Sunday, August 30, 2009

Susan Johnston's Urban Muse

Joining us today is freelance writer, Susan Johnston, who is happy her job lets her “apply that childlike curiosity and love of language on a daily basis.” She is a non-fiction writer whose work appears in newspapers, trade publications, blogs, company websites, consumer magazines and in the anthologies, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Getting In To College and the soon to be released P.S. What I Didn’t Say.

~ Can you tell us about some of your recent freelance projects?
Sure! I just finished a couple of articles about dating and relationships for various websites. I'm also working on several career articles for a soon-to-be launched magazine in Canada and getting ready to start a big project writing product descriptions for a catalogue. I do a lot of product descriptions, actually, and they remind me of haikus, because they're short and sweet.

~ How do new clients find you?
A lot of it happens through word of mouth. I'm really fortunate to have a few wonderful mentors who have helped me network and land bigger clients. Plus, I sometimes respond to ads looking for freelance writers, which is how I've landed several clients.

~ Do you advertise your writing services other than your web site?
I printed postcards last year, but other than that, I don't spend any money on marketing. It's mostly an investment of time updating various profiles and my blog. I have profiles on several freelance websites like and, plus I'm on LinkedIn, because that's a great all-purpose website for professionals in any industry. (When I have extra time, I'll answer questions on LinkedIn to build my network and generally be a resource.) Several recruiters have emailed me after seeing my profile on CHL or LI.

~ I understand you are a Writing/blogging instructor at BCAE & CCAE. What is one key point you would like your students to learn from your class?
I think it's great that so many students want to learn about freelance writing or blogging, but I try to emphasize that the only way they'll get published is if they take what they've learned and start sending out queries or writing a blog! Some people are so focused on learning that they aren't doing. There's so much to learn about researching, querying, etc. that it can be daunting, but it's an ongoing process. You don't need to know everything to get published. A lot of writers learn as they go. I'm still learning and many established writers are, too.

~ Your blog, Urban Muse, has won several awards and Writer’s Digest named it in the 101 Best Websites for Writers. Do you feel blogging is a good way for a new writer to start out?
Definitely! It gives you a creative outlet so you can practice writing on a regular basis and hone your voice. But don't expect to be an overnight blogging sensation, because that's how people burn out. Focus on writing good content and building your readership over time.

~ You have a huge following on Twitter! How can new writers harness this networking opportunity to improve their businesses?
By engaging with writers, editors, and any other followers. Twitter should not be purely self-promotional. In fact, people get turned off by that. If you're conversing with people and retweeting interesting links, then your followers are more likely to look at your links when you post them than if you're constantly and exclusively promoting yourself.

You can follow Susan on Twitter, @UrbanMuseWriter, visit her web site at and follow her writing adventures at