Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Real Life Goes Awry Will You Be Prepared

My Memorial Day weekend was spent in a hospital with my mother after a trip to the ER to have a nasty injury treated resulted in surgery and an extended hospital stay. Thankfully she's doing much better, but Friday was complete chaos where my business was concerned. I was forced to conduct one client call in the ER examining room because my mother didn't want me to leave her alone. Thankfully my client was quite understanding and allowed me to reschedule our call for another time.

I've successfully navigated my freelance writing business around  unexpected emergencies before. It was much easier to do when we were still in Atlanta and had an awesome network of support in place to turn to. Now that we've relocated to my hometown, it's pretty much just me and hubby right now. The reality of the matter is when you're dealing with an emergency, that's your problem - not your client's. Your client still expects the project he/she paid for to be completed according to the terms of your agreement (Yes, I'm automatically assuming every freelancer is utilizing some kind of agreement BEFORE starting a project).

This morning I came across a really informative blog post addressing the issue of emergency planning tips. I realize my plan needs updating. A few of the writer's suggestions that stood out to me:

Include a Force Majeure Clause in Your Agreement

This clause protects both parties from liabilities and obligations due extreme, unexpected circumstances - anything beyond you control that could keep you from fulfilling the terms of the contract. Examples include "acts of God," war, etc.

Identify Your "Vulnerable Points"

Every freelancer's circumstances are different. If you're a 25-year old, unmarried freelancers with no children or other responsibilities your vulnerability points are fewer than a single mom with two kids and a mortgage. Take it from me, kids get sick, schools spring unexpected vacation days on you - you have to recognize the circumstances that can turn into obstacles and plan ahead for these kinds of situations.

Have an Emergency Savings In Place

It's important to get into a habit of setting aside savings from each job you complete. If an emergency results in you being unable to work for a period of time, you'll need funds in place to float you until you're about to work again.

Create an Emergency Communications Plan

As soon as things go wrong, you'll need to immediately contact your clients and keep them updated.

Do you have an emergency plan in place for your operation?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's a Great Day to Be a Writer

Writers’ Worth week is still going strong over at Words on the Page. Today my contribution, "Flexing Your Confidence Muscle," is up, so please stop by to read and comment if you feel so inclined.

It’s still early, but so far it’s been a great day. I've just returned from my 11-year old’s school award ceremony where she reaped the rewards of all her hard work this year. Scholastically she’s much more impressive than I was at her age, and I hope she always retains her work ethic, focus and discipline -regardless of what she chooses to do in life.

In other news... we found a house. Finally. Despite my husband’s repeated threats to see 30+ houses before he'd even considered one. We found "the one" only three houses into the hunt. I will FINALLY have a separate office space! There's plenty of yard and time for me to really get my vegetable garden going! I don’t look forward to moving again. Ugh. I'm hoping the fact that it’s a local move this time around means it won’t be too bad.

We’re more than half way through May and my earnings have already topped any other month of May since I’ve began freelancing full-time. Follow-ups seem to have been key here – one follow-up resulted in a long-term project. Still, I’m heading into what is typically the slow season for me, so even though I’m getting a late start on work today, I have to squeeze some marketing in today.

I’m juggling a lot more personal writing projects than I feel comfortable with right now, but thankfully I’ve set up goals and deadlines in a way that makes me accountable to a couple of helpful colleagues. I did this to motivate me to carry action over to completion. Without accountability, I’d probably keep putting these projects off and never follow through. These “accountability partners” will not tolerate excuses, and that’s exactly what I need.

How’s your week working out? Feel free to share whatever you’ve got going on.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Because You're Worth It

I wanted to give everyone a heads up about the wonderful series Lori Widmer has been publishing this week in honor of Writers Worth Week. Yesterday's post "When the Safety Net Is Gone" by Nancy Oliver was sooooo inspiring! She is living proof that there IS success after content mills. Hop over and check it out - you won't be disappointed. In fact, you may get the inspiration you need to finally stop thinking about freelancing and actually make moves to do it; or maybe find the courage to move away from low-paying clients to a much more lucrative market.

There's something for writers of all levels and backgrounds - whether you're just getting started or have been at it professionally for years. Stop by and share some love with all of the amazing writers who have contributed articles in support of Writers Worth Week. Hope you're having a positive, productive and profitable week. :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stand By Your Business Policies... And If You Don't Have Policies In Place, Get Some!

Last week I finally received the go ahead to start a ghost writing project I’d been negotiating with a client for several months. This will be a long-term project (around six months), so my terms included the standard down payment plus scheduled milestone payments. The client agreed, so full speed ahead, right?

Well, there was one small thing… The client contacted me last Tuesday to ask if I’d started working on the project. I let him know that I hadn’t received the down payment yet and (aside from any paid projects received before receiving his payment)would promptly began as soon as I did.

He responded telling me not to worry about the down payment – he would be sending it as we discussed and I shouldn’t worry because the funds are secured. This irritated me. Keep in mind, this wasn’t his first time hearing my terms. He’d agreed to them BEFORE I agreed to take on the project, so I kept my responding email message very simple and to the point. I stated, “It is my business policy not to begin a writing project until the down payment is received.” Thankfully, he immediately issued the funds, and I was paid within 24 hours.

I give my accountability partner credit for teaching me that handy, dandy tip about informing clients that “x is my business policy” when the need arises for me to enforce my terms of service. She has a Master’s degree in psychoanalysis and uses her extensive knowledge of human behavior quite frequently in her copywriting business. She and I were discussing the issue of enforcing our terms of service with clients a while back, and she explained that she finds using the “business policy” statement tends to reduce the likelihood of arguing with clients about issues like down payments, number of revisions, etc.

She speculates the reason this technique works is that it’s a reminder to the client that you are in fact a qualified, professional operating a business and not earning pocket change with some new found hobby. It’s not so easy to argue against a business policy – it’s understood that everyone must follow the exact same established terms, and there’s no negotiation.

Business policies and procedures help establish the basic structure for your operation. Clients don’t need to guess about your rules and guidelines, and can choose not to do business with you if they don’t agree with your terms.  Your policy can include very simple terms, for example: “50% down payment required to begin project.” “Client receives two complementary revisions. Subsequent revisions will be billed at that standard hourly rate.”

Do you provide clients with specified terms of service outlining your business policies and procedures? How often 9if ever) do you meet with resistance?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Believe in the Worth of the Service You Provide

My friend, Lori over at Words on a Page has been doing the most wonderful thing for the past five years. Each year she dedicates a week in May, now known as Writer's Worth Week, to helping both inexperienced and experienced writers recognize and live up to the worth of the words they write and the valuable service they provide to others as freelancers. This year she will be featuring a number of freelancers offing advice and inspiration to writers looking to break out of the rut of low-paying projects.

I’ve been following Lori’s blog ever since I first got a wild hair to try my hand at freelancing for a living. At the risk of sounding like some kind of fan girl, the practical advice and encouragement she shares with her readers is truly invaluable. I’ve actually gotten clients using some of her marketing tips. I also recommend joining the Five Bucks Forum, moderated by Lori and the equally wonderful Anne Waymann to learn everything you ever wanted to know about freelancing. They even answer questions directly and, as the name implies, the cost to join is only five bucks a month. Come on - if you're like me you're already blowing that during the week on Skinny Vanilla Lattes. It's a very worthy investment in your freelancing career.

FYI: If you’re a freelancer with advice about how writers can overcome low paying jobs, or you have a personal story to share, Lori is currently accepting guest posts to publish on her blog.

*Disclaimer: I received no compensation at all for recommending membership to the Five Bucks Forum. And yes, I happily pay my own dues each month.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Big Freelance No No

A funny thing happened to me at the end of my work day Monday evening (I know this sounds like the beginnings of  a bad joke, but I assure you it's not). I received a call on my business line from someone - another writer who belongs to the same association as I do. She immediately introduced herself and stated that she was just reaching out to fellow colleagues she'd located through the membership database. Immediately my Spidy sense began tingling.

She began asking me how business was going and launched into a discussion about how successful she's been writing within this particular specialty. Can you see where she was going with this? Yeah, neither could I. but i was intrigued, so I listened. She eventually started asking me how I managed the "feast or famine" cycle we freelance writers are known to experience. That's when I asked about the purpose of her call.

She stated that as a freelance writer, she'd come to realize the importance of having a "plan B" for financial security. Freelance writing is her plan A, but what do you suppose her "plan B" Is? I'll tell you: she sells Melaleuca products. And she's doing so well financially, she just had to contact other members of our writer association to let them know about it and offer them a practically no risk opportunity to sign up to sell these products with her.

There are so many things wrong with this situation I can't even begin to tell you; but I'll start with the obvious. She's using the membership site that writers pay good money to join to solicit a service that has absolutely nothing to do with freelancing or the industry. I know for a fact that if I reported her to the Executive Director, he would NOT be too happy. As a freelancer, I understand the "hustle" mentality as well as anyone, but this is crossing some serious lines. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a "plan B" to ensure your ability to make ends meet, but you have to use common sense.

I was polite to her but i let her know that I did not appreciate being solicited in that manner, and that it is not okay for her to ever solicit me in the future. I also cautioned her to seriously consider the consequences of her actions should the Executive Director ever get wind of how she is using the membership contact list.

I hope that everyone who reads this post already knows not to engage in this type of behavior. Utilize membership contacts responsibly and with respect. Treat their private contact information the way you'd like others to treat yours. Has anyone else experienced something like this? If so, how did you handle the situation?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Preparing for a New Week and New Month

House hunting picks up this week where we left off. My husband is traveling out of town this weekend, so we’ve agreed to schedule appointments to see the interior of at least two that we both actually liked. Fingers crossed – I need this to be over soon…

I spent the weekend creating a very ambitious marketing plan for May, wrapping up a couple of client deadlines and pushing through an ebook project with a May 1 deadline. My business coach encouraged me to get this ebook ready for her special annual promotion of information products guide, but I may have bitten off more than I can chew here. I still need to edit and proofread the content, deal with some minor formatting issues and get the squeeze page together. I don’t want to produce something just for the sake of providing her with a product to promote, so I think I’m going to have to pass on this opportunity and spend a bit more time tightening things up so I can launch it on my own.

Finally received confirmation to start a large ghostwriting project I’d been expecting for a few months(we discussed this initially back in December 2011). That’s the way freelancing goes – sometimes projects don’t come through when you expect or may never come to fruition at all. That’s why consistent marketing is so crucial (stepping off my soapbox now…). It’s coming at a good time. As soon as the client sends the down payment, I’ll get started.

I didn’t earn as much during April as I did in March, but I expected that. Between house hunting, the ebook and some impromptu software training via one of my staple clients, I didn’t put in as much work time this month. A portion of my April payment will arrive in May because I forgot to invoice one of my client’s this month. As long as I get the payment sometime in May, I’m good.

How was freelancing for you during the month of April?

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