Thursday, August 21, 2008

Freelance Writers Need to Create a Residual Income

Last fall I spent some time writing a few articles at about twin pregnancy and parenting. Being the parent of twin boys made it easy to come up with the information needed to develop the articles. Besides, I hoped they would be helpful to some other shell shocked, soon-to-be mom who just found out she was having more than one baby.

I bring this up because shortly after writing these articles I began receiving monthly payments to my Pay Pal account from eHow. I stopped writing for eHow because I was asked to sign a non-compete agreement with another client who considered writing for eHow as a conflict of interest. I was so busy with other freelance writing projects at the time that I forgot all about them – let alone that they are a revenue sharing site. But considering that I had only written a few articles for them, I am surprised at how much money I now receive from them each month. Now it's not enough to run out and buy that Prada handbag I'd love to have, but it's nothing to sneeze at when I think of how much passive income I could be earning had I really put in some effort.

So now the genie is out of the lamp – I love getting residual income while I sit back and do nothing, and now I want more. Jennifer Mattern at recently fanned the flames even more with her Tuesday post titled Invest in Your Writing Career and Build a Richer Future. She discusses many reasons why writers should "invest" in their writing careers by developing a residual income from their own products. She really hits home when she explains that freelancers shouldn't plan to depend solely on our billable hours as our only source of income. Having a substantial residual income stream can really lighten the load should you suddenly be unable to work or lose a major client. As freelance writers we should leverage our knowledge and experiences and set aside time regularly to work on our own projects and products.

If you are like me you may wonder where this elusive extra time will come from. The answer is you have to decide it's important enough to make the time. It can seem impossible to squeeze another task into an already jam packed day. You can start by committing to an hour a day of working on writing that eBook, developing a niche blog/website or some other promising venture. If you can eventually balance the income received from freelance writing projects with income received from residual income, you will have more freedom and financial security. I don't know about you, but I'm all over this.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Craigs List the Freelance Jobseeker's Inside Joke?

I started freelancing full-time as a writer in August of 2007. I spent my time reading and learning all I could from various writer's forums about where to look for decent paying jobs. I found that many job listings were just rehashing Craigs List jobs, so I started checking there on my own as well. I landed two decent paying SEO clients from from the job listings, and they are still clients today.

I belong to a copywriter's egroup. A new writer asked members of the group how she should get started finding clients and setting rates. One respondent suggested that the new writer get her feet wet by getting a few clients from Craigs List. A couple of other writers responded and virtually pooed this idea. One respondent, who also teaches writing courses, stated that she always tells her students to avoid Craigs List when seeking clients because it is strictly low pay. Another writer who once posted job ads on Craigs List for her employer says they stopped because of the increased appearance of vague ads and scam ads.

Visit any freelance writer, business writer or copywriter forum and you will find somewhere in the archives a discussion about finding freelance work on Craigs List. There is also likely to be some complaining about the site. Some of the complaints are valid – the job listings can be riddled with work from home/write from home scam advertisings or just plain old con artists asking for free samples to review for a supposed job, hoping a few na├»ve writers will send some in so they can get free content for their site. Then, of course, there are the ads that get mysteriously flagged before you even get to see the opportunity being posted.

Sure, Craigs List can often be hit or miss. I learned quickly not to rely on them as my only source for finding consistent work. And if you are aiming for a higher salary as a freelance writer, you'll have to employ other methods to find higher paying gigs. Most people who make their living from home learned long ago – even before Craigs List was around – to be careful when presented with opportunities to make fast money from home. Just because they say you can doesn't make it true.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Want New Clients? Market, Market, Market

Some freelance writers may find July and August to be a bit slow as far as the number of projects coming in (also known as income) is concerned. I hear from many more experienced writers that it's pretty typical. I have had slow periods during these two months followed by bursts of busyness – crazy!

Now I tend to be the kind of girl who thinks ahead. And even though I have existing clients currently courting me with promises of an abundance of projects in the coming months, I also know that November and December are around the corner and can be notoriously slow months as well. I was quite busy during that time last year when I was just getting started, but I can't really bank on it this time around. That's why I have been busy, busy, busy marketing my little heart out.

A few weeks ago I shared Yuwanda Black's Summer Marketing Tutorial post with you about the importance of using the slow period of summer to gear up for new writing projects clients will soon need. Now is a great time to let potential clients know that you are available.

If you are committing to some sort of marketing strategy each day – whether it's cold calling, email or snail mail, you will start to see the fruits of your labor if you stick with it. I know, I know; marketing is tedious – you have to keep doing it over and over, again and again. Yep, that's pretty much the gist of it. But in my humble opinion it can't be beat when you're trying to build up a clientele that pays well. Most of these guys don't advertise the writing opportunities they have available.

I spent the month of July marketing pretty consistently (I may have missed a couple of days here and there…). So far I have three new clients lined up. Two have scheduled projects to begin in mid September, and I am negotiating with another to start within the next week or so. I didn't even count the people who responded with interest and said they would be keeping my info on file so they could get back to me at a later date. Things may or may not pan out with these prospects, but I am on my way to filling up my editorial calendar for the remainder of 2008.

I am tempted to stop marketing when it seems like I might be getting slammed with work, but I know that consistent marketing – even during busy periods – will ensure that steady work continues trickling in.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mind Your Customer Service Manners

My husband and I were remarking about how rare it is to receive good customer service these days. I'm not talking about the people who ring up your order at Star Bucks, Barnes and Noble or the local supermarket. Getting good customer service is often hit or miss with these guys. What I mean is the type of customer service that comes with just a little bit of common courtesy, politeness and concern. It's so sad to see that real customer service is a dying art. So much so that when I encounter someone who extends genuine concern and a friendly, helpful attitude I am more likely to buy whatever it is that they are selling.

I am tired of dealing with the representatives at my local phone company (who shall remain nameless) that treat me like I am nothing more than my 10 digits whenever I turn to them for help. I have even stopped going to the gas station that's right up the street from my house because of the way they grunt at and generally dismiss their customers. When discussing this phenomenon with a friend one day, she cut me off and said, "Face it – there is no more customer service."

When you are stuck working a job you hate, I can understand the lack of enthusiasm. I can overlook the rude young college student working at my neighborhood print shop who always seems depressed and never even bothers to say "hello" or "can I help you?" But I would think that as an entrepreneur you couldn't afford not to be nice to your clients. Being friendly, showing concern for your client's projects and updating them on your progress are important ways to establish trust.

I remember once while working my sales job with the newspaper, the advertising department had us all take part in a special customer service training seminar. They hired an expert to come in and teach us how to treat our clients so that they would always have the most satisfying experience doing business with the publication. They really kept on making a big deal about how prestigious this trainer was in the customer service training industry, and how much money they were spending to bring her to us. In the end all she did was come in and teach us the same basic etiquette your mother probably taught you.

Remember that old saying: "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?" Well it seems pretty simple, but it's true. Extending a little courtesy can go a long way in business. Go ahead and extend pleasantries like "how are you," "thank you," "can I help you with anything else?" and "have a great day/weekend." People like doing business with people they like and trust. Become both someone your clients like and trust to get the job done right and there's a good chance they will return to work with you again and again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Balancing A Freelance Writing Business and a Social Life

I'll admit it – I really let my social life slide over the past year as I developed my freelance writing business. When I wasn't taking care of my family, I ate drank and slept my work. I was constantly thinking about the clients, projects and deadlines with anxiety over where the next meal was coming from. I was a woman obsessed. I had transformed into this hermit who rarely left her computer and was forever checking email messages – my watched pot. When I started feeling burned out, I was convinced something had to change. I immediately called up one of my best girlfriends and made a much needed date. Sadly it had been so long since I had done anything just for me that my children cried when I told them mommy was going out to see a movie and have lunch with her friend.

I call myself showing my children by example how important it is to pursue your dreams, and it is. But there must also be some balance in your life as well. People need people – and that's not just some corny slogan from back in the day. It's true.

I realized that I shouldn't be working round the clock just to meet my goals. I needed to start working much smarter instead. I mean I want to be able to take a few days off now and then. I went into business for the freedom and independence as much as anything else. That freedom should give me more opportunities to spend time with my friends and family.

As human beings, we are social creatures by nature – some more than others, but relationships are an important part of our lives. They even affect health to some degree. Studies show that friendships actually improve health, so it's important to balance your freelance writing business with a social life. Here are a few tips to help get the ball rolling:

Establish regular office hours and stick to them. This means remaining productive throughout the work day, remaining on task and eliminating distractions.

Schedule "me time" on a regular basis. Whether it's going out alone for the day or getting together with friends; make time to do the things you love to do on a regular basis. This can give you a real mental pick me up.

Schedule time with your family regularly. During the summer months our family likes to frequent the drive in. It's the cheapest way for us to enjoy the summer blockbusters. We load up the van with pizza and other yummy snacks after giving the kids a bath (they wear their pajamas). When we get home they can brush their teeth and go straight to bed. Lovely.

Work out. If you belong to a gym or the YMCA, your daily work out can also give you the chance to meet other people while you are getting in shape. Don't neglect your health. You should try to work out each day for at least 30 minutes if possible. You will have more energy, feel more confident and creative – all benefits for your freelance writing business.

Take a day off now and then. Give yourself a day of rest away from clients and stressful projects now and then. Relax; it will all still be there tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Those Crazy Days of Summer

Aaack! School starts here on Monday (Yipee!!) so I am busy scrambling about trying to get a ridiculous amount of school supplies for three of my kids, making last minute doctors appointments, discussing my kids vegetarian diets with the new school's lunch lady and running my business. What can I say? I thrive on chaos! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and making this freelance thing happen! See ya next week! ;)
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