The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Taking a Break

March 2014 was probably the most hectic month I’ve had business-wise. Between multiple client projects and the launch of Be a Freelance Writer, I was–as a good friend described–“crazy busy.”


Not that I’m complaining of course. As you know, I LOVE what I do. I’m passionate about my work, my clients, and more importantly, the readers of BeaFreelanceWriter.com. I considered being busy a huge blessing.


However, I also knew that I needed a break. So last month, after capping up a hectic Monday to Saturday workweek, I woke up Sunday morning and resolved to do absolutely nothing. I stayed home, had pizza delivered, and binged-watch re-runs of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.


I told myself that I would do only mindless stuff that day, and I would wake up on Monday all refreshed and ready to work.


Except it completely backfired.


Come Monday morning I woke up with a headache from watching too much TV and staying up late, and took it 30 minutes of jogging and 3 cups of coffee to fully turn on “work mode”.


So what went wrong? Shouldn’t taking a break from it all be a good thing?


Answer: Yes, unwinding is a MUST. But looking back at my actions that week, I realized that there are wrong ways to take a break. I’ve identified the mistakes I made and listed them below. Can you relate?


1. Not taking a break sooner – I worked for six straight days so by the end of it all, my body couldn’t muster up the energy to do anything else.


What to do instead: Don’t make the same mistake. Instead of pushing yourself to work non-stop, opt to have short frequent breaks in between. For instance, instead of doing client work from Monday to Friday, devote a day (or even half day) somewhere in between to do errands or have some “you” time.


2. Being a lazy couch potato – Mistake #2 was opting to spend the day mindlessly staring at the TV. I didn’t even bring myself to cook or go out to buy food.


What to do instead: Look, I’m not saying don’t watch TV or don’t do nothing ever, but try to avoid being idle for too long. Consider doing something else in between couch time. Maybe read a book. Or go outside. Or simply spend time with your loved ones. (Which was exactly what I did the following week.)


Here’s another reason why taking a mindless break for a long period of time is a bad idea: As writers, part of our job is to get creative and come up with new topics. And in my experience, an idle mind isn’t a good breeding ground for inspiration or creativity.  Cooking up great ideas comes from thinking and experiencing new things– and you can’t really do that if you’re sitting mindlessly on the couch.


Over to you


But then again, perhaps that’s just me. Every person’s break and productivity patterns are different so my advice may not necessarily apply to you.


That said, do you agree that (extended) mindless breaks are bad for writers? And do you have tips when it comes to taking breaks? Let me know in the comments below.



3 Assumptions That are Killing Your Freelance Writing Career

Making assumptions—that is, formulating beliefs without solid evidence—can lead to trouble. Just ask the investor who put his money in the wrong place because he didn’t do enough due diligence, or the hiring manager who accepted the wrong applicant because she didn’t check their references.


Freelance writers are no different. When you make the wrong assumptions in this business, you risk missing out on great clients and gigs.  In this post, we’ll be discussing the the top writer assumptions that could be costing you some sweet revenue opportunities.


Check them out below. Are you making any of these assumptions in your freelance writing business?


1. “I’m no expert.”

Erase this statement from your vocabulary. Remember, whoever you are and whatever your background is, you are most likely an expert at something. Do a bit of self-exploration and ask yourself the following questions:


- What are you good at / interested in?

- What are your hobbies?

- What did you study in school?

- What types of jobs did you have?


You’ll likely find your expertise in the answers to the above. And whatever it is—whether it’s astrophysics, gardening, tattoos, or music—there’s someone out there looking for a writer to cover that particular topic.


Still don’t feel like an expert? Read this post on Be a Freelance Blogger to find out the steps you can take to up your level of expertise.


2. “This company isn’t looking for a writer.”

And how do you know that? Did you even ask them?


Look, you won’t know for sure whether or not a company is hiring unless you approach them and ask. Just because a business isn’t posting job ads for writers doesn’t mean they’re not looking.


In fact, one of the most common things I hear whenever I approach a prospect is “Thanks for contacting us! We’ve been meaning to add a blog / do content marketing / update our website / [insert content job here] for quite some time now.”


Don’t assume that a business doesn’t need a writer. They almost always do (even if they don’t know it yet). So touch base with them and offer your services.


3. “The prospect didn’t respond so they’re probably not interested.”

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I can’t even count the number of times that I landed a client just because I took the time to follow-up.


People are busy. They’re bombarded with emails. So there’s a good chance that they missed your message or they meant to respond but didn’t get to do it right away. Don’t miss the opportunity to seal the deal with these people. Send them a follow-up email after a week or two. Or try reaching them through other channels such as Twitter or LinkedIn.


And if they still don’t respond? That’s okay, at least you know you did everything you can to reach a prospect. Let it go and move on to the next one.


(Note: if you REALLY want to work with this particular client, keep their contact info and re-connect in a couple of months. Also try looking for a different point-of-contact and pitch that person instead.)


Have you made any of these assumptions? Can you name other writer assumptions that are costing them clients and opportunities? Comment below.


How to Land a Client in 10 Days

Welcome to BeaFreelanceWriter.com!

If you’re completely new here, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Francesca Nicasio, I’m a writer for various Internet companies, but I’m also a cheerleader for aspiring freelance writers everywhere.

To celebrate the launch of this site, I’m giving away a free eBook called How to Land a Client in 10 Days. Consider it a handy guide to finding prospects and turning them into paying clients. The book details the steps that I took to land a handful of writing gigs in a week and a half. It’ll offer instructions and insights into various client-hunting strategies that you can put into action immediately.

Not only that, but I also I invited other incredible freelance writers to share their favorite client-hunting strategies.

Interested? Enter your email address below:

Special Thanks

A huge thank you to these writers for contributing to my book:

Sophie Lizard - Be a Freelance Blogger

Dana Sitar – DIY Writing

Valerie Bordeau - Freelance Writers Academy

Bamidele Onibalusi - Writers in Charge

Williesha Morris – My Freelance Life

Yuwanda Black - Inkwell Editorial

Jennifer Mattern - All Indie Writers

Lauren Tharp - LittleZotz Writing

Tom Ewer - Leaving Work Behind 

And last but not least, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to you. Yes, YOU. Whether you’ve been a subscriber from the beginning, or you got lost and just happened to stumble upon this site, I TOTALLY appreciate you being here, and I hope you stick around. :)

Cheers and happy writing!

- Francesca


3 reasons why you can’t write (and what to do about them)

I wish I could say that I’m the perfect freelancer who’s always in the mood to write and who can produce top-notch articles on cue. But I’m far from being that. There are times when I sit in front of the computer, ready to type up an article, but nothing comes up. Then there are instances when I can’t seem to come up with anything good. Every sentence I write sucks, so I end up deleting everything and starting from scratch.


Fortunately, I don’t get stuck in these instances that often anymore. Over the years, I’ve identified the things that hinder me from getting some writing done and I’ve found ways to overcome them.


Here are my top reasons for not being able to write. Check them out and see which ones apply to you:


1. Fear - I have the tendency to procrastinate on projects that intimidate me. For instance, if I land a gig that’s bigger than what I’m used to, my fear of not being good enough rears its head and paralyzes me. Kind of like how I’m scared of approaching spiders, I also get scared of tackling big projects.


The fix: There’s no way *around* fear. You just have to charge on through. How? You can remind yourself of how awesome you are. For instance, if you’re procrastinating on a project for a huge client, remind yourself that they already hired you, and they wouldn’t do so if they didn’t think you were good enough.


The consequences of not taking action can also motivate you to write. In my case, I remind myself that I’ll lose the client if I don’t complete the project. And that fear of letting the client down pushes me to get going.


2. You’re trying to perfect your first draft - Nothing you write seems to be good enough, so you end up starting over and rewriting your work again and again. Or, you can’t come up with the perfect introduction so you’re stuck staring at a blank page.


The fix: Just write something. Anything. Don’t know how to begin your article? Then start with the body or even the conclusion, if you know how your post will end.


Write continuously WITHOUT editing. Even if your words suck or even if they don’t make any sense, keep at it and DON’T hit the backspace button. Just let your ideas flow until you come up with a rough draft. Once you’re done, leave it for a day or two, then go back to it with your editor’s cap on to sort, delete, and rearrange the sentences until you come up with a polished piece.


3. You’re physically not in the condition to write - Writing blocks aren’t all psychological. Sometimes, you’re too hungry to focus. Or, you didn’t get enough sleep so you’re having a hard time concentrating. Maybe it’s too hot, cold, or dark so you can’t bring yourself to write.


The fix: Put your body in a condition and environment that’s conducive to writing. If you’re sleepy, take a power nap. If it’s too hot or cold inside your room, write somewhere else. If your stomach’s churning, eat something. (I recommend something healthy and light like fruits and veggies. Stay away from red meat because that can leave you feeling sluggish.)


Your turn. Can you relate to any of these reasons? What other factors are stopping you from writing? Comment below!


Image: “Writer’s Block I” by Drew Coffman on Flickr


What to do when you don’t hear back from clients or prospects…

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while then you know that I love telling people to put themselves out there. For instance, if you ask me what’s the best way to find clients, I’ll say that you need to approach companies yourself and pitch your services. Or, if you’re looking to build your portfolio, I’ll tell you that you have to proactively approach blogs and pitch them your guest post ideas.


But what if you’ve already done all that and you’re still not getting the responses that you want? Or worse, what if you’re not getting any responses at all?


If that’s the case, here are a few suggestions on what you can do:


1. Recognize that it may not be about you

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes people don’t respond because they’re busy or they missed your message. Recognize this possibility before you tell yourself that you suck.


Instead, keep calm and follow-up after a week or two.


A quick tip about following-up by the way: Don’t do it in a confrontational manner. Don’t say stuff like “I SENT YOU AN EMAIL AND YOU DIDN’T RESPOND. WHAT’S UP?!?!”


Instead, be polite, and say something like “Hi, I emailed you last week, but didn’t hear back. I just want to send a friendly reminder that… {your message}”



2. See if there’s anything wrong with your approach

Let’s say you already followed-up or you sent tons of emails but you’re still not seeing results. The next thing you should do is to go back to your messages and see if you’re doing anything wrong.


Some of the common mistakes that writers make when pitching include:


a. Typos- This may sound basic, but it happens a lot. I write all the time, and I’m not immune to typographical errors. So go back to you work and read it again. It would also help to have someone else read it and make sure that it’s error-free.


b. Self-centered – Your message shouldn’t be all about you and YOUR interests. Remember that people reading your emails are asking the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Your email should be able to answer that.


c. You didn’t personalize your message – Canned messages are a turn-off, so just don’t send them. Personalize your emails. Your messages must contain the name of the person or company that you’re reaching out to and they should include things that are specifically about them.


3. Make sure you’re reaching out to the right people

Sometimes you’re not getting a response because your message didn’t make it to the right person.


Sending your email to a general mailbox like info@example.com should be your last resort. Always try to find the right individual to contact.


If it’s a small business, then it’s usually the owner that you should reach out to. If you’re emailing a bigger company, find someone in the marketing department or maybe someone in the PR or content team.


You can also check the site’s FAQ page. Sometimes they include a section that tells you the best way to get in touch, and you may find the contact info that you’re looking for there.


If you’re reaching out for a guest posting opportunity, read the blog’s guidelines. Some blogs have a separate email for guest posts, so make sure you’re sending your message to the right mailbox.



What do you do when prospects don’t respond to your messages? Comment below.


Image: “Silence” by Sean MacEntee on Flickr


5 things you can do today to make 2014 your best year ever

How’s 2014 treating you so far?


I know that for a lot of people, January isn’t the biggest month for work or productivity. This time of the year has earned the nickname “January doldrums” because it’s usually a period when sales slow down and people are generally inactive.


If you’re experiencing your own January doldrums in your freelance writing endeavors, here are a few activities that will not only make you feel more empowered, but spur you into action:


1. Put your goals down on paper

- I mean that literally. Take out a piece of paper then write down the things you want to achieve this year.


Make your goals specific. For instance, instead of saying that you will make more money writing, put down some exact amounts. This practice forces you to be more concrete with what you wish to accomplish and it oils the cogs in your brain to move and come up with solutions.


Research has shown that in addition to making you feel more confident and energetic, writing down your goals can actually increase your chances of reaching them.


Want to take things a step further? Take a good look at the goals in front of you and write down how you can achieve them. Create a plan than would guide you towards your aspirations. In doing so, you may find that your goals aren’t just doable, but you’re closer to achieving them than you think.


2. Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself

For the uninitiated, SWOT stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.


Conducting a SWOT analysis will enable you to identify the things you have going for you (so you can invest in them) and the threats or problems both within and around you (so you can either avoid or fix them).


3. Connect with other writers

I give this advice a lot (in fact you’ve probably gotten it from me already) but it’s only because I’ve found that surrounding yourself with like-minded people has a TON of benefits including:


- Being able to connect with individuals who know exactly what you’re going through

- Having an outlet for any rants or questions you might have

- Getting access to networking or even job opportunities


As far as which communities to join, I’d like to suggest the following:


Be a Freelance Blogger Community


Freelance Writers Academy


Absolute Write Forum


The Freelance Writer’s Den (The Den is currently closed to new members, but you can get on the waiting list by signing up with your email. Also note that a Den membership costs a monthly fee.)


4. Make your business official

Serious about building a freelance writing business? Show the world (and yourself) by taking some official steps towards setting it up. For instance, you can apply for a DBA or LLC, create your website, or hand out some business cards.


I did all three when I first established my company and they really helped me solidify my business and my commitment.


In case you need suggestions on how to get the ball rolling with these steps, below are the services that I used in my business:

LegalZoom for my DBA

BlueHost for my website

VistaPrint for my business cards.


5. Publicly commit to your goals

I’m a big fan of public accountability. I think shouting your goals from the rooftops pushes you to hustle. When you want to achieve something, give people your word that you’re going to do it. The fear of appearing like a flake or letting others down should be enough to motivate you to take action.


In fact, I’m such a fan of publicly committing to goals that I’m going to do it right now: I’m currently writing another ebook entitled How to Land a Client in 10 Days, and it offers an account of how I was able to find half a dozen new clients in just a week and a half. I’ll be launching it in March of this year, around the same time when my blog goes live, so keep an eye out.


What if you’re not good enough?

I have yet to meet a writer who’s never asked the “good enough” question.


“Am I good enough to be a professional writer?”


“Am I good enough to charge *that* much?”


“Am I good enough to land that client?”


And while I’m usually very encouraging and I tell people not to underestimate their abilities, there are times when reality speaks for itself.


I went through that experience not so long ago, when a client told me that my work didn’t meet their standards. That’s not exactly the news that a writer wants to hear, but I took their feedback and used it to step up my game.


Watch the video below to find out what happened and what  steps  I took to level up and become the writer that my client needed me to be.


I hope you like it. I might create more videos in the future, depending on the feedback I receive from this one, so if you have any comments be sure to let me know. Reply to this email and send me your thoughts!


Thanks for reading (and watching). Talk to you soon!



Ethics, ethics, ethics

In your freelance writing career, you’ll likely encounter clients that are simply not worth it. I’m not just talking about businesses that pay peanuts for what should be a $100 article (although there are a lot of those too…), I’m referring to shady companies that want you to compromise your values for a quick buck.


Let me give you a couple of examples:


Writing fake reviews / testimonials - Last year, a company approached me to re-write their homepage. The job seemed pretty standard at first. They showed me the site’s design, the amount of content they needed, and what they wanted to talk about.


Our conversation was going fine until they told me, “Oh by the way, we want to include some testimonials at the bottom of the page, so if you could write those, that would be great.”


“Um, do you need me to interview some of your existing customers?” I asked.


“You can just make stuff up.”


“Yeah, I don’t do that.”


I ended up turning down the job. It wasn’t worth it.


I also get tons of emails from companies that want me to write fake Yelp reviews, positive comments and whatnot. I don’t even bother responding to these messages.


My next example isn’t as blatantly dishonest as the first, but it falls under an ethical grey area, and I highly recommend that you take caution when you’re in a similar situation:


Writing about a client for a site that you contribute to - One of my clients found out that I’m a regular contributor to a popular website, and they asked if I was willing to write a blog post that mentions and links to them. After all, I add relevant links and talk about other companies in my articles all the time, it wouldn’t hurt if I insert a link to a company that was paying me, right?


Actually, yes, it could… a lot. Such an assignment is a conflict of interest, and if the blog found out that I was plugging my client in my article, it would ruin my relationship with the site.


I told my client about the conflict. However, I also said that I would still be able to write the post, provided that I add a full disclosure stating that they’re a client. The company didn’t want to do it because they wanted the link to look natural, so the project didn’t move forward.


Image: Eleaf on Flickr


How to find your niche as a writer

Finding your niche is a crucial step when you’re building your freelance writing business. Even if you feel that you could write about anything, I highly recommend that you zero in on a particular industry and focus your portfolio-building and client-hunting efforts on that niche.


Doing so enables you to write faster, because the more you know about a particular topic, the less research you have to do. You’ll be able to get yourself up to speed faster and produce content more efficiently.


Focusing on a particular niche can also help you build a leaner and more attractive portfolio. Think of it this way: If you’re a real estate company looking for a writer, would you go for the writer who has a few, but high-quality samples that are all about real estate? Or would you hire the one who has samples about real estate, and science, and yoga, and music? My guess is you’d go for the writer who’s more focused on your field.


Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of having a niche, here are a few ways on how you can find yours:


1. Write about what you love – That sounds trite, but it works. What subjects are you passionate about? What topics do you follow? What are your hobbies?  Find the answers to those questions, pick the one you love the most and start writing.


2. Leverage your education and work experience – You can also put your major or day job experience into good use.


For instance, let’s say you used to work for a clothing retailer and you learned a lot about how to arrange products or how to attract customers into a store. You can leverage your knowledge to produce content-such  as retail guides, blog posts etc-and submit them to companies or websites for retailers.


Or, since you know a lot about enticing people into a store, why not use your expertise to create advertising or marketing collateral for other retailers?


Also remember: You don’t have to marry one niche forever. In fact, it’s best to specialize in a handful of subjects, in case your industry slows down.


I know I go on and on about finding your specialty and all that, but don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t to say that you should focus solely on one single topic for the rest of your career. However, I am suggesting that you *start* with one. When you’ve got the covered, feel free to switch industries and expand your expertise.


Image: Mike “Dakinewavamon” Kline on Flickr


Here’s what’s really going on inside the mind of a client

A couple of weeks ago, I sent you an email about how a lot of companies actually know that they need a writer, but they’re just not saying it out loud, and it’s up to you to approach them.


I got several replies from people telling me that they had no idea clients thought that, and my email made them see the importance of taking action and actively reaching out to prospects. Needless to say, I was really happy to hear that — it’s always great to know that people are taking action. But it also got me thinking: What other “secret client thoughts” are there?


I explored the idea and I came up with 4 more things that clients are secretly thinking but aren’t telling you. I fleshed out my thoughts in this article on the Men with Pens website. Check it out onhttp://menwithpens.ca/copywriting-clients-secrets/


Here’s a quick rundown of the major points:


5 Things Your Clients are Secretly Thinking (But Won’t Bring Up Until You Do):


#1 Hiring a copywriter has been on our to-do list for a while; we just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”


#2 “We want you to grill us with questions.”


#3 “Just because we didn’t get back to you doesn’t mean we’re not interested. Follow up.”


#4 “We’re open to negotiations”


#5 “We’re scared.”


Click here to go to the Men with Pens blog so you can read the entire article and get more great tips on how to be an awesome freelancer.


Oh, and be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think!