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The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds

There’s no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There is only a scarcity of resolve to make it happen.

Wayne Dyer


Welcome back. A lot has happened in the four years since The Well-Fed Writer came out. Little did I know what I’d unleash. In that time, most importantly, I've learned that there a lot of roads to “well-fed writing,” which, of course, has always been the focus in my books, ezine and seminars. I’ve never been interested in providing ways to simply eke out a subsistence living as a freelance writer and stay one short step in front of the bill collectors. You can find that anywhere.

No, my ongoing goal is to annihilate the myth that the words “starving” and “writing” are forever joined at the hip. I’m out to show that you can be a writer for a living and pay all your bills, buy a house, amply fund a retirement account and take a few nice vacations a year. And in the process, have a quality of life most of the world can only imagine – one where you call the shots, you determine your schedule and you live life on your terms.

And all that’s possible because you’re earning more. In “Well-Fed World,” you won’t find lists of new markets paying 5 cents a word. Or the latest freelancer’s web site where you can bid with dozens of other writers fighting over The Amazing Shrinking Fee (Watch It Get Smaller Before Your Very Eyes!). My approach has always been to give you the tools and ideas you need to make a handsome full-time living as a commercial writer or FLCW (Freelance Commercial Writer), as I refer to us throughout my books.

Yet, by definition, my experience was limited: big city, single, male, certain work background, full-time startup (and by cold calling), a generalist, etc. I can only tell one side of the story. Over the past few years, however, I've heard from thousands of people with vastly different stories, circumstances, strategies, backgrounds and geographic settings. Many had questions I couldn’t answer:

How can I build this in a remote area or small town?
Given that I work 9-5, M-F, how can I transition to this part-time?
Have you used e-mail marketing to build a business and if so, how does it work?
I’m thinking of specializing in a particular niche. Any advice?
What other arenas of commercial writing are there besides the ones in your book?
Is cold calling the only way to build the business? (I know, never crossed your mind…)
Are there ways of making a good living writing but within a corporation?

Different Situations, Different Answers To these inquiries and a ton of others, I could offer a reasonably educated opinion, but in most cases, not much more than that. But then, to the rescue, came all these other writers from all over with answers or evolving answers to these questions and many more. I’d send this e-mail to the guy who asked that question and that e-mail to the woman who inquired about this. Occasionally, I’d put a few folks together by e-mail to explore it further on their own.

In May 2002, I launched THE WELL-FED E-PUB, which accelerated the process of sharing these ideas and answers to the most FAQs, liberally peppered with some pretty cool and inspirational success stories.

Because I always got permission to include e-mail addresses and cities from writers whose stories I featured, one gratifying by-product of the e-zine was the spontaneous formation of small commercial writing groups around the country (and world!) as a result. But, an e-zine comes out once a month and the stories come in constantly.

Every time I read yet another account of how to do it, I’d think, “Oh, my readers would love this one!” And when that happens enough times, you write another book.

Frankly, I’ve been blown away by you, my readers – humbled by the vast demonstration of courage, resourcefulness, ingenuity, and dogged persistence. I’ve witnessed this craving – the only word that does it justice – for a life that you love, a life that’s your own, where you’re pulling the strings. I witness the transformation of people’s lives. They read my book and others (like Bob Bly’s great works), look at their life and say, “No more. I’ve had it.” They then chase what they really want – perhaps for the first time in their lives – do whatever they have to do to make it happen and then let me know about it. Truly gratifying. And you’ll hear a lot of their stories.

An All-Star Parade So what will you find in this book? Dozens of experiences and reflections from “well-fed writers” of every description and in their own words. In most cases, I didn’t paraphrase – I let them tell the story in their own words. There’s the guy – married, children, active in his church and community – who built a nicely profitable business in Kansas City in less than six months, doing it very part-time while continuing to hold down a full-time management position to this day.

There’s the woman, an ex-publishing company employee, who moved to high-tech Austin, not knowing a soul or anything about high-tech, in the midst of a high-tech recession. Surrounded by veritable armies of gloomy out-of-work technical writers, she began cold-calling on September 11, 2001. In six months, she’d more than doubled her past income.

You’ll meet a 29 year-old African-American woman, who, three years ago, moved from Philadelphia back home to small market and predominantly white Ft. Myers, Florida. With a combination of aggressive marketing, resourceful ingenuity and an unbeatably optimistic attitude, she’s making it happen. She’s got lessons for folks twice her age.

You’ll hear from a single Mom in California who gradually transitioned part-time from high-tech journalism to high-tech commercial writing, leaving behind a ton of stress, a long commute, guilt over endless daycare and far lower quality of life.

Many Paths, Common Goal You’ll hear from people building the business in ways and under circumstances very different from my own. Building it in small towns and rural areas. Doing it part-time. Working in interesting markets, specialties and niches. Like the woman in Santa Fe, NM who focuses exclusively on company case studies. Or the guy who serves the deathcare industry, writing for funeral homes across the country. The gentleman who works primarily with school districts. Or the woman who writes for the agricultural equipment and products market. And so many more.

They all have one thing in common: they’re quietly exploding the stereotype of the “starving writer” and making handsome livings with their words in this vast and profitable zone between poverty and seven-figure novel advances.

While you’ll hear from many FLCWs who were successful long before TWFW came out, many of the stories come from folks who used TWFW as a guide. I want readers to see someone else besides yours truly saying that this gig is doable. And regardless of your situation, these accounts are filled with great ideas for anyone, anywhere, in any situation.

Just because you're fearless cold caller, for instance, doesn't mean there's nothing worth reading in the cold-calling section. Just because you built or can build your business full-time doesn’t mean you should skip the chapter on part-time biz start-up. Just because you're building the business in a major metro doesn't mean the chapter on small town/remote area startup won't hold any value for you. Trust me, the part-timers and smaller market/rural area folks are tough, smart and resourceful. If there’s work to be found, they’ll find it and through some pretty ingenious strategies – strategies that are applicable anywhere. Suffice it to say, there are tasty treats throughout.

Much More Marketing And speaking of cold calling, I offer up dramatically expanded marketing and cold calling chapters. If your many e-mails are any indication, oooo, you creative types just hate sales and marketing, don’t you? Well, in my humble opinion, you wouldn’t fear and loathe it quite so much if you knew what it really was.

We’ll explore the psychology of cold calling, demystifying an exercise that routinely and unnecessarily chills the marrow of so many. It may never make it onto your “My Favorite Things” list, but I’m guessing it won’t be quite so dark and scary anymore. We’ll cover some cornerstone principles of sales, which for many will be revelations and gateways to more effective marketing of your own and your clients’ businesses.

We’ll look at e-mail prospecting and creating web sites, which are quickly eliminating the need for your own hard copy marketing brochure (though if you’ve done one, don’t sweat it. Much of it should transfer to a website).

We’ll explore starting a writers group a bit further than we did in TWFW and talk about creating and running one, while maximizing the potential of these wonderful gatherings.
I’ve got a chapter early on called, “Let Me Clarify…” where I set the record straight on a variety of issues while also having the “adult” conversation about building this business.

TWFW Revisited Immediately following this intro, I’ll devote a chapter to summarizing the first book (with a few new tweaks). This will serve as a quick review for most of you, and for those readers who never got around to reading TWFW (say it isn’t so!), it’ll get them up to speed.

In response to many requests, I’ve also included a chapter on taxes, investing and insurance for the self-employed, calling on resources – human and web-based – far more expert than those possessed by yours truly.

My books are, at best, just a few chapters in the big juicy story of “well-fed writing.” Not the first word and certainly not the last. Many people read my first book and said, “Wow! Here’s an arena of writing I never even knew existed.” And while this book will reveal even more new, different and exciting writing directions, we’re still just scratching the surface. I want you, dear reader, to keep on asking, “What other writing opportunities might be right under my nose that I’m not seeing?”

Like the first book, this one doesn’t have all the answers. But, I think it’s got a lot of good ideas. We writers like good ideas – especially ones that can make us a lot of money. I promise you’ll be stuffed by the time you finish.

A Looser Structure Think of this book as a one big potluck dinner party – a bunch of people around a big table and everyone brought a dish. And you know how potlucks are. Some dishes are meatier than others. Maybe there’s two or three different pasta salads. Some dishes may have taken a lot of time to make, others may have been “quick prep” items. There may be a plate of brownies in the middle of the main courses, just because that’s where there was space and it made sense to put it there. Regardless, every bit of the meal can be satisfying in its own way – and for a long time to come.

Compared to TWFW, Back for Seconds is much looser: because it’s full of information that fleshes out and supports the overarching processes and systems laid out in original book, it’s less structured and sequential. But, in many ways, it’s a much richer and juicier book precisely because there are so many more voices chiming in. Hopefully, you’ll come away from the book understanding that there are no hard and fast rules about how to approach the business but a lot of different strategies worth exploring. I’ve never been about orthodoxy. I’m about trying different things that work.

Let me finish with something I’ve said before but bears repeating: This is NOT a get-rich-scheme. It takes hard work, commitment, dedication and a burning desire to create a life on your own terms. A life, which, believe me, is so worth having. But, like ANY venture on the planet that takes a significant investment of time, energy, resources and some major “off-your-butt-getting,” the fact remains that most people won’t make it happen. That’s just reality. Doesn’t mean the opportunity isn’t valid. In fact, it’s still the most accessible and lucrative arena of writing I’ve ever come across that doesn’t require brilliant writing skills.

But at the end of the day, it’s all about what’s inside you, how badly you want it and what you’re willing to do to get it. If you’ve set out to prove that it doesn’t work, I have every confidence you’ll succeed. But, if you’re motivated enough, I don’t care what your circumstances are – you’ll make it.

So, grab a plate and let’s dig in…


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