WordCount – Freelancing in the Digital Age

By Michelle Vranizan Rafter

Dear writer, please don’t stop blogging

with 7 comments

Dear Michelle,

Yours is a wonderful site. I’d started a rather lame attempt at a blog for freelancers, but yours is so thorough and engaging that I’m taking mine down. Congratulations on a really first-rate blog.

Dan Baum

Dear Dan,

Thank you. But please reconsider your decision to take down your blog. I looked and it’s obvious you’re good. You’ve written for The New Yorker for Pete’s sake, my favorite magazine of all time. You’ve gotta be doing something right for them to run your stuff and whatever it is, I’d love to find out, so there’s reason No. 1 right there.

There are a lot of other reasons why freelance writers – or other freelancers for that matter – should blog, if only as a writing prompt to get the juices flowing for paid writing gigs.

A few:

* To build expertise in an area you want to pitch – Not that long ago I was re-establishing my freelance writing business after extended hiatus to raise three kids. I needed to get back up to speed on the tech beat I’d previously covered and the best way to do that was to plunge into the wonderful world of Web 2.0. I started the blog, signed up for LinkedIn, then Twitter and started pitching as I learned.

* To build a community – No man is an island, and that includes freelancers. We don’t get the perqs of working in an office surrounded by peers, so a blog can function as a virtual coffee break room, where we exchange suggestions and gossip with far-flung friends.

* To put your resume and clips online – If for no other reason, writers should have a blog to get their vital stats online. Plus, it’s easier than creating a Website and cheaper too.

* To keep colleagues, friends or family up to speed on what you’re doing – Easier and less spammy than sending out group emails.

* To practice a genre other than the one that pays the bills – A blog might be just the thing for writing the poetry, essays or short stories you’ve always wanted to try. If you don’t want anybody to see it, you can change the settings on the blog software you’re using to block it from public display.

* To start a book or promote one – Which is something you’re already doing for your book Death and Life in New Orleans, so I’m preaching to the choir on that one.

* To be ready for the digital revolution – As corny as that sounds, the media business as we know it is changing, and not just because of the recession, and it ain’t ever going back to the way it was. If writers don’t want to be left behind, we’ve got to put new techniques alongside the old ones in our storytelling repertoire.

That’s what I came up with in about 10 minutes. There are plenty of other equally good reasons why writers should blog. Please don’t give up on it just yet.


7 Responses

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  1. Great post!

    I go back and forth on blogging. I like the idea, but every time I’ve started, I get frustrated, stop enjoying it, and take the blog down. Part of me thinks that this might be because I’m selecting the wrong topic. But it seems like there are so many similar blogs out there – how do you differentiate yourself, topic-wise?

    Joanne Mason

    March 2, 2009 at 8:38 am

  2. Great question Joanne. When I started WordCount I knew I wanted to blog about writing and specifically about freelancing but it probably took another month or two before I realized what I was most interested in was how the rise of online media was affecting the freelance business and decided to make that my primary topic. That helped distinguish this blog from a lot of other freelance blogs.

    Over time I’ve discovered other blogs on similar topics – and since the newspaper and magazine businesses have imploded since I started blogging there are lots of ex-newspaper reporters and editors out there blogging about ditigal media. But they don’t have the freelance perspective that this one does.

    The topic of freelancing in the age of digital media still leaves a lot of leeway on what I write about so I never run out of things to write about – in fact I have about 50 posts in some stage of being written right now, though some of them might never see the light of day. And i think it’s OK to go off topic some of the time.

    Hope that helps.


    Michelle Rafter

    March 2, 2009 at 9:03 am

  3. I’ve become a veteran of sorts in the blogging world. No, it hasn’t always been easy, but if you do it long enough, you’ll eventually learn a lot of skills that will be vital in this digital age. Any other thoughts?

    Walter L. Johnson II

    March 2, 2009 at 10:06 am

  4. Great post. My blog (smarterfitter.com) is a labor of love. I love it because I can write whatever I want, however I want. It’s such a relief, especially after writing for clients all day. :)

    Monica Shaw

    March 3, 2009 at 8:57 am

  5. I gave some thought as to how to establish focus, too. My field is a rather small niche anyway — folk, Irish, and Scots music — but I also decided to include material about creative practice and thoughts about being a musician, for several of the reasons you’ve noted above. The mix of that with reviews, reported stories, and photo essays has helped Music Road convey a distinct voice and presence, and also led to some good links.

    Kerry Dexter

    March 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm

  6. […] Dear writer, please don’t stop blogging – There are many reasons why most—if not all—writers should have a blog. […]

  7. […] So there’s a solid business case to be made for freelance writers spending time becoming a better blogger. In 2009, blogging is a skill every writer has to know. […]

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