December 9, 2013 by Christina Hamlett
Have you ever heard yourself say, “I just can’t find the words”? Maybe it’s in the context of a speech, blog or article you have to write. Maybe you’ve been encouraged to pen a how-to book to demonstrate your reputation as an expert but have no idea where to start. Or maybe it’s not a matter of struggling with stellar verbiage at all but, rather, finding the time in an already busy schedule to do something that’s really not your forte. The solution? Hire a professional wordsmith like freelance writer Melissa Rudy to corral all those stray thoughts into something of scintillating substance that will resonate with your target audience.
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett
Q: What influenced your decision seven years ago to get into the writing and editing business?
A: I’ve been writing since I was a young girl, and have been writing for a living since 2000. After graduating with a degree in English and Journalism, I landed an entry-level job as a technical writer with a local software firm. A few years later, I accepted a position as a full-time copywriter for an eCommerce website, Frontgate.com. In 2007, after our third child was born, I realized that I needed more flexibility in terms of schedule and location—but I didn’t want to stop writing. I started freelancing on the side, and was pleasantly surprised when it took off quickly. Freelancing allows me to utilize my skills and experience without sacrificing my family’s needs.
Q: What types of topics, genres and media pieces do you write for your clients?
A: I specialize in web content, blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, press releases, product descriptions, and pretty much anything that needs writing. Industry-wise, I find that I do a majority of my writing for the health/fitness/nutrition, parenting/maternity, technology, sales/marketing/business, tax/finance, and medical/dental genres, among others.
Q: Within those diverse categories of wordsmithing, do you have a favorite that you always look forward to?
A: As I’m an avid runner and fitness enthusiast, I especially enjoy assignments pertaining to those topics.
Q: Describe the ideal client.
A: I most enjoy working with clients who are friendly yet professional, have a clear idea of their project goals and objectives, provide ample information and guidance, and respect my time and talents.
Q: Conversely, have you ever had clients from Hell? If so, how did you deal with them?
A: Like all writers, I have had negative experiences with less than desirable clients. In these cases, I do my best to remain calm and express my concerns and viewpoints in a professional manner. When there are potential problems/conflicts, I find that a phone call is much more effective than a flurry of emails. The spoken word goes a long way. As my experience grows, I find it easier to “weed out” trouble clients during the initial project discussions.
Q: What are the most satisfying aspects of working in the world of freelance?
A: I love having the freedom to hand-pick my own clients and assignments, to set my own work schedule, and to devote as much time as necessary to family needs and personal obligations.
Q: Do you ever encounter writer’s block and feel like the creative sizzle has fizzled?
A: I think all writers experience this now and then. Some of my favorite remedies include physical exercise, reading a good book, spending some “mindless” time on a social media site, or tackling a non-writing project, such as cleaning out the garage or the kids’ closets. Of course, when all else fails, chocolate usually saves the day!
Q: What do you do when you’re not writing and how do those activities manifest in how you approach work-related tasks?
A: When I’m not writing, I can usually be found running, taking a fitness class at the gym, tackling a home project, or spending time with my family. Each of these activities inspires me and fuels my writing in different ways. Exercise, for example, is essential to “kick-starting” my creativity. I often say that I’d be useless without my daily run/workout.
Q: Given the dismal state of the current economy, have you noticed any changes in the freelance marketplace that impact your ability to market yourself, deliverable quality work, and stay viable?
A: Not particularly. I actually found the opposite to be true. When the economy is struggling, businesses are less able to afford full-time writers and editors, and are more likely to enlist contractors to meet their content needs.
Q: In terms of marketing yourself and promoting your skills, what venue have you found to be the most successful?
A: I use Elance, a website that brings together writers and clients, to get a big chunk of my jobs. I also subscribe to a few online services that send daily newsletters with job leads. Some work also comes through my website, www.wordsbymelissa.com. I’ve also gotten some results through guest posting on other sites and accepting guest posts on my own site, which increases SEO.
Q: Being one’s own boss is something that a lot of people dream of but don’t necessarily have the attributes, skills sets or discipline to make that dream come true. If someone asked how to break into this business, what are your top tips based on the ups, downs and risk-taking of your own journey?
A: Start out hungry, and with low expectations. That may seem pessimistic, but it’s true. A prospective writer who expects to earn top dollar and only land desirable, cushy jobs is destined for disappointment. When you’re just getting started, you’ve got to be open to accepting non-glamorous jobs that don’t pay well. Once you’ve built up a portfolio that demonstrates your skills, you can slowly start ramping up your rates.
Q: What’s the best freelance advice you’ve ever gotten (or been given)?
A: To not quit my day job—yet. Financial stress and uncertainty can be just as stressful, if not more so, than being stuck at a job you don’t love. Start out slow, freelancing on evenings and weekends, while still having the security of a steady paycheck. After you build up a foundation of reliable clients and income, then consider taking the leap to becoming a full-time freelancer.
Q: If you weren’t doing business writing and editing, what would you like to try as a different career?
A: My dream is to be a published novelist one day. I’m currently working on a new novel, after writing a few over the years that didn’t pan out. I believe it’s never too late (or too early) to pursue your passion!
Q: On a totally whimsical note, if you could pen a weekly blog for any fictitious character in literary history, who would it be and what would you be writing about?
A: Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This was my favorite novel as a young girl. I would love to write about Francie’s day-to-day trials and tribulations growing up in her shabby Brooklyn neighborhood.
Q: What would your clients be the most surprised to learn about you?
A: That I usually work in my pajamas. 😉
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing than writing. I feel very fortunate to be able to wake up every day and get paid for doing what I love—even if it’s not the fiction I know I’m “supposed” to be writing, it’s still writing. With the right combination of talent, perseverance, and business sense, I believe anyone can succeed as a freelance writer.