The 5-Minute Freelancer Q&A #9 – Paul Lima

In this regular feature, Story Board asks Canadian writers to share a few details about their work habits and their strategies for navigating the ups and downs of freelance life.


Paul Lima

1. Where do your book ideas come from?

I have self-published 12 books, so I still have to develop ideas and I do that through teaching. I’m teaching and I think “oh man we don’t have a book available for the students, or the textbook we’re using isn’t very good or it’s too expensive so wouldn’t it be neat if I wrote the textbook and made some more money.” Teaching helps me develop story ideas. Also inquiries: I am getting so many questions about self-publishing and I tend to answer their questions or point them to some blog post. In 2013, my reply is also going to say “by the way, buy my book on self-publishing.” So I use what people are asking me about as inspiration to come up with the idea to write a book.

When people ask me how I do things, suddenly I realize hey there’s a need for this knowledge. Let me share it. And sometimes sharing it makes me money. Sometimes it doesn’t, but I don’t care.

2. What’s your biggest distraction and how do you resist it? 

I don’t resist my distractions, I build in time for them. If you go to my Facebook page it’s not all business. I post personal stuff and stupid little stories and things I think are witty that nobody else does because nobody likes them, but that’s OK… I go to Facebook in the morning, mid-day break and then in the evening. Now I know a lot of writers who will go to Facebook or other social media sites constantly. I choose my distractions. When I turn on my computer, my scheduler says “Paul, here’s what you said you were going to do today.” And up pops a list of what I’m going to do, in terms of marketing, interviews, meeting deadlines and stuff like that. So I look at my schedule and I say OK, here’s what I have to do today, so I can build in some fun time, some time wasters, but I also know that I’m going to accomplish what I have determined I need to do.

So the first thing I do is go to my to do list and that tells me whether I’ve got time to waste on personal email, on social media and things like that.

3. What non-writing activity do you do to recharge your batteries?

I walk my dog once, and very often twice a day. And to me that’s a good thing to do. It makes no money but it gets me out of the house, gets me thinking, gets me some exercise, gets me some fresh air so that I’m not just chained to the desk. And sometimes when I’m working on a big project, leaving and coming back — so using the distraction of walking the dog — actually helps me come back and discover things that I hadn’t thought of while I was focused on the page. So it’s a great way to sort of inspire me and motivate me and help me find ideas. That’s a daily routine that helps me recharge my batteries. And I walk in rain, shine, miserable, cold, snowstorm, I walk him every day no matter what the weather is.

4. What’s your best strategy for getting over rejected pitches?

In terms of corporate writing, if I don’t have a lot of clients coming to me there are times when I have to turn to marketing. And so I pitch clients. I use Linkedin to find them, I use Google to find them and I say to myself “Paul, as much as you hate telemarketers, today you’re a telemarketer and that means you’re going to be rejected by 99.9% of the people you pitch. Expect it. It’s going to happen, it’s a fact of life. But when you land one client that client pays off and if that client becomes a repeat client that client pays of 2, 3, 4, 5 times. And if that client gives you a testimonial or a referral, then that client has now paid off 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 times.’ So I say to myself “all I have to do with my marketing is land one client.”

When I used to pitch ideas to editors, I used to say “if you can land one editor and you do a bang-up job, that editor will become a repeat client.” So it’s going to take 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 pitches to land one client or sell one story but then the job is to do a really good job and then turn that into repeat business. An editor or a client that you’ve done good work for, it’s much easier to sell him or her on your next idea than it is to sell a perfect stranger. So what I do is I understand this job is built on rejection, a heck of a lot of it. It’s my job to land one or two clients or one or two editors here or there and they’re the people who become my foundation.

Minimal acceptance can lead to greater acceptance and greater opportunities.


• Paul Lima is a Toronto-based freelance writer, trainer and author of a dozen books on writing and the business of writing. You can read more about where his ideas come from in this post on his website.  You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulWriterLima


Do you build in time for your distractions during your work day, or is it a struggle for you to stay on task? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


Posted on May 24, 2013 at 9:10 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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