Friday, March 26, 2010

TGIF Link Love

I’m so happy that Friday is finally here. It really shouldn’t matter since I will be working on a couple of personal project deadlines at some point this weekend, but at least I get a break from the exhausting weekday hustle and bustle of meeting client deadlines, driving the kids to and from school, helping them finish up homework before bedtime, etc. I’m looking forward to some much needed relaxation.

As always, I came across some great posts this week that I’d love to share. Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

The Bobby McFerrin Plan for Creating a Remarkable Business
My Love Affair with Elance
Why Your Blog Needs a Niche
Jack Crabb and Revisiting the Great Freelance Writing Divide
Open Thread: What Do Bloggers Owe Readers?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blaze Your Own Trail

I’m not too proud to admit that when I was getting my freelancing business off the ground I didn’t really know what I was doing. I realized that I needed to do something; take some actual action steps; but I had no real direction or concept of where this whole writing thing would take me.

One of the worst mistakes I made early on was trying to emulate other writers who were having success. I’d look to them for ideas and direction on how to set up and run my own business, from my website to my marketing message.

Inspiration is one thing, but what works for one person is not necessarily the best thing for you. Even if you both offer similar services. In fact, it’s much more important that you learn how to stand out from the crowd and show potential clients the unique benefits of contracting your services.

They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Well, maybe there’s some truth to that, but it won’t do you a lot of good if you don’t know what makes you as a writer and the services you provide special. How will you effectively market that message to prospects if even you don’t know what you offer?

I’m fortunate to have many working writers to look toward when I need an inspiration or motivation boost. But I don’t want to come off as a carbon copy or poor imitation of someone else. I’d rather carve out my own success built on a steady foundation of my own hard work and individuality.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Truth About Earning More as a Freelance Writer

Last year I decided I wanted to make more money so I did something drastic. I decided to let most (if not all) of my lower paying clients go. I was spending a lot of time on these projects and I needed to make more, so I decided to invest more time prospecting for better pay. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make, but it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

The natural tendency of many writers just starting out is to take a “bird in the hand beats two in the bush” approach to building a list of clients. In many cases work may be steady and abundant, but the rates are too low. As a result, you spend more time working just to make ends meet. This can quickly lead to low quality, mistakes and burnout.

As tempting as it was to keep working as usual for steady pay, I needed to take steps toward my income goal. That meant scaling back so that I’d have more time and energy to put into finding better opportunities. I don’t live above my means, so although things were a little tight for a short while, I rode it out. I think the sacrifice was worth it.

Yesterday I came across a blog post written by Yuwanda Black addressing an email she’d received from a writer seeking advice to help her break free of low-paying work. Yuwanda’s answer:

“To break free of low-paying gigs and start making more money as a writer is simple – stop accepting low-paying gigs and start charging more for your services. “I know, I know,” you’re probably thinking, “It’s not that easy; I still have to pay my bills and those low-paying gigs are what’s doing it right now…My response is, sacrifice short-term in order to gain long-term.”

This is exactly what emerging freelancers need to hear. If you’re looking to make a change in your business – whether it’s to earn more money, create information products for sale, write a novel, etc. – you may need to make some sacrifices in order to reach your goal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is Success Possible When Your Business is Completely Virtual?

The other day I was talking with a fellow copywriter about how she approaches networking, client projects and marketing in general. She lives in Santa Barbara and regularly makes an hour and a half commute to meet with clients and attend networking events. She mentioned that a writer friend on the East Coast conducts all business by email which is why my West Coast writer friend thinks her business is struggling.

But I don’t necessarily agree. I’m going to piggyback a bit off Lori Widmer’s post where she asks whether or not in-person client meetings are really necessary. While the West Coast copywriter says that in-person meetings and local networking events have been keys to her success, I have also encountered other copywriters/freelance writers operating strictly online who are doing pretty well for themselves.

For instance, Devon Ellington has stated that she only deals with clients by email because all instructions and expectations are clear and in writing. And when James Chartrand of Men with Pens revealed she was in fact a female, she stated that she was able to keep her identity a secret because she only conducted business by email and never spoke with clients by phone.

I do find that phone calls can become time sucks if you don’t remain in control of the conversation, but there are times I feel the need to speak directly with a client to get clarification. Some clients don’t communicate well in writing which is the reason they need a writer. I schedule all phone calls in advance.

Meeting clients in person when nothing solid is in the works just doesn’t work for me right now since I take care of a three year old all day. But if the offer is tempting enough, and the prospect is willing to pay me for the consultation, I won’t say no. I can find a sitter. Thankfully the Internet gives writers more options to set up a business model that meets specific, individual needs.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Increasing the Value of Your Freelance Writing Services

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jennifer Chiat’s post over at She posted an interested article about how professional blogging jobs are changing.

According to Jennifer, more and more blogging clients are asking writers to expand their services. For example, a blogging client you once sent X number of blog posts to each month may start asking you to find images for each post, or to use some form of social bookmarking or social media to promote those posts.

This doesn’t have to be another case of scope creep. It could actually turn out to be a good opportunity if you handle things right from the start.

Searching for images, sending out messages about the latest blog post on Twitter or Facebook all take time and you should always be compensated for your time. If you find that you’re receiving more of these requests, you might consider this a springboard to increasing the value of your blogging services. Reach beyond simply supplying written posts and repackage your blogging service to include images, social bookmarking, social media, commenting on a predetermined list of related blogs, etc. and increase your rate accordingly.

Many clients will appreciate the fact that they can rely on you to deliver much more. If a client asks why your rates have increased, take time to educate him about the value of the upgraded service.

Have you repackaged and repriced any of your services to increase value? How have your clients responded?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finding Online Support

I learned the details about how to begin freelancing for living three years ago when I accidentally wondered into a writer’s forum. Although I was already writing for a couple of niche publications part-time, I’d always wondered how people were able to carve out a full-time living freelancing. Reading through past threads and engaging in topic discussions provided me with enough information to go for it myself.

Writers forums can be full of valuable information. New writers can seriously spend hours digging through older posts and find the answers to many of their questions about how to get started.

Writers forums are also a great way to network with writers of varying experience. You can get advice/business tips, get a heads up on community news, get feedback about an idea you’re considering or just enjoy some online socializing.

Freelancing, like any other business has its ups and downs. One day you’re on top of the world, flooded with assignments, and the next day you’re wondering whether or not you can really make this thing happen. Forums are filled with people in your shoes. They know what it’s like and can provide a unique, meaningful support and camaraderie.

One thing I like about forums is that you can find groups that cater to specific communities (e.g. fiction writers, freelancing moms, Christian writers, etc.). I’ve made a short list of forums I’ve had good experiences with.

If you personally know of a forum not listed in today’s post, please share.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blogosphere Shout Outs

It's been crazy around here all week. New clients, new projects, dragging four kids to the dentist in one day - yeah, that kind of crazy.

Fortunately, there have been a lot of great blog posts written this week that I'm more than happy to share. Hope you enjoy my Friday favs and have a great weekend.

March 2010 Challenge: Get Off Your Butt!

Fridays, Dark Clouds, and Weekend Redemptions
Taking the "Free" Out of Freelance
Nine Time Management Tips for Busy Writers
Everything You Need to Know about LinkedIn
10 Greatest Writers Who Became Famous After Death

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Elements of Business Agreement

Yesterday during a routine check-in with my accountability partner, the subject turned to contract agreements and what should be included. Whenever I visit another writer’s blog or a forum where the topic of discussion is contract agreements, I sit up and listen. It’s conversations like these that have helped me plug the leaky areas of my own agreement.

I use a formal agreement every time I take on an assignment, whereas another writer might be comfortable with casual email quotes. The reason I rely on a more formal agreement is to avoid unnecessary “unpleasantness.” These are just a few topics worth including:

Clearly state the start and end date

Don’t just establish the deadline/due date for the project. Sometimes clients don’t deliver project details until later than expected. If you’ve already lock into a deadline you could find yourself in a time crunch.

Establish Your Payment terms

Do you require a deposit to begin work? Will clients paying less that $X be required to pay for projects upfront in full? What form of payment do you accept? These are all important questions that need to be answered in your agreement.

You may also consider including clauses covering returned check fees (if you accept checks), how quickly the balance should be paid once the final project is submitted, and late payment fees.

Revisions Requests

They happen. Some writers offer their clients unlimited revisions until they say when. I really believe the majority of clients just want their projects done as specified and aren’t out to abuse unlimited revision policies. Still, I vote for capping the number of complementary revisions a clients receives. I’m willing to do more than two if necessary for an hourly fee. I’ve found that the key to reducing the number of revision requests lies in gathering all of the information you need for the project upfront.

I email a brief to my clients that gets to the heart of the project’s objective, target audience, etc. If a client prefers not to complete the form, we discuss it by phone instead. Taking time to do this saves me and my clients valuable time in the long run.

I also recommend stating the different between and a revision and a rewrite if you can.

Material Rights

You’ll definitely want to spell out what rights your client has to any materials you create. I also advise including a clause that states all rights to the materials you create belong to you until the final payment is received.
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