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I’m frustrated in my writing career

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Hi All:

I'm trying to grow my writing business by continuing to write for trades, but I also want to break into corporate writing. A couple of problems that I'm running into:

1. I'm burned out from researching and finding sources for articles. I would like to be given the topic and sources for once rather than having to do all of the legwork and wait until three months to get a paycheck.

2. I feel stuck writing for trades because I have the most experience in this type of industry. While I want to keep my little toe in that niche, I desparately want to break up my work to include press release writing, blogs, smaller articles, etc.

3. I did read part of 30 Days Bootcamp E-book by Jenn, but my industry (green services industry, such as landscaping services, isn't really a big industry where writers can bloom as they do in other niches. And I'm not interested in using that as my platform and I'm not interested in farming as my platform either. Can you tell I'm cranky over this issue???).

4. My local area tends to be "cheap." They don't like to pay decent wages for writing work, and trying to explain the value of professional writing is like to talking to a brick wall. I've tried branching out to a bigger pool, but found that my experience in writing trades in the agriculture and green services industries has limited me.I've interviewed with two creative agencies in Philadelphia (biggest city near my home) and since I don't specialize in pharma, health, and medical, I think I'm going to have a hard time getting work from them. Plus, I want to work off site at this point in my life--I still have a family at home--but that option limits me too.

5. I'm thinking about sending some LOIs to associations to write press releases, blogs, and articles. Who is the best person to talk to in those types of organizations? What kind of learning curve do I need to write for them? Does anyone know what kind of writing that they need--such as case studies and white papers? Can I transfer my article writing experience to writing case studies and white papers? What industry/market needs case studies and white papers?

6. I still want to write for trade magazines, but somehow, I want to streamline the work. Any suggestions? And I can feel the discouragement creeping back  again. I believe that I can break through this "stuckness," but I keep running into roadblocks with most things that I try. The only things that seem to be fitting into place again are writing for trades and possibly doing some freelance writing for a local associations. I have one client who hires me to write press releases. And another person contacted me yesterday about writing for a local builders association. However, he said that they have in-house staff to do most of their writing. I plan on contacting the person that my colleague suggested. And I'm still waiting to hear from the guy that I gave a pre-proposal to last week. But I think that may end up as a dead end.

I feel stymied because of my lack of experience working in an agency. I was a substitute teacher before I started my family, but I definitely don't want to go back into that line of work again.

Any and all advice/opinions would be great...if you need me to clarify anything, please let me know. Thanks!

Wendy K~

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14 thoughts on “I’m frustrated in my writing career”

  1. Wendy,

    Case studies and white papers can both be used by pharmaceutical companies like those in your area. So that might be a way to break in with them. I’m pretty sure Lori Widmer and Cathy Miller do work in that specialty area, and Lori’s in your geographical area too. So let me reach out to them and see if they can stop by with any tips on breaking into corporate writing with those kinds of companies.

    As for trades where topics are given to you, are you open to ghostwriting? If so, many companies hire ghostwriters to draft trade features on their company’s behalf. The trade gets them for free. The company builds their visibility and authority status with a specialized readership (and the articles aren’t meant to be directly promotional). And you can be paid much faster than waiting on a trade to pay you for freelance work. Not only that, but your client is your interview source (or they’ll point you to staff they want you to talk to). And you can potentially get paid to write a pitch letter, as opposed to writing hit or miss query letters to the publications themselves. In some cases your client will already have a contact at the publication they’re planning to submit to.

    And you can “bloom” in any niche you want. So don’t let your specialty area stop you, and don’t feel like you have to appeal to those local pharma companies just because they have more money to spend. It’s all in how you look at it. You might have problems getting work from local landscaping companies, but think about the larger companies that target those people — like the landscaping equipment manufacturers, seed sellers, etc. Those companies are often bigger, have deeper pockets, and have a bigger need for things like press release, white paper, and blog writing. And you don’t have to be local to get these gigs. Large companies work with remote freelancers often without any problem. They want someone who’s right for the job more than someone who can show up at their local office.

    You asked about pitching organizations rather than business clients. In that case you’ll often have PR people or departments instead of marketing departments handling these things. I’d make that your first contact. White papers are often more of a commercial type of writing, so I don’t know that the demand would be high for that. Case studies would depend on what they’re trying to do. They could be applicable in fundraising efforts. Nonprofits could also benefit from press releases and blogging, and they often need grant writers. You might also be able to help them with annual reports, newsletters, and brochures if those are of interest to you.

    I hope that helps, and I hope Lori and/or Cathy have some other advice for you. 🙂

    Jenn

    Reply
  2. Great advice, Jenn. Thank you. I need to do a paradigm shift in my head, then. And after I sent my post, I thought that’s probably my biggest problem. I’m resisting getting out of my comfort zone because it’s the unknown–and that’s something I need to work on my end.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Hi Wendy:

    First off, let me say I totally understand your frustration. I have spent 30+ years in the health care/insurance niche and there are times where I want to chuck the whole thing. It’s good you are exploring other options. Sometimes all you need is different type of writing to breathe life back into your career.

    I am almost exclusively a corporate writer and love it on many levels. I hate the thought of chasing down interviews, waiting on the trades to pay, etc. Just like you. Laugh

    Jenn makes a wonderful suggestion in ghostwriting. I wrote a guest post on ghostwriting for the trades at Anne Wayman’s About Freelance Writing => Is Corporate Ghostwriting for Trade Publications Right for You? I have one gig where I do bimonthly articles for the last four years. I love it because I get paid (timely) by my client, the bylined author I ghostwrite for. I have others I do on a regular basis.

    I find my health care niche definitely helps, but *shock* it’s really about building relationships. I ended up getting experienced in logistics (supply chain management) because a client I worked with in the healthcare industry who liked my work moved to the logistics industry and called me.

    Target marketing directors/VPs in the corporate world. Show them how you can make them look good to their bosses by hitting targeted communication goals. When you get in, you’ll find you end up with multiple projects like ghostwriting, ghostblogging, white papers, case studies, etc.

    Do your articles lend themselves to other applications? For example, success stories that translate to case studies, discussions of good management practices – human resources? Trust me, you can always spin it. The fact that you have published articles is a great start for ghostwriting. Although you do need to show you can be the voice of the corporate client. I talk about that in my guest post for Anne and if you do a search on ghostwriting on my blog, you’ll probably find more discussions.

    Sorry I wrote a small novel here – writers – we love the written word. Smile My final advice is step back, analyze your options, figure out what gets you excited to try and go for it. I hope this helped, Wendy. Best of luck to you and keep us posted.

    Reply
  4. Thanks, Cathy! I just pulled up your article and I’ll read it later on. Thank you. My second question, which you addressed, is how do I market my writing services? So, from your comment, I take it that I’d deal more with corporate VP’s? If I wanted to start smaller (corporate VP sounds intimidating and I don’t know any! 🙂 ), where would you suggest that I get my feet wet on a smaller scale? I’d rather find work with real people in my region than try to find clients via the internet. Do all companies use ghostwriters? Also, it’s that initial introduction that I need to get through the door–so if I’d cold call a company, do I ask for the VP of sales? Basically, how do I find clients? And how do I get in the door as a newbie? Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Unfortunately, the Internet is where a lot of companies go when they need freelance help. They search for writers themselves rather than advertising. Another way they get freelancers on board is by asking their employees and network for referrals. That’s why most of the good gigs never get advertised. So it sounds like the big step to take is to get comfortable with the idea of trying new things — whether that’s the new market, new marketing tactics, or the type of people you want to talk to. Don’t feel intimidated because of someone’s title. Remember. You’re a business owner. You have something they want or need. You’re valuable to them. Never forget that or feel like you’re not at a level to negotiate with them.

    Reply
  6. You’re right, Jenn. Thank you. And that’s the rub. I need to learn how to market and to find these gigs online. Where do I go to learn these marketing tricks? I was in education before kids–I never worked in a corporation–so this is like going to a foreign country for me. I would appreciate any advice, tricks, hints, or places to go to learn these techniques. I’m a self-learner, so if you point the direction, I can take it from there. Laugh…or if there are old forum posts I should read, please let me know…Thank you again!

    Reply
  7. Here is a good place to start. 😉 It’s really all about building a platform and building a network. That’s the easiest way (and I’d argue the best for all freelancers except perhaps magazine writers). Then you get the clients to come to you.

    There are plenty of good books out there that should help. Just look beyond freelance writing. Look at ones for consultants and information marketers too. For example, Get Clients Now! is a good one. So is Click Millionaire. The first is more about service marketing. The second is more about building your own online content — a big part of building your platform to attract clients, and also a way to bring in additional income at the same time. And of course you should read anything you can that specifically addresses commercial writing, like The Well-Fed Writer and The Wealthy Writer.

    Here are a few specific posts here that might help to give you some ideas:

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/freelance-marketing-market-research-and-planning/

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/freelance-marketing-moving-beyond-job-boards/

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/30-ways-to-build-your-writer-platform/

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/20-things-you-can-do-today-to-market-your-freelance-writing-services/

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/using-your-writing-to-market-your-writing/

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/marketing-tip-become-an-authority/

    https://allfreelancewriting.com/how-to-fill-a-hole-in-your-schedule-the-query-free-freelancer-way/

    You might want to start with a short-form marketing plan so you can get a better feel for what you want to do and who you want to target. I have a one page marketing plan that might help.

    Just focus on a few things to start. And remember that most tactics will take time to work. The only way to get an immediate gig is to reach out and pitch someone or answer a job ad. Most of the good gigs aren’t advertised. So if cold calling and other pitching techniques appeal to you, your best bet is to read Chris Bibey’s post in our marketing section on the blog or check out The Well-Fed Writer which I mentioned above, from Peter Bowerman. Other than that, remember that the little things add up over time. You just have to stick with them.

    I’m technically off today still and won’t be back to work until Monday. But if you have questions about doing something specific, feel free to post them, and I’ll see if I can turn them into detailed posts next week. 🙂

    Jenn

    Reply
  8. Hi Wendy,

    Great advice from these two fabulous ladies! I hope to add something to the superb advice you’ve already received.

    Let me answer your questions one by one:

    1) Seems to me you’re doing it the hard way. It doesn’t take that long to find sources if you’re using ProfNet or reading the trades. Sometimes yes, you do have to search, but associations are great places to find the sources you need. An association just saved an article of mine that was doomed for lack of contacts.

    I do hear you on being given topics to write. That means you have to shift from queries to LOIs.

    And don’t think you won’t still have to wait for checks. It does happen at the corporate level that you get clients dragging their feet, though the further up the food chain you go rate-wise, the less likely it is to happen.

    2) I started in trades. Now that makes up about 15 percent of my annual income. Every contact you make in those interviews is a potential client. I wouldn’t say sell to them during the interview at all, but when the article comes out, it’s not a bad idea to send them a link, thank them, and mention that you also do corporate writing. That’s a start.

    It’s also true that you can scan associations for members and member companies with whom you’d like to work. Send them a LOI. Follow up on it.

    3) You can still use that green service industry background without specializing in just that. Take away the word “green.” That opens up an entirely new world. Also, what about targeting completely different industries with articles that apply the “green” part of service to their businesses? As much as it’s a small sector by itself, green services are a huge part of most industries.

    4) You say you’ve tried branching out and it didn’t work. Perhaps it’s because you tried something so outside your background that potential clients couldn’t see the connection? I hear you on the “cheap” areas, but really, we’re working virtually, so current location shouldn’t even factor in. But back to the branching out part:

    It seems to me your agricultural and green background should not be limiting you. I have a risk management and insurance background. I work for consumer-facing companies as well as those in my skill set. So you don’t think you can get into pharma (shame, given how many of them are here)? What have you done to gain the basic knowledge needed to get into the field? And why is it you’re targeting them in particular? I tried it once and hated it (and the number of freelance jobs are minuscule to those without a pharma background), so I moved into healthcare management instead (and that field IS hiring freelancers). You get to write ads, press releases, newsletters, brochure copy, announcements, etc. Maybe think beyond the pharmas and aim for other industries?

    5) I think LOIs to associations is okay, but try instead their membership companies. I’ve made a killing last year from doing that. And I aim for people like the head of marketing, director of sales or business operations, or in the case of smaller places, the CEO. You need to know how to write what they’re asking for, so I suggest you get sample releases and brochures up on your website, even if you have to write them today. And yes, you can transfer article skills to white paper/case study stuff. In fact, I’ve written “case studies” that were a page long (amazing what people think are case studies these days).

    EVERY industry needs these. It’s going to be client-specific, not industry-specific.

    6) Streamline the work for trades by finding a few well-paying ones and pampering the snot out of the editors. Deliver ahead of schedule, make great suggestions that show you know their publication and readers, and always give them more than they expect (sidebars, charts, etc). Remember to always aim UP the food chain in terms of rates.

    Sounds to me like the roadblocks may be internal? Yes, you get rejected once or twice. How you respond to that makes the difference. If you accept it and give up, that’s stuck. If, however, you consistently market and try no matter how many rejections you get, something will work.

    Why is being hired by those two clients not a good thing? Not understanding. I’m working with two clients right now who have in-house staff, yet I have a steady stream of work.

    Instead of waiting for that guy from last week, move on. Yes, come back to him at some point, but the focus of your energy and attention should be on looking for more work. Like these ladies and I say, unless there’s a contract in place, there’s no waiting. I don’t wait for maybes. I market for sure things. And yes, sometimes all the work comes in at once (welcome to freelancing!). You do it or you negotiate better deadlines where you can, or you farm out what you can’t do, or you say no when you have to (I try to avoid that at all costs).

    The point is to market every day (yes, every day), and follow up on past inquiries regularly. Develop a marketing plan that’s consistent –it doesn’t have to be rocket science or even very good, to be honest. It must, however, be consistent. It’s like they say in hockey; if you’re shooting the puck at the net, eventually you’ll score. 🙂

    Hope this helps, Wendy.

    Reply
  9. Thanks, Lori and Jenn. Lori, now you’re speaking my language.I really want to stay with trades, but I also need to branch out like you said. And I agree with you that a lot of my hangup is internal because I need to get out of my comfort zone. To me, that is one of the drawbacks to being a freelance writer–I really get tunnel-vision and stuck–because I don’t have other writing colleagues to challenge me.

    It’s discussions like these, with writers like you, that helps me stay motivated. Is there a hub, virtual water cooler, etc. for trade magazine writers? The trades have been profitable for me, and I’m planning on expanding, but I feel “alone” because trades aren’t like the glossies–don’t have the same star power–especially for me, who writes about farmers, cows, and integrated pest management (good bugs)! 🙂

    Could you explain #3 in a little bit more detail?

    3) You can still use that green service industry background without specializing in just that. Take away the word “green.” That opens up an entirely new world. Also, what about targeting completely different industries with articles that apply the “green” part of service to their businesses? As much as it’s a small sector by itself, green services are a huge part of most industries.

    I printed out your response and will start doing some research on your suggestions. And it’ll be easy for me to put up a couple of press releases and other samples onto my site. Thank you!

    Reply
  10. Hi Wendy,
    This is your virtual water cooler. 🙂 I agree the trades aren’t as “sexy” but damn, it’s tough to shirk those nice, fat paychecks! I hear you on “good bugs.” I wrote for an ag blog for a while and I think the highlight of my time there was writing about equine herpes. LOL

    Okay, #3 explained:

    You have a background in green service industry. Why can’t some of that translate to simply any service industry? It can, in my book. For example, I wrote about workers compensation from an employer perspective for years. Then suddenly I was able to switch gears and write about workers compensation from a service provider’s perspective. It was still somewhat employer-facing, but the service provider had a slightly different message. And it was part of a larger managed care service they provide.

    So take that green service industry background. What about it applies to other industries? Surely everyone is going “green” so that’s a no-brainer. But what about those things that apply to service industries in general? For instance, perhaps water conservation is a service area. What about those companies that aren’t necessarily going green? Water conservation is, to them, a bottom-line issue. They want to save money. Teach them how to do it by introducing water conservation methods. Also, you could get a double whammy by showing them how to use that money-saving stuff to increase their reputations as “green” companies. Get what I mean?

    Reply
  11. Thanks, Lori. Now, the next question: Which “water cooler” should I tap when I want to “vent” about my fear of prospecting. I can do all the things suggested here–and I’m working on my fear of prospecting from my end, but sometimes, it would help to be able to talk to other fearful writers. Which forum is appropriate for that–the work at home one, the marketing one, where do scaredy cats like me hang out?

    Reply
  12. Like Jenn said. And honestly, I don’t think hanging out with other fearful writers should be the goal — hang out with people who have overcome the fear. That’s a lot more motivating, I think. Beginning writers can sometimes commiserate themselves into inaction. I’m not saying all beginning writers do it, but I have seen instances where such communities put out absolute statements, like “The high-paying work no longer exists” that the majority buy into because it’s just easier than changing the approach. Again, this is not a generalization, but it has happened, and I’ve witnessed it more than once. Instead, look for people who are earning a living at it, who have found that sweet spot for themselves, and who can teach you how to find your own sweet spot.

    It’s not so much fear, I suspect, as it is not knowing which direction you should head off in first, am I right?

    And frankly, right here you’re getting the same “water cooler” effect, I hope! Jenn’s built a supportive community. 🙂

    Reply
  13. It’s not so much fear, I suspect, as it is not knowing which direction you should head off in first, am I right?

    Lori, you’re very perceptive. Yes, my problem is that I fill my brain with all of the writing possibilities out there that I get overwhelmed. Your wisdom helped me to use my trade magazine writing as a jumping point rather than having to start all over again. Matter of fact, I started researching places where I want to market. I did tweak my niche–I’m focusing on the restaurant/food service industry because I grew up in the restaurant biz and food service is booming. I can also apply green service articles to them by talking about landscaping, adding green roofs/walls, etc. All of the stuff that I have written about in the past. Plus, I also wrote some articles for two different tea/coffee trade magazines years ago. So, I got some knowledge of how beverages are packaged and processed for the restaurant industry. Now, I feel motivated to move since I know which dxn I’m going in. Thank you! 🙂

    And frankly, right here you’re getting the same “water cooler” effect, I hope! Jenn’s built a supportive community.

    Yes, I do find this a supportive community and probably one where I’ll get more involved as I grow this new branch of my business! 🙂 Thanks Jenn and Lori! 🙂 )

    Reply

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