Make it Work. every day.

Being a work at home freelancer has its perks and challenges. In this post, successful entrepreneur Lezleelliott discusses how she stayed focused the last 5 years.

lezleelliott

This week I celebrate 4 YEARS of being in business for myself!

Starting out on this new adventure, which was literally sitting down in a Chili’s with two friends (Amy & Brooke) and going through ideas and thoughts on what to develop as an initial portfolio, I gave myself 5 years.

In 5 years if I have gotten no where, no interest, and not moved forward, then I know I gave it my best shot. I would feel confident that it would be time to find a new direction.

I’m four years in… and I’m happy to say, I’m doing amazing things. I think it’s safe to say that this will be a life long love affair. I don’t call it a job, or a career, because it’s my passion. I l.o.v.e. what I do, and I feel privileged to say that because there are many that cannot. I’m beyond thankful for the support…

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How My Time As A Model Made Me A Better Freelance Writer

It may not be apparent how working as a freelance model can be similar to working as a freelance writer, but there are definitely some things in common. In my experience, my short time as a freelance model was just one of many jumps, along my varied yet focused path.

From a young age, my family always encouraged me to do something big. For me that meant being a doctor or a lawyer. As I mentioned before, I’m a writer, so I’m not that good with words, so ‘lawyer-ing’ was never in my vocabulary.

But I could see myself being a doctor – not one of the run-of- the-mill, regular old doctors either- I wanted to be a D.O. No one in my family or community had any idea what a D.O. was, and for me that was just perfect. I went to college among the smartest pre-med students in the country. My first roommate is currently a brain surgeon. .. but my first C in a college chemistry course made me reconsider why I was becoming a doctor. After a few degree changes, I ended up in journalism school, but graduated with a degree in cultural studies. Why I did not start there in the first place is beyond me, but the journey was fun.

As I tried to figure out what I was going to do with my degree, I started taking any jobs that I could find. After working for technology industry leaders, I decided I needed to go into business for myself. I had no capital to invest in a product business, so I had to base one on a skill. One skill I was surprised to learn I could sell was modeling.

There are many qualities needed for freelance modeling, which most people don’t realize. There is a reason most models work through agencies- it’s because freelancing is really difficult! In my short time working as a freelance model, I learned a lot of things about life, and even more about being in business. The majority of it I have carried on to my life a freelance copywriter. Here are some of the highlights:

  • You can never actually guess what the photographer wants to capture. You can either do a test shoot, collaborate on ideas before hand, or just show up and hope they like what they get
  • There is a lot of hurry up and wait. Show up ready to shoot, but don’t expect anything to happen on your time
  • Getting paid is great, but not guaranteed, do whatever it takes to ensure you get your money
  • Showing up un-prepared, late, or with a bad attitude will guarantee that the client will not work with you again
  • The photos are not yours, unless the client says they are…
  • If you send photos of a 110 pound you with blonde hair, don’t show up as a 140 pound redhead.
  • Make nice with the other models, they may refer you work.

While writing is definitely not as glamorous as modeling, (no one serves mimosas to their writers… and if there are clients that do, CONTACT ME), there are a lot of parallels that I have been able to incorporate into my work ethic:

  1. Be a thoughtful writer – figure out the project before you start
  2. Actively look for work, submit pitches and/or bids
  3. Figure out suitable payment arrangements before you begin work
  4. The client doesn’t care about your excuses, make the deadline
  5. Ghostwriting means your name is not there. No exceptions
  6. Always provide the client with relevant examples of your work
  7. Network

See, I wasn’t just sitting around playing dress-up all day.

 

Today’s Internet Writing, AKA Scribble

As a professional writer it is hard to find work at a place where everyone works for free, but somehow people like myself manage to scrape out a living. For me, the Internet is a huge dynamic book, almost like a yearbook. There are pictures, some information, and the area in the back where people scribble their messages.

When I was in highschool, my friends would turn straight to the back of the book so that they could write their funny message or sketch out a picture. I was always the weird one who insisted on reading the few pages that had words on them. Years later, when I went back through my yearbook, I was amused by the messages left by classmates, but found greater value on the other pages. I already knew Jessica said she would “love me like a sister always” and even then I knew it was a lie.

The Internet is like my highschool yearbook- full of ridiculous, over-glorifying, and in the greater scheme of things, irrelevant writing. I mean, yes it’s entertaining, but at what point do you stop looking at it for useful information?

While even I will ‘scribble’ some writing on a friend’s Facebook page, I consider it just that. The problem is; many website owners have mistaken scribble for writing. They then wonder why people do not buy their products.

Scribble has its place, and that typically is in the back of the yearbook after all of the important stuff.

Unfortunately, the Internet and those adding content to it are attempting to mark the entire book. Everyone who posts anything online has to decide what type of content they want to make. Useful content, or entertaining content. (Or even the Holy Grail- both!) Professional online writers have to compete against scribble for the attention of online viewers.

Is it frustrating? Sometimes.

I try to make myself feel better about it by reminding myself, ‘Hey, at least they’re writing’.

 

I’m a Writer, So I’m Not Very Good with Words!

In another life, I worked in technical support, a job that is highly dependent on getting people to explain their problems. One day, I was assisting an older lady who was having a difficult time explaining what was going on with her device. After rambling on about everything but the problem, she said in an exasperated sigh:

I’m sorry I’m so verbose. I’m a writer, so I’m not very good with my words when it comes to talking.

Unfortunately that is the problem with many of us writers. We are so in love with the sight of our own words, that we struggle when having to do so face to face. I say this from personal experience. Although I’ve got years of  face-to-face and phone sales experience, I am much more comfortable (and logical) behind my pen.

The truth of the matter is writers frequently struggle with the right words. Just because someone writes doesn’t mean they are excellent communicators!  Additionally, if it is not something that the writer is personally comfortable with, the message may become convoluted- just like with the lady I was trying to assist. A skilled copywriter will not only know how to use words (writer), they will also know what words to say (the copy part).

Companies that hire professional writers must be aware that there is a difference between someone who writes and someone who writes sales copy. Writing is a creative skill. It is the ability to create or take an idea and artistically express it with the written word. It does not require any specific knowledge per se, but having a toolkit of good grammar and vocabulary does help. Writing is an art that can be mastered. The world needs writers to express those things that cannot be said, but we also need to recognize what they are and what they are not.

Every writer is not a salesperson, just like every salesperson is not a writer.

So why do so many companies, hire writers to handle their sales writing? Wouldn’t you think it would make more sense to use someone that understands how to close a deal if you want them to close your deal? Hiring a writer with some type of knowledge of your message seems to be just logical.

But apparently it is not. Our data-analytic driven society believes that keywords can take the place of quality written compelling copy.  They have shown that people, just like web crawlers, scan for the important information and don’t bother to read the in-between.  To give you an example of how that looks I will rewrite this post in that format.

Writing is a skill that depends on creativity, passion and knowledge. For the best sales-copy hire a knowledgeable sales copywriter.

That isn’t writing, it’s professional Mad-Libs.

Which by the way was my favorite past-time as a kid.