says:

    I’ve seen tremendous results with the tip ‘ go beyond what’s expected’.

    I always send photos with my local travel pieces, either those I’ve photographed myself or obtained from sites, and only by chance discovered that most other writers don’t – so I offered the editor extra photos to go with other writers’ articles and she was delighted – and paid me extra as well.

    I try and send in my articles a bit before the deadline and if it’s for a particular special supplement then I ask if they need any more articles. This has sometimes resulted in more work – possibly a rush because it was needed at the same time but I’m given leeway of an extra few days but the editor presumably has decided that I can write with short deadlines.

  14. lori z says:

    I have one of Kelly’s books and I love her style as well as her advice. One of the things I’ve wanted to try is the template she recommends. Yet, I’ve not done it. I think it would help me jet into the actual writing rather than staring at the screen, then out the window, then grabbing a cup of tea, etc. before I get anywhere. My goal for today, therefore, is to follow the 2011 post of templates, find one to suit my closest deadline story and give it a go. Wish me luck!

  15. Hi Erika and Kelly,
    I really appreciated the tip to give more than what you’re asked for (or something like that). I remember as my very young days as an executive secretary having someone tell me that if I wanted to be successful to work to make my boss successful. From then on, I purposed to think ahead of him–having his paperwork for a meeting ready before he asked, as an example. In your Hot Tips you shared how that can apply to the writer’s life. Because, after all, if my editor/magazine is not successful, I have no one to write for.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway, Erika!

    One of the many tips that spoke to me on Kelly’s site is going beyond what is expected. (That is not only something I try to live by as a freelancer, but it is something I try to teach my children as well!)

    If humanly possible, I strive to get my work in early and keep communications open with my editors.

    Thanks for the great tips and the giveaway!


  17. Hey, everyone! Writer’s Digest just agreed to do a coupon code for the book; you’ll get 40 percent off of the cover price if you use the coupon code “WriteFreelance” and order through Just FYI! 🙂 And it’s good through August…not that you shouldn’t buy the book right away. 🙂

  18. Yael Grauer says:

    I love all of Kelly’s tips! Getting out of your house is a good one that I keep trying to remember… and also, marketing in many ways. Plus, adding value…though this is a tricky one when keeping pay per hour in mind!

  19. PatriciaW says:

    I like the tip about going beyond. At first it seems like a lot of extra work, particularly if your article isn’t yet sold, but then it feels right. Like doing a complete job. Doing the best job. Differentiating yourself from the pack.

    Definitely food for thought.

  20. Megan Shapka says:

    I enjoyed all of tips. Thank you! For me, two things stood out: getting out of the house and keeping contact with existing clients. As a work from home mom I do all of my business activities at night, other than occasional meetings. I often complain about having to get a sitter, but getting out for adult interaction and business stimulation is so important. I have been having great success with repeat clients who have also been referring me to others. Keeping connections is vital for growth.

  21. I love Kelly’s tip of making templates — in fact, I have adapted her follow-up template to sell some article pitches that got lost in the first go-round.

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