Jason Brick always wanted to be a writer. Some of his earliest memories come from when he was four years old, pretending to write words on a piece of paper.
He would imagine stories in his head and make marks as if he were writing, draw pictures to help convey the stories in his mind, and dictate his stories to his parents.
The first story he wrote was about a Tyrannosaurus rex fighting a Triceratops—the T-Rex bit the Triceratops’s head off and then died after getting sick because of the Triceratops’s horns.
He wrote some of his first published stories in high school and college.
Jason’s first career, however, was in the martial arts. He worked in the industry for 10 years. When his son reached grade school, Jason realized that having a job that required him to work from 2 pm–10pm was getting in the way of quality time with his son.
He’d written a number of articles for local magazines about health and business. So when he sold his karate studio, he had a large enough portfolio that he was able to transition directly into writing for a living.
Learning The Business of Writing
Jason will write what somebody pays him to write. His unique selling proposition is that the project will be done on time and the process will be as low-stress as possible.
He treats his writing like a business product—his writing isn’t precious to him. He writes what the client wants him to write in the way they want him to write it. He wants to do a good job for his client, and he’s not emotionally attached to his vision of how the writing should be.
How to Develop a Thick Skin as a Writer
Jason attributes his thick skin as a writer to his background in sports and martial arts.
When a coach or martial arts instructor told him he was doing something wrong, he never felt like a failure or a bad person. He was just a person who didn’t correctly execute the task at hand. That’s why Jason never takes critiques of his writing personally—everybody is different, and he wants to have happy clients.
Another benefit of his upbringing is that if Jason feels strongly that the client is wrong about the changes they want to make, he is confident that he’s looking at his work product objectively and not just responding emotionally to an attack on his character.
As far as how others can develop a thicker skin when it comes to their writing, it’s all a matter of practice.
“Submit your work to an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. After you hear your ex tear your work to shreds, the polite requests of your clients to make changes don’t sting as bad.” – Jason Brick
Read Your Reviews
Jason has an indie author friend who only reads three-star reviews. He believes that four-star and five-star reviews are people who like or know the author, or like the book enough already anyway.
The one-star and two-star reviews are usually people who are just having a bad day. The three-star reviews are the audience that you need to convince to buy your next book.
They aren’t raving fans, and they aren’t trolls. These are the people who, if you improve, are likely to tell others about your book.
You can learn a lot from feedback and criticism if you keep an open mind.
Learn From Your Readers
Jason contacted a woman who had given him a two-star review of 9 Habits of Highly Profitable Writing. Her critique was that she couldn’t understand how to put his strategies into practice.
He emailed her, and they’ve been corresponding for two months. She even became a coaching client.
People who give you constructive feedback could be a business opportunity waiting to happen.
Ignore Toxic People
There are people who write reviews just to prove to themselves that they’re clever. Or, they write reviews maliciously to make your book lose credibility.
There’s very little you can do about this type of reviewer, and you shouldn’t allow them to affect the way that you go about producing your work.
Rules for Being a Highly Paid Freelance Writer
Always bill by the project. Jason gets paid by a financial firm to ghost blog for their website. They pay $500 per post.
One 300-word blog post takes Jason about twenty minutes to write. He can write about it quickly because he knows the subject matter.
If he went to that financial firm and asked for $1500 an hour, they would laugh him out of the room. But $500 per blog post is only slightly above market rate. They don’t care how long it takes him, as long as he’s on time and produces results.
“A lot of the work a writer does is the hours and hours we spend honing our craft before we even know about the writing job.” – Jason Brick
Clients pay for results. They’re paying for the finished product. How long the finished product takes to produce doesn’t matter, as long as you meet the deadline.
Billing by the project makes everything clear for the freelancer and the client.
Plan your work. Make a writing schedule. Keep track of how long writing assignments take you, so that you have an idea of how much time you’ll need and how much you should charge for future projects.
Stay ahead of your work. When you create your writing schedule, plan enough time so that you can work ahead. If you can, give yourself some leeway when you negotiate deadlines.
Always have more projects in the hopper. Projects are what pay the bills. Always have projects waiting for you after your current one is complete.
How to Use Your Time as a Freelance Writer
Jason works 20 hours a week. He spends:
- 10 hours writing.
- 5 hours on office work and administrative responsibilities.
- 5 hours finding new clients
“Most of us make good money on the assignments we have. We just don’t have enough assignments.” – Jason Brick
The Importance of Your Work Ethic
“Your plumber never came to you and said, ‘I have plumber’s block today, I won’t be coming to fix your sink.'” – Jason Brick
So many writers look at their writing as an art. If you want to make a living as a freelance writer, you have to understand that your writing is a product.
You have to produce that product in a timely fashion, on time, with minimal fuss.
How to Deal with Writer’s Block
“If you can’t write well, write poorly, and then go back and revise.” – Jason Brick
I’ve never known anyone who has had writer’s block so badly that they didn’t know what to write at all.
Writer’s block is all about the fear that what you write down first isn’t good enough, and being embarrassed by the first thought that came out of your mind.
The truth is, if you write whatever comes out of your mind first and just get it down, that gives you something to revise. Working with words already on the page is much less scary than staring at a blank page.
Often, the stuff that comes out of Jason’s mind is a terrible first draft. But once he thinks about it more and revises, it ends up being some of the best stuff he’s written.
Don’t be afraid to put words on the page—no one’s going to see them until you’re done anyway.
How to Find Writing Clients
These days Jason gets most of his clients through word of mouth. When he was starting out, he made use of professional brokers, who connect people who can write well with people who need something written.
Another place to find clients is at writers conferences. Jason has had four major breaks in his writing career, and three came from sitting at the right table at a conference.
You should also go to conventions of industries that you know well. Attend conventions connected with your major in college, or your area of professional expertise.
The problem with looking for clients at writing conventions, however, is that everyone is a writer there. But if you go to a convention where there aren’t as many writers, you have less competition when searching for clients.
You should also go to your local Chamber of Commerce, because you’ll probably be the only writer in that room as well.
After you have a network of clients, you can ask for referrals and build up your client base. Talk to everyone you know who might need a writer.
Writing for Local Businesses
Talk to local businesses. When quoting a price to a local business for a writing project (like a press release, a newspaper article, or a menu), never charge less than $100.
Businesses have a different idea about how much a job should cost than the average person with a family does.
One rule of thumb is to add a zero to everything that you think is reasonable when quoting a price to a business.
For your first few assignments, you might have to work for trade. If you are designing a menu for a restaurant, for example, you might negotiate $100 in store credit.
If you do an excellent job, that business owner will be raving about you to all his friends and professional connections.
“What a lot of writers forget is writing isn’t nearly as easy for people who aren’t writers.” – Jason Brick
Value Your Work as a Writer
Writing well is a special skill that not everyone has. As a writer, you should value your own skill. When you price a writing project, it’s not necessarily about how long it takes you to do it, but about what it’s worth to your client.
Avoid falling into the trap where you’re writing for money but not for a living. Try to value your work appropriately.
If your rates are too low, professional businesses aren’t going to take you seriously.
“If you double your prices and lose half your clients you’re golden. You’re earning just as much money and doing half the work.” – Jason Brick
When you charge more money and get fewer clients, it gives you more time to focus on the client you have because you’re not stretched out trying to please too many people.
How to Get Referrals
Jason’s method for getting referrals is to just do a stellar job with his existing clients. Business owners always need a writer, so eventually the subject always comes up.
Because Jason does such a good job of being on time and writing what his client wants him to write, it’s natural that people refer him to their friends and professional acquaintances.
Jason mentions to current clients that he appreciates referrals twice. Once verbally, near the end of the project, and once in the closing email.
Jason also offers a finder’s fee to current clients who refer him to new customers.
The finder’s fee is usually 10% of the first payment that he gets from a new customer. This incentivizes his current clients to work like salesman for him. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to recommend something good to a friend or colleague?
“Word-of-mouth is the most powerful advertising, whether in person or on social media.” – Jason Brick
Referring qualified contractors to friends and colleagues is a good feeling for everyone involved. If you are referring a writer to someone who needs a writer and that ends up working out for everyone, then everyone feels good about the situation.
The other thing to consider is that a good referral chain builds everyone’s business. When I refer a writer who helps you, you’re naturally going to talk more about me and what I do when the topic of the writing project comes up. So everybody’s business grows.
A lot of writers feel uncomfortable asking for referrals because they don’t have much business experience. The truth is that businesses often expect you to ask them to refer you to others.
Turn in excellent work, turn it in on time, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals when appropriate. That is the key to having a successful freelancing business.
Email Your Network on a Regular Basis
Once every quarter, Jason sends an email filled with business advice to all former clients and prospective clients, and anyone he’s talked to about possibly doing business with him.
Over the years, Jason has probably received 20 high paying jobs from those emails.
Those emails accomplish two things:
- They keep Jason in people’s minds.
- They showcase his writing ability.
How to Start Your Career as a Freelance Writer
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce. They have education sessions all the time. That’s what the local Chamber of Commerce is for.
- Do a presentation on the importance of good writing in business.
It’s important that you put together a good presentation that includes:
- An example of good writing and how it engages the audience.
- An example of bad writing.
- An explanation of the difference between good writing and bad writing.
At the end of your presentation, mention that you do this for a living and give everyone in the audience your business card.
“Education is the new ad copy.” – Jason Brick
What you’re doing is adding value to the marketplace and to your client by educating them, and then offering to help them so that they can achieve the same results that you’re talking about.
All of the old advertising slogans have become invisible to us as consumers in the 21st century. Our brains have become saturated with catchy slogans.
But as a writer, if you provide good information to an audience about how to do something, you will be at the top of their mind when they think about that problem.
How to Work Less and Make a Living as a Writer
Work fast. Figure out when you’re in the zone, and write when you have peak energy. Figure out your rhythms and make them work for you.
This requires that you track your results for some time to figure out when the best times for you to write are.
Schedule your writing time like you would schedule an appointment, and keep your writing appointment.
Writing for a living is hard. There are going to be difficult days, and you’ll have homework every night for the rest of your life.
You just have to accept that as part of your job, like everyone else has unpleasant aspects of their 9-to-5 job, and keep pushing forward.
“Writing for a living is the career that lets me serve my personal values of having time for my family, and the flexibility to explore and learn new things every day.” – Jason Brick
Resources Mentioned in This Interview
http://www.brickcommajason.com – Jason’s website.
Coming Home (Book 1 of The Bushido Chronicles) – Jason Brick’s new young adult novel. This is the story of a high school student who is thrust into a Japanese legend.