All people have innate talents. Mine is writing. I’m a freelance writer in Las Vegas, Nevada with 25 years experience in creative writing, copywriting and content marketing.
The Seed of Inspiration
In second grade, I had aspirations to become a television journalist, inspired by Mrs. Aragon, a teacher whose influence has stayed with me for 40 years. She complimented my reading skills, speaking ability, and suggested I consider becoming a writer when I grew up. My path was set.
And so was my hunger for compliments and praise.
Ninth grade introduced me to speech-writing competitions. Not only did I win the class, grade, and school levels, but went on to win zone, county, and state.
By tenth grade, I was on the staff of the school newspaper with public-speaking experience in my repertoire.
Finding My Voice as a Writer
Motherhood steered me in a different direction: picture books. Although none of the short stories I’d written in my twenties are published, they gave me the experience of submission and rejection – old school style.
During the beginning of the 1990s, most of my time outside of parenting was in front of a manual typewriter with a stack of envelopes, stamps, and high hopes. This is where I learned to take rejection.
Odd to say, but I embraced the rejection letters. I understood that rejection was a part of the writer’s journey. Each refusal meant I was one step closer to acceptance.
By the mid-nineties, I was working my way into local publications such as the Las Vegas Casino Journal and the Las Vegas Casino Times. It wasn’t glamorous. I worked other tasks such as selling advertising space, answering phones, or even fetching lunch for the crew. But in doing that, I was also afforded the opportunity to publish my own pieces.
That experience had given me the joy of publication. My name was officially in print. I had a byline.
The Nostalgia of Tenderft99: (And the Power of Networking)
1999 was a good year. That was the year I got my first computer, and my goal to become a freelance writer. Here’s where the world wide web opened infinite windows of opportunity.
First lesson: Everything requires a username.
Gosh, I wanted to be clever. I wanted to show my wit and ability with words. I used a thesaurus to look up synonyms for “beginner” and came up with Tenderfoot. Add that to the year of my internet birth, and we get Tenderft99.
With that username, I found groups, chats, websites, and endless resources for writers.
Soon, I created my own group for female journal keepers, which thrived for more than five years. All in, I entered writing contests, competitions, and workshops.
My Writing Life as an Open Book: Doing the Moon Dance
I was proud of being a beginner. I learn through writing, so I was eager to keep public journals of my path to publication. What I didn’t know then is that I was building a following – or the power that such a following held.
Then, I received an email from a woman who ran a website called Moondance.org. Her need was for a writer and editor to launch and manage a new division for young writers. This position was a volunteer position, but it came with a title, not merely a byline.
From earning a byline to becoming the editor of a department for young writers, I was ecstatic.
But I was also in over my head.
With the mounting pressure of managing anything website related, I placed a call to my brother.
Establishing a Professional Platform as a Copywriter and Editor
Jeff, my brother, co-owned an internet development company. Cenicola-Helvin Enterprises (CHE), now Bannerview.com, focused on software creation and providing websites to businesses.
My goal was to pick his brilliant brain about format, structure, coding, or anything I might be able to harness that would take this new division to soaring heights. What I ended up with in the long run was my first paid position as a writer.
This was happening at the turn of the millennium.
The Internet boom had arrived.
RITRO.com – Real Insight Through Raw Opinion
Jeff had a proposition for me. He’d share with me what he could about the Rising Stars division of Moondance.org if I helped him test out a new content publishing platform that his team developed, ViaForce.
That gig also began as a volunteer effort – or a fair trade of insights. But ultimately, it landed me my first paid position and title as Content Director for a successful Las Vegas-based business.
What’s in a Name? Establishing the Foundation for Success
What Jeff gave me was a simple domain name: RITRO.com. He told me it had no meaning, no background, no history, no purpose. RITRO.com was nothing but a random domain name CHE owned and wanted to make use of to test their new platform.
Mulling it over for days, making lists and acronyms o’plenty, I came up with Real Insight Through Raw Opinion.
The platform, which was way ahead of its time, was testing out team-accessible tasks and assignments, automated content publishing, message boards, voting polls, and blogs.
Calling All Writers: Reaping the Rewards of Networking with Other Writers
To carry out this goal, I assembled a group of volunteer writers from the networks, groups, and chats I’d involved myself with years prior. Together, we published controversial content every day of the week.
To fuel the message boards and voting polls, we’d select one sensitive topic and have two writers write from opposing positions. The subjects we wrote about included:
- Gun control
- Spanking children
- Vegetarian lifestyles, and more
Content Director and Editor-in-Chief
Because It worked, I was promoted to Content Director for the company. My responsibilities included:
- In-house website content
- Web copy for clients
- In-house newsletters
- Newsletters for clients
- Writing the how-to manual and help sections for the ViaForce software system
- Continuing as Editor-in-Chief of RITRO.com
- Networking with other business professionals to promote the CHE Brand.
Furthermore, I was connected with the owner of a local advertising company who “leased” my services from CHE.
This proved to be my first experience in writing ad copy for advertisements.
Moving on to Moon Shadows: Traditional Print Columnist
After my tenure with CHE and RITRO.com, my next chapter was to become a columnist and part-time editor for a traditional print magazine called Moon Shadows.
Moon Shadows encompassed a variety of topics with a spiritual nature. Subjects included:
- Native American beliefs
- Pagan practices
- Crystals and reiki healing
- Animal magic
- Dream analogy
- Planetary influences
- Astral travel
- Tarot and divination, and more
The position also offered the chance to engage in more public speaking experience. I traveled to give talks about the subjects in my column.
Mitchell Photography: Marketing Director & Copywriter
Photography was never on my radar. Luck or destiny would have me cross paths with a professional photographer, owner of Mitchell Photography, who needed a part-time receptionist. I needed to supplement my income. I took the job. Ideas came, so I shared them. I had insights from experience about:
- Website creation
- Database management
- Social media marketing
- Writing blog posts
- Print marketing materials
- And managing all the elements of growing a successful small business through organic search.
Through the course of seven years with Mitchell Photography, I also discovered how to use a DSLR camera properly. I learned to shoot weddings, maternity, newborn, family, and high school senior portraits. Without planning, I had become a professional photographer.
To this day, I continue to produce web copy and social media posts as a freelance writer for the Kentucky based small business.
Ballen Brands: Copywriter for a Real Estate Based Digital Marketing Company
Following my time with Mitchell Photography, I was recruited ad an independently contracted freelance writer by Ballen Brands. Ballen Brands is a real estate based digital marketing company owned by my sister.
My family members have always been big believers in and supporters of my writing ability – (and today, we’re all self-employed).
For the first year, my job was to write copy for the websites of real estate agents across the United States. Topics I wrote about included:
- Local 300-word community pages:
- The opening description of the community
- Local schools
- Nearby parks
- Public Transportation
- Concluding summary with a call to action
- 750-word articles based on buying and selling real estate. Topics included:
- The home buying Process
- The closing process
- How to stage a house to sell
- Understanding a home mortgage
- Types of funding for home loans
- What to expect from and how to find qualified real estate agents
- 2,000-word hyper-local pieces about area attractions:
- Places to eat
- Things to for holidays
- Bars to visit
- Shows to See
- Outdoor Activities
After the first year, Ballen Brands transferred me from client content to in-house marketing. My tasks became:
- In-house website content
- Email campaigns
- Blog posts. Topics included:Getting Started with Keyword strategies
- How to write and format a blog post
- How to use landing pages
- Designing checklists, toolkits, ultimate guides, and e-books to use as downloadable offers to entice email subscriptions.
- How to nurture relationships with your leads and clients
- The basics of Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Sales copy
Additional Work as a Freelance Writer
My work has been featured on many websites, marketing publications, and in an anthology. Furthermore, I’ve sold full rights to articles via content farms such as Constant-Content.com and CrowdContent.com. Subjects of writings sold include:
- Local features about area attractions such as Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Ways to make money on Instagram
- How to style a photo shoot
- Things to consider before opening a photography business
- Facts about marijuana
- Product descriptions
- Meta descriptions
More Tidbits: What I do When I’m not Writing
Following through with the experience I gained as a professional portrait photographer, I am now an award-winning fine art freelance photographer. My work has been on exhibit in local libraries, restaurants, and is featured in a coffee table book.
I’m married to my childhood sweetheart and life-long best friend. Together, we bought the house my grandmother owned. Her house was built the year I of my birth. It’s where I spent the majority of childhood holidays. A modest home, rich with nostalgia.
Animal lovers, we have a dog named Mandi Melody, a cat called Frequency, bearded dragon we refer to as Evolution, a guinea pig that goes by Phoenix, a fish by the name of Eclipse, and a rat named Simon.
Writing has been a clear career path for me since second grade. With laser focus, I have strived to evolve with the industry. Along the way, I’ve developed a passion for copywriting and helping companies grow their content marketing strategies. My goal as a freelance writer is to connect with small business owners who understand the value of content marketing, but who prefer to outsource their copywriting to a freelance writer with experience.