Carol Tice is a freelance writer and blogger whose work has appeared in Entrepreneur magazine, the Seattle Times, Forbes.com, and more. She is featured on the cover of the 2013 Writer’s Market. Tice shares her writing experiences on her blog, via social media, and in her writing community.

WL:  What was the hardest part of building a successful blog?

Tice: Definitely the tech mountain. I am NOT a technical person! Every night, after my kids went to bed, from 8-midnight or later, I’d be upstairs going, “OK, I’ve GOT to learn Camtasia tonight so I can make a video.” Or how to code a widget. Or learn to use a new plug-in. Or whatever. There was a lot to learn.

WL: Why did you add a writing community and how has that helped you to better serve writers?

Tice: Prior to starting Freelance Writers Den, I was selling 1-on-1 mentoring, and doing one-off $47 Webinars. I disliked all the marketing around them, and felt the prices were too high. I wanted to know how to reach more writers and get to spend more time teaching and less marketing. The Den has turned out to be the perfect solution — it’s just $25 a month for access to all my materials, including 60+ hours of trainings. We are near 600 members now, and I don’t have to do very much marketing for it. I have a waiting list and just let them know when we’re open for new members. I mention it on my blog. And that is basically it. At this point, the Den has over 100 affiliates, so they can do much of the promotional work and I can focus on the part I like — thinking up new trainings.

WL: How does your blog help you get business clients?

Tice: It doesn’t directly, at this point, as I don’t do small-business clients anymore. I actually took my “hire me” tab down. But back a few years ago, my own blog helped me get my first big paid blogging gig, for Entrepreneur.com. They have a large audience, and from those posts I got a steady stream of inquiries from businesses, and got quite a few clients. You want to use your blog to get a gig in the most high-visibility, high-traffic place you can. That big site then hopefully becomes a marketing machine for you. So use your blog as a springboard to bigger places. Free guest-posting off your own blog expertise can also help you get clients — I know several bloggers who get all their clients off their guest posts on major blogs.

WL: How did your journalism career help prepare you for the work you do today?

Tice: I feel very lucky to have come into blogging with a lot of writing basics already ingrained: how to be concise, write a strong headline, organize material, conduct an interview, my nose for news and change and trends. The ethics of what you can say about people, documenting your facts. I had to learn the style of blogging, which is very different than writing articles for print. But all those years of writing for publication I think made it a lot easier to make my blog focused and useful to readers.

WL: What is the most frequently asked question you hear from writers and has your answer to it changed over the years?

Tice: “What is the one easiest, most effective, and most low-cost way to market my writing?” I get that on probably every free podcast I do! And I used to try to think up one answer: Was it social media? In-person networking?

These days, having watched and mentored many, many writers as they try to launch their business, I say: There’s no one answer. It depends on you. The best way to market your writing is the way you’re willing to do. Whatever that is. You need to stick with marketing and make it part of your routine…so whatever you will persist with will end up yielding the most results. If the idea of cold calling makes you want to vomit, you need to use a different marketing tool, because you won’t stick with that.

And in the end, you just need to do a lot of marketing, probably several different approaches at once, and see what gets you results. Then, do more of that. There’s no magic here. People want there to be a magic marketing solution, but there isn’t.

WL: How does social media help you in your work?

Tice: In so many ways! Obviously, many people have come to my blog from seeing it on Twitter or through Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s a major tool in blog promotion.

On the reporting side, I’ve discovered social media is increasingly better than phone or email for reaching people who are celebrities, venture capitalists, and tech company execs. In reporting one of my books, I found Twitter and InMail on LinkedIn got me many interviews where contacting the person’s PR department failed. Recently, for instance, I needed to ask all the investors on ABC’s Shark Tank what their most successful investment company has been from the show. PR contacts never responded — but I was able to get several of them almost immediately on Twitter. Some people are enthralled with social media and always on it, and you can catch them there.

I believe if you’re not learning to use these tools, in the future, you may not be able to be a reporter. Because this is how you get sources. I got the founder of one huge tech company after PR contacts all stonewalled me — by commenting on his blog.

WL: What was one mistake you made as a new blogger? How did you fix it?

Tice: As a word person, I didn’t really understand how much design matters on your blog. I thought I have great information, so my blog will be huge! But it’s not true. Design is critical — it needs to be appealing (my original header was hideous!), and simple. Clutter and too many choices just confuses visitors and makes them leave.

As I started simplifying and improving my design, I started to get more subscribers and comments, and really build my audience. My motto is that I just do whatever Derek Halpern from Social Triggers tells me to do — and then I always, always get more subscribers! Find someone who understands blog design and take their advice.

WL: What is the biggest mistake you see writers making?

Tice: Not marketing their writing. Whether it’s a blog or freelance writing or whatever form it takes. The vast majority of writers I meet who’re not earning well, when I ask them what they’re doing now to market their business, the answer is always the same: “Well, actually, I’m not really doing anything right now.” And they’re shocked that they don’t have good clients or enough clients!

WL: Writing may be a solitary task, but relationships still matter. What part do relationships play in your work?

Tice: They’re huge. You need big bloggers to notice your blog to start getting traffic. You need to form relationships with other successful bloggers so you can guest post and/or affiliate sell their courses, and grow your audience and your income. I try to take a Skype “lunch” with someone I want to collaborate with in some way at least once a week. I might not even have an idea yet of how we might help each other — but just have a meetup with someone interesting for 20-30 minutes and grow your network and deepen your relationships. It’s important. This week for me it was Mary Jaksch of Write to Done and A-List Blogger Club — I just think she’s brilliant — and she wanted to interview me for an upcoming course she’s doing. Barring someone asking you, reach out and just ask someone you find intriguing. You’ll be surprised how often they’ll agree to chat. Skype makes it possible for us to have face-to-face contact with people all over the world — take advantage of it!

WL: What’s next for you?

Tice: Well, always coming up with more useful training content for Freelance Writers Den, like the Break into Business Writing 4-week bootcamp we’re doing now. I need to plan 4 of those a year. We put on weekly live events in any case, so I’m always thinking of who should be a guest presenter and what new skills we could impart in our trainings.

On the freelance writing side, I’m hoping to write more business books in 2013 — I’ve done two so far. How They Started came out this past May, and The Pocket Guide to Starting Your Business on a Shoestring is slated for spring 2013. I’m building my connections and trying to raise my visibility in the CEO community to explore ghosting books for others.

WL: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

Carol Tice pages
My blog: http://www.makealivingwriting.com
My community: http://freelancewritersden.com
My writer site: http://www.caroltice.com
My business book: http://howtheystarted.com