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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Living... with Chas Ridley

Having her own publishing company has allowed Chas Ridley to enjoy personal contact with her readers and given her more control over the release of her books. Based in Western Washington, this prolific writer has been honing her craft for decades.

Her books include The Turnip Mercedes and Other Tasty Tales, Pioneer Lessons: 87 Things I Almost Wish We’d Known, Lessons to Share: Workbook for a Healthy Family, Black Hole: Unexpected Tool for Joyous Living, On Shifting Sands and Other Poems of Transition, and Limitless Internetworking – One Person at a Time. I’m happy to welcome her to Writers In Business.

~ Your writing focuses on life including stories for adults, children and poetry. The transitions we experience through each stage of our lives seem to be the inspiration for your writing. Do you keep a journal or diary to document your experiences? Does this become material for your books?

I’ve kept journals since fifth grade, when someone gave me a cute locking diary with one page for every day. Loved the idea of writing something every day that I could look at years down the line. Even then, my entries weren’t limited to what I did or saw during the day. More often, they were something I wanted to think about later. One of those fifth grade entries was: “Why do people build a house where the [Mississippi] river ate the old one?”

Through the years, the journals have become an odd personal history of things that did and did not happen, people I’ve met or wished I had, the occasional news flash, wish lists, promises to myself, places I want to go, poems and the sillier “pomes,” and titles of pieces written or revised. Some years I kept track of correspondence. Plus, of course, several lifetimes worth of things to think about later.

Some of the old journals were killed by flood (not the Mississippi) and other destructive events. The rest fill several shelves with moments I treasure enough to haul around the countryside every time I move. Whenever I think about putting those old notes onto the computer and not having to pack and unpack them, I remember how much pleasure comes from sitting on the floor flipping pages as I read.

The journals are an end in themselves, a way to clear my mind so I can get on with my life and whichever stories are at the top of the day’s list. Then, too, they’re a resource when I want to find details about something in particular. I use them as a resource for my stories, poems and books.

They are more often fertilizer than seeds.

~ When it comes to the financial side of your writing business, do you use computer software to track income and expenses? If so, which program? If not, can you describe the system that works for you?

After trying several existing programs, I went back to an Excel spreadsheet that is an overview of all my personal and business finances. I link the overview sheet to individual spreadsheets for the various components – each book and project has its own, and there’s another called “Maybe Someday.”

These spreadsheets prove something I’ve always known, that writing can be a very expensive way to make a living. They keep me on track, too, remembering that I can’t write to the exclusion of everything else. That I must knuckle down and peddle some of what I write. Let other people enjoy my words and photographs and pay me for the privilege.

Strange as it sounds even to me, that’s a hard lesson I’m still working on.

~ What projects are you currently working on?

I'm working on a novel focused on a mother and daughter that an early reader says reminds him of his favorite spiritual readings. A coffee table book, Talking With Trees, that includes the complete poem I used part of as the poem in the 2009 calendar. Living With Grief, which I’ve let loose twice and pulled back both times because it felt incomplete.

Also, I’m putting together a collection of greeting cards with verse and photographs. This is something I’ve meant to do for about 10 years, and finally it’s happening.

Plus I mean to blog again. I did it for a short time several years back, then let myself get sidetracked. Reading other people’s blogs has me itchy to do my own again.

I'm thinking about adding sleep to my list of projects, but there’s never enough time to check it off regularly, so I’ll just keep writing instead.

Chas, you are an amazing woman! A true inspiration for writers! Thank you for joining us today and for sharing your love of writing. You can learn more about Chas by visiting her web site Living... with Chas.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Technical Writer Sue Elvins

Sue Elvins MBA B.A. BSMIS is an "outside the box" type person. She is the owner of A Page Or 2 ( and a technical writer based in Iowa. Her education is impressive and consists of an MBA in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Business Administration emphasis Management. Sue, thank you for joining us today at Writers in Business.

~ You have been described as a “Technical writer of web software, technical issues, financial and other business matters.” Can you tell us more about your technical writing? Where can we find your work?

For the past 20 years, K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) is a motto I believe as a business owner and as a technical writer whether it be writing a new how to article or posting a fantastic article and giving them credit. When writing, I use that motto as it is easier explaining reference material especially to others that had very little knowledge of a topic. My work can be found at,, and

~ How did you get your start in this field?

A few things got me involved, 1) there were persons who needed the help as they were having difficulty in locating the information and I could provide it. 2) The cancer information is entirely educational based. I have stressed if anyone feels there is a concern regarding symptoms, a professional doctor needs to be seen and there is a directory available to find the nearest clinic. 3) The last site explains information for small business in detail and contains links on each page for further assistance.

~ Do you find most of your clients through referrals?

I have gotten clients through referrals and persons that have gone to the web site through the search engine.

~ I’m interested in learning more about Ravens Hollow Business Network. This is listed as “the place for virtual assistants, technical writers, transcriptionists and work at home information.” What is your goal with this network? How can we join?

It is a free web site currently. I am also building a new capability on it for paid advertising so small business owners can place ads on the web site and build traffic for this site and their own. Eventually, what I would like to do with Ravens Hollow is make it so RH is something that is career based for small business owners so if they are looking for quick help, they can come to me, put in an advertisement and I'll be able to help them. This is something in the works but I want to keep it so this is telecommute based and small business based. I believe in corporations but to be honest, the only way the economy will be built back up again is to increase small business. Lastly, there are multiple persons who are unable to work in the office for one reason or the other be it medical, physical, disabled, or a mom that wants to stay home with her children. I feel that RH is going to be the answer and I am going to do whatever I can to make it happen for the employer and employee.

To learn more about Sue's technical writing and her passion for helping small business owners, please visit her web sites.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Becoming a Freelance Writer with Usha Sliva

Please welcome Usha Sliva visiting us from Vancouver, BC. She is a freelance writer with over 10 years writing experience and the author of the new ebook, Becoming a Freelance Writer. She has lived and worked with clients all over the world and writes in both British and American English.

~ How did you get your first writing client?

Prior to freelancing, I worked with a number of Public Relation and Events companies and I used to write for their clients. When I decided to freelance, the first thing I did was to set up my website and showcase some of my work. However, I wasn’t really sure how to begin drawing in clients to my site. So I read a lot of online articles about freelancing and I joined sites like and later, There were a lot of hits and misses before I got into a rhythm. I never considered writing for free because I do believe time is money. My first client (whom I still write for) came to me via my website and asked me to write a newsletter for her business group. And from there, it just took off.

~ You have an informative web site and blog What other methods do you use to advertise your writing? Do you find one method works better than another?

A lot of writers find it hard to juggle their writing time with their marketing time; and often one takes precedence over the other. I personally find I work much better when I follow a strict schedule. My day is divided into three parts: writing for clients, marketing my services and actively sourcing newer leads. I use social networking sites like Twitter and business groups like High Output Business Networking and BC Women In Business to keep abreast of what’s happening. As and when I can, I also join in relevant forum discussions. So far, I’ve used Facebook just for keeping in touch with personal friends and family members, but I do see it has a lot of potential which I need to explore. The trick is to find one or two methods which work for you and be persistent with them.

~ Do you find your experience working with major Public Relation agencies and clients, including British Airways, complementary to your writing career? Can you share a tip to help freelance writers with promotion?

Definitely. I got to work on a variety of exciting writing projects and with some great people. I also had some brilliant mentors who were instrumental in pushing me to write correctly and to edit and revise and edit and revise until the job was perfect. Mentoring for me was very important and this is another region that I am exploring and hoping to get more into next year.

Writers need to find their niches - what interests them, what compliments their talents, skills and abilities and what makes them passionate. And then promote that niche via friends, online sites, social networking forums, ads etc. For me, it’s motivational writing and eco-friendly living. Once you find your niche, clients automatically will find you.

~ I understand you have released a new ebook, Becoming A Freelance Writer. Can you tell us about it and how we can obtain a copy?

When I first began a freelance writing career, I realized that there’s a lot of material available online. And contrary to being helpful, it actually becomes confusing. Freelancers don’t know which sites to use, how to find their own niche, how to market their skills etc. Becoming A Freelance Writer is a concise guide to help you get started. It’s a short step-by-step resource to help you begin and it’s only the first part in a series of eBooks I’m working on. My next one will be out in autumn and that would be tackling marketing freelance services.. I’m also currently conducting an online poll on my blog and once the results are in; I’ll be developing a 5 week course based on the results.

To avail of the eBooks and courses for free, you would need to subscribe to my free ezine, Getting It Write! via; which again, is a great resource for new and experienced freelance writers, as I touch upon not only writing techniques, but also marketing options.

As a subscriber to Usha's Getting It Write! ezine, I agree - it's a great resource! Her web site has just relauched with a new layout and her ebook is a must-read for every freelance writer.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Legal Expert Linda Tancs
on Copyrights & Trademarks

Today we welcome Linda Tancs from Hillsborough, New Jersey. Linda is an attorney and the author of Understanding Copyright Law: A Beginner's Guide and her new book, Understanding Trademark Law: A Beginner's Guide.

She has extensive experience as a transactional attorney in both corporate and private practice, concentrating in intellectual property, entertainment, information technology, e-commerce and general business matters. She also teaches legal courses on the college level and has authored several articles for legal periodicals.

~ I understand your new book published by Oxford University Press provides an overview of intellectual property law as it relates to trademarks. This is such an important topic. Will the information shared in your book eliminate the need for readers to hire a lawyer to complete the trademark process or does this complement legal services?

Given the complexities of trademark law (particularly in the areas of trademark clearance searching and trademark examining procedure), it’s unlikely that a trademark applicant would go through the process in its entirety without a qualified professional. My hope is that my book will better educate those interested or involved in the trademark process so that they are better able to partner with their chosen professional during the pendency of an application. Post registration, the information on insurance, monetization and Internet usage will surely help trademark registrants increase the asset value of their marks.
~ What inspired you to create this book? Was there a pivotal moment where you realized this information would be ideal for a book or was the transition from idea to paper a longer process?

I was recommended for the series by an editor with whom I had become acquainted, so they actually inspired me to write the book (as well as the next two—on copyrights and patents). My 13 years’ experience in trademark law certainly gave me enough insights into what a reader should know about the field.

~ In addition to your legal work and this book, you have started Get S.M.A.R.T. which is a brand consulting business and Jurismart which provides management consulting, coaching and writing services. Can you tell us briefly about each business?

Get S.M.A.R.T. is a workshop and consultancy designed to teach business owners and marketers how to define, promote and protect their brand message. Too often, a trademark is just a label rather than an asset. I teach clients how to be S.M.A.R.T. (Strategic, Memorable, Aligned, Resourceful and Timely) with respect to their brands to increase a brand’s asset value. This involves aligning stakeholders (inside and outside the business), targeted messaging and reputation audits, among other things.

Jurismart is the coaching, management consulting, writing and editing arm of my business. As the name suggests, the business was started as a coaching service for lawyers. It has since taken on a wider reach, with coaching clients coming from industries like finance and healthcare. I also offer mediation, conflict management consulting and a wide range of writing, ghostwriting, and editorial services for personal and professional projects.

Linda, I appreciate you stopping by to visit with us at Writers In Business. Please visit Linda’s web sites to learn more about her businesses. Her books are available through and