Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Earnings

I’ve been inspired by Lori Widmer (whom I just adore by the way) to share my business; something I hardly ever do. And by business I mean My September earnings.

I’m not sure why I’ve never done it before, but her post today made me want to. Part of the reason is that I’m trying to organize my business better and I am attempting to market my services on a much more regular basis. This is a great way of tracking my results.

Print Publications

Although I had a couple of great ideas and planned to query a trade magazine, I didn’t. I did, however, finally get paid for four magazine articles I wrote back in May of this year. Turns out the publication is really struggling. I really do want to start writing for magazines again, but I can’t afford to rely on them as regular income since checks can come anytime.

Job Boards

In the past I’ve gotten some pretty good gigs from job boards, but damn, the pickings are getting kind of slim. Still, from time to time you can find a gem or two so I try to drop in to search through a few on a semi-regular basis.

I've actually found a couple of good opportunities and got three really interested reponses until I sent them my rates. Hmmm, must have been something I said…

Existing clients

Most of my existing clients have reduced the amount of work they send my way. Only one client is still using my services as before. I have been following up with clients I haven’t worked with in the last six months or so via email and mailed post cards.


Let’s just say it’s a lot less than I expected. I started out with quite a few projects this month. Then three of my children came down with the flu, and then we had some unexpected flooding to take care of. I allowed those things to cut into my work time which meant less time for marketing and developing content for my own business.

Bottom Line

I need to get back to planning my work days and stick to the schedule. I must set aside time each day for marketing and reconnecting with previous clients. I need to establish some new systems to help me manage my time better.

I plan to attend a couple of conferences this month for more face-to-face networking. Like Lori, I will continue to fine tune my marketing efforts.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Common Pitfalls that Threaten Freelance Success

If you’re like most freelance writers, you choose this business for the flexibility and financial freedom. In order to be successful, you must be prepared for the challenges of operating your own business solo. Despite a busy schedule booked with clients, there are some who simply become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of operating a freelance writing business and escape back to the nine to five grind.

If you don’t take time to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, freelancing could become just another job you dread getting up for and facing each day. Here are just a few of the most common obstacles that can get in the way of freelancing success:

No steady income

Some days are better than others. One day you’re fighting clients off with a stick, and the next it seems like they wouldn’t touch your services with a 10 foot pole. This is the nature of the business, especially early on. The cure seems obvious enough: work with a variety of clients instead of relying on just one or two.

A consistent marketing plan can help make that happen. Unfortunately, freelancing is a business where time is money. When you’re desperate for money to cover this month’s expenses, you may feel like you have to choose between spending time marketing your services for future work and working on a low-paying project that pays here and now.

Answer: Ideally you shouldn’t quit your job to start any business without a substantial savings, or you can moonlight as a freelance writer until you build up enough of a steady clientele; but that’s not always realistic.

If things really get tough, consider temping or a part-time job to help fill in the gaps. Remember, it’s only temporary.

Doing everything yourself

I didn’t coin the phrase “solopreneur,” but I sure do love it. I love it because it says exactly what many of us are; entrepreneurs who work alone. I’m a loner by nature, so I was prepared for what it would be like to work 12 hour days by myself. What I wasn’t so prepared for was the amount of work and time it takes to run a business alone.

Accounting, marketing, managing client projects and invoicing all take time. That’s often time away from paid projects, and in the end things still go undone.

Answer: Outsourcing is the ideal solution, but depending on where you are in your business you may not be able to afford certain services right now like hiring a virtual assistant or premium web designer. You may be able to find someone you can swap services with. For instance you offer to write articles for an accountant’s website in exchange for tax filing services. Freelancing forums and social networking sites like Twitter can be a good place to start looking.

Maintaining a work/life balance

This is a challenge for any freelancer. It’s so easy to get caught up on clients projects and the income you’re making and put everything else on the back burner. This is a recipe for burnout. Still, it can be hard to draw a line and separate work from the time spent with family, friends and hobbies.

Answer: Create a scheduled time for work and stick to it. Allow yourself to spend time each day with family, friends or a favorite activity.

Negativity from others

Some freelance writers are constantly defending their career choice to others. Family members may not understand and constantly chide you to “get a real job.” You may have problems with friends and family assuming that you always have free time to chat on the phone, entertain drop in guests or run errands in the middle of the day.

Some clients may not take you seriously because they don’t believe that a freelance writer could be as skilled or experienced. They may not offer you work, or they may offer projects at insultingly low rates.

Answer: Remind yourself every day why you chose to pursue freelancing, and that others are building successful businesses. Bookmark a couple of your favorite freelancers blogs to read each day reminding you of what will come to you if you stick to it.

Also, keep in mind that there are clients out there who know the value of good writing and are willing to pay well for it. You will need to figure out your target market (who needs your services) and start offering your services. Many experts recommend specializing in a certain niche (e.g. real estate, finance, green topics), but there are successful general writers making it work.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are You Really Prepared?

As I write this post there is about three feet of water sitting in my basement. Here in metro Atlanta we have been subjected to obscene amounts of rainfall which have overflowed rivers and completely flooded entire communities resulting in destroyed homes, widespread power outages and much worse.

The inconvenience of it all

Because our water heater is conveniently located in the basement, the amount of water rose above the elevated platform it sits upon and extinguished the pilot light. That means heating water on the stove, old school, to heat bathwater and dish water until we can pump the water out and reignite the pilot.

As irritated as we feel about having to pump water from the basement for the second time in four days, we also realize how grateful we should be that it wasn’t much worse. A minor inconvenience I can live with. During the storms I worked, met pending deadlines and made money. And that got me thinking, what would I have done if my entire home was flooded? What if my computers and other electronics were destroyed? My laptop recently died, so what then?

What would you do?

I would have been screwed. To be honest, I have no real emergency plan in place should the unthinkable happen. Although I missed the real destruction of this disaster by a few hairs, it’s been a serious wake up call for my business. I’ve mentioned my desire to create residual income here before, however now I see the necessity of creating multiple layers of income.

If Mother Nature had decided to point her finger at our home, I would not be making money right now because I have created a business around a single stream of income.

Have you ever really looked at your own business model and considered the many different scenarios that could potentially affect your income?

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Get Private Clients, Part 2

I know there have been a few interrupting post between “How to Get Private Clients, Part 1” and today’s “Part 2.” I got a bit side tracked, as I often do, posting other topics that seemed more important at the time. I’m back on track now and will do my best not to be so scattered in the future.

Contacting clients seems to be the most daunting task for those just getting started as freelance writers; it certainly was for me. Although jumping in and just getting started can be good advice for overcoming the initial fear, having a few marketing tools in place will make things go much more smoothly.

Get Business Cards

Even if you’re strictly a web-based freelance writer, you should have a few business cards printed to carry around with you. You never know if you will meet someone in need of your services at your local health food shop, vet, kid’s dentist, etc.

The fact is very few businesses, even local ones, operate without a website anymore. Don’t be reduced to scratching out your information on back of a ripped receipt you fished from the bottom of your purse. Commit to being the consummate professional when representing your freelance writing services.

Your cards don’t have to be fancy. They should contain the basics: your name, what you do, your business name (if applicable), email address and website URL. Including your phone, fax, Skype and/or IM information is optional.

Create a Query Template

Those who detest cold calling might be interested to know that I have obtained the majority of my clients via “cold querying.” When I first started I spent most of my day drafting original messages to each contact. I quickly learned that drafting a simple, persuasive query template was much more productive. I tweak the content to make it ideal for the prospect I’m contacting, and it really has shaved off a lot of the time spent meeting my weekly goal. Here’s what I suggest including in your template:

1. The contact’s name. Sometimes I don’t have a contact’s name although you could make a quick call to the company and request that information. To be honest I don’t always have time to do that. When that happens I write: “Dear Recruiter” or “Dear Team So-and-so.”

2. What you do. Very briefly explain your specialty if you have one. For instance, you might specialize in web content for real estate professionals and say something like: “I create descriptive real estate content that converts more website visitors into home owners.” Of course be prepared to back up a statement like this.

3. List your experience. Your writing experience is important, but if you’re a niche writer, your industry background is just as important if not more.

4. Samples of your work. I simply provide a link to my online portfolio.

5. Tell them why they should hire you. This is where you sell your services by explaining what makes you stand apart from other writers. Are you detail-oriented? Do you have a fast turn around on copy?

6. Avoid talking about yourself. What I mean is make the letter all about what you can do for your contact. It’s very easy to spread the word “I” throughout a query. Make sure you use the word ”you” instead.

Get your own marketing materials

Post cards or brochures are a great way to initiate contact with local prospects. Mailing post cards can also be a nice way of touching base with clients you haven’t heard from in a while.

Put your website to work

You do have a website, right? Sure you do. There’s no way you would miss out on this 24/7 marketing opportunity. It’s not so easy to stand out among the thousands and thousands of websites and blogs online these days, but there are a few things you can do.

Make sure a link to your website is in your email signature and the signature of any online forums you frequent. Add a blog, newsletter or free report readers can sign up for. This helps you collect information from prospective buyers.

These suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully it’s enough to get you started.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Freelance Writers: How Do You Do It?

If I were asked to list one of my biggest weaknesses as a freelance writer, I’d say time management. Don’t get me wrong, I meet my client deadlines despite parenting four kids between the ages of nine and two; even if at times it’s by the skin of my teeth. But there are times when the administrative tasks are overwhelming.

Finding focus

I’m trying to get back on track with marketing which means tweaking my website, writing copy for my own marketing materials, building a contact list, querying and so on. All while staying on top of client projects. On some days there doesn’t seem to be enough time to work on my own projects, but if I don’t they just keep getting put on the back burner.

When there's only you

For me balancing client projects and all of the daily administrative tasks is the biggest challenge of being a solopreneur. Filing, scheduling, returning calls and emails, researching my target market, writing and sending out queries, research and making brief appearances on select social networking sites – it all takes TIME. How I’d love to pass some of those tasks along to someone else so that I could just be responsible for the writing.

But for now I’ll just have to work at organizing my time a bit better to balance all of my responsibilities. I’m curious to know how other freelance writers are doing it. Do you outsource or handle everything for your business on your own?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Valuable, Usable Marketing Advice from the Experts

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m looking forward to a nice, long, relaxing weekend. I will be working, but only on my own projects.

I’m in the midst of a marketing frenzy and can’t slow down. Since I talk about the importance of marketing so much, I thought I’d share a couple of really helpful marketing resources. I’ve gotten some pretty great ideas that I look forward to putting into action very soon. Check ‘em out when you can, and enjoy a safe holiday weekend.

Market Your Freelance Writing in 31 Days – Free Blog Posts

Market Your Freelance Writing in 31 Days – The Ebook

30 Day Marketing Boot Camp for Freelance Writers Blog Posts

Internet Marketing for Writers

Designed by Lena