This Course Will Help You Write Better Personal Essays — And Get Them Published

It’s clockwork-level predictable: I say I’m a writer, and the first question I get back is, “Ooh, so you write novels?”

And while I’m definitely not knocking you fiction folks, I straight up can’t do it. Every time I try, I just end up with thinly-veiled autobiography.

Luckily for me — and other writers like me — the personal essay is a thing. In fact, it’s even a thing you can get paid for.

But it’s definitely a competitive market out there. If you want your work to stand out from the crowd, or just find its way to the right editor in the first place, it helps to learn from a writer who has done this successfully.

Which is exactly where Amy Paturel’s online personal essay writing course, Essay Writing: How to Find the Story in You — and Sell It” comes in.

Learn how to write (and sell) personal essays

We get it: Heading off to an MFA program for a degree in creative nonfiction isn’t in the cards for everybody. But what if you could have an affordable, professional personal essay workshop delivered directly to your email inbox? 

That’s exactly what Paturel offers with her online personal essay writing course: Essay Writing: How to Find the Story in You — and Sell It.  Bonus points for being able to complete the entire thing in the comfort of your pajamas. (Well, mostly. There is one prompt that involves hitting a bookstore…but who hasn’t visited a Barnes and Noble in sweatpants?)

Writing and revision prompts are just one part of this six-week course, which offers brilliant craft advice as well as granular details, like how to find the contacts you need to get your personal essay published.

And Amy Paturel is the perfect person to guide you through the process. A journalist who writes widely in the health and nutrition spaces, she’s had her own essays featured in outlets like The New York Times and Parents

Not only is she an accomplished writer in her own right, but she’s also an accomplished instructor: she’s done seminar-style sessions in person and also offers one-on-one online coaching, and she’s been teaching a version of this very essay course for about a decade.

Can you actually sell personal essays? 

Right from the get-go, Paturel keeps it 100: she doesn’t waste time compounding your pipedreams or setting you up for disappointment.

“You should know going into this class that unless you’re David Sedaris, Lena Dunham or Joan Didion, you’re not going to become rich on essays alone,” she says in the first lesson.

But that doesn’t mean essay-writing isn’t worthwhile. As she goes on to explain, it’s some of the most rewarding work a writer can do — and yes, it can also be saleable. 

Although markets are limited and competition is high, Paturel’s guidance stacks the odds in your favor…especially since she includes a killer essay market database complete with specific editor contact information for 130+ publications.

While Amy doesn’t promise it, plenty of her students end up with big-time bylines that are well worth envying.

Even if you don’t end up selling the pieces you workshop over the six-week course, you’ll definitely walk away a stronger writer: one unafraid to “put your whole self into it—your biggest hopes, greatest fears and deepest regrets.” 

After all, most of us didn’t start writing in the first place because we were promised a hefty payday. (If anything, we may have thought we were resigning ourselves to a lifetime of working as a barista.)

What we like about Paturel’s personal essay writing course

After checking out the course for ourselves, we can honestly say there’s a whole lot to like about it.

  • Paturel includes real-life examples of hard-hitting essays published in outlets like Newsweek and The Boston Globe — by both herself and other writers.
  • The course is comprehensive: Paturel covers the important components of a well-written piece, like vulnerability, personality and honesty, and more technical craftwork like word count, sensory details and dialogue. But she also goes beyond the drafting stage, offering ideas for how to deal with constructive criticism, rewriting for a specific outlet, and figuring out where and how to pitch or “query,” all with professional expertise and an injection of humor.
  • Paturel’s course offers specificity, including real-world examples of query letters and insider tips on how to do the investigative footwork to find editor contact information. (This is often the hardest part, in my opinion, or at least the most thankless. You’ve already put so much work into writing the dang thing…now you’ve got to become a private eye just to figure out who to sell it to?)
  • The course includes tons of actionable exercises that are easy to follow along and incorporate into your wider writing life. For example, Paturel dives deeply into the importance of journaling and teaches you how to hone your existing journaling practice to nurture budding essay ideas. She also offers weekly writing and revision assignments that are accessible but constructive — and fun. By the end of the course, you’ll have at least one polished, revised essay draft ready to submit!
  • The course is accessible — dripped out in digestible, weekly emails over a six-week period, it keeps you actively writing without leaving you feeling overwhelmed. And as mentioned above, it’s way more affordable than grad school…and you won’t have to attend even one stuffy faculty party.

The one drawback we see: unlike a traditional workshop (or even some webinars), Paturel’s course doesn’t offer student interaction or instructor feedback. She does offer one-on-one coaching and one-off critiques, but if that’s something you’re interested in, you’ll need to purchase it separately. 

You could also enlist the help of an accountability partner or your local writers group for feedback — and either way, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.

But wait…Here’s the most valuable part

Last but certainly not least, Paturel’s course includes access to her personal essay market database. We mentioned this above, but it’s worth diving deeper because this is truly an invaluable tool that will save you tons of time and even more headaches. 

While the course arms you with what you need to conduct a thorough masthead investigation, this document takes out all the footwork for 130+ publications, including direct points of contact, notes on what kind of content they publish, and even pay rate information in some cases. And they’re definitely outlets you want to be published in: LA Times, Lenny Letter, Buzzfeed, etc. 

It’s not a stretch to say that the database itself is worth the cost of the course, which is $225.

If personal essays are your thing — or you want them to be — here’s how to join Amy Paturel’s personal essay course.

Once you land a few bylines, we hope you’ll let us know!

Photo via GuadiLab/ Shutterstock 

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

The post This Course Will Help You Write Better Personal Essays — And Get Them Published appeared first on The Write Life.

The Beginner’s Guide to Freshbooks: How to Create an Invoice

Cha-Ching! You just got your first paid freelance writing assignment. Edits go smoothly, the publication date is set, and there’s just one last thing to do.

“Shoot me over an invoice and I’ll submit it to accounting,” your editor says.

That’s when the frantic Googling commences. Because you’ve never created an invoice before. And you’re not sure where to start.

I’ve been exactly in this position. So I checked the first invoicing tool my freelancer friends recommended. Freshbooks made it so easy for me to create my first invoice that I was instantly sold. It’s now my go-to invoicing tool — and it helps me with other business tasks, too.

Here’s everything you need to know to open a free Freshbook account, create your first invoice and get paid.

1. Create your Freshbooks account

Good news: Since you’re new to invoicing and Freshbooks, you need not pay for anything (yet). Freshbooks offers an honest-to-goodness truly free 30-day trial. You don’t even need to put in your credit card.

So simply head to the Freshbooks homepage and get started by entering your name and email.

What happens when your free trial ends? You have to choose one of their paid plans. The most affordable Freshbooks plan is called Lite, which gives you a maximum of five clients at $15 per month.

2. Add your first client

Adding your first client is the next step. The only required information is the name of the company you’re invoicing and an email address. Your editor might want to receive the invoice, or they may want you to send it straight to their invoicing department instead. So check to make sure you’re dropping in the right email address here.

You can add other information in this step such as the company’s mailing address. But if you don’t have this info and your client doesn’t require it, then don’t worry. Hit save, and you’re ready for the next step.

3. Create your invoice

Once you hit save, you’ll have a few options. Some of these may come in handy later, but for now click the arrow next to the “Create New” button and select “Invoice.” 

You’ll see that your invoice number and date of issue are pre-filled. You can change these if you like, or just leave them as-is.

Then you’ll need to enter a few details:

Item: Add a new line and write the item or service you are billing for. The item name cannot be more than 50 characters long. Then add a description just below the item name with detail about the work you’re invoicing for. For example, it could be a blog post, online article or editing services. If you create more invoices down the line, you can reuse these items or create new ones.

Rate and hours: If you’re paid hourly, enter your rate and hours in these two columns. If you’ve agreed to a flat fee per project — for example $75 for one blog post — then enter your project total in rate and bill for one hour. If you’re billing for multiple assignments (go you!) then add a line and repeat the above steps.

Logo: If you have a business logo, insert the file directly into the invoice by dragging and dropping or uploading from your computer. This creates a more polished-looking invoice when the client receives it.

Time tracking: You can also generate an invoice directly from your billable hours that you have tracked under the “Time Tracking” section. Simply click “Generate Invoice” and select the appropriate hours listed for that client.

4. Add terms and notes

You aren’t required to add anything to these terms and notes boxes. But should you? It’s always a good idea to agree on terms with a client beforehand, so this is a great place to add a reminder. You can use the notes box to send along a friendly note to your client to let them know you enjoyed working together and look forward to your next assignment.

According to Freshbooks, you’ll get paid five percent faster if you add a dash of politeness to your invoice. A simple “Please pay your invoice within 30 days” in your terms and “Thank you for your business!” in the notes can go a long way.

5. Hit send

Once you’ve double checked the details, you’re ready to send! When you click send by email, you’ll receive a pop-up to review the email subject and body your client will see. You can edit both of these to further personalize your invoice.

If your client doesn’t use email, there is also the option to copy a shareable link for the invoice. This gives you and your client a little flexibility.

6. Get paid

Now all you have to do is wait to get paid! There are a few things you can do ensure payment and remind clients in case they forget to pay.

  • Be sure to set payment terms, and include those at the bottom of your invoice; for example, a 15 percent late fee after 30 days. While editing an invoice, you can set up an automatic late fee of either a percentage or a flat rate if the client does not pay on time.
  • Log into Freshbooks at anytime to see if the client has viewed your invoice. If they haven’t, you can easily resend it.
  • Automatically send late payment reminders. Go to edit invoice > send reminders > automatically send payment reminders. You can set up to three reminders that auto-send if your client doesn’t pay within a certain time frame.

Ready to create your first invoice? Try a trial run first by sending an invoice to yourself. Make a new client (yourself) and follow the above steps. Then you can review your invoice, see what it looks like from the client’s perspective and make sure you’ve got the process down.

Sounds easy, right? Head on over to Freshbooks to give it a whirl! Happy invoicing!

This post was updated in July 2019 so it’s more useful and relevant for our readers! It was originally written by Betsy Mikel and updated by The Write Life team. 

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

The post The Beginner’s Guide to Freshbooks: How to Create an Invoice appeared first on The Write Life.