by Jargon Writer

Writing my way to becoming a freelancer

It’s the Little Things

I’m always amazed by the small business owners who have made it eight or ten years without even the most basic of marketing. It always makes me wonder how much better they’d be doing if they’d invested the time or a minimal amount of effort in taking a few basic steps to make sure everyone knew what they were about. For example, a friend’s father does home maintenance and construction–is motto is that when the professionals mess it up, he can fix it. He installs bathrooms and floors, works on roofs, does some masonry outside… he’s a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Until this year he didn’t have business cards.ness owners who have made it eight or ten years without even the most basic of marketing. It always makes me wonder how much better they’d be doing if they’d invested the time or a minimal amount of effort in taking a few basic steps to make sure everyone knew what they were about.

For example, a friend’s father does home maintenance and construction–is motto is that when the professionals mess it up, he can fix it. He installs bathrooms and floors, works on roofs, does some masonry outside… he’s a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Until this year he didn’t have business cards….. FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, SEE MY NEW BLOG SITE, WWW.JARGONWRITER.COM.


April 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Link Round Up:

Check out yesterday’s post on Jargonwriter.comfour links for freelancers in the latest link round up!

Here’s a preview:

How What You Don’t Know Can Help Your Freelance Business – Ever turned a lack of knowledge into an opportunity? That’s what this piece is all about. As new freelancers, there is no way we’re going to know everything there is to know about freelancing in our industry. Well, when you find something you don’t know if you can do, you can give up and go home or you can accept it for the challenge that it is. (NOTE: I do not advocate lying to clients about your experience – pointing them to similar projects you’ve done and telling them you think you can handle this new assignment is fine – butdon’t promise something you can’t deliver. It will lose you a client and gain you a bad reputation.)

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Networking and Newsletters

When I was working on my Masters in Publishing at Pace University I made a handful of good friends. Among them is Diana, who happened to do her thesis on a topic similar to mine and who I talked to on Facebook while pulling almost-all-nighters several nights in a row trying to finish that same thesis. I’ve posted before – many many times – about the importance of networking and collaborating with both other freelancers and, specifically, with other writers.

Well, completely out of the blue today…. For the rest of this post check out my new, self-hosted blog!

*All new posts will be posted there. Please switch over your RSS feeds.*

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’ve been talking about switching to my self-hosted site for a while now – well I’ve finally done it. This will be the last post on this web address. All new posts will be located at :

Please check it out – it’s a much nicer (and cleaner) layout. It will still be me, talking about the same type of things; I’ve carried all the posts from this site over, so you can still look through my archives.

If you have me in your RSS reader or follow my RSS feed, please add the new site and remove this site.

Thanks again for reading what I write. I hope you like the new site as much as I do.

April 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Part I: Q&A With Andrea V. Lewis

This is part 1, the first part, of a multi-part Q&A with Andrea V. Lewis. Part II is coming soon – in the meantime, check out Andrea’s blog for more about her.

Jargon Writer: When/How did you first become a freelancer?

Andrea V. Lewis: I became a freelancer after I left the traditional advertising world. I knew I wanted to transition out of traditional (digital) media planning and buying and into social media. Since, my agency was a full-service agency, there was little opportunity to gain knowledge in experimental or social media initiatives, which is generally handled by specialized agencies or by the client directly.

JW: What kind of freelancing do you do and within that field, what do you specialize in?

Andrea: I’m currently freelancing as a writer at Demand Studios. They provide online content to several branded websites. They offer writing assignments on a number of topics. I specialize in marketing and advertising topics because that’s where my educational background and professional expertise lies.

JW: What about the idea of freelancing drew you?

Andrea: Freedom is what initially drew me to utilize freelancing temporarily. It would have been very difficult for me to keep agency hours, working anywhere from 9 – 12 hours per day, in addition to commuting, and find time to devote to job searching too. I’m able to set my own hours based upon my schedule for that day and work in accordance with my needs instead of typical 9-to-5, or in my case 9-to-7, rat race regulations.

JW: How long have you been working freelance and what’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome?

Andrea: I’ve only been freelancing for a few months. Three months to be exact. My biggest obstacle is reminding myself that just because I don’t have clients to service, campaigns to launch, or metrics to analyze, doesn’t mean I’m not productive. Going from a fast paced environment to a secluded home office has taken some time to get used to. Also, the nature of my work has also changed. Now, I get paid to write creatively and produce content, which is so different from buying media, maintaining campaigns, and providing reports on ROI to the client.

Based in Los Angeles, CA, Andrea V. Lewis has been working at full-service advertising agencies and marketing firms since 2005. Her writing has been featured on Brazen Careerist, eHow, and, among others. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications with a concentration in advertising, from California State University, Fullerton. Say hello to her on Twitter or visit her blog, Hello. {Work}.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Weekly Link Round Up

How to Succeed in Business Without Knowing Very Much. – “I can rework the same paragraph 15 times and would never consider the first 14 “wrong” — just unsatisfying, or awkward, unmusical or unclear. I explore etymologies, refer to the O.E.D., rewrite, read anything I can about the topic at hand, take tangents while on a tangent.” I think that quote speaks for itself. Check out the rest of the post.

The Best Freelance Advice I’ve Ever Been Given – Marian, with her typical style, has infiltrated the ranks of freelancers and editors everywhere. But, fortunately for us, she decided to share some of what she found out. Great advice, and a must read if you want to be serious about writing.

Are You Just a Freelancer? Or a Successful One? This post, whose discovery was completely an accident, breaks down into numbers and incorporates in one post many of the things I’ve been trying to communicate throughout the time I’ve been writing this blog. It defines the difference between freelancing and BEING a freelancer. If you’re looking to make the shift, as I am, you had better know each of the things on this list.

How to Use Metaphors in Copywriting – Tom, who was recently kind enough to guest post for y’all, here on my humble blog, explains the difference between Liquid Engineering and a Leaky Umbrella – by which I mean a good metaphor and one that fails miserably. In his post he explains the difference between these two metaphors and why one works and the other … if full of holes (yeah, I did it, I went there, I was pun-ny).

Have You Seen This Dog? – Tell me, after reading Tom’s post above if you feel this is a perfect example of a leaky umbrella or of liquid engineering? It’s a post that touched home for me, which is why I am sharing it; I feel the sentiment it conveys is one all freelancers will know and recognize. At its essence, it is about the difference between our creative side and our business side and the need to keep the two separate but to nurture both, while understanding that the two have very different needs.

Teaching J-Students About Irony – An ironic post about irony. This post at We the Bistro made me smile. It spoke to the contradictory nature of writers and how rarely we remember to apply what we preach. Even those of us, like me, who write about how to do what we do well sometimes needed to be reminded to do more than talk about it. This piece did that.

Kicking Around a New Sales Strategy – With yesterday’s discussion of positioning fresh in mind, I couldn’t leave this post off the list even though it makes the list one longer than normal. While not from a freelancing perspective, it discusses in a way that is both frank and helpful the trouble with defining your target client base and the struggle one small business owner has had with it. The New York Times Small Business blog is one I read regularly. It is written by a number of small business owners who take turns authoring posts about their various businesses. Since they are essentially my target audience, I read it both for the small business advice and to learn more about my audience – but I think many of you can likely learn from it as well and I highly recommend it.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Part III: Q&A With Ty Unglebower

This is part 3, the final part, of a multi-part Q&A with Ty Unglebower. See Part 1 to find out how Ty got his start freelancing and a little about the kinds of projects he works on, or part 2 to hear what drew him to freelancing and a little about his experiences.

Jargon Writer: Do you set writing goals for yourself? What goals are you working toward currently? If not, why not?

Ty Unglebower: I cannot control the market directly, and therefore outside of my regular weekly or bi-monthly gigs I don’t suppose I can set a goal as to what business I will or won’t have in thus and such amount of time­–That’s determined by the other people.

But as for writing goals in general, I do have them. I want to make sure I have written 5 pages in some form, at least, daily. It can be accumulative from several different sources of writing throughout the day (correspondence not included), but I like it to be about 5 pages average. So I make sure if I don’t have a column due, I am working on my new article. If it isn’t time for that, I will post to one of the blogs, or work on my novel.

The novel is a one goal I am working toward. I do have a goal to have a first draft of that complete before the end of summer. It’s just under halfway finished now. I also have a standing goal to write three times in the blogs a week, in any combination.

Finally, by the end of 2010, I hope to have published one single thing in one new publication that I have not written anything for yet. That will be the toughest one.

JW: How successful do you feel you’ve been as a freelance thus far? Why?

Ty: I would say I have met with moderate to high levels of success. I’ve been doing this officially for just over a year, and in that time, in addition to some private clients, I have become a regular contributor to a website and a weekly newspaper. Plus I have a magazine piece coming out in April, with an invitation to pitch something for the summer issue of same. I am not location independent or out of debt just now, but for someone who has only had his business card and portfolio printed up in the last year, I’d say I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Ty is a 32-year-old freelance writer living alone in Frederick County Maryland. In addition to keeping his own blogs he is a regular contributor to and The Brunswick Citizen. He has also contributed recently to FiND iT FREDERiCK Magazine’s Spring 2010 issue. When not contributing to those publications, he is searching out others to which he may contribute his work, creating ghost-copy for private clients, or engaging in writing his novel. When he is actually not writing, Ty spends most of his free time making use of his Minor from Marietta College by performing as an amateur actor on various local community stages. He has thus far made no direct use of his bachelor’s degree, which was in political science.

For more about Ty, check out his blogs, Always Off Book and Too XYZ.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To free or not to free. . .

This is a Guest Post from Danielle Bullen – for more about Danielle see below or check out her site.

For the past couple years, I’ve been building my freelance writing portfolio. Writing has always been a passion of mine, so I’m more than happy to do it for free. But is that a good business practice? Does contributing to publications, mainly websites, that don’t pay their writers hurt one’s freelance writing career?

Freelancing is not my primary job, it is a side gig. Of course, if it were my main source of income, I wouldn’t even be having this debate.  Even so, being compensated for my work is something I appreciate. But, there are types of compensation other than money.

Writing is a symbiotic relationship between editors and writers. Editors need fresh content. Writers need exposure. Let’s face it, no one starts at the top.  In order to land paying freelance gigs, writers need clips. In my experience, I’ve found that media outlets that don’t pay are more willing to let novice writers sink their teeth in. With each article I contribute, my research, interviewing, and writing skills get kicked up a notch. Then, when I present myself to paying publications, I have published clips.

Besides the holy grail of clips, writing for free has other benefits. I contributed monthly articles to a now-defunct online woman’s magazine, whose content was created entirely by volunteers. I came up with each article’s topic and sources, so I learned a lot about interviewing and thinking outside the box; “priceless” skills.

I write for a book review site and am “paid” in books, sometimes pre-publication advance reader copies. For a book-lover like myself, it is a pretty sweet deal!

But, the biggest benefit to “pro-bono” freelancing is the relationships I’ve formed. I wrote blog posts for a web site dedicated to green small business practices. When my editor and her business partner launched a different site, she knew I was a trusted contributor and asked me to write for it. This second site has a completely different focus and audience–college students seeking internship advice. I jumped at the chance, because it would let me expand my portfolio in terms of what I can write about. My editor there, and actually, several of my freelance editors, wrote lovely recommendations for me on LinkedIn.

I have written for a few places that pay and of course, I would love to be compensated monetarily for more of my work. I’ve begun to send more queries out to places that do pay. Hopefully, the effort I’ve put into building my writing brand will be rewarded.

So, the rather complicated answer is no, I don’t think writing for free dilutes your brand. Poor writing dilutes your brand. The important thing is to treat each client with the same respect and give energy to all your outlets.

Danielle is a marketing professional and writer from the greater Philadelphia area. You can read her writing at and follow her on Twitter @daniellewriter.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Freelancers: if you don’t know, say so

This is a Guest Post from Tom Albrighton, founder and principal consultant at ABC Copywriting– for more about Tom see below or check out his blog.

‘To know what you know, and know what you don’t know, is the characteristic of one who knows.’ Confucius

A while ago, I carried out some SEO work for a client. The work included all the key elements of SEO – on-page changes, directory submissions, article marketing, PPC – but in a fairly shallow, small-scale way. Essentially, I was replicating the SEO I’d done on my own behalf for my client. That suited them, because they wanted to learn about SEO rather than simply outsourcing it; to some extent, we could learn hand in hand while building up their search profile at the same time.

After a while, we arrived at the limits of my knowledge. There were problems with their search profile that I couldn’t fix. I’d overcome them on my own site, but I couldn’t honestly say how. (SEO is often like this – you’re pursuing a number of tactics in parallel, and there’s no way to confirm which has been effective.)

I probably could have carried on bluffing it – claiming to know best while trying out random tactics in the hope that one of them would bear fruit. But since I’m essentially a copywriter, and the bulk of my work is content creation, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of benefit in chasing work where I could add little value. And I also wanted to keep the relationship simple – as Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

So I decided to admit that I couldn’t take the client any further, and suggest that they contact an SEO expert.

In fact, they decided to continue with me. I guess they valued the working relationship more than the actual expertise being offered – a strange position in a way, but in another it makes perfect sense.

Because a supplier who’s genuinely on your side is somebody worth keeping around.

For a consultant, suggesting that the client needs to buy more consultancy from you is always slightly suspect. Even if it’s actually the right course of action, it can seem self-serving. After all, it could be a cheap ‘all or nothing’ shot at getting more work or, failing that, letting the relationship go.

But suggesting that the client use someone else is not cheap. It’s potentially very expensive, if they take the advice. And that counts for something. It indicates to a client that, yes, you always tell the truth – even when it doesn’t benefit you. It’s the ultimate honesty.

I’m not saying all this to blow my own trumpet. I probably shouldn’t have got myself into such a position in the first place. I’m simply observing how powerful those three little words can be: ‘I don’t know.’

Summary: If you’re a freelancer, admitting you can’t help the client might seem like madness. But it’s also the best possible way to build trust.

Tom Albrighton has over fifteen years’ experience in writing, editing and project management, including work for Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, London Business School and Dorling Kindersley.

Tom is founder and principal consultant at ABC Copywriting, which provides writing and editing services to businesses, organizations and academic institutions in the UK and around the world. He writes regularly on copywriting issues for the ABC Copywriting blog, which is read and commented by many leading copywriters.

March 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Weekly Round Up

What I learned at the Newspaper: the Power of ObservationI have said the most important part of writing is research. Mehul clearly disagreed with me in the comments the other day, so I offer up this piece as conciliation: I have revised my opinion. The most important part of writing is NOT research; instead, it’s observation. Seeing what you are looking at, rather than just looking past it. In this piece Lindsey explains how her job at a newspaper in Mexico.

If you like reading my stuff, you may like reading Freelance Switch, a site about all things writing and freelance based. I found their pieces interesting, well written, relevant and well… helpful. One article I particularly liked was 7 Tips for Marketing Your Freelance Business Offline, which is about how a trip to Wholefoods can get you some business.

How to Use Weasel Words to Bend the Truth – Words aren’t so much about what your write as they are about what the reader reads. Words mean a lot more than their definition, especially in marketing. This is a great piece that breaks down some marketing lingo and clarifies the difference between its definition and it’s connotation. A Great piece. (Tom may be doing a guest post in the near future!).

Three Mistakes You Should Avoid Making – Even writers aren’t perfect. But Lindsey’s tip for getting one step closer is to realize where you commonly fail, and actively work to correct those flaws. A great read for freelancers everywhere – know that even creative jobs require equal parts inspiration and skill. Also, check out the book I recommended in my comment on the piece – Woe Is I by Patricia O’Conner – it’s a great read for refreshing your grammar!

Design Better Websites By Thinking About Your Kitchen Cabinets – Designing a website is like organizing your kitchen cabinets. It’s all about UI, and you have to work within the space constraints. A quick read, but well worth it. This metaphor is simply perfect – and this piece, while driving home the idea of web design, also represents creative endeavors at large in a way that’s both simple and brilliant.

March 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments