By Sangeeta Anand

Exploring ideas can be a cumbersome and daunting exercise. The good news is that this is a task you will enjoy only if you really want to be a successful writer. Here are some keys tips to help you get started.

1. Internet Research

Using the Internet is the easiest, most effective and fastest option to gain an insight into topics. You will find many useful stories, ideas, lessons and topics to draw inspiration from. Search engines such as Yahoo!, Google and Bing are very handy. Think outside the square and use the information to create your own unique content and ideas.

2. Libraries

There is no better place than libraries to obtain information for your articles. Books, periodicals, journals, directories, trade journals and magazines are readily available for use. In most of the western world, libraries are free unlike the Internet. Many books are also available online for free. Make use of free information.

3. Entertainment channels

Entertainment channels such as television, radio, movies and documentaries are important sources for content and idea generation. To be able to do this you need to keep your mind active and alert. Remain aware of situations you can use for your benefit.

4. Networking

Sharing of ideas by networking is an ideal way to gather information. Ideas from personal experiences are usually the most accepted by editors. Everyday interactions at social gatherings, a walk in the park, a visit to the market, meeting neighbors and family can provide interesting clues for writing.

5. Article Directories

The next place to look is in article directories. You can get much information on your topic and even come up with new ideas based on the articles that have been submitted in the directories.

6. Social Networking websites

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Bebo, and Orkut are places to tap for some useful ideas. Use the information that people post in their status updates, opinion posts on Twitter, links and personal interactions. Today, social networking sites have become an important business tool and their utility cannot be undermined. Ideas are available on these websites. You need to be active, totally committed and an avid reader.


By Sangeeta Anand

Many writers underestimate the importance of proofreading. Material that has grammatical and spelling errors is an instant impression-spoiler. Remember first impression is the last.

Hard work is a waste if it includes spelling mistakes or grammar errors. It is highly unprofessional to present a completed document, which has not been proofread, or you have relied solely on spell check.

The most effective way to proofread a document is:

  • To switch off to external disturbances such as emails and phone. Dedicate time for this activity.
  • Read your work aloud to experience the feel and tone of the article.
  • You can either proofread the article electronically, or in printed form. Editing on a printed-paper is a fairly traditional and old method. Yet, it is probably the most effective. Personally, I prefer the computer option.
  • Enjoy the activity and do not consider it as a cumbersome task. If music works for you, then plug your ipod and work.
  • Read the text backwards for clarity and accuracy.
  • Have someone look over your work. A fresh pair of eyes might find something that you missed.



By Sangeeta Anand

Writers suffer from minor to major distractions. Some common ones are:

  • Phones
  • Emails and text messages
  • Social Networking
  • Children
  • Household chores
  • Unexpected guests
  • Internet connection too slow
  • Television
  • Noise in the neighbourhood

Do you really believe that best writing is possible in solitude? Each to his own, but I do believe that you can achieve far more in a quiet environment. I am productive in a quiet environment. Often this is not possible and one has to look for alternative arrangements. What is the solution and what can be done about it?

1. Priotise

Writing work is one of the most effective ways to deal with distractions. Managing urgent and highly impacting writing should be the priority. When I say highly impacting I refer to the cost vs. benefit that is derived from the work. Less important tasks should be dealt with later -
so on and so forth. By regularly practising the art of priotising it will eventually become a habit and you will soon master how to priotise leading to better results. Without this discipline it will be hard to get by distractions.

2. I’m too tired to write

This is a distraction because it is an excuse. You are looking for excuses to avoid writing. This is a self-induced distraction. To get out of that mode – you should take a break of about 15 mns. Listen to music, have a bath, go for a walk or meditate. It probably sounds absurd that to avoid distraction you are indulging in another distraction. But, it does work. You come back feeling rejuvenated and in high-spirits and the results will be very encouraging. You will end up being far more productive with a break than you would have had you continued feeling tired.

3. Time management

Planning your day is the first step to good time management. Knowing in advance what you intend to focus on provides a framework to work within. When parameters are clearly defined it is much easier to manage writing tasks. You can use technology to help if required. While you are writing do concentrate only on it. Allocate time for actual writing and time for research.  Both activities need dedicated time. Slot separate time for them so that you can achieve what you have set out to do in the day. During this time avoid the temptation of responding to emails or phones. Jot down other writing tasks that you want to complete in the later part of the day. Come back to them when you have completed the research and the initial writing. Managing time effectively will enable you to work faster



By Sangeeta Anand

There are no right or wrong answers to this question. In my view the answer is ‘no’. If you thought writing is an easy task and anyone can do it well, you are mistaken. Everyone can write but writing well is not everyone’s cup of tea. Today’s digital era has placed everyone on equal footing. There is a lot more written work circulated. The challenge is writing well. Distinguishing factors between a professional writer and a non-writer make the difference. Some of these differences are:

1. Natural writing skills

You can definitely write by studying or by practice. But, you may remain an average writer if you do not have the inborn skills. It is that unique aspect of your talent, which will set you apart from the other writers and give you the ability to command good money. After all, clients pay for quality. As long as you can offer exceptional quality and a unique take to your story you can be a highly sought after professional writer.

2. Exceptional grammar skills

It is one of the most important factors that set an average writer apart from a professional one.  The ability to add a comma and a semi-colon look easy but when put to test the results can be alarming. In the real world the writers that become high performers or award winners are those who rate very high in this attribute.

3. Ability to network and market

Marketing, marketing and more marketing. You simply cannot become a sought after professional writer if you do not market yourself. Marketing and writing go hand in hand. Brand building is essential. It is a waste if you cannot sell your talent. Create your brand. Make your presence felt. Get out there. Be proactive. Unless people know you as an established writer there is rare possibility you will be someone who is hired for critical and high paying assignments.

Brand building is a topic in itself.  I will talk about it at a later stage.

4. Unique angle to your writing

This is the most essential requirement to be a professional writer. Lots of story ideas are re-circulated. Despite repetition some ideas become very successful. It is always articles and stories, which are out of the ordinary that become popular. Publications prefer writers who provide a unique aspect to the story. To be able to do that you must have a unique perspective to an article e.g. if you are writing about Twitter: many articles have been published about it, but something out of the ordinary will be What do people not know about Twitter? Or what does Twitter mean for a bus-driver or a housewife? Weave in an angle within this angle to create a sensational story. You have to justify to the publication why they should hire you at a higher rate instead of cheaper and readily available writers. To be able to do that you need to think outside the square.



By Sangeeta Anand

Recession can be a painful time for freelance writers. Most publications are looking at cutting costs. This is a stressful time for writers. Freelancers, you will need to work harder at finding work and sustaining yourself. Here are some useful tips for tough times:

1. Market vigorously

Indulge in self-promotion and marketing. Contact publications you have turned down in the past. Offer your services to them at a discounted cost.

2. Diversify

If you specialise in a niche area you should look at writing on a range of other topics. This will give you the cushion that you need in a recession. You can get back to your area of specialisation when things get better. Everyone needs money and you will need to look for more lucrative avenues.

3. Network

If you have old visiting cards now is the time to get them out. Contact people you have known in the past. Re-establish lost relationships. You never know when you may strike a chord and find work. Offer them services in addition to writing. Write two articles for the price of one or a package deal of three articles and throw in some editing services for free.

4. Service your existing clients

A bird in hand is better than two in the bush. Your existing clients are the people who give you bread and butter. Invest time in serving your existing clients by regular calls and follow-ups. Visit them if you are able to once in a while so that they continue to value you and your work. Quote them a lower rate as an incentive.

5. Extend your horizons

You will need to expand your work from writing to using your writing skills in areas like editing, podcasting, designing, copywriting, and blogging. Income from any source of writing is good during recession. For freelance writers income is never constant. In a recession it becomes much worse. Unless you venture into other forms of writing there is little probability of surviving on freelance income.



By Sangeeta Anand

A golden rule of writing is to remain discreet about your work till it is published. The process from the writing stage to the time it is published is an important phase.

Often, things don’t work out the way you want them to and can lead to embarrassment and frustration. Such things are not in your control. As a writer you should be able to remain calm given that you get into the profession with your eyes open.

Submitted articles can be killed at any stage once they reach the publication. A writer has no control on what goes on behind the scenes.

There could be various reasons why an article is shelved after it has been commissioned.  If you have not convinced the editors that you have delivered what you were commissioned for, or the article was superseded by a more important one or if more work is required or there is a theme change.

You will save yourself disappointment if you are patient till you see your name in print or digital. People form a an opinion based on what we show them. Customers don’t like juvenile and indecisive writers. Your reputation is at stake with every story or article. So make that extra effort and don’t count your chickens before they hatch.



By Sangeeta Anand

It’s your work. You have exclusive rights to the work you create: be it an article or a novel. You can use the work you create, as you desire. You own it.

1. Register copyright

It is not necessary to register copyright. But if you are writing a novel it is advisable to register it. For articles and other such material registration is not necessary. In New Zealand and Australia there is no requirement to register. Copyright protection is only for a limited period of time.

2. What are the ideal rights?

There are several options that publications exercise. Most of them will work in the interest of the publication.

Freelance writers must keep their own interest in mind before accepting work. The option of a one-time or first time rights are ideal.  This means that the magazine buys the piece and publishes it.

Once it has been published, you are free to sell the same article to another publication or website which is then buying reprint rights from you. Reselling is the best option. This is the most effective way to maximize your earnings.

Remember, you are ultimately the owner of the work you produce and without your permission the article cannot be published. But, you need to remain wise and vigilant.

Freelance writers should avoid contracts in which they have to give up all their rights. Such contracts can be binding. It means you sell the magazine the right to publish and use the article as many times as they like. They can even resell the rights without paying you for it.

3. What is a kill fee?

A kill fee is the money paid to a writer in situations where a commissioned article is not used. This usually happens after that writer has completed work on the story from researching to the completion of the story. There are several reasons when a commissioned story is not used. Very often a prioritised story has to be included or the editor has changed focus of the publication or the editor is not satisfied with the final version of the article.

The writer is paid a percentage of the fees or a flat fee as per policy of the publication. To receive a kill fee this should be agreed before the article is commissioned or mentioned in the contract.

4. Is it necessary to have contracts?

As much as I would like to say it is best practice, it is not always possible. A lot of smaller publications may not enter into contractual arrangements such as websites and blogs. Web content has changed the nature of freelance work today.

Web based jobs may not necessarily be large projects. Some jobs are not practical and feasible to get into a contract.

But big publications and brands mostly use contracts. Most of them will send their agreement terms once they have commissioned a story.

The flip side is that you may lose opportunities from clients who don’t have a policy of contracts.

Contracts are certainly good to have if you intend writing for branded publications. But, they are not a must have for web freelance writer.



By Sangeeta Anand

If you thought freelancing was easy you are certainly in for a surprise. The life of a freelance writer is full of hard work, perseverance, dedication, commitment and isolation.

Not only are you battling with deadlines, reporting, writing, editing and catering to last minute requests of editors but you are also spending time on the additional task of marketing. Freelance writing isn’t about someone else doing your marketing.

Freelance writing marketing is like any other form of marketing. You have to sell yourself in the true sense of the word. In the practice of management, marketing is not only about selling: it is a combination of several activities. The same is true in the writing industry.

Good work and good marketing are an excellent combination if you want to succeed. One without the other is like life without air.

A lot of people have often asked me about how they could market their work. There is no golden rule to it but here are some tips that may help:

1.  Develop your skills by improving your craft.

This is much the case like the egg came first or the chicken.  Some writers could argue that you can always do them simultaneously. Yes you can, but get your skills and craft upto mark. I suggest improving your craft before marketing. As Stephen Covey puts it as the seventh habit: “If I had eight hours to cut a tree, I will spend six hours sharpening my axe.”

2.   Be different

Be different. Can’t say this enough. Develop a point of view and don’t be afraid to reflect in in your writing.

3.  Visibility and brand prescence

Just like in any other selling activity you are the seller of your writing services.  Visibility and a brand presence are very essential. Build your visibility and brand.

4.  Invest in reading

Read as much as you can. But be selective. You don’t want your mind muddled with all kinds of material. Newspapers, magazines, books, journals, the Internet are all tools that are used to build your brand. Unless you generate innovative and unique ideas you cannot market yourself with confidence. So invest in your tools.

5.  Technology

Invest time and money in understanding the use of technology for marketing.  If you haven’t already done it then get some books that talk about latest technology.

4.  Share your knowledge

Don’t hold back your knowledge. Share it with others. Their gain is your gain. They gain the knowledge and your brand gains popularity. Conduct writing courses, training sessions, interactive seminars and webinars.

5.  Develop related products

Freelance writing on its own cannot sustain you in the long term. You will need to venture into other peripheral areas. Develop related products that will bring extra income. Sell CDs, DVDs and podcasts of your knowledge on writing. You can even launch a magazine with a unique focus. Remember to do proper groundwork on a product before plunging into it. There is nothing worse than a failed project.



By Sangeeta Anand

1.   Theft of story ideas and pitches

Story ideas are pinched by editors. This is a myth and there are no facts to prove it. Most ideas are re-cycled after a period of time. Remember the saying “old wine in a new bottle”?

Ideas and pitches are the same. What makes them different is the writer’s style, unique take on it and opinion. Writers are concerned that their ideas maybe used at a later date. As far as I’m aware this is not a norm in the publishing industry but there is no evidence to prove either way.

But do you have much of a choice? You should be prepared to take that risk. Have enough confidence in your abilities and work. This will overcome such minor concerns. Draft your queries in a way where an editor is not left with a choice but to hire you. For example: if you have done specific work on a topic or you know of an expert on the topic, you can convince the editor by including it in your pitch.

2.  Writer’s block

Did I hear you say, “I can’t write anymore; I’m not able to think of any ideas; I’m blank.”?

Don’t be worried. No matter how many years of experience they have, all writers suffer at some stage of their writing career from writer’s block. Infact, it would be abnormal if you said you didn’t experience a writer’s block.

But, what is a writer’s block? In layman language, it is the inability to pen down anything. You are not able to generate the thoughts that create ideas. Don’t panic. Remain calm and focused. Take a break from your work and thoughts. Take a walk and rejuvenate yourself. Once you have done that, make notes about what you intend to write even if they are just basic and random thoughts. Spend your time only writing the random thoughts. Leave them aside and do some other work. After a couple of hours or the next day, re-visit them again.

A writer’s block is temporary. The important thing to understand is that when you feel a block is likely to happen, don’t do formal writing.

3.   Story ideas that end up in a hole

Don’t assume that just because an editor did not respond to your query, she/he did not like it. Editors are also human. It can also be the case of too much work and less resources. Being presumptuous is not going to take you anywhere.

Remain positive and open. If an editor has not responded, you can always follow up with another email. Most editors respond and let you know what the situation is with a story pitch. Some even go to the extent of giving constructive feedback.

My experience has been fairly positive and I believe that if editors don’t respond it isn’t out of a lack of interest but because they have their own issues like meeting deadlines, too many pitches to look at and filling in for other editors. Look at moving forward

What can you learn from the situation? The onus is also on you to make the first impression a lasting one. Write an irresistible story pitch. Remain focused, persistent and positive.



By Sangeeta Anand

1.   A preconceived bias

Editors may have many limiting assumptions about a writer they are working with for the first time.  Many times these reservations are understandable. There are always inhibitions to hire a freelancer for the first time. Some editors are not keen to hire someone from a different country; some are interested in working with only those who have written on a similar subject in the past, while there are others who will have other, unspoken, presumptions.

2.   Underestimating the skills of a writer

Sometimes editors assume that a business writer will not be able to write a science story, or a children’s writer won’t do justice to a technical story. It is assumed that a technical writer may not have skills to write a general interest story. A freelancer friend mentioned to me that he was writing for a science magazine. The editor of the science magazine insisted he wanted a writer with past experience in science writing. A simple Google search of his name would indicate his credentials and experience. After a great deal of persuasion the editor finally agreed. Later, he was thankful because that story won an award.

 3.   Monotony in writing

In a recession it’s understandable why editors opt for staff writers. In normal times continuous use of staff writers can create monotony in a publication.

Editors who don’t try and test often create a boring publication. Good editors however, maintain a balance between staff and freelance writers. Remember, every writer has a unique style. To create a punch editors should mix and match. Due to a comfort level and various other contributing factors, editors continue to make this mistake. Obviously, some decisions are beyond their control. This is one mistake that can be avoided by exercising better judgement.



By Sangeeta Anand

We all make mistakes. It’s human to err. The problem is when some of us repeat mistakes, because they go uncorrected. Writers are not expected to make mistakes. Don’t sweat. As long as you can learn from your mistakes you are on the right path.

Read some common mistakes you can avoid:

1.   Not keeping updated with technology

The pace at which the business is changing is rapid. If you are not tuned in with latest technology and trends the chances are that you will be left behind. Keeping abreast of technology is much like sharpening your craft. A good writer should invest time in reading and understanding modern technologies that impact the publishing industry. The lack of it can be a handicap if you’d like to be a successful writer, for example: blogs, twitter, monitter, social-networking sites, video content, for example: YouTube, Worldtv, podcasts, digg, reddit, Slashdot, social-bookmarking sites, fact-checking softwares and mobile technology such as palms, qik, mobile based internet. The list is increasing everyday. A considerable amount of time should be invested in working with new technology. As a writer you have to remain tuned in with technology developments.

2.   A less-researched pitch

Avoid starting a query for a business article with “all businessmen are corrupt”. This is a very vague sentence. It lacks any substance. Instead, include relevant statistics or research to substantiate your statement. For example: according to the world corruption index statistics…(this is an example and the names are fictitious). The point I am making is that any good query letter should be supported by research, an expert’s opinion, a quote or statistics from a reliable source.

3.   Sending queries without proper research of the publication guidelines

Remember, your query must meet the guidelines of the publication.  Your lack of research will become evident and your chances to grab that story will be lost. First impressions are always the last. For example: you are writing a query for a health magazine on tips for soft skin. Your pitch is suited for a beauty magazine not for a health publication.

4.   Unhappy about rejections

Rejections are a part and parcel of the writing industry. The sooner you take them in your stride the better. Fretting over what could have been is a waster. You should see what you could learn from the rejection. Ask yourself these questions: Have I researched the publication; have I read the archives; have I read the style guide; is the idea unique; and is it timely. Ponder on ways to improve your craft. I recommend you read books, the Internet, magazines, journals and newspapers. In-depth research is absolutely necessary.

5.   Missing deadlines

“Be on time, everytime”. If you want to be the writer that every editor wants to take on board – then you will have to learn to respect deadlines. Missing a deadline is much like missing a meal in the writing industry. If you cannot commit then how do you expect to get a committed editor?

I will go a step further and suggest that you deliver before the deadline dates so that the editor has enough time to clarify doubts. Writers often forget the basic stuff because they are too busy concentrating on the bigger things. The key to being successful is to manage your time effectively so that it reflects in your personality. Never miss a deadline.

6.   Underestimating your worth

Every article or story is as best as you are. Just because you have delivered so many good stories does not mean that you are the best. Don’t let yourself become complacent. At the same time don’t underestimate your skills. Just because your story is rejected or that your pitch does not meet the style guide is no reason to underestimate your talent. Your worth and value of yourself should come from within. Your connection with your soul should indicate your worth.

If you are confident about yourself others will be. Don’t give up. Each of us has a special talent and as long as you have faith in your abilities no one can take that away from you.



By Sangeeta Anand

They don’t like it when you correct them. They can’t understand how life will be easier if they used correct grammar or with so much happening in the world does anyone really care about the good, bad or ugly of grammar?

For me it’s an adrenal rush to see the language principles being applied inappropriately. Should I really get perturbed? After all it’s only a matter of words. Why should it matter? I find myself battling with this everyday, yet I believe that words and grammar are not to be taken lightly.

So here are some tips for writers:

1.   Keep your sentences short and simple – KISS principle.

Writers often believe that using complex and longer words will portray them in a different light. But the truth is: – it’s best when it’s simple. Avoid using words to impress readers. You win when your readers can understand you and that’s possible when you write simple.

2.   Use correct words

The “affect” or “effect” syndrome

Even professional writers sometimes use them incorrectly. But the buzzwords to remember are verb and noun

Affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

For e.g.: The exam results did not affect (verb) him.

For e.g.: The effects (noun) of the exam results will be felt by the entire class.

3. Words you don’t start a sentence with

“Staring a sentence with a conjunction is not advisable.” That is what a good  writer will say. I’m told rules are changing.

I still believe conjunctions are better to use within sentences than at the beginning. Ofcourse, sometimes you are not left with a choice and in those exceptional situations use them but with much thought. I prefer to use “ but,” and  “and” in the middle of a sentence.

4. Using the word ‘however’

I consider it an ancient word. In modern grammar the use is fairly restricted.

5. Use of apostrophes

Apostrophes are used to show possessive relationship. They are not used for abbreviations, plurals or in any other case.

Correct: Jamie’s father, Ross’s brother, and city’s image

Incorrect: 1990’s, apple’s (as in many apples)

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