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Book Review: The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman

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Whenever anyone asks me where to go for advice on how to become a freelance commercial writer, I send them directly to Peter Bowerman's website. He’s the guru on this topic. His book The Well-Fed Writer was the best guide I’ve read to setting up a lucrative (that’s the well-fed part) copywriting business. It was so well-written, easy to understand and down to earth, that even if you didn’t want a career in commercial freelancing, by the end of the book, you were contemplating it. The book has now been re-released in a larger, more extensive version that contains both the Well-Fed Writer, and its equally well-written sequel, The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds. As with the first edition, and its sequel, the book is still enticing, down to earth, fun to read, and comprehensive (attributes that don’t often go together). The book comes with a range of extra tools too, from the online ‘toolbox’, to “side-dishes” (samples, case studies, quick guides, and so on), to the very well-respected newsletter. In all it’s the perfect package for anyone contemplating this profession, and if you don’t know why you should contemplate this profession, chapter 1 will convince you.

Other chapters include such things as the setting up of a business, sales and marketing, setting up a website, how to get new business, how to cold call (and why it isn’t so scary), how to do interviews, direct mailing and e-mailing, how much to charge, networking, dealing with smaller and rural markets, bumping up the rates, the different types of copywriting, and a welter of resources, links, and success stories. All in all it’s a fantastic package full of so much information that, if you do end up taking Bowerman’s advice and becoming a commercial freelancer, you’ll keep returning to the book for inspiration, ideas, and help.

Each chapter is enriched by quotations and sidebars from some of Bowerman’s many colleagues, detailing innovative ideas, and information about what has worked for others. For example, copywriter Bobby Hickman provides ideas on how small firms can get noticed through expos, seminars, pro bono work, and coaching. Cecilia Sepp provides information on Associations and why they’re a good source of work. Other guests include the well-lauded Bob Bly, Casey Hibbard, and Michael Stelzner. There are also specific chapters for 'at-home parents' and niche practitioners. I particularly like that Bowerman puts his work into the context of his life, making it clear that you can control just how much you want to work, and set up a balance that suits both your personal, and financial needs. The book is pitched in such a way that it can be used by those who are just starting out, people who will want to follow its step-by-step approach from cover to cover, or those more experienced, who can gain ideas and inspiration from what is working well for Bowerman and his colleagues. Above all, The Well-Fed Writer is still the best, most accessible guide on setting up a freelance copywriting business that’s out there, and this latest version is even better than previous ones.

About Magdalena Ball

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.