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The Seven Deadly Sins How To Get Fired Before You’re Hired
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Few freelancers realize that when it comes to landing work as a contributing writer for paying publications, professionalism and personality are just as important as writing proficiency. In other words, creative ability, without a fair share of common sense, will confine you to being a “starving artist” in the truest sense. And I should know. In my role as senior editor of a regional publication, I’ve witnessed some pretty peculiar stuff. Take for instance my recent “call for submissions” placed to a popular online bulletin board.

Initially, I was pleased as punch with the great amount of responses received. Our ad garnered resumes from people of all colors, walks of life, and professional backgrounds. But the numbers dwindled considerably in the screening process, due to what I call “doom by the seven deadly sins.”

These 7 principles and practices are the most common reasons good writers are not able to land ongoing gigs and increase their writing revenues. If you find this to be the case with your own career, perhaps you’re guilty of one of the following.

1. DEMANDING “DIVA” STATUS—Let’s face it. Though the writing industry dynamics differ in some ways than those of corporate America, one thing still holds true. People like to work with people who are likeable. Editors are no different. Here’s a case in point.

One young lady who I originally thought had “diamond in the rough” potential, prematurely eliminated herself from the running by making unreasonable, unrelenting demands. This scribe insisted on being paid up front, although our guidelines clearly stated that payments would be made “30-45 days after publication”. She also wanted a contract specifically designed for her and her contributions. Although freelancers are certainly within their rights to dictate the terms of their services, it’s important to consider the prevailing guidelines of the publication. Unfortunately this writer’s rudeness, and tendency to “show her bottom,” proved to be a detriment to her “bottom line.”

2. ONLINE STALKING— Worried that your prized submission might get lost somewhere in cyberspace? (I’m guilty of the same.) It’s perfectly okay to send an email to verify that an editor has received your work. It’s not okay to request a weekly “status report.” Doing so will cause you to wear out your welcome fast!

3. PROVIDING INACTIVE OR INCORRECT LINKS— An editor should not have to play “hide and go seek” to view samples of your online work. Just like a resume, it should be kept current and checked periodically for errors.

4. NOT HAVING A WEBSITE— Author’s websites need not be expensive, or equipped with all the bells and whistles. Having one merely says you’re serious, and conveys a sense of professionalism. www.writersgazette.com provides this service at an extremely reasonable rate.

5. TAKING A BIG STAND ON SMALL ISSUES— Will it really kill you that the editor left out your middle initial in your byline credit? Choose your battles wisely.

6. NOT BEING FLEXIBLE ENOUGH— Stuff happens. In the publishing industry, things are constantly evolving and being reassessed. Sometimes, due to editorial calendar changes, “breaking news,” budget constraints, etc., assignments may be modified, cut, or added. Try to go with the flow. It will increase your overall value and decrease your blood pressure too!

7. NOT BEING ABLE TO MEET DEADLINES— A writer who is a whiz with words, but can’t be counted on to turn work in on time, defeats the purpose.

As an editor who also serves as a contributing writer for several national publications, I have the benefit of both of these important aspects of the publishing industry. Take it from me… overcoming these seven deadly sins, and observing proper etiquette with editors is guaranteed to enhance your writing career and keep you in the black!

© Copyright 2007, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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