Thursday, 15 October 2015

A freelancer's gotta hustle

Hustling is a life skill you need to learn if you're self-employed or writing on the side and hoping to get published. With savvy tactics and persuasion you'll rustle up opportunities when your inbox goes quiet. Sometimes gifts from the universe do drop into your lap – work offers, surprise tax rebates, awards – but for the most part you get out what you put in. As a freelancer it's up to you to create your own success, income, publicity and reputation. As Truman Capote famously remarked, 'a boy's got to hustle his book.' For most of us, this applies in some way.

1. Do something to promote yourself online every weekday. A daily practice is key. Even if you merely commit to one daily tweet in your field of interest, for example, it's a whole lot better than doing nothing. It's similar to the compounding effect of saving: within a few months of repeated small actions, you could have a substantial and growing following. Keep your message and offering consistent, and ensure it's of high quality. This requires discipline, but once you're in the habit these 10 minutes devoted to online marketing are just a normal part of your day.

2. Up your Google rankings. Use long-tail keywords in all your online text, from blogs to tweets, advised Paula Wynne, author of Pimp My Site: The DIY Guide to SEO, Search Marketing, Social Media and Online PR, during a talk at the Cape Town Book Fair. A few relevant, specific words strung together to form phrases that describe your work (such as 'online creative writing course, The Peacock Book Project') should be used whenever you write something on the internet. Do this, and your Google ranking will climb. Ensure these keywords feature in your website’s metadata – the description of your product or service that comes up under your website’s name during an internet search. Read more tips at

3. Keep producing new material. Short Sharp Stories Award convenor Joanne Hichens was gratified to see writers who'd entered the competition a few years in a row make it into the 2015 shortlist and Incredible Journey anthology – proof, she said, that as a writer 'you've just got to keep churning out new material'. Submit work to new competitions, offer new stories to both previous buyers and new buyers. If one short story doesn't get published, move on and write something new instead of getting hung up on one item you desperately want published. You'll feel more creative, productive and successful, and increase your chances of getting published.

4. Pitch new ideas when things go quiet. When there's no work flowing in, don't panic; use the time productively. Think about the sort of work you'd like to do next, then approach publications with outlines of your ideas. See step-by-step instructions on how to find article ideas and pitch then to publications in my book Writing for Magazines: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know.

5. Constantly build your network of contacts. Don't only use social media for personal purposes; make use of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to connect with others for work purposes. LinkedIn in particular is a worthwhile business tool, especially for keeping abreast of new freelance contracts around the world. Post a good photo of yourself and keep updating your profile with recent contracts, publications and achievements. Consciously grow your social media contacts: track down interesting people in your field you've met, heard interviewed, seen on TV or read about. When you need a case study, idea or answer for work, putting it out to your social media contacts is the fastest track to a solution.

Catriona Ross is a journalist, author, and creator of The Peacock Book Project: Write the novel of your dreams ( Her books are available in the Kindle Store: Little Diamond Eye, The Presence of Peacocks or How to Find Love and Write a Novel, The Love Book, Writing for Magazines: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, and The Happy Life Handbook.

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