Monday, July 16, 2007

Market Research and Self-Promotion

One of the things I have been doing this summer (something that has spilled over into this month) is market research and setting up a web presence for self-promotion. This blog in part could be viewed as part of the self-promotion.

So some of my falling behind towards writing 50,000 words in the space of a month, Friday for instance, actually moved me closer to my goal of making a comfortable living as a freelance writer. It wasn't a big step, but it was a step.

And quite honestly, I have no choice in the matter.

As some of my readers know, a few years ago (three years ago come October) I got laid off. At the time, I was the manager of a restaurant. I didn't think that I would have a hard time finding a new job. I was wrong. I failed to notice that the whole realm of food service had changed. Quite frankly, I was too experienced (twenty years worth) to be hired by anyone.

One of my friends likes to blame this on the immigration problem. But it is actually just a simple fact of business, cheap labor is good labor. If it wasn't the immigrants, it would be someone else. And if they run out of cheap humans, machines will end up replacing us. Bottom line, if they can do it cheaper without you than with you, too bad for you. But I digress.

So almost a year later, I was still unemployed. I had two options. Go back to my old employers (I turned down a transfer when they closed the location that I was working at) or go to college. After seeing my GED scores, I chose the college route.

Now, I am going to college in Colorado. That is the good news. The bad news is that Colorado (as of two years ago) was forty-eight in terms of financial aid. So outside of getting student loans and Pell Grants, I get nothing. So I am living off of my student loans. Fortunately, I am married, otherwise I would be in even bigger trouble. The wife has brought me time to get my feet back under me.

But it is my lack of financial aid that drove me back into writing. The lack of money makes you do strange things. Now, some will ask why I don't work a part time or even a full time job while I go to college. My father-in-law does all the time (he says that I am merely a freeloader). Well, it is not for the lack of willingness.

One of the unfortunate realities in my universe is that I am unqualified for anything other than food service and entry level positions in retail and telemarketing. The other unfortuante reality is that unless you are available 24/7, they don't want to hire you.

The only boss that is willing to put up with my college and lodge schedule is myself.

So why freelance writing? Simple, it is not the first time that I have tried my hand at it. A few years ago, before making assistant management, I attempted to write for pay. I wasn't good at it. Or rather good enough. The few sales I made were high and labor and low on profit. I was also younger then.

I also lacked an area of expertise. Or rather was blissfully unaware of what I was an expert on. A few years ago, I did learn what subjects I could potboil. I much rather do it as a labor of love, so I generally just ignored that possibility.

But being unemployed and in college refocused my vision. Being a writer generated more money than I was making not being a writer. So that is how I find myself being a writer again (or is it still).

One thing I learned last semester was that I wasn't as knowledgeable about the internet market as I should be. This came to my attention on February 23rd. Yes, it was that big of a red letter day. So last month, in June, I didn't do much writing as I spent a lot of my time looking around the internet researching this new market that had arose over the last couple of years(there was also a small amount of writer's block in play).

Besides needing to do market research, I needed to sent up my basic homepage. Self-promotion is a big key that I ignored up to this point. It is not so much laziness, as it conflicts with my ethics. I was taught to be humble, therefore quiet. It doesn't work as a writer. People have to know that you and your work is out there.

So last month, I did my base research and marketing setups. Why not while college was going on. Quite honestly, because I wanted to give this aspect of my new profession (ok, this is the third year in a row that I have to report writing income to the IRS, so maybe it is not new) my full attention. Come fall, when college resumes I want to be able to focus on writing and my schoolwork without having to do a major amount of setup and research. It is easier to maintain a presence than to create one.

Or maybe my father-in-law is right, maybe I am just lazy.

Oh and for those of you who are curious, at this point I am 20,902 words behind where I should be at this point for my writing goal for the month; weekends, especially lodge weekends are not good for my writing.

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