Volume 35 | Number 10
October Meeting Preview
September Meeting Recap
Featured Member: Richard Eastline
IWOC Library Program
Oct 07: IWOLF Lunch
Oct 11: October Meeting
Oct 06: IWORP Breakfast
Oct 26: IWOOP Lunch
New members and other odds and ends.
I have been wanting to include our newest members in Stet to welcome them and let the rest of the group know their names. Our annual membership drive ends October 2nd and Stet will be published (just) before that. There will be some new members that joined after I wrote this, but have no fear, we will annouce you in the November issue! The most recent new members are: Adela Durkee, Rachel Henry, Janice Snider, Korey Willoughby.
Speaking of November, I would like to remind everyone that there will be no meeting on November 8th due to Presidential elections.
I would like to remind everyone that there is no meeting in November.
Finally, I read a (rather long) quote the other day and it really resonated with me so I decided to share it:
"When we are upset, it’s easy to blame others. However, the true cause of our feelings is within us. For example, imagine yourself as a glass of water. Now, imagine past negative experiences as sediment at the bottom of your glass. Next, think of others as spoons. When one stirs, the sediment clouds your water. It may appear that the spoon caused the water to cloud - but if there were no sediment, the water would remain clear no matter what. The key, then, is to identify our own sediment and actively work to remove it." -Josei Toda
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
It’s time once again for the IWOC Roundtables. This is the opportunity for all members to become speakers at the October program. We’ve done this sort of thing before, and so many members will be familiar with the format. For newcomers, it’s a time to get to know folks, pick their brains and pick up some tips.
This is the opportunity for all members to become speakers at the October program.
Join IWOC-ers for the October 11, Tuesday night program, as a prominent literary agent from a Chicago-based agency offers practical advice for freelance writers on how to benefit by using the services of such industry professionals.
Here’s how it works. We’ll divide up into small groups, each with a leader. The leaders will talk a bit about how the program will progress and then moderate group discussions. Each group leader will have several conversation starters at hand, but the overriding point of the evening is to ensure that there will be ample time for everyone to talk about his or her own particular questions or topics.
Think about an issue that’s been puzzling you: collecting on aging invoices, assignments that seem to grow and change beyond what your quoted price included, marketing your talents into a new field, practice management, making more money. Write it down now so that you won’t forget it and bring it along to the meeting. Any topic that applies to writing, editing, freelancing—any communications art and skill or small business management hurdle—is fair game. The only proviso is that it be something that can be explained and discussed in a few minutes.
To get you started, here are a few broad topics we’ll try to cover:
Shameless Self-promotion. How can you get your name out to potential clients? Learn how to promote yourself and your business through strategic networking, press releases, advertising, public relations, and especially social media.
Any topic that applies to writing, editing, freelancing—any communications art and skill or small business management hurdle—is fair game.
Market Building. Got a hobby, talent, or special interest in which you’ve become something of an expert? Learn how to develop a niche market that will allow you to command higher earnings while increasing your expertise in the field you love.
Collections? Getting Paid in Full and on Time. Having trouble setting rates that enable you to put food on the table and order dessert? Maybe you have a client or two who consistently hold your invoices for 60—or more—days. Learn how to spot and overcome low- and slow-pay problems.
Designers vs. Writers—Who Wins? Do you find your work being compromised by graphic designers who view the written word as just another design element? Learn how to stand your ground with art departments.
Plugged-in Writing. Want to write for the web but don’t know where or how to start? Learn how to find assignments, how web writing differs from other kinds of work that you may have done in the past and how much to charge.
Virtual Full-service Firm. Learn how to partner with other independent communications providers (photographers, marketers, designers, etc.) to form a soup-to-nuts production company.
The Entrepreneurial Opportunist. Wondering where the jobs will be in an increasingly multicultural, multilingual, technical economy? Learn how to recognize trends and position yourself for newly developing writing assignments.
We’ll wrap up the evening with recaps from the groups that will ensure all voices are heard and all issues addressed. That will make for lively mealtime conversation, so plan to stick around for the after-program dinner.
None of us is “just a writer.” We do far more than simply write for your clients. We help them solve problems; improve the service or product they sell to their customers; talk to different audiences; and improve their market position, strengthen their brand and build their revenues.
What happens, though, when we find ourselves up against a problem and need advice from an expert? Easy answer: we turn to our colleagues. Who has a better understanding of the challenges, professional situations and working conditions we face? Most important, who is most apt to examine different facets of a problem that’s been driving us nuts and be able to provide us with a perspective we haven’t yet considered? Other IWOCers, of course. What a great chance to call upon the talents of a roomful of experts who can give us specific pointers to help get us past a rough spot in our communications practice.
In addition to the question(s) you want answered, bring a giant appetite for lots of high energy, low calorie advice. We’ll meet on Tuesday, October 11, in Room 4F (4th floor) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking ($6.00: park after 5 p.m. and pick up a validation card at the Gratz reception window) 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 the IWOC website. Click on “October 11 IWOC Meeting.”) Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics and to continue networking. For more information, visit the IWOC website.
- Jim Kepler
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To successfully select and develop our freelance writing niches, we must grasp and engage in niche marketing and nontraditional marketing, distinguish between the benefits and downfalls of niche marketing, understand our target markets, identify and cultivate our sales strategy and gather online and offline resources to assist us throughout the process, Florence Hardy, MBA manager of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce downtown, said during the organization’s mid-September workshop on the topic. Hardy, a private-practice transactional and intellectual property lawyer, has imparted similar wisdom to small business owners as a business consultant for over eight years. Hardy informed IWOCers that the center’s main goal is to help individuals start and grow their businesses for free. She stressed that the SBDC serves a wide “range of industries,” including that of freelance writing and editing.
Through her presentation, she defined niche marketing as a “specialized market in which a limited and clearly defined range of products or services are sold to a specific group of customers,” equating one’s niche with one’s expertise. Hardy described marketing as a process not to be confused with advertising. She drew the analogy between marketing and advertising as being that “thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs.” Marketing, she explained, is “any promotional activity that is not traditional advertising.” Presentation examples, she said, include promotional events, business intelligence reporting, obtaining and recording instances of recognition and product packaging. “If you have to pay for it, it’s advertising,” Hardy said. “If you don’t, it’s marketing.”
“If you have to pay for it, it’s advertising,” Hardy said. “If you don’t, it’s marketing.”
For freelance writers, marketing involves how we package our services, including our websites and our e-mail accounts. “All that you put out is the marketing,” she said, referring to freelance writers’ work products as well as their websites and use of other media platforms.
Outside of the realm of freelance writing, Hardy used a retail store with a dirty floor and dark, dingy windows as an example of bad product packaging. “It tells you about the store,” she said. “Think about the impression [the store owner creates on customers].” Besides a business site’s lack of cleanliness, Hardy pointed to miscommunication by business signage as another example of bad marketing. In one instance, the front-door electronic signage display for Kids’ Exchange, a business catering to children’s needs, is made to read “Kid Sexchange” because of the misplacement of letters in the words. Obviously, she said, a customer’s initial reaction is “Let me go to the next door!” In a second case, the business signage for a private practice dental service office should read “Clinical Dental” but instead says “Clinica Dental” because of the omission of the letter “L.” Such bad examples, Hardy concluded, illustrate the importance of marketing. Why should freelance writers -- as well as all small business owners -- practice sound marketing? She responded that freelance writers, as well as all small business owners, need marketing to generate more sales; increase customer awareness of our products and services; learn the marketplace, our efforts and the metrics of both; foster consumer trust; build social assets; discover what works best; develop an ideal customer profile; test and optimize our offerings and build powerful brands.
Business owners tend to use one of two categories of marketing, traditional and nontraditional, Hardy said. Traditional marketing is one-way marketing that tells customers what to do and encompasses mass marketing. By contrast, non-traditional marketing involves two-way marketing, which entails conversations and forming relationships. A prime example is the social media platform Twitter, she said, where customers expect a two-way conversation. [Traditional marketing and] mass marketing are not the best ways to market your services,” Hardy told freelance writers at the workshop. “Unless you are selling a necessity, no mass marketing [should be used].” Non-traditional marketing is the mode that is most suitable for freelance writers, she said, because of its two-way communicative nature and our need to make and build connections and rapport with our clients to generate more work and more income.
What do you like to do? What would you do if money was not an issue?
To determine our ideal niche or niches, she said, we must prepare to focus on one or more areas of freelance writing or editing. We must determine our areas of expertise and the variety of freelance writing or editing we would like to take part in. Hardy said that we freelance writers must ask ourselves: “What do you like to do? What would you do if money was not an issue? Where do you already have strong connections? ... Our services and products can be sold to specific groups of customers.” She said our selection and development of niches depends on the need of our clients or customers. For instance, in the case of a medical facility or hospital, if a freelance writer making an offer of services and products is a medical writer, then he or she can be used. However, if a writer concentrates on fictional work and blogs, the hospital or facility can’t use him or her. In some circumstances, a writer can be a “jack of all trades, master of none,” she said. However, with more niches, freelance writers may face more obstacles tantamount to that of large businesses and will have more individuals to compete with for work and income, she added. Additionally, freelance writers have limited time to produce work based on a small number of niches so we must build our statuses as expert, she said. As a result of narrowing our activity, writers will have little direct competition.
Click here to access the meeting podcast!
“You can become a big fish in a small pond,” Hardy told writers at the workshop. “[For example], not so many [writers] can do blogs for stay-at-home mothers or stay-at-home fathers. ... You can carve out a niche that is in demand and you are the only expert. Your customers are going to someone. [For example], home coffee machines compete with Starbucks.”
In her presentation, she outlined the benefits of niche marketing as “focused effort; efficient use of resources; build[ing] status as expert; opportunity to become a big fish; [ability to] charge premium pricing; ability to grow into mass market; little or no competition; building better, longer lasting relationships with vendors, suppliers and customers; higher profit margins and [ability to] repurpose content easily.” “One of the benefits of a niche [is that] you don’t have to stay in a niche,” Hardy said. “ ... You can have higher profit margins. You can always repurpose your material. You can choose what you want to do.”
Hardy named the downfalls of niche marketing as “[ability to] typecast; little flexibility once persona is built; [difficulty] to build a niche; limited marketability outside of chosen niche; dependence on one product, and; being too successful [to the point of] attracting larger firms interested market share (or being open to copycats).” “Pitfalls include limited marketability outside of your niche,” she said. “You could depend on one or more people [for more of your work opportunities and income]. You could also be too successful. You get too much attention and a business can take what you’ve done.”
As freelance writers, we must also understand our target markets before we can create and execute a sales strategy, Hardy said. In her presentation, she advised IWOCers to start by compiling basic demographics such as census data; conducting personal surveying and internet research; digging deeper [into research about personal] likes/dislikes; buying habits and tendencies; understanding [customer] needs and current solutions, and; building full customer profiles to understand [the number of distinct customers] and ensure that there is enough market/demand for services and products.”
“You start with common demographics,” she said. You understand your target based on past experience. You test it and sees who buys and continue [to offer your products and services]. “Demographics can be individual [or groups] ... Who are they? How do they find you? What do they offer? How big are they? How much are they spending with you? What are their buying habits? What do they buy? You can ask. They will be [responsive to your questions]. [However, ask] in a way that will make them [customers] comfortable enough.”
Before we make cold calls, write letters or send e-mails to their clients, Hardy urged freelance writers to “understand the buying process” of customers and to be there when needed. She also encouraged IWOCers to “understand the person who has the authority to make decisions. [That is not the CEO. That is the director of marketing.]” Freelance writers, Hardy said, must market to our customer expectations: “What do your customers care about? What problem are you solving? What are your customers thought processes? What are the key terms and geographic limitations [to take into consideration]? How do they expect to find you or where do they think you will be [when they need you]?” Once the answers to the aforementioned questions are established, writers can begin to explore content ideas. In her presentation, Hardy enumerates these ideas as “[written material about customer of the week/month; guest bloggers; product reviews; lists/checklists/tips; special offers/promotions; compiling FAQs to build posts; repurposed content; e-mail interviews with relevant sources; educating customers with how-tos, and consideration of [a freelance writer’s] business expertise.”
However, with so much to consider, freelance writers must not go the marketing and sales process alone, she said. Hardy recommended that we reach out to online and offline resources to assist with our freelance decision making and problem solving such as fiverr.com for branding assistance; werkflow.com for technology management; helpareporterout.com for media guidance; Periscope software for recording (including the recording of Hardy’s presentation), and 1871.com for boosting technology, entrepreneurship and planning events.
- Vladimire Herard
My teleprompter just went on the fritz, so you’ll have to excuse me if I start tossing out insults like hand grenades or sounding disoriented, as if I just woke up from a deep nap. I’ll try and continue...
After being a member of IWOC for over two decades, serving on the PR Committee since 2004 and on the Board of Directors since 2012, I’ve finally clinched the brass ring: the IWOC Presidency. And for that, I’d like to thank the Nominating Committee who, in addition to my husband (First Dude), had the confidence that I can do this. “You can do this, Laura,” they urged on. Ok. Duty called. And I accepted the crown. Oh gosh. I mean mantle. (WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE FIX THE TELEPROMPTER!)
But honestly? I would not be here were it not for those who elected me – a full 15% of our membership! This is akin to most dictatorships – or better, yet, to the Chicago Way! Whether I prove to act presidential or as a dictator has yet to be seen. But I will say this: at least for now, I intend not to rule unilaterally, but by the consensus of your representatives (our stellar Board), and input from all of IWOC’s members and member wannabes, which I will be soliciting often.
You see, we love members. We need members.
On Day One...
On Tuesday, October 11th, I will officially be kicking off my term as President, and oy vay. Already I’m finding myself in the midst of an angst-ridden decision. This happens to fall on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish Holidays. Presiding over our Board meeting shouldn’t be a problem, as it’s well before sundown. But taking place afterwards will be one of my favorite recurring IWOC programs: the Roundtable discussions where attendees freely exchange ideas and advice on the freelance writing biz. Do I stay or do I go? Which is the greater sin? Forgoing my newfound responsibilities of the Office? Or honoring this holy day later than the appointed hour of its commencement? Solomon, please help.
Compared to the above, all subsequent decisions should be a piece of cake. Which brings me to the issues at hand and where I stand:
Immigration. If you write for a living, or dream of writing for a living; if you’ve spent your life in Corporate and want to make the leap to an independent career; if you’re seeking a welcoming home-away-from-home-office to share successes or commiserate; if you want to improve your craft, learn new business and/or writing skills – in other words, if you love words, IWOC welcomes you. Doesn’t even matter where you live, either. Because we’ve recently added the “Distance” membership level, so if you live 65 miles beyond Chicago’s borders, you can live in, say, Bangladesh and receive the full benefits of all of IWOC’s resources!
You see, we love members. We need members. More members mean more money. More money means more exciting and useful programs, workshops, and networking events to help your business succeed. More exciting and useful programs, workshops, and networking events to help your business succeed mean even more members. It’s a win-win, win-win, win-win, win-win, win-win...
My priority as President is membership, membership, membership. We must continue to bring in more members and keep current members happy by continuing to provide programs and events geared towards helping them achieve greater success as independent writers.
Climate Change. The science is settled: In the last decade, the economic climate has changed rather dramatically. But for us independent writers, not necessarily for the worse! The fact that many full-time jobs have gone by the wayside has actually opened up doors for freelancers. As President, my goal is to ensure IWOC keeps providing those freelancers with the kind of resources and information that will prepare them to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. And buh-lieve me, they are out there.
Energy for Independents. Independent Writers, that is. It takes energy to succeed at what we do. Energy to write. Energy to promote our business. Energy do deal with clients. It also takes a great deal of energy to keep IWOC a vital and relevant organization to all its members. Energy to serve on the board, to volunteer on committees and help out at events. It even takes energy to come to our monthly meetings! But let me be perfectly clear: the results are always worth it. I love energy! Bring it on!
Health care. As your President, I care deeply about the health of our organization. To keep it not just alive, but vibrant, takes – ok, I’ll say it. A village. At the risk of repeating myself (remember, I’m working without a teleprompter here), we need members. Lots o’ members. Of every stripe. Members are the lifeblood of IWOC. The more we have, the more alive the organism/organization. And most of all, we need involved members. Members to lend their expertise, skills, enthusiasm and fresh ideas to our various committees, events and programs. Even if it’s simply dropping us a note and communicating their ideas, thoughts – and yes, critiques.
And God bless this country, where we can use our writing skills to express ourselves this freely.
I will do everything in my power (which, I have to admit, is pretty awesome!) to reach out to our members and friends-of-IWOC to gather where you stand on our many issues. And hopefully, to inspire you enough to want to get involved. Through personal experience and that of others, I can tell you in full voice that a successful IWOC can translate into your success as an independent writer.
Make no mistake, IWOC’s always been great. But I am asking you to please join me in my efforts. Because if I may be honest for a moment, we will be STRONGER TOGETHER. Together, we can...we WILL continue to MAKE IWOC GREAT AGAIN!
God bless you. God bless IWOC. And God bless this country, where we can use our writing skills to express ourselves this freely.
- Laura Stigler
How would you describe yourself? “Hybrid” is a word in common use these days and it fits my career quite well. From the start, (some college newspaper involvement), I’ve never settled for being strictly a writer. Over the years, either in combination or separately, I’ve also been an editor, a graphics designer, a marketing-advertising consultant, and a print production worker. Having multiple identities never bothered me—in fact, I believe that each of those facets of communication contributed to better word content. Over the years, that’s been the case whether writing magazine articles about language and usage, technology, performing arts and history, or in producing product brochures, print ads and sales letters.
What advice would you give a writer working with a client? As in other situations, the key word is “listen". Listen carefully to what the client says and try to establish what the client actually means or wants. You have to understand the issues attached to most assignments before you can effectively offer and then produce satisfying results. Don’t be reluctant to re-state the objective based on your comprehension so as to assure agreement. Your interpretation may be better suited to a solution (much to the client’s delight) or it may be somewhat in error, which can then be rectified before providing a bid or starting the job.
Simply, it’s “learn at least one thing new every year that has practical value.”
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Rather than the “best of the best,” I’d rather pass along a practical admonition for not only enhancing your overall skill level but also for helping to improve one’s lifestyle. Simply, it’s “learn at least one thing new every year that has practical value.” Whether it be tackling the basics of a foreign language (not just for travel but for better understanding our English vocabulary), or learning the inside workings of a computer, or getting more acquainted with the Great Books you passed up in favor of TV—any or all of these and others will in time add up to a gainful, painless supplement to your formal education.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met? She wasn’t as famous as her sister but she managed to change my intended career aspirations. Her name---Florence I. Otis, a high-school teacher in a Chicago suburb many decades ago. Her sibling was Cornelia Otis Skinner, one of the legends of American theater. In a time when some schools were involved in a more progressive trend, she taught a class in creative writing. She had the gift of drawing out capabilities in expressing actions and feelings, making personalized written communication feel as natural as everyday conversation. Although I entered college with the intent to have a career in astrophysics, after the first year my reports and term papers activated the urge to write. I’ve never regretted it Were some of those early college classes a waste of time? Almost every thing you study will prove to have some value at some point in life whether in your writing or in making everyday decisions.
What are you doing these days? The proverbial “rat race” is over for me. I closed the books on Richline Wordshop just about five years ago. It was a long trek through the decades, first with a lengthy corporate career mingling writing and graphic services and then operating a small-scale partnership version of a full-service marketing agency, followed by a decade of strictly writing and editing from a home office. These days I offer marketing assistance to organizations to which I belong and contribute occasional articles to various house organs. I maintain my connection with IWOC because I crave to stay informed about communicating, satisfying my conscience by attending meetings, acting as the staff photographer and every now and then producing some experience-laden prose.
Is there a website or other contact information? The business website still exists even after five years of being dormant. Think of it as one writer’s personal museum. Will likely turn it into a social site filled with memorabilia. Then, again, I may just wait for it to disintegrate on its own. If curious, its URL is www.richline.net
- Richard Eastline
The questions for next month are: 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!
Plied with cookies, cranberry juice and informative insights about freelance writing, Oak Park Public Library patrons responded enthusiastically to a recent IWOC presentation about “Life in the Freelance Lane,” as well as the countless benefits of IWOC membership.
Part of IWOC's ongoing outreach program to Chicago-area libraries, the talk was presented by long-time IWOCans Sally Chapralis and Jeff Steele on Monday, September 19th. The hour-long PowerPoint program drew approximately two dozen attendees, who upon arriving were presented with keepsake IWOC bookmarks, and before departing were bestowed with IWOC business cards detailing the 10 reasons to strongly consider joining IWOC.
Chapralis and Steele focused on reasons to become a freelance writer, tools of the trade, landing clients, running a business and the advantages of networking with other writers. A lively question-and-answer session followed the program, eliciting a wide array of inquiries on subjects ranging from book promotion to the many areas of writing open to freelancers.
The next IWOC library presentation will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. in Meeting Room A at Naperville Public Library's 95th Street branch on Wednesday, November 9th.
Current and present IWOCans as well as interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the free presentation. IWOC is scheduled to present at Evanston Public Library in March 2017, with additional details to follow.
- Jeff Steele
Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak
Copyright 2011–2017, Independent Writers of Chicago
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Chicago, IL 60604-4434