The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less

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From The Critics
The Well Fed Writer: Financial Self Sufficiency As A Freelance Writer in Six Months Or Less is a 282 page compendium of tips, tricks and techniques essential for aspiring writers to "turn pro" and be able to support themselves on their earnings. In today's competitive marketplace, being talented and hardworking aren't enough. You've also got to be knowledgeable about the newspaper, newsletter, magazine, periodical, journal, and book publishers to whom you wish to successfully solicit and sell your work. Peter Bowerman draws upon his considerable experiences as a successful freelance writer and columnist in Atlanta, Georgia. His corporate list of clients ranges from The CocaCola Company, MCI, and Holiday Inn to The Discovery Channel, BellSouth, and MercedesBenz. He has published almost 200 columns and articles, as well as conducting seminars on writing. All that he has learned is distilled within the pages of The WellFed Writer, truly rewarding reading for aspiring freelance writers, copy writers, scriptwriters, columnists, journalists, and anyone else wanting to earn from what they write.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780967059846
  • Publisher: Fanove Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

An Enviable Lifestyle

PICTURE THIS On a Friday morning client phone call, you pick up a job writing a marketing brochure. Several hours later, a couriered package of background material shows up at your door. In a follow-up call, the client answers some questions and you spend a few hours on Sunday night reviewing the material. Monday morning, you meet them at their offices just ten minutes away.

    You work on the project at home, on your deck, under that great shady tree, phone by your side, tall glass of lemonade nearby. By Wednesday morning, between the client call, background reading, the Monday meeting, and crafting a first draft, you have 16 hours into the project (16 x $75 = $1200). You fax them your draft Wednesday morning, and you won't get it back until Friday.

    The Phone Keeps Ringing ... In the meantime, you put in six hours on some edits for an event presentation script that's been on-going for two weeks now. (6 x $65 [long-term client gets a break] = $390). After turning the edits around late Wednesday, you get a call from some new clients who've been hiring you recently to edit their hi-tech brochures. They e-mail you the file, you take the night off, and start working on it Thursday morning. It takes you four hours @ $75/hr. = $300. You e-mail it back, and bill them immediately.

    And Ringing ... In the early afternoon, you get a call from a relatively new regular client asking about your availability for a brochure project the next week. Probably 12-15 hours worth of work.You set up a meeting for Monday afternoon. Later that same afternoon, one of your regular clients calls, needing a few headlines for a store display. She says, "My brain is fried. Just come up with a few lines. Don't spend a lot of time on it."

    You've done 30+ projects like this, so it's a breeze. You charge her your two-hour minimum, $150, grab your microcassette recorder, head to the gym, knocking out half of it on the way over. That night, sitting outside at your favorite neighborhood eatery with a clipboard, you get the rest done, having put in a total of maybe an hour of time. You get home, take 10 minutes to type them up and fax them on.

    It's Not Unusual That's just a hair over $2000 by Thursday night, for under 30 hours of work, minimal running around, comfortable work, almost completely by phone, fax, and e-mail, and with plenty of time left over to have a life. And you've got about $1000 worth of work lined for next week to boot.

    OK, it's not always this easy or rosy and you'll have your share of $500 weeks, too. This is no get-rich-quick thing. In the beginning, you'll be working a lot harder for a lot less, and in any given week, there's a lot of other work to do—prospecting, marketing, and paperwork (though less than you'd imagine). But, develop the right work habits early and you'll be surprised at how soon and often you'll be having weeks like the above.

THE LIFE OF A FREELANCE COMMERCIAL WRITER Good money, flexible hours, stimulating work. Go to bed when you want, get up when you want (most of the time), wear what you want, take vacations when you want, shower and shave when you want. Do you have a lot of outside interests? Would you if you had more time of your own? Well, you can.

    Your income is up to you. Want a raise? Work harder, make more phone calls, put in more hours. It's that simple. Sure, you'll be working hard to get established, but it's not nearly as difficult as you'd think, and as we discussed earlier, depending on your present situation, you could be halfway there right now.

    Do You Have "Quality of Life"? Have you taken a "quality audit" of your life lately? Does this sound like you? Get up early, put on the suit, drive 30-45 minutes (on a good day) through glacial rush hour traffic, work in some climate-controlled windowless cubicle in a high-rise all day, deal with office politics, eat unhealthy food on the run, sit in endless boring meetings using words like "re-purpose," "actionable" and "value-added," get stressed out, be nice to people you think are morons, leave the office late, maybe get in a rushed workout, get home by 8:30-9:00, wolf down some dinner, fall asleep in front of the TV, have weird dreams because you went to bed on a full stomach, collapse on Friday night, run errands and do wash on Saturday, look forward to your one-two weeks of vacation every year, and 40 more years of that.

    The Good Life Granted, not everyone lives a life like that, but more than just a few do. My life is very different, and at some point early in my fourth year, I started realizing how good I actually had it. I'd be out and about and people would ask me how things were. I'd reply, "Everything is wonderful actually."

    Of course, they'd do a double take, since they couldn't remember the last time they heard that. Most people don't even want to hear about it. But, you know what? If I can do it, you can do it. Get used to hearing that mantra throughout this book.

WHAT'S THE FIRST STEP? Well, it's the thing that most people have the hardest time doing: imagining it. That's right. They can't picture themselves there. Oh sure, they'd really like to have a lifestyle like this, and if they're blowing the candles out on their birthday cakes and the thought crossed their minds, they'd certainly wish for it, but they see it as some out-of-reach thing other people get to do, but not them. After all, a job is a job. It's not supposed to be fulfilling. That would be almost un-American, right?

    Can You Imagine It? Robert Allen, the Nothing Down real estate guru, said the same thing in explaining why most people won't ever be wealthy. It wasn't that they weren't smart enough or capable of making it happen. Many millionaires never even finished high school. Just about everyone is capable, he observed, but they just can't imagine themselves successful.

    For those of you who've owned other businesses, imagining it may not be that much of a stretch. For others who've only worked for someone else and are very used to that steady paycheck and the routine, it might take a bit more effort.

    Yet, the fact that you're reading this tells me that you're motivated to make a change. Here's the good news. If you can get the mental side of this equation handled, you're halfway there. You won't be subconsciously sabotaging yourself because you can't quite picture yourself in the role.

QUESTION THE NORM In our ultra high-performance, waste-no-time, always-be-producing world, there's this not-so-subtle mindset that frowns on you if you're not crankin' 16 hours a day. While few of the people doing the crankin' seem very happy, they nonetheless want you to be just as slammed.

    Shift Your Thinking I came across a wonderful Spanish proverb in a book called Traveler's Tales: Spain. Each story dropped you into a strange and wonderful world, where you could truly see, hear, smell, taste, and feel a different reality. A place where people lived—and more importantly, thought—very differently than we do.

    I walked away from the book, and from any foreign travel I've done as well, realizing that the way we do things here isn't the only way, the right way, or the best way. Just a way. The line went: Que bonito es no hacer nada, y luego descansar. Translation: "How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards." I love it.

    Share that with most Americans, however, and their eyes will glaze over. They won't get it. It's a sentiment that's totally, completely, absolutely incompatible with our work ethic in this country.

    Busy for Busy's Sake? Being busy has become a badge of honor in our culture. And not just busy, but moving at Mach 4 with your hair on fire from sunup to way past sundown. Not having enough time to do basic life stuff, not to mention personal time for fun, has in some twisted way become a welcome point of commiseration for many.

    The popular culture—TV, advertising, MTV, movies—constantly bombards us with images designed to show us exactly what we need to be happy, successful, sexy, in love, or any other state that is obviously eluding us at present. And it all takes money. Lots of it.

    Compared to the rest of the world, Americans take achievement and accomplishment to a ludicrous level. We measure our worth and that of all our citizens based on how much we `produce.' As young children, it is constantly driven into our heads that the overall goal of our lives should be to grow up and become "productive, contributing members of society."

    Don't hear this as an indictment of our system and philosophy. We do feel better about ourselves as human beings, when, through our own labor, we're able to carve out a good life for ourselves and our loved ones. And America is a can-do culture, with a solid reputation for getting things done. But it's gotten a little nuts in the past few decades.

    Skewed Priorities Across the world, we're known as people who work way too much, put work above time with our families—despite our protests to the contrary—are overly stressed out, unhealthy, overweight, unhappy professionally, and in general, have a skewed sense of priorities. Pretty accurate and well-deserved, no?

    Take vacation time. While here, most corporations start with one week of vacation, and slowly work up to four after 20+ years of service, in Europe and most other western industrialized nations, you begin your career with four weeks of vacation and work up from there. 50-70 hour weeks? Try about 35-40 or less. Last October, I took a month off and went to Asia. It's possible.

THE ALTERNATIVE It all underscores a fascinating phenomenon: that an inherently illogical modus operandi, if accepted widely enough and practiced long enough, will become the "way things are done." Of course, if you don't feel compelled to follow this path, whole new possibilities open up. Like working fewer hours, having less stress, and owning more of your life while making the same money.

    With a career as a freelance commercial writer (henceforth abbreviated to FLCW), you can craft a healthy income and a lifestyle that when held up to our conventional work model, may at times, look somewhat "slack" or "lazy."

    Type A Not Required Can you tell I'm not a Type A personality? Never have been and you know what? Don't let anyone tell you that success will only come to those who are. Of course, my definition of success—i.e. a well-rounded life—may be different from the norm. If you're a Type A, no problem. You can be just as much of a workaholic in this business as any. The only difference is that because you're paid in direct proportion to your efforts, you'll probably make more money and have fewer hassles than you would in corporate America.

    Remember the scenario I described at the beginning of the chapter? $2000+ for a relatively light workweek (30 hrs.) by society's standards? I'll have even lighter weeks like writing one medium brochure and a few headlining projects, which might net me $1200. Fifty of those means about 60K a year, and with enough time to do everything you might want to do—take up a hobby, volunteer, spend more time with your family, etc.

    But of course, this is a business and there's work to be done. And feast/famine is very much a part of our lives, as we'll soon discuss. But once you've established the business, the freedom and flexibility are most enviable.

    What Do You Need to Be Happy? OK, so 60K isn't all the money in the world, but would you be happy with it, especially with the time to really enjoy life? You want to work harder and make more, say 100K? You can absolutely do it in this business, and probably working a lot less than you would in other businesses. It's your choice, and that's the key. No one is limiting your income ... but you. I happen to like that arrangement and if you try it for a few years, I'm guessing you'd never go back.

    And no, you probably won't have a lifestyle like this right out of the gate. But hey, bust your rear just as hard for someone else for three years, and where will you be? More money and less time to enjoy it? More importantly, are you doing what really turns you on? Might writing be the thing? If so, you can't put a price tag on that.

    It only took me about four months to become self-sufficient and awfully close to the point I'm at now by the end of year two. By self-sufficiency, I mean paying my bills and doing it full-time (i.e. no moonlighting), and accepting no large cash infusions from anyone.

    When you go beyond that and create the lifestyle as well, you're likely to catch some grief from your friends about being lazy. They're just jealous. Their idea of paradise is having a day to catch up on laundry. Meanwhile, yours might be a weekend cruise.

LET'S GET TO IT! OK, time to get into the nitty-gritty: What exactly does a FLCW do? And what—besides the great lifestyle—are the reasons why this is a solid career direction? And yes, what are the downsides of this business? With these questions rolling around in our minds, let's move on to our next chapter....

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
· The Joy of Doing What You Love
· Sharing My New Career Excitement (and Success!)
· No Contacts, No Experience,
No Writing Background (My Story)—No Problem!
· Easier Entry, More Lucrative Once Inside
· Full or Part Time (PT: $2,000/Month)
· Leverage What You Do Know
Chapter One An Enviable Lifestyle 7
· A Comfortable, Not-Unusual Week Nets $2000
· Lifestyle Benefits Most Would Kill For
· Creative Work, Good Money, Your Schedule
· How's Your Quality of Life These Days?
· Imagining It—The First Step!
· Type A Not Required
· Self-Sufficiency In Four Months
Chapter Two Why Be a Freelance Commercial Writer (FLCW)? 13
· Eternal Demand for Your Talents
· "Downsizing" and "Outsourcing"—Key Trends
· Scarcity of Good Writers
· Quotes From Clients Say It All!
· Minimal Investment/Negligible Overhead
· A Huge Variety of Work—ADD'ers Rejoice!
· Not Enough Good Writers—You Are Needed
· Very Healthy Income
· A Hit at Cocktail Parties (Only Half-Joking )
· What's Your Story?
· Downsides (True for Any Writer, Actually )
Chapter Three So, What Does it Take to Be Successful? 33
· Writing Ability—But Not As Much As You Think
· Ability to Market Oneself
· Discipline—I'm Lazy, Believe It OrNot
· Technical Expertise—If I Can Do It
· Flexibility, Curiosity, A Non-Conformist Nature
· Being Easy to Get Along With—Your Secret Weapon
· Assertiveness—Take a Stand for Quality
· Ability to Ask Lots of Dumb Questions
· Humility, A Quick Study, Discretion
Chapter Four Ready For Self-Employment? 41
· Attitude is Everything—Original, Eh?
· Get Mental, Make Money
· You Give The Raises Around Here
· Getting Your Finances In Order
· Creating a Portfolio From Thin Air
· Pro Bono, the Team Concept, Start-Ups
· Struggling Artists Want To Help
Chapter Five Where's The Business? 51
· End Users and Middlemen—Pros and Cons of Both
· Corporate America—Learning to Love Them
· Graphic Design Firms—A Primer
· Don't Ignore the "Lone Rangers"
· Get To Know Staff Designers
· Ad Agencies, Marketing Firms, PR Firms
· Event Production Companies—They Need You
· Writers Agents and Brokers: Your Pals
· Where to Find These Lovely Bill-Payers
· Use What You Have—And You've Got Plenty
· "Spec" Work—Your Game, Your Call
Chapter Six Let's Get Started! 63
· It's All About Getting Noticed
· The Finer Points of Prospecting
· Reality Checks, and Surefire Success Strategies
· Compiling Your List: The Librarian is Your Friend
· The Calling Script: Focus, Don't Freak!
· Building a Shrine to "The Law of Averages"
· Get Out and Meet Your Market
· Creating A Company Brochure: The Nitty-Gritty
· The Writer's Bookshelf
Chapter Seven Technically Speaking 79
· I Repeat: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It
· Life in "Cyberia"—Fun With Computers
· PC, Printer, Phone, Fax, and Internet. Period.
· PC or Mac?—How To Choose
· Good Fax and Contact Management Programs
· The 'Net—An Awesome Tool
· Working Smarter and Less—Interested?
· Back-Up Everything, Always, Constantly
· Handy Phone Features As Sales Tools
· Major Technical Prowess Not Required, But
· Great Gadgets and Gizmos!
Chapter Eight The System Is the Solution 95
· The Beauty of Systems: A Unique Approach
· Make It Easy Or It Won't Get Done
· Be Open To Receive, Grasshopper
· Easy Resumes and Letters
· Sample Letters/Resumes (I'm So Good To You )
· Getting and Copying Samples of Your Work
· Your Fax: A Huge Time-Saver and Money-Maker
· Targeted Direct Mail Campaigns For Under $60?!
· Direct Mail: Step-By-Step From Mind to Mailbox
· Tips For Maximum Efficiency
· Client Meetings: Procedures and Protocol
· Conducting Phone Interviews: A Crash Course
Chapter Nine How Much Do I Charge? 121
· In the Beginning, It's Paid On-The-Job-Training
· By the Hour vs. By The Project: Pros and Cons
· Your Hourly Rate (At Least $50 to Start )
· Avoid Premature Estimation (Or You'll Be Sorry )
· Find A Mentor for Pricing and Other Mysteries
· Get Them To Talk First and Make More Money!
· Be Skeptical of Client "Estimates"
· Discounted Meeting/Research Time? NO!
· Be a Pro, Not a Doormat
· How Important Are Contracts? Opinions Vary
· The "Bid Letter" Might Be All You Need
· Sample Contract, But Get Your Own Attorney
Chapter Ten Happy Paydays! 141
· First Rule: Stay Current
· Invoice in Stages—Sometimes, It's Only Fair
· Trust is Nice, But Still Cover Your Butt
· Tracking Deadbeats: Get Your Money the Nice Way
Chapter Eleven The Ebb and Flow of Work 147
· Feast or Famine—Surely A Communist Plot
· Figuring Out Your Personal "Work Style"
· You Can Handle More Work Than You Think, But
· The Big Kahuna—Long-Term Deals: Ins and Outs
· When The Wave Hits, Ride It!
· A "Typical" Day Is Anything But Typical
Chapter Twelve Clients and Other Fascinating Species 153
· The Dream Client—Oh, Wouldn't It Be Nice?
· Clients Looking for a "Massage"
· Clients With Limited Budgets—Keep the Radar Up
· Winning Over "I Don't Need A Writer" Clients
· Clients Who Want You to Take Dictation
· When They Say They Want Creativity Be Prepared
· Handling Clients Who Think They're Writers
· Multiple Decision Makers: Keeping Control
· Ignorant Clients: Different Strains
Chapter Thirteen Dos, Don'ts, and Don't Forget's 161
· Never Miss A Deadline
· Remember: The Client Is The Boss
· Use Every Advantage You Have
· Pick A Specialty Maybe
· Sow The Seeds, Get Referrals
· Remember: Nothing Is Forever
· Luck (and the Lazy Client) Favors the Visible
· Go Out and Meet Your Market
· Don't Go "Direct"
· Follow Up After Meetings and Phone Calls
· Listen More, Work Less
· Send Note Cards
· Save Your Junk E-mail
· Keep Your Word, Earn Your Money
· "Give Back" Through Pro Bono
· Partner with a Designer and Other Writers
Chapter Fourteen What Will You Be Writing? 181
· A Crash Course, But You Can Write, Right?
· "Who's The Audience?" — The Eternal Question
· The Sad Truth: Cry All The Way To The Bank
· Business Letters, Ad Copy, Marketing Brochures
· Hi-Level Proposals, Corporate Identity Pieces
· Event Scripting
· Scripting: Video, CD-ROM, CDi, Radio Spots
· Speeches
· Questions That'll Make You Look Brilliant
· Trade Articles, Newsletters, Direct Mail
· Writing for the Web
· Technical Writing
· Vs. High-Tech Marketing Writing—Big Difference
Chapter Fifteen The Home Stretch 211
· Where Are You Right Now?
· One of Two Groups
· Bad Days At The Beach
· Getting To Someplace You Want To Be
· Once You're Committed Miracles
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2003

    An absolute must for aspiring freelance copywriters!

    If you are serious about being self employed, well paid, and doing something that you can be proud of, this is the book for you. If you are like me, and many of you are, you have reached a point in your working career where you realize that working for someone else will not give you the personal, financial, and creative freedom that you have been seeking for so long. Scared to abandon a steady paycheck and other securities of a 40hr a week job? Not a problem, copywriting is a business that can be easily started on a part-time basis and this book will show you how. Scared about your ability as a writer, your lack of experience, or about starting a business of your own? Again, no problem, this book will guide you through all of the necessary steps needed to become a financially self-sufficient copywriter. Don't waste anymore time, make your dreams of successful self-employment a reality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    Changed my way of thinking, completely

    After digesting the contents of this book for several months, I realized a couple of things: that I'd finally 'gotten' Peter's point about what I was worth as a writer; and that, sadly, my little town in California just did not support the type of career I was after. This is a great book -- honest, funny, informative, and truly, revolutionary in its approach. This does for writers what 'How to Sell 75 % of Your Freelance Writing' did for us in the 80s. However, a couple of points: the 'For Women Only' section is a little skewed. A lot of women aren't moms, much less stay-at-home moms. It's great that Peter thinks these women are a good market for the book, but when I saw 'For Women Only' I figured there'd be some tips that I, as a single female in my 30s, might be able to use. That's a small point, but maybe one that other women can relate to. I think that women in general need to learn to be more assertive in marketing themselves -- I had hoped that Peter was going to touch upon this in his book. I think he did, inadvertently, but a revision - or second edition of Well-Fed? - might address the issue of women and self-worth. But then maybe that's a psychologist's domain; not Peter's. Second, a market like Atlanta is ripe for opportunities -- the kind of opportunities Peter has enjoyed. That's important. After several months of beating my head against a wall, I got a bite at the top corporation in my little California town. They offered me a contract, but did not want to sign it themselves. I was confused. I told them my rate was a minimum of $50 an hour. They thought that was amazing. I felt that they thought I was full of myself, or something, when I was just trying to follow up on some of the tips in the book. I ended up losing that contract through mis-management, despite my several years of reporting experience. In conclusion, this is a great book but the reader needs to adapt the concepts to his/her own life. Ultimately, this writer decided I would be better fed if I stayed away from the free-lance game for awhile. I think it's critical for any writer to assess his/her marketing skills before launching out on your own. You must be ready to get on the phone constantly, always thinking 3 steps ahead of the game. I failed at that, even though I succeeded at the writing end, and ultimately took a full-time job on the East Coast.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2001

    How and Why To Become a Freelance Commercial Writer

    This book deserves more than five stars for its ability to handle the subject well from a variety of necessary perspectives . . . to entertain, to inform, and to shed light on how to be more successful with any at-home business. From how to get your first job, to handling all types of writing assignments and clients, to getting paid, you will find everything you need here to avoid the most dangerous traps of an at-home professional. I started my management consulting firm part-time at home in 1976, and it took me many years to learn all the lessons that are outlined in this excellent book. My only personal regret is that he did not write a book focused solely on being a well-fed business book author. In fairness to Mr. Bowerman, I should tell you that he does give good insights into how to get assignments writing business books as a ghost writer. With the title of the book, Mr. Bowerman shows why he is in the right profession. He writes punchy, compelling copy. That style accentuates the messages from his clear, well-organized mind about seeing freelance commercial writing as a business. He makes a good case for being able to earn $35-$85 an hour (depending on the type of work you do) for 20+ hours a week. If you want to earn more, you can. I found his claim of being able to get up to financial self-sufficiency in six months to be credible if you live in a reasonably large metropolitan area. Many people thinking about becoming professional writers are nervous about their skills. Mr. Bowerman does an excellent job of pointing out that clients don't write as well as you do now. He also directs you to the types of assignments that are easiest for a new freelancer to handle such as brief product brochures for small companies. If you are like me, you will be most impressed with the business system parts of the book. How do you get clients? How much do you charge? How do you get paid? How do you follow up to get repeat business? How do you handle dry spells? How do handle having too much work? In each case, he has found a simple system that anyone could comfortably follow. To make things even easier, he has included samples of his marketing materials, his samples that he shares with prospective clients, and provided sources of lists. Since he is a male, he also took the time to interview some women freelancers who work at home in Appendix C. The only limitation that I saw to his approach was that it will be easiest to pursue by someone living in or near a large city. He lives in Atlanta, for example. Many of the opportunities he describes will not exist in a small town with little local business. So the income opportunities will be much less. The book would have benefited from a section on how to do distance freelancing. The challenge there is in getting jobs, since the system described here depends a lot on face-to-face meetings. If you are seriously interested in freelance commercial writing, part time or full time, I encourage you to read this book. By the way, if you are interested hiring in a freelance commercial writer, you can easily assess if Mr. Bowerman is right for you by reading his book. After you have finished The Well-Fed Writer, I also encourage you to think about how you could organize a similar system to handle the rest of your writing career. Most of the concepts would apply just as well there. Write on! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2001

    What's your hourly rate?

    Have you ever wondered why freelancers are expected to work for pennies per hour? Peter Bowerman dispels the myth that writers must work for nearly nothing. Did you know advertising agencies, public relations firms, graphic designers, multi-national corporations and event production companies are always looking for freelance writers (Chapter 5 ¿Where¿s The Business?¿)? This book tells you how to find the work, how to market yourself, and how to talk to a client about rates. In chapters like ¿What Will You Be Writing?¿, ¿So, What Does It Take to Be Successful?¿, and ¿Ready for Self-Employment?¿, you get a detailed picture of a day in the life of a commercial freelance writer. In his engaging, just-like-I¿m-sitting-next-to-you style, the author describes what it takes to become well-fed and have a freelancer¿s lifestyle. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to freelance successfully.

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