Friday, November 28, 2008

Freelance Writing Inspiration

You may have noticed that I have only been posting every other day – if that. Well, my workload coupled with my responsibilities at home is the primary reason. Plus I think most people are distracted as they transition into holiday mode. My plans are to post at least three times a week until the end of the year. I just don't want to pass up the opportunity to share helpful information or advice to anyone else out there trying to make this freelance writing thing happen. I have also promised to share some helpful resources, which is coming soon – I haven't forgotten. In the meantime, I want to share some the blog posts I've found most inspiring this week. Enjoy!

Vision Your Writing Business

The Great Big Internet Popularity Contest

What to Do When You Decide to Stop Settling for Less in Your Life

How to Increase Your Rates for the New Year

Fun With Firing Clients

3 Time-Tested Ways to Kick it Up a Notch

Monday, November 24, 2008

Still Not Freelancing? What are You Waiting For?

We're rounding the corner of November heading full speed into December. 2009 will be here in a matter of weeks, folks. That means there's still time to make good on some of the 2008 resolutions you may have neglected. If starting a freelance writing business has been your goal, there's no better time to get started than the present.

Don't Quit Your Day Job – If You Don't Want To

You can start off slow to see if freelance writing is something you'd really like doing. In this economy one of the best things you can do is diversify your income sources, and a good way to do that is by starting a side gig. Try freelance writing out as a part-time business. You can always make the decision later to remain part-time or go full-time. Get a couple of loyal clients under your belt and you could command a nice part-time income.

Consider web writing to get started

Writing copy/content for the web is a pretty easy way to get started as a freelance writer. There are many businesses that need a continuous supply of fresh content in the form of website copy, articles and press releases on a regular basis. Even if your goal is writing for magazine publications or writing a book, web writing can provide a regular income while you focus on other writing goals.

You Can't Fire Yourself

That's got to be the best part of working for yourself - no sudden layoffs. Of course therein lies a challenge as well. No one will tell you to get a move on to finish up client deadlines, you will have to accept responsibility when clients are unhappy and you must be organized and motivated in order for your business to function properly. There's a lot of responsibility and hard work involved, but if you love what you do the payoff is definitely worth it.

Start Networking for Business

Visit various freelance writer forums, blogs and social networking sites to meet and learn from other freelance writers. It's also a great way to stay "in the know" about what jobs and other paid writing opportunities are available. Allot a certain amount of time each day for networking so that you can stay on task the rest of the time.

Get started on that marketing campaign

Yeah, I know I talk about this a lot. But that's because it's so important. You can easily get started working for existing content sites that ay a set dollar amount per article, but why not just market your own freelance writing services and get paid even more?

2009 is just around the corner. If you've been thinking about starting a freelance writing business, don't delay. Now is as good a time as any to start making plans for your new business.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Art of Pulling an All-Nighter

Let me just start off by saying that I don't recommend missing sleep to meet a deadline. You should plan your schedule accordingly to avoid all-nighters at all costs. That said, I stayed up all night to finish a client's project recently. It's been several months since I've had to do this, but I've been positively slammed with work and sick children. In the end there was no other choice. I could have avoided it had I correctly estimated the time it would take me to complete a client's project. But since I abhor missing deadlines (which I translate to mean breaking my word), I made a choice and sacrificed my precious sleep instead. I'm always fearful of screwing with my sleep patterns because I can easily trip the old insomnia switch.

If you happen to be a new freelance writer learning to estimate the time it takes to finish projects, you could find yourself pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline at some point. I hope I'm wrong, but if you are ever in that situation, here are a few tips to help get you through the night:

Prepare yourself mentally

That's half the battle won. If you prepare your mind for the fact that you will not be sleeping anytime soon it's a lot easier to manage.

Have a plan

If you don't have a plan, exhaustion could tempt you to just give up and go to bed. Execute a plan for how much writing you will do, when you'll take breaks to stand up and move around and make fresh pots of coffee. Which brings me to my next tip…

Drink lots of coffee

Enough said.

Take frequent bathroom breaks

Enough said.

Give your brain and body a break

Stand up periodically, stretch and move around. I worked all night in a desk chair that is the complete opposite of ergonomic comfort. I need a deep tissue massage in the worst way. But I digress…

Don't crank up the heat

You might wake up on deadline day with keyboard prints across your forehead and an incomplete project.

Vow never to pull another all-nighter again

Repeat it like a mantra throughout the night. By convincing yourself that you'll never have to do it again, you'll be even more determined to finish the work.

If you have ever had the displeasure of pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline, or have somehow managed to avoid them, please share your tips and advice.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finding Success as a Web Writer

I was once again visiting a favorite freelance writer's forum yesterday. I noticed a thread where the discussion involved a few writers saying they preferred not to deal with clients directly. These writers explained that they would much rather work with a middle man because it's a much less stressful situation than finding your own clients. I assumed from the discussion they were taking about writing for content providers. Right now there is so much demand for quality content I can't wrap my mind around why anyone would willingly choose to receive less money working through someone else when the opportunity exists to make more.

I've Been There Too
Before I get blasted, I just want to say that I started off my freelancing career writing part-time for a couple of small niche newspapers and magazines. I started writing copy for the web after finding out how much of a demand there was and how quickly writers could get paid. In the beginning, I wrote for a couple of popular content providers serving as the middle man for their clients. These companies supplied a steady stream of work, and the rate was fair. But as my freelance writing wings began spreading, and I started developing my own marketing campaign, I realized that I was paying a price for the leisure of just sitting back waiting for the work to roll in.

I was clearly receiving less money in my pocket. The company was taking a generous cut for finding me all of that work I'm sure – They are running a business after all. I was working one-on-one with a couple of copywriting clients during that time as well. I actually preferred having direct contact with the client. I started wondering, "Why aren't I marketing my services directly and earning more money for my hard work?"

Not Looking for a Fight
I suppose this topic could very easily turn into a debate much like the ongoing discussion among web writers about whether $3 and $5 articles are acceptable; or the debate over whether or not bidding sites are the devil incarnate. But that's not my intent. Honest.

Personally, I don't find marketing my own services directly to clients to be any more stressful than searching for the next content company to work for. I've done both, and the biggest difference to me is that I have more control over negotiating my rate and the terms of service to be provided.

I understand that if you are in a desperate financial situation some money is better than none. And there are some writers who find the idea of marketing intimidating. But if I can do it, so can you. Believe me, it works!

Help is on the Way…
Sometime in the next few weeks I will be sharing some very valuable resources for new and existing web writers looking to get more out of their web writing business. These resources can help you create a step by step plan. I'm currently reviewing one just to be absolutely sure about it before I suggest it to you. The other resource helped me redirect my own web writing efforts. In the mean time, I highly recommend Jennifer Mattern's blog for web writers to find lots of valuable advice. Stay tuned for more details!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What is Google Saying About You?

Have you ever Googled yourself? I suspect everyone has done it at one time or another. Doing it doesn't necessarily make you self-centered – especially if you make your living as a freelance writer.

During the summer I mentioned how important it is to watch what you say on the Internet. Take my word for it - you never know who is watching. It's so easy to get carried away posting on forums and blogs. Once those posts are on the web, there is no taking it back – it's out there for everyone to see. No take backs. Here are a few reasons why you should Google yourself regularly.

1) You get to see what others see. When you contact a prospective client for work there's a good chance they'll Google your name to find out more about you. Not every client may bother to Google you, but if they do, you don't want your name attached to anything too crazy.

2) Some social networking sites will expose you to the world. Did you know that if you make regular posts on Twitter, the search engines will begin indexing them (because of the constantly updated content) and you will start seeing them in your search results whenever your name is Googled? This may be no big deal to you if you use it strictly as a business marketing/promotional tool, but if you are prone to posting the kind of comments you wouldn't want an important client to discover online, consider yourself warned.

3) Manage your online reputation. Performing regular quick searches allows you to find out who is linking to you, what others are saying about you and how you are seen in your industry (all good things, right?).

You can used Google Alerts can be used to keep you updated on the search results in your name. You can set it to perform a search every day or every other day automatically.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The True Cost of Doing Business

James Chartrand, half of the dynamic duo at Men With Pens and The Freelance Parent team, Lorna and Tamara, have recently been engaging in a friendly debate about the true start up costs of a freelance writing business. When I started freelancing full-time, I was pretty desperate financially, but I already had most of my business essentials: phone service, computer, Internet connection, virus protection, printer/fax, desk, chair and even a growing collection of writer's books to reference. This made it so much easier for me to just jump in and swim.

The Financial Reality of Your Business Start-up
As you run your business, you soon realize that you must continuously spend money to accomplish certain goals. Money is necessary to:

Purchase domain names for your website/blogs

Pay for website hosting monthly or yearly

Pay for graphic design services for a new or improved website/blog or logo/banner

Add another phone line for your business phone or fax

Pay membership dues for any associations and groups you may belong to

Take any writing, computer or business courses you may need to keep your skills on point.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it all keeps adding up, doesn't it? But the beauty of an online business is that you can start small and grow slowly as time and funds allow. Start with the necessities, build a client base and work from there. Don't worry so much about what the next writer is doing, but do reach out to the community for help and advice when you need it. I'm happy to say there are a lot of really knowledgeable, helpful veteran writers out there willing to answer newbie questions. Don't be shy.

Business on a Budget
If you have the basics like I did, you can get by on a shoestring budget to start:

I used my cell phone for business. Business calls are the only calls I receive, and I make sure the voice mail is professional.

I own an all in one printer/fax machine, but I also use an online fax service called for $10 a month. It even gives me a local fax number and there is no extra cost for long distance faxes.

Quickbooks has a
free accounting software freelance writers can download from their site to use until they are able to "trade up" to the more comprehensive Quickbooks products.

I recently used
Ewisoft Website Builder free template to build a very simple website. It's super-easy to use.

There are also lots of toll free services available online that can give your business a "big business" feel. Perform a
Google search and see what's out there.

Don't go broke trying to make a living as a freelance writer, but understand that you will need to make investments from time to time. Get your basics into place and then upgrade slowly as your business grows.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Enough is Enough: Taking Control of Your Business

Yesterday I was lurking about on a writer's forum and came across a very active thread started by a new freelance writer pleading for advice about dealing with a difficult client. She had been working on a project that appeared to have no end in sight. A client hired her to write blog posts about health supplements and has been driving her crazy changing his mind again and again about the keywords to be used. He has even asked her to research keywords to come up with a few suggestions on her own, but never used them.

She explained that whenever she submits the posts for review, he berates her with disparaging remarks – telling her to never, ever use a certain sentence again when writing for him, saying it's the worst thing she could ever write and even resorting to profanity in his responses. If that wasn't enough, he keeps sending her back to the drawing board to make revisions based on his unclear instructions and changing information.

What's worse, more writers joined the thread – not to offer advice, but to share their own client/project nightmares. Another writer posted that she has been writing an ebook for going on four months now (should have been finished three months ago) and is plagued with so many revision requests she has no idea of when it will finally be good enough for the client. These projects have taken up so much of the writers' time, they each admitted to passing up other writing opportunities. Now that's just plain wrong.

These situations happen, and when they do it's a miserable experience. But nothing will change until you, the writer, take control of the situation. The reality of working for yourself is that you will not absolutely love every client, but you don't have to tolerate disrespect or abuse from anyone.

This is where you need to find your backbone, pop it back into place and stand up for yourself. Before communicating with a difficult client, make sure that you are calm. If you are still fighting mad, you are not in control, and you will need to make sure you remain professional and in control no matter how a client chooses to behave.

Slow your roll…
If you are dealing with a client who habitually rants and raves, and lashes out at you with profanity, let him/her know that you will not tolerate unprofessional behavior of any kind. You can offer to continue working on the project if your client agrees to continue treating you with respect, or kindly end the project and move on.

Establish a contract and use it
Anticipate your worse case scenario and include it in your agreement. Neither of the previously mentioned writers had an agreement in place that included details like requiring a non-refundable deposit before starting the project or a cap on the number of free revisions allowed . There are people who prey on the inexperienced. Take this experience and create an airtight service agreement.

Always get everything in writing – email is fine. Do not rely on phone conversations to relay the details of a project. If your client likes to discuss things over the phone, follow up with a detailed scope of the project as you understand it and get it signed or a rely email stating that the client agrees.

Don't be afraid to let go
The reality of being self-employed is that every project will not go smoothly. You find that repeat work with a difficult client is just not worth it in the long run. Can you continuously put up with cursing, non-stop revision requests or constant changes right and left? If not, pass it up and look out for the next freelance writing opportunity instead. Believe me, it will come.

Should you suck it up and complete the project?
Should you just suck it up and finish a project you're working on for a difficult client, or end it as soon as it starts to get ugly? Some writers believe that a professional sees all projects through to completion and then ends the client relationship. Others say that it's best to end the project as soon as the situation becomes unbearable since by that point all professionalism is out the window. I want to know what you think. And oh yeah – Make sure you get out and VOTE today!
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