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.

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