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Stet Newsletter | June 2017

31 May 2017 12:38 PM | Anonymous
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 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

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, 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 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

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