One of the few freelance writers I respect and follow is Linda Formichelli.
She’s been in this game for over 15 years, she’s published her own book, she’s published several courses and she has countless testimonials from students who created a successful career after taking her advice.
Linda knows what she’s doing, so naturally, I was very excited when I had the opportunity to interview her for this blog.
I wanted to find out:
- How much Linda charges per hour from her Copywriting work, and how to charge your clients
- What Linda would do if she were to start again from scratch – with no network or influence whatsoever
- If passive income is possible for writers, or if it’s a 21st century myth
- Linda’s 6-steps process for getting into consumer magazines
All this and more is covered in this interview.
Linda also has a special offer you wouldn’t want to miss at the end of the interview.
Bamidele: You’ve been freelancing since 1997 and I’m sure you’ve had your own challenges along the way. How are you able to motivate yourself and what would you say has kept you going all these years?
Linda: It can be tough. After 15 years, sometimes I get burned out. But I always remind myself that a bad day of freelancing beats a good day in a 9-5 office job. Also, I remember that this career lets me pay the bills — while enjoying a lifestyle I love. Finally, sometimes, I just take time off or treat myself to a spa day just to keep going when I’m dragging — and luckily, as a freelancer I can do that.
Bamidele: Being in the game for so long means you have experienced a lot and was able to get through them all – negative and otherwise. What major problem(s) do you think every freelance writer will inevitably face and how do you suggest one should go about overcoming them?
Linda: All freelancers will definitely face the feast-or-famine lifestyle, where you’ll have 10 assignments all due at once and then nothing for the next month — which makes your income fluctuate, too.
To help smooth out the bumps, I recommend that writers do a few things:
1. Diversify. If you have all kinds of writing you do for money, you won’t get caught in a huge slump if something dries up.
2. Negotiate deadlines. No one says you have to accept a dozen assignments that are all due around the same date. I often ask if I can have extra time if a deadline will fall during a busy time, and editors usually are fine with that.
3. Don’t blow all your cash at once! Learn to live with fluctuating income by saving up during the times when you’re flush so you’ll have money when times get lean.
Bamidele: You’ve done a lot of copywriting, and you’ve even written for big companies like ESPN and OnStar. When you consider the size of these companies, determining how much to charge can be an issue sometimes. Do you have a fixed rate you charge for copywriting irrespective of the size of the company, or do you determine your rates based on the size of the company you’re writing copy for?
Linda: That’s a good question. I actually target only big companies so I don’t have to worry about smaller businesses not being able to afford me and trying to talk my prices down.
I used to have an hourly rate, but I’m such a fast writer that this pricing scheme penalized me for my speediness. I have enough experience now that I can kind of eyeball a project’s specs and come up with a price that will make the project worth it for me. Typically, I earn around $250 per hour for both copywriting and magazine writing — but again, I write fast so projects don’t take me many hours.
One thing I can tell you, though, is that you need to come up with a fee structure that works for YOU — that will let you pay your overhead and have the kind of profit you want to make. Erik Sherman describes how to calculate what you need to charge in a free e-book on his WriterBiz site.
Bamidele: If you were to start from scratch without your existing network, connections or influence and needed to make a thousand dollars in one month. How would you go about getting clients? What would you do to increase your chances of success?
Linda: What a cool question! Truthfully I’m not sure that’s very doable because even if you get assignments right away, you need time to do them and then it takes 30 days to get paid. And although the content mills pay fast, they pay LOW and they’re totally not worth the time.
One thing I would do, though, is spend 100% of my workday doing a variety of marketing tasks: Build a great LinkedIn profile and start connecting with people there; same with Twitter; build a writer website using a free platform like WordPress; start drafting letters of introduction and sending them to dozens of trade magazine editors; decide on my niche and send letters of introduction to local businesses in that niche; e-mail everyone in my contact list who I actually know and let them know I’m looking for work.
There’s SO much you can do to bring in work, you want to just throw as much out there as you can — just make sure it’s quality.
Bamidele: How do you go about researching articles for your clients? Do you have a formula you can recommend?
Linda: As soon as I get an assignment, I start looking for sources (people to interview), as that can take a while. I post to relevant forums, call organizations in the field, contact universities to see if they have any professors I can interview, search Amazon for authors of books on the topic, and use Help a Reporter, a free service that helps writers find sources.
As for researching the topic, I do all of that online. The U.S. government has a ton of great resources online for facts and statistics, from the National Institutes of Health to the Bureau of the Census. I also do Google searches on my topic and read up on what I find there.
Bamidele: You also write a lot about getting into magazines, and aside from having being published in countless major magazines yourself, you have a lot of success stories from readers and mentoring clients. If you were to sum up the process of getting into a magazine in a few steps, what would it be?
Linda: For consumer (not trade) magazines, you need to:
1. Generate a salable idea, which means it’s timely and specific — not a broad topic you could write a book about.
2. Find magazines you want to pitch your idea to. You can look on newsstands, but also in Writer’s market and on Google.
3. Find the correct editor to pitch at each magazine. You may have to call to find out, or try looking for the editor on LinkedIn.
4. Write an amazing query. I could write a book on that — wait, I did!
5. Send your query to each editor you identified.
6. Follow up after a few weeks via e-mail.
Bamidele: What do you think about passive income for writers? Do you think it is possible, and do you think it is a dream freelance writers should pursue? If yes, do you have any ideas on ways freelance writers can create viable passive income streams?
Linda: I DO think it’s possible, and I do it myself. Right now only half of my income is coming from writing for magazines and corporate clients, and the rest is from e-courses and e-books. The e-courses I’d call semi-passive income…I have to check in twice a week to answer questions or do a weekly phone call, depending on the course. The e-books are totally passive.
I also do phone mentoring, which, while not truly passive, is fun and doesn’t take much time…I earn $100 per 45-minute session.
I would really recommend that a writer create e-books in her area of expertise and sell them cheaply through her website and Amazon. You’ll make your money in volume sales.
Also, you can sell other products to your website readers, blog readers, or e-mail list subscribers as an affiliate. For example, I’ve earned over $1,000 this year selling the Freelance Writers Den, and I don’t have to put much effort into it.
Bamidele: This has been such a great interview with Linda and I’m sure you’ve gained as much insight as I have from it. Linda recently launched her Write for Magazines program, an 8-week e-course that will help you break into magazines and make more money.
If the concept of writing for magazines has always interested you, this is a program you wouldn’t want to miss. Check it out!