Real-World Art-ing: 5 Luckiest Things to Happen to Me As a Writer

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

Note: This post first appeared on my author blog Monstrosity earlier today. But I think these reflections on the role of luck in finding success holds true not just for writers, but for all kinds of artists and creatives, so I wanted to share it with my Juicers, too. 

Around this time of year, as I become surrounded by green for a day, I can’t help but reflect on luck.

It’s a funny thing, the way random things seem to just line up as if by magic. Sometimes you look back at something that happened to you and realize just how perfectly everything had to align for a particular something to roll your way with just the right timing.

This is how I feel about my writing career.

I feel it’s important to talk about things like luck in relation to writing. There are so many incredibly talented writers out there, and with so much competition, it can be easy for a writer to slip through the cracks and get discouraged.

But not finding your opportunity to get published does NOT mean you are less talented than any other writer. It just means that you haven’t snagged your moment of luck yet.

To show you what I mean (and in belated celebration of St. Patrick’s Day), here are my luckiest moments I’ve had in my writing career (so far):

1. My college writing internship

When I look back at my college internship, it blows my mind to think about how unlikely this was to happen, and how drastically it changed the course for my life.

I did not want to do an internship. And I especially did not want one that would force me to write. No lie. I actively fought against this at every turn.

Alas, the senior honors course I took my final semester of college required an internship. But even once I resigned myself to applying for internships, I was focused on finding editorial internships at book publishers. I only applied to be a writing intern at a local magazine as a very last resort, because I had not been accepted for anything else, and my time was running out.

Turns out that luck can often look like failure. I am so, so lucky I didn’t manage to get what I wanted for this internship.

Because before this internship, I did not believe I could write. It’s only because this internship forced me to that I even tried. And it’s only because I had an incredible mentor in the magazine’s managing editor that I learned that I could have fun and be creative with my writing. And I absolutely fell in love with it.

This writing thing opened doors that changed my entire adult life trajectory. My entire career has been built on the writing skills I discovered and the clips that I got from that internship. And then, later on, it led to an interest in fiction that’s become my hobby, my passion, and when I get frustrated with the world, my saving grace.

This thing that I dreaded and fought tooth and nail against was easily in the top five things that have ever happened to me.

2. Proximity to The Writer’s Center

About two years into my progress of writing Mud, I moved to Washington, D. C. I moved there not becuase my family is there (though they are) and not because I love the city (though I do), but because my husband got a pretty random but great work opportunity. As it happens, this put me within spitting distance of The Writer’s Center.

The Writer’s Center is among the country’s top resources for fiction writers, and offers a plethora of high-quality courses, workshops and networking opportunities for authors at all stages of their career. Naturally I quickly found a course intended for writers at my level and signed up.

In that class and others after, I met other writers in the area, was challenged creatively, and learned a ton about how the industry works and how to get published. I met successful authors who have since offered me critical advice regarding key decisions. And I’ve made wonderful friends.

In short, I could not have sought out a more perfect growth opportunity if I’d been specifically looking for it.

3. Landing the Best Critique Group

After the end of my first writing course at The Writer’s Center, I emailed the entire class asking if anyone would like to continue meeting as a critique group.

Luckily (see what I did there), there was a lot of interest. Over a few monthly meetings, the group pared down to just four of us–a great size for us to get to know each other, offer each other frequent constructive feedback, and support each other as we navigate our way through the publishing process.

I guess it makes sense to some degree, but this group offered a wonderful balance of likeminded writers who cared about investing in their writing, wanted to improve, and had publishing ambitions, while also offering a lot of diversity in genres, styles, and approaches to building a fiction-writing career.

Lucky me to land myself in this incredible group of writers.

4. Finding an Amazing Publisher

When I queried agents last summer, I was getting just enough promising responses from agents to not give up. But while I was getting interest, no one was biting. Then I stumbled onto a little Twitter event for writers called #adpit, which connected authors, agents and publishers on a website and backed it up with 140-character mini-pitches on Twitter. I thought, what the heck, it’s a few hours of my time, and who knows.

That’s where City Owl Press found me.

I’ll be honest, I was dubious at first–there are a lot of groups out there preying on aspiring authors under the guise of “small press,” and my first response to the editor’s outreach was Groucho Marx’ famous quote, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” In other words, if this press is so exciting about my little book, it’s probably not very good.

But I researched them anyway, and even reached out to some pros I know who could lend some perspective. They were young and somewhat untested, but the team not only had a strong track record, but also were incredibly open and patient with me as I asked a number of intrusive questions, weighed options, and got a lawyer to review the contract. All good signs.

So I went for it. After all, I figured, even if it turned out to be a disaster, it would be a huge learning experience, and hey, who knows.

The people at City Owl have been nothing but wonderful since day one, always willing to offer sound advice, to hop on the phone and time I have questions, and give me their quick attention any time I ask for it. On top of that, they’ve gone above and beyond what I’ve heard to be “standard” at major publishers when it comes to investing me as an author–they actively sought out my input on my book cover, and showed me a strong marketing plan for my book without even being asked. These guys are just champs.

I knew this step was a gamble going in, but it was one I was willing to take. So far it’s met all of my highest hopes. You just can’t get luckier than that.

5. Financial Stability

About a year ago I read an article from an author about how socioeconomic status played a huge role in one’s ability to have a career as an artist, and why it was so important to bring this hush-hush topic to light. I wish I could link to it, but I can’t find it anymore. But that author was right, so I’m going to do my part and talk about it now.

I’ve been financially comfortable my entire life. This is incredibly lucky just in general, but it’s played a huge role in my ability to write. In college, I didn’t have to rack up debt or work a job, which is how I was able to take a low-paying internship in the first place. In D.C., I had the free spending money necessary to take part in The Writer’s Center opportunities. And the free time and energy necessary to write every day, and contribute to a writing group. And the freedom to be able to take a risk with a small press I didn’t know.

In a way, being lucky enough to be financially well-off my entire life has been the essential foundation to all my writing success. We need to have our eyes wide open when it comes to the utter disadvantage this gives to less fortunate artists, and societally, support changes that afford opportunities for artists of all kinds.

Luck Doesn’t Knock Twice–Be Ready for It

There’s no denying the large amounts of luck that have played into my writing success so far, and I’m sure that will continue to be the case. Don’t think I ever forget it for a second.

But if you’re out there feeling like you’re helpless until your dose of luck drops into your lap, here’s a bit of good news. There’s a lot you can do to be ready for luck when it comes your way. All the advantages in the world can’t help you if you’re not willing to put butt in chair and do the writing, or listen to feedback, or take the risks. But if you put in the work in good faith, contribute to the writing community near you, and keep your eyes open, it’s eventually going to come your way.

Go out and actively look for those lucky moments, and I’m confident you’ll find yours, too.

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

Endings, and also Beginnings

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

You’ve probably noticed that the blog has been on hiatus a while. I’ve had to make the hard choice to let this go while getting some other projects in place.

Which brings me to an announcement: Friends, the Creative Juicer to come to a close. I’ve written many times about choosing where you invest your creative energy carefully. I’ve written about the power of saying yes, and also the necessity of sometimes saying no. The simple truth is that I’m spread too thin right now, and other things simply must take priority.

For one, my fantasy novel Mud has been aquired by City Owl Press, and will be published in the coming several months. It’s fantastic news, and I could not have gotten here without the support of this wonderful community. Thank you for all your support!

Which means that not only do I have a lot of edits to take on, but I’ve also got to whip my author platform into shape! And this is only one of a few big projects I’ve got underway right now.

wordhaus is expanding. In January, we’re launching a book club. I’m super excited for it to kick off, but it’s a beast of a project and requires a large chunk of my time as I get my team in place, reach out to authors to feature, and prepare for the launch promotion. (If you want to participate, join the wordhaus email list–deets coming soon, ONLY to these wordhaus subscribers).

I’ve also started an exciting new venture of my own. After eight years as a marketing and PR executing online strategy for clients, and another year applying those strategies to authors in my DIYMFA column, I’m creating a new program to work with authors one-on-one.

It took a while to create just the right service, but I’m crazy thrilled with the results: It will be a 12-week program where I work with authors one-on-one in weekly sessions to work toward a specific, personalized goal the author wants to reach for his/her author platform. Along the way, I’ll teach the authors how to keep up their progress long-term, so that after the 12 weeks is up, they’ve not only met a goal but also are well equipped to continue the progress on their own.

For the first round starting in January, there are a very limited number of spots, which I’m offering at a significantly discounted rate–check it out and apply here. 

And then, of course, there’s ongoing client work and also my new WIP sci-fi novel (to stay up on my latest fiction news, join my author newsletter).

So as you can see, I have to do something to make sure I can give these projects the focus they deserve, and not spread myself too thin. Creative Juicer has had a great run, but it’s simply time to put it aside, at least for the forseeable future.

But please stay in touch! The links above will connect you to other ways to keep being a part of this expanding online neighborhood.

And welp, I guess all that’s left to say is goodbye. Thank you for all your support, and the best of luck to you in your own creative endeavors. Dream big, friends!

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

Cold Pitching to Get New Freelance Clients

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

Cold pitching. Any savvy freelancer knows you gotta do it.

Unlike bidding sites like Upwork and job boards like ProBlogger, when you make a cold pitch to a prospective client, you don’t have any competition. When you’re one in a pool of one, your odds of building new client relationships goes way up.


But let’s get real: Cold pitching is the worst. No one likes to do cold pitches. No one.

What not to do

When I first started freelancing, I was extremely eager to get clients and

I started reaching out to all the biz’ in my local area, and just figured I’d refine my approach as I went, working from trial and error. I created a big list of various marketing-related businesses and cold emailed them.

In retrospect, I wasn’t nearly focused enough in the types of businesses I was looking for, and I wasted a lot of time targeting businesses that probably don’t have the budget for outside content services in the first place. Worse, my content was salesy, and probably got deleted without being opened at least 90% of the time.

Needless to say, I didn’t get a single response. Then I read The Well-Fed Writer, and it changed everything.

Picking up the phone

The Well-Fed Writer gave me a game-changing epiphany: phone calls! Picking up the phone to introduce myself to new businesses had literally not once occurred to me (I know, my Millienial is showing.)

My library’s copy of Well-Fed Writer was fairly old, so I wanted to make sure cold calls didn’t go out with fax machines before I started doing it. But after some Googling around to see what other reputable sources had to say, it appears this is still something freelancers do with real success.

Thanks to Well-Fed Writer and other great freelance resources like Make a Living Writing, I’d also gotten smarter about my targeting. This time, I focused on established marketing agencies in the closest major city.

I make calls in 20-company spurts on a weekly basis. This let me balance these efforts with other outreach and client work, while still making steady progress.

I got conversations and email attention from these with some fair consistency—at least one or two bites per 20-company batch. But then the bites never went any further.

For something that’s a real time investment (20 calls took about an hour, and then followup emails took almost another hour, plus the research to find the companies in the first place) it just wasn’t getting a return.

And besides, cold calling is just really not fun—for the caller or the recipient. I was even asked once if I was a “real person,” because companies receive so many automated sales calls. ::facepalm::

Honing in

So I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, but I wasn’t giving up yet. Cold pitching can be a valuable and important way to round out your client acquisition. And other freelancers use it successfully, so surely I could too.

I was closing in on 100 cold calls with nothing but vague expressions of interest that don’t respond to followup to show for it. Then I came across an article bout an approach a freelancer had used to find new clients that she discovered on Make a Living Writing.

I recommend reading the full article, but here’s the gist:

Pick a niche that is appropriate for your experience, and research companies that work in it—looking specifically for companies that have a blog on their website with outdated content.

Then, you email the company leadership with a genuine, kind email that says something nice and also offers support to kick the company blog back into gear for them.

Aha! The trick here is, these companies already understand the value of a blog—that’s why they have one. But they’ve also found it challenging to manage the upkeep on their own.

I’ve been trying this for just a little bit, but so far the results are promising, and I have a few relationships in the works.

The research up front is a little more time-consuming, but it saves me so much more time that I was wasting reaching out to businesses who had no interest in a freelancer.

I’ll probably keep tweaking it as I go, but this is the method I’m sticking with going forward.

Cold pitching can be a great way to gain new clients away from the competitive environment of bidding sites and job boards … or it can be a real time suck. I’d recommend trying a few methods for yourself before settling into one to stick with—it’s the only way to discover what works for you.

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

How to Get Gigs on Upwork

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

Bidding sites like Upwork and Elance are not how to get gigs on upworkknown for being great atmospheres for writers. By their nature they create a flooded market, and the kind of clients seeking freelancers on these sites tend to be price-oriented. There is always, always someone willing to bid lower than you.

That said, there are very successful individuals who take exception to this stereotype.

I’ve used Upwork a lot in my first few months of freelancing, and I find myself somewhere in the middle, leaning to the positive.

Upwork got me rolling with some freelance gigs very quickly, and I’ve steadily increased my pay per post since I joined. Compared to other ways to get gigs I’ve tried so far, I’ve found Upwork to be a much lower time investment per bid with a significantly higher hire rate.

As we’re exploring ways to get gigs this month, I’m sharing the approach I’ve used on Upwork to land this success:

1. Make full use of your profile

Your profile is an important tool on Upwork, as it is submitted with your application for every gig you apply to, so it’s worth the time to complete every section.

Using keywords in your tagline and overview that will help you get found and stand out. Likewise, be thorough in listing your skill tags.

It’s also worth the time to take a few of the tests—they’re pretty easy, and they’ll show you have a basic threshold of competence. In other words, it’s a way to help establish trust with potential clients who have no idea who you are.

And perhaps most importantly, the portfolio. I used mine to showcase three projects that reflect the wide range of my writing abilities and treated the summaries as mini case studies to demonstrate not just the quality of my work but also its impact.

2. Searching for opportunities

At first, you need to put in some hours and get some client reviews. For this, you’re probably best off searching for Entry Level positions and bidding low (I started at $12/hour) for just a few projects.

But don’t worry, you won’t be doing this long. You should start raising that rate quickly any time you have enough work to keep you busy. Three months in, I’m now at $30/hour. To raise your rate, start looking for higher-budget gigs in the Intermediate and Expert gig listings.

3. Applying

I always write a quick cover letter that outlines my background and addresses that specific project—for blog gigs, I usually include a few potential topics. And I always include a writing sample either as an attachment or a link. When clients include additional questions, I address them with a few full sentences.

4. Rates

The negative stereotypes about bidding sites aren’t all wrong. Since I’ve raised my rates, I’ve had a couple of clients ask me to lower my rate because someone else underbid me.

The first time I made a compromise and, quite frankly, resented it later. The second time, I offered three compromise options I knew I’d be okay with—instead of offering the same work for lower pay, I offered shorter articles, or articles with added value such as an image for each post. And then I never heard from that client again.

Oh well. There’s plenty of other opportunities out there for you, too. Don’t let the nature of bidding sites drag you into the writing-for-pennies trap. Know your value and stick to it.

Where Bidding Sites Fit

I don’t plan to make a career solely off Upwork, but it’s certainly outperformed my expectations when I started. I find it a useful site for finding your footing, getting clips and (if you don’t get caught in the bidding aspect of it) getting decent pay quickly.

I’ve heard that Elance clients tend to have larger budgets than those on Upwork, so as I continue to increase my rate, I’m working on shifting my bidding focus accordingly.

That said, I’d never advise bidding sites to be your only plan of attack in building a freelance career—the pool is too overcrowded and the clients are too fickle. In the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at additional ways to get gigs to round out the rest of your portfolio.

How do you get your gigs?

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

June Wrap-Up: What 30 Days of LinkedIn Has Taught Me

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

For anyone who hasn’t heard yet, my mission forTechie Showers & (5)

the month of June has been to explore ways to boost my LinkedIn presence.

I’ve been a marketing and public relations pro for years, and I’m a lexicon of social media strategy and tactics knowledge—but when it’s come to my own personal efforts, I’ve let a lot slide to the wayside for myself.

Now that I’m freelancing, I’m giving myself a kick to the rear by focusing on something new to improve on every month and sharing what I learn here.

So. LinkedIn.

To recap, here are some of the specific things I’ve focused on improving for my LinkedIn account week to week:

I have to say, by and large, I’m very pleased with the results from my efforts. I’ve added a few new people to my connections, gotten active in some very interesting Group conversations, and compared to last week, my profile views are up 50 percent. My ranking, compared to my network, has improved 28 percent over the last 30 days, placing me at 37 out of 252 accounts I’m connected to.

There’s room to keep moving up, but not bad!

This has been the result of several new behaviors combined. I’ve been surprised to find that even bigger efforts such as contributing to Groups and publishing Long Posts, are in fact a very reasonable and controllable time investment with real payoffs.

Some of my new habits that I plan to continue are:

  • Reviewing my profile regularly and adding new media and trying new keywords
  • Posting an Update every weekday morning
  • Liking, commenting or sharing at least five other updates every weekday morning
  • Identifying niche Groups to contribute to, and comment at least weekly in each
  • Sharing Long Form posts at least monthly, and more as inspiration strikes
  • Searching the freelance job listings on LinkedIn at least weekly, and applying to ones that are a good fit

One benefit I have not gained yet is actually earning new clients through LinkedIn—but given what I’ve read from other freelancers, this is a long game that will come with continued outreach, particularly with Groups. I’m seeing enough other benefits that it’s not bothering me at this point.

LinkedIn has evolved a lot over the last few years, and new features have a lot to offer. I knew a lot of this already, but preconceptions (I can’t believe it took me so long to get serious about Groups) and plain busy-ness was holding my platform back.

My efforts this month have led to significant payoffs that are definitely worth the effort.

Q4U: Have you tried these LinkedIn tactics? What’s been successful for you?

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.