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

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