Feedback and the Communication Process

Excerpt from Fundamentals of Writing: How to Write Articles, Media Releases, Case Studies, Blog Posts and Social Media Content 

Communication is a process that often, but not always, ends with feedback. If you want to communicate effectively—in writing or when speaking—you should understand the communication process.

Communication requires a sender who sends a message through a channel (email, letter, report, article, tweet, blog post and so on) to a receiver (the reader). The process is not complete, however, without feedback. Feedback closes the communication loop. Sometimes, noise (competing messages, distractions, misunderstandings and so on) interferes with your message. Feedback lets you know if the receiver understood your message.

Again, you don’t always need feedback. If you are writing an article for a publication, you seldom solicit feedback. You might, however, if you are writing an editorial or writing for a publication that advocates social justice and wants people to participate in the political process. The main thing is to be aware of the communication process so you can make conscious decisions about how to use it.

Advertising and Feedback
When you communicate in person, you can ask for feedback if you want it. You can ask people if they understood what you were saying or if they have any questions. However, when you communicate in writing or other one-way media (such as broadcast, which is primarily speaking the written word), it is more difficult to ask for feedback.

Advertisers want feedback when they communicate so they can measure the effectiveness of promotions, and they have learned how to use direct-response marketing techniques such as discount coupons, time-limited offers, and so on to motivate people to take action–buy something or request more information. They then measure the received feedback—how many widgets were sold, how many people called for more information or, these days, visited a website.

If an advertiser doesn’t know how effective its promotion was, how will they know whether they should run the same ads again, modify them, or scrap them and come up with something new?

In business writing, if you do not close the communication loop, how will you know if the desired action has been or will be taken by the person or group of people you have written?

Again, you do not have to ask for replies from everybody you email or to whom you send information or from everybody who reads your articles. In many instances, your writing purpose might not require you to close the communications loop, especially if you are writing news articles for publications or websites. In business, you often send messages “FYI”—for your (the receiver’s) information. In other words, no action required. Again, the key is to know before you write if you want feedback, and how it should be taken. That way, you can work a call to action into your document—buy now, call today, storm the barricades at 3:00 PM, send a letter of protest.

If you want to know if the recipient has taken the requested action (or has any questions), you need to close the communication loop. You can ask for a reply and monitor the situation to see if action has been taken.

In advertising, as mentioned, and often when using social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and so on), you go one step further: You not only ask for action to be taken, you try to motivate it.

“Save 20% if you buy before November 30” is an attempt to motivate someone to buy a product by a specific date. If sales go up, you have your feedback and know your motivation worked.

“Click here to read about the new Filibuster 300 and receive 10 free tips on…” is an attempt to motivate a click. “Blog post on <topic>. Read and enter to win. Click here <website address>,” goes the tweet. Without getting into web analytics here, I want you to know that you can monitor clicks to your ten free tips or contest after you send out your promotion, and you can then gauge your feedback or how well your promotion did.

Again, if you do not require a reply (literally a reply or feedback or action), then you may not need to close the communication loop. Deciding whether to close it or not should be a conscious decision, based on your particular needs. The important point here is this: if you need to know that the receiver has received and understood your message or taken a particular action, then you have to put into place a method of closing the communication loop. If the loop does not close in a timely manner—timely as dictated by you and your circumstances—then it is your job to troubleshoot the process.

In other words, you can assume that your message has been received and understood or you can build feedback into the communication process so you know it has or you know if you need to follow up.

Understanding the need to close, or not close, the communications loop or to motivate, or not motivate, action can make you a better writer, but only if you can write well and structure your entire document to lead up to the call to action (or conscious lack of one).

Excerpt from Fundamentals of Writing: How to Write Articles, Media Releases, Case Studies, Blog Posts and Social Media Content


Query letter: how to sell your article ideas to editors

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines

Note: See link to Query Letter Video at end of blog post

You become a freelance writer when you start selling ideas to editors who pay you. To sell your ideas to editors, you need to pitch them using the query letter…

Many freelance writers have difficulty with the idea of sales and marketing. Perhaps because they see writing as a creative or artistic process, they feel marketing sullies the art. Although I see writing as a creative process, I see freelance writing as a business—one that involves sales and marketing—as well as the creative process….

When pitching ideas, I target my markets. It is better to send a few queries tailored to publications you know publish articles like the ones you are proposing, than to send a generic ‘are you looking for writers?’ query to 20 or more magazines in the hope one might bite….

It is best to send an email query letter and let the editor review it when he or she has time. It is also easier to follow up on a query by phone than it is to pitch an idea by phone, but more on follow-up later. Overall, I favour the email (or mail) query for three reasons:

  1. It is what most editors expect from freelance writers.
  2. Many editors will not look at unsolicited manuscripts—a query is shorter, easier to read, and demonstrates the writer’s knowledge of the topic and their ability to write.
  3. It takes work to write a query letter but it takes more work to write an article; I want to know that I will be paid to write an article before I do the work….

When you think of your query as your basic marketing tool—a sales letter customized to solicit business from a very targeted market (one editor)—it all begins to make sense.

Your query letter must be focused on the idea and flawless—no spelling or grammatical errors—in execution, reflecting the detailed care you will give your article. For newspaper or magazine articles, a query letter addressed to the editor will outline the following:

  • Your article idea—the focus of the article or what the article is all about.
  • The sources, or potential sources, of information.
  • Why readers (of the target publication) would want to read the article (demonstrating your knowledge of the magazine’s readership).
  • Why the article should be written now.
  • Why you should be the one to write the article, i.e., a paragraph about you (which your me cluster should help you write)….

Also, your central idea must seem like something the publication’s readers would be interested in or benefit from, and it must be credible. If you propose to profile or interview the president or prime minister, for example, and you have no political experience or no obvious access to that person, the idea will not appear to be credible. It will appear to be beyond your reach, unless you explain exactly how you will accomplish what you propose to do.

Allow me to show you an example of a query subject line and lead (opening) I consider about as close to perfect as you can get.

Subject: Article Query: Show your true love

Dear <Editor’s Name>:

The same bunch of roses that says “I love you” to a mother or “I’m sorry” to a lover could mean long-term illness in communities where they were grown. Doctors studying the issue in Ecuador have revealed the thorny side of the cut-rose industry as they work toward a fairer flower.

The predominantly young workers who toil in the cut-flower industry do not always notice they have medical problems, which tend to manifest later in life. Others, like one young mother I met while attending a community clinic held by the Centre for Studies and Consultation in Health (CSCH), cannot hold a pen straight and exhibits other disorders. But she continues working with cut flowers to make ends meet.

Dr. Jaime Breilh of the CSCH says they first thought poisoning through acute pesticide exposure was making cut-flower workers ill. As they studied the issue, however, they learned low-dose chronic exposure to pesticides caused the problems….

Of course the query goes on from there, as you will see from other examples in the book. But what I want you to do here is imagine this query with the above subject line landing in the editor’s in-box before Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. The editor might think it is a query for another typical “love” article but would open it to check it out because, after all, the editor is looking to run love-oriented articles around Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. He just hopes they go beyond the usual clichés and perhaps offer a bit of fresh insight.

Imagine, now, as the editor gets to the end of the first paragraph: suddenly, everything Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day stands for has been stood on its head. The flowers we send to show our love could be making people sick? If this is something the editor did not know, then this information captures the attention of the editor and causes the editor to read on….

That is what you have to do in your queries: capture the attention of the editor, hold the editor’s interest, and influence attitude. If you can do that, you will dramatically increase your chances of closing the sale. Again, there will be much more on writing queries in the book. But I wanted to set the stage for you here.

An important part of the query letter is you: why should you be the one to write the article? You tell the editor about you in a brief paragraph towards the end of your query. As you pitch different publications or companies in different sectors (for corporate work), adjust your bio to reflect your strengths in relation to the article idea, the type of publication, or the company you are pitching….

Here is a query letter template:

Person’s Name
Position (usually Editor)
Publication Name

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:

Opening Paragraph. Make it read as if it might be the lead of the article. Or pose an intriguing question. Or outline a startling new trend.

Support Paragraph. Build on the introduction of the central idea and put your opening paragraph in context. Maybe include some statistics or trend information. Or discuss the economic, political, legal, environmental, or social/cultural reasons behind, or implications of, the person/subject/concept you are proposing to write about. Also, demonstrate a reason why the article would be of interest to the readers of the publication.

Source Paragraph. Demonstrate you have done some research and have access to sources that can comment on, or otherwise contribute to, your article. The higher placed the sources are, the more convincing you have to be about your ability to reach the appropriate sources.

Ask For The Order Paragraph. Literally, ask if the editor is interested in the article. If it is a time-sensitive topic, give a deadline.

About You Paragraph. This is where you add something about you and why you are the right person to write such an article. Be sure to include your contact information: phone, email, and website (if you have one).

Your Signature
Your Typed Name
Encl.: Clippings

Query letter for style
This query letter that I concocted is presented for style only. Having said that, since creating this query, I’ve seen several articles addressing the theme of “an apple a day” and the impact that fresh fruits and vegetables have on health. So you never know what you can turn into an article.

Dear <Name>:

Is there any truth to the expression ‘an apple a day keeps the Doctor away’? Yes, and here’s the proof.

According to the Nutritional Institute of Canada, one apple a day contains the daily recommended dose of vitamins X, Y, and Z. Apples are also an excellent source of roughage, contain no fat and very few calories. Apples make great snacks for kids. Baked or turned into applesauce, they can be used as a side dish for main meals or as scrumptious dessert.

The readers of (Magazine Name) are health-conscious individuals who are concerned about nutrition and diet. Would you be interested in a feature story on the healthy habit of eating an apple a day?

Along with verified health and nutritional facts about apples, my article will include an interview with the noted apple authority, Johnny Appleseed. I can also provide several of his favourite apple recipes.

I spent three years working in an apple orchard and have written short articles on apples for my community newspaper and church newsletter. Samples of my writing are enclosed. If this article is of interest, please feel free to contact me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or

Your Signature
Your Typed Name
Encl.: Clippings

Query letter video: sell your article ideas
In this 10-minute video, Paul Lima discusses how to sell your article ideas to newspaper and magazine editors using the query letter. He looks at how to structure and write query letters to pitch your article ideas:

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines

The Unstoppable Freelance Revolution

The Unstoppable Freelance Revolution

by Lisa Goller, MBA

October is Small Business Month, so it’s the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate a thriving entrepreneurial trend: the rise of the freelance movement.

In the past decade alone, technology, globalization and economic factors have empowered and inspired workers to leave the corporate world behind and establish their own freelance business.

The freelancing community has grown in size and influence, as white-collar freelancers are becoming a more important economic force that collectively impacts business profitability and reinvents work beyond the traditional 9-to-5 office job.

In one generation, there will be no employees. Everyone is going be a subcontractor.

The skilled freelance market has grown to adapt to companies’ temporary needs for talent. The result is an enthusiastic embrace of the entrepreneurial mindset. As one Canadian Business article predicts, “In one generation, there will be no employees. Everyone is going be a subcontractor.”

Here’s proof of freelancing’s momentum:…

Read full blog post here:

How much can you earn as a freelance writer?

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines

Before we look at developing article ideas and pitching them to editors, we should talk money.

I have been a freelance writer for almost two decades. People often ask me if one can make a living freelancing for newspapers and magazines. So what do I say when people ask me, “Can I earn a living as a freelance writer?”

“Define living.”

I know some writers who make a healthy living freelancing for newspapers and magazines. And I know others who could not afford to continue as freelancers. You can say that about all sorts of people who run their own businesses. Some are successful; some are not. If you are the primary breadwinner of a family and want to own a house and car and take elaborate vacations each year, you might find it difficult to make what you define as “a living” freelancing, especially in the getting-started phase. However, that is the case with any small business. It takes time to get the business off the ground.

If, on the other hand, you live a frugal life, freelancing for newspapers and magazines beats a job that has you saying, “Would you like fries with that?”

Financially successful writers take a business-like approach to freelancing. They develop numerous article ideas, pitch the right ideas to the right editors at the right publications, and follow up. They control the amount of time they spend conducting interviews, research and writing, and they invoice for their services. If payment does not arrive promptly, they follow up.

But even the most successful freelancers hit a financial ceiling—the limit to how much they can earn freelancing for periodicals (newspapers and magazines). Say, for instance, you write 50 articles in a year. That’s one a week (with two weeks off for good behaviour). I actually wrote 100 articles one year, so 50 is manageable, even if it does not seem like it initially. (You get faster—and better—with experience.)

Articles can range in length from 200 words to 2,500 words, although you can write the occasional longer feature. Let’s take an average length of 1,000 words.

Now we do the math:

50 articles times 1,000 words equals 50,000 words

But how much can you earn per word?

Community papers pay anywhere from zero to 10 or 15 cents per word. Most large urban daily newspapers pay anywhere from 35 to 60 cents per word. Occasionally they pay more for special supplements or glossy magazines they publish. And they sometimes pay more if they want a particular writer to cover a particular topic, but that’s more of an exception than the rule.

Industry trade magazines pay 25 to 60 cents per word; some high-end trades pay a dollar per word. Glossy consumer magazines you find on newsstands pay 50 cents to one dollar per word. A few have cracked the one-dollar barrier, paying $1.50 or $2 per word. That, too, is the exception, not the rule.

So let’s say you average 75 cents per word. Let’s do the math:

50,000 words times 75-cents per word equals $37,500

If you average $1 per word, here’s what you would earn:

50,000 words times $1 per word equals $50,000

Of course, if you write more articles or longer articles, or earn more per word, then your gross incomes goes up. Fewer articles, shorter articles, or earning less per word puts a dent in your income. Also, from your annual gross income, you deduct taxes, pension-plan contributions, and business expenses.

Does that add up to a living to you? Will it let you pay for rent, food, clothing, and entertainment? If so, you can make a living as a freelancer.

The fact is, many writers earn more; many more earn less. Those who earn more write more articles and longer articles and/or they write only for one dollar-plus per word publications. Some writers who earn more combine periodical work with higher-paying corporate writing gigs. Or they are strictly corporate writers.

Where you fit into the spectrum will depend on how many articles you can write each year, the average length of the articles, the per-word rate of pay, and if you choose to also write for the corporate market.

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines

Reality check for freelance writers

Excerpt from chapter 2 of Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing:

Reality Check
Before we get into the business of developing story ideas and pitching editors or finding corporate clients, I would suggest a little reality check is in order.

If you are getting started as a freelance writer, you need to be realistic. It takes time to develop contacts and generate repeat business. So, with that in mind, ask yourself:

  •  Can I afford to start slow and grow?
  • Can I live without a pension plan and various benefits (unless you are covered by another person’s plan or until you can afford your own)?
  • Can I work productively from home making cold calls, talking on the phone, sending and receiving email, conducting research on the Web?
  • Do I have experience writing for periodicals?

Did you answer yes to those questions? If so, carry on. If you answered “absolutely not” to any of the above, carry on as well. Obviously, you want to become a freelance writer—and the good news is you don’t have to give up your day job to become one. You can freelance part-time and adjust to the business realities of freelancing before you take the plunge as a full-time freelance writer. If you are looking at freelance writing as a quick way to earn a load of cash, however, see the first bullet in the above list.

What if you have no experience?
Just as you would not hire a plumber, electrician, or auto mechanic who had no plumbing, electrical, or auto-mechanic experience, most editors or corporate clients (not all, but most) will not hire writers who have no writing experience.

When pitching editors or marketing your services to corporate clients, you have to demonstrate your writing ability, as we will see when we look at query letters and sales pitches. By demonstrating your ability to write, you make your lack of writing experience much less of a liability. However, that means you have to be able to write. If you have little or no experience writing news articles, profiles and features, media releases, case studies, website content, and so on, consider taking workshops and courses at your local community college, university, or online — or buying books — to hone your writing skills.

Editors and clients will often want to see some samples of your work or a portfolio, before assigning a story or a writing job. But everybody has to start somewhere. Find, or make, your starting place, and grow from there. However, we will discuss ways of developing and showcasing your writing ability and your portfolio.

Family ties
If you are getting started in this business and have a family, it is important that they understand what you have to do to make this business work, how you have to apply yourself even when (especially when) you are not generating revenue. Take an evening and discuss with your family what it is you want to achieve and the work it will take to realize your goals. Get the family onside early to avoid misunderstandings, conflicts, and resentment later. This can happen, especially if you work from home.

Having said that, you don’t have to become a time ogre to make this business work. Freelancing has a degree of flexibility. Although most interviews and meetings take place on weekdays during business hours, a great deal of the getting-started research and marketing can be done evenings and weekends. Sometimes you may be able to give up a few hours during the day to a child, spouse, or partner. But, if appropriate, let that person know you will be researching or writing in the evening or on the weekend.

For instance, the day I wrote this, I conducted a 45-minute interview at 9:00 a.m. I worked on this book, while scheduling other interviews by email, until 11:00 a.m. I took my daughter to pick up a friend for a play date. I did a bit of writing when we got back, and then fed the kids lunch. They then played in the backyard with the understanding that they should not interrupt me unless there was an emergency (or if they were in desperate need of lemonade). Other than that, “Daddy is working!”
I’m not saying do it my way. Your circumstances may be entirely different. However, find a way to do it, because you need to be working at getting work until you have work. It is up to you and yours to make it work.

Excerpt from chapter 2 of Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing:

Growth of ebooks and indie authors

According to Publisher’s Weekly: Ten years ago, e-books accounted for less than 1% of the trade book market. Today, e-books account for about 25% of dollar sales and 40%–50% of units. Although the rate of growth has slowed for e-books, the affordability and accessibility of digital will continue to erode print readership.

In addition, indie authorship has become a global cultural movement. Writers are drawn to e-book self-publishing for the total creative control, faster access to global markets, and pricing and promotion flexibility. Writers retain all rights while earning 60%–80% of the list price as their e-book royalty. Traditionally published e-book authors earn only 12%–17%.

Every week, indie e-books top retailer bestseller lists, and hit the USA Today and New York Times lists. Indies will continue gaining digital market share as they pioneer tomorrow’s best practices for pricing, production, and promotion.

While I have never topped a bestseller list, I self-publish all my book in print and electronic format. The print books are print on demand, through Lightning Source  (now Ingram Spark for new indie authors) or Create Space. That way I don’t have to carry any inventory at all.

You can read about my books, and see where I sell them, here.

Cyberbullying and why you should stop doing it

This is part of a three-part blog post:

A headline on Cyberbullying has ‘hugely disproportionate impact on women and girls’. You can read the full article here: Allow me to say this: I don’t get it. Guys, get over it and get over yourselves. Get help. Become better people.

What does cyber bullying get you? Seriously? Does it give you a feeling of power to bully a woman or a girl? Let me tell you, it doesn’t make you powerful. It makes you a creep. And a weak one at that. In your more lucid moments — and I believe you have them — you know that is the case. Does it give you control? First of all, over what? You anonymously intimidated a girl online. What are you in control of? What power do you have? Do you get your jollies making someone cry, or worse? Eat a donut. Trust me, it is much more satisfying!

Look deep into your psyche. I believe you can do it, but if you need help doing so, then get some help. Here’s a good place to start:

In the long run, cyber bullying does nothing for you: doesn’t make you a better or stronger person. One day you may wake up and regret it, if there is any decency in you. And unless you are totally psychotic or deranged — and I don’t think you are — I believe there is decency in you. So stop it. And if you need help to stop it, get help.

If you are reading this, you are lucid. This would be a good time to come to terms with who you are, and who you can be. And that is the goal, isn’t it? To be the best person you can be. Not some creep stalking or bullying someone online. Look in the mirror and ask yourself why you would be that person, why you would want to be that person. Don’t wait until you grow up and mature. Grow up and mature now. Take a deep breath. You can do it. You can change. Deep down, you don’t want to be a creep. You actually want to be a decent person. Become that person. Become that person today! Do it for your mother, your grandmother, your sister. Do it for yourself. For you.

Note: I have created a blog where this issue can be discussed. If you want to read more blog posts and join the conversation, click here.

Men: become better people

This is part two of We interrupt this blog to speak to men… I asked if people had thoughts on how we can stop men from behaving badly — towards women and children in particular. People responded, but mostly with what we can do if we see bad behaviour: make noise, identify the man, corroborate the woman’s statement, tell authorities, and so on. I agree with all of that, but the bigger question is how can we  eliminate or at least reduce the need for that. Prevention, in other words. I don’t see us as a society taking preventative measures that will eliminate or reduce (help stamp out) ignorant and despicable male behaviour.

If a man is a psychopath or has some major mental deficiency there is probably not much one can do. However, I suspect most men who behave badly have lucid moments. They fit in and interact with others. It is during those lucid moments that we need to somehow motivate them to seek help. In short, if you are a man who has behaved badly or has behave badly thoughts, get help.

Let me get personal for a moment. I’ve never hurt another person. But I have had violent thoughts. They scared me. I think the fact that I was afraid of my own thoughts was a good thing. I sought help. I met once a week for a year with a psychiatrist and we explored my thoughts–the factors that  caused them, how I was not acting on them but was afraid that I could… It helped a great deal in that I was able to understand the roots of my thoughts and was able to vanquish them… And that is what I am suggesting men do. Whether you have or have not acted on thoughts that you know, in your lucid moments, are not socially acceptable, get help in dealing with them. Here is a good place to start:

As the site says, “Some people worry about asking for help because there can be stigma around mental health problems. They may believe that asking for help means admitting that something is wrong. Some people worry about how others might see them.” BUT “Asking for help means that you want to make changes or take steps towards your new health goals. We should celebrate the courage it takes to speak up and make changes. Getting help is part of recovery.”

As my wife said, “Women know that it’s not a gender war we fight, but a war against, entitled, destructive, weak, angry men.” And I am asking men to stop being entitled, destructive, weak, and/or angry. I am asking men to do what it takes to stop attacking women and children. If you have attacked or fear you might/could, then get help. Change. Take control. You can do this. You can become a better person. In fact you are that better person. Sometimes it takes help to find that person. Things may have happened in your life–they did in mine–that makes you a potential despicable person. But that is not who you want to be or have to be. Deal with your past and your thoughts and your (potential) actions. Become a better person. Heck, if I can do it so can you… Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out for it. Go for it. Do it. End the insanity and violence. End it now. Take the first step to becoming that better person.

If you need a nudge in the right direction, leave a comment and let’s see if we can help you get the help you need to become the person you want to be!

Note: I have created a blog where this issue can be discussed. If you want to read more blog posts and join the conversation, click here.

We interrupt this blog to speak to men

Men! If you want to hurt, harm, assault a woman, a child, a person who is different or even an animal, seek help. I know you have lucid moments and in a lucid moment, acknowledge your feelings and do something. Talk to someone. Get help. Now.

It is time for men to tell men to stop the violence. I am sure there are others who can say it more articulately or with a more creative image — please feel free. The important point is that we speak up. Now! So feel free to like or share or do your own thing. But speak up. Be heard. Let others know you care!

Note: I have created a blog where this issue can be discussed. If you want to read more blog posts and join the conversation, click here.

Let your business vision guide who you become

I’ve been a freelancer for over 25 years. I didn’t say ‘freelance writer’ because I do several things to earn a living. I do several things because I want to. How do I know that I want to? Each year I create my business vision. I then expend my energy making it real. For instance, I wrote almost full time for several newspapers and magazines for about a decade. That’s what I wanted to do. But I still taught a night school course one night a week. To me, teaching is like writing: I conduct my research and then deliver my words–in person, not on the page. I enjoyed it, so I did it. And got paid too.

I’m not saying every writer should teach. If you can’t envision yourself standing in front a group of inquiring minds, then you might — emphasis on might — not want to.

I now earn my living writing and editing for corporate clients, conducting business-writing training webinars , teaching online courses for the University of Toronto, teaching private online courses and selling my books. It is what my business vision says I want to do, so it’s what I do. In other words, having a business vision helps me focus. It helps me prioritise my time and create my website to ensure it reflects who I want to be.

What’s your business vision say you should be doing? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Who do you want to do it for?

If you are like most freelancers, you don’t have a business vision. You just do. Nothing wrong with that, if you like what you are doing and are making enough money doing it. But if you have a nagging feeling you’d like to be doing something different, it’s time you asked yourself the W5 questions: who, what, where, when and why.

Who do you want to be? If you don’t know, how can you become that person? I want to be a writer, trainer and teacher who writes books on the side. Go to my website,, and you will see that is who I am.

What do you want to do? Let’s say you want to be a writer. That’s cool. But do you want to write for newspapers and magazines or corporate clients? Do you want to write books? If so, fiction or non-fiction? Do you want to write a bit of several things? You need to know what you want to do so that you can devote your energy to marketing your services (or writing a book, if that’s what you want to do) so you can do it/them.

Who do you want to do it for? There is a big difference between writing for periodicals and corporate clients. There is a big difference between teaching night school and conducting corporate training gigs. At minimum, for the latter, you need a jacket and tie! But you need to determine who can buy your services, who you want to do things for, so you can focus your marketing at that type of client.

Where do you want to do it? I’ve worked from home, other than short teaching and training gigs, for over 20 years. That’s what I want to do. That means I do not apply for contract positions or gigs that would have me commuting to an office most days of the week. I want to work from home so I do.

When do you want to do it? If you want to teach or train, but you want to take most of the summer off, you would not be promoting yourself as a teacher or trainer in May or June, because you might land gigs that take place over the summer. In short, having a business vision in place helps you do what you want to do, when you want to do it.

Why do you want to do it? It helps to know what motivate us to do the various things we want to do. Sometimes the going gets tough, and knowing why you want to do something can help keep you on track.

How do you do that? Having a business vision doesn’t automatically mean you will be who you want to be. It means you can work on becoming that person. If you want to teach or train, for instance, but have never done it, you don’t start pitching yourself as a trainer or applying for teaching jobs. Perhaps you start by taking some courses that help you become a more confident teacher or trainer. Then you start looking to do what you want to do. If you want to write for periodicals, you spend most of your working day researching markets and pitching query letters.

In short, who you are is up to you and you. Create a business vision, and then work on making it real. Visit your vision once a year, and consciously decide if you want to keep on the path you’ve envisioned or if you want evolve. You don’t have to make changes every year; however, think about who you want to be, and work on becoming that person.

[ Paul Lima is exactly who he wants to be: a freelance writer, business-writing trainer, writing instructor and the author of books on business writing, promotional writing and the business of freelance writing. Read more about him online at ]