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Stet | September 2016

02 Sep 2016 11:42 AM | Anonymous
Stet Newsletter
September 2016

Volume 35 | Number 9

Editor's Note

Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak


A time for the leaves to show their true colors. Teachers and students, alike, return to school. Shorter days and longer sleeves are on the horizon. Crisp and crunchy apples and apple cider are in season. The air is crisp as well as the humidity of summer leaves us.

It is also time for renewal - your IWOC membership that is. Our membership chair tells us how in the last article in this month's newsletter.

A time for the leaves to show their true colors.

Your IWOC board changes its slightly as well. Come to our September meeting to meet your board. Stay for the networking and the program: "Niche Selection and Development".

Along those lines, the IWOC program committee has been hard at work planning for the 2017 line-up of programs. More to come on that, so stay tuned!

For these reasons and so many more, fall is my favorite season of the year.

It is also time for renewal - your IWOC membership that is.

So, I welcome the change of seasons and look forward to whatever comes with it!

If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

- Cynthia Tomusiak

September Meeting Preview

Niche Selection and Development

What are your professional specialties? Which ones have you performed best in or are most knowledgeable about? Is there a field you always wanted to explore? Which websites and publications do you read most often and why? Which fields pay writers the best rates? When should you start writing and offering work? When should you begin or retire a specialty?

Such are the questions we freelance writers ask ourselves when selecting and developing a niche or a group of niches to produce and deliver written work for clients.

This is at the discovery stage when a writer is reviewing his career and experiences to identify the specialties or fields he or she worked in and then to prune the list for the ones he or she knows about most, likes and can write about best.

Which fields pay writers the best rates?

In fact, freelancing experts urge us to narrow the list of a dozen or so down to three niches to position ourselves to create and offer quality work products – the most favored specialty and two fallback specialties if the first one lacks market demand or loses profits.

Ready to share her insights with IWOC members at our September 13 workshop about how to choose and branch out from a niche or set of niches is Florence E. Hardy, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce; principal of her own private law practice in transactional and intellectual property, and; adjunct professor of her course “Foundations in Entrepreneurship: New Ventures” at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

As a lawyer and SBDC leader, Hardy guides and instructs freelance writers and other entrepreneurs about how to adopt and build their niches and -- thus, in turn, create a platform for producing work for clients -- with her own experience of serving small to medium-sized businesses.

She uses her combined business and legal skills of management consulting, business planning, market research, intellectual property law, business law, business brokerage, franchise development and corporate development to analyze the business circumstances of writers and other entrepreneurs, make recommendations and educate us about our options.

Hardy promises no less for our upcoming workshop. During her one-hour presentation, she will show us how identifying a niche or set of niches forms a critical part of our success as writers, saves us time in contacting potential clients and establishes our authority in a particular field or group of fields.

With at least 70 to choose from, our niches tend to fall in the industry-oriented and format-oriented categories.

Among the most common industry-oriented ones are advertising, business to business (B2B), business to customer/client (B2C), entertainment, finance, health and wellness, law, non-profits, publishing (online/offline), recreation, science, research/marketing, real estate, technology and travel.

The format-oriented categories include abstracts, annual reports, articles, awards/certificates, biographies, brochures and pamphlets, case studies, catalogs, direct mail, directories, employer handbooks, event programs, executive summaries, flyers and circulars, government technical and management proposal and business plan writing, greeting cards, instruction manuals, interpretive panels, lesson plans, menus, obituaries, public relations writing, resume and cover letters, speeches, technical writing, templates, tests/quizzes, textbooks, translation services, web content writing and workbooks.

With at least 70 to choose from, our niches tend to fall in the industry-oriented and format-oriented categories.

Writers can even command a higher price for our specialties, Hardy will advise us. Both during and after the hour, she will attempt to connect the dots for writers with specific questions or need for clarification about their own niches.

Hardy will walk us through the steps of discovering ourselves as freelance writers in searching for the niches that best suit us, including exploring our general likes and dislikes, hobbies, curiosities, particularly favored past jobs and skill sets, websites, books and other resources; listing and rating these niches; and then trimming the list down to the requisite three or so.

On the most pragmatic side, she will urge writers to balance our selection and development of niches between actually liking our choices and having them pay us acceptable rates.

For example, while penning articles about widget making may pay the bills for some writers, others may consider this topic to be a complete turnoff. At the same time, however, as Hardy will point out, if our strongest likes cannot generate an income because of a lack of market demand, it is time to pick a new niche or set of niches.

She will recommend writers, for instance, to size up potential magazine, newsletter or blogging clients for profitability by researching their websites, jobs and surveys and examining the number of readers they have, whether their blogs are general or specialized, the use of Google Ads, the products they sell, the use of rate charts, targeted advertisements or affiliate marketing and the presence of guest posts or paid contributions.

Once the best writers among us have selected and possibly developed our niches, we will take the next set of action steps: we will read about our chosen specialties every day to maintain our expertise, comment on relevant blogs we view online, write guest posts to those websites, judge the fruits of our labors and acquaint ourselves with the readers of these sites by answering posted questions, asking for feedback or creating polls.

The best of us will also reflect on whether we enjoyed exploring these particular niches and decide to focus on them to advance our businesses or to divorce them completely.

Then it is time to start -- or, in some cases, continue -- freelancing!

- Vladimire Herard

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August Meeting Recap

IWOCFest 2016!

Photo by David Steinkraus

The July meeting was filled with good conversations, food and fun! IWOCers gathered back at our regular summertime haunt, the rooftop of Pegasus. The food was plentiful and delicious. Conversation flowed (and perhaps some wine as well).

The weather cooperated and was beautiful.

All is all it was a great evening!

IWOCFest - always a crowdpleaser!

- Cynthia Tomusiak

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President's Column

President's Annual Report

David Steinkraus

As I did last year, I am making this column an annual report to members about how IWOC is doing. The short answer is well.

Our member numbers are steady, and we even picked up a student member without saying anything about our new membership options. Unless you read the IWOC website very, very carefully you won’t know about these, but the board approved them in June with the intention of launching them now during the fall membership drive. None of our member levels have gone away. Instead the board added to them with the rationale that more options will make IWOC attractive to a greater variety of people.


There is a dual goal for the student membership: Help young people who want to be freelance writers, or at least give them knowledge useful later in life, and introduce them to IWOC. We’re charging only $25 for access to all of our meetings and our online resources. All they need full- or part-time status at a post-secondary institution. What they will not have is access to the jobs line because this membership is for learning. If you know students who would be interested, or if you have links to local colleges or universities, please mention this and help everyone involved.

If you know writers living beyond the 65-mile radius, please mention IWOC and what it offers.

The other new membership level is for people living at a distance of more than 65 miles from Chicago. Only about half of our membership lives within Chicago’s city limits. Beyond that is a large territory containing the other half of our membership, and beyond that are more people who would find it beneficial to be linked to IWOC. Even if people cannot travel downtown for every meeting, they can still listen to meeting podcasts, receive job listings, access member resources, and communicate with other writers. For this they’ll pay $90 annually. If you know writers living beyond the 65-mile radius, please mention IWOC and what it offers.

Having more members will help all of us, and it will help IWOC’s bottom line. We are not in dire financial trouble, but more money flowing in would help. And a look around at any meeting will show you that our membership is aging. That’s why the board established those new member levels and why we have undertaken other actions that are bearing fruit.

Raising Awareness

Jeff Steele, nominee for vice president, and Sally Chapralis, a longtime member, have done a terrific job in expanding awareness of IWOC. During the past several months they have spoken at libraries around the area about how people can develop freelance writing careers, and we have attracted new people as a result. In the fall we’ll present these programs in Oak Park and Naperville. And let us be clear that when we say freelance writers we do not mean people for whom writing is the only source of income. Our goal is to help people who write.

Having more members will help all of us, and it will help IWOC’s bottom line.

Scott Spires, who joined IWOC a few years ago, took action on his own. He decided there must be other freelance writers along the North Shore who would like to meet and talk, so he started the Independent Writers of Lake Forest. It meets for lunch on the first Friday of the month and joins our other satellite groups, the Independent Writers of Rogers Park and the Independent Writers of Oak Park. And from one of the IWOLF meetings came the suggestion for our October mixer with the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing — people who hire writers. If you want to form your own satellite group — the Independent Writers of South Bend or the Independent Writers of Lake Zurich — please let us know. We’ll be happy to help.

And if you have a suggestion for a program, please don’t keep it to yourself. Any member of the board or the Program Committee would be happy to hear your idea. You can thank the Program Committee — Tom Lanning, Stu Truelson, Vladimire Herard, and Sally Chapralis — for all the informative meetings this year.


In October the board will hold a half-day planning session to talk about the coming year and review the strategic vision it spent a day formulating a couple of years ago. If you have an opinion or a suggestion about the direction of the organization, contact any of the board members. We’re all listed on the website (in the navigation menu on the left side of the page choose, Contact Us/Board and Officers), and we want to hear what you have to say.

IWOC is an association built to benefit its members, but like any collection of people formed for a common goal, it won’t work without the attention of the people it represents. Please give us your ideas and your attendance, and help make IWOC better.

Thank you

The last thing I want to say is what a pleasure it has been to work with such a dedicated and creative board of directors during the last two years. What IWOC is and is becoming is due to them, and the good news is most of them are staying on the board. Karen Schwartz and Vladimire Herard are stepping down although Vladimire will remain on the Program Committee. Please thank them for their hard work, and please thank the other members of the board as well.

- David Steinkraus

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Featured Member

Betsy Storm

Betsy Storm

How would you describe yourself? I’m a versatile writer and PR professional with a wide scope of interests, abilities and experiences. My portfolio includes everything from magazine feature stories on family issues (step parenting, family estrangements) to media relations, to the nitty-gritty work of communications planning. In 2014, I published Bright Lights of the Second City: 50 Prominent Chicagoans on Living with Passion and Purpose.

What is your specialty? I’m most drawn to nonprofit communications. I love to help build interest in and support for worthy organizations like Cure Violence, Heifer International, and Anixter Center.

“There are no small stories.”

What is the best advice anyone has given you? My father, Bill Storm, was an award-winning police and crime reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin. When I became interested in journalism as a career, he often reminded me that, “There are no small stories.” I’ve never forgotten those wise words. There’s much to be said for crafting a set of strong, interesting captions, for example.

Where will you be in five years?In five years I hope to be semi-retired (find me on the beach in Topsail Beach, NC if you need me) but always, always, always writing, especially personal histories. I began my career as a feature writer, and I am ceaselessly curious about the back-stories of “everyday” people. It’s essential (and so much fun) to share our life stories, lessons, and heritages with younger family members and our ancestors still to come. My autobiography is illustrated with photos, documents, copies of news clippings, passport stamps, etc. I can’t wait to pass it on to my grandchildren (now ages 3 and 5), so they will always know who their “Nanny” really is and was.

Who is the most famous person you have met? President Barack picked me up off the floor when my chair crashed to the floor during a fundraiser at which he was speaking. Embarrassing, yes, but what a colorful anecdote.

What are your media consumption habits? I read the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, selected articles from the New Yorker online, Psychology Today, Writer’s Digest, and Vanity Fair. NPR is often my soundtrack at home and in the car; I am a huge fan of Terry Gross and Ira Glass. “Chicago Tonight” and “The PBS News Hour” provide the most in-depth, unbiased and broad-based TV news coverage, in my opinion.

Websites: Top Drawer Communications, The Story of You, and Betsy Storm, Author

- Betsy Storm

The questions for next month are: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a client working with a writer? 4) What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? 5)What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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IWOC Membership

Join or Renew Today

Stop what you’re doing and listen to this fabulous exclusive offer for IWOC members! You all know that IWOC’s yearly membership renewal drive runs from September 1 to October 1. But wait! Renew by September 15 and lock in early-bird savings! Pay just

  • $125 (regular $140) for professional members
  • $80 (regular $90) for seniors aged 62 and older
  • $80 (regular $90) for the distance membership (if you live more than 65 miles from Chicago)
  • $60 (regular $70) for associates and
  • $20 (regular $25) for the new student membership!

What a deal! Read on to find out how to take advantage of these one-time savings! This opportunity won’t be offered again this year! And it’s only available to you savvy early birds, so don’t delay! Renewal is so simple, you’ll be itching to get to your computer! Just follow these easy steps: starting on September 1, log into the website, view your profile, and click “Renew until 1 Oct 2017.” Check out your profile and edit anything you want! And, listen to this! You get six free areas of expertise/specialties, but you can boost this to nine if you’re on a committee. What a fantastic opportunity!

But wait! There’s even more: Bring in a new member any time during the entire membership drive (September 1 to October 1) and get three more free listings! (New members pay either the early-bird rate or the regular rate, depending on whether they join before or after September 15.)

- Pam Colovos

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IWOC Board of Directors

David Steinkraus (President), Laura Stigler (Vice-president), Cynthia Tomusiak (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), George Becht, Vladimire Herard, Tom Lanning, Jeff Steele, Karen Schwartz

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