Freelance writers really benefit when they share their knowledge and experiences with colleagues and get both positive feedback and constructive criticism. Today I’m honored to share an interview I did with Anne Wayman and Lori Widmer, the founders of About Writing Squared: The Supportive Community for Freelance Writers and Other Creatives. It only costs five bucks a month — and that’s not an affiliate link. I’ve been a happy member from the beginning, and I get a lot out of AWS, including both positive feedback and constructive criticism.
Let’s get started!
What’s your background in freelance writing?
Lori Widmer: I started freelancing in 1988 very sporadically. I was working with local newspapers as a correspondent, so I branched out into the Pittsburgh newspaper, then the regional magazines. A divorce and across-the-state move later, I was working at a magazine. The day I got told my services were no longer required, I started the full-time freelance career. I haven’t looked back.
Anne Wayman: I’ve been freelancing longer than I care to admit – more than 30 years. I’m ‘privately educated’ which is code for mostly self-taught. I love freelancing and have been known to say that I’m an excellent worker and a lousy employee.
Why did you two decide to create About Writing Squared?
Lori Widmer: I’ve been privileged to be Anne’s cyber friend for years, having followed her from About.com to her own blog and forum. She’s a super talent and just a darned nice person to be around. She and I had been talking over the years about some sort of collaboration, and one day we decided to try our collaborative skills out on a webinar. From there, we put together the forum. We wanted a place where career freelancers could hang out, as well as the occasional newbie. There are so many sites and forums out there devoted to the new freelancer, but relatively little available to freelancers who have active careers. They don’t want to read yet another post on how to start their business – they have one already. They want to know how to find marketing time, how to improve their collections, how to increase their client base. That’s what we hope to bring to them.
Anne Wayman: Lori and I have been hanging out together for years. When I was the freelance writing guide at about.com she actually became a co-moderator of my forum there. We decided we wanted to create a forum that would limit the snarking and offer real support. We also wanted to deliver webinars to freelance writers and to expand our joint efforts to help business writers – those folks who have to write for their businesses but don’t know how to do it.
I bet there’s a story behind the name About Writing Squared. Please share!
Lori Widmer: It’s a simple one – About is a brand Anne is already known by, and the “Writing Squared” is simply “Wayman and Widmer.”
Anne Wayman: My daughter who carried both her father’s name (Wilder) and my maiden name (Wayman) in college became known as Linda W Squared. When it dawned on me that Lori and I are both Ws I suggested About Writing Squared. She went for it.
What are the main benefits of joining AWS?
Lori Widmer: You get access to some great freelance talent. I think one of the primary benefits of the forum is being in the company of some great freelancers. Beyond that, the forum gives members a free monthly group phone call – sort of our mastermind, catch-all call where we answer each others’ questions, toss out ideas, and get to know each other. Plus, members get discounts on courses, webinars, e-books, etc. Every week on the forum we post Top Magazine Markets – I try to keep them at $1/word and above – and Tip of the Week exercises to get writers thinking and practicing better work habits.
Anne Wayman: The most obvious benefit is the 5 Buck Forum which is meant to be and turning out to be a truly supportive community for freelance writers. In addition to the forum members also get greatly reduced prices on our webinars, ebooks any anything else we decide to offer.
What’s the range of skill levels of the freelance writers who are currently members?
Lori Widmer: Right now we have a strong mid-level and higher skill level. We have beginners and up-and-coming freelancers, too. The current membership is varied enough that the discussions are fruitful and eye-opening.
Anne Wayman: We’ve got a good mix of almost new to quite experienced writers which makes for great idea exchanges. I’ve been delighted with the quality of suggestions and the genuine mutual concern and compassion.
What are the most active forums on AWS?
Lori Widmer: Right now, that seems to be What Did You Blog About Today? We share our own blog links and have some good discussions around them. Other active areas seem to be Getting Started with Clients and Marketing.
Anne Wayman: It changes almost daily. The most read may be Lori’s $1/word markets every week, although there aren’t many comments there, not surprisingly. When someone posts a query asking for critiques there’s lots of friendly feedback. Blog posts are also popular and some surprising things show up in Odds and Ends. For example, a post called “It’s okay to be bored” got lots of comments. So did a plea for help moving a blog to word press. In other words, the forum is open to tackling anything that writers are concerned about or interested in.
What’s a good example of a forum topic that’s generated a lot of good discussion?
Lori Widmer: One was “It’s Okay to be Bored” – started by Anne – and we had a lot of fun trying to talk each other through some of those boring assignments we’ve taken and how we survived. One of my personal favorites is the Rejection Review, which we’ve not really gotten much feedback on yet, but is an area where we dissect a query and help the writer refocus it for better results. I also like our Referral Group forum, where we post our backgrounds and use that space to give and accept referrals from other members.
Anne Wayman: See what I’ve said above!
What are the main priorities for About Writing Squared in 2012?
Lori Widmer: We’re looking to grow our membership. We love how many we have now, but we’re hoping to increase our numbers. Also, we want to provide more of the webinars that our current members have found value in. We’ve tapped into some great webinar topics and presenters. We’re planning to expand into a non-writing market with some of our Webinars. There’s a a lot of bad writing in the corporate world, and we can certainly help elevate their communications.
Anne Wayman: The most obvious is increasing our membership while still making sure everyone feels supported – that’s critical to us. We’re also planning some webinars and maybe even a master mind group – and we’re wide open to suggestions from members and others.
What are your thoughts and questions regarding About Writing Squared? Ask away and Lori and Anne will answer!