Jason Hartman talks with Sue LaPointe, author of: Working Writer Happy Writer: How To Build A Thriving Writing Business From Nothing Business. More at: http://speakingofwealth.com/category/podcast/. The only happy writers out there are the ones who are working! Finding writing clients and projects isn’t a matter of luck – it’s just a matter of being shown how.
In Sue’s own words… How do I know about this? In May of 2006, I paid a lot of money to get an incredible business coach. My wonderful coach held my hand and walked me through the whole process of building a thriving writing business. Within less than six months, I’d done it. And there’s no reason you can’t do it, too.
You’ll learn about:
The books I read. Each one contributes a major piece of wisdom, direction, or strategy.
The resources I use. No more trial and error for you! Here are the software, sites, and other goodies I use every day.
Write Happy – a free newsletter filled with the hottest tips for growing your business. (Sign up using the box in the right margin.)
Informative teleseminars on topics including:
What should I charge?
How do I find clients?
How can I be sure to get paid?
How do I write a winning proposal?
What’s an ebook, and how do I do one?
What’s ghostwriting, and can I do it?
Writing for search engines
Writing for academic publishers
How can I get into information marketing?
and more! (let me know what else you’d like to learn about)
Lots of would-be writers make the same mistake I did. They think the only way to earn a living as a writer is to write a best-selling novel, like Steven King or JK Rowling. What a bunch of hooey! Sure, that’d be great – but the odds are less than favorable. Or, they think the only way is to write articles and submit them on spec to magazines. Baloney! Again, very glamorous and all, but who wants to write on spec? No way!
Your life as a freelance writer can be all that you dream of – if you learn how to do it right, so it doesn’t become an unsatisfying nightmare. The key is to find high-quality clients who pay what your expertise is truly worth, and to stay as busy as you’d like to stay. It’s definitely not a get rich quick scheme, because you’ll have to actually do the work! But if you do, you’ll build for yourself a business that’s very rewarding.
Introduction: Speakers, publishers, consultants, coaches and info marketers unite. The Speaking of Wealth show is your real map to success and significance. Learn the latest tools, technologies and tactics to get more bookings, sell more products and attract more clients. If you are looking to increase your direct response sales create a big time personal brand, and become the go-to-guru. The Speaking of Wealth show is for you. Here is your host Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Speaking Wealth show. This is your host Jason Hartman, and this is Episode#9. Today we are going to talk about the writing business, and I think you will really like this interview just a fantastic guest. She did a great job in really getting to the nitty-gritty of how you as a speaker, an author, a publisher, a consultant can really monetize your business more. So enjoy with interview with Sue LaPointe, and we will be back with that in just a second.
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Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Sue LaPointe to this show. She is the author of “Working Writer Happy Writer: How to Build a Thriving Writing Business From Nothing”, Sue welcome.
Sue: Thank you so much for having me Jason.
Jason Hartman: Well it’s great to have you on the show. Now you have really, really been instrumental in helping writers get work and build their businesses. How do they do it, how do they start?
Sue: Well, first thing is that they have got to understand that this exists. Most writers kind of feel like they have either got to create a bestselling book that lands them on Oprah, or they have got to spend their life misery getting this pile of rejection notices from magazines and enquiries off to publishers and all that kind of thing. And most of them are not even aware of that there is this huge other way that you can make money writing. And it’s all about commercial writing. And by that I mean writing for peoples websites and their businesses, doing press releases and articles and ebooks, and whitepapers and just all this kind of stuff that normal writers don’t think about doing, still but there is a huge market for it so basically we started by just letting them have some awareness that this exists.
Jason Hartman: I just want to ask you because you have said something kind of interesting, and may be very telling you use the phrase normal writers. What is the normal writer that doesn’t think about this stuff? What do you mean by that?
Sue LaPointe: Well, a normal writer probably has a degree in English, and enjoys writing things that could be possibly considered literature [laughter]. You know a little element of snob factor which I love. I mean I love to read, I love fiction, any kind of book. I just love to read, and this is nothing like that. This is not glamorous, sexy, highbrow, academic; there is no Pulitzer anywhere to be found. So I kind of referred that other type of writing is normal writers is something that an average person is going to want to sit down and read, and this has nothing to do with that.
Jason Hartman: Okay, good so more about getting started.
Sue LaPointe: So getting started, the huge thing is first of all getting that awareness that this exists. And then obviously the next thing is well how do you go from having no clients, no portfolio, no price list, no paid experience, how do you transform from that to actually having a thriving writing business. So basically what’s involved is getting some skills so that you can actually do the writing projects, building a portfolio, tapping into where you can find clients in a way that’s going to be very reliable. And then actually doing it because you know you can have all these theory in your head and all these how-tos but if you are not actually doing it, it’s not going to work.
Jason Hartman: And why the business writing side of it is it just that it’s so much more lucrative. I mean when people have a business and they need content for their website, whitepapers, blog and trees etcetera. They are just willing to pay a lot more than say writing the Great America novel and hopefully getting lucky and getting discovered.
Sue LaPointe: Yeah, oh definitely. It’s more like having you know a cash machine where you can pull a lever, and out pops money rather than hoping that you are going to hit it on the lottery because honestly most, I don’t even know statistics on this, but everybody says they are writing a book. You know ask most people I would think 9 out of 10 probably have a book in them.
And how many of those are actually ever going to get published and make money. It’s such a small minute thing. So there are all these people sitting out there with really good writing skills and you don’t have to be a perfect writer, but a decent writer you know who really long to be able to have writing being a part of their money making, their way of their earning a living.
And it’s very frustrating because they don’t have anyway that they can kind of connect the two there. So if they are able to find a way that’s an outlet that’s creative. And using the writing skills, and actually make money, that’s really the best of both worlds.
Jason Sure it is. Well, let’s talk first because I think the first thing you have mentioned in terms of getting started is skills. And before we kind of go through the outline of your book I want to talk about skills for a moment if we can because I’ve hired writers to do various writing projects for us over the years. And I have got to tell you Sue, I mean some of it is really, really disappointing.
Some of the people that call themselves writers it’s scary. I mean we hired someone to do some news releases for us, and I couldn’t believe how bad the writing was. And writing is kind of one of those things that’s pretty subjective sometimes in terms of quality. It’s kind of like one of the Supreme Court justice has said years ago. I can’t remember who was about pornography. Well, I can’t define it, but I know when I see it. And you know with writing his good or bad when you read it but [unintelligible 0:06:13] was defined how to be at good at it right. What about this –?
Sue: I can’t even remember who it is. It is somebody in sport who said something like or you got it or you don’t. It’s the type of thing where I can’t take somebody who cannot write and make them a good writer. Like you said it’s just kind of this is amorphous what makes for a good writer. You know it if you are a good writer but it’s just that kind of odd thing.
From there though by having basic writing talent there is a whole different realm it’s the skills that are involved. So being able to write for search engines, being able to write in a way that engages people, and causes them to take actions, being able to write in a way that the media will like a press release, and the search engines will like it as well. Those types of things can be learned. The basic talent for it though I think that’s just god give. There is not a whole lot you can do, and I know that type of writer that you are describing because I’ve worked with the team of writers, and occasionally will be looking for new writers for the team. And sometimes people will send stuff that’s just like wow this is really horrible.
Jason Hartman: It’s just appalling sometimes, I mean it’s weird.
Sue: It is or it’s copied and appalling.
Jason Hartman: Yeah.
Sue: You know that’s the tricky part. And I think though it’s the type of thing you probably are good enough writer if you did well in school for the writing segments. You know any course that involved writings. If you are the type of person where every job that you had, you know people are coming to you bringing stuff to you, hey can you read this and see if it make sense.
If you love to read and not just — I mean I read a lot of all kinds of different stuff, but if you are well read and you really enjoy words that’s a pretty good clue that you are a good writer. And if people just tell you wow, if you have written something wow that’s really good, then probably you have enough skill that you can or enough talent that you can develop the skills to actually be a commercial writer.
Jason Hartman: So I just want to say to the listeners if you are not a good writer do the world a favor, and do something else because it’s just really scary. Anyone kind of call themselves a writer. So you mentioned about news releases and writing for search engines is it possible to write for both at the same time in the same piece because nowadays really PR is done mostly on the web. It’s not like it used to be. It has to be picked up by search engines, and also you use the distribution and the wire services and so forth, and get it in the hands of reporters but can you write for both at the same time or is that not possible.
Sue LaPointe: It’s absolutely possible. It’s just not easy so the same thing happens with writing website content. Obviously you know every website owners dream is to have Google following up with their site. So that requires certain technical elements to be there. But the way that people used to do that would be by just stuffing these things called keywords, all through out their content and it made it horrible for an actual human reader to come in there and read.
It was just awful. And now people are understanding that if you have a person who actually stumbles on to your site, and reads the last thing you want them to do is vomit from the horrible quality and skip up to something else because Google is not going to like that either. So there are ways that you can write and be engaging and conversational and still include those keywords, and the things that Google and the other search engines are looking for to make sure that your site is relevant to what you say it’s about.
Jason Hartman: Before we move on off that subject because I think it’s just so important. Can you give us any examples of that and may be putting on the spot asking, but an example of that would be great if we can get one.
Sue LaPointe: We will start with what the search engines wants to see. Some elements that that they want or every page that’s written should have like one basic theme, one keyword to it, and the keyword is basically what somebody sits down and types into Google when they go looking for information, so how to build a dog house just as a really basic example, so a web page should be how to build the dog house.
And that phrase should appear in certain places. They are out that page for Google to realize that yes this is absolutely what that page is about, and the reason for that is that the search engines are constantly trying to make sure that where they send people they are going to find a very relevant source for the information that they are looking for. So, if you weren’t looking for how do I build the dog house and Google sends you to something recipe for oatmeal cookies, you are going to say Google stinks, and they start to lose money if that happens a lot. So they want to make sure everything that they send people too it’s going to be relevant.
Jason Hartman: So its one keyword or key phrase per page?
Jason Hartman: That’s a good point.
Sue: If you want to have that be the primary, now you can have other things in there, obviously if you are talking about how to build the dog house, you are going to have other words that involve dogs and building plans and that type of stuff, but you want to really focus on just that one major primary keyword or [unintelligible 0:10:50] per page.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. And how many times can you use it? Some of this content that I have read like you mentioned it’s very hard for a human to read it because there is just stuffing; they are doing engaging in keyword stuffing. I mean that’s a phrase, and they are just saying dog houses, dog houses, dog houses, every sentence, and it just sounds stupid, right?
Sue: I compare it too. I don’t know if you remember in Forest [Cops 0:11:09] there was the guy that had the shrimp?
Jason Hartman: Right.
Sue: And everywhere the man said had something to do with shrimps, and I was just like aah, if I read something that has too many keywords then they are there, they always think of that. There is a term for that, and that’s called keyword density, and the people can figure that out is out of a 100 words on the page how many times does that keyword show up, and you really want to aim for no more than about 2%. A lot of times it used to be you know as people have worked with Google, and try to pull Google, and try to win Google’s affection, this guidelines changed constantly.
For a while people were saying hey, the more the better so you would have pages that had 10% keyword density and it was just unreadable. Now, if you aim for 1 to 2% its going to make it so that it the words are showing up often enough, but not so much that people are going ah, running the other way, and there is — its also a matter of where this keywords are, so for sure in the little blue bar that’s at the top of the screen when you are looking at a web page that’s the title tag and it needs to be in there, but a lot of people don’t know about that, and they will have completely irrelevant titles for their pages and that’s not helping them.
In the headline which we will be their first words that actually appear on the page it needs to go there. I also always try to make sure its in the first sentence of the actual text of the page, and then if you have you know to make a page readable and something that people with very short attention spans which is all of us on the internet to make sure that they are still engaged in reading, you want to make sure that you’ve got sub headlines, and those are bold, and kind of there is white space around it, and I put a keyword in there most of the time.
And then if you have any what’s called anchor text which should be the actual word somebody clicks on to get somewhere else. You want to make sure that what they are clicking as long as it’s referring to somewhere in your site is also a keyword there. So there is just certain places like that, and then I will kind of sprinkle it throughout to fit wherever it fits appropriately, but for sure in those strategic points that going to help to win a lot with Google.
Jason Hartman: Good point. Well, that’s so important nowadays so I am glad we covered that, and of course we don’t have time in the show to cover what makes good writing and so forth, so I wanted to move on to kind of some of the more business aspects if we could Sue. How does a writer find work?
You mentioned that commercial writing is the more lucrative side of the business. You don’t have to wait to be discovered. It’s not about getting on Oprah, it’s about having a cash flow that daily, or weekly, or monthly cash flow that supports people. How and where do they go to find work? Do they go to this various freelancer websites like Elance, Craig’s List? What are the best places?
Sue: That’s a fantastic question so there are online and offline ways that you can get this type of work. Online, you listed one of them that I love Elance, but actually I kind of have a love-hate relationship you know so it’s kind of like a Coke and Pepsi thing. Writers will either love Elance or hate it.
The one that I prefer is called guru.com. And it’s very similar. It’s just, it organizes itself a little bit differently, and I prefer the way that it kind of goes with that. For Elance, for a while they had open bidding, so you are constantly seeing what every other writer is bidding for a project and writers by and large way under charge for their services. They have a very hard time because if writing comes easy to you, its very hard to see that it has value to somebody else, so I have seen people like basically and I joke about they will write your whole book for a dollar or they will pay you to let you write you know for you to write their book.
Having an open bidding scenario like that makes it very hard to charge enough, so I prefer Guru with that. I know Elance has changed some things now, and I just haven’t been back in there, but Guru its blind bidding, so you will find projects where people are essentially lined up, waiting, looking for writers to write for them. And you find a project that looks good to you that you know you can do, and you submit a bid, and if they like your project proposal they will hire you to do it, and its just very cut and dry, super easy to work with.
You can use their escrow system and that way you are virtually guaranteed you are going to get paid. You can find a lot of projects on other sites like Craig’s List and you know Monster and just all over the internet you can find writing projects, but there is not that safety net of an organization in most cases, so you would have to for sure get a deposit, make sure that you are getting paid because it’s a little bit iffy with that.
Also with all these sites, I’ve had people who will say oh man, I bought a membership and all I am finding are these gigs for writing 500 word articles for a dollar and yes those are definitely on there, but I know for sure because I’ve for the first year or so of my business all I did was Guru and I was very quickly within six months I was making $5000 a month, and I was not writing for a dollar, so there are projects out there. You just have to kind of be selective, and stick to your guns because yeah they are definitely people out there who want to pay you a dollar, but there are people who would pay you 30, 40. I’ve gotten paid 200 and $300 for a 500 word article before.
Jason Hartman: Wow. Yeah that’s why the old days of PR really those kind of rates are so, so high I mean if you went to Burson-Marsteller one of the big PR firms 10 years ago, 15 years ago that’s what big companies were paying for new releases, and now its something like the internet and just the new world of business has really put a lot of downward pressure on those writing fees. Do you want to comment on that?
Sue: I think a lot of it too is that now we have access so you know worldwide access. If you go to the Philippines you can find English speaking writers where their skills are decent. You are not going to be like hiring somebody who is U.S. bad, and I have different levels of projects that I will hire. Some stuff comes from the Philippines, some I will need to have, somebody who is in the States for various reasons, but you can see there is a huge pricing differential, and a lot of the clients that are out there they really don’t care what the quality is of the writing.
They just want something that’s going to look kind of unique to Google meaning that hasn’t been plagiarized and they just need massive quantity, so they are looking for the cheapest possible commodity that they can buy. I stay very far away from that type of client because with that you have to have literally hundreds and hundreds of clients that is one time working constantly around the clock to even hope to make any sort of financial gain at all.
On the other hand there are clients out there who are really looking for quality and they understand that while they may be able and capable of writing their stuff its not the best use of their time, so they are looking for somebody who can really step in, write high quality stuff that’s going to represent them well, and still get this project done because otherwise its going to constantly stay on their backburner, and never get done.
Jason Hartman: I am sort of wondering if that mass type of writing. I’m wondering if that ever make sense for the business, for the client, the Philippines type writer that’s really inexpensive or does that sometimes work against them?
Sue: I have heard actually you know Google had get smarter and smarter each day so typically I tell clients look you can definitely find a way chapter writer. It will probably at some point come back to bite you though because Google is constantly looking for what people are doing when they are on their page, and you have garbage text that’s up there, and not to disparage the Philippines writers. I do have some that are good, but I am just saying like the junk stuff that tends to come out.
You know if the reader is on that page and its just absolute junk on the page, they are going to hop off, and Google is paying attention to that well, so quality that’s huge.
Jason Hartman: In other words Google is paying attention to the amount of time people spend on your pages and ranking your site accordingly that’s what you mean?
Jason Hartman: Yeah okay.
Sue: And the only way they are going to stay on a garbage page long enough is if they have some sort of fetish around correcting grammar.
Jason Hartman: I think that would be my mother, that my mother would be that.
Sue: It’s not because of good quality content.
Jason Hartman: Writers typically are kind of creative types, and they tend to I think less interested in the legal side of the business, and chapter three in your book is called the Legal Mumbo Jumbo. What do you need to know about the legal side of things as a writer?
Sue: Okay well, a couple of things you for sure you do not want to be writing under your own Social Security Number mostly because you are going to get really hit hard by taxes, so different states have different rules on this. You definitely need to talk to an attorney or an accountant or somebody who knows about these types of things.
I just kind of go into what the different models are that are out there. I myself my business has an LLC that’s important to have. You just want to make sure that however it is that you are protected both from liability I mean I don’t foresee anyway that anybody is ever suing a freelance writer, but you want to make sure that there is some element of protection separating you from your business, and then also financially you need to make sure because of taxes and all of that, so I could just kind of go into the different varieties of business entities like you said not anything that those writers are going to be interested, but Sole Proprietor versus a C-Corp or partnership or an S-Corp or an LLC that type of thing.
The other thing that’s important is you want to make sure that if there are any local rules that you have to follow like you are working from home, so if you have any sort of local, city community rules or licenses that you need to get you want to find about this so that you don’t find yourself in trouble.
Jason Hartman: Let me take a brief pause in just a moment.
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Jason Hartman: Our overreaching, over intrusive government is just everywhere you look nowadays, and in some cities there are rules against working out of the house. Is it just insanity what’s going on out there, but that’s a good point. Writers need to know about that. It’s a good point there anything more on the money side of the business. How do writers decide what to charge, what else do they need to know about money?
Sue: First of all you can almost guarantee whatever you think are going to charge that you are probably way under charging. Most of my colleagues still laugh at me because my price is being lower than what you know they are like I don’t even get up for this amount of you are writing a book for that. I mean there is a lot of way under charging that goes on, and like I alluded to you before.
If writing comes easy to you, it’s very hard to see the value in it because it seems like well, can everybody do this, so that’s been my growing edge constantly, and the perfect example it is the first sales letter that I wrote.
This is for an online product. It was five, seven pages long something like that. They called that a long copy sales letter. And the first one that I ever did I wasn’t sure I could do it. So, I thought well, I am going to just not charge that much so that, if it’s horrible they are not really mad at me.
So I charged like $60 and the client came back, and said this is fantastic. I am getting sales, and I am like oh wow. So the next one came along I thought I am going to be really bold. I will double my price. Actually I will more than double so a 125 for the next one, and same response. This was a great letter. It’s doing well, alright and I am doubling it again.
I mean it was just crazy. I think I — at one point I got up to a $500 for a sales letter and I thought I am crazy this is nuts. Nobody is going to pay this, and I still had a line of people. It turns out the ceiling on these things I haven’t even discovered. I have a colleague who write sales letters for 10,000 bucks a pop, and he said that that’s under charging, so I mean a lot of it you really kind of have to grow your confidence, find out what other writers are charging and then charge way more than you think you should be able to, and you will be able to eventually find out what’s the right pricing on this.
You wanted to be fair to the clients, but also because there is so much of yourself, and that’s your talent it’s all the stuff that you pour into writing you need to charge well, and all of these things like website content, press releases article, you are doing business to business. It’s not business to consumer, so there is a whole different thing. A client is actually investing by paying a writing fee. They will get a return on their investment, and you need to be aware of that because its not like you are selling, and they are just enjoying it for their own use. They are putting it to work to make money for them, and you should share in that.
Jason Hartman: Do writers ever do royalty deals or anything like that at this level I know they do it of course in the movie business and so forth and book publishing. But did they ever do at this level?
Sue: Well, I know some of the big names like Clayton Makepeace. I mean I know he is got to have deals like that going. If he writes something, and he is like a million dollar sales letter writer. I am sure that there are royalties, and commissions paid in that type of thing. At the level where I play no, we don’t do that. It gets way too complicated. It’s very hard to monitor.
You know if you have, all my clients are virtual almost all of them anyway. I never met them. There is no way that I can see how much did you make from this, and there is just not that level of transparency at all, so people don’t need to get involved in that, and I think if you approach a client okay we are going to profit share on this kind of thing, revenue share.
Jason Hartman: It’s too complicated.
Sue: We are going to probably go the other way. They really want to keep things simple. A big goal for clients is to have hassle removed from their life, and royalties I think would be a pretty big hassle for them.
Jason Hartman: Right. What about the technical side of the business?
Sue: Okay so with technical staff you got to get some skills that’s one thing for sure. You need to be able to handle you know that the software that’s involved. It’s not much, but I have actually had people say oh, you know I want to do this. I don’t have word. It’s like you can’t do this in a word. I am sure that you know with Mac users there, I know there are things that you can do that are equivalent, but everybody is going to be able to read.
You want to make sure that you are writing in a format that everybody can read, so if you are on a Mac make sure that you’ve got the conversion bridge whatever it is. I am on a PC; I am switching to a Mac the next time I buy [laughter]. You want to make sure that you are not delivering in some obscure formatted program that I mean it doesn’t seem like you shouldn’t even have to mention that but I have actually had people send stuff. I am like I can’t even open this. This is crazy so and so you make sure you’ve got the right equipment.
It really doesn’t take much either a basic laptop an internet connection that’s pretty much it. For other things though you have to look at your business as a business. You need to make sure that you are building systems into it so they are not constantly recreating from scratch so if you are going to do press releases for a client make sure that you have a questionnaire that you can send to them, so you can get all the information you need from them, and this way its not like you are coming back oh yeah I need to ask you about this or that, make it simple for them, make it simple for yourselves.
The best advice possible is to systematize everything you can for your business, and that doesn’t mean you are just cranking out template stuff. It just means that you have rails to run your business on rather than kind of free wheeling it over the dirt, so that’s a big part. Its making sure you got this templates built, questionnaires that you can do that type of thing.
Make sure that you’ve got a system for going and looking for work, so develop a proposal template that you can have, and actually I offer a proposal template as one of the bonuses that people buy my book online that’s one of the big things that I wanted to include because a lot of the time even if you have a membership with Guru or Elance to any of these things, you go to bid on the project that’s like oh, what do I say? How do I price this? What do I tell them that I am going to deliver? How do I phrase this? How do I tell them about my experience?
And a lot of your success is going to depend on whether you can communicate well with your client that it’s to their advantage to hire you so these are important things to build in. You need to have a kind of at least a mental price list in your head because every single day if you tell somebody you are a writer, and if once they understand what it is that you do, you are going to have questions about what do you charge for whatever. You don’t want to be going ah; ah you know I don’t know.
It doesn’t look professional and its going to be very hard to get business that way, so all these different little systems in place, the marketing system, the pricing system, how do I actually do this project type of system. These are very important to have. Some other little technical things because sometimes you are going to have clients ask you to sign a non-disclosure, non-compete type of thing, sign it. It’s not a problem.
I’ve had a lot of my clients that I had over the past years I seem to attract the same industries over and over, so a lot of personal development people. For a while I had several body builders, and you know I am a 43 year old housewife. This is hysterical. I am writing bodybuilding stuff, internet marketers, a lot of internet marketers, some of them are competitors or what do they call friendly, competitive, but they are friends, but I am working for all of them.
So, you have to have ways that you can really understand what a non-disclosure is, and be willing to sign it because a lot of people are not very competitive fields. They are not going to ask, but sometimes the better paying clients are going to be kind of at the top of their game. They want to make sure they — you are on their page. You are not going to taking their info, and selling it for your own use, so these are the basics of the technical stuff that you need to understand.
Jason Hartman: And is that what you mean when you say in and on your business developed systems, are you sort of referring to the E-myth concept there. I have Michael Gerber on the show so that’s what that looks like.
Sue: Oh yes definitely that was one of my favorite books ever, and its just really revolutionized it just to having that whole mindset of thinking of your business as if it were a franchise, and you owned a whole bunch of them. There is a lot of stuff you wouldn’t be doing. You know if you had a 100 of these things, and for some reason just having one people kind of lose sight of that spend a lot of times spinning their wheels when they don’t need to.
They just systematize this thing and move on. Another great resource for that is Sam Carpenter’s Work the System that’s really, really helpful as well, so between the two of those you can, people can really learn a lot about systematizing and working on the business, and not just in it.
Jason Hartman: Anything else that writers can do to earn money with words?
Sue: Oh definitely. It’s incredible because I stumble on to stuff all the time. People are doing editing. You can do book indexing. You can do just different types of writing. There is all these different specialties. When I first got started, and I thought well, if I have a specialty I know I will make more money, but I don’t know enough about anything in particular.
It would really be a specialist or I would be doing that thing you know. For accounting I would be an accountant to just whatever area of specialization and it hit me that actually its more or like you have opportunities to specialize at different skills, so I have writers who just do whitepapers. I have one who pretty much all she does is press releases. Another guy does blogs that type of thing where so much you know the actual information you are conveying it will vary, but it’s all roughly about the same from different industries.
You know the particulars are different, but the style of that writing is where the specialty comes in, and that’s really important to come up with is ultimately new writers will not have this. They are just going to take whatever projects are going to come here way at first, but after a while you are going to find that you are really good at certain things, and they are fast, and they are lucrative, and that’s probably where you want to spend the bulk of your time writing on those types of things.
Jason Hartman: How can writers grow their business just any other tips on that kind of thing?
Sue: Well, other thing is that I mentioned briefly that you can grow it also by offline, finding offline clients.
Jason Hartman: Right we talked about Guru and Elance, and so forth, but just in the simple good old fashioned offline world.
Sue: Yeah it’s amazing. When I first started doing this, I would go to Chamber of Commerce type of things or networking launches, and I didn’t even know really how to explain what I was doing and you know I am a writer, and people would say oh what do you, you know what book and I am like no, or this thing you are commercial writer or like which commercial did you write?
No, that’s really not it either, or its just very hard to kind of get a handle on what it is that would appeal to them that they would understand what the heck I am doing, so what I would say. After a while is I write the things that help you get seen online, so that your business will be the first one that pops up, and you will be all over that front page on Google, and they really start to get that.
They understand that that’s just not an automatic thing you build a website you are going to be at the top of the list, so if you can convey the benefit to them where they really are going to understand what it is you can do for them its huge. I have had times where I have gone to networking luncheons and left with two inches, stack of cards people think please call me, I need you that type of thing, and that’s really kind of rewarding to do, that’s a fantastic way to grow your business more.
Writers, I have probably 50-50 introvert, extrovert so for some people the idea of going to a networking lunch they would rather just have all their teeth pulled or something rather than do that. Its still worth it to go in practices with peoples skills and get out and about now and then, so I still, you know so I would shove them out on the nest and say please do this and try, and you will get better, and it will get easier, but that’s a huge untapped market with your local people because they don’t know about Guru and Elance and all that.
You will never find them there. But I had a wonderful success working with local type clients like that. information marketing is a fantastic avenue for a lot of writers to start making more or like residual type income, and it can take a while you can hear all kinds of different internet marketer, information marketer gurus, and a lot of the sales pitch is sound like do this now, and tomorrow you will be making a million dollars a month, and its not the case.
It is definitely not get rich quick. It’s definitely not a four hour work week. As much as I love [unintelligible 0:32:42] and I love that book. I am certainly no way near a four hour work week, but you can definitely if you have a passion about anything start building an information marketing business around that now because that will take a while to build, and it’s a great way to highlight your writing skills, to write about something that you really care about and all along you can do this along side your actual writing business.
Jason Hartman: How do writers deal with the mental game?
Sue: You are talking about writer’s block?
Jason Hartman: Yeah writer’s block, overcoming inertia, getting lazy, working out of the house, writers tend to many times be sort of laid back kind of group then sometimes they are kind of waiting for stuff to come to them, and you’ve talked about proactive steps people need to take now. What if they get work, and they just can’t churn it out?
Sue: Alright this is not a lazy person business, so for that type of writing I think you need to do like regular normal writer text. If you are going to do commercial writing it is fast paced, and you are always working as far as you are doing something.
It might be that you are learning more about SEO writing or copywriting or something you are learning that could be constant. You are also marketing all the time because until you reach the point where and its actually at this point for me I’ve got so many regular or monthly customers that I don’t have to do a ton of marketing, but I have been doing this now since 2006, so before I am on my fifth year, so marketing, learning, building up your portfolio, you are pursuing work, you are actually doing work, you are handling, billing, which I hate doing that type of thing its constant.
We are always working on something. It’s not going to work if you don’t have that drive. You absolutely need to have some entrepreneurial spirit in here to do this. Now, I have writers on my teams who don’t do any of that, other stuff. I mean they are learning, and they work on stuff, but they are not building a portfolio. They are marketing their businesses and they know I am feeding them work all the time and I take a cut on it all the time and they know they could make a lot more money probably if they were out on their own.
It’s just not worth it to them to develop the systems for whatever reasons. So, great for you if you can find if you don’t want to do any of that business building type stuff, but you will have to find some way to do it, you know to find somebody who is going to feed you work at that point, and understand you wanted nearly what you could make, and if you are out on your own.
Jason Hartman: Anymore tips so on the writer’s blog component of it?
Sue: Sure oh, yeah okay here is a couple of great things. Writer’s blog in particular I think its probably pretty much caused by this thing that I like refer to as your internal editor.
Jason Hartman: The internal editor.
Sue: You know I hate this all the time like if I am working on a project that’s kind of hard for me on writing and um, and deleting and its ooh, aah, its just painful and horrible, and I am like why I hate my life you know all this kind of things. What happens is that there is little voice inside the brain is going. You know that’s not good enough.
You should have phrased it differently all this kind of chatter so you have to have a way that you can shut this thing up, and duct tape it. Duct tape over the mouth of the internal editor. There are two ways that I recommend for people to do that, and they sound both. Both of them are kind of weird, but one is to write with your eyes closed. Obviously, you got to line your fingers on the keyboard first, and then close your eyes, and just writing because here is what happened.
As you bring I only remember may be the last several words that you wrote. And it can’t correct fast enough, so you can type a lot faster. You can’t see they are evaluating constantly. Obviously you are going to have to edit probably you are going to hit a lot of wrong keys and that type of thing, but you can generate it, generate the content, and then go back and edit, and that’s going to hugely cut down your overall time. The other thing that I tell people to do is to I love the software and people either love it, or hate it, but it’s called Dragon Naturally Speaking. And have you heard of that?
Jason Hartman: I have tried it. I still liked it, and I must disclose. I still like to type better even though I dropped out of typing class in eight grade because I was a real elitist snob idiot thinking that typing was for secretaries.
Sue: I love it.
Jason Hartman: I am going to admit that on the show here. And that was a huge mistake and the richest man in the world Bill Gates is probably a very fast typist so.
Sue: I would think yeah. I would think so. That’s hysterical. I know you know I look back at my — I think I had to typing in junior year and high school and I look at back going wow, I had no idea. The skill is going to be so pivotal in my life.
Jason Hartman: May be there, but I tried Dragon and first of all I get kind of tired of talking to tell you the truth. I like just not talking which few people in my staff would probably believe, but I would just tell you that, but yeah it’s just — I don’t know. I don’t think that voice recognition technology is really there yet I mean.
Sue: It takes a lot of training that you know I have lived all over the country, and Dragon often cannot figure out what the heck kind of accent I have. I don’t know what kind of. You know I have lived everywhere so I don’t know. And I think if you have a very distinctive accent it does better, but you can train it as you go, and it does get smarter.
What I do love about it, and I love this statistics is that I think it’s something like people can listen at a rate of about 1800 words a minute which is just crazy fast. We can speak at probably I don’t know I think the statistic was a 1000 words a minute. And that’s you know may be women’s more than men, you know may be it’s because I lived in New Jersey for so long so that I can talk really fast.
Now I can type pretty fast because I did well in that class. May be 80-90 words a minute, and that’s pretty good for a typist but if you add in the fact of writing or thinking about something as you are writing so you know you are still kind of forming this thing as you write, then you go way down to may be 30-40 words a minute. It’s like kind of a screeching halt. The topics that I know well I really prefer if I can just dictate it. And then you know and have Dragon come out with it, and even adding in all the time we are have to go what did I say that I know I did not say that, and editing for that even with that time builds in it’s way faster.
Jason Hartman: Really that’s an interesting point that you bring up so that eliminates writers blog is the fact that you can just speak it but what about all the mistakes, and the correction I mean. I don’t know. May be I need to try it again but I —
Sue: Yeah it’s 10 times easier to edit then it is to create, so that’s yeah I mean you are going to have that no matter what. Even if you are writing, I mean if you are writing so that it’s perfect. The first time go around its going to take you forever anyway. So you have to go back and edit most of the time. I mean there is certain types of things where you don’t really have to because it’s not prone to lots of mistakes but yeah it’s —
Jason Hartman: Well that’s good point. So Dragon okay, what else for writers blog, just to lay and let’s kind of wrap up, but this writers blog thing is a big deal. So any tips you have will be very much appreciated.
Sue: Yeah, well the other thing that I do, this is — it’s a little bit like Dragon but you can call into something like freeconferencecalling.com, any site where you can record your voice. And this is where I use Filipino transcribers are phenomenal, and they are really, really cheap. To hire a transcriber in the states it’s going to cost you know $60 to $90 per audio hour.
Jason Hartman: It’s interesting you say that we have pay a $1.25 a minute to transcribe my shows. How much in the Philippines by the way?
Sue: That’s expensive. It is very expensive. I have transcribers in the Philippines where an hour of audio it’s like $30, $20.
Jason Hartman: And they are good?
Sue: Oh they are phenomenal.
Jason Hartman: That’s great.
Sue: It’s fantastic, so it does you know I mean if you are doing a books for somebody or more that’s for just an average person not so much for a writer. If you are a writer you got push pass the writer’s blog. Basically I would say do the Dragon or do the writing with your eyes shut. If you are not a writer and you still have to produce content, I would say for sure. Write it, I mean speak it, get it recorded, and get it transcribed. And then you can hand it off to somebody who would edit so it doesn’t look like a transcription.
Jason Hartman: That’s a great tip. Isn’t it so different though the way we speak versus the way we write?
Sue: Yes and no. That’s again where writing for the internet comes in because people — I mean really we have the attention span of a two year old popped up on jolt or something. We don’t want to sit and wade through. I mean I have had writers submit stuff or I’m looking at their samples, and I’m just looking at it going, oh this is too much work to get through.
I have gone through college, I had grad school, I read all the time. It’s not like I can’t read. It’s just if it’s too much work I don’t want to do it, so if a writer is like that I think the average person looking online conversational style writing is hugely successful. Unless you are writing for you know financial industry or something that’s kind of stuffy like that. And even then sometimes a lot of their content is just coming down a few notches. The most successful content online is that written at the fifth to eight grade writing level, or reading level.
Jason Hartman: Wow, that’s — it’s amazing.
Sue: Yeah, so there is slang, there is — I started tons of sentences with and or but. I mean my English professors would probably ring my neck if I saw some of the stuff that we produced, but that’s how people read, and that’s what’s working, so it’s a little bit different.
Jason Hartman: Very, very good point, very interesting. Well, Sue this is really been a great show. You have provided so much content, but there is always more. And tell our listeners where people can get the book, where they can find out more about your courses, and if it’s anything like the content you’ve provided today I have got highly recommend your work to listeners.
Sue: Well thanks Jason. The best way that they can find me online is to go to stayathomewriter.com. You know you can spell it out or you can go to sahmwriter.com. That is where you can find the actual books or how you can build the writing business from absolutely nothing because I started with absolutely nothing. No paid experience, no clients, no anything, no portfolio, nothing, and that’s where I can take you from nothing to having clients.
What I found is that a lot of students after they have figured out how they can get clients now they are little bit stuck because they don’t know have to actually do the work. So I setup a thing called freelance writers boot camp. And you can actually go to freelancewritersbootcamp.com. And that teaches the six basic most common very well paid projects that writers run into. Anyone of those you could build an entire business around. And I go into how to find clients that want that specific type of project.
What I charge, what I recommend charging, how you can communicate with them, how to actually write the project so that people can go out, and find this work with full confidence if they can actually do the project. Otherwise it’s kind of like you are driving with one foot on the gas, and one foot on the brake because you are not sure you can actually handle speed. Those two together are really good.
And I have seen, you know I got thank you note from almost every week from writers who have built from nothing, and that used to be a — I thought I was just going to be I will stay at home mom, but I would say half of my buyers at this point are men who either got down sized or got sick of having a boss and wanted to do something on their own, and had writing talent. I had one college kid actually who emailed me he has made like 2, $3000 now since doing this, and he is going to school still, its just incredible, so I love that, so if you do start building a writing business, and if I helped you please do let me know because that’s exciting for me to hear back.
Jason Hartman: Well, Sue LaPointe thank you so much for joining us today. The book is Working Writer Happy Writer, how to build a thriving writing business from nothing, and we really appreciate the insights today.
Sue: You are so welcome. It is my pleasure.
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The Speaking of Wealth Team
Transcribed by Renee