Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome to the Comfort Zone

The comfort zone can be a nice, cozy place to hang out for a while. It's safe, familiar and doesn't require you to do anything that might make you feel too - well, uncomfortable. The freelance writing business has a lot of these; they're situations where we writers accept less because we've gotten so comfortable and settled into a nice, routine groove. You've got work. You're making money. Why fix it if it ain't broke?

Getting too comfortable with complacency, or underachievement, can be deadly to any freelance writing business. You'll miss out all the opportunities functioning at full potential can bring.

Once you've made the leap into writing part-time or full-time, you may think all of the hard work is over. Think again. It's just the start of a growing process than can be painful, frustrating, exciting and exhilarating as you grow improving your knowledge, skills and the way you operate your business. Here are some common comfort zones we freelancers can so easily settle into:

Stuck writing for low pay content sites

When you're first starting out and you land a couple of paying gigs writing for content sites, you feel ecstatic. Imagine: someone's going to PAY you to write! So say you're being paid $5 or $10 per 500 word article. You may spend end up spending several hours seven days a week writing enough articles to pay the bills each week. Ideally, you'll take this experience and quickly move on to higher paying clients, but many writers continue the cycle of searching out more of these low paying content sites instead, never really meeting their income goals.

Some writers get very comfortable with having someone bring the work to them rather than going out and finding it. If you're okay with the hours you work and the money you bring in then it's all good; but even if you are okay with it, what happens if the content site folds? It happens all the time, and the danger is even more prevalent in this struggling economy.

Fear of marketing

This is really an extension of the previously mentioned comfort zone. I was once on a writer's forum brainstorming with others about how to get better rates. Most of us were echoing the same idea: market, market, market to more private clients. Again, you have a better chance of setting fair rates for your writing services this way. One writer honestly stated that she hated marketing, even though she was among the loudest complainers asking for someone to point her to the higher paying opportunities.

For some it's really a fear of rejection. No one likes to hear "no." I think if you make peace with the fact that you will get a few "no's" or no responses, it won't seem so devastating when it happens. Stick with it and you will turn up some interested candidates.

Not keeping up with industry and technological changes

Big mistake. Now I'm not usually one to worry so much about competing against other writers for gigs; but if you're not educating yourself about trends and changes in the industry, you're doing your business and your clients a huge disservice because you can't give them what they need. Meeting your client's need is pretty much the basis of any service based business.

When you get a new client and can effectively explain how search engine ranking is achieved, sales conversion techniques or how they might benefit from participating in social networking sites to better connect with their customers, you are further establishing yourself as an expert in their eyes. As far as technology is concerned, you ever come across something that's too technical for you to handle (web/blog set up and design, etc) hire someone to teach you or outsource it to someone who knows what they're doing.

Staying in the comfort zone is easy, but taking some calculated risks will net you far more rewards.


Jennifer said...

This is great reminder to all freelance writers. I have been guilty of getting into a comfort zone from time to time. Thank you for the reminder to kick myself out of the one that I have been in.

Jenn Mattern said...

While I understand why some freelancers fear marketing, it's often almost silly. I think the real problem is that they associate the term "marketing" with "sales." They're thinking query letters, cold calling, etc.

Really though, there's so much more to it, and much of it can be done without overtly "putting yourself out there" for rejection these days. Start a blog. Get a professional site up. Spend time talking to prospective clients in forums and other networking opportunities (without blatantly pitching them). I come from a marketing / PR background, where I'm actually quite comfortable with the overt side. Yet the vast majority of my clients come to me through what I sometimes call "quiet marketing." I keep good relations with existing clients, so they recommend me. Or they found one of my blogs and liked what I had to say or how I presented myself. Or they saw me helping others out on a forum.

Not only does "quiet marketing" (what networking generally amounts to) bring in clients, but I've found that it brings in the best clients - the ones who rarely complain about rates, who for the most part pay on time, and who keep coming back.

Marketing is really nothing to fear! There's always some aspect of it that you're likely to enjoy. :)

Kimberly Ben said...

Jenn, you said it! Like you, I was previously employed in a field (newspaper recruitment advertising rep)that left me no stranger to the overt side of marketing. I did cold calling on a regular basis, and the regular marketing strategy I now employ for my business is quite tame in comparison. I think many people just don't know where to start.

You've provided some very good examples - establishing a website, participating in forums and social networking sites and providing excellent service so that existing clients will refer you to others is an easy way to start. Marketing is no one thing. As you suggested, the best thing to do is find a technique you like and work it to your advantage. Thanks for the tips - I'm so glad you chimed in.:)

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