Monday, December 6, 2010

The Power of Good Customer Service

This morning was unseasonably cold for an early December morning in the southeast. Although I work from home, I still had to brave the freezing temps to get my little ones off to school. I absolutely abhor the cold so when I noticed my neighborhood Krispy Kreme sign alight with promises of hot coffee and hot, freshly baked doughnuts, I could think of no place I’d rather be in that moment.

The drive through line was long, but I had my heart (and taste buds) set on enjoying a steaming cup of coffee with a hot, sugary, melt-in-my-mouth doughnut. When I finally got to the window, the young lady working the window was so pleasant and effervescent, it blew me away. She seemed genuinely happy making sure each drive through customer was happily satisfied and I left the window happy and completely impressed with her friendly service.

As I drove back home I got to wondering why I was so affected by something as simple as receiving good customer service. Isn’t that something I should automatically expect when I spend good money on a product or service? Maybe so, but the fact is that’s seldom what you get these days. The phrase “customer service is dead” gets tossed around a lot, but I’m happy to say that it’s not and hopefully will never completely die away. There are certain businesses I am completely loyal to simply because of the service I receive. I’ve been fortunate enough to have clients complement the service I provide saying that they've had experiences working with writers who do not prioritize friendly, reliable service (Really? In THIS economy??).

Customer service is one area of your business that allows you to tip the scales in your favor. Statistics reveal that repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers, so clearly building solid relationships with existing clients is essential. Businesses that ignore the customer’s need to feel appreciated pay in the end.

Do you place emphasis on customer service when working with your clients?

Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Ways to Prescreen Clients

Inevitably every freelance writer comes to realize the importance of prescreening new clients to avoid winding up with nightmare projects. Prescreening can help separate the tire kickers from those clients who are seriously ready to get down to business. Early in my business, before I understood the importance of separating serious clients from bargain hunters, saving me frustration, headaches and precious time.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some of my best clients sat on projects from months while checking me out, asking lots of important questions and comparing my skills with other writers before deciding to use my services. I am respectful and kind to anyone inquiring about my services, but I’ve learned how to recognize serious inquiries from the “not-so-serious” ones.

Discussions begin with “We’re on a Budget”

Honestly I assume that anyone who approaches me to handle a project is working with a budget of some sort; but when a prospect starts the conversation explaining budget limits, or keeps bring up the budget subject in conversation, nine times out of 10 I’m dealing with someone looking to get something for nothing.

Reluctant to Provide Needed Information

It’s very simple really – in order to provide a client with a final project that meets his/her expectations, the client has to supply the writer with information. As cut and dry as this may sound, there are many businesses out there that don’t see it that way.

I was hired to work on a project for a local mid0size business this past summer. During my initial phone conversations with my contact I explained how I work and the information I would need in order to complete the project. In the end I was unable to get the information I needed so we parted ways amicably. Although he said supplying the information wouldn’t be a problem, I found myself sending several unanswered emails requesting this important information. In the end I removed myself from the project.

Frequently Pulls Disappearing Acts

Hopefully you’ve never had the displeasure of dealing with this client. He/she is eager to get started on the project, but as soon as things get rolling you can never get in touch with them. For example, they take two weeks with not attempt at contact to return your agreement, make the down payment, or respond to a simple question about the project.

Expects You to Drop Everything When They Call

I’ve only dealt with this type of client once and believe me when I say once was enough! This type of client acts as if his/her projects are more important than anyone else’s. My one time experience involved a client who called at all hours of the night, on weekends and demanded instantaneous responses to emails (and I’m very diligent about responding to emails throughout the day). Trust me it’s no worth working your last nerve.

Insists on Face-to Face Meetings or Phone Conferences

I’ve talked with other writers about in person meetings and many of them prefer them so this might just be my own personal pet peeve. But many times when I’ve met with clients that insist on face-to-face or phone meetings nothing comes of it. This is why I began charging for my time (when meeting in person).

I don’t experience problems as much with clients who like to discuss everything over the phone, although phone conversations can become time sucks if you don’t control the call.

What red flags you watch out for when prescreening new clients?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Freelancing While Traveling

As I write this I’m preparing to make an unexpected trip out of town. I’ll be working on a couple of projects while I’m away which means advance preparation is essential to making sure this trip doesn’t negatively effect my bottom line. My lovely children broke my laptop this summer (thanks again, kids…), but a relative was kind enough to donate her older model. It will do nicely until I buy the one of my dreams - hopefully within a couple of months. My main objectives when working while traveling:

  • Accessing the Internet for emailing and online research
  • Mobility
  • Easy access to files via Mozy.com

Having Internet access through a laptop or smart phone has certainly made freelancing on the go easier; but there are still ways to maintain momentum and connectivity with online clients:

Give Them Fair Warning

I contacted all of my regular clients to let them know I’d be out of town and not as available via email as usual. Clients can then decide whether or not to hold off on sending projects until you return from traveling. You may want to set an alert on your email that informs anyone sending email while you’re away.

Maintain Your Online Connection

How can you do this without a laptop? Easy. Find a public library for free Internet access (you may have to wait in line or be subjected to time limits depending on the library and demand for computer time). Take advantage of your hotel’s business center, or visit an Internet café (prices vary). You can use either of these places to quickly check and respond to emails or send shout outs to friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Let It Go

I’m sure you know that you don’t have to slip work in to every trip out of town. Believe me – I only do so when it absolutely can’t be avoided which thankfully is quite rare. Don’t be afraid to disconnect temporarily from your clients and the online world and enjoy real life uninterrupted.



Friday, November 12, 2010

If You Need Help Marketing Your Freelance Writing Services Look No Further…

I know this post is late, but I couldn’t just sit on it – I had to share! Anne Wayman and Carol Tice are two very successful freelance writers who are collaborating to provide a marketing class just for writers: 40 Ways to Market Your Writing.

These ladies really do know their stuff. The interactive webinar is scheduled for December 7 at 9 a.m PST and they have kindly set a very affordable rate of $19.99 until November 24, 2010 (after that the cost will be $24.99). Participants can also receive other great gifts including a discount on Carol Tice’s latest ebook, Make a Living Writing: The 21st Century Guide, so jump on it while you still can! Enjoy your weekend everyone. :~)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Are You Really Committed to Working for Yourself?

I received a surprise phone call Saturday from someone who approached me six months ago for advice about getting started as a freelance writer. I haven’t heard from this person since six months ago when I gave her some very basic steps to take. Long story short: she not only refused to take action, but also argued with me about whether or not the steps were necessary. FYI: the steps she questioned involved specific directions that a client I’ve been working with for two years requires of all inquiring, new writers interested in writing for his business so it wasn’t like I was just making this stuff up.

I immediately recognized the situation for what it was, wished her well and went on my merry way. Six months later she’s calling again to tell me she never heard back from said client about the writing opportunity (hmm…) and was wondering whether or not I thought it might be too late for her to try contacting him again. I quickly reminded her once more of the client’s application requirements suggesting she try contacting him again, following his instructions, to see whether or not an opportunity still exists. Although she wasn’t as vocal about not wanting to put forth the effort to make that move, her hesitation spoke volumes. She’s not really committed to putting forth the time and effort it takes to be self-employed. I suspected as much.

One thing I’ve learned in my four years of freelancing – as much as clients want a cracker jack writer that can bang out perfect copy every time, they appreciate good writers committed to their business and the job at hand even more. I’m just going to say it: there are a lot of people who get sucked into the “idea” of what it is to be a freelance writer without considering the work it takes to build (and maintain) a steady client base and income. Nine times out of 10, those guys either never get around to starting or completely give up too soon. My message to anyone getting started or struggling to hang in there is to remain committed if self-employment as a freelance writer is really what you really want. Commit to consistently spreading the word about your services. Commit to continuing to learn all about your niche, the latest marketing trends and improving your grammar and writing skills. Commit to being professional at all times, meeting established deadlines as promised and over-delivering on projects. Anything worth doing involves some form of commitment.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Refocusing My Efforts

It’s hard to believe that there are only about 60 days left in 2010. Where did the year go?? This year has been an especially challenging one for me. I’ve been dealing with my father’s battle with cancer, and then last month my family buried our very dearly beloved matriarch – my 96 year old grandmother. The pressures of my real life have done a lot to stir up my recent bout of burnout. Although I’ve been very busy marketing my services and catering to new and existing clients, I’ve been very distracted and sometimes have difficulty concentrating on certain tasks (leftover remnants of said burnout no doubt).

I’m recovering slowly but surely, but my down time has caused me to reassess my business. I do this at the end of the year anyway, but recently I’ve become clearer about certain changes I’d like to make regarding the services I provide – renovation if you will. My goal: to spend less time working, but earn a comfortable living. As the pieces to this puzzle come together, I’ll be sharing this journey with you. Some of the changes I’m considering will affect the way I market new services so I need to revamp my business plan and establish a strategy that will help me get from point A to point B.

How about you - are you sticking to your current business model or are you planning to make changes (adding or removing a service(s)) in 2011?

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Avoid Burnout

I’m slowly but surely recovering from a nasty case of burnout. Challenges in my real life are the true catalyst. Unfortunately the effects have spilled over into the business side of things affecting my productivity. Although I have managed to stay pretty busy with current client projects, and even acquire a few new ones, staying focused hasn't been so easy. Operating my business in the midst of personal challenges has resulted in my dropping the ball in other areas of what I do for a living (i.e. personal writing projects). This blog and my social media networking relationships have suffered as a result of these distractions.

Whether burnout is the result of an overwhelming work schedule filled to the brim with client projects, or trying desperately to balance real life, personal challenges with non-stop business obligations, the results end up being pretty much the same: you feel like you’ve reached your limit and can’t possibly do one more thing. Burnout affects productivity which of course affects your bottom line. Prevention is most definitely the best cure in this case:

Try Setting Regular Office Hours

Before I decided to set regular office hours and established a daily work schedule, I felt like I was practically tethered to my computer 24/7 and quickly began resenting working from home. It was my own fault – since I wasn’t regulating my time, I spent a lot of it socializing on forums, and surfing the net while working here and there – it only FELT like I was working around the clock. Not very productive at all.

Everyone is different of course; but what works for me is setting aside a certain amount of time each day that’s strictly for work and setting aside specific times during the day for things like participating in social networking/commenting on blogs/forums and updates with my accountability partner. Personal errands and personal phone calls/visits occur at the end of my designated work day. I’m very easily distracted so I need these parameters in order to get the most out of my day, and these limits help keep me from feeling overwhelmed and becoming burned out.

Take at least One Day Off a Week

I highly suggest taking at least two days off away from work each week, but I know that when you first start building a business, long hours come with the territory. Still, you need to take time to do something you enjoy that’s completely unrelated to your work. Balance will keep you sane and help you avoid burn out. It’s important to have something fun to look forward to when you work hard.

Variety is the Spice of Life

It’s cliché, but true. I enjoy working on various projects – everything from web content, ebooks, resumes, professional bios, magazine articles, print marketing material, etc. The variety keeps things interesting and it’s much easier to come up with fresh ideas.

Don’t Spend Time on Clients/Projects You Don’t Enjoy

Yes, I’m advocating turning down work. Every job won’t be right for you; some clients aren’t on the up and up; as you become more experienced, you’ll find that some clients will no longer be able to afford your services. When I first started freelancing I took any and every job offer that came my way. That wasn’t always a smart move and there have been quite a few instances when the shrewdest business move would have been to politely and confidently decline the offer. When you work for yourself, you have the freedom and the right to work on what you want and work with who you want. Don’t feel guilty about it – I’d say it’s a fair trade for the work you put into becoming profitable.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who's Afraid of the Client?

Last week I was contacted by a freelance writer who is just getting started. She’s been providing commercial writing services on a part-time basis for about six months now. Her problem: she’s extremely intimidated by the clients she works with. I can definitely relate.

About four years ago, when I first started freelancing, the idea that someone was willing to pay me and trust me to write for their business, let alone pay me well to do so, was unreal, terrifying, unbelievable and utterly exciting. Hammering out mutually agreeable terms and explaining my services in a way that made me sound like a professional, confident writer who knew what she was talking about was a challenge.

Fear of interacting directly with clients is what makes some writers choose writing for content mills over finding clients on their own. They want to avoid stress and uncertainty at all costs.

As I told the writer who emailed me, take a deep breath and fake it. Some people are able to project confidence right out of the gate; but the rest of us had to fake it for a while before it seeped in that we are in fact capable and qualified to do this thing and do it well. Hear are some of the most stressful freelancer client scenarios, and tips on how to deal:

Fear of Talking with the Client


In the beginning, just the idea of interacting with clients can intimidate some writers. The good news is that today’s technology makes it easier than ever to avoid direct communication via in person meetings and phone calls. Email, IM, Skype and texting allow you to get the information you need easily. Some writers never interact with clients directly. It’s certainly possible. In some cases, however, you will need to have some direct contact with a client at some point.

Solution: Write out your presentation – even if you’ll only be discussing it over the phone – so that you’ll be prepared. Preparation will increase your confidence. Also, attend networking events when you can. It’s a great opportunity to flex your in-person communication skills so that you become more comfortable expressing your thoughts and ideas verbally.



Fear of Pitching Your Ideas

Freelancing for newspapers and magazines helped me overcome this fear. I mainly do commercial writing so most of my assignments are to carry out the specific instructions of my clients. However, from time to time I am asked for my professional input and I feel that familiar stage fright slide into place. It’s a simple case of fearing rejection (nothing simple about that though…).

Solution: If you’re asked to pitch ideas for a client, preparation is key.
Learn as much as you can about the company, the client’s objectives, the market, competition, etc. This type of strategic preparation will help ease anxiety.



Fear of Negotiating Terms of Service

This was always a big one for me. I have clearly detailed terms of service. Every so often I’d come across a client that wanted to negotiate whether or not to pay a down payment, when to make the final payment, etc. I’m open to negotiation. Unfortunately, I allowed fear of losing a client to cause me to accept terms I wasn’t too crazy about on more than one occasion. Naturally it came back to bite me on the arse. I much prefer that all negotiations be mutually acceptable.

Solution: Don’t automatically become defensive when a client brooches the idea of negotiating certain terms. Try putting yourself in your client’s shoes to see if there is any merit to the request. For instance, is it an issue of trying to avoid internal politics? Are weekly in person meetings preferred over phone conferences because of upper management directions? Don’t be afraid to say no to negotiations. It’s business, so if you don’t benefit from the terms in the end, the project will end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Trust me.

Fear of Making Changes to the Project Schedule

Being able to meet deadlines is crucial to your success as a freelance writer. I’ve had more than one conversation with a client who declared they would rather work with an average writer that religiously meets deadlines and follows through on promises than the most talented commercial writer that consistently misses deadlines here and there. Time is money after all.

That said, sometimes life happens and anyone can suffer an unexpected setback. Most clients operate in the real world so they understand about rescheduling deadlines as long as you approach the situation professionally.

Solution: Let the client know about the situation right away. Don’t waste time hoping that everything will work out in the end. Be careful not to over apologize – confidently explain what happened and offer a solution. The goal is to maintain your client’s trust and confidence in you that the project will be completed.

Fear of Requesting More Research Information

Delivering a project that’s complete, meets the needs of your client’s target market depends on you getting the information you need. In some cases your client will need to provide information (e.g. past marketing materials, whitepapers, reports, statistical information, company bio, graphics, etc.). Most of the time you’ll get this information with no problems; but in some cases clients may not feel as urgent about getting you the information you need. The situation can become even more complicated if the client hires other contractors to work on the same project and you need

Solution: Compile a detailed list of all the information you need along with an explanation of how important getting the information you need is to the success of the project.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Good Bye Summertime...

I haven’t spent much time online this summer for several reasons. I’ve been dealing with my father’s illness (he’s in another state), the month of August getting the kids back into school (if I have to fill out more stacks of school forms for all four kids this week I’ll scream!), and participating in the month of Ramadan praying, fasting and celebrating with family and friends. Honestly, it’s all I can do to keep up with client projects right now.

Hopefully, this month I’ll be getting back into the swing of things providing consistent blog postings, and setting aside some time each day for conversing with and becoming reacquainted with fellow writers on social sites like Twitter as well as some of my favorite, long neglected writer forums and blogs.

Yes, summer is officially over for me which means it’s time to ramp up the marketing to fill my work schedule with plenty of projects to carry me through the to the new year. Yes you heard right - I'm already thinking about my November/December work schedule. Now is the perfect time to think ahead to the holidays – after all there are only three more months left in 2010! Thankfully, work generally picks up for freelance writers after a summer lull during September, so now's the time to start planning your marketing strategy to keep busy through the end of the year now.

As usual, Yuwanda Black has generously provided helpful marketing resources; and since I’m not one to reinvent the wheel, I’m happy to share her Fall Marketing Tutorial. It covers a variety of solutions ranging from price negotiation to avoiding writer burn out (something I’m sooo intimately familiar with…) so be sure to check it out.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Know When to Stick to Your Guns

Recently I made a big mistake with a new client. It’s one I used to make a lot when I first started freelancing and I’m sharing my experience hoping that you’ll be able to avoid making the same mistake with your own clients. I compromised one of my business policies even thought I knew in my gut I was making a mistake and of course I paid for it in the end.

It all started when a local company contacted me about doing some freelance writing for them. We spoke over the phone a couple of times, I sent them a proposal and a couple of weeks later they asked me to draw up a contract for the project. Things were going great until we started talking payment terms (big surprise).

My terms require full payment upfront for projects under a certain dollar amount, and a 50% down payment for projects over that rate plus scheduled payments thereafter depending on the duration of the project. Naturally that was going to be a problem for this client because they only invoice monthly. I’ve dealt with mid-size businesses that invoice monthly before and that wasn’t a problem per se. I told him that he could pay the down payment and I’d be happy to invoice the remaining balance at the end of the month. Another problem: since the company invoices monthly, they are unable to make an advance payment (Yes, it just kept getting better).

I honestly didn’t feel comfortable with the arrangement, but stupidly agreed to it anyway. The next day the situation still didn’t sit right with me so I discussed it with my accountability partner. She gave it to me straight with her most charming, lilting, Irish accent saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that. You’ve worked in a corporate environment before. You know as well as I do that if a company needs to cut a check for something important they can do so the same day. You should not compromise your own policies so easily assuming that they wouldn’t want to do business with you." (The Irish are so wise)

I ended up getting paid, but it took much longer than the 30 days outlined in the signed agreement. In the past I’ve offered discounts and made special payment arrangements with returning customers; but it sets a bad precedence to dismiss your own policies too often, too easily or too soon. Policies are put in place for a reason – usually to protect you and your business, and anyone who’s hiring your services will respect that if you insist. Clients will test your resolve, but you don’t have to automatically give in, especially when it’s not in your best interest. That’s just business.

Jennifer Mattern approached a similar issue and discussed it on her blog recently. I agree with her stance on this topic and encourage you to check it out for yourself.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Finding a Freelance Writing Mentor

I’ve been making a living as a freelance writer for four years now. It’s taken a lot of tenacity

If you’re just getting started as a freelance writer and your goal is to earn enough to cover your living expenses, consider finding an experienced writer to serve as your mentor. Finding someone who is already successfully doing what you aspire to do provides guidance, inspires you and pushes you to persevere - even during the inevitable tough times.

Here’s the thing though – most writers making a living doing what they do work hard at it. Time is a valuable commodity when working for yourself, and they don’t have time to waste. They are often approached by people asking advice about how to get started freelancing. The problem is the majority of inquiries are from people unwilling to consider all of the work freelance writing involves. Unfortunately many inquiring minds aren’t willing to expend enough energy to conduct to research to get an idea of how to get started. It can make these writers much less receptive to helping someone just getting started which is unfortunate because a mentor can cut the learning curve significantly.

You’re sure to come across helpful, experienced writers via freelance writer blogs, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and writer forums. These are great places to get to not only get valuable information that can help you kick off your business; it’s also an opportunity to get to know these writers on a more personal level while exchanging ideas and engaging in conversation. Another bonus: they get to see that you are serious about the business of freelancing so if you approach them for help they are more likely to oblige.

When you find someone willing to serve as your freelancing mentor, don’t blow the opportunity. Take advantage of their willingness to show you the ropes and show your appreciation of the time they are investing by doing the following:

  • Participate in the process - put forth some effort
  • Be willing to take action
  • Provide updates on your progress
  • Be committed

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Relaxation, Books and Link Love

This summer my presence online interacting on my favorite writer’s blogs, Twitter, Facebook and forums has been pretty scarce. Not only have I managed to stay busy throughout the summer months (more so than last year), I’ve also spent a good deal of time worrying about a sick parent, keeping four kids busy during the imposed summer break, and most recently I’ve rediscovered my passion for books.

I spent the entire month of July reading books almost obsessively. There are so many I’ve missed over the past year that I find myself quite gluttonous with glee each time I discover a new title or author that captures my attention. It’s a diversion, a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle that is my reality. Hope you’re taking time out to relax and enjoy this summer as well. I’ll leave you with a few interesting blog entries from last week:

Why Writing is Sometimes Like Spaghetti Squash

Coping and Prioritizing Your Freelance Life
Why Having a Freelance Writing Business is Better Than Working
Twitter: Writers Use Twitter for Business Connections and Job Leads
Demand Media Strikes Back at PBS and Writers Everywhere-Yawn

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning Something New

A couple of weeks ago a prospective client contacted me to find out if I had experience doing a certain type of writing I’d never tried before. Most writers have had this experience (or will) at one time or another. Your confidence in your writing ability will usually determine whether or not you decide to take on such an assignment. Is it dishonest to allude to the fact that you can handle a project you’ve never done before?

If it weren’t for pushing myself beyond the limiting force field of my comfort zone I would never have had the pleasure of taking on many of the writing projects I’ve received. I can remember the first time I was asked to create web content for someone’s website, blog posts, magazine/newspaper articles, sales letters, brochures, whitepapers, email marketing campaigns, resumes, etc. In some cases it never even occurred to me that I couldn’t write what my client needed. The confidence in my ability to give them what they wanted was automatic. But there have also been times where I’ve felt something along the lines of stage fright when asked to take on something that was completely new to me.

For me honestly is the best policy. If a client asks me about a project outside of the realm of work I’ve normally produced, I carefully assess the situation before agreeing to move forward. I’m trying to learn all that I can as a writer and the best way for me to learn something is to jump in and just do it. If a client asks whether or not I can handle it, I tell them “yes” with confidence and do the necessary research required to deliver what they expect.

Now, If they ask me whether or not I have actual experience doing a specific type of writing, I keep it honest. Depending on other factors (i.e. how much work is piled up on my desk or my own confidence in my abilities) I admit my inexperience in that area, but explain how I plan to approach the project in question to deliver the desired result. This usually provides both the client and myself with enough confidence to allow me to confidently explore a new writing opportunity.

I’ve learned that being open to accepting different writing projects has given me a much better sense of what I like and what I don’t like as far as writing projects go. I can put more effort into finding the kinds of projects I enjoy. This type of exploration has also revealed my writing strengths and weaknesses, giving me an opportunity to make improvements where necessary.

Have you ever agreed to take on writing projects you’ve never done before? How did it work out for you and your client?


Monday, July 19, 2010

Are Email Messages Enough???

Last week another writer and I were discussing the legalities of client agreements. We are located in different states – she’s on the west coast and I’m in the south east – so I know that in some cases state laws take precedence. She asked how I handle client agreements and I explained that I usually email the agreement and have the client sign it and fax or email it back. My writer friend explained that after 12 years of working as a freelance copywriter, she had loosened the reigns a bit relying mainly on email correspondence instead of submitting a formal document each time (like I do).

I know quite a few writers who rely on email messages only to cement project agreements with clients because there is an obvious communication trail they can refer to if things ever get too hairy. But is it really enough from a legal standpoint? My writer friend and I spent a good 30 minutes chewing this over. I kind of like the way she handles her email correspondence: she pastes the full agreement into an email and asks the client to simply respond that they agree with the terms. But near the end of our conversation we were both wondering, would it be enough?

My friend contacted a lawyer who stated that it should be okay. The lawyer informed her that although using her email method for securing client agreements “should” be “fine,” there is the possibility that if things ever went to court my writer friend “might” have difficulty proving that the client understood what they were signing. Was this typical lawyer-speak meant to scare her into setting up an appointment for a more in-depth (e.g. PAID) consultation? I don’t know. Maybe. But my writer friend felt a lot more confident about handling her agreements by email after their conversation - especially since she has never had a situation in 12 years where suing a client for non-payment was an issue.

What do you think? Do you submit formal contracts that require a client’s signature, or do you simply rely on email correspondence?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Taking Back the Weekend

I am coming off a much needed four day break from working. It just so happened to coincide with the Fourth of July Holiday even though I didn’t plan it that way. I just really needed some time to rest and recover.

Lately I’ve been allowing client work to invade my weekends (something I try never to do unless I’m working on my own personal projects). This is a dangerous precedent I can’t afford to establish if I value my free time and my health. I’ve visited blogs where other writers regularly discuss how they work seven full days a week. I can see how easy it might be to slip into that pattern if you’re not careful.

Stop being available on the weekends. I got sucked back into working weekends when I took on a very large ebook project and unthinkingly responded to a weekend email message which turned into a series of back and forth messages. From that moment on, my client assumed nothing in my life was more important than her ebook. To some degree I want my clients to feel that way, but within reason. It’s my job to establish professional boundaries. Even though flexibility allows me to work when I please, I’ve learn from past experience that making myself too available to some clients has backfired giving them the impression that all I do 24/7 is write web content, ebooks, sales letters, etc.

Pursue higher paying clients. This is a no brainer – it allows me to earn the income I need without feeling as if I need to work 10 hours a day seven days a week. This means putting forth time to search out clients who value your writing services and are therefore prepared to pay your rate.

Establish passive income sources. I’ve discussed my desire to establish a few passive income sources in addition to my freelance writing. It’s a part of the multiple streams of income I’m working to develop. Knowing that I still have the ability to earn money, even when I take time off. I’ve actually started a couple of side projects I’ll continue working on to build and monitor the residual income.

Hopefully these objectives will keep me from slipping into constant work mode so that I can go back to enjoying my much needed time off with my family.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Proposal Writing Basics

Recently I’ve been talking with a potential client from a local mid-size business about providing some writing services. I’m learning that the process can be a long one. There are so many layers of approval required in order to get a contract signed and get started.

Early on this prospect requested that I send a proposal for the intended project. I’d drafted proposals before, but I wanted to make sure that I covered everything they would be looking for. A proposal for a corporation has to contain enough information to meet the requirements of each decision maker. After a little over two weeks of deliberation, the client contacted me to inform me that they wanted me to handle the on going project. Here is the very simple step-by-step process I followed:

Ask lots of questions
. This is so important because you want to show in your proposal that you understand what the client needs. If there is anything you are unsure about, it’s best to ask as many questions as possible before drafting and submitting the proposal.


Summarize the project. This is important because it is basically revealing exactly what you are charging for. Take all of the information you have received from the prospect and write a summary detailing the project expectations. When you create the summary, it will help you clarify whether or not you have a clear understanding of what’s expected. Your client can review the summary and contact you if there is any information missing.

I’ve found that not having all of the necessary information for a project is what typically leads to frustration on both sides.

Provide a break down of how you plan to handle the project. Make a list of everything the client has requested as well as your standard work procedure. Be as thorough as possible. This information shows the prospect that you know what you’re doing and that you’re thorough.

Depending on the size or length of the project, you may need to divide the project into several phases, or milestones. You can request payment for each phase completed.

Establish a timeline. If you need to divide the project into phases, assign delivery and payment dates accordingly. If the client is looking to speed the process along, be as realistically as possible about what is expected. You should also be completely clear about what will be expected from the client in order to honor their rush request.

Estimating the time needed to complete a project can be difficult when you are first starting out a s a freelancer. Eventually estimating the time needed to complete projects becomes much easier, especially if you become a specialist.

Establish the rate. Keep in mind that all of the details provided in your proposal support the rate you charge. I calculate the time that will be spent working on the project with my hourly rate to provide a flat rate. Depending on the conversations you’ve had with the prospect about pricing, you can offer alternative rates. For instance, if the client is dealing with a limited budget, you can offer a more basic service (e.g. editing and proofreading website content instead of writing all new content) as a lower rate option. This can be a good strategy because it shows flexibility and a willingness to negotiate without actually having to lower your rates.

End with a call to action. Wrap up the project by letting the client know what will happen next if they decide to go forward. Let them know what they will need to do to get started including any upfront payments and how the payment and contract agreements should be sent.

Proofread and edit before you send. Your proposal should be proofread thoroughly so that it has no misspelled words or grammatical errors. Think of it as a representation of the service you plan to provide.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More TGIF Link Love

I love reading blogs and can easily spend hours pouring over my favorites. Lately I’ve been so busy with work that I’ve had to restrict the amount of time I spend online – for me the pull to visit these sites throughout my work day is just too irresistible.

Last night I wrapped up a month long project and spent the early am hours greedily trying to catch up on all of the blog posts I’d been missing. As usual there’s a lot of great stuff to share:


Why Is It So Hard to Walk Away from Content Mills?
How to Stop Freelancing on the Weekends
There’s More to Freelancing Than Working for Home
Are You Being Unfair Charging One Client More Than Another?
5 Tips for Creating Passive Income for Writers

Monday, June 21, 2010

How's Your Freelance Writing Business Going?

Recently someone in an email writer’s group I belong to posted a survey inquiring about how business was going for everyone these days. A couple of writers responded that they were busier than ever, while the majority of respondents reported that business was at an all time low.

These survey results could have easily scared an aspiring freelancer away from the prospect of going it alone; however, the survey asked some very specific questions to get to the heart of the matter of why some writer businesses are thriving while others are barely breathing. I have to say that those who responded where very honest.

Here are some of the questions that were asked:

1.
How is your writing business going this year?
2. If you have set goals, how are you doing on them at this point in your business?
3. How do you feel about the future?

4. Will you stick with working freelance for the long haul? Will you stick with writing for the long haul?
5. What kind of supportive people or groups do you have around you?
6.What do you think you need to do next? (charge more, market more, sell more, network more, soul-search more)


Big surprise: most of the people who responded saying their business was essentially in the toilet admitted that they were (1) Not setting goals, (2) Not willing to stick with freelancing as a long-term choice (or preferred to use it as a side income “taking work as it comes”) and (3) were taking NO active steps to generate more business (marketing, networking, etc.).

Clearly the responses to this survey revealed that the problem is not a lack of available work, it’s more a lack of planning and putting action into finding those opportunities that are out there. Your ability to stick it out through the highs and lows, create a plan, follow it closely and put forth effort to network and promote your business is necessary. Otherwise how will clients know who you are and what you do?

I’m having the busiest summer I’ve had since I began freelancing full-time during the summer of 2007. Much of this is because I’ve been networking and marketing my services. I can always be doing better on the marketing end of things because I tend to slack off when things get too hectic. Although there is no magic freelance writing blueprint (everyone’s journey is different), but the previous bulleted list is a good place to start evaluating the way you run your business.

So I’m curious – how is your freelance writing business going so far this year?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Freelance Writing, Security & Freedom

My husband and I have been seriously tossing around the idea of relocating our family from Georgia to Alabama this week. My father has not been well so I will be traveling to and fro all summer. A big relocating pro is the fact that I can easily do so without missing a beat since most of my business is conducted remotely. The cost of living is significantly cheaper, so living off my income for a while wouldn’t be a problem. It’s still just an idea being tossed around, but the idea is certainly growing on us all.

Funny, I noticed that the moment I stopped equating security with working full-time for someone else is when I found true security. When one of my children or a relative is sick and needs my help, I can be there for however long I need to and still take care of my family. Sometimes it requires a lot of schedule shifting, but it’s MY time.

I remember nine years ago when my 15 month old daughter had to be rushed to the hospital. As with most unexpected illnesses, there was no real way of telling when everything would get back to normal. I was so offended at the many hoops of office protocol I had to jump through just to be there for her. I couldn’t fully concentrate on being there for her because I had to remain mindful of checking in with my office manager every day in order to make sure I still had a job to return to when everything was over. I can’t imagine jumping through any those hoops now as I prepare to do what I can to help my parents and be there for my own immediate family. Thankfully it’s not necessary.

Someone sent me an email message today with an appropriate quote by Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad: “If you choose security, you’ll never have freedom, but if you choose freedom, you’ll always have security.”


Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Small Change Brings Unexpected Results

On Monday I talked about my plans to port the content from this blog over to a self-hosted Wordpress site. I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know Wordpress better because most (if not all) of my blogging clients use it. Although I hadn’t really expected it, I’ve found that it’s really growing on me.

This past weekend I decided to test out my very limited skills and redo my website (probably not the best idea since to use your website to experiment, but I’m known for making very spur of the moment decisions).

About a year ago, I hired a graphic designer to build a website for me using Wordpress. It was a very basic static site with a blog attached. I never got anyone commenting on the blog (to be fair, I didn’t really do much to promote it either). I was growing tired of the site's appearance, but after paying for summer school for four I couldn’t really afford to pay someone to do it over again right now, so I took a deep breath and just changed the whole thing myself.

Then a funny thing happened. I started getting comments on the blog posts even though I only had two (now three) posts up. Then yesterday, seemingly out of no where, a local mid-size company called me up saying they had found my blog doing a Google search and then set up an over-phone-meeting for today to discuss a possible three month trial project to start.

Considering my very rudimentary experience, I was surprised. I’ve been working on a couple of large ebook projects lately so I haven’t been marketing as much as I should (I know, bad girl!). Was it the change in my new site’s appearance or content? I don’t know. But it hammers home the importance of monitoring your marketing efforts so that you know what works and what doesn’t so that you can spend more time on methods that work.

Have you ever changed something about your business, or the way you promoted it, that resulted in an unexpected positive result?

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Change is Coming: Plans to Switch Over to Wordpress Soon

I’ve been avoiding this decision for a very long time because just thinking about it makes me want to run and hide under the covers (and catch a quick nap), but I’ve finally decided to port the contents of this blog into a self-hosted Wordpress blogging platform. I imagine that it’s going to be a very tedious, and messy process.

The first time I dealt with this delima was when I first decided to blog a couple of years ago. I kept going back and forth between Blogger and Wordpress, and I’m not ashamed to say that the technophobe in me was intimidated by Wordpress, so I chose Blogger instead. I didn’t need yet another excuse to put off blogging, and I found the Blogger platform very easy to learn. I’d heard many expert bloggers refer to Wordpress as "the more professional option", but that’s not the reason for my decision.

I spent 10 weeks blogging over at ProfitableMommyBlogging.com. Those 10 weeks really forced me to get to know Wordpress better and I became much more comfortable using it, and you know what? I really do like it. The platform really is user friendly, and honestly, there's a plugin for just about everything. I won't bore you by discussing the SEO benefits.

TheBlogCoach.org and a couple of other interesting posts have been discussing the problem of Google deleting legitimate blogs as a result of an enthusiastic search to find and eliminate spam blogs. I’m honestly not too fearful that my blog will suddenly be deleted by the Google spam seeking bots. I don't want anyone else using Blogger to be uncessarily fearful of that either. That's not the point of this post. As usual I'm just passing along information that may be of interest.

I’ll continue blogging here, taking my time and aim to have this process completed by Fall. In the meanwhile, here are a couple of other posts on the topic you may find interesting:

The Blogger Status
WARNING: Reports of Legitimate Blogger/Blogspot Accounts Being Deleted Without Cause



Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Message for Those in Search of a Blueprint to Freelance Writing Success

There is no such thing. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s important that you realize that right away. Carson Brackney’s post goes into much more (and much better) detail than I’ll attempt to here because I’m not one to reinvent the wheel. If someone out there is doing it or saying it already, I’ll always point you in that direction. The intention of this blog, after all is to provide information that’s helpful as you build your writing business. I’m like you, working hard, building a business and sharing my personal experiences as I go.

One reason Carson’s post resonated so deeply is because I spent my first year as a freelance writer searching for that elusive blueprint – I hoped to find step-by-step instruction about how to put this thing together and make it work. I felt as if I kind of fell into it after getting my first couple of clients so quickly, and I worried my dumb luck could run out at any time.

Have you ever bought anything like oh, say a bunk bed from Ikea, and attempted to put it together with their sorry excuse for instructions? Well, that’s kind of how building a writing business was for me in the beginning. I had all the right parts and tools, but as far as instructions go I eventually came to realizeI'd have to put forth the effort to figure out how everything fit and operated.

I bought a lot of information products that were sold with big promises of unlocking the secrets of successful freelancing. Let me tell you, the Internet is completely saturated with “How to Earn a Living Freelance Writing” books and courses. Most of the information I got was very general information that’s constantly regurgitated on the Internet (although there were a couple of ebooks that I did actually find helpful when I was first starting out). I don't recommend that you go that route.

It's okay to keep right on listening to advice from the best writers out there – I recommend that you continue doing so because they do drop valuable nuggets of information. Apply the good stuff. Just keep in mind that they are not providing you with a blueprint that guarantees success.

Carson’s absolutely right when he says that at some point you have to shut out the virtual noise and figure out: 1) who YOU are as a writer; and I’ll add: 2) Know your customer. Know exactly who needs what you do and learn everything about that customer and the industry from the inside out. Find out what some of the issues are that they encounter and figure out how you can provide solutions. Make sure your message is intensely focused and speaks one-on-one with that customer – don’t try to be all things to everyone. (this is what I think Carson means when he talks about successful writers who “know the terrain”).

By all means, DON'T GIVE UP. Stick with it and when something fails to turn up the results you want, move on to another strategy. Build the business that works for YOU. You’ll find that doing things your way is much more satisfying.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Knowing When to Walk Away

In my four years of relying on freelancing to earn a living, I’ve learned a lesson that ranks right up there with the importance of consistent marketing – you have to know when to walk away.

One of the biggest surprises of my freelancing career was learning that every client that comes your way is not necessarily a good fit. I so wanted to believe otherwise, and as a result I’ve been burned. Badly. I’ve posted entries detailing warning signs that you’re entering into a bad client situation, and I hope the information helps. But in my personal experience, time has been the best teacher. By now I’ve gotten myself caught up in enough nerve wracking situations that now when I get a certain feeling, I know it’s better to cut my losses and just walk away. The money is rarely ever worth the trouble.

I had an experience just this past weekend. I’d been communicating with a prospective client for a couple of weeks. The client contacted me last week to say that she was interested in having me write a 50+ page report for her company, but they were still deliberating between me and another writer. No biggie. I thanked them for their consideration and offered to provide additional information if necessary.

On Saturday morning I woke to find an email from the prospect. She had decided to go with me, even though the other writer had more experience and provided them with more examples of his work (I sent over one ebook sample I’d written and distributed to several of my clients a year ago). I responded by thanking her for offering me the project, and explained that I would be contacting her on Tuesday to discuss the details.

Thirty minutes later I received another message. This one explained how frustrated the company was because the other writer refused to answer one of the questions they posed, and although he provided more samples than I did (again this was mentioned), including one written on the topic they needed, this worried them a great deal.

An hour later I received two more messages; the first message continued on about the other writer avoiding their questions, and last one stated that if I lived up to their expectations I could expect more work in the pipeline. Just so you know I had already laced up my running shoes by the time I’d received that second email.

Clearly this client was still unsure about the choice she was making, and her constant need for reassurance indicated that I would be completely and utterly at her beck and call at all hours if I took this job. I don’t work well that way, I’m more of a “works well with minimal supervision” kind of girl. The money was good, but I can only imagine what I would have endured if I’d accepted.

I sent a brief message sincerely thanking her for the offer and declined the project. I explained that I’m unable to send her copies of ebooks and reports I’ve ghostwritten for other clients because of disclosure agreements – that’s why I only sent copies of documents I’d published on my own for distribution, after all she only needed a sample of my writing style.

There are several reasons you may find yourself having to walk away – money issues, a disrespectful client, a client who really doesn’t know what he wants, a controlling client. We all come face to face with these situations eventually. Trust me, walking away with your sanity intact is the best decision.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Vacation: T Minus Three Days and Counting...

I am riding out the final stretch before summer vacation kicks in. I’ve got plenty to do to prepare for the big change in my working schedule for the next two weeks until summer camp (day camp) rolls around to save the day. The Boy Scouts (and quite possibly the Girl Scouts) are known for their saying “always be prepared.” Well, last year I was anything but and my writing income dropped considerably as a result. Writing, marketing and keeping four kids under the age of nine entertained was a struggle. Big lesson learned.

This summer presents its own unique challenges which include traveling hither and thither periodically, but I’m feeling more confident this year since I'm armed with a plan. How are you planning to balance business and kids this summer?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Avoiding Deadbeat Clients

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve only had one client to not pay after hiring me for a project. I was just starting out (this was my second online client), and I found the gig on a very well respected job board (I don’t blame the job board – there’s only so much screening they can do so they expect us writers to use our own common sense too). The pay was pretty good and I found the topics interesting enough.

I did everything right, I Googled the company and the websites they were seeking content for. Still, something was smelling a bit fishy for some reason so I only opted to write two short articles for their weddings ezine rather than be greedy (like I wanted to) and take on more. I submitted my articles to the client by the established deadline and followed her invoicing directions. A week later I’d heard nothing. A few more days passed. Still nothing. Finally, I just chalked it up to the game and moved on to better, more respectable clients.

About a month later the job board that listed the dud gig posted an apology to its readers saying several writers had gotten burned by the same non-paying client. Unfortunately some writers were out hundreds of dollars and desperate for answers. We never did recoup our money, and that was my first lesson revealing the dark side of freelancing.

Since then I’ve been doing a much better job of prequalifying clients before working with them. The majority of my clients are very professional and have also been good enough not to create circumstances that cause me to have to chase down my money. Since not all clients are created equal, here are a few tips to heed for BEFORE getting mixed up with a deadbeat client:

Always get an agreement – or use your own. I just won’t do business without a written agreement. That means different things to different people. Some are okay with email correspondence; while others prefer a formal document that clearly spells out the terms of service (you could do this through email too).

Investigate first. Check them out. Google the company or individual (use quotation marks) to find out more information and to see what’s being said about them. Do they have a prominent web presence? Visit their website/blog (although be warned - anyone can throw up and website or blog and declare themselves in business).

Make sure you understand what’s required to complete the project. I once experienced a big time headache with a client all because I thought I understood what they wanted, but didn’t. We were just not on the same page, and in the end the time I spent on the project was not worth the rate charged.

I’ve since learned my lesson and now send a questionnaire to clients that have trouble communicating their ideas (or I collect the information by phone if they’re really pressed for time).

Make sure you’re fairly compensated. If you’re dealing with a client offering impossible rates or turn around expectations, speak up and be sure to explain why you need more time or money, to produce a high-quality final product (e.g. need more time to research the market and target audience). You may just end up with much better terms.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Mentionables

This has been a rough week for me (my own doing, I know). I’m looking forward to completing my client’s project and getting back to my normal work flow next week. Heck, I’m even thinking of taking a day off (I sure need it!).


In the meantime, I enjoyed sneaking away from my work pile to read some really great posts last week. I’ll share them with you now. Enjoy – and have a fabulous weekend!


Blogging for Business, Part 1: Finding Clients and Setting Rates

Valuing My Freelance Worth

10 Things I’ve Learned While Freelancing

Writerly Tip: Know the Signs

Writing and My Way

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Time Projects Correctly

Last week after much negotiation, I landed a new client needing help with an extensive ebook project that really interests me. I’ve been doing the preliminary research in preparation for all of the writing required, which is a lot. The problem is I didn’t give myself a large enough window of time to comfortably complete it.

Figuring out how long it will take to complete a project was a big problem when I first started freelancing. I pulled quite a few all nighters as a result. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to, but on the rare occasion that I do take on a project and misjudge the amount of time it will take me to complete it without yanking every last strand of hair from my scalp, I find myself feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I know that I CAN complete this client’s project within the amount of time I’ve allotted, but I so hate that rushed feeling.

As you may have heard me mention before, I have an accountability partner, another writer who lives/works in Santa Barbara, California I speak with each morning to discuss our daily objectives. She once mentioned to me that she is not a fast turnaround writer. She tells all clients that their projects will typically be completed within 2-3 weeks (sometimes longer depending on the project) which gives her enough cushion to work at her own pace. Anything requiring immediate attention gets charged an appropriate rush fee (she considers anything due within one week a rush job).

Whenever clients contact her with crazy turn around expectations, she quickly lets them know she doesn’t work that way and thinks nothing of turning down the work because it’s not worth the stress. And yet she always has projects in the pipeline because she continuously networks and markets her business.

I’ve noticed that many web writing clients expect a quick turn around. Maybe it’s directly related to the nature of the web – instant gratification? I’m not sure.

In the meantime, I’ve carefully mapped out the time I’ll spend researching, writing, proofreading and editing this project so that I meet the established deadline. Personal projects will have to be placed on the backburner (which really makes me want to kick myself), because I have other client projects that will also require my attention during this time. Has anyone out there figured out a full-proof method of determining out how long a project will take to complete?

Friday, May 7, 2010

I'm Still Here!

This past week had to be of my most challenging since I started freelancing. My plate has been overflowing with writing projects (that’s the good part) thanks to putting my nose to the grindstone and marketing my you-know-what off. I’m also trying to stay on top of my personal writing projects, make arrangements for my four kids to stay busy and productive this summer (school will be out in just 3 weeks! UGH!). Add to that an unexpected illness and suddenly having to shuffle my work schedule completely around to attend the funeral of a very dear loved one, help host traveling family members and meet client deadlines - I wound up completely exhausted, frazzled and wishing I could get three days of bereavement time off to pull it all back together.

But the show must go on. In hindsight I’m sure I could have delayed a couple of deadlines without much trouble. Thankfully it all worked out and everything’s returned to “normal.”

This summer I’ll be traveling periodically, so I’m in the market for a new laptop that will allow me to keep working without missing a beat. I’ll be looking to expert traveling writers like Yuwanda Black and Jennifer Williamson for much needed survival tips. When I tell friends and family that I’ll be spending some of my travel time working, they think I’m crazy. I have to gently remind them that this is how I pay the bills. Besides, I actually LOVE what I do so if it’s wrong I don’t wanna be right! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Freelance Writing List of Job Boards

I’ve been so busy for the past two months that I’ve pretty much neglected this blog. My plans were to finish up a couple long-term, time consuming client and personal projects so I could get back to my regular posting routine by May. Fortunately I received an email from a reader that prompted me to post today. This reader is just getting started and asked if I would share a list of job boards to get her started. I thought it might be a good idea to post it for others as well.


I know some writers don’t think much of job boards today because all too frequently there seems to be an increasing number of ridiculous offers being posted; but I don’t count them out completely. From time to time I keep the faith and visit them from time to time because amid all of the junk you’ll still find a gem or two. Here is a list of the job boards I visit. If you know of any others not mentioned in this list, please feel free to share.

  1. Freelance Writing Gigs – Updated daily and there lots of great freelance writing articles and resources too.
  2. Problogger – An up to date list of blogging jobs
  3. Freelance Switch – if you go to the jobs feeds page you can choose the writing category and subscribe via email so that it comes straight to your in box
  4. Media Bistro – There are some freelance jobs listed on this website and you can also create an account in the freelance marketplace section.
  5. Poe War – Follow this blog and the homepage too as this seems to have some posts relating to freelance writing jobs too.
  6. Sunoasis Jobs – you can also subscribe to get live updates via Twitter.
  7. Telecommuting Jobs – This is the link for the writing jobs category.
  8. Writer Find
  9. Online Writing Jobs
  10. About Freelance Writing – Daily blog listing of jobs.
  11. Morning Coffee – Have this delivered to your in box as a reminder to check for jobs each day.
  12. All Freelance Writing
  13. Craigslist – choose your country, choose your area and then choose writing and editing on the jobs tab.




Monday, April 12, 2010

Is There a Negative Stigma Attached to being a WAHM?

Yesterday I wrote a blog post for ProfitableMommyBlogging.com asking whether or not labeling yourself as a WAHM (work at home mom) is a bad thing. It was my response to a guest video blog post by Scott Stratten (@unmarketing on Twitter) that appeared on JessicaKnows.com last year.

I must say, Scott is a very brave man to take on a topic as touchy as WAHMs and business identity. Scott (a WAHD) explained in his post that there’s nothing wrong with being a WAHM, but it’s not a good idea to promote yourself as one to every market. If you’re mostly marketing to other WAHMs that’s one thing. That can actually be a strategy that seals your connection to other WAHMs. But you might run into problems marketing yourself that way to other markets. Some businesses seem to have preconceived notions of WAHMs, the biggest being that their project comes second to a WAHMs children and home responsibilities. I imagine that’s the case for any working professional with a family, but I digress…

I’ve always been aware of the negative labels some clients attach to WAHMs. My first negative experience came about three years ago while lurking around the writer’s forum at WAHM.com. Someone over at Warrior Forum released a report for Internet Marketers detailing how to get quality articles written for as low as $2 each from moms "looking to make a little money" over at WAHM.com. As you can imagine that report sold like hot cakes, and then big surprise - the forum was all of a sudden flooded with brand new clients seeking writers for $2 and $3 article jobs.

Long story short, the forum blazed with biting comments and hurled insults to those poor, innocent souls who’d come looking for the guaranteed, cheap WAHM labor mentioned in that report. Writers themselves even got caught up in the melee.

The writers who had blasted the Internet marketers were even more incensed with the writers who responded to the offers. Then of course the writers accepting the $2 and $3 article jobs became defensive saying it was their right to accept the work if they needed it. It went on like that for a couple of weeks until I think the Internet marketers decided that the cheap labor wasn’t worth all the trouble they’d have to endure on that forum to get it.

Situations like that are what made me shy away from the WAHM association when I first started freelancing. I did so because I needed to be taken seriously because I was seriously trying to make a living as a writer. My website includes no personal information, only information about my professional writing services and my professional credentials (I don’t discuss being married or the fact that my twins each lost a front tooth during the exact same week on my “About Us” page).

Just because I happen to have kids and work from a desk in my living room doesn’t mean that I won’t consider a client’s project top priority and deliver as expected. I happen to think my being a mom is irrelevant to my business identity. I know lots of other WAHMs with similar professional ethics. At the same time I am a WAHM and make no apology about it.

Scott's video clarified that it’s not at all about shunning the WAHM label; it’s understanding when it is, and isn’t, appropriate to market yourself that way. After all the whole point of marketing is to appeal to your target market. What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Catching Up is Hard to Do

There’s so much going on right now just thinking about it all makes my head spin. Today is the first day of Spring Break which for me means figuring out how to arrange my work schedule to accommodate my kids’ vacation schedule. Lucky for me I can set my own schedule.

I started planning for this last week to keep from feeling completely caught off guard. So between trips to the Children’s Museum, park and movies, I’ll still be working on client and personal projects. I don’t fool myself into thinking that I can continue on with my normal schedule this week. This realization alone will save me from a massive headache. I’ll be working later in the evenings.

On another note, I’ve been touching base with my accountability partner by phone five days a week for the past month now, and I must say this is one of the best business moves I’ve ever made. Since I know that when we speak she’ll be asking me whether or not I've accomplished the goals I set the day before, I’m much more conscious of my productivity during the day. I also make a list each night before closing up shop to remain focused. This might not work for everyone, but it sure works for me. The fact that she’s been a copywriter for well over 10 years and used to be a business coach certainly is an added benefit.

I've also noticed that I’m much busier this year than I was the same time last year. My income has increased substantially despite the fact that I ended a couple of steady lower-paying client relationships and even turned down a few projects. Call me crazy, but I think doing so made way for me to be available for better opportunities.

All in all, I’m grateful to be busy with client projects, and looking forward to getting caught up around here. How’s business going for you as we move into the second quarter of 2010?

 
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