You'd think that was pretty simple to do but not many freelancers know how to work out of a coffee shop. Many, usually introverts, are afraid to step out of the comfort of their home to a space so public as a coffee shop. Of course, the economics of it can be equally intimidating just as well but there is an admitted good vibe, cosmic energy, call it what you will that a coffee shop can infuse into your work. For instance, working out of a coffee shop right now has me writing this blog post for you.
Working out of a coffee shop today was a necessity - there was some maintenance work to be done in my apartment which meant my usual space of quiet work would be invaded by repair men and their tools cluttering my work space so I chose to work from an outdoor space. My local coffee shop of choice is Starbucks. I am spoilt for choice - I have at least 10 locations within a few minutes of where I live but over a period of time, through much trial and error, I have found the one location that is not too busy for my liking, to be able to get some productive work accomplished, without being disturbed by others' loud conversing or general people watching, which happens to be one of my top ten skills :) So much as this might take some fine-tuning, find yourself the perfect neighborhood coffee shop that suits your work style.
Also PS - I do have a Starbucks rewards card that gets me all kindsa great deals and I reload using a Chase Sapphire card which gives me 2x the points
Once there though dont be the hated coffee shop camper that invites the wrath of the staff employed there. Be good, be nice, be kind. Don't simply order a free cup of water and hide at the table at the very back so they cant see how long you have taken over their venue. Order something to show that you support the business that helps you with yours. You are using their space, their electricity, their restroom, their resources - wifi, lights, furniture, so dont be surprised if your coffee visit ends up leaving you $10 poorer. If this is a regular spot for you then learn the names of the staff there and engage in some neighborly chit chat when time permits. They are the nicest people once they get to know you. They will make you the 'usual' once they see you and be happy to swing by and drop off some water or clear stuff from your table.
If it helps you can try to only do coffee shop days when you have to absolutely focus on a story, or positively need a change of place, or have maybe client meetings that you can do there and that justifies being in a coffee shop for a few hours. I do at least one coffee shop work day and end up spending for coffee and a pastry, sometimes more if I stay there from breakfast until past lunch or even tea time. Of course, if you have a freelancing business then do keep the receipts safe and use them at tax time for deductions.
I do try to go in with a fully charged laptop and phone so I can work for at least 5-6 hours without having to take over the few plug points in the public space I am sharing. I also try to see if I can find a couch or a standing table top where I can occupy lesser space. Sitting at a table permits spreading your bag, papers, stuff in general all over the place and just taking up way too much space than polite society would consider acceptable. Take along your headphones or earphones if you need to block out external noise. By the same rule, don't have your loudest business call in a coffee shop. Make sure you can speak in a voice level that is not disturbing others, take calls in your car or outside if you can or reschedule for later.
You have ordered food and drink so remember to not be a clumsy clown when you consume your food or beverage of choice. And certainly do not swear out loud when you end up being the one dropping hot liquids on your own laptop! An overly animated freelancer is not welcome either. You are there to get your work done. So get your work done and dont go around trying to make random conversation with all and sundry. And when you are done and ready to leave, remember to clear up after yourself. Keep in mind at all times that you are in a public space so if your work requires you watch a video of gory detail for your research, you might not want to do that on your large screen laptop with full volume on! You also do not want to carry out banking transactions and such in a space like this, you never know who can view the details on your screen. Using a protector might help to some extent but that is also a personal choice.
Last but not least, leave the location a nice review online somewhere if they were helpful to your work day. Most of them have their preferred review site online so a few kind words and a few minutes out of your day would be a welcome return for their services. If some staff member was especially helpful then remember to mention them as well. I remember to do this if I have tried a new place or maybe an indie store that could use the positive feedback. Over time, you can let friends, colleagues, clients know where to meet you if they want to discus work. You also never know but sometimes story ideas come to you at coffee shops. Check out their message boards or even observing people coming in might spark a story idea in your freelancer head!
What do you enjoy most about working out of a coffee shop?
Sharing another fave website with you that has helped greatly with my writing, be it an article idea, or a new place to pitch or even just something motivational to focus on. Carol Tice has been in the freelance writing field forever and she shares a bunch of very useful pointers on her site. She covers everything from websites to marketing and more. Of course, not everything comes for free - she has to pay her bills too, but there is a lot you can learn on her site without having to pay for anything. Check it out and do share your thoughts. It really is practical help for hungry writers.
Your job as an editor or writer might not involve any interaction with designers but if it does one day then this glossary might come to your rescue.
I came upon it while searching for a term that a page designer had used in an email to me. Figured I'd look around first and see what they meant before I had to confess my ignorance on industry terms. Luckily, this link came handy!
Considering I have a service oriented business, and I am conscious about what I print, I limit myself to few marketing tools. I have the traditional business card but I don't have brochures I carry around to hand out to folks, or stickers for their cars! My website and social media links, and my work published online and in print, comprise my marketing tools. I do love my business cards though. They are made with Moo, and everybody who has seen them loves them and always asks to be referred. I use their mini cards which are a great size - half the size of the regular business card, which a lot of people immediately make note of. And you can choose to have multiple designs on your cards, which works great for me. I do not have a specific business logo and so I love the fact that my cards can be in different designs and colors. Again, a great conversation starter when I pull out a bunch of cards all in different patterns and colors and ask people to choose one! They offer next day printing just in case you happen to be in a hurry. Check them out here!
You've been invited to attend a press conference. What next?
Press conferences are usually hosted by organizations or celebrities to announce something that was not known before. Something new. Something that just came up. Something they would like you to write about. Sometimes with just the intention of making some noise and garnering some attention, and sometimes to really get feedback on what they are doing and what people think or feel about it.
If you are a well connected writer, you will probably get the invitation to the press conference directly from the organization or the agency handling the events and public relations for said party. It is typically in the form of an email stating the date, time and venue for the presscon, the speaker/s and who they are - designation, organization, cause, accomplishments, etc. and the topic to be covered at the event. Most times this will have some background on what is being addressed, especially if it is a current issue or a new product, or new features to a product, or a reaction to an incident. Other times though, they try to leave in some suspense and excitement in not telling you exactly what it is about.
Either ways, do some research on the organizations and speakers so you know why you are headed there. If you are really close to the folks that invited you, it wouldn't harm to ask them for a titbit on what this is about. And do confirm if you are attending, yes please do! This will help the organizers tremendously when they have to consider the logistics of the presscon- parking, seating arrangements, food and drink, handouts, giveaways, promotionals, etc.
When you head for the press conference, make it a point to say hello and thank your contact who invited you to the event. Surely they thought you a valuable resource to invite you instead of just mailing you some information after. Look around at the venue and try to get a spot as close as you comfortably can to the speaker so you can focus on what you are there for and you can hear them loud and clear to get pointers for your article. Take notes while they speak and graciously accept any informational fliers or press kits given to you. They usually contain the information you need when you later remember you forgot to note down some details!
If you have questions, just ask, but only if you are aware of the topic at hand. If this is not your subject area of expertise, then better to hold on till you can get back to your work desk, do some more research and then reach out to the agency with your questions as a follow through to your visit. They will usually be very happy to get your answers to you. If you have questions that have not been asked at the presscon by other attendees, then that might make for a good question or two to ask directly to the speaker/s. This way, you will have exclusive sound bytes for your media outlet. Ask your contact to connect you with the speaker/s immediately at the venue itself, or ask if they can be reached later with some questions you had specifically for your publication. Again, most often than not, they will gladly oblige. I am yet to come across somebody that organized a press conference and then refused to answer additional questions!
Most presscons will include some food and drink, maybe some passed bites and beverages. Help yourself to some but don't eat for the rest of the week at this one event! Presscons usually also involve some small promotional gifts for attendees. Usually this is very subtly included in the press kits, but sometimes these are bigger giveaways and have to be presented individually...use your best judgement on whether you want to walk out with that or not. I have had events where these promotionals had nothing to do with the speaker or organization, but were just a way to say thank you in advance if you chose to write about the presscon. I would typically graciously say thanks and leave, but on the other hand, sometimes, those giveaways have to do with the company or product directly, and I would go ahead and take/ask for one just in case it helps add more information to my written piece.
Always arrive with plenty of time to spare before and after the presscon, unless, of course, the news is just so earth-shatteringly urgent, that you simply have to rush out and get it up on your blog or site asap. Keep time to exchange pleasantries with industry colleagues you happen to run into. Certainly try to get a few minutes at the end with your contact who invited you to the presscon. Sometimes, letting them know which outlets you will cover the event for, especially if you are a freelancer, helps them know you did not just come on over for a fun evening! Be professional about it and you will find yourself invited to more such official occasions to write about.
If and when any publications you write for do feature this announcement, be sure to send a link or a pdf image of your article to the agency, individual, organization, or speaker - whoever your contact is, so the exercise comes full circle. They know to trust you now as someone that will try to get them exposure to the audiences they are targeting. And you can rest assured they will keep you top of mind for other stories that can get you a byline in your desired media outlets.
If you are a writer focused on the arts, then this grant program might be just the thing you were looking for. Provided by the Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation and deadline is May 15th so hurry up!
Two organizations where writers can connect with their colleagues in Atlanta are the Atlanta Press Club and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Luckily, they are both having mixers in February and you can join me there with my friends. Here are the links to RSVP:
Atlanta Press Club mixer
Magazine Association of the Southeast mixer
See ya there!
All publications - online, print, trade, glossy, international - all run smoothly thanks to the great invention that is the editorial calendar. Almost all publications will have their editorial calendar displayed on their website and some reference might be made to it on their print editions as well. As a writer, whether you want to write for glossies, trade mags or otherwise, this is a great tool for pitching articles. Most websites will have this information in their About Us section or in the Contribute section. You can see what broader topics they will address during the year as well as any specific interest areas they are keen to focus on. If this happens to be an interest area for you as a writer, then this is your job half done. All you need to do is formulate a few article ideas based on the editorial calendar and shoot them out to the editor. They will definitely reply if the pitch is on-target.
If this is a topic you don't know much about but are willing to write on, send in a query to the editor and see if they have any specific stories they'd like to assign you. If you don't see an editorial calendar on the website then go ahead and inquire with the magazine - they probably have one they don't share, have not updated the latest calendar online, or have all their stories assigned and don't need more writers. Many magazines prepare for issues 3-6 months in advance so it might help to check with the editor which issue you can pitch for.
In my experience, working with an editorial calendar has been the best. If I am pitching to a new magazine, then I look for the calendar on their site. If I find it, then I write in to the editor highlighting the stories I'd be interested in and checking which months I should pitch for. If I don't find it, I write in asking if there is one and if it could be shared so I can pitch. I have never had someone reply saying no! Many magazines, especially the new up and coming ones, are always looking for writers and are very happy when you reach out to them for assignments.
That said, here are the links to editorial calendars for a few magazines. Maybe you will find some ideas here and an opportunity to write:
1. Buckhaven Lifestyle
2. Computer World
3. Architectural Record
5. Mother Earth News
because you never know when they will get back!
I am talking about writing to editors for opportunities with their publication. I always make it a point to write in to an editor of an online or print mag if I find no way to send them a pitch on their website or magazine. No editorial calendar, no contribute or write for us tab with information, no way to know how to write for them at all. I always send in a query saying I would like more information. What's to lose? Sometimes they reply with an editorial calendar, sometimes they want samples, sometimes they have enough writers and do not need more, sometimes they connect you with somebody they think needs writers, and sometimes they just do not get back at all. It's alright - at least you know what the circumstances are. But every once in a while, they will keep your information on file, and check back with you when they do have an opportunity. So don't ever go to a site and just give up because the information you are looking for isn't easily found. Ask around, and the fact that you asked, shows that you take initiative, and you do want to write for the outlet.
I wrote to one such magazine about a year ago inquiring about an opportunity with them. I never heard back, and I let it be. Today, the editor of the magazine emails me thanking me for my expression of interest, and if maybe I would like to do some food and travel writing for them. Yes, it helped that I had written on those topics before and had samples to show when asked for it, but the fact that a note sent to them a year ago was now bring back paid work my way was a fabulous way to begin the day! I'll be sure to share a link to that article once it is published.
I am unsure if I might have mentioned this before. But if I have not, then I am glad I finally did. Help a Reporter Out or HARO is a great resource for reporters, journalists, article writers, etc. You can submit a query to the site and it will head out in one of their newsletters during the day. Next thing you know, you have a few sources to get inputs to quote in your article. You can also get a basic free account to sign up to be a source. You will receive their newsletters with all the pitches made by reporters and you can respond. That way you can get your name out there as well. I have used HARO both ways. I have used it for getting sources for my articles. I recently did an article for Social Media Monthly where almost all sources were those who responded to my pitch on HARO. You can read that article here. I have also used HARO to be quoted as a source. Just this morning an article was published featuring my inputs. I had responded to the pitch on HARO and sent my responses to the writer. This had to do with my green business but you can read it here. So go ahead and use this to your advantage. They have some paid plans as well but the basic free plan has worked for me just fine.