8 Ways to Pump Up Your Writing Career

What’s on the iPod: Two Coins by Dispatch

More snow. Friday we had about four inches. Today, close to three more, they say. I did say I love snow, so I should be thrilled. To some extent, I am. It’s coming down this morning, but then the rains arrive this afternoon and the temperatures go up. By Friday, it will be in the 60s. Oddly, I’ll miss it when it melts.

But it’s time to move on. That’s true of our writing careers, too.

So you’re sitting there, mid-February, feeling stagnant. The phone isn’t ringing, the emails aren’t getting answered, and you can just see over the rim of that rut you’re in. Time to kick it up a notch. Here are some ways to improve on what you’re doing now:

Plan it out. I love a good plan. Whether it’s jotted down on paper, plotted out in detail in Excel, or just in your head, a plan can help you grab hold of lost time, lost opportunities, and lost momentum. Want to finish that novel? Schedule that time into your day. Want to capture clients at a higher level than where you are currently? Build a marketing strategy around that goal.

Delve deeper into your subject or your project. Suppose you’ve been writing what your clients call white papers for two years now — two- to four-page advertorials that aren’t based on any real research. Why not learn what it takes to produce an actual white paper that’s based on research findings and includes lots of data to support the claims? These pay infinitely better for these, and you can’t help but improve your own writing background as a result. The same goes for what you’re writing about. Any topic can be made more in-depth with just a little brainstorming. These new ideas can be sold to higher paying magazines or pitched to other clients.

Add a new skill. Years ago, I added resume writing to my skill set. I know another writer who added press release writing. Look into new ways to bring in a steady revenue stream. Be smart about it — the reason I left resume writing was that some companies demanded too much work for too little pay. Always keep an eye on the time compared to the compensation.

Study something new. If marketing scares you, pick up a book or join a marketing course (or read a marketing blog, for that matter—you can learn nearly anything for free). If your sentence structure is a bit weak, commit to studying a grammar guide, maybe reading one section a week. There are infinite ways in which you can improve your business through learning. And you’re never too old, or too experienced, to do so.

Become proactive. If your marketing consists mostly of cruising job boards, try spending one day a week of that cruising time with locating potential clients. Send them direct emails telling them who you are, what you do, and how you can make their jobs easier. For how to write a letter of introduction, see this guest post by Paula Hendrickson.

Drop useless time sinks. When I switched from having Yahoo! as a home page to Google’s clean, news-free site, I saved countless hours. Look at those things that draw your attention — like new email notifications or Facebook updates — and find ways to eliminate the distractions.

Network. That doesn’t mean go out to a business event and pester the hell out of everyone who has ears and can’t run fast enough. It means create a conversation with other business people. Get to know them. Smile. Relax. Forget about selling to them. Just make friends and acquaintances. Then keep in touch regularly.

Be seen where clients are. For me, that’s at trade shows. For you, it could be on LinkedIn forums or on Twitter or in other publications. Hang out where your clients hang out. It’s the best way to build face and name recognition.

How do you breathe new life into your writing career?
Have you added any new skills to your resume?

About the author




  • Jennifer Mattern February 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I'm with you. I'm sick of snow, but when it melts I'll miss it (especially when the dog runs through the soggy, muddy woods and brings it all into the house). We're expecting a nasty mix tomorrow morning yet — rain, sleet, and snow. After that we'll get the warm up in time for the weekend. And on Saturday we're throwing a birthday party for our pup as an excuse to let her have a play date. So I'll actually have five dogs bringing the mud into the house. Oh my. Bring me more snow! 🙂

  • Anne Wayman February 18, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    so grateful there's no snow where I am!

    I like your take on networking… and on delving deeper.

  • Lori Widmer February 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I love your pup. She's such a gem. 🙂

    Anne, be very grateful! I love it, and even I'm a bit tired of it.

  • Paula February 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing the link to that old chestnut, Lori. I need to follow my own advice this week.

    Is shoveling snow the biggest time suck lately for all of us in the snowbelt?

    Yesterday I got hardly any work done because my entire afternoon was spent shoveling my sidewalk and huge driveway; shoveling for an older neighbor who has a bad cold – to get to her house, I shoveled my immediate neighbor's sidewalk instead of just trudging through (they shoveled my sidewalk twice since they moved in last month so I owed them!); and helping yet more neighbors get their car unstuck. Good thing I fit the snowy doggie walk in during lunch time!

  • Lori Widmer February 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks for providing such words of wisdom, Paula. Great article that changed the way I do things for the better.

    Shoveling snow IS a time suck! Luckily, we're about to see ours go away for a while — hopefully a long while, but you never know. 🙂

  • Jennifer Mattern February 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    That she is. She's been loving the snow because it means hubby is home more often. When he's home, she thinks she's a lap dog. Completely tackles the poor guy when he tries to relax. Adorable when you're not the one fending her off. 🙂

  • Lori Widmer February 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    She's adorable no matter what. 🙂

  • Devon Ellington February 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Chamber of Commerce. It's worth the fee and pays for itself in the first assignment. Go to events, talks, breakfasts, etc. Let the community get to know you, so that when they need a writer, they think of you first.

  • Lori Widmer February 24, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Good suggestion, Devon. I agree — if they know you're there, you can get a lot of mileage out of that membership.

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