Is the Freelance Writers Den Worth It? Here’s Our Honest Review

Editor’s note: We review ebooks, courses and tools for writers, so you can make good decisions about how to invest in your writing career. As you know, The Write Life only promotes people and products we can stand behind 100%. 

That’s why we’re excited to partner with Carol Tice, award-winning freelance writer and the founder of the Freelance Writers Den. The Den is only open for a limited time! If the membership program is a good fit for you, join by Tuesday, June 25, 2019.  

I’ll be honest: a huge part of the reason I became a writer was to avoid networking.

I’m an introvert and also one of those kids who, when tasked with group projects, made everyone else in the group give me their stuff so I could do it all myself. “Teamwork” and “collaboration” don’t have prominent places in my vocabulary.

But as I quickly learned (and as you know if you’ve spent more than two seconds trying to freelance), this is not a business where you can go it alone. Finding a writing community, or at least some reliable industry resources you can turn to, is a critical step to creating the kind of freelance career you’re dreaming of. And fortunately, there’s an option that doesn’t require leaving the house — or even putting on pants.

What is the Freelance Writers Den?

Taking place entirely online, the Freelance Writers Den is the perfect place to find a resource-packed writing community, especially for socio-phobes like me.

But since its 1,100+ members come from all over the world, it’s also helpful for bona fide extroverts, even if they do already have access to a real-life writing circle. Even the richest local writing community can’t compete with global!

The Den was founded in 2011 by Carol Tice, the “Den Mother” and mind behind the Make a Living Writing blog. She’s been a successful freelancer for more than 15 years and today earns six figures doing it. She wanted to help other freelancers find real financial success as efficiently as possible — and also to stop the influx of one-off how on earth do I do this? emails she had in her inbox.

Membership to the Freelance Writers Den comes with a host of useful tools, content, and learning opportunities, which we’ll dive into below. It costs $25 per month with no obligation — which isn’t crazy expensive, but isn’t nothing, either.

So what do you get for your price of entry?

What features do you get as a Writers Den member?

For most of us, freelancing isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick scheme — so when we pony up for a writing resource, we want to know we’re getting our money’s worth.

Here’s what the $25-per-month Freelance Writers Den Membership gets you.

Online community forums

Ever sit down to write a story (or pen a pitch, or start a blog, or — you get it) and wish you had a friendly fellow freelancer whose shoulder you could tap to ask for advice, or even just commiserate?

The Freelance Writers Den forums are the next-best thing: an active, affable group of writers convening to swap tips, ask and answer questions, and share both challenges and success stories.

Unlike even the most active real-life writers’ group, the Den’s forums are open for your musings 24/7, and they’re organized into helpful and relevant categories. Maybe you’re looking to amp up your marketing skills or ask a specific writing question — or maybe you’re just looking to meet more writers in your position. Either way, there’s a board for it, and a writer (or ten) on the other end waiting to connect.

Live and recorded resources

The Freelance Writers Den is first and foremost a community, and the ability to connect with other freelancers working to meet their goals is invaluable on a fundamental level.

But there’s also a whole lot of expertise to be mind from that community, and it’s available in the form of more than 300 hours of evergreen resources — as well as an actively-updated calendar of live events.

  • Bootcamps are essentially four-week-long ecourses, and your Writers Den membership gives you instant access to almost two dozen of them. They’re designed to help you get to the next step in your writing career no matter where you are on your journey, from finding your first-ever paid gig to breaking into business writing or building a better writer website. Each bootcamp comes complete with videos and engaging homework assignments, and the ones offered live on a monthly basis feature real-time Q-and-A calls to help you make the most of the effort you’re putting into the course. They’re also augmented by discussions in the forums so you can connect with other writers diving into the same topics, and get feedback from the experts dishing the details. (In other words, it’s nothing like being yelled at by a Drill Instructor.)
  • Webinars and Podcasts are also offered by industry influencers on a regular basis, including a helpful “Ask the Editor” series which gives you an insider view of what, exactly, editors are looking for. You’ll also learn to overcome fear, increase productivity, and figure out the business end… not to mention, of course, honing the craft itself.
  • The Resource Library is where all this content lives once their livestream has passed, and it’s packed with over 300 hours of content. So even if you can’t make the scheduled events, you’ve still got plenty of helpful goodies to wade through.

Non-crappy job board

Finding gigs is one of the hardest parts of freelancing, hands down. Finding good gigs is even harder.

That fact is why I really appreciate the Den’s built-in job board, which is heavily moderated. You won’t find anything that pays less than $50 per post.

New listings are added twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays, so you’re not inundated — but there’s also no shortage of opportunities to scope out. You’ll find both remote and on-site listings for copywriters, editors, content marketers and more, and along with regular old freelance gigs, there are also part-time, contract, and retainer positions. The nature of the gig is made clear before you even click on the listing. Pretty darn cool.

That’s really just the start of what’s available; as the helpful Orientation Guide puts it, the Den has “a lot of nooks and crannies.” Fortunately, you can easily keep tabs of it all with once-weekly newsletters that come out every Monday, getting you ready to tackle your week with strength and success.

What do I like about the Freelance Writers Den?

I’ve been making a living as a freelancer for a while now, and only just learned about this resource. Which parts made me say, “Man, I wish I’d known about this earlier?”

Well, I’ll admit it: I’m not really the ecourse type. I’m midway through my third full year of freelancing, and I’ve yet to find one I’m willing to drop money on. (Of course, I was lucky enough to learn a lot of my freelancing skills through friendships with other writers, giving me a jump-start that not everyone gets. There’s that networking thing again!)

But I know plenty of writers adore ecourses — and I have to say, a Den membership seems like a great way to access them. It offers both an active, rotating calendar of live events as well as scores of pre-recorded bootcamps, podcasts, and webinars, and you get into all of it for just $25 per month. That’s way less than the fees I usually see advertised on private ecourses.

What I do love about the Freelance Writers Den: the job board and the forums.

  • The gigs posted on the job board are authentic, high-quality, and easy to filter, and I saw a few that hadn’t already crossed my radar via the grapevine or my newsletters. It’s nice to know they’ve been pre-screened for non-crappiness, so I don’t have to be quite as critical as I usually am while I’m clicking through. No freelancer has time to work for peanuts, and we have even less time to scrounge around on the internet trying to figure out where the well-paid jobs are. So for me, the Den’s job board is easily worth the price of entry all on its own.
  • The forums are an amazing way for a work-from-home writer to interface with other real, live people — who actually understand the unique challenges we face as freelancers and can help us find the resources, opportunities, and advice we need. I especially love the board dedicated to feedback and critiques, which allows you to get some gentle constructive criticism from other writers before you ship off your piece to an editor or potential client. Hey, better to hear it from a peer than a paying customer — or to have it derail your pitch!

What do I not-so-like about the Freelance Writers Den?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about this community. The recorded content could keep you busy for months, and with a vibrant group of writers ready to chat in real time, you’ve got other minds to bounce those new tips and tricks off of.

But no platform is perfect — and if I had to pick a part of the Writers Den that could use improvement, I’d say the user interface could be a little bit more intuitive. Those “nooks and crannies” Tice mentions are well-described; it’s easy to get lost back here! And while the main parts of the site are helpfully listed as links in the site header, I constantly feel like I might be missing something as I click around.

Ready to sign up for the Freelance Writers Den?

So what’s the catch? Well, the Freelance Writers Den only opens its digital doors to the public twice a year… but the good news is, the window’s open right now!

So if you’re interested in joining a worldwide community of freelancers and hustlers just like you, jump on in. As we mentioned above, it’s only $25 per month and you have no contract to sign or obligation.

In fact, if you decide it’s not right for you within seven days, you’ll get your money back. So if worst comes to worst, you spend a week networking with other cool writers who might even become long-term contacts.

When it comes to freelancing, few decisions are this easy.

Click here to grab your seat in the Writers Den today.

Remember, the The Freelance Writers Den is only open for a limited time — register by Tuesday, June 25, 2019 to save your spot. Click here to join the Freelance Writers Den

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How to Unlearn Everything You Learned about Writing in School

Writers, our industry has a problem: education.

If you learned anything about writing in high school or college beyond grammar, you likely learned how to write a five-paragraph essay — the bane of my existence as an editor in digital media.

Tired English educators so strongly imprint this structure on a student’s brain as the One and Only Correct Way to Write, it’s all I can do in my role to peel it off and start fresh to help a writer create something appropriate for an online audience.

The format consists of these familiar parts (trigger warning for all of your late nights finishing that paper due for a 9 a.m. class.) outlined by the Guide to Grammar & Writing:

  1. An intro paragraph, including a hook and a thesis statement.
  2. Three body paragraphs, detailing one argument each.
  3. A conclusion that mirrors your introduction, including a restatement of the thesis.

The endurance of this format, writes Steven Lynn in his textbook Rhetoric and Composition, “certainly owes something to its reassuring simplicity: ‘Just follow this neat blueprint; just get some materials and put them in place.’”

That’s fine for the classroom. But educators need to do a way better job of teaching students that’s the only place this format belongs.

Because they don’t, many new writers fall back on this juggernaut when they start writing for publication. Bad news from an editor: It makes you look like an amateur, or worse, a bad writer.

A blog post is not a 5-paragraph essay

The intro-body-conclusion format, according to Lynn, dates to the early days of rhetoric  — we’re talking Ancient Greece — and applies originally to speech writing. Centuries later, Dale Carnegie made the guidance famous with his oft-quoted, “Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.”

The age-old advice is important for a speech, because the audience doesn’t have your words in front of them. In writing, we call it redundant (or, we should).

Readers can scan a piece of writing, go back to the beginning, jump to end, whatever they need to get the most value out of a piece. In blog posts and on web pages, in particular, this behavior is well-documented in studies like this one from UX research and consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group.

It means repetition is a waste of space and unnecessarily taxing to the digital reader.

What you didn’t learn about writing for digital media

In a blog post or article published online, you don’t have to “tell the audience what you’re going to say” or “tell them what you’ve said.”

Just “say it.”

Give your readers the information they’re looking for — that you promised in the headline — in a format that helps them quickly digest and evaluate it.

Here are a few basic ways to break up with the five-paragraph essay and write for a digital audience:

Format for scanners

Blog readers came to your site for an answer to a specific question. To serve that reader, organize your writing so it quickly lets them know you have that answer.

The medium affords you the formatting to do that. A strong headline, clear sub-heads, bolded text, plenty of bullet points, tables and other visual cues let your reader scan the piece before reading it in full and learn exactly “what you’re going to say.”

Use these cues to engage the reader, earn their trust and encourage them to stick around and enjoy the full piece.

Write an inverted pyramid

Because digital readers drop off throughout your piece, journalism’s “inverted pyramid” format fits blog posts well. It starts with the most important information and gradually whittles a story down to its most granular and least important details to ensure readers get the gist of a story even if they leave before finishing.

But the format is kind of a bust for your most engaged readers. If a piece gets boring as they make their way down the page, what incentive do they have to keep reading?

To keep readers engaged, place what Roy Peter Clark, a Poynter Institute senior scholar, describes in his book “Writing Tools” as “gold coins” throughout your story.

“Reward the reader with high points, especially in the middle,” Clark writes.

This lets you open with vital information, but also pique a reader’s interest throughout the piece to push them through to the end.

Include a strong nut graf

The “nut graf,” which, Chip Scanlan explains for Poynter, “delivers a promise of the story’s content and message,” plays a similar role to an essay’s thesis statement. It tells the reader your point.

Unlike a thesis, however, the nut graf doesn’t summarize what you’re about to say. Instead, it tells the reader what’s in it for them. While the rest of your piece will share the what, who, when, where and how, the nut graf shares why they should care.

Be concise

“College [writing] taught me how to turn a one-sentence idea and inflate it into a one-page idea — which I had to quickly unlearn in the professional sphere,” communications consultant Tamara Murray told me in a tweet.

Sound familiar?

In professional writing, your readers don’t have minimum word-count requirements, and they don’t reward verbosity. Don’t waste their time with repetition or wordy sentences.

Do your best instead to turn one-page ideas into one-sentence ideas — and watch how strong your writing becomes.

Skip the conclusion

Warning: You might have to contend with your editor on this one. Opinions vary. Mine is that conclusions are hard to write and not worth the effort.

The Nielsen Norman Group data says less than 5% of readers will ever get to the bottom of your article. Why tear your hair out finding a creative way to “tell them what you’ve said”?

If you follow my preceding advice, your intro and nut graf have given them the gist, and your formatting clearly outlines and summarizes the content. Let your reader move on.

When you’re done sharing information, just stop writing.

Photo via BlurryMe Shutterstock 

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