Sunday, July 26, 2009

Angie Roberts of Bungalow Productions

"Many people who grow up in small towns can’t wait to leave them. Angie, on the other hand, grew up in the city and couldn’t wait to find a small town to settle into.” Angie Roberts from Crawfordsville, Indiana is visiting us today at Writers In Business.

Angie is the owner of Bungalow Productions which offers research, writing and design services. She is a writer and marketing professional with 20 years of experience. Angie’s clients include Purdue University, Riley Children’s Foundation, Indy’s Child magazine and Indianapolis Pet Quarterly.

~You certainly wear a lot of hats in your work day! Can you tell us approximately how much time you spend on each service you offer? Are they split fairly equally or do your clients request more writing than research, for example?

I currently work about 4-5 hours per day, and spend about half that time in writing-related activities. The other half I spend doing lesson plans and grading papers for my adjunct faculty position at at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. I teach public speaking, interpersonal communication, critical thinking, college skills, and English composition. I also do some design and Web site development. When I first created my business, I thought I would do more marketing consulting. However, there just didn't seem to be much of a market for that where I live. I was mainly targeting small businesses that didn't have marketing people on staff. But many didn't seem to have the money for my services, or they didn't see the need for them. At any rate, thanks to the old Work At Home Moms writers' list, I decided to do some magazine writing. Eventually, that experience led me to get some steady work from organizations that had writers on staff, but needed freelance help. That is really where the bulk of my work comes from these days.

~ Your education includes an MA in public relations, and a BS in journalism and English. What is one class you have taken which you consider as a must-have for writers?

In terms of classes I would recommend, I would say English. I started out just as a journalism major, but the journalism department really encouraged us to have another major so that we would have something to write about. I was bored in my journalism classes, but as an Honors College student, I took quite a few English classes and absolutely loved them. I picked up the English major the middle of my junior year. I told my parents that I needed the English major to get a good job when I graduated; that really wasn't true, but I do believe the English classes made me a much better writer. They honed my critical thinking abilities and also gave me something to write about -- people.

I love literature. I don't like to write fiction, but many of my nonfiction stories have a narrative bent. Last fall, I really got to hone those skills when I wrote a book for the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. The book was a history of the school in honor of its 50th anniversary this year. One of my writer friends said that she liked how I didn't make it sound so academic; there was a narrative flow to the book.

~ What writing groups are you a member of and what benefits do you gain from those connections?

I am a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the Association for Women in Communications. I joined NASW because I was on their free e-mail freelance writers' list for several years and was receiving really great advice from really smart, well-educated people. Occasionally I meet these people in real life; most of the time I just get good advice.

As far as AWC, I joined that because we have a chapter in Lafayette, Indiana, near where I live. I used to be on the board, but I resigned recently because I'm too busy. Even attending the meetings, though, is great for networking; many of my clients attend as well, and I've also met some new colleagues and gained new clients through the group.

To learn more about Angie’s business, please visit her at

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Michelle Dunn - Expert on Credit & Collections

Michelle Dunn of Plymouth, New Hampshire is the nation's top expert on credit and debt collection. She has seven published books on the subject and has 20 years of experience in the industry. I’m pleased to welcome her to Writers In Business.

~ You have certainly found your niche in the book market and are a respected expert on the topic of collections. Congratulations! Can you tell us what inspired you to write your first book on this?

I wrote my first book titled "Starting a Collection Agency, how to make money collecting money" based on the demand for information on this topic. I had started my agency and had been working in the industry for about 11 years, when I started getting some national media attention. This media attention brought me many phone calls, letters, and emails asking me how I started my agency and became successful at it. This prompted me to write a book on this topic since there were none out there at that time on this subject.
~ I understand when you started your own collection agency in 1998, debt collection was a field dominated by men. You found the strength and courage not only to enter this field, but to become a successful author of books on collections. Did you feel it was an uphill battle to break into this field or did you find support along the way?

I found the strength and courage to enter this field based on my knowledge of the industry and based on how good I was at collecting. I also was getting a divorce and wanted to be home and spend more time with my children. I found that I could not accomplish this while commuting 2 hours a day to my job. I decided to start my own business from home so I could have more flexibility for my family.

In the beginning I did not find much support which is why I started my Credit & Collections Association, ( and started a networking discussion group, with a website full of resources and information I had been compiling as I started my agency.
~ You have been featured in some well known media outlets including Ladies Home Journal,, PC World, Home Business Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. You were also a guest on (NPR) National Public Radio and the CBS Early Show. I’m sure lots of our readers would appreciate this level of publicity. Can you share with us some of your tips on securing this media attention?

I have always loved marketing as much as collecting. I have read many books, magazines and blogs on the subject in order to learn how to effectively market myself, my association, my books and my business.

I have been very successful at it, mostly because I am passionate about what I do and I don't take failure as an answer.

~ I’ve been reading about your new marketing series of books entitled, Mosquito Marketing. Can you tell us more about this concept and your plans for the series?

The first book in my Mosquito Marketing Series is being printing in the next few months, it is called "Mosquito Marketing for Authors". I wrote this book based on so many people asking me marketing questions.

For example, as you mentioned all the media I have achieved, I tell people in my book how I did that and how they can do it too. I tell them what I did that did not work so they won't waste time and money doing things that aren't effective. The next book to be published in this series will be at the end of the year and is called "Mosquito Marketing for Collection Agencies".

Michelle, thank you for joining us on Writers In Business. To learn more, please visit Michelle’s web site or her blog on Mosquito Marketing Mosquito Marketing Blog. Her books are available through her web site and

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Award-winning copywriter, communications specialist and editor, Amy Forstadt

Award-winning copywriter, communications specialist and editor, Amy Forstadt is joining us today from Los Angeles, CA. Amy has worked with Walt Disney, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, Stonyfield Yogurt, and Intermix Media. She has done work both in business writing (corporate communications and marketing) and the entertainment industry (mostly television).

~In reviewing your resume’ and LinkedIn profile, I’m amazed at how much you have accomplished with your career in such a short period of time. How did you get your first freelance project? What skills were your greatest asset in securing that position?

Like most breakthrough opportunities, I got my first freelancing project through a combination of luck and hard work. It was way back in 1995 and I was working as a receptionist, but I knew I wanted to be a freelance writer. At that time, I was also taking a screenwriting class, and the teacher of the class asked me to work the booth representing his writing services at an upcoming media convention in Chicago.

I agreed to work at the convention, and decided that I would take advantage of the opportunity to market myself. I had business cards made and passed them to everyone who came by, telling them I was a writer for hire (after I gave the schpiel about the class, of course!).

It turned out that another woman working in the booth with me was employed in the communications department of GE Capital Railcar. She told me that she might need a freelancer and we set up an appointment for the following week.

I was looking forward to the appointment, but I wasn’t expecting too much. I knew how it worked – my contact would have to talk to her boss, who would probably have to talk to his boss, and there would be all sorts of approval processes before anyone was hired. Well, when I got to the office, it turned out my new friend was the boss! She had a corner office with a big window and pretty much hired me on the spot. I was at GE for over a year, and my contact became a really good friend and regular client.

I think my greatest asset in getting that position was my willingness to really put myself out there at the convention and market myself to anybody and everybody – kind of like a mid 90s version of an e-mail blast – combined with the confidence I felt that I really could do the job.

~Working as a freelance Communication Specialist since 1995, you must have gained a tremendous amount of experience. Can you share with us a few of the important skills you have honed during this time that have helped you advance as a writer?

Being a successful freelancer is about so much more than just being a good writer (although that’s essential). The most important skill to develop is an ability to just jump in and get to work. People often hire freelancers because they are in a crisis situation – there’s lots of work to be done and their staff is just too busy to do it. So it’s not like being a new employee where you get training and introductions, and no one expects you to learn everything the very first day. When you come on as a freelancer, you’ve got no learning curve. You have to start being productive in the first hour.

As far as writing skills go, it’s important to be very adaptable to the different personalities of your clients, and the various corporate “voices” you’ll need to adopt. As with any sort of writing, you can’t take criticism personally. You need to satisfy the client, and if he/she thinks your project needs another draft or, occasionally, to be started again, you’ve got to be able to listen and make the changes they’ve requested.

At the same time, freelancers are often called in to be experts on a subject. So you may be in a situation where everyone is looking to you for answers, usually on a project you’ve just learned about. It can be a delicate balance that involves both taking suggestions and giving them.

~Can you tell us what is involved in entering the Drama Garage screenwriting contest which you won in 2005? How do you recommend people break into this market? Is it a highly competitive field?

I think screenwriting, or anything in the entertainment business, may be the most competitive field there is. I’d say that if you’re interested in working in entertainment, break in by doing everything you possibly can. Call all your contacts. Enter all the contests. Go to the networking events.

And most importantly, write, write, write. Success in this field can take years, and even after you do break in, there are no guarantees. A lot of people keep their day jobs for quite a while after they’ve had their first success. As someone once said to me, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” You’ve got to be in it for the long haul if you want to see results.

~Your educational background (B.A. in English from The University of Iowa, Technical Editing courses at Harvard University and a Copywriting and design course at AdEd in Chicago) is impressive. Is there one course you recommend all writers complete to enhance their marketability as freelancers?

I do think there’s one course every writer should take, and that it’s a different one for each writer. Aspiring freelancers should find a course about what interests them, whether it’s business writing, copywriting, digital content creation, etc and take that. You can usually find classes like these offered at your local community college or even online. And if you’re interested in more than one subject, you should take more than one class.

Not only will taking these classes look good on a resume and give you the confidence to start a project in that area, they will give you a taste about what it’s like to work in that field. I think most writers are naturally curious people, so there should be no shortage of potential writing careers that seem interesting. And you never know, you just may meet someone in one of these classes who will give you a great freelance project!

Amy's writing has been included in several books: Pieces of Me – Voices of WriteGirl, WriteGirl 2004, Honku – A Zen Antidote to Road Rage, Random House 2003, and Bold Ink – Collected Voices of Women and Girls, WriteGirl 2003. You can find Amy on LinkedIn.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Marketing Expert Patrysha Korchinski Shares Tips for Writers

Patrysha Korchinski joins us today from Whitecourt in Canada. She is an entrepreneur, author, freelance writers and speaker.

Her journey to entrepreneurship began nearly 12 years ago, with the birth of her first child. Jumping from home childcare and direct sales into freelance writing and website management & editing and then into copywriting, ghostwriting and eventually into public relations, she picked up on marketing, web development & social marketing along the way until one day it all exploded and PK Marketing Solutions was born.

~ As a writer, being able to promote your work is integral to success. Can you share one key part of a solid marketing campaign for a writer?

It is the same for writers as it is for any other business. Know your target market. Without this foundation, any marketing you do will be a long shot at best.

In writing, that means knowing your goals and then defining the best ways to get there and from there identifying your target market.

That means if you want to be a traditional freelance writing, then you know you have to perfect your query letters and employ strategic networking to develop relationships with editors in your field that can hire you. If you want to focus on copywriting and ghostwriting, you'd work towards developing and communicating your unique skills in an effort to attract and develop relationships with business owners that can hire you.

Your first market is those who hire you, your second market is those who read you after you are published.

~ Your new digital book, Profitable Marketing: Foundations for Busy Business Owners, is an informative 81 page guide. Can you tell us a bit about the book? How can we get a copy?

Well, the book was not actually intended to be digital. It was developed as a print book that I gave away at a local tradeshow as an introduction to who I am and what I believe in marketing. It can be very hard to sum up everything I do in a few words. Add to that, the business owners I target with my services tend to be very busy.

They aren't going to make the time to sift through long articles or bounce around my website unless they already have a genuine need in mind. Even then it is iffy as to whether they read enough to know what I am about.

But that's marketing. You have to think about the potential ways your target market is going to act based on the behaviors you know about. I know that people pick up brochures, fully intending to follow up, but then life gets in the way and they misplace them or otherwise shuffle them out of top of mind awareness. My theory was a book would be less likely to be forgotten and even harder to throw away. Of course, I might be projecting there, but I would have an awfully hard time justifying throwing away a book.

I only made the digital copy available to share with my online friends because shipping on hard copies is a killer and the only other option was to charge shipping, which seemed kind of skeezy for a free book.

I'll send the link to the digital version of the book to anyone who asks as long as you tell me where you heard of it. Just send me an email at info (at) pkmaretingsolutions (dot) com.

~ I like the format of your book. You provide powerful statements in a direct format meant to convey a message as efficiently as possible. This was one of the many statements that caught my eye, “Letting people know does not have to cost much...Just remember the three P's- publicity, printing, promotions.” Can you elaborate on this?

Keep in mind that the book was intended for more traditional small business owners, so I really think the final P for promotions would be out of place for most writers starting out.

Publicity is basically the process of getting free media coverage. Rather than placing an ad in a particular media outlet, you go in through the back door to become the news. This is a particularly important skill for writers who specialize in niche topics, whether it's weight loss, divorce, or spiritual matters or whatever. By getting covered in the media, you establish yourself as an expert. Which can be very handy when you are looking at a book deal for a non-fiction book and they ask you about your platform. You'll have already established your following and proven your publicity skills. How you go about getting that publicity and what media you target, that is going to vary depending on your goals and your target market.

Printing is all about making the right impression. It's one area where it was vital for me to shed my tightwad tendencies. Projecting a pulled together, professional image is essential in many writing markets. I believe that this is a case of "start as you mean to go". You very seldom get a chance to make a second first impression.

I know many writers feel that because they can do business cards at home on their inkjet that is good enough. For some it can be, if your target market is not concerned with such things. Regional parenting markets and volunteer driven magazines come to mind.

However, for most of those targeting a business audience, as is the case with ghostwriting, copywriting and publicity, home printed cards broadcast that we are cheap and unsuccessful. Not quite the statement you want to be making. For those on a tight budget there are ways to establish your image without breaking the bank. It can take a bit of digging, but look for a local printer who is willing to do short print runs. There is no need to print 500 cards at a whack if you find a printer that specializes in small business. The price, even for a small run, may make you gasp the first time around if you are used to home printing. Keep in mind that unless you are making changes you only have to pay the typesetting fees once and it also helps to remember that this is a marketing investment. You can opt for black and white instead of full color, and one side instead of double sided to keep costs down. Avoid thermographic on linen styles unless you are targeting a really well heeled clientele like doctors, lawyers and interior designers. No one else is likely to care.

Most writers don't need much more than business cards and possibly a brochure. You may want to consider customized thank you cards, but in most cases a high quality commercial card set will be adequate for your needs. Other businesses often need fliers and direct mail pieces developed with their printer and for them I always advise getting the best they can afford (if the budget is tight) or what it takes to get the job done right (if money is less of an still don't want to overpay by getting bells and whistles that don't matter to your target market.)

~ In your book you provide three tips for increasing sales & profits. What are those tips and how can we apply them to our writing businesses?

In any business there are only three ways to increase your profits, get more customers to buy from you, increase the amount customers spend with you, and get your customers to buy more often.

Now the first point is the hardest and most expensive. For traditional writers it means sending more queries and unearthing new markets. For those in the business market it means more networking, more proposals and more of whatever you are doing to attract new clients. You can reduce acquisition expenses by actively seeking and encouraging referrals amongst your satisfied clients.

Increasing the amount customers spend with you can take on various forms. In some cases, it can be as simple as raising your rates. Most clients are willing to pay more for proven talent that they can rely on you to deliver.

In other cases it can be about the classic upsell - "Do you want fries with that?" writer style. For example, you might suggest an article series to go along with a press release. You might suggest two brochures, each for a different target market and a differing "compelling reason why" rather than an all purpose one that will ultimately be less successful in converting. You might suggest an email autoresponder series to go with a special report or whitepaper. What can you suggest that will complement and strengthen the original or primary project?

Finally, getting clients to buy more often.

First of all, you should have a system of ongoing communication with your prospects and existing clients. An online newsletter or email list works wonders for keeping you and your services top of mind. When you are top of mind, your name will be the one they remember when they need you. Of course, this primarily applies to those writing directly for business, not so much for magazines.

Second you should have a system of follow up once a job is completed. Remind clients when it's been more than six weeks since their last press release. Touch base with retail clients when you know they should be getting new stock in for their change of season - time for another flier. Keep in the loop of what is going on with your clients as much as possible, and keep your eyes open for opportunities to work together again. Not in a pushy or stalker-like way, of course, but as professional courtesy and follow up.

Patrysha provides writing services through her business, PK Marketing Solutions, and has worked as a freelance writer and ghost writer. To learn more about how she can help your writing career, contact her at PK

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009