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Stet Newsletter

The IWOC newsletter, Stet, features news and helpful information for IWOC members and the entire freelance-writing community. Typical issues include previews of upcoming meetings and events, recaps of recent meetings and events, book and Web-service/software reviews, and tips not only for writing but for developing and sustaining business as an independent writer. And each issue features words of wisdom from our president.

Stet is published 11 or 12 times per year (we sometimes skip December to focus on enjoying the holidays). And our editors invite contributions from all interested parties both inside and outside of IWOC. Our only criteria are writing quality and the timeliness and usefulness of the information to independent writers.

For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor. And to view past issues of Stet (from 2002 to 2015), please visit our Stet Archive.

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  • 08 Oct 2017 6:54 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    October 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 10

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. -Thomas Jefferson, 1787.

    Thanks to everyone who wrote to me in response to my last article. A variety of print news is still beloved by many. The New York Times was the most read and the runners up were:

    • The Washington Post
    • The New Yorker
    • Vanity Fair
    • Chicago Tribune
    • Chicago Sun-Times

    This led me to wonder about the history of the newspaper. According to the historic pages website, the direct forerunner of newspapers appeared in Germany in the late 1400’s. In 1666, the London Gazette became the first “true” newspaper. The first successful newspaper in America was the Boston News-Letter, published in 1704. The Jefferson quote was noted as one that was often used by newspaper writers.

    “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

    But there was more to Jefferson’s famous quote (above), he went on to say: “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

    I have learned, and I am sure many others have as well, most quotes are often a portion of what the speaker or writer meant to say. Often, quotes are taken out of context. I love a good quote but I love a good story even better. What are your favorite quotes? What is the backstory behind them? Feel free to send them to me and they will appear in the next Stet. Thanks!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    October Meeting Preview

    Roundtable discussion – bring your queries; offer your advice

    Join other IWOC-ers for our annual “round-table” discussion of freelance-writing issues that have been plaguing your colleagues, who actually may face challenges similar to yours. It’s a great opportunity to help others and yourself simultaneously by interacting in pro-active fashion, providing your own advice, observations, and recent writing experiences—while seeking advice yourself.

    Here’s how it works. After a few introductory remarks about some of the pressing types of issues that writers face today, we will divide into several small groups, each with a leader who will help stimulate the small-group discussion.

    Near the end of the session, each small-group leader will recap that group’s key insights to the entire audience present, including the most useful tidbits of advice generated.

    A key goal is to ensure that there will be time and opportunity for each person—that is, you and your colleagues--to talk about his or her own particular questions or topics.

    So think about an issue that’s been challenging you lately. For example, this could be: collecting on late or unpaid invoices; dealing with assignments that expand beyond your quoted price; marketing your talents in a new field; and addressing the goal of making more money. Any topic that applies to your freelance writing efforts is fair game. Then write it down, and bring it up at the meeting.

    Additional topics to think about include:

    • How to pursue niche markets -- advertising, business, education healthcare, PR, technical, the web
    • How to address publishing challenges – article-writing, books, magazines, newspapers
    • How to beef up your technology repertoire –computers, digital gadgets, phones, software, web sites
    • How to improve biz processes – billing, cold-calling, collaboration , collections, marketing, networking, pricing, promotions

    The “round tables” were well received last year. And remember: you are engaging with a roomful of collegial experts with lots of talent. So come to the meeting with the goal of interacting in lively fashion to help other IWOC-ers. That way, the combined interactivity will be sure to help yourself—that is, what’s good for all is going to be good for each!

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, October 10th in Room 4G (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. /115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered). Free for first-time attendees, but on-line registration is still required. After the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking.

    For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Tom Lanning

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    September Meeting Recap

    Leveraging LinkedIn

    Lori Howard

    Lori Howard with Unearth Your Worth was our energetic and engaging speaker on the topic of Leveraging the Power of LinkedIn.

    She started off the presentation with from statistics from LinkedIn from 2016:

    • 97% of HR/staffing used LinkedIn at some point in hire process
    • 93% of recruiters use LinkedIn
    • 48% of recruiters use LinkedIn exclusively to recruit
    • 77% of all job openings are on LinkedIn

    LinkedIn is the single most important tool to advance your career and find jobs that fit you. HR personnel and recruiters will often search on LI before even posting a job opening. When you unlock the power of LinkedIn, work you like will find you. And, best of all, it does not have to be expensive. Lori recommended that you fully leverage the free stuff before you even think about using any of the paid functions.

    Linked in is THE social networking tool for the job search but it is not a replacement for your resume. Your resume is still very important and needs to have a sharp focus on what your ideal job looks like.

    She started with the LinkedIn profile. Profiles are stories about your career. It should be crafted so it shows you are ready to get the job that you really want. Is it showcasing your passion and skills for the job you want? When you are working on your profile, turn off notifications so that your connections do not see every update you make. However, even if you are employed you should have notifications on most of the time. LinkedIn is a professional networking system too. In her presentation (available to members on the IWOC website), she showed examples from her profile page.

    Lori broke the profile into six must-haves that will only take about ten minutes to set up.

    Photo: a photo is a must!

    A photo makes you: 14 times more likely to be found and 21 times more likely for someone to click on your profile. The photo can be a selfie but must be professionally dressed and a headshot of you.

    Custom URL

    It should look like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname Put this on your business card and share it, everywhere you can.

    Custom headline

    Use key words that recruiters might search for and Lori recommended against “clever taglines”.

    Skills list

    A skills list will get you 13 times more views and make you prioritize your top three. Some may stop reading after that.

    Contact information with a professional email

    You need a professional email that is just for your job search.

    Get notified

    While you should turn off notifications whenever you are making multiple changes, you should turn on notifications when you are done making changes. You can find this feature under Jobs/Update preferences and be sure to fill out the whole box

    For more details, the handout, podcast and the Q and A session, login to: http://www.iwoc.org/member-resources

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    Election 2017: What Just Happened?

    Laura Stigler

    In a landslide victory worthy of a despotic nation, the 2017-18 Board of Directors was approved by an astounding 100% of the members present at the October’s Annual Meeting. The uncontested winners were:

    • President: Laura Stigler
    • Vice President: George Becht
    • Treasurer: Brent Brotine
    • Co-Secretaries: Jeff Steele and Claire Nicolay
    • Parliamentarian: Tom Lanning
    • Director: Richard Eastline
    • Director: Marjorie Skelly

    Please be assured that the vote was carried out aboveboard, in broad daylight, without any Russian interference. What this means is that the above Board can assume their roles with the full confidence that the feds won’t be breathing down their backs any time soon. This is all excellent news, as it allows us to move forward in implementing our agenda.

    I second that!

    As you may (or may not) know, I will be entering my second term as IWOC’s President. Why a second term? Probably for the same reason a nonagenarian career politician keeps on running: I’ve still some unfinished business. Granted, during 2016-17 we accomplished what was tops on my administration’s agenda: to make it easier and more affordable to join. For more on what we’ve achieved in 2016-17, please refer to the President’s Column in September’s Stet.

    To paraphrase Uncle Sam, “We Want You” to voice your opinions.

    But despite all that, and much as I’m itching for a sorely needed round of miniature golf, now is not the time to retreat in recess. There remain many items on my wish list, and that of the Board’s – and that of our constituents (aka IWOC members) that I would like to see implemented. To wit:

    • For our monthly programs, having more guest speakers who hire; published authors speaking about not only their books, but their own stories; more panels where IWOC’ers discuss their particular specialties
    • Conducting workshops and/or seminars, such as on editing, publishing and more.
    • Increasing the offerings on the Writers Job Line
    • I’m a firm believer in “bread and chocolate” – so more fun stuff (chocolate) in the vein of the upcoming October 12 American Writers Museum tour for IWOC members
    • Reaching out more to businesses to increase awareness of IWOC and its stellar members

    Your voice counts

    The Board has arranged a Planning Meeting on October 21. And no, that’s not code for renting a room at the Wynn in Vegas and romping in a hot tub on the membership’s dime. As the title implies, we will be planning the Big Picture for how we see IWOC moving forward in the next year. The aforementioned are some of the ideas to be discussed, but we may be missing some areas. To paraphrase Uncle Sam, “We Want You” to voice your opinions. Write me. Tell me what you’d like IWOC to offer. Fun stuff. Serious business stuff. Anything you feel would add value to IWOC and, by extension, to your career and writing craft. We’ll run everything up the flagpole and salute all ideas that are in our members’ best interests.

    On behalf of the IWOC Board, thank you for your voice and your vote of confidence.

    And I approve this message.

    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Charge late fees to freelance business clients: Yes or no?


    Diana Schneidman

    It seems to be fairly common for freelancers to charge late fees when payment is not received as prescribed by contract.

    Frankly, I disagree with this practice.

    How late fees work

    Let’s say that payment is due 30 days after final invoicing. And let’s further say the tab totals $1,000. If payment is not received by the 30-day deadline, the contract may specify a late fee of 1.5% per month. In this case it’s $15. This 1.5% per month works out to 18% annually if payment is postponed, let’s say, a year.

    The interest rate is substantial, but to the freelancer, it’s peanuts. Any reasonable freelancer would much prefer to get the $1,000 promptly than $15 per month for a year. Whether you are working to pay this month’s electric bill or save for retirement, the cash in hand is what counts today.

    To put it simply, adding late fees assures neither payment of the original invoice nor collection on the fees.

    Why late fees work for credit card issuers

    Charging such fees works for credit card companies, you may say.

    True, but there are some differences between financing companies, such as credit card issuers, and freelancers, who certainly are not in the financing business.

    The most important is that the credit card holder pays on the bill every single month. When a month passes with no payment at all, there is a penalty ranging from an additional charge to rejecting any additional purchases on the card. Therefore, money is always coming in and the consumer must actually remit something monthly. In addition, credit card companies have clout and regularly report collection problems to the credit rating agencies.

    In contrast, even if the party owing money does not object to the freelancer’s late fee, it doesn’t guarantee that any money will ever be forthcoming. They may be fine with the fee because they have no intention of paying up.

    What power can the freelancer exert to speed payment?

    Almost nothing.

    There are phone calls and other follow up, but these may elicit a simple yawn.

    There’s the refusal to do further work until payment is received, but many past clients would rather go on to the next freelancer and restart the same cycle with someone else than pay up to get more work done. Anyway, you would demand full payment upfront next time, wouldn’t you?

    Maybe you could report it to some online website that posts such problems and identifies deadbeats, but this may help the next person investigating the prospect more than it helps you collect.

    There’s the possibility of small claims court, but success stories are exceedingly rare, in part because our clients may be far away from us geographically. Also, taking action is expensive in terms of both time and money (if we hire an attorney); a bill of $1,000 may feel substantial to us but insufficient to justify full-out legal action. Nor does winning the case assure they will pay.

    To put it simply, adding late fees assures neither payment of the original invoice nor collection on the fees.

    I don’t charge late fees because adding these fees to the account may appear to put an uncomplaining client in compliance with the project contract even though no money has been received—and perhaps never will be received.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome:

    Bernie Biernacki - Professional Member

    Alicia Dale - Professional Member

    - Roger Rueff

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), George Becht (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay and Jeff Steele (co-Secretaries), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), Tom Lanning (Parliamentarian), Richard Eastline, Marjorie Skelly (Directors)

  • 01 Sep 2017 9:26 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    September 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 9

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Do you still read the newspaper? This month I have been traveling for over half of the month and when I travel, I get a paper. Granted it is the free one at the hotel and I get it mostly for the crossword and Sudoku puzzles…but I read the headlines, the articles that interest me first and then do the puzzles during my traveling down time. I would love to get a daily paper and at one time I did but…it took too much time. I love to read and, on average, I would take an hour to get through the paper. Unless I was busy, which was more often than not, and then I did not read it at all. I hated throwing away all of the unread newspapers. (I did recycle them but it felt like I was wasting them since I had not read them.) So, I cancelled my subscription.

    How do I keep up on current events? Well, my smart phone, as yes, there’s an app for that. I’m not much for TV and find that there are too many commercials for my taste on the morning news. I had a couple of different apps for news but now am down to one for weather and one for news. I am not getting all of the daily news but it takes less time. A lot less time!

    I love to read and, on average, I would take an hour to get through the paper.

    How do you get your news? Do you have a recommendation for our readers that you can send into Stet? Thanks!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    September Meeting Preview

    Leveraging LinkedIn to Find Writing Jobs

    As an independent writer, you need to stand out and make your services known. Website? Check. A portfolio of clips? Check. A professional social media presence? Umm, your personal Facebook profile with photos of you jamming out to Coldplay at Wrigley Field is not going to cut it. LinkedIn is the key social media site for busy professionals. But do you know how to tap into its power? Join us for IWOC’s September 12th program where Lori Howard, a career identity coach and professional certified coach, will discuss how to create a LinkedIn profile that lands writing jobs and assignments.

    Howard launched her company, Unearth Your Worth®, after 15 years of corporate world experience. She will also cover how writers can be found by the jobs they want and how to use LinkedIn to develop and grow professional networks. Howard is excited to bring her expertise to IWOC and help freelance writers market themselves better to potential clients.

    LinkedIn is the key social media site for busy professionals.

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, September 12th in Room 4G (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. IWOC MEMBERS PLEASE NOTE: Annual Meeting will begin at 5:45 (right before the main program), where members will elect the 2017-2018 Board of Directors and Officers. Please plan on attending. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://iwoc.org/event-2628338. After the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking.

    For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Sarah Klose

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    August Meeting Recap

    IWOCfest!

    George Becht
    George Becht
    George Becht
    George Becht
    George Becht

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    President's Column

    Time Traveling: The (IWOC) Year in Review

    Laura Stigler

    Ok, everyone, let’s put on our rear-view goggles, Mylar jumpsuits, hop into my fully-loaded way-back machine and take a trip way back to October of 2016, when a freshly minted IWOC Board of Directors took the reins and embarked on implementing new plans that would set IWOC on a bold new path. How’s it all been going? Trigger warning: this is not for the squeamish. While much of what you are about to experience will be a series of heady high points, there will be a sudden dip that may leave you feeling a bit woozy. Not to worry. It’ll pass.

    THE HIGHS

    The Membership Revamp

    IWOC is always being described as a welcoming place for writers. The newly activated membership sign-up process will finally reflect that, making it easier and more affordable to join and renew. A big fist bump to Board Member George Becht, along with Board Member Claire Nicolay and webmaster Roger Rueff for taking up this monumental endeavor and making it happen.

    Reaching Out – and Grabbing

    At Libraries: It’s one thing to sign up new members. But how do you nab them in the first place? By being “out there.” That’s where IWOC is, thanks to Board member Jeff Steele. Jeff has been working fast and furious, contacting evermore libraries and writer hangouts across the city and ‘burbs where he, Sally Chapralis, George Becht, David Steinkraus and yours truly have been presenting what is becoming quite the popular attraction, “Life in the Freelance Lane: Business Basics for Building a Freelance Writing Career.” And they’re being asked back for encores. Keep checking out the IWOC Calendar to see where and when the next presentations will take place.

    IWOC is always being described as a welcoming place for writers.

    Elsewhere: IWOC continues to raise its profile, having established a presence at the 2017 Printers Row Lit Fest, the CWIP Publishing Fair 2017 and the 2017 LakeFX Creative Con, the latter at which David Steinkraus, Jeff Steele and yours truly have given IWOC’s “Press Release Basics” talk. We were also honored to have been invited to conduct press release critiques for attendees of Lake FX’s brand new ACCESS Lab program – for which we even got paid! (Monies went straight into IWOC’s coffers.)

    Mentoring Program

    It has been a question that has come up at every library talk: Does IWOC offer mentoring? Now we can respond with a definitive “Yes!” Check out www.iwoc.org/find-a-mentor. Most of all, if you’re a Professional Member, please seriously consider volunteering to be a mentor. And since we’re all always constantly learning, every member at any level can receive free mentoring as well.

    THE DIP

    The one disappointment this year was when we posed the question to our membership regarding who would be willing to mentor other IWOC members. We received a grand total of one response. The irony here is that members are always suggesting we bring in a younger demographic. Well this is one strong way to attract them. Particularly students.

    So Professional Members, remember how much you appreciated when someone helped you early in your career? Here’s an opportunity to pay it forward by sharing your wealth of knowledge via mentoring. (You’d be surprised how much you know!) Simply check “yes” to the mentor question now in your Profile.

    Simply check “yes” to the mentor question now in your Profile.

    MORE HIGHS

    Programs of Interest

    From super literary agent Abby Saul speaking on “How to Write Superior Query Letters,” to author Danielle Schultz Idiot’s Guide to Investing) advising on “Investing on a Freelance Income,” to our annual October Roundtable where fellow writers get to exchange advice on the business of freelancing, IWOC’s Program Committee has been cranking out the ideas that lure in members and give even more reason for non-members to join.

    Newsletter News

    It’s about time IWOC tooted its members’ horns! Got some good news about yourself you’re itching to share? A book or article that was just published? A panel you’re hosting? A reading? A TV appearance? Whatever! Send the info to Stet editor Cynthia Tomusiak and she’ll post it in Stet’s newest feature called “IWOC Member News.” Also to come:an “Events of Interest” feature where Stet will post events of other organizations we feel will benefit IWOC members.

    AND NOW, BACK TO THE FUTURE

    Wow, that was wild, huh? But enough of reliving our 2016-2017 glory days. Come October, the new Board and interested members will be holding a special Planning Meeting to discuss how to continue IWOC’s path towards a larger membership via innovative programs, reach-out efforts and other such goodies. So stay tuned. And hold on to those Mylar jumpsuits. Halloween is just around the corner.

    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Living the Freelance Dream


    Diana Schneidman

    Work where you want.

    Work when you want.

    Work how you want.

    Charge what you want

    Dress as you want.

    Listen to the music you want.

    Live in your brilliance (whatever that means to you).

    Do what you want whenever you want to.This is the fantasy of working for yourself..

    If this says it all for you, frankly, I'm concerned.

    Yes, as freelancers, our workday may be more flexible, but freelancing is not all about freedom.

    We freelancers are paid by our clients to serve their needs. That means work. It may be work that we enjoy, but even so, it's not all play. Freelancing can be stressful and demanding.

    Freelancing is a fulfilling choice when we relish serving customers and helping them succeed.

    It can be a happy lifestyle, but fundamentally, our top concern must be to land and satisfy clients.

    First, we have to land our own work. If we provided a similar service at our job, we were accustomed to work coming in unsolicited via email or the sticky notes that magically attach to our computer overnight. Our assignments may have even been on a predetermined regular schedule. Now as a freelancer, we must always be marketing.

    There’s a second challenge that can be even more intimidating. All decisions and indeed, all failures, lead back to us. This can be terrifying. When our freelance work plate is empty, we must determine: Is the disaster a seasonal lull that will self-correct? An economic downturn? A poorly conceived marketing message? Our own laziness?

    Marketing takes time and effort. If we are fortunate, we may have a network in place that kicks in quickly and feeds us clients. A weaker network may yield occasional assignments but lack consistency and sufficient income.

    Freelancing is a fulfilling choice when we relish serving customers and helping them succeed.

    But if our only concern is our freedom, we may be headed for disaster.

    Many coaches and other experts encourage people to take the freelance plunge. Be careful. Consider what you are committing to before you jump in.

    People of all ages dream of an easier life with greater satisfaction and less pressure. However, if we don’t love the work itself, we may be sadly disappointed.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome:

    Joy Xiang - Student Member

    - Roger Rueff

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 31 Jul 2017 9:51 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    August 2017

    Volume 36 | Number  8

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    As writers, we spend much of our time writing so why add to it by keeping a journal? There are many reasons to journal – personal brainstorming, a place to jot down ideas, record the day’s (or week’s) events or travels, keep track of your exercise or diet, or even learn more about yourself. It can be an exercise to keep our writing skills limber.

    I love books including the blank ones that I turn into journals. I have used pretty much every kind of blank book to journal in over the years from plain old lined notebooks to a beautifully crafted handmade one. While I do not see myself ever completely giving up pen and paper, I am constantly looking for ways to downsize and have less stuff. So, journaling, safely and securely, online is my next project.

    As usual, Google got my research started and one name came up repeatedly – Penzu – I checked it out and their offer of military grade security, ability to write on any platform and search options made it look like a winner. It has a free version and an upgraded paid one. I also liked the reviews for JRNL which is also touted to be secure and customizable.

    Other options such as host a blog but keep it private or use your computer’s word processing program and store your entries in document storage like Dropbox came up as well.

    I love books including the blank ones that I turn into journals.

    There seem to be as many online journal options as there are blank books for journals. Journals that are topic specific such as food, travel and fitness. These were all for journals that are typed into your computer or tablet, not hand written. I am going to try one for myself and see how I like it. Do you already use an online journal? Do you have a recommendation that you can send into Stet? Thanks!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    August Meeting Preview

    IWOCFest

    Join IWOCers of all stripes for a kick-back-and-enjoy evening of fun, food, and casual conversation on the rooftop at Pegasus Restaurant, 5:30pm, 130 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, in Greektown.

    Come for the food, stay for the conversation—and because you paid to be there! FYI - cash bar.

    Not a member? Not a problem. Everyone is welcome!

    The price? Just $35 if you pay online (click here to register) or $40 at the door. Regardless of how you pay, you must register by August 1st, so we can give the restaurant a head count.

    We look forward to seeing you there! Opa!

    Come for the food, stay for the conversation—and because you paid to be there!

    P.S. There's a parking lot across the street, or you can use the free valet parking at the door. If public transportation is your thing, you can get there via the Blue Line or the #8 Halstead bus.

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    July Meeting Recap

    Press Release Basics

    Richard Eastline

    What works best in getting a press release out to your local newspaper about your business, charity, event or nonprofit? When it is better to place an ad instead?

    While the rules and guidelines of writing, editing and submitting a press release always apply, it depends on your goals, IWOC President Laura Stigler and past IWOC president and current parliamentarian David Steinkraus explain during a panel they co-hosted titled “How to Master Press Release Basics”.

    “Advertising might not serve your particular purpose,” Stigler, a freelance writer and owner of Shebang! Writing-2-Consulting, says. Newspaper ads are not free.  “You can guarantee placement, but you cannot guarantee results.” she adds.

    “Instead, a press release may work better,” Stigler says. Because not only is it free, but if your story is picked up, it comes across as credible, newsworthy, and can get you great publicity — at no cost!".

    Past IWOC president David Steinkraus explains that newsroom staff layoffs, mergers and buyouts before the start of the new millennium and since the Great Recession affect the success of your press release.

    “Reduce it down to the essence of what you’re promoting.”

    Steinkraus, a print journalist specializing in science, medicine and the environment and a photographer, adds that that these developments mean “your newspaper is thinner” with fewer personnel “to give you attention” to promote your material. However, he says, “on the flipside, more local newspapers sprouted up”. This, along with the advent of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, gives “you more places to send your stuff,” he adds.

    When writing your release, you first must pinpoint what exactly you are promoting. An event? Product? Your company? Then ask yourself, “What about it is newsworthy? Unique?” You then have about 10 seconds to the capture interest of the reader.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    As for the anatomy of a press release, Stigler advises organizing it in the “correct format” so it can be immediately identified as a press release. This means placing “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”, (in all caps) at the upper left corner of the page. Right underneath, put the date the release is being sent — not the date of the event. In the upper right corner, you must be sure to add a contact name, e-mail address and phone number. The headline must be a grabber. “It’s like a good sauce,” Stigler says. “Reduce it down to the essence of what you’re promoting." Does it bring attention to a problem / solution?  What is the ultimate benefit? The first paragraph must contain “the 5 W’s — the Who, What, When, Where and Why. When needed, a second or even third paragraph can expand on the details of the event, product, etc. 

    If you expect a response, you can [follow up]. Ask nicely.

    But however you say it in the headline and the rest of the release, make the voice real and relatable to the audience. Stigler also adds that editors and program directors are "always looking for good stories to fill up space and time. So it not only must quickly capture their attention, but must be relevant and newsworthy enough to attract their readers, listeners or viewers."  Steinkraus agrees. “If I am an editor and I can’t figure out what you are saying or what you want, I’ll throw it out.” And it’s best to “keep it to a page,” he says about an acceptable length of a press release. 

    He also suggests that you address and send your press release to a specific person. “You should be careful about who to contact,” Steinkraus says. “If you expect a response, you can [follow up]. Ask nicely. You don’t know if an email got led away [or] if it got lost in the mail box.”

    If a mainstream daily newspaper or publication shows no interest in your press release or material, he says hometown media may be more receptive. It also pays to consult media guides at your local library, form ties with reporters and editors and to even consider another angle for your work. “And, if you know about a newspaper’s deadlines, beat it,” he says.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    The Votes Are In: You Win!

    Laura Stigler

    Last January we conducted a member survey that included the question, “What can IWOC improve?” Guess what response came in multitudes. If you guessed, “Simplify the sign-up/renewal process,” you’d win the Grand Prize, if there were any.

    Complaints (including from yours truly) against the byzantine process were all too common – and anything that presented roadblocks to joining or renewing had to be addressed. So (according to IWOC lore) after decades of attempts, the Board decided that this time, it was “go time.”

    Easier to join. Easier to afford.

    For the last six months we discussed, debated, got into drunken brawls (naw, not really. But almost.), and finally hammered out do-able changes that would not only make IWOC easier to join, but more affordable. After all, our members are freelancers. Oftentimes it’s feast or famine. Why not establish price points that could be more digestible whether you’re dining nightly on pheasant or ramen noodles?

    Be a Professional Member ($95), Associate Member ($75) or Student ($40).

    Once we agreed to all the changes, we put them in writing and along with relevant revisions in the bylaws, sent them out to the members for review. On July 11 (a date that I predict will soon be declared a national holiday), members convened to vote. The result: A unanimous “Yea.” Yay!!!

    The changes, in a nutshell:

    • Simpler sign-up/renewal process: Much more “A to B.” Tried it myself. HUGE improvement.
    • Fewer levels: Streamlined from 5 to 3. Be a Professional Member ($95), Associate Member ($75) or Student ($40). Seniors and Distance members have been incorporated into the Professional.
    • Note lower price for Pros: Think of it. For 33% less than before, get all the perks exclusive to a Professional membership, such as being able to list your specialties on the member directory – a feature that attracts prospective clients. (For details on Pro membership benefits, see “Join IWOC” at www.iwoc.org)
    • Rolling membership: No more waiting for October to join, or getting tangled up in “prorated” calculations. Join anytime; renew one year from that date. (This also makes it easier to give an IWOC Gift Membership.)
    • Cleaned-up category listings: Really. How many variations do we need for, say, “Advertising”? And if you want to be ultra specific, feel free to be so in your profile description. All words will be searchable by clients seeking your services.

    That’s the big picture. As of this writing, there are still some tweaks to be worked out. When all is finalized (figure late August), we’ll make the official announcement and be ready to roll.

    For 33% less than before get all the perks exclusive to a Professional membership, such as being able to list your specialties on the member directory – a feature that attracts prospective clients.

    Since last October, our main mission was to attract more members and keep current members happy. We thought one of the best ways to accomplish that was by simplifying the sign-up/renewal process and making dues more affordable. With both boxes now checked, consider it a win-win. For everyone.

    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Cold Calling for Freelancers


    Diana Schneidman

    Phoning for freelance writing assignments: Leave a message? Yes, yes, yes!

    Seems the consensus among marketers is never to leave a voicemail message when phoning. The collective “they” say that phone calls are nuisances and therefore, so are voicemail messages.

    First, let’s step back and define “cold calling.” In my dictionary, a cold call is one in which not only do you not know the person you are calling, but you’ve culled the name from a massive list that has no relevance to your product or service. (Think phone book or the electronic equivalent.)

    By my definition, cold calling is useless.

    Anything else is a warm call. Certainly the best calls are to previous clients and our closest friends. However, I consider a call to a business person who is quite likely to want the good news about my offer or to a fellow member of a professional organization to be a warm call.

    I hate the term “cold calling,” but I have associates who use it freely. They say they are cold calling when they sit down to their lists of past clients and contacts they have made through networking.

    Certainly the best calls are to previous clients and our closest friends.

    I call it “picking up the phone”

    Let’s be clear about how to use the phone. Only call people who are likely to benefit from your services; Help them by informing them of a service that you believe they may want.

    I make all calls myself. I call live with no recordings. I get to the point quickly and don’t waste time on useless chitchat. I phone only business numbers (but if a one-person business uses the same phone number for personal and work, that’s not my fault). I only phone during regular business hours. And if people ask to be taken off my list, I never call them again.

    Unfortunately, I myself receive more nuisance calls than ever. Sometimes the same nuisance caller phones multiple times on the same day. Alas, these calls often come from what appears to be a local phone number.

    I generally do not answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, with the exception of some local numbers or possible clients or prospects. I figure that if the call is relevant, they’ll leave a message. And I always check my voicemail!

    Unfortunately . . .

    It is unfortunate that many are trying to transform the phone into a delivery mechanism for garbage.

    If you believe that the message you leave is a nuisance, then your call itself is also a nuisance.

    Keep calling until someone finally answers? Yuck!

    Calling repeatedly till someone answers is not the answer, in my opinion. As the same number shows up on my phone repeatedly, it confirms my expectation that it’s a bad call. As I come to recognize the number, I am repelled, not intrigued.

    I am proud of the calls I make. I believe I offer something of value and the person called would gladly take my call if only he knew what I am calling about.

    I am proud of the calls I make.

    By the way, I try to use at least two channels each time I phone. I leave a message and I immediately follow up with an email describing my services. However, a postal letter would also be appropriate in some circumstances.

    Have you considered phoning for writing assignments? It may be worth a try.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC Member News

    Panel Discussion The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure

    To many, Chicago’s monumental and iconic Picasso sculpture is synonymous with the city itself!

    Art historian Patricia Balton Stratton and an esteemed group reveal the inside story of the still controversial sculpture.

    The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure is published to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebration of the famous statue’s unveiling. Relying on exclusive archival interviews and extensive research, Stratton tells the full story of monumental achievement in all of its historical and artistic glory.

    Books will be available for purchase and the author will autograph books before and after the program.

    • Tuesday, August 15, 6:00–7:30 p.m 
    • 50th anniversary of the unveiling
    • Harold Washington Library 400 South State Street, Chicago
    • Seating in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium is first come, first served. Free and open to the public.
    • Event Link

    This program is presented as part of the City of Chicago’s 2017 Year of Public Art.

    See IWOC member and author Patricia Balton Stratton discuss her book, The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure on Tuesday, August 8 on “Chicago Tonight,” Channel 11 WTTW at 7:00pm. 

    - Patrica Stratton

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome:

    Valerie Rendel - Associate Member

    - Roger Rueff

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 01 Jul 2017 9:55 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    July 2017

    Volume 36 | Number  7

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    I am flying back from Pueblo, Colorado after my first visit there. I went for work and spent five days there. Overall, I travel fairly lightly – a backpack and a carry on. I have a Mac Book Air and my i-Phone and I get most things done with those two items. I can use my i-Phone as a phone, a scanner, a Wi-Fi hotspot if there is no internet, send messages and keep myself entertained. I store most of my files in the cloud so the smaller storage space on the Mac Book Air is not a problem and I can then access them from anywhere should I need to. It is light and has a solid-state system that is good for travel. The only thing I cannot do is print. When I fly, I plan to be able to print or download items to a thumb drive and use someone else’s printer.

    When I drive, I have a portable printer. It is an Epson WorkForce-100 color printer. It measures 12” x 6” x 2 ½”, is just under four pounds and holds 20 sheets. It prints a 4x6 photo in seventy-seven seconds, less for a letter on standard paper.

    What are your work "must haves" when you travel?

    I am not advertising any of these items, they are what I have found to be useful and good for travel. What are your work "must haves" when you travel? Do you have any recommendations you could send into Stet? Thanks! I hope you have happy travels and a happy Independence Day!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    July Meeting Preview

    Press Release Basics

    Get to the point in the first paragraph and be clear and concise. Place a “grabber” in the headline. Drop the “biz blab.” Ferret out the most unique aspect of whatever it is you’re promoting, be it a business (yours or a client’s), an organization, product or event.

    Expect to hear these fine points and lots more at the next IWOC meeting on July 11, when IWOC President Laura Stigler and past president and IWOC parliamentarian David Steinkraus present what has been one of the most popular perennial attractions at Chicago’s LakeFX CreativeCon: “Press Release Basics.”

    During the workshop, Stigler, owner of Advertising/Marketing company Shebang! Writing-2-Consulting, and Steinkraus, a journalist specializing in science, medicine and the environment and photographer, will draw from their own backgrounds and experience to advise IWOCers on crafting “killer” press releases.

    Both panelists will demonstrate the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts of writing quality press releases that are most likely to grab media attention and boost chances of news coverage.

    Questions to ask yourself that will guide you towards writing the most effective release ever!

    Among topics to be addressed:

    • The state of the media industry today – the pros and cons as it relates to releases
    • The differences between Advertising vs. Press Releases – and why the latter might serve you (or your client) better
    • The anatomy of a press release, from the correct format to what the headline and first paragraph must include
    • Questions to ask yourself that will guide you towards writing the most effective release ever!
    • Once written, pointers on smart distribution
    • Not just talk: Lots of examples

    Focus will also be on how to develop a specific angle, compose a headline and complete the body of the text by backing up original claims made earlier in the release.

    As a result, you will learn the best means of enticing editors and reporters to cover stories unearthed from quality press releases.

    As a result, you will learn the best means of enticing editors and reporters to cover stories unearthed from quality press releases. There will be a Q&A session afterward. Feel free to bring your own press release for a quick critique. In this way, we will be able to see more clearly how our own work measures up against basic press release principles.

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, July 11, in Room 4G (4th fl.  Note room change for July only!) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738). Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking. For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    June Meeting Recap

    What Freelance Writers Need to Know About SEO

    If you want your website or a client’s web page to get noticed, you need Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO – the process of driving traffic to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on a list of search engine rankings – is now more important than ever thanks to the “virtual word of mouth” of the internet. At IWOC’s June meeting, Jack Lombardi, CEO of Chicago Website Design SEO Company, presented on the topic of SEO practices and what freelance writers need to know about SEO to add value for their clients.

    According to Lombardi, a writer who really knows how to write for SEO is invaluable. SEO writing is not the same as keyword writing (which he called “keyword stuffing”). He said, “It’s about building your foundation and proving your worth.” When he decided to go back to martial arts, a longtime passion, he found that his coach was an internet guru, who taught Lombardi about online marketing. Lombardi’s first SEO experience was building an emergency plumbing website which he got ranked and then sold. He used that experience to build, rank and rent, and sell lead generating websites.

    Lombardi said that it is important for business owners to build a strong internet footprint. One way to begin is to dominate Yelp reviews. It takes a long time for Google to trust a site and Yelp goes a long way to helping build credibility. More Yelp reviews lead to more content and Google loves content. He cited the statistic that 86% of people searching for a business go to the first listing. The business listing with the most reviews dethrones the first listing, which makes Yelp powerful. Lombardi referenced research that people who check Yelp reviews tend to spend more money.

    Lombardi discussed possible workarounds to beat Google’s ranking algorithms. If you want to put up a web site that generates traffic, input your NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistently, and slowly get reviews from your clients. A measured approach is key, he said, as suddenly going from zero to 50 reviews is a red flag to Google that will cause the reviews to get filtered as spam

    Upwork, a remote working platform for freelancers, was recommended for writers looking to build a foundation on the internet. Lombardi uses Upwork to hire freelance writers. His vetting process, includes looking at a 90% job success rate and reviews of four stars and above.

    “It’s about building your foundation and proving your worth.”

    Siloing is helpful not only for building client websites, but also for constructing writer web sites. Lombardi provided a high-level overview of simple siloing and drew a whiteboard schematic to illustrate his presentation. He said that Google recognizes a page as more important than a post. The hierarchy of Domain (.com), followed by page, then post is necessary to get ranked on Google. A local business SEO, should have “Chicago” in the URL as a geo modifier. Geo modifiers help communicate the local intent of a search query and are especially important in competitive industries.

    One audience member asked about keyword research; Lombardi observed that what a business owner needs and wants are two different things. Keyword research requires more digging (e.g. understanding the distinction between “plumber” and “emergency plumber”) to place the client in front of the person who needs him or her the most.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Is it preferable to be a generalist or a specialist? Lombardi answered, “There’s riches in niches,” He is developing SEO courses to sell to Trello (an online training platform) to provide him with another income stream in case of a market slowdown.

    Success in SEO is a balancing act between creativity and technical performance.

    Lombardi observed that writers often make errors when writing title tags for web content, to the detriment of SEO performance. He said that H1 tags should be used for services, at the page level, to tell Google what the page is about. H2 title tags should be used at the post level.

    Success in SEO is a balancing act between creativity and technical performance.

    - Shanti Nagarkatti

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    President's Column

    Reference Books: My Father’s Gift

    Laura Stigler

    I probably should have written this for the June Stet, since it would have been perfectly timed. But as of this writing, Father’s Day is coming up this weekend – the first Father’s Day to be spent without my Dad. I don’t think I have to go into what I’m feeling as the day approaches. I’m sure everyone who has lost anyone knows what it feels like whenever “the firsts” roll around. The first holiday without them. The first birthday. But neither my Dad nor my Mom were sad sorts. They’d rather we celebrate. So in the name of Father’s Day, I’d like to share one of the greatest gifts my Dad gave to me: His love of reference books.

    Of course, you may ask, what with the instantaneous ease of the Internet, do we even need reference books any more? Yet there still exist some very specialized ones that are arguably easier to consult than the Internet. For depending on what you’re seeking in the way of words, right there between the book covers you may find the answers that will come to your writerly rescue. Maybe you’re familiar with these. Maybe not. Either way, here are three of my faves:

    For depending on what you’re seeking in the way of words, right there between the book covers you may find the answers that will come to your writerly rescue.

    Random House Word Menu, by Stephen Glazier. Say you’re writing an ad...an article...a poem about sailing. The Word Menu will give you every imaginable term that applies to that subject – from stem to stern. So to speak. Thousands of words in hundreds of categories are covered, organized within seven major sections, from Science and Technology to Arts and Leisure to The Human Condition. Even if you’re not on assignment, it’s fun just grazing through this veritable vocabulary feast.

    Flip Dictionary, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. Surely you’ve experienced the frustration of knowing what you want to say – but the exact word escapes you? The Flip Dictionary is for you! For instance, the other day I could not think of “apprehensive.” “Anxious” came to mind, but wasn’t quite right. Since that was the only word occurring to me, I looked it up in the FD, and voilà! “apprehensive” popped off the page. What a fabulous feeling when the right word comes to you. Or in this case, you to it.

    And then there’s the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary. This one really appeals to the kid in me: It’s chockfull of gorgeous illustrations detailing everything from the distinguishing characteristics of Neoclassical architecture (exemplified by the U.S. State Capitol), to the anatomy of the Muscular System – this last one I consulted when dealing with a physical pain and wanted the accurate name of the offending muscle. Found it. (Yes, I tried looking it up online. Let’s just say it was a pain in the ass.) Warning: Once you start riffling through the pages of the IOD, it’s hard to stop.

    There is just something about holding a book and getting lost in it.

    I’ll bet you have a favorite reference book. Tell it! Yeah, it’s “old school,” but so what. There is just something about holding a book and getting lost in it. As writers, I’m certain you understand precisely what I’m referring to.

    - Laura Stigler

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    Independence Day Trivia


    It took less than one month (June 11, 1776 – July 4, 1776) to draft and finalize the Declaration of Independence. There were 86 changes to the draft document that was officially adopted on July 4th.

    The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the Declaration.

    Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870.

    In 1938 Congress reaffirmed it as a paid holiday for federal employees.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak


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    IWOC Member Article

    Inspirational stories


    Diana Schneidman

    Story #1

    The March 21, 2011, New Yorker had an interesting story on Barry Michels and Phil Stutz, psychoanalysts to screenwriters with writer’s block and other Hollywood creatives. .

    The pair specialize in innovative treatments. Like the guy who is unable to write a script after a year and a half of trying. So Michels tells him to close his eyes and say what he is grateful for. Then he is to set his timer, every day, for one minute and pray in front of his computer for help in writing the worst sentence ever.

    It eventually works and the writer completes an Oscar-winning script.

    (I’ve got my doubts but it’s an interesting cure.)

    It eventually works and the writer completes an Oscar-winning script.

    Story #2

    Stutz, upon moving to Hollywood, has no clients so he cold calls other therapists for referrals. Each day he phones the most dreaded person on his list, which he calls “eating ‘a death cookie.’”

    He says, “The risk you take has a feedback effect on the unconscious. The unconscious will give you ideas and it wants you to act on them. The more courage you have when you act, the more ideas it will give you.”

    Story #3 (a George Clooney story)

    Actor George Clooney said something simple yet profound in the September 25, 2011, issue of Parade, the Sunday newspaper insert.

    He noted that he had been “proficient at failure,” but that he had learned from failure how to do better next time.

    In regards to his acting career, he told the interviewer:

    I had to stop going to auditions thinking, “Oh, I hope they like me.” I had to go in thinking I was the answer to their problem. You could feel the difference in the room immediately.

    This advice applies to contacting potential clients about freelance and consulting services.

    This certainty that we offer a service that clients need inspires us to keep phoning and otherwise reaching out when we start feeling tired or bored or discouraged.

    This certainty that we offer a service that clients need inspires us to keep phoning and otherwise reaching out when we start feeling tired or bored or discouraged.

    This confidence also helps solve the problem of deciding exactly what we should say. To script out everything carefully and then try to memorize words the sales experts say should work pressures us to strive for perfection in the hope of impressing them. The more we hope they like us, the more timid and fearful we feel, stumbling over our words and tormented by any slip-ups.

    “What impression am I making?” we wonder. Or worse yet, “Do they resent my wasting their time?” “Are they sorry they answered the phone?” “Are they going to swear at me or hang up on me?”

    Instead, let’s remember that we’re calling to offer help to prospects in solving their problems.

    Let’s focus on our mission—to benefit our clients.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    There were no new members this month - invite someone to a meeting!

    - Roger Rueff

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 31 May 2017 12:38 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    June 2017

    Volume 36 | Number  5

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Searching for ideas on the internet is not new, I know. Finding something in the first attempt, that is a new record for me.

    I googled “writing ideas” and got a page full of various sites for writing prompts. I chose the Writer’s Digest site. I figured that I could flip through a bunch of articles and ideas and learn something new. (Read: waste time and procrastinate on my own writing!)

    The prompt to “The Letter All Writers Should Write” came up, I checked it out and that was it; I had my inspiration! The idea in the writing prompt was to write a letter to someone, anyone, of your choosing, who supported your writing career, and write to them, either thanking them or even blaming them for your career.

    Before the internet and email, I wrote real letters and many of them.

    That is not what got to me. Writing letters did.

    I have been writing letters to my nephew almost weekly. He decided to join the Air Force and made it through basic training last weekend. He has technical school next and I will keep writing to him. I have not written to him before this although I have fed him many meals, helped my sister when he sick or watched him when she had to work. He said it helped him through some of the rough spots that are a part of basic military training.

    I send articles to my friends that I think would interest them. I do not usually include a letter. One of my friends calls them “drive-through mailings” - not a real letter, a sit-down-and-read-it letter, but a quick, small snack of a letter.

    I used to write more letters. Before the internet and email, I wrote real letters and many of them. To my family when I was in college or traveling somewhere or to my friends that moved away. I wrote thank you letters and holiday letters.

    I also thought about letters that I have not written. Those letters you mean to send, and never do, and then something happens and you wish you had. I plan to go back to writing more letters.

    If you were to write a letter, to whom would you write?

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    June Meeting Preview

    Search Engine Optimization

    If you want to be at the top of the freelance writing game, attend the June 13, IWOC program. You’ll learn about using search engine optimization (SEO) to help get there. Our speaker should know, he’s at the top of the SEO game in Chicago. Jack Lombardi is a dynamic entrepreneur who is CEO of Chicago Website Design SEO Company.

    Lombardi will touch on how search engines work, keyword strategy, SEO web design, creating content, linking—the things freelance writers need to know about SEO to make themselves more valuable to clients and drive business to their writer websites.

    “No other marketing outside of word of mouth is going to beat search engine marketing. A person searching the internet for a writer is a warm to hot lead. They are actively looking and if a freelance writer has the right sales pitch the conversion is going to be a lot easier.” he says.

    By his mid-twenties, Lombardi was a self-made millionaire, but the Great Recession landed him back at square one. He then found peace of mind in mixed-martial arts, something he had been attracted to earlier in life. Lombardi’s coach was an internet guru who became his own Mr. Miyagi, the karate master. In this case, he also taught Lombardi about online marketing and continues to mentor him.

    No other marketing outside of word of mouth is going to beat search engine marketing.

    Lombardi’s first SEO experience was building an emergency plumbing website. He got it ranked and then sold it. Today, he continues with rental sites (websites that he builds, ranks and rents or sells as a lead generator). He also is launching his first app, building a social website and developing software.

    “If you do a Google search on SEO Chicago, SEO services, SEO agencies, whatever you want, my company is at the top in the Maps, and you go on Yelp we are at the top, Bing we’re at the top, go to Yahoo I’m at the top, so essentially, I beat everyone for the keywords SEO in Chicago.” says Lombardi, who hopes to expand to 24 other cities.

    He is eager to bring his expertise to IWOC and help freelance writers make SEO part of their offering to clients.

    He is eager to bring his expertise to IWOC and help freelance writers make SEO part of their offering to clients. Lombardi is not suggesting you write like a traditional SEO writer, or what he terms “keyword stuffers.” However, he says a content writer could say to a client, look I did all your keyword research after reviewing your site, and here are the keywords you want to rank for, here is the low-hanging fruit. We could formulate blog content to rank for those, and reword the content that is on your website to be more favorable for these keywords.

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, June 13, in Room 4F (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738). Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking. For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Stewart Truelsen

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    May Meeting Recap

    How to Freelance in New and Different Markets

    Photo by Cynthia Tomusiak

    This week, after losing a long-standing client relationship, I was heartened by the May IWOC meeting topic, "How to Freelance in New and Different Markets." A panel of presenters with considerable experience in various areas, I thought, might provide some insights to help me move forward.

    OK, first up: Advertising Copywriting. Brent Brotine is a copywriter who has worked for major Chicago ad agencies and has been a freelance writer since 1995. He told us that agencies will often call in freelancers to help them with pitches for new business or for self-contained projects. Because content is such a big buzzword these days, Brent cautioned us to get to know what clients want in terms of content, including blogging and social media.

    When it comes to what you might be able to earn, the site managed by American Writers and Artists, gives a general idea of what the rates are for various project types. Brent cautions us to take the high side of the quoted rates with a grain of salt.

    Employment agencies like Creative Circle, direct hire, or crowdsourcing sites like upward.com, where writers compete with other writers for jobs can provide jobs. Be wary, Brent provided an example posted at craigslist for a writing job paying $18 per hour that included writing copy and serving as a security guard! 

    Diana Schneidman has made a successful career of Corporate writing, in fact, authoring a book that I had already in my personal library, Real Skills, Real Income. 

    Diana concludes that this is a good sign for freelancers, because it means that blog sites are looking for better quality. first.”

    Diana reported some results from a few surveys. The first, The Freelance Niche Report by Ed Gandia, revealed that the most popular niche is healthcare/pharma. More importantly, it revealed that writers with specific niches or those who limit their niches to one, two, or three are paid a higher rate, have been in the industry longer, and are more satisfied with their clients.

    Another survey published by Orbit Media provided some insights about blogs. The average time for writing a blog post, respondents reported, was 3 hours 15 minutes. Also, blog posts are getting longer, with the typical length in 2016 at 1,054 words! At the same time, blogging frequency is declining. Diana concludes that this is a good sign for freelancers, because it means that blog sites are looking for better quality. "That's good for us," she says. "It's an area in which we can compete effectively."

    Translation services  is a subject that's a little unusual for IWOC, said Scott Spires. He told us about how his career began as a translator for law firm Baker McKenzie in Moscow and his subsequent work with translation agencies. According to Scott, to succeed in this market, you must be a good writer in your own language and know the source language (the language you're translating from) well, although you don't have to be perfect. And you should have a good level of knowledge about the specific field you're translating for. Translators usually charge by the word (Scott's official rate is 12 cents per target word.)

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Vladimire Herard covered Niche Writing. Vlad recommended that, in choosing a niche, that you ask yourself what you love to do, where you have the strongest connections, what types of clients you are drawn to, what websites you frequent and books and publications you read most often.

    She outlined the benefits--you can build your status as an expert and find opportunities to be a "big fish in a small pond," earn premium pricing for writing about esoteric topics, and enjoy relationships that are longer and more substantial. The downfalls include the potential for being typecast, depending on just one type of work product, and limiting your ability to move on to other markets.

    Vlad recommended that, in choosing a niche, that you ask yourself what you love to do, where you have the strongest connections, what types of clients you are drawn to, what websites you frequent and books and publications you read most often.

    Article writing is Jeff Steele's specialty. He's been doing it since the early 1990s, when the Sun-Times was paying just $140 for an article. He found, since this isn't the most lucrative form of freelance writing, he needed to work on multiple assignments at a time. Today, he often has as many as 14 assignments lined up, working on them in stages.

    Jeff shared some of the cons—the challenge of finding good sources and getting them to talk with you. And the pros—lots of opportunities, and learning about trends and becoming an expert on many different topics.

    Potential clients include consumer magazines and trade magazines, web publications, and PR agencies. Some of the characteristics that article writers should have are writing speed, industriousness, organization, and mastery of a system. The steps in Jeff's system include making calls, scheduling interviews, and using a headset while taking notes during interviews. When he has three to four sources of notes, he's ready to write. 

    Resources for finding work include Writer's Market and writing market websites. The May/June issue of Writer's Digest includes a feature listing the best websites for writers. I’m going to run out now to get my copy!

    - Julia Bailey

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    President's Column

    Are You Meant to Mentor?

    Laura Stigler

    A funny thing happened on the way to going through life. Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been accumulating experience. Sadly, I still feel that in the knowledge/experience department I’ve only scraped just a few pathetic shavings off the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg. As the saying goes, I don’t even know what I don’t know. All the classics I’ve yet to read. All the countries I’ve yet to visit. All the scientific formulae I’ve yet to devise. But until one incident in particular, one of the things I didn’t know...was what I did know. I’ll explain:

    Several years ago, a cousin of mine expressed interest in going into my vocation, that of an Advertising copywriter, and wanted me to critique her portfolio. Heading into our meeting, I was a bit apprehensive. Yeah I could spot a great headline. Big whoop. But if something didn’t quite work, would I be able to articulate why – beyond mumbling “I dunno. I just don’t like it.”?

    Mentor. What a proud badge to wear.

    As we sat in the coffee shop and I perused every page of her spec book, almost surprisingly out of my noggin poured collected knowledge and tricks of “the biz” that, while having put into practice, I never really codified. I found myself not only pointing out what ads were right on target and why, but I was also able to pinpoint what was missing, where things needed improvement – and why. I heard myself making rather excellent suggestions (if I do say so) and the best part was seeing that little light glimmer in my cousin’s eyes when she “got it.” She was actually benefitting from my experience, and learning from my trials and errors. Only then did it begin to dawn on me – as it relates to work, anyway – that my gosh, I actually do know a lot! I am experienced, doggone it!

    I was a mentor.

    Mentor. What a proud badge to wear. And the rewards go both ways. Not only is the mentee learning about and getting trained in a subject for which they already have great enthusiasm, but the mentor is also learning. About themselves. How much practical, sensible, valuable information they actually have stowed away, and how that information, when passed along, can ignite inspiration within those they’re teaching.

    There is an outcry for mentors.

    Being in IWOC, and starting to speak at various events, here’s what else I’m learning: that there is an outcry for mentors. In our Q&A sessions at the end of those events, I’ve been asked if IWOC has a mentor program – something that’s been on the Board’s agenda for awhile. Time to put it in place.

    So what do you think?

    As an IWOC member, would you like to mentor? Impart your long-earned knowledge and experience to other IWOC-ers in need? See that little light ignite? I will soon be e-blasting you with those questions and just a few more to get into specifics about your specialties. And then we can be on our way to making IWOC, in addition to all its other offerings for writers, Chicago’s go-to center for mentors. I mean it!

    - Laura Stigler

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    Printers Row Lit Fest


    The 33rd annual Printers Row Lit Fest is Saturday and Sunday, June 10th and 11th. The event runs from 10:00am to 6:00pm, each day and IWOC will have a table under the Illinois Woman's Press Association tent. Their tent will be located on Dearborn street just north of Polk street. IWOC members, here's your chance to take a turn at staffing the table to promote IWOC to potential members and potential employers or clients while having some fun meeting a bunch of interesting people. There will be four two-hour volunteer shifts each day. IWOC member-authors can also sell their books and are encouraged to staff the table for a shift. Contact George Becht for information and to sign up. You can also see the PrintersRowLitFest.org site for more information.

    - George Becht


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    IWOC Member Article

    I’m a freelance doer and it fits me just fine


    Diana Schneidman

    I’m neither a leader nor a follower. I am a doer and that’s why I prefer freelancing over corporate employment.

    You may have had trouble reading the title of this. It doesn’t look right to me either, but I verified in the dictionary that “doer” is the correct label for someone that “does,” and no, the word does not take a hyphen.

    I am a doer because my greatest strength is in implementing. My corporate jobs have been implementation roles in marketing research, marketing communications, and project management. I take great pleasure in getting work done and checking tasks off my to-do list.

    I don’t see other people labeling themselves as doers. Actually, most people call themselves leaders. A leader, of course, is someone who rules, guides or inspires others, and it seems like everyone nowadays considers himself a leader.

    “Leadership” has come to mean everything from “competence” to “industriousness” to “taking initiative.” The word has a much broader scope than its traditional meaning.

    I play well with others and work well with others, too.

    In my past work as a professional resume writer, a striking percentage of my clients positioned themselves as leaders. Take the administrative assistant who monitored sales data and worked with sales staff to improve their results, planned and implemented sales campaigns and awards, and coordinated responses to incoming customer calls.

    She called herself a leader—her resume was strong in terms of what she did—and she did get callbacks and even job offers within days of sending out her resume. Still, I question if she met my (secret) demanding requirements for a leader.

    The opposite of a leader is a follower. Common sense would tell us that a leader must have followers to be effective, and that we should expect there to be many more followers than leaders.

    But here in the U.S, “follower” has become synonymous with “lemming.” We think of the follower as personified by grade school children who try cigarette smoking and later become drug addicts by following the bad examples of others.

    The closest role to follower that is not a shameful role is “team player.” There are lots of those around. Often the very same people who are leaders are also team players.

    I guess I’m a team player. I play well with others and work well with others, too.

    Hurrah for us freelancers! We are getting the work done that enables business success.

    However, there’s always been something off-putting about the term, especially since I did not receive the respect I felt I deserved during corporate employment. As a non-ranking team member, my input was frequently ignored.

    Although I was a writer, higher-ranking individuals would “correct” my spelling and grammar for the worse, assuming that “its” without an apostrophe looks a little naked and needs correcting simply for appearance’s sake.

    Today I am a freelancer and it fits me much better. People hire me to implement, which I enjoy.

    Hurrah for us freelancers! We are getting the work done that enables business success.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest members!

    Elin Jacobson - Senior Member

    Cyndee Shaffer - Senior Member

    - Roger Rueff

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 27 Apr 2017 11:40 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    May 2017

    Volume 36 | Number  5

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Spring is in full swing, tulips, daffodils and spring cleaning! What to do with all the paper left over from tax time, all those receipts from client meetings and the napkin drawings of your next greatest project? Reduce the clutter and scan them – of course!

    But what is the best way to do that? Warm up your desktop scanner, fire up the scanner software on your lap or desk top, place each sheet on the glass and wait for it to scan, upload and show up on your computer…or just take a picture with your smart phone?

    I have been using my smart phone and its pre-installed photo app to take pictures of stuff that I want to save or remember. It does not sort nor file well and while I can do some markup of the photos, it is cumbersome at best. I thought that someone may have already thought about that and decided to search the web and see what else is out there.

    All cost much, much less than a desktop scanner.

    I found many scanning apps are available but that's about where the similarities end. All of them use the camera function to capture the document but differ from there. Some are free and some are not. All cost much, much less than a desktop scanner. Some have better filing systems, edge detection, editing features, storage, etc. Dropbox has added the ability to scan documents directly. Paperbox is free for both android and i-Phone and has organizing abilities.

    When making your decision, it seems that what you need, are willing to spend and how often you need to scan documents are factors to take into consideration. I decided to go with Scanbot. The price was low ($5.99), the storage optimal (can use the my i-Cloud account) and editing features are decent. For more information, here are some links to the reviews:

    Do you use or recommend a different scanning app? Please let me know.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    May Meeting Preview

    How to freelance in new and different markets

    IWOC’s upcoming program in May will offer an excellent bird’s-eye view, along with down-to-earth advice, on how to obtain freelance-writing success in new and different markets—something that’s relevant to both experienced and beginning writers alike.

    The program features a panel of five experienced IWOC writers, each discussing a different writing-market segment. Each will present a variety of “nuts-and-bolts” ideas on how to succeed in one specific writing market, in which he or she already specializes. The topical areas include advertising, article writing, company-business writing, niche-writing, and translation services.

    The panelists will thus offer practical advice based on real-world experience that works in getting results, including:

    • Advantages and pitfalls of the particular writing field
    • Types of clients to pursue and how to reach them
    • Profitability potentials
    • How to launch yourself into this area of writing specialization

    The panel includes: Brent Brotine, advertising; Vladimire Herard, niche-writing; Diana Schneidman, corporate writing; Jeff Steele, article writing; and Scott Spires, translation services. These topical areas clearly reflect each respective panelist’s specializations.

    The topical areas include advertising, article writing, company-business writing, niche-writing, and translation services.

    For example, Brotine’s IWOC listing says that he specializes in advertising, marketing and direct response, including areas such as finance and insurance, which entail writing brochures, collateral materials and web-site content. Likewise, Herard says she is a niche-oriented health freelance writer, focusing on topics related to health, and serving non-profits and small businesses, specifically in the coverage of senior long-term care, aging, the pharmaceutical industry, and related consumer issues.

    In contrast, Schneidman offers freelance writing and research related to general business, as well as for the insurance and asset-management industries. Also, she has authored a book, specifically for freelancers and consultants, which focuses on marketing strategies designed to get work in 30 days or less.

    If you want to learn how to launch your freelancing into new directions for more dollars, creativity and fun, then be sure to show up for this program.

    Offering yet another specialty, Steele specializes mostly in article writing, having published more than 3,000 articles in various newsletters and trade publications. He also offers corporate communications, finance, journalism, travel blogging, case histories, employee communications, fund-raising appeals, and company newsletters.

    Spires says that he is a linguist, published writer, and editor with experience in legal and general translation, print, and TV journalism. In offering his writing and editing skills for corporate clients, he also promises to provide “versatility and an international perspective.”

    So, if you want to learn how to launch your freelancing into new directions for more dollars, creativity and fun, then be sure to show up for this program. And be sure to jump into the discussion yourself-- audience interaction is strongly encouraged!

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, May 9th, in Room 4F (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738. Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking. For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Tom Lanning

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    April Meeting Recap

    Public Relations

    Luke Cushman, Tim Frisbie, Betsy Storm

    Shortly before IWOC’s March meeting on public relations, United Airlines blundered into one of the worst PR nightmares in recent memory. To free up a seat for a late-arriving United crew member, security officers dragged a ticketed passenger down the aisle on his back while he screamed in pain. The removal was so violent the man ended up in the hospital. The cell phone video of the incident controlled the news for days.

    As public relations professionals, our panel speakers Tim Frisbie of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, Luke Cushman of the Wilks Communications Group and our own Betsy Storm reacted strongly to the way United Airlines handled the problem. The airline’s bumbling presented a textbook case of how not to do public relations. Ignoring the emotional impact of the video streaming into American homes, the airline issued a statement apologizing for the need to “re-accommodate the passenger.” This inauthentic statement, intended to sanitize the situation with emotionless language, backfired.

    We are the audience members for public relations practitioners. Unfortunately, we are mostly aware of PR work when a company fails to handle a crisis well. However, public relations practitioners also work the positive side of communications. “Seventy-five percent of news originates with a PR person,” Storm said. Cushman agreed, adding that among different sources of news the percentage probably falls between sixty-five and eighty-five percent. He advised writers of press releases to think more about writing news than just turning out a press release. If you want to sell it to the news providers, it should be news.

    However, public relations practitioners also work the positive side of communications.

    Journalists respond to a writer’s interest in their publications. It suggests a shared interest in the publication’s brand, which can make journalists more receptive to your story ideas. “There’s an eighty percent click rate by journalists on emails with a subject line like, ‘Hey, loved your article about X’,” said Frisbie. PR relationships should include communications that aren’t strictly pitches.

    Today’s PR professionals also create content for companies that communicate directly with the consumer. “In this case, the communication is more about content, frequently interactive content, than news.” Cushman said. For example, a consumer with a Chevrolet may receive a monthly email summarizing on-board diagnostics, like whether or not the tires need air. One consumer’s tires are hardly news to world, but the car owner cares what he rides on. This content creates a relationship between customers and brands.

    “Tell the truth, tell it yourself and tell it first.”

    Panelists also discussed new media, which give more and more people the chance to affect public perceptions. Twitter claims to add 135,000 new accounts every day, and our panelists report that internet estimates on new blog startups can be as high as 10,000 per day. Many people creating new content lack journalism training and respect for the fairness standards expected from traditional media. Panel members advised writers representing maligned companies to: “Tell the truth, tell it yourself and tell it first.”

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    The United airlines incident shows how communications lacking in genuineness and concern for the community can make a PR disaster worse. PR writers build a story about a company and open lines of conversation about the brand with the public. They need to think about the audience they want to reach and how that audience interacts with the brand they are promoting.

    - Korey Willoughby

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    President's Column

    Another Epic IWOC FX Success!

    Laura Stigler

    I have to say, I do like the sound of that headline. Especially because – ok, maybe with only slight exaggeration – it’s true! I’m referring to IWOC’s presence at the 2017 Lake FX Chicago on April 21. What the heck is Lake FX? In case you haven’t heard, it’s a free event that takes place annually at the Chicago Cultural Center, where everyone who “creates, produces or performs” comes to show their wares and share their expertise and knowledge. We’re talking writers, artists, musicians, actors, dancers, designers, photographers and more. A hulking creative schmoozapalooza, if you will.

    Where exactly does IWOC fit into this?

    As it turns out, people involved in every one of those fields have one thing in common: they want publicity. They want to know how to promote whatever it is they’re promoting. In sum, they want to know how to write an effective press release. Voilà! For the third-straight year, IWOC has come to the rescue with a one-hour crash course on “Press Release Basics,” given by vice-president Jeff Steele, former president David Steinkraus and yours truly. Not only has it been well attended each year, but it has been one of the most popular draws, so much in fact that the City invited us to participate in the ACCESS Labs, the new adjunct to the Lake FX event where we gave one-on-one press release critiques and consultations. It was quite an honor to be asked, and already we’ve received quite the fantastic feedback by attendees.

    That in itself was immensely rewarding. But what really made our day was the people we met. Their enthusiasm about their art, their craft – their life! was contagious, and no doubt the reason for the palpable buzz that permeated the atmosphere.

    But what really made our day was the people we met.

    There was Susy Lucero, the effervescent Mom and “marketer extraordinaire” of Cielito Lindo (cielitolindo.com), an Hispanic-American Partridge Family who has performed on Chicago Tonight and everywhere from Navy Pier to Allstate Arena. (Papa Juan Lucero will be featured as one of the “Cool Dads” in an upcoming Parent Magazine.)

    There was Full Armour’s Karen Stally (wearefullarmour.com) visiting from the UK, who has become smitten with Chicago and wants to make this her home. Her creativity and spirituality resonated and overwhelmed me.

    There was charming John Ludwig – a Process Control Engineer at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. But whose real love is songwriting (songsbyjohn.com). We had much in common.

    To hear, in turn, how we’ve inspired them to promote their creative endeavors was more than gratifying; it reaffirmed the importance and practicality of our organization.

    And there were so many more. It was a true privilege meeting everyone. From Janet Austin (janetaustinart.com), a sculptor who has recently been transforming dead trees into works of art, to Dru Phelps, who has turned the children’s ditty “Jack & Jill” into a just-published self-help book for grownups, the experience was eye-opening. To hear, in turn, how we’ve inspired them to promote their creative endeavors was more than gratifying; it reaffirmed the importance and practicality of our organization. To great “FX.”

    - Laura Stigler

    P.S. We’re considering scheduling “Press Release Basics” as a program for one of our monthly meetings. Please let me know if you’d like that!

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    IWOC Member Article

    Don’t let the competition get you down

    Diana Schneidman

    Understanding the competition is a very good thing . . . maybe.

    We can pick up product and marketing tips and use what we learn from others to develop our competitive edge. But we also risk using what we learn to chip away at our own self-confidence.

    It has happened to me.

    Too much competitor research is dangerous. You risk over-focusing on their strengths. And worse yet, you risk overlooking your own strengths.

    Believing in yourself is much more powerful than comparing yourself to others . . . especially if you are subject to twinges of intimidation.

    Believing in yourself is much more powerful than comparing yourself to others.

    You’ve got to remember when you are reading a competitor’s website and marketing copy or hearing about them from your network, that you and those who recommend them to you are only seeing the final product. You can’t see how many websites and other marketing efforts over the years have preceded the current version.

    It looks like these people really have it together because you are comparing your insides to their outsides. Not a fair comparison.

    The problem is more intense when you are bitten by the copy-envy bug. Everything you write about yourself, from tagline to contact info, feels inferior to what they have written. You keep rereading theirs and you lose sight of how to improve your own without simply stealing their stuff.

    It’s also a problem when you overly focus on only one or two competitors. Just because a few people cross your own radar more frequently—they may live near you or belong to IWOC—does not mean they have cornered the market.

    I’ll read listings of top international bloggers and top businesses and I’m always surprised by how many names near the top of the list I have never heard of. It’s because the internet covers the globe and the globe is a pretty big place. It’s got room for a lot of talented people and businesses.

    There’s another question you need to answer: Are they as good as they say they are? Lots of experts look wonderful in print but they are not as responsive as you would imagine in real life.

    The answer is to spend less time focusing on the competition and how you can differentiate yourself and to spend more time understanding your unique strengths..

    Some of them are so busy (that marketing stuff works!) that they are not keeping up with the work and staying in close contact with customers and prospects. Or they may not be so busy but they are still not strong on follow-up.

    The answer

    The answer is to spend less time focusing on the competition and how you can differentiate yourself and to spend more time understanding your unique strengths.

    Studying your own positives puts you in touch with the power of what you offer. It suggests more meaningful ways to improve your business and its marketing and inspires you to move forward.

    Plus, self-understanding builds your self-esteem, helping you sell your abilities and your services more easily and more effectively.

    Understanding the competition can be helpful, but understanding—and valuing—your own strengths is even more important.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest members!

    Becky Maginn - Distance Member

    Pearce McCoy - Professional Member

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 01 Apr 2017 9:01 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    April 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 4

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Spring is here and with it comes renewal. The IWOC website underwent a renewal last month and this month, the newsletter Stet was updated. Many thanks to our webmaster, Roger, for all of his hard work. For more information, see the President's Column. Our Madame President did a bang-up job of explaining the updates and why they are important to YOU!

    In addition to our usual features:

    • Editor's Note
    • Meeting Preview
    • Meeting Recap
    • President's Column
    We have a book review and an article written by one of our members.

    We are still looking for more member contibutions and input. Write a letter to the editor, let us know about you in the member profile (contact the editor for the latest list of questions) or submit an article. All the submission details are below.

    For now, Happy Spring! Enjoy your newsletter!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    April Meeting Preview

    The ABC's of PR: Independent Writers of Chicago (IWOC) Discuss Public Relations

    A company wants to generate some buzz about its newest product. A think tank would like people to know the findings of its latest study. A nonprofit is excited about winning a grant for a new community project. A celebrity just inked a deal to develop a fashion line. Newsworthy events all, but without a public relations professional’s guidance, the public might never know about them.

    Join us on April 11th as IWOC member and public relations specialist Betsy Storm leads a panel of speakers to provide an inside look at the ABCs of PR. Storm, principal of Top Drawer Communications, has been in the communications biz for over 20 years, and is an award-winning PR pro with expertise in healthcare, nonprofits, small business and business-to-business.

    Public relations is (rather formally) defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” But when it comes down to simple language, PR is all about relationship building, engagement, and persuasion— best achieved via a solid journalistic approach. Essentially, PR is a powerful way for companies, organizations or individuals to enhance their reputations. It usually involves the ability of a PR pro to communicate intelligently and creatively with members of the media (from CNN to a neighborhood blogger) to present one’s clients in the most favorable way possible.

    Storm and her panel will discuss how to break into PR, how to pitch to clients, how to develop strong media relationships, and much more. As Bill Gates famously said, “If I were down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

    As Bill Gates famously said, “If I were down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, April 11th in Room 4F (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738. Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking.  For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Sally Chapralis

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    March Meeting Recap

    Abby Saul’s Advice on Queries

    Abby Saul of the Lark Group is a literary agent who helps writers take a finished book to market. At IWOC’s March meeting she presented guidelines for writing query letters to agents and publishing companies. As in most cases where writers reach out to people who publish, more success comes to those who meet the expectations of the initial contact.

    First realize that agents sell more books than authors. Publishing houses have more confidence in the professionals who have seen many, many book ideas. (Saul receives about two hundred queries a week.)

    What do agents do for authors?

    Agencies that sell literary fiction rarely respond to a vampire fiction query and vice versa.

    “An agent sells your book and becomes your editorial partner, brand manager and business partner,” Saul said. “They also sell subsidiary rights including film rights, audio books and foreign rights.”

    Secondly, writers need to research literary agencies to make sure they are pitching the kind of book an agency routinely handles. Agencies that sell literary fiction rarely respond to a vampire fiction query and vice versa.

    If you believe your book is destined for a small press, you may find that agents advise you to approach the publisher yourself. Agents usually work with large publishing companies.

    Much of Saul’s advice can also help writers who send queries to magazines. She offered five important suggestions for writing a query agents and publishers will see as professional.

    • Greeting. Address your letter to a specific person. Avoid “Dear Agent” and especially “Dear Sirs” because your query may go to a woman. If you have a personal connection—“I heard you speak at IWOC last year”—lead with the connection.
    • Introduction. Introduce your book succinctly with three critical facts: title, genre and word count; and state which readers might like it. For example: “In this 80,000 word classic mystery, Dead in Color, an art critic arrives at a painters’ retreat believing he will receive a life-time achievement award. This cozy mystery will appeal to fans of amateur sleuth fiction by authors like Susan Wittig Albert and Elizabeth Peters.” (Note: Choose someone other than Agatha Christie. If your examples are the most well-known people, you reveal a lack of depth in the field.)
    • Synopsis. In 100 to 200 words, introduce the main character and hint at the plot. Your style and tone in the synopsis should match the book you are pitching. Refrain from giving away too much, especially the ending. Never suggest something that does not actually appear in your book.
    • Biography. Provide your book-writing bio. Fiction writers should tell their background in fiction and mention memberships in writing groups. If your query is about a first novel, just say it. A nonfiction writer needs a more complete history of publications and information that tells the agent why he or she is the best person to write the book.
    • Closing. Close with Sincerely, Your Name. Contact information can follow the closing.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    When you have written a good query, have other writers look at it before you send it out. You can submit to multiple agents or markets at the same time, but only pitch one project at a time. Do not pitch a potential series. This can make agents doubt the strength of the book you want to publish now.

    You can submit to multiple agents or markets at the same time, but only pitch one project at a time.

    Once your queries have flown through the mail, avoid harassing the recipients. If you have heard nothing after six months, check to make sure they received it. Rejection is a big part of the process, so take heart. If your query is rejected fifty times, retool your query letter. (Yes, fifty. It’s a mean world out there, people.)

    - Korey Willoughby

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    President's Column

    What a Friendly Site!

    Laura Stigler

    It’s been said – in fact, we often say it ourselves – that IWOC is one of the friendliest organizations you’ll ever hope to find. Friendly people. Friendly environment. Hey, some of our best friends are IWOC-ers! So it begs the question: Why has IWOC’s website been rather unfriendly when viewed on your mobile, for instance. Or tablet?

    Sure if you’ve been eyeing it only on your desk or laptop, there was no problem. Had all the info you needed, was easy to navigate. Life was good. But on other devices? Fuggetaboudit! All the content was ridiculously small. To click on any link or menu item, you had to have fingers like knitting needles. To read the content, you’d have to zoom in, causing the text to spill over, making it necessary to scroll to read just one line! And let’s not even get into registering for an event, reading the calendar – in short, the web design wasn’t “responsive.” Not a good thing. Especially for a group as professional as ours.

    It’s everything our former site was, only eons better.

    What to do? Consult our webmaster, Roger Rueff, of course! With some excellent suggestions from the Board and working his own digital wizardry, Roger came up with what will gloriously open before your eyes when you visit www.iwoc.org. It’s everything our former site was, only eons better. Here’s why:

    • Looks great on whatever device you’re using – mobile, notebook or desktop PC. The content conforms. The design is clean, contemporary.
    • The text, menu and links on all devices appear in normal size. You can read and click on them easily. Even if you have sausages for fingers.
    • Get a load of this new goody: Any time you click on the Home page, a different Featured Writer will pop up, along with their photo and links to their IWOC profile, website and social media profiles. Everyone gets their moment in the sun. Continuously.
    • The menu is now located across the top of the page, rather than off to the side, giving more real estate to content and photos.
    • All the Stet newsletters now load up quickly and are mobile / tablet compatible.
    • You’ll also love how iconic Chicago cityscapes and landmarks make their appearance in the Home page slideshow. Considering “Chicago” is part of our name, that makes us particularly proud.

    A friendly word of advice

    The IWOC website is a powerful promotional tool. For IWOC, yes. But especially for you. To that end, make sure your photo is uploaded on your profile. (Otherwise a generic silhouette appears, as if you’re in some witness protection program.) Also, add your website link to your profile, as well as links to your social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). Importantly, all of these will appear on the rotating Featured Writer section when you’re the one being featured. The better to engage potential clients, my friend!

    So enjoy the new site. And feel free to give us feedback. After all, that’s what friends are for!

    - Laura Stigler

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    Book Review

    Word by Word

    Richard Eastline

    Word by Word / Kory Stamper / 296 pp. (incl. bibliography, notes, and index) plus a preface / Pantheon Books ,2017 / $26.95 list (hard cover) / ISBN 9781101870945 / Also available as a Kindle ebook.

    Merriam Webster is a name more familiar to me than any female I’ve ever known. But with this one, I’ve enjoyed the longest and most reliable relationship one could hope for. Moreover, this Merriam is probably a good friend to just about every writer and crossword fanatic who has lived during the past 170+ years. 

    Kory Stamper is not nearly as well known to us but she may be one of Merriam’s best buddies in her role as lexicographer at the home of America’s pre-eminent publisher of dictionaries. (Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge per description in 1755.) Few persons are likely to ever have as much contact with words as Ms. Stamper, so her insights and revelations provide us with a remarkable---and very readable---behind-the-scenes tour of what goes on at Merriam-Webster, a New England-based company. It was established in 1844 by the brothers Merriam after acquiring the rights to publish and update Noah Webster’s book of word definitions.

    Ms. Stamper not only serves an important role at the company but also publishes her own blog, Harmless Drudgery, whose very existence suggests that a talk session with her will stretch the bounds of a conventional interview. This new book provides that same purpose. Its subtitle, The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is a relatively tame description of its contents: fifteen chapters brimming with expositions, arguments, and opinions. Definition is the subject and it is explored via aspects of grammar, punctuation, origin—sometimes to elaborate length. Chapter subjects include “Wrong Words,” “Bad Words,” and “Small Words” plus elements like authority and disputes.

    Chapter subjects include “Wrong Words,” “Bad Words,” and “Small Words” plus elements like authority and disputes.

    The job of the lexicographer, she firmly states, is to tell the truth about how language is used—double negatives and “ain’t” are part of it, like it or not. For an indication of the depth of research the author offers in the study of certain troublesome words, check out her fourteen-page essay on “it’s” or sample her gnashing-of-the-teeth response to those who dismiss “irregardless” as a word strictly based on so-called rules. Every chapter holds incidental surprises that nonetheless adhere to Ms. Stamper’s persuasive doctrine. The thoroughness of her approach is apparent when you discover that her notes section, bibliography, and index add up to thirty-two pages. 

    The author has been with Merriam-Webster (now a division of Encyclopaedia Brittannica) twenty-five years, during which time she estimates she has been involved in establishing definitions for hundreds of thousands of words. To some, that kind of work would seem to border on science. In a philosophical statement in the final chapter, Ms. Stamper sees it as being a creative process as much as a scientific one and, likewise, more of a craft than an art.  In today’s world, though, dictionaries face change as online searches replace printed page listings. She acknowledges both the cost and convenience factors that will influence the future methodology of defining words. Yet, for those who truly identify themselves as lexicographers, “we don’t do the work for the money or prestige, we do it because English deserves careful attention and care.”  It certainly gets its due in the pages of “Word by Word.” 

    - Richard Eastline

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    IWOC Member Article

    Two types of freelance marcom writing: What’s the difference?

    Diana Schneidman

    Establishing an effective working relationship with corporate clients and pricing our work right make much more sense when we recognize that we provide two types of writing. One type is straight-forward and rather easy; the second type is much more demanding.

    If we can’t distinguish between these two types of marcom writing, we are likely to get indignant about certain clients who seem to be overly difficult and demanding. We may also fail to recognize which projects should pay better and price our work accordingly.

    The first type of marcom writing is what we commonly think of as “content.” This includes most blog posts, podcasts, and such that compile general knowledge in such areas as management, leadership, change and marketing.

    How to write general content

    We all know that plagiarism is when you steal from one, research is when you steal from many. So let’s steal from many. (Perfectly legit.)

    We all know that plagiarism is when you steal from one, research is when you steal from many.

    Print off lots of content found through Google, yellow highlight some good stuff, and mix it up till we meet word count. Fix grammar, spelling, punctuation. Then run it through Copyscape to assure originality.

    • These pieces average about 500 words. They may start with an overused quotation from Albert Einstein or Henry Ford. State the concept under discussion and define the term. Fluff it up a bit. Yada, yada, yada. Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Blah, blah, blah, Steve Jobs and Nordstrom’s. Call to action: Just do it.

    I write this content too. It’s easy to write. Clients are happy and never suggest major changes. It doesn’t pay all that much, but then, why should it?

    Then there’s the second type: copy that develops and supports the client’s corporate identity, branding, positioning, or whatever term they have chosen. This category obviously includes taglines, website homepages, and annual reports. However, it pulls in so much more: white papers, extended case studies, social media, etc. This stuff is challenging to write well, not simply because it requires knowledge and effort, but because it represents the client’s brand.

    Why it’s hard to write identity content that pleases the client

    Clients know their brand (or maybe not . . . or maybe there is a lack of consensus within their organization), but often they don’t know what they don’t like until they see it.

    One draft is hardly ever enough. And if it is enough, it’s because the client communicates their branding to us so effectively from the start, not because we are so brilliant.

    This means that identity content must meet a very high bar. The project timeline and pay schedule must support the back and forth this copy requires.

    The price is high because getting the messaging right is such hard work. Yes, this can cause sticker shock on the part of the client, but more important to us, we ourselves can experience sticker shock if we really work out a price that is fair to us.

    What do you think? Am I on to something? Or am I making excuses? Please share your ideas on my LinkedIn article.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest member!

    Patricia Stratton - Senior Member 

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 28 Feb 2017 4:38 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    March 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 3

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Writing tends to be a solitary occupation – that is why IWOC is so important! See what another IWOC member has to say about IWOC (among other things) in the second member article this month – “Writing Tips”.

    In looking for something for this month’s note, I found some other (one hundred to be exact) websites that might useful to you. The Write Life proposes that writing “takes a village” and puts together an annual list of the 100 Best Websites for Writers. The topics they include are: Blogging, creativity and craft, editing, freelancing, marketing and platform building, podcasts, publishing and writing communities.

    This is their third list and the criteria they use are:

    • It was recommended by readers of The Write Life
    • It publishes content helpful to writers
    • It has been updated recently and regularly

    The list has some repeats from years’ past but has fifty new sites. I recognized some that I already read and many that are new to me. I did not click on all 100 sites (yet!) but a couple that really intrigued me were Lucy Flint and the Lionhearted Writing Life and Kathy Steinemann. Hope you find some that are beneficial!

    Changing gears slightly...

    90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal

    Have you checked out the new look for the IWOC website? Our webmaster has been hard at work creating a responsive website that will function correctly and look good on any electronic device. If you are wondering why this is important, consider a few statistics from Aspire Internet Design:

    • 56% of American adults have a smartphone (Pew Research Center)
    • 28% of cell owners own an Android; 25% own an iPhone; 4% own a Blackberry (Pew Research Center)
    • 34% of American adults own a tablet computer (Pew Research Center)
    • 34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. (Pew Research Center)
    • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012 (Cisco)
    • 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal (Google)

    Thank you Roger!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    March Meeting Preview

    Literary Agent to Offer Practical Tips on Writing Super Query Letter for Publishers

    If you’re looking for ways to get a new book manuscript published, you might consider seeking out a professional literary agent who can point you in the right direction—including tips on how to write a superior book-query letter for a publisher.

    Join IWOC-ers for the Tuesday, March 14 program, as a prominent literary agent from a Chicago-based agency offers practical advice for freelance writers on putting together a superior query letter as an essential first step in the publishing process.

    Literary agent Abby Saul founded The Lark Group literary agency, following a decade in publishing at John Wiley and Sons, Sourcebooks, and Browne and Miller Literary Associates. IWOC members also may recall that she was well received at IWOC’s program last July, when she presented tips on how to best utilize the services of a literary agent.

    Abby says she has worked with and edited bestselling and award-winning authors, as well as major brands. At each publishing group where she’s played a role, she also has helped establish e-book standards, lead company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books, and create and manage numerous digital initiatives.

    Importantly, she also points out that she’s currently looking for “great and engrossing, adult commercial and literary fiction.”

    A zealous reader who loves her iPad and the e-books on it, she still can’t resist the lure of a print book. For example, Abby says her personal library of titles runs the gamut from literary newbies and classics to cozy mysteries, to sappy women’s fiction, and dark and twisted thrillers.

    A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Abby says she spends her weekends—when she’s not reading—cooking and hiking with her husband. You may find her @BookySaul on Twitter.

    Importantly, she also points out that she’s currently looking for “great and engrossing, adult commercial and literary fiction.”

    All are welcome to attend—past, current and future authors, as well as those with still festering dreams, or a burning passion, to be “heard” in print.

    You can meet her in person at IWOC’s upcoming March program, where you will have the chance to tell her about any brilliant ideas you have for writing another great—and both you and she hope—best-selling book.

    All are welcome to attend—past, current and future authors, as well as those with still festering dreams, or a burning passion, to be “heard” in print.

    Join us at 5:00pm for networking on Tuesday, March 14, program at 6:00pm and a 'pay on your own' dinner after the program at the Gratz Center, Room 4F, 126 East Chestnut, Chicago, IL.

    - Tom Lanning

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    February Meeting Recap

    Invest on a Freelance Income

    Thinking of investing part of your income as a freelance writer?

    Then, “you need to focus on your earnings and spending, maximize your income and invest with a plan,” said Danielle Schultz, the principal of Haven Financial Solutions, Inc. in Evanston, IL and presenter during the Valentine’s Day IWOC workshop. Schultz, a former IWOC member and author of Idiot’s Guide: Beginning Investing, summed up the essential strategy above that freelance writers ought to take to start and build their investments.

    JSchultz recommended that writers divide their earnings 50/50 between business and personal allocations. They should devote 60 percent of their personal income to paying their bills for housing, utilities, food, basic transportation, insurance and clothing. Ten percent should be saved for retirement, 10 percent for goal savings (including emergency fund or debt repayment) and 20 percent on discretionary spending.

    Schultz recommended that writers divide their earnings 50/50 between business and personal allocations.

    Writers should set aside part of their earnings as profit, which can function as a business emergency fund, she said. Schultz said that business expenses should comprise no more than 30 percent of total earnings. Additionally, writers should set aside at least 10 to 15 percent of their income for taxes. Schultz advised them to examine their records to determine what they’ve paid after deductions.

    Schultz said that they must build an emergency fund before they can afford to invest. Once an emergency fund is established, writers who need to pay off debt should use the "snowball method". They should continue to pay the minimum required payment on all debt. Then, they scour the budget to find a little more that can be put toward the lowest bill.

    While they are building their emergency funds, she added, freelance writers ought to begin to learn about investments by, for example, reading her book and The Little Book of Main Street Money: 21 Simple Truths That Help Real People Make Real Money by Wall Street Journal writer Jonathan Clements.

    Additionally, freelancers can consider giving to charity. Saying that she was shocked to learn on the job over time how few individuals donate to charity, she coaxed IWOC-ers to select their charities but to at least choose one. Freelancers need to build up retirement funds in the same way that employees do. They should contribute a regular percentage, at least 10 percent of earnings, to tax-sheltered retirement accounts.

    Schultz said that they must build an emergency fund before they can afford to invest.

    Most individuals want “safe investments” that avoid serious financial risk or losses. However, having a safe investment and making substantial returns are two “contradictory things,” she explained. The more that investors can tolerate risk in investments, the higher return they should get from those investments. If an investor needs or wants safety, the investments will produce lower returns.

    Writers can begin to build their wealth on such types of retirement accounts as the Roth IRA, Traditional IRA or SEP IRA. They “might consider a target date fund, a balanced fund or a combination of funds that match” their risk tolerance, she said.

    Schultz gave some pointers on choosing investments. She recommended “passively managed, no-load index mutual funds.” No-load funds are those in which a commission is not being paid.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    Attractin’ da Yutes

    Laura Stigler

    You know what “yutes” are, don’tcha? Like from dat movie, “My Cousin Vinny,” when Joe Pesci defended doze two yutes accused of a crime dey didn’t commit? Yeah, YUTES!

    Anyways, gettin back to da subject at hand, it’s always been IWOC’s intention to continue bringin’ more young people into da fold. So how do ya go about doin’ dat? Foist of all, take a look aroun’ IWOC. We got a buncha peeps wid lotsa experience. Success stories. Maybe even some wisdom. So why not share? Wid da yutes! Spread da mental wealth, as it were. Help out da younga generations as dey ventcha into da woikin’ woild. Show ‘em different ways dey can build dere careers. And maybe, just maybe, we can attract summa dem in owa organization. As membas. Which wouldn’t be a bad ting, am I right? Huh? Huh? ANSA ME!

    We got a buncha peeps wid lotsa experience. Success stories. Maybe even some wisdom.

    Alrighty den. So wid dat in mind, last munt, me (da Prez), along wid Veep Jeff Steele and Parliamentarian David Steinkraus, hightailed it on ova to Columbia College where we met wid Dr. Eric Freedman, Dean of da School of Media Arts. Imagine! Us meetin’ da Dean! (Don’t worry, we wiped owa feet befaw we went into his office.)

    Turned out to be a great meetin’. We tawked of how we can arrange some kinda relationship wid Columbia College, foist by presenting our Speaker’s Bureau tawk, “Life in da Freelance Lane” – to give deze kids an idea of awl da options dat await dem. I mean, dis ain’t ya fodda’s economy any maw. Nowadaze, ya don’t necessarily dream of gettin’ a job where ya punch a clock (and a few co-workers) for toity yeahs, only to be kicked to da curb wid a gold watch at da end.

    It’s a gig economy, baby. Da millennials, dey like da idea of bein’ (fancy word alert:) entrepreneurs. Woikin’ as contract playahs. Bein’ independent. So how do dey survoive in such a woild? Dat’s weah IWOC comes in. We can show ‘em how to build a freelance business – and give ‘em real woild advice, born outta real experiences. Which may even include some positive woids about foist woikin for corporate for a couple a yeahs – just to polish one’s chops and enforce some of da disciplines dat would do dem well as a freelanca.

    Dat’s weah IWOC comes in. We can show ‘em how to build a freelance business – and give ‘em real woild advice, born outta real experiences.

    Da Dean also mentioned da possibilities of IWOC havin’ a (fancy word alert:) symbiotic relationship wid such organizations as da McCormick Foundation, wheah businesses come to speak at IWOC events and den dey promote IWOC to udda businesses. How ‘bout dat! Nice, huh?

    So dat waz owa foist foray inta owa effort to attract da Yutes. Nobody’s made no promises yet, but we tink we opened a daw, and only good tings can come of it. Like helping doze who are about to graduate, figya out what to do in dat confusin’ toime of life. And if summa dem join IWOC? Dat wouldn’t just be a good ting. It would be a great ting. And dat’s da trute.

    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Doggone It! What We Can Learn About Marketing from a Canine

    Diana Schneidman

    Peter Bowerman in The Well-Fed Writer, his best seller about how to freelance, retells a story he learned from his sales manager during Bowerman’s early days as a door-to-door salesman.

    His mentor claimed that if you take an order book and a pencil, tie them to a dog’s tail and send the dog out to walk around town, eventually it will return to the sales office with an order written in the book and the pencil and book reattached.

    Hmmm, what does this teach those of us who would like to sell our services professionally?

    It may mean that instead of working, we should put our lazy, freeloading pets to work earning their kibbles.

    A second conclusion is that anything can work. Stick with what you are doing—or begin doing what some expert claims is the latest, greatest way—and your success is inevitable.

    But here is a third lesson and the one I favor. One success does not prove you have a method that merits the effort and time required to keep it going.

    While the dog story sounds a little far fetched, people we know or even we ourselves justify ineffective sales techniques with isolated stories of how they have worked for others.

    People love these stories and use them to prove any cockamamie marketing plan works. “See, lightning can strike,” they say.

    Yes, but the real question is: Will this lightning strike consistently in the same place so that we should add it to our sales arsenal?

    Many of these beloved sales stories involve the internet. Take blogs. The experts claim that blogging is easy.

    Well, technically speaking, blogs are easy to create, but getting them up and going is just the beginning. They require ongoing writing and management and they also demand substantial work to build traffic that may convert to business. Yes, they can be highly effective, but success demands commitment.

    Or take Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking websites. Here, if you don’t know where you are headed strategically, no amount of irrelevant, silly postings will lead you to steady profitability.

    For any marketing technique to be worth undertaking, it must be strategically sound.

    Blogs? Social networking? Meaningless chitchat if not linked to a strategic goal.

    Let’s plan our marketing by thinking through our efforts and employing marketing techniques that are effective in gathering sufficient leads and ultimately, paying opportunities.

    Doggone it! Let’s not be like the canine with the order book.

    Instead, with clear-headed thought, we can develop successful marketing that reliably brings in excellent paying opportunities.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC Member Article

    Writing Tips

    Karen Schwartz

    Throughout my freelance writing career of 25+ years, I’ve written about practically every subject under the sun. I figure, if I interview the right people, there’s practically no subject I can’t write about. I’ve pitched stories to – and gotten assignments for articles from - dozens of editors at mainstream and trade publications. I’ve also done many other types of writing as well, including website content, annual reports, speeches, fundraising letters, ghostwritten content, press releases, corporate histories, and much more. Another IWOC member once referred me for a six-month freelance job with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and IWOC Vice-President Jeff Steele and I for many years, have – and continue to - refer numerous jobs to one another.

    I figure, if I interview the right people, there’s practically no subject I can’t write about.

    In the past year or so, I decided to take my freelance writing career in a somewhat different direction. I needed to bring in more income, and so I decided to specialize in certain types of writing in terms of the subjects I write about.

    Several years ago, I attended an IWOC networking event, where I met the editor of a legal publication that’s published by a legal organization; this led to my writing for this specific publication. I no longer write for that publication (it no longer pays its writers!), but I thought, Hey, why not find out about other publications that this legal organization publishes? Now, I’m not only writing for another one of that legal organization’s publications, but at IWOC renewal time, I listed “Legal Writing” on my list of categories. And this past December, I edited a 200- page legal dissertation for a doctoral student in Italy who had viewed my IWOC profile.

    Real estate and construction is another area of writing in which I’m specializing. A construction company viewed my IWOC profile in November – “Real estate and Construction” is another one of my IWOC profile categories - and so far, I’ve worked with them on two projects.

    Carry your business cards everywhere you go, even if it’s just out for a walk.

    When it comes to my LinkedIn profile – you do have an updated LinkedIn profile, don’t you? – “Legal,” “Real Estate and Construction,” as well as “Healthcare” and some other categories, are listed in my main heading. Though I will of course, write material on any subject for a client, I’ve decided to turn myself into more of a specialist. I’ve also joined LinkedIn Premium, which allows me to send messages to more people and contact more individuals who have viewed my profile. I even call people who have viewed my profile; this sometimes results in actual assignments!

    I have some other tips for obtaining clients:

    • Carry your business cards everywhere you go, even if it’s just out for a walk.
    • Making cold calls is not that difficult! If you get someone’s voice mail, leave a message.
    • If you haven’t been to an IWOC meeting in a while (or ever), come to (at least) one this year. I’ve been a member for 30 years and am so glad I joined. The friendliest group of people you’ll ever meet…and you may even get a job lead!

    - Karen Schwartz

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest member: Peter Ricci- Professional Member!

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 30 Jan 2017 4:53 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    February 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 2

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    You are a professional writer, words are your business. Can you use an app for that? I thought I would see what was available to writers to assist them in getting words on the page, quickly and efficiently. Not a word processing program but a text editing program.

    I quickly found an article on a Pro Writing App on The Sweet Setup. They recommended Ulysses, a powerful text editing tool for Mac and I-Pad/I-Phone. They said “The mission of a pro writing app should be to help you produce words that will eventually end up being posted, printed, or published. It should provide an environment that is aesthetically pleasing and makes it easy for you to focus and create, and then allow you to take your content and export it wherever you desire.” I was glad that I work on a Mac ,as the only apparent drawback of this app is that it is only for Apple products. Cost: $45.00.

    Their next suggestion was for Scrivener which has been recommended by several IWOC members at the monthly meetings. Also $45.00.

    You are a professional writer, words are your business. Can you use an app for that?

    A newer app is Typed. The favorite feature noted by the author was music! Some research has shown that certain types of music can help focus our attention. Typed has soundtracks embedded in the app that you can open and listen to without an internet connection. At $29.00 it is less expensive but does not offer writing assistance at the level of the others.

    For two decent, less expensive options, you could try Byword or Write. Neither lists for more than $12.00 and while they do not have all the bells and whistles of Ulysses, both would be an upgrade if you do not have any other writing app.

    Do you use or recommend a different writing app? Please let me know.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    February Meeting Preview

    Post-Election Era Financial Planning for Freelance Writers

    Photo by Cynthia Tomusiak

    This article finds you two weeks into a new year, three months past an election cycle and three months away from the next tax deadline. 

    How will you greet the new fiscal season? 

    "Now is the time to seek out advice on how best to start or improve your spending, investment and retirement plans, methods of finding money for investing and management of unstable freelance writing revenues," says Danielle Schultz, author of Idiots Guide: Beginning Investing and financial planner/owner of Haven Financial Solutions, Inc. in Evanston, Illinois.

    To help IWOCers start off the new fiscal quarter on the right foot, Schultz will touch on these and other financial planning topics at the next IWOC meeting on Tuesday, February 14th., making her case for “Post-Election Era Financial Planning for Freelance Writers.”

    Now is the time to seek out advice on how best to start or improve your spending, investment and retirement plans, methods of finding money for investing and management of unstable freelance writing revenues, says Danielle Schultz.

    Schultz is a financial advisor (CFA) certified by Northwestern University since 2011 and registered with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, a certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and an Illinois-registered investment advisor.

    At the mid-February IWOC presentation, Schultz plans to walk freelance writers through the most prudent and relevant practices and trends in cash flow and spending, charitable giving and college, insurance, investment and retirement planning. Schultz will raise the most important questions freelance writers should ponder in building a comprehensive plan to examine all facets of their financial status: do you have a spending plan that reflects your goals and dreams? Do you have an investment portfolio tailored to meet your needs? Is your retirement secure? Do your estate plans match reality? Have you made the most of your employee or business benefits? How tax-savvy are you? What is your masterplan for college funding, buying another home or financing travel? 

    "The best preparation," Schultz says in her blogs, "is to further develop professional skills."

    "The best preparation," Schultz says in her blogs, "is to further develop professional skills. To endure an economic recession, freelance writers and all workers otherwise would do well to build skill sets that employers find irresistible such as those in computer science, health care, accounting and engineering. This also applies to adult children tempted to major in liberal arts or impractical fields or concentrations in college."

    - Vladimire Herard

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    January Meeting Recap

    Writing Superior White Papers and Case Studies

    Photo by Richard Eastline

    Starting in the late 1800s to early 1900s in Britain, members of Parliament would write parliamentary papers, known as “blue books” and “white books,” to propose future legislation or policy. The blue books were short policy documents prefaced by blue covers. The white books, or white papers, were longer and protected by white covers.

    "Such are the origins of the form of technical writing freelance writers know in the B2B market as the white paper," said George Becht, an IWOC board member at the IWOC January workshop. Becht is an engineer who has produced manuals, proposals, grants, training materials and workshops in the arenas of advertising/marketing, corporate communications, industrial/technical industries, photography and transportation.

    Joining Becht was Diana Schneidman, another IWOC board member. Schneidman specializes in producing marketing communications, marketing research, PowerPoints, speech writing and training materials in the subject areas of property-casualty insurance, asset management and business.

    He said freelance writers already know the rule for producing a truly refined product -- be prepared to write and re-write.

    To secure a white paper assignment, Schneidman told IWOC-ers that they should inform their clients that they have experience in other forms of business writing. “There are people who specialize in white papers in one or another industry,” she said. “It [may be] difficult for you to specialize in any company. If you’ve concentrated on certain companies or industries, you [can say that] you wrote blogs, speeches or press releases. This positions you for white papers. One [assignment] leads to the next.”

    Becht said freelance writers already know the rule for producing a truly refined product -- be prepared to write and re-write. “If you want sophisticated [clients] to read this, [be sure to] to review, revise and polish,” he said.

    Additionally, Schneidman cautioned writers to make arrangements early on to incorporate graphics or photography into the design and format of white paper assignments. “One of the things you have to clarify is what the document is going to look like,” she said. “A long document of solid text does not cut it these days. They [the clients] expect visuals and images to break up the text.”

    Becht recommended that IWOC-ers search online. An independent Internet search for this business need may reveal as many as 300 million potential clients or consumers. Because of the growing demand for white papers, IWOC-ers can expand their freelance-writing businesses with these work products, he said. When asked about case studies, Becht compared this particular class of writing products to “feature magazine articles” that are “one to two pages” long. Written for promotional purposes, a case study is a short documented profile, usually favorable, of a particular product, service, concept or solution. Case studies may average 400 to 800 words in length and may take less than a day to produce.

    “One of the things you have to clarify is what the document is going to look like,” she said. “A long document of solid text does not cut it these days.

    Becht recommended that IWOC-cers consult these experts, including Michael Stelzner, founder of the Social Media Examiner and author of the book, Launch and Writing White Papers; Gordon Graham, author of White Papers for Dummies and creator of the website ThatWhitePaperGuy.com. He recommended the websites: BitPipe, TechRepublic.com, Google.com, Content Resources, Quora.com, and Revionix. For commercial or technical writing assignments in general, Schneidman pointed to Peter Bowerman’s book The Well-Fed Writer. In a handout titled “Jazz up your long-copy project,” she recommended books about using imagery with business writing assignments by Nancy Duarte, especially one titled Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Freelancers can command high prices for writing white papers and case studies, she told IWOC-cers. White papers can fetch writers $1,000 to $4,000 per assignment, and some businesses can spend as much as $30,000 to have a white paper prepared for its clients. Additionally, freelance writers have been known to make $100 per hour writing case studies. Schneidman advised writers to consult the Writers Market and Graham’s books on pricing white papers.

    Becht also instructed IWOC-ers to attempt to secure one client as long as possible to minimize the costs of writing assignments.

    “The ones you retain are more cost-effective than the ones you have to go out and get,” he said.

    Get the podcast of the full presentation (members only) at IWOC.org!

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    My Dad, the Writer

    Laura Stigler

    I was planning on writing a different article for this month’s Stet issue, but as we can all attest, life doesn’t always go as planned. On New Year’s Eve, my dear Dad, Eric Stigler, passed away. He was 99. Forgive me for sounding like the proud daughter, but he was also one of the most brilliant writers I have ever known, and has remained so up until his mid-nineties. I laugh at the incredulity of that last sentence, but it’s true. Whether it was prose or poetry, limericks or letters, comedy scripts, songs, ad campaigns (he coined “Fly the Friendly Skies of United”) – whatever words flowed from his fountain pen, I was always in awe. His was the standard I aspired to.

    His was the standard I aspired to.

    In his tribute, I would like to share with my fellow IWOC-ers a poem he wrote that was one of my favorites. It is a testament to his love of words and the English language – something we all, as writers, can appreciate. Written 40 years ago (with minor updates), the tonality is of its time. But the subject, ahead of it, as it was right at the onset of the Women’s Liberation Movement. And although it gently pokes fun at the concept of “having it all,” it also hits upon a truth with which many of us would secretly agree to this day. Enjoy!

    Love you, Dad & Mom.

    - Laura Stigler

    After All, I’m Only Superhuman

    by Eric Stigler


    “ A HEARTY ACCOLADE, A ROUSING TIGER AND A CHEER, 

    FOR NEVA NEWCOMBE NYPE, ACCLAIMED ‘AD-WOMAN OF THE YEAR!’”


    I’m from The Bugle, Mrs. Nype: I hate to interlope,

    But would you tell our readers of The Day with which you cope;

    Where do you find the time to do the many things you do?


    “My eager, unspoiled child...the same things could be done by you!

    You’ve simply got to budget all the time you have on hand, 

    Don’t let a moment trickle through, a wasted grain of sand. 

    I run a mammoth Agency; two Columns I compose; 

    I Lecture almost endlessly, and Guest on TV Shows. 

    Three Textbooks on The Art of Advertising I am writing, 

    While students to my Forums I am constantly inviting. 

    Two Personal Computers fast respond to my commands.” 


    You operate two laptops, ma’am? 


    “Why not? I’ve got two hands! 

    I manage the ménage about a 28-room house 

    With scarce a helping hand from 30 servants and a spouse; 

    Singlehandedly I raise eleven offspring...mostly males... 

    (Which leaves my 14 nurses naught to handle but details). 

    I grow Tibetan orchids, and accumulate antiques; 

    With mushrooms that I cultivate, my basement fairly reeks; 

    I paint in oils on china, and when program will permit 

    The Rosetta Stone I translate into jargonal Sanskrit; 

    Rare Gobelin-like tapestries I fashion with my toes, 

    In the meanwhile, since it’s idle, judging perfumes with my nose. 

    Yes, my day is overflowing, and my schedule’s pretty steep, 

    Why, I’ve no room to indulge such whimsicalities as sleep. 

    But now our chat is through, my dear; I think you’d better go, 

    It’s time for my shock treatment, and I set up quite a glow.”


    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Phoning for Freelance Work: How to Conquer Damaging Self-talk

    Diana Schneidman

    What does your brain whisper to you (or even scream!) when you try to start phoning for freelance writing assignments? 

    Is it: I’m not ready? With the assumption: I must be perfectly prepared before I call any prospective buyer. 

    In their book, Earning What You’re Worth: The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance (1992), George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson identify this as the career-damaging quest for over-preparation. 

    This self-talk message can totally talk us out of reaching out to possible clients, according to the authors. We convince ourselves that we aren’t sufficiently prepared and that the person we reach on the phone will ask us a tough question that will reveal our incompetence. 

    The solution appears to be more study. Read more books and take additional courses on what to say on calls. Study article after article and scan the websites of multitudes of experts to learn the secret sales phrase that assures success.

    We don’t have to know everything. We only need to know the answer—or an initial, temporary answer—to whichever question we most fear will be asked of us.

    We may delay by becoming an expert on the person and the company we are calling. Study the website, page by page. Throw in some Google research and examine tweets. Scroll through every line of the individual’s LinkedIn profile. 

    However, this is overkill since the person may not answer the call. Furthermore, detailed critiques of what’s wrong with a prospect’s marketing are more likely to repel than to initiate a buy. 

    Or we decide that we can’t make calls until we have established our expertise by completing more assignments. But how can we complete more assignments until we obtain more clients? 

    Alas, this thinking leads us right to the very lowest-paying assignments that reside on freelance job sites. When we don’t have the confidence to go after the clients we want and to say our price without choking, it’s easiest to prospect online and take what we can get without risking interaction with others. 

    If we don’t say anything, we can’t say anything wrong. Right? 

    The solution is to understand that we can never be perfectly prepared because we can never know everything a prospect may say to us. Therefore, we must push on and get started all the same. 

    We must allow ourselves simply to be adequately prepared. And if we build on past full-time jobs or freelance experience to develop our business, we are adequately prepared.

    Therefore, let’s determine what we absolutely must know or do in order to be minimally qualified to make a phone call. Be honest here. We don’t have to know everything. We only need to know the answer—or an initial, temporary answer—to whichever question we most fear will be asked of us. 

    Also, let’s not start with the most likely prospects. Start with those who are a little removed from our specialty. This reduces our stress, and if we come off a little unpolished, c’est la vie.

    We must allow ourselves simply to be adequately prepared. And if we build on past full-time jobs or freelance experience to develop our business, we are adequately prepared. 

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest members!

    Val Gee - Senior Member 

    Michele Begovich - Associate Member 

    Marcus Emanual - Associate Member 

    Carla M. Shaffer - Associate Member 

    Peter Stephen Strandquist - Professional Member

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 31 Dec 2016 11:22 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    January 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 1

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Happy New Year! As your editor, I am resolved to do the best job I can for you. Last year, I rolled out “IWOC Member Profiles” and enjoy getting to know our members better, one at a time, once a month. I also requested letters to the editor and am looking forward to your letters. 

    One of the ideas that came up at a recent board meeting was to add another IWOC member column, this time asking members to share their IWOC stories on “How IWOC has benefited you?"  We are jumping right in with that! It is the next article.

    Finally, as the newsletter is now in a digital, email and blog post (on the website) format, I am working to keep the word count of all articles right around 500 words. This did not just come from me; the board also weighed in. We want Stet to be readable, helpful and relevant in this new format and all of us believe that the word count will contribute to that. 

    Share your IWOC Stories about "How IWOC has benefited you?"

    Our program committee is working hard on the programs for 2017. They have most of the year mapped out and are finalizing the January meeting - look for an email blast following up on that program. In any event, please plan to join us on January 10th, 2017 at 5:00pm for networking and at 6:00pm for the meeting at the Gratz Center (Room 4F), 126 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago.

    To wrap up, I would like to share  my column and a seasonal contribution from one of our members: Richard Eastline.

    The Theater of Winter

    Something approaches and the skies begin to tremble. 

    Chilled winds rush ahead freely dispersing shivering pronouncements as they seek out unexpected targets. 

    They are the advance bearers of bitter change. 

    A city not yet prepared to acknowledge the intruder is caught up in its seasonally crafted routines, deluded by a late receipt of the sun's weakened rays, bestowing counterfeit warmth and brightness on those below.

    Scurrying figures are mouthing holiday greetings from faces momentarily wearing mandatory smiles. 

    Is there foreboding in the air? 

    In these times, it's ever-present, an urgent nagging embedded in some recess of memory. 

    An instant or two passes and the scene is transformed by Nature's invisible stage hands. 

    The sky now darkens for the theater of life's next act. 

    An orchestra of winds plays fortissimo... 

    Sound begets fury. 

    Winter has come.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    How IWOC Benefits Members

    Sweating Out a New Business Meeting

    Jeff Steele

    JFK once famously exhorted Americans to ask not what their country could do for them. I took his advice and applied it not to my country but to IWOC. I joined not expecting much, just trying to cover my half moons in case anyone was to crack, “Well, you’ve failed at freelance writing. What’d ya expect? You never joined a writers’ group!”

    I was into my third year of expectations lower than a snail’s ankles when one July day, the phone rang. On the other end, a voice was announcing my IWOC directory listing had been perused. And could I visit his suburban office to discuss some projects? I said yes and instantly began questioning how I’d get there. I didn’t have a car.

    Eyeing a map and a Metra timetable, I learned I could train out from downtown, then hoof a mile and a half to the office in time for the confab. Piece of cake, I thought, and I might get a gig. There were just two as-yet-unseen problems with this assumption.

    Piece of cake, I thought, and I might get a gig.

    The first? It was summer of 1995, better known as the three months so hot the Chicago streets were paved with dead bodies, to hear the national media tell it. The second? The suburb to which I was headed was just slightly less hilly than the Alps.

    The day of the interview dawned a scorcher. By the time I’d marched in suit and tie a mile and a half over hill and dale on a 95-degree afternoon, I looked like I’d been doused in a dunk tank. Luckily, I arrived a half hour ahead of schedule, and was able to cool and dry off enough to appear a bit less clown-like when ushered in for the meeting.

    Well, I got the gig, and kept the client. In fact, I’m entering my 22nd year of working for that firm, which in 2016 was one of my two highest-volume, best-paying customers, and is still headed by the same IWOC directory reader who was at the helm 21 years ago.

    When it comes to work, I’m still partaking like it’s 1995. And IWOC’s to thank.

    - Jeff Steele

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    Holiday Party Recap

    Good Time Had By All

    Passing presents

    It was time once again for the ever-popular Holiday Party. The party moved this year to Marcello's at 645 W. North Avenue, this year. 

    IWOC members met, in a party room in the back that we had all to ourselves. Those in attendance socialized; spending time discussing all sorts of enjoyable topics and getting to know one another a bit better.

    A delicious and plentiful dinner was served family style. Some of the items passed around were chicken piccata, veggie lasagna, grilled vegetables and several desserts. Books were exchanged and Santa's helper passed out presents.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    Survey Says!

    Laura Stigler

    In the enthusiastic spirit of the classic game show, Family Feud, I’m here to announce that the results of the 3-Question survey are in!

    As you may recall, about a month ago we sent out the 3-Q survey to all IWOC members and friends of IWOC, asking their opinions about this very organization. I want to share them with you, not only because they were well thought-out, caring and expressed a genuine interest in the well-being of IWOC, but this ultimately concerns how IWOC can affect your business. Besides, IWOC is family, right? We share.

    So thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the survey, and thank you, dear readers, who are taking the time to peruse the outcomes below.

    Q #1: “What do you like about IWOC?” Survey says...

    What respondents loved most about IWOC was the people themselves. The camaraderie. The networking. The fact that we’re all such a helpful and friendly bunch. Some couldn’t believe their luck that such a vibrant organization existed where professional writers can get together to share accomplishments, advice, war stories. And laughs. What also got thumbs up: The newsletter, job line, website, the online directory, monthly meetings, mixers, IWOC’s event participation, referrals gotten from fellow IWOC-ers, committee work, and the credibility factor IWOC lends to professional writers.

    Q #2: “What can IWOC improve?” Survey says...

    No itching for a family feud here. The suggestions were quite friendly in fact, falling into three buckets: 

    1) new ideas the Board will act upon – or at the very least, discuss their feasibility: 

    2) ideas already in the works; and 

    3) ideas that have been considered at one point, but for various and practical reasons, were dismissed.

    Let’s unpack each, beginning with bucket #3:

    • It was suggested IWOC hold some meetings in the suburbs – an issue that’s periodically raised. But it always comes down to the challenge of finding an affordable, consistently available meeting space in a locale most accessible transportation-wise for most members. Downtown Chicago seems to best fit that bill. Still, the good news is, podcasts of our monthly meetings are available online to members. Granted, attending meetings have extra benefits (networking, getting your questions answered by guest speakers, etc.), but for those who can’t always be present, the podcasts are an ideal solution.
    • All that said, what will be considered is suburban locales for any upcoming workshops or seminars. So stay tuned for that.

    Bucket #2 (ideas in the works): This was a juicy one, because it means that our members and the Board are on the same wavelength. For instance:

    • Simplifying the membership sign-up and renewal process. We plan to have it in place by the next Membership Drive in September 2017.
    • A mentor program. Exactly what we’re planning to implement so as to expand IWOC’s mission and value to the writing community at large.

    Bucket #1 (ideas we’ll be acting on):

    • More guest speakers who hire writers. Yes!
    • Striking up a relationship with the Small Business Development Center at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Yes! This would help achieve another suggestion:
    • Increase awareness of IWOC as a central repository for employers to link up with writers
    • A table provided at meetings for those who wish to take notes on their laptop. Consider it done.

    What respondents loved most about IWOC was the people themselves.

    Q #3: “What’s the one thing you’d like IWOC to provide?” Survey says...

    Actually, the responses dovetailed with a number of suggestions on how to improve IWOC. Here are the ideas that made the respondents’ wish lists. We will be looking into ways of granting them:

    • Workshops on: Editing. Writing effective press releases. Professional level seminars covering such topics as uncommon research sources, international marketing and becoming an authoritative voice in the marketplace. And more.
    • More job opportunities, including in the healthcare, education and non-profits fields
    • IWOC and outside author readings with Q&A’s and an opportunity to sell their books
    • Selling IWOC authors online
    • An advisory board to take on issues the Board doesn’t have time to address
    • Resurrect the print directory – get it into the hands of prospective employers
    • Forums for agents and publishers actively looking for writers

    Game on!

    All the above were discussed at the December Board Meeting, and a most satisfying discussion it was. Beyond confirming we’re on the right track, we are excited to use the survey results as a reference tool – a source of inspiration to keep us moving in the New Year towards where we want to be as an organization. And as a family.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy, successful 2017!

    - Laura Stigler

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    Featured Member

    Brent Brotine

    Brent Brotine

    How would you describe yourself? While I've been, at times, a general advertising writer, a broadcast writer-producer, a creative director and a retail advertising specialist, today I'm primarily a "classic" direct response copywriter. It's a skill that's often outsourced because many of today's millennials are not taught how to write long copy. And it's immensely satisfying to write a multi-page letter or scrolling website that sells a big-ticket purchase at first read, be it a financial product, membership organization or lifestyle gadget. Too, direct response is the one form of advertising copy that's data-driven: you can test what works and make decisions based on performance, not client guesswork or preconception.

    What advice would you give on working for agency clients? There's more competition than ever if you're looking to be hired by advertising/marketing agencies or design firms. HR in larger firms often mandates that outsourcing be done through the third-party firms such as Artisan or Creative Circle as a safeguard from someone claiming formal employment status. And because there are often contracted low rates, you're limited in what you can charge. Being able to target and approach the creative director in charge of an account for which you have special expertise is your most likely avenue.

    I see a lot more of my future writing being done from a Starbucks in St. Petersburg or a McDonald's in Madrid.

    What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? When I began freelancing twenty-plus years ago after the Chicago office of my then-agency employer was closed, I was advised not to work from my kitchen table, but to have a formal out-of-home office. And until just a few months ago, when family matters required I be at home more, that's what I've done. It helped me focus on freelancing as a career rather than just a temporary stop until I found another full-time gig. And I believe it has made me more productive over the years — the interwebz are distracting enough without adding a big-screen TV, two cats and an overflowing refrigerator into the mix.

    What are you doing these days? My better half intends to work for at least five more years, maybe more, before taking down her own shingle — so I'm in no hurry to reduce my hours. But, I'm actively adding more "fun" and volunteer jobs to the mix, with the intention of spending less overall time sitting behind the laptop. So, while I still have a roster of direct marketing clients, I'm also working part-time for WTTW-Channel 11 as an on-set pledge drive coordinator … driving for Uber … and serving as webmaster/board member/occasional cook-and-bottle-washer for my synagogue. All of which leads to:

    What would you like to be doing differently in five years? Traveling more, not less. For years, I've toted my laptop on cruises and other excursions to keep up with work assignments, and as more people work virtually I don't stand out as much as I used to. So, I see a lot more of my future writing being done from a Starbucks in St. Petersburg or a McDonald's in Madrid.

    Is there a website or other contact information? Absolutely. You can see some of my current projects at www.brotine.com, and I'm reachable at brent@brotine.com or 530-BROTINE.

    - Brent Brotine

    Some questions for next month: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? 4) What would you like to be doing differently in five years? 5) What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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    IWOC's New Members

    IWOC would like to extend a warm welcome to our renewing member: James Hodl.

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

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