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Give and You Shall Receive
Competition is fierce among freelance writers. There are only so many markets and so many assignments to go around. Publications using freelance writers may do so sparingly. A freelancer must be an extremely good wordsmith, aggressive at marketing and ruthless to ensure he or she gets the plum assignment.
That is one perception. Many freelance writers are quite protective of their markets and reluctant to share an editor's name or divulge a publication they've been regularly contributing to for fear of another writer edging them out. What these writers fail to realize is the benefit they receive when they do share information.
There is a positive edge to putting aside your competitive streak for a moment and helping a fellow freelance writer. You may find it pays much higher dividends than stingily keeping all information to yourself. Let's look at a few ways you can "pay it forward" to help your fellow writers.
A good source of information for "newbie" freelance writers is writer's discussion forums and writing-related newsgroups or chats. The novice or unpublished writer is desperate for information from the veteran, published writers on the secret of their success. There are plenty of successful writers willing to provide this information and not receive a dime of compensation for it in the process.
There comes a time in most writer's lives when they feel the need to give back. Sharing information on discussion forums is an excellent way to accomplish this. Not only can you feel good about your role as a mentor to the novices, you can use the opportunity to hone writing, critiquing and advice-giving skills.
When you participate in discussion forums, you establish a rapport with other writers who are in similar situations. When you offer sound advice, others will take the time to track you down and see what else you have to offer. It is a good idea to include a link to your Web site or other sources of your online writing. Be sure your advice is valuable and you are not just trying to steer traffic to your site. Obvious "selling" is not appreciated on the forums.
E-mail Lists/Link Exchanges
Writers looking to help other writers can develop an ongoing e-mail list to disseminate information in a timely and efficient manner. Create a distribution list filled with the e-mail addresses of fellow writers and when something of general interest to those on your list happens across your desk, send it out electronically. Just be careful not to overdo it.
You will be perceived as a writer's advocate with strong networking skills. Your actions will be appreciated and reciprocated in time. You may be the first person your fellow writers think of the next time they are unable to add to their current workload. They want to thank you for keeping them apprised of situations, markets and important issues in the industry. Your name is passed along to an editor as a candidate for an overflow assignment.
Another idea is to exchange links to Web sites, e-zines or newsletters with fellow writers. We all know our advertising dollars don't go quite as far these days, so help each other out with free publicity and gain recognition of your own at the same time. Offer to share reprinted articles for free in exchange for a generous byline and link to your site. Giving away free information is an excellent marketing tool if used properly.
Electronic Magazines and Newsletters
You're busting at the seams with all kinds of information you want to share with writers. Why not start your own electronic version magazine or newsletter? There are plenty out there, to be sure. The key is to find your niche and become the expert advice-giver in a specialized area of writing. You must offer something of value to your readers.
You can share information through articles you write or publish from others. You might want to start a question and answer column to address the issues most pertinent to your readers. Angela Adair-Hoy, publisher of WritersWeekly.com is the guru of the online advice column for writers, and won the Inscriptions Engraver Award as favorite online editor. Angela says she doesn't write her Q&A column to further her own career as much as to help other writers further their careers.
"However, everything I write does potentially help me with future book sales because the better I write, the more readers I have...which translates later into more book sales," said Angela. She is quick to point out she gains more than just money from her advice. "The warm fuzzies I get are from the thank you notes I receive from readers who have been helped by the column."
Mini-Mentoring and Informational Interviews
To take this advice a step further, you might want to consider a mentoring relationship and sharing what you know through informational interviews. Remember when you were just starting out in the freelance industry? Wouldn't it have been great to have someone knowledgeable to turn to at a moment's notice?
If you want to be a mentor, look within your own professional organizations to see if a mentoring component exists. Many writer's and public relations associations have mentoring programs in place, be it formal or not. Check out local press clubs and small business associations to see if there is a need for mentors.
If you think you don't have time to take on a full-fledged mentoring relationship, give out snippets of advice when asked. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give back to novice writers and never turn down the chance to meet by phone or in person, even if it's just an hour of your time. The rewards may not be immediately apparent, but you will be amazed how much your actions are appreciated by others and find that your name is being referred for an assignment when you least expect it.
Terri Mrosko is a freelance business writer and communications coach, and the editor and publisher of two Enhanced Communications newsletters. Terri is a regular contributor to Crain's Cleveland Business and The Plain Dealer Employment Guide, and she also helps business owners get the word out about their companies. Terri published nearly 300 articles in just over two years as a full-time writer and spent a year as a monthly columnist for The Writing Parent. Her work has appeared in Writing-World.com, Inscriptions, Inkspot, Succeed Magazine, Aviation Career, Now Hiring and many other print and online publications. Terri is currently writing her first book on starting a freelance writing career from scratch. Visit her Web site at http://www.iwritesite.com for free subscription signup to her newsletters.