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

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 cafĂ© (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?

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