How top freelancers do it: Q&A with Lisa Collier Cool
Successful writers share practical tips for staying busy in the current economy (Part 1 of 5)
Published: August 4, 2011
Lisa Collier Cool
is a bestselling author who has written five books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. Yet even she hit a slump when the economy started nose-diving a few years ago. Today she’s making more money as a freelance writer than she ever has. Here’s how she’s doing it.
Lisa Collier Cool
How did the recession affect you?
In early 2010, I was sending out more magazine queries and generating fewer sales than ever before. I started searching for different markets and acquiring new skills. I educated myself about social media, blogging, and medical ghostwriting for trade magazines. That’s a great opportunity, since doctors often need help writing. I sent out more than 30 letters of introduction (LOIs) and built a large network of contacts. It was challenging to switch tracks, but learning new avenues revitalized me.
What’s your focus now?
Since focusing my efforts on online writing, corporate work and custom publishing, I’m now looking at having the most profitable year of my career in part because I landed two blogging gigs. I’m the lead health blogger for GE’s Healthymagination, and I write the Yahoo! Day in Health blog. I also do special ad sections for The Wall Street Journal, and I’m working on a book project with two medical experts.Blogging sounds like a good moneymaker. Why?
More companies see the value of image-building by offering high-quality editorial content, so I see corporate blogging as a huge growth area for freelance writers. Leverage the contacts you have with companies that lack a blog to see if you can turn them into blogging opportunities. Also consider approaching local businesses. If I needed more work, I might pitch doctors to see if they’d like to add a blog to their website. I also know several writers who launched their own blogs based on a specific platform or theme. They are attracting companies who want to reach a target audience by selling ads on their blogs. You’ve amassed more than 80,000 Twitter followers, and you’re now ranked as one of the top 25 most influential journalists on Twitter. How did you do that? And why is that important?
I use it to market my skills and my work. These days, editors expect writers to use social media to promote their work. If you’re not, you may be viewed as out of touch. Writers can learn how to get started at Mashable. Create Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Devote a few minutes each day to building your network by “friending” people (including editors) on Facebook. Use Tweet Spinner to find Twitter followers using any criteria you select. Do the same with LinkedIn. Post interesting messages and links a few times a week and comment on other people’s messages. People like that.What else has been a game changer?
I didn’t have a website before 2009, so that was big. My website is my online portfolio. The home page is bold and bright and showcases my credits, specialties, clips and skills. I update it frequently. So many writers let their sites get out of date, which is like going to a job interview in out-of-style clothing. When I launched it, I sent an announcement to all my editors, including ones who hadn’t bought anything lately, and used it to reconnect.
Do you still pitch? Are you still aggressively trying to make new contacts/relationships?
Right now, I have plenty of work, but if I see signs of a slowdown, I will start pitching again. I am always seeking new contacts and relationships. No matter how comfortable you are, there’s always the risk that one or more of your markets could evaporate, since publications fold or their regime changes. It’s impossible to have too many contacts and relationships—the more, the better. That’s your insurance policy during lean times.
Debbe Geiger is a freelance writer in Cary, N.C. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Woman’s Day, Cooking Light, More magazine, Better Homes and Gardens and other national publications.