How to Stop Your Freelance Writing Career from Slipping into the Twilight Zone

Carol Tice

Have you picked up some new lingo recently?

Retweet. Blog. Hashtag. Friend. Like. New words, and old words with new meanings.

Freelance writers should pay close attention to these changes. Because words are powerful.

New words signal a shift in our culture. The way we communicate is changing — and I believe it’s going to transform how writers earn a living in the future.

What’s happening now reminds me a bit eerily of the old Twilight Zone TV series’ episode, “The Parallel,” in which an astronaut returns to find Earth is similar to — but not exactly like — the planet he left.

One notable change: He can’t read anymore, because the language has evolved in a different direction. His child has to teach him how to read again.

Otherwise, he’ll be left behind in a bewildering, familiar-yet-strange society.

This is where freelance writers who don’t know social media are right now.

There’s a new language that’s emerged, and a new way of connecting. If you don’t understand it, I believe you will soon find yourself in a parallel world — one where you will struggle to earn well.

Eventually, you may find yourself with a limited potential client pool, as social media spreads into every corner of media and business life.

A couple comments I’ve heard recently:

“What’s a hashtag, anyway?”

“My editor told me to send the related links with my story…what does that mean?”

When I see a blog-post headline like, “Another Day,” I know that blogger doesn’t understand Internet search and how important headlines are now.

What’s happening here?

Writers are getting left behind

These writers are slowly making themselves obsolete, because they don’t know how to communicate online.

I don’t tell you this because I want to scare you.

I want you to see this coming and get ahead of it.

Why you should learn about social media

Writers who aren’t on social media often tell me they don’t do it because they don’t get it. Where’s the payoff?

So here’s what social media has done for me lately:

  • One editor I found on Twitter last year assigned me ten $2,000 online articles.
  • I routinely locate hard-to-find sources I need by asking my network on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • I connected with the founder of a major corporation (unreachable through ordinary corporate-PR channels) whom I urgently needed to speak to for a book gig by commenting on his blog.
  • I discovered business-finance sources I needed for one story no longer check email, and can only be contacted on Twitter.
  • A top blogger contacted me for a guest post after seeing one of my posts linked on Twitter, which led to several awesome writing opportunities.
  • I make $100 an hour training small business owners on how to socialize their blog posts.
  • I got lucrative blogging gigs for both magazines and businesses based on my social-media audience and knowledge of social-media promotion.

It’s already an advantage if you’re social-media savvy

But a year or two from now, you may be unable to develop queries and get the interviews you need for today’s online markets. Which are growing bigger and more lucrative all the time.

So if you haven’t already taken the plunge, get started and learn it. There’s plenty on this blog about Twitter and LinkedIn (even more here), and more all over the Internet.

Yes, it can seem intimidating when others have thousands of followers.

But I can promise you, it won’t be easier to start next year.

Are you active in social media? Leave a comment and tell us about how you use social media as a writer.

35 Comments

  1. LuAnn

    I was Twitter and Facebook a lot, and it has helped build readership. I’ve made a lot of valuable contacts on Twitter. One of my favorite things is in a crunch, I can tweet that I need to talk to an expert in fill-in-the-blank and suddenly I have five new resources at hand.

    I have a LinkedIn account and occasionally post work there, but now I see that I also need to amp up my efforts on this front! Thanks for the push!!

    Seems like a lot of writers I speak to are worried about the time factor and are afraid of getting sucked in to the Facebook/Twitter vortex and never returning. It happens, sure, but be disciplined and get the job done! Then you can afford some vortex time. 🙂

    Wonderful reminder!

  2. Anne Wayman

    (Revealing my age almost) I remember when we made the transition from typewriter to computer – and more than a few said they’d never give up the tactile feel of a typewriter or some such nonsense.

    The new stuff can seem overwhelming even for folks like me who love tech. When I get that way I take a break. I’ve been known to swear I’m not learning anything new for two whole days! Or some such.

    I also know that when I’m talking to an expert sometimes I have to limit how many questions I’m willing to ask because I start to feel too dumb. But I always set it up so I can come back and ask more.

    Good article.

    • Carol Tice

      My favorite was the awkward in-between stage where we had electronic, programmable typewriters and you had to memorize a bunch of codes to make it format things. And of course to find out facts or research markets back when we had to trot down to the library.

      Which is why when people complain about their challenges now in getting started freelancing…you almost have to laugh. It’s so easy to find experts, and ideas, and markets now!

      I like your policy of ‘a few questions at a time’…our minds can only absorb and actually implement so much new stuff at a time anyway.

  3. Debbie Kane

    Carol — a suggestion for the Den: perhaps you can find someone to discuss how the “newer” social media platforms like Google+ and Pinterest benefit freelance writers (both in marketing ourselves and how these platforms can benefit our clients). Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m working on it! Chris Brogan has apparently written a new book on Google+…if I can’t lure him I’m in the market for another expert. But it’s so hard to identify ‘experts’ in something that’s brand new… 😉

    • Debbie Kane

      I know & REALLY appreciate all your efforts in making this blog & the Den so relevant! Enjoy the snow, we’re waiting for it here in the Northeast.

    • Deb

      I posted this on your Six-Figure post page by mistake…the sentiment is the same!! I learn SO Much from all of your posts. I am a member of Freelance Writers Den, but do not visit as often as I should…Life gets in the way. I hope that you will teach a class in Social Media for Writers (I will buy, definitely!) I am so tired of these unenlightened local yokels in my area who teach at the Community Colleges. They think they are Social Media experts because they are young, can spell Facebook, think that Twitter is for coupons and foodtrucks, and haven’t a clue what LinkedIn can do for a professional. I appreciate your experience and success. Thanks for sharing with us “wannabes”!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Deb –

      If you’re a Den member, you know we have a social media resource/training page now – check the Recordings page and scan down the index. We set that up during the Step by Step class with Laura Spencer…gotta a lotta links and 2 one-hour trainings too, in Google+ and LinkedIn.

  4. Esther

    As an editor, I’ve managed to use social media to find bloggers for our site, and of course it’s invaluable to driving traffic and connecting with readers.

    I’m surrounded by relatively digitally-savvy folks, so it’s always a bit of a reality check realising that we’re not as big of a group as we might think.

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