Monday, October 10, 2011

Bounce Back from the Demand Media Studios Letdown

Over the weekend I received an interesting newsletter update detailing Jenn Mattern’s latest blog post revealing the fact that Demand Media Studios’ “successful” business model is failing. It’s no surprise given the changes associated with Google Panda updates, and how similar content mills have been already affected. I hate that so many DS writers will now find themselves short a source of the income some have grown to rely on.

I’ve visited the topic of writers choosing to write for content mills before. From what I’d gathered from a few bloggers and community forums, many content mill writers simply wanted a way to earn an income working from home without the pressure of marketing. I worked with a California-based content mill when I first started freelancing. I took it on because I wanted secure, consistent income while I built up my client base. The workload was overwhelming with tight deadlines, and four months later all projects completely dried up. I learned that if I took on higher paying work, I didn’t need to work so many long days, and that I couldn’t afford not to market consistently if I wanted to maintain a steady income because the natural order of things in business is that clients will come and go.

Two things stood out about Jenn’s post: (1) she shared the news of Demand Media Studios’s failing business model honestly without putting down those who were affiliated with the company; (2) She was sympathetic to the plight of Demand Media Studios writers. She didn’t kick anyone while they were down, and she offered some real solutions (including some helpful links and books)which will be detailed in a week-long series dedicated to helping these blindsided writers create their own profitable freelance writing business model – she even offered to help the first five writers who contact her by posting information during the series relevant to their chosen specialty.

Part of why I’ve been so absent here is because I’ve been working on personal writing projects and reinventing my own freelance writing business. Yes, sometime reinvention is necessary. I wish all DS writers the best of luck in continuing and developing their freelance writing businesses, and I really look forward to following Jenn’s informative series this week.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Overcoming Lack of Motivation

For the past month my freelance writing accountability partner has been struggling with the very serious issue of lack of motivation. She recognizes that she’s fallen into a potentially destructive cycle of inaction when it comes to follow ups and marketing her business, and the result is a significant reduction in client projects and income. She’s no newbie to freelance writing – she’s successfully worked as a freelance web copywriter for over 10 years. She’s experienced the expected highs and lows of entrepreneurship before, but is really having trouble pulling herself out of this slump. I know how she feels.

Last year around this time, I was experiencing my own struggle with lack of motivation and enthusiasm as I traveled back and for between states trying to balance caring for my dying father and my own four children. Thankfully I had a pretty steady flow of projects coming in, and could continue working rather seamlessly thanks to my trusty cell phone and laptop. Still, getting through each client project was a struggle as I fought for focus, and my waning motivation resulted in stalled personal writing projects and marketing fail. Thankfully I pulled myself out of that hole before things got too far gone.

When you first start freelancing, or any new venture, you’re all charged up and raring to go. You’re high on possibilities and can’t conceive that a day will come when you don’t feel the way you do in that moment. But it likely will, and to make sure you don’t suffer too many consequences (financially and otherwise), it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Running a business can at time be a stressful gig. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned about maintaining/reclaiming enthusiasm for your business:

Take five

Or take the weekend off. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from everything for a day or two to get your bearings and clear your head. Don’t fall into the all too common trap of saying you can’t afford to take time off. You really can’t afford not to if you’re not operating up to speed. Stepping away will give you a fresh perspective.

Surround yourself with positive people

And put some distance between yourself and any naysayers. The last thing you need when you’re down is someone kicking you or encouraging you to give up, turn away and get a “real job.” Positive people will give you the feedback and support you need, lift you up and help you get through challenging times.

Join a group of like-minded individuals

This great idea for networking, support, and constructive feedback from others in the profession. Forums and mastermind groups can provide valuable advice to help improve your business, marketing tips and innovative approaches to doing business.

Do you take any special measure to stay motivated and keep writing?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting Back to the Business of Freelancing

I’m still here. The kids and I (finally!) relocated to our new home about three weeks ago – just in time for the first day of school. It also just happened to be during the first days of the month of Ramadhan, which was a bit stressful at first. My husband is still in Atlanta dealing with contractors and the property management company we'll be using to get our house in tip top shape to be rented (that man is truly a Godsend, I tell you). How I wish I could just put it on the market and sell it, but the Atlanta real estate market is beyond horrible, but that’s another story for another blog. Luckily our house is located intown, in a historic neighborhood, so we already have a few interested candidates. I figure we’ll at least break even and won’t have to struggle to pay both a mortgage AND rent.

The house we’re renting is meh, okay – for now. We need more space so we’ll be moving again next June when the kids are out of school for the summer. Yay… The unpacking is going slowly but surely. Although we are still living among boxes and my office is only semi-organized, I’ve been busy working (the self-employed can only take so many days away from work, right?) on client projects, personal writing projects and marketing here and there. I admit it - I need to step up the marketing. I’m feeling the pinch. I put more time into marketing and following up with past clients last week and it’s already brought me two new projects this week. That’s all the incentive I need to keep it up.

I’m behind on reading my favorite blogs, so I hope to begin catching up this week. Of course marketing to bring in more paying projects will be my priority. How’s business been going for you this summer?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Countdown to Moving Day

If only you could see the boxes piling up in my house. We are in the last days of packing. On Wednesday my husband and I will travel to our new home a state away to unload furniture and and begin a new adventure in our lives - at least that's how we choose to think of it. We're moving to be closer to my mother - she needs help since my father died. If it weren't for freelancing I can't imagine how we would be able to do this.

I’ve been ghost around here because for the past months because my focus has been on packing, marketing and wrapping up client projects. Moving means I’ll be without Internet for at least 48 hours once we get there, and I can’t lie – I’m feeling a little bit of anxiety over that. Between my Blackberry and Starbucks Wi-Fi , I should be able to maintain communication if anything crucial pops up. My regular clients have all been informed that I’m unavailable to work this week.

I hope to be back to posting on a regular basis by August 1. Until then I leave you with some of my favorite posts written by some of my favorite bloggers. I'll just get back to packing now...

Writing Mistakes I See Too Often
3 Types of Savings Every Freelance Writer Needs
Avoiding Ethical Dilemmas
The One Where I Do a 180
Good Advice for Every Freelancer: Never Say Never

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Importance of Making Time for Your Personal Projects

This year I’ve committed to making time for a couple of important personal writing projects. One has the potential to become a source of residual income, which has also been a long-term freelance writing goal of mine for some time. Finding time to devote to these projects while also keeping up with client projects and the marketing required to keep the lights on and food on the table can be a serious challenge.

These projects are a part of my business plan, so although I don’t rely on them (yet) to cover my living expenses, there will be a payoff in the future if I stick to my plan. Yes, I need to generate a consistent income, but I don’t want to cheat myself out of a promising long-term opportunity for short-term cash. Based on the research I’ve conducted, passive income can help stabilize and increase a freelance writer’s income which reduces those feast or famine cycles.

In the past I’ve been guilty of setting aside my personal writing projects for client projects, and the result was that my projects eventually fell to the wayside. Someday will never arrive unless I take active steps to make it happen. Whether you have dreams of writing a novel, creating information products, classes, webinars or some other project that could financially benefit your business, you’ll have to make time for it. Think of it this way : you are your most valuable client, so you deserve to be treated as such. I’ll share a few things I’m doing to meet my personal project goals:

Setting Aside Time Each Week

As you know I’m the mother of four children, and I freelance full-time. This requires me to create and work on a schedule. I make sure to also schedule time for working on my personal projects.

Setting Deadlines

Deadlines are serious business for me. If I set a deadline I do everything in my power to meet it. Setting deadlines forces me to move beyond the idea stage and start taking the actionable steps required to turn my dreams into reality.

Not Getting Caught Up In the Perfection Trap

I am sooo bad about this. I want everything to be perfect or I don’t want to do it. But it’s not so much about my project being absolutely perfect as much as it is about me on some level doubting my ability. I have to remind myself that I’m human, everything may not be perfect in the beginning, but I can’t allow self-doubt to hold me back from trying.

Have you been working on, or thinking about working on a personal project that could financially benefit your business? How do you keep yourself on task?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Freelance Writers: Uncover Your Profit Potential

It’s my second week of summer break and I’m knee in a couple of client projects and a mass marketing frenzy while also trying to squeeze in a couple of personal writing projects and acting as referee to four hot, irritable kids. Good times…

Before I lose it completely, I wanted to give you a heads up on a new webinar: Writers Uncover Your Hidden Profit Potential. Today is the last day to receive an 11% discount so if you’re freelance writing business is stalled or you want to know how to kick off your freelancing career on the right foot, these are the ladies to learn from. Have a productive and profitable day!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Anticipate Lulls in Your Business and Plan Accordingly

he summer months tend to be slow for my business. I’ve been marketing on a fairly steady basis, but that’ not good enough when I anticipate business slowing down, and I know it. I should have planned to increase my marketing efforts earlier. It’s not like the lulls my business experiences aren’t fairly predictable.

No use beating my head against a brick wall over it now – what’s done is done. Now I need to move ahead and ramp it up. I’m putting a few ideas into action.

Email queries

I’ve had some pretty good luck with email queries in the past. A couple of months ago I signed up for a paid webinar about email marketing. I felt the investment was worth it. I used the instructor’s tips to revise my standard email query letter (I use a standard format but tweak it as necessary). After doing this I got an immediate response from a California company asking if I’d consider working with them as an employee instead of freelancing, so I think the webinar instructor’s tips were pretty spot on. I’m going to commit to researching companies and sending out a certain number of queries every day.

Direct mail campaign

Earlier this year I came up with an idea to reach out to a certain local market here in Atlanta. My idea has profit potential, but I need to buckle down, get started and set a deadline. This is actually an ideal time for me to launch a direct mail campaign. I’m redesigning my brochures, drafting a sales letter, and choosing samples to mail as a package.

Utilize the local phone book

My family and I will soon be relocating to another state. I grew up in the city we’re moving to and know that the people there like dealing with other locals when it comes to business. I’ve been following Anne Wayman’s super duper marketing series for freelance writers and her post about using the phone book to find clients stood out. I’ve been spending some of my down time thumbing through it to find ripe markets to target.

Utilize Social Media

I’ve been using Twitter to get exposure for a new blog project I’m working on, but I’ve done very little my writing services. I need to participate and engage other in conversation more.

When you need to drum up business, what techniques do you employ?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Educating Difficult Clients

A writer friend of mine has been having trouble with a new client. She was hired to write web copy and supporting marketing material (brochures, etc). The client is ready to send over the down payment and signed agreement, but my friend is having trouble getting the client to focus on a target market.

The client doesn’t understand why it’s so important and is annoyed with the writer’s insistence that they focus on this detail first. The client wants her web copy and other materials yesterday. My writer friend is beyond frustrated. “She just doesn’t get it, Kim. I feel like we keep having the same discussion over and over. I can’t get her to understand how important it is to focus her marketing message.”

I think most of us have worked with this type of client before. In my experience this client doesn’t really understand marketing. They just want you to write something amazing that will result in more business. It just doesn’t occur to them that there is a process involved. They over simplify the services and value we provide.

In my experience, getting a client to understand the importance of something like focusing their marketing message on a target audience involves quite a bit of education. In the past the time I spent educating and convincing a client to provide me with necessary information was much more than the time I’d allotted for research and writing.

My friend, however, is much smarter than I am. She asks lots and lots of questions in the very beginning – before she sends out her agreement or accepts down payment. She sends interested prospective clients a questionnaire to complete first, and they discuss it in detail by phone – because one question often leads to another. This gives her a much better idea of what she’s dealing with and she adjusts her contract and payment accordingly.

Thankfully she saw the signs early on that this client would require more time to help her understand the basics of marketing. She very wisely included a certain amount of consultation time and included it in her rate. And just like that I’ve learned something new from this writer that I will apply to my own freelance writing business.

Even though we are writers, we may from time to time be called upon to provide professional consultation. The knowledge we possess is valuable. Do you give it away freely, or offer fee-based consultation in addition to the writing services you provide?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Link Love

I’m finally back in town (again...) and since most of my clients alerted me that they would but not be working today, that means a much needed day of rest for me. I plan to spend the day outside with the kids while hubby fires up the grill. Despite what many of our friends think, vegetarians can put together quite an impressive barbeque spread!

One thing I noticed while I was away – I stayed very busy and even had a couple of old clients suddenly contact me to start work on new projects. I really expected things to be slower than usual with the upcoming holiday. Instead I ended up with three new projects. I need to put forth a more consistent effort to keep in contact with past clients.

As usual, I enjoyed several great posts while I was out of town last week. Hope you enjoy them too.

How to Kill Writer’s Block and Become a Master Copywriter in Only 3 Hours a Day

30 Days of Writing Tips – Day 21 – Use the Phone Book to Find Clients

Cold Calling Tips

Where’s Your Sizzle?

Tools Every Freelance Medical Writer Needs

Parenting and Writing: Five Tips to Help Get More Writing In

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Servicing Online Clients vs. Working with Clients in Person

My accountability partner and I are in the midst of a (friendly) debate. She has been running a very successful freelance writing operation in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, CA for more than 11 years. Her business has flourished over the years. She belongs to a number of small business groups around town which also happens to be where she acquires most of her clients.

Now I’ve been freelancing full-time since 2007. When I first started I was servicing clients almost almost entirely online(my first two clients were from a craigs list ad). These days I may occasionally deal with clients locally who seem to be more comfortable meeting face-to-face once or twice. It’s not something I encourage as a mother with four kids under 11 because quite frankly time is not always on my side.

My writer friend has recently expressed an interest in working with clients on an exclusively virtual basis reducing the number of times she has to schedule in person meetings. Because she’s such a likable person and really knows her stuff, face-to-face meetings tend to work in her favor. She’s built an impressive business by taking time out for meetings in person, but they can be so time consuming – especially when she has to drive for over an hour into Los Angeles fighting insane traffic to meet with a client only to fight bumper-to-bumper traffic back home to Santa Barbara as well.

The problem as she sees it is the town she lives in is a very close knit community of people who value knowing one another. Entrepreneurs and other businesses prefer doing business with one another face, but they are also good about passing along referrals. She’s not sure of how to transition her business to operating as (mostly) a virtual operation. She recently partnered with a couple of website development firms who send clients to her that are in need of copywriting services from time to time which is a start. I’ve been trying to brainstorm with her to come up with a strategy to make it happen.

I haven’t had a problem with this because it’s how I’ve always operated. I think part of what could be holding her back is apprehension. Sometimes the first steps to doing something different are hardest.

Do you work mainly with local clients in person, exclusively online or have a mix of virtual and local clients?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Keep Your Freelancing Skills Sharp

I’ve been thinking of learning a new specialized skill that could appeal to the market I serve. It has the potential to bring in more customers and revenue. I know there’s a demand because I’ve already had a few clients ask about it. The challenge for me: committing the time to learning everything I need to know. Notice I didn’t say “finding” time. I believe that no matter how busy you are, if you want to do something bad enough, you’ll MAKE time to do it.

Honestly, I don’t think the learning curve is too steep. It’s more a matter of me setting aside the time to do what I need to do. The services I provide are different from when I first started freelancing. As my business evolved I learned which projects I like to do, which ones I don’t, which services increase my bottom line best, etc. I’ve also learned that industries change, emerging technology changes the way things are done sometimes and that longevity as a freelancer means staying abreast of these types of changes.

Learning this new writing skill involves me investing in a home-study course. I’m investing financially in my business much more than I did when I first got started. Since this is the career path I’ve chosen to make my living, it’s worth every penny. I think freelancers should automatically set aside a percentage of their earnings to invest in their business, and that includes continuing education (thank goodness it’s tax deductible!). I make a habit of sharpening my skills by reading books, attending webinars, investing in ecourses, and I’m even seriously thinking of working with a coach this year.

If you’re just starting out, you probably aren’t able to spend much. I recommend researching the web, spending time on writer forums, freelance writing blogs, attending free teleseminars/webinars and checking out books in your library to get you going. As your business grows, you can make a point of setting aside a percentage of your earnings for the sake of continued learning and other business expenses.

What are some things you do to stay on top of your game? Do you make a habit of investing financially to improve your freelance writing skills?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy Friday Everyone

Although I plan to spend the majority of my lovely weekend packing (and convincing my hoarding husband to throw away items we don’t need because he forgot over time that they even existed) and working on personal writing projects, I’m oh so glad Friday is here.

I spent more time this week working on personal writing projects, which is great that I’ve got a fire raging in my belly to see them through, but a girl’s got to eat, so I’ll need to do A LOT more marketing for client projects next week. Gotta work on balancing the work that pays the bills NOW versus work that has the potential to pay off in the long run.

My cyber visits to Devon Ellington’s blog this week have me yearning to get out in the yard to do some planting. Might not be a bad idea to plant a few pretty flowers for curb appeal since we plan on renting our house out after the move. I enjoyed reading several other great posts this week as well. Happy reading, and enjoy your weekend. :~)

Two Problems – One Cause – Eleven Solutions

Now That I’ve Incorporated: What’s Next? The Most Frequently Asked Questions After Incorporation

5 Ways to Write High Quality Content Fast

The Ultimate Money Guide for Freelance Writers

Why I moved Back to the Print Version of the Writers Market

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Re-examining Your Vision for Your Freelance Writing Business

Devon Ellington responded to Lori Widmer’s guest post with a comment that really has me thinking about where my freelance writing business is headed. Devon left this comment:

“I'm in the process of gently disentangling myself from several clients I've grown to resent. For me, it's not just about money, but about where I want my career to go. They don't fit my vision any more.”

It’s taken me a long time, but I’d like to think I’m progressing to that point as well. There was a time early in my freelance writing business when rarely (if ever) said “no” to a client or turned away a project. Five years later I understand the importance of identifying which projects are right for me and the vision I have for my business. I also recognize that my vision has evolved over the years.

When I was first starting out, I just wanted to get paid for writing, by any means necessary. My early days were an experimental time as I learned how to run a business and learned about different types of writing and marketing methods clients were willing to pay for.

Last year I questioned briefly whether or not I still wanted to write for a living. I was trying to balance my responsibilities to my ill father, my immediate family and my freelance writing clients. While I appreciated the freedom of being able to earn a living in spite of a sometimes grueling travel schedule, I was feeling uninspired and unmotivated. At first I couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Very slowly I realized that I no longer enjoyed working on certain writing projects. I felt stuck and resentment was festering.

I had an idea that involved a different genre of writing I wanted to pursue. He idea of this personal project excited me, but I had created a situation that made it hard for me to even get started. Naturally being unable to work on the writing projects I wanted to caused resentment to grow. What was my problem? Making a living as a freelance writer is what I wanted, so why was I feeling so unmotivated? I‘ll tell you why: my vision for my business had changed but I was still operating the same as always.

I wanted to put more time into my personal writing projects. I also needed to start choosing projects better. One of the first things I did was end a working relationship with a long time client. This client supplied me with steady work, but was unable to pay my current rates and her projects were demanding more of my time. Saying “no” was both frightening and liberating. It was very necessary though; if I want to keep doing this and enjoying it, I have to recognize my new vision and take actionable steps to make it happen.

Few things in life are static. We are constantly evolving. My accountability partner in Santa Barbara, California has been freelancing for well over 10 years and assures me evolution is a big part of ensuring longevity as a freelance writer.

When is the last time you revisited our vision for your freelance writing business? Are you on the right path to realizing your objectives, or do you need to make changes?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fallout from Google’s New Content Quality Standards

While traveling back from my latest trip out of town, I came across an interesting article in Website Magazine discussing the now infamous Google Panda Update, and how content farms, such as Demand Studios, WiseGeek and Associated Content are currently ranking in the search engines following Google’s highly publicized new algorithm which is intended to improve the quality of content published on the web.

Content mills have long been accused of favoring quantity over quality when it comes to the typical, keyword dense, mass content they instruct their writers to generate. Now I’m not injecting my own opinions here about whether or not writing for content mills is worth a writer’s time. I think that dead horse has been kicked around enough. Besides, I assume that the readers of this blog are mature enough to decide for themselves what works in terms of freelancing and overall earning potential. The purpose of this post is to share facts about how these new changes are playing out.

For a long time content mills have enjoyed top ranking spots in Google’s search engine results, however Googles’ Farmer Update for February revealed that the mills serps have been “severely penalized.” In fact, Website Magazine reports that “Mahalo, another member of the content-farming community, was hit so hard that it had to eliminate 10-percent of its workforce shortly after the change” (Website Magazine, May, 2011).

These findings, based of the Organic Performance Index, are further evidence that the days of poorly written, shallow, useless content achieving premium search engine results appears to be coming to an end.

This is good news for freelance writers. If you’re a writer capable of delivering high-quality, valuable, original content for your clients, these changes could certainly reveal the true value of your freelance writing services.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writer's Worth Week Guest Post:

What Are You Worth?

By Lori Widmer

The news a few weeks back about the writers who worked for free suing Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington for $105 million of the $350 million she received when AOL bought HuffPo was shocking. Yet it wasn’t because the writers were suing – I think anyone could have predicted that given the amount of money involved. It was shocking because these writers were demanding fairness after the fact.

It’s issues like this that inspired me to start Writers Worth Week, my annual awareness campaign where hopefully another writer will be motivated to understand their market value. If one more writer makes one more smart business decision, then the movement is worth it.

But it’s not easy changing our business behavior. We get entrenched in doing things the same way because we’re getting by. But wouldn’t you like to do more than that?

You can, you know. You can shift your thinking right now and start seeing the results almost immediately. I did. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.

So writers, make today the day you change one thing about your business. If you need me to require it, let’s call it your homework.

Your homework: Start thinking of your writing as a business. It is. Changing your mindset to business mode makes it easier for you to stand firm in your rates and conduct business as a professional. Take control of your business. You're no longer apologizing for wanting to charge for doing something you love. Baseball players charge for doing what they love – why shouldn't you?

Okay, that was a pretty cake assignment, so you're getting two.

Second one:

Just for today, turn down one offer that doesn't meet with your income goals. Drop a low-paying client or renegotiate your current pay rate. Do something that says, "Thank you, but I'm worth more."

Second part of the assignment: this week, identify at least three more potential clients who will pay your rate without question.

Do you think of your writing as a business?

When was the last time you sought out higher-paying work?

Lori Widmer is a veteran writer and editor who is worth every penny her clients pay. She blogs about all things writing-related at Words on the Page.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Challenge of Taking Time Off From Work to Unplug

If you’ve read any of my past posts, you may already know that I’m facing a big count down to move my family to another state in just four weeks. And I’m literally sweating bullets over it.
I haven’t moved in 12 years. Before that, however, moving was a sort of beloved past time for me. I'm sure my loyal male friends hated seeing my name flash across their caller ID every six months. Eventually I grew up, married a man who insisted on stability as far as residences go, so we settled down and bought a house putting my wandering ways to rest.

Now we must move due to necessity and I’m not so sure I’m up for the task. I mean I’m a little out of practice. One thing I do remember from my nomadic days is that it helps to give yourself a couple of days to get the necessities unpacked so you can quickly establish some semblance of normalcy even though the reality of digging stuff out of boxes over the next year is just part of the relocation package. That means I will need to take a few days off from work and unplug.
Staying away from my computer and resisting the desire to constantly check my phone for emails, Tweets, updates and what not won’t be easy. I spend so much time scrolling through my phone and responding to emails while talking to my husband that he jokingly refers to me as a teenager.

So, back to unplugging… You may be thinking about this too if you’re planning to take some time off this summer. I work on completing projects currently in the pipeline and letting clients know that I’ll be unavailable for however long I need to be away.

How do you prepare to unplug and take time off from work?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Anchor Clients: Know Who's a Keeper and Who to Toss Overboard

Last week one of the blogs I frequent stirred up an interesting conversation among the comments. One commenter coined a clever phrased to describe repeat clients – those clients you can expect to receive work from on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. She called them “anchor clients”, which is a clever moniker in my opinion, because sometimes these clients end up doing just as the name implies – They either provide your business with a consistent income, or anchor you in such a way that you can’t operate YOUR freelance writing business as you see fit.

Not all anchor client relationships are negative. When I first started freelancing I was fortunate to acquire three anchor clients that supplied me with enough work for the first year which resulted in my business pulling in more of an income than my previous corporate job. These clients easily accepted my terms of service and allowed me the freedom to complete their projects as long as I adhered to the established deadlines.

Unfortunately I’ve also worked with anchor clients that made me feel as if I’d been tossed overboard in the middle of the ocean with an anchor wrapped around my neck. One client operated under the assumption that his business was my only client. He hired me to interview and write monthly newsletters for his clients. He thought nothing of calling me up to conduct a client interview with sometimes only a couple hours notice – never considering the fact that I might also be working on another client project.

First of all, I’m a freelancer. I make it clear to my clients when scheduling their projects that I typically work on other client projects simultaneously. Like most freelancers taking on multiple projects is pretty much my thing. Second, I used to work as a journalist. Although I became pretty adept at conducting in-depth interviews quickly and efficiently in keeping with the deadline driven environment, in most cases interviewing requires a good bit of preparation to get the information you need. The final straw was when he set up a last minute interview to take place the next day (actually, he had me set it up-with a very busy doctor who was in the middle of seeing patients). I woke up the very next morning only to discover I’d lost my voice (it’s how my body sometimes responds to hay fever) without warning. Expect the unexpected.

Hopefully this client now realizes that two hours, or even one day’s notice to prepare for and conduct interviews, when we’ve been discussing this project for the past month and a half (not to mention the assurance that he would be the one to schedule the interviews ahead of time), might not work for most freelancers. The longer I do this, the more I appreciate the need to know when to just say “no.”

Thankfully I quickly recognized that type of anchor client relationship is lose-lose for each of us, so it was best to quickly, and professionally end things on an amicable note.

Right now I only have one anchor client I’ve been working with for a little over a year now. The relationship is great, and I do like knowing I can expect work from her on a pretty consistent basis. I’m currently negotiating terms with another potential client who needs a reliable web writer to handle several new projects in the pipeline throughout the rest of the year (fingers crossed that this turns out to be a good thing). Ideally I’d like to have three good anchor clients to produce a steady stream of income while I put more time into a couple of personal writing projects – that doesn’t mean I’ll stop marketing my services. We freelancers can’t afford to get THAT comfortable, you know.

Do you embrace anchor clients in your freelance writing business or avoid them? What’s your experience?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Freelance Writing Ebook Review: The Worthy Writer's Guide

A couple of weeks ago I purchased Lori Widmer’s ebook, the “The Worthy Writer’s Guide." You should probably know that I’ve been on a self-imposed restriction from purchasing “how to” ebooks and other information products related to freelance writing for the past two years because the last product I purchased did not live up to its hype. At all. Since then I’ve chosen to focus on learning by doing, and conducting my own online research to learn what I need to about earning a living freelancing. So far so good.

Buying Lori’s book was a no brainer for me. First of all, I trust her advice. I’ve been following her blog for a while now and her advice is more often than not spot on. I’ve gotten so much good advice for free from her blog over the past three years, that I trust her. And at $11.95 it wasn’t exactly breaking the bank (believe me when I say I’d spent MUCH more than that on completely useless info products in the past).

Lori is a “tell you like it is” person (one of the reasons I so love her style). Her ebook is loosely based on advice you’ll find on her blog, but she does seem to dig deeper into topics like the importance and process of planning your freelance writing business, setting rates, defining your target clients, creating a marketing strategy and developing a simple script for cold calling and following up with potential clients. There’s a lot more good stuff in there newbies and experienced writers who need to step back and make changes in their operation. Her marketing tips have inspired me to design and order new brochures – something I haven’t done in over two years.

If you need a little guidance, but are ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work, you won’t be disappointed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Link Love

Did Friday just sneak up on you like it did me? I mean this week just flew by! Normally I work a half day on Friday’s, but I still have a few things left on my to-do list from yesterday that didn’t get done and client project due today. I’m working on some personal projects over the weekend and of course more packing…

If any of you are located in Alabama or Georgia and were affected by the tornadoes, my thoughts and prayers are with you. My mother and a few other family members live in North Alabama, and thankfully are they are all doing okay. Lots of residents are currently without power, and I know how inconvenient that can be. Please hang in there.

As always I enjoyed some really great blog entries this week. Hope you enjoy them too.

Is It Smart Or Dumb to Follow Your Freelance Writing Dreams in This Economy?
What Have You Sacrificed to Become a Freelance Writer?
Print vs.Web Writers: Is There a Great Divide?
Become a More Confident Freelancer
Short-Term Money Is Killing Me

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can Your Freelance Writing Clients Depend on You?

Yesterday I attended a free webinar courtesy of called “Engagement with a Purpose: How to Create Customers for Life - Authority Rules.” It’s part of an on-going series, so check it out if you can. Sonia Simone and Chris Garrett led the discussion. One thing really jumped out at me is when Chris said, " You don’t have to be the best writer, as long as you deliver what you promise –always do what you say because your reputation is your most valuable asset . "

A couple of years ago, after completing an extensive and rather exhausting project for a small business, the client thanked me graciously for my work and sticking with the project, even when it became difficult. He then made what was at the time a startling revelation. He said he was so glad to have found a reliable writer because he had been repeatedly burned in the past by writers not meeting deadlines.

This was surprising news to me, a writer who is always on the lookout for clients and paying projects. I can’t wrap my mind around why a writer would chance missing a deadline and thus getting paid (not to mention an opportunity for future work). I just don’t get it. Yesterday, during the webinar, Sonia and Chris confirmed that this is a big problem all around. They went on to explained that there are quite a few freelancers out there that don’t follow through, but if you can do that then you’re already ahead of the game.

Missing deadlines and not delivering the value that you promise a client is a big no-no in the freelancing world. When you hire someone to do something, you expect them to do it. If they don’t, you probably won’t bother contacting them in the future. You know that old saying: “Past behavior predicts future behavior.”

Sometimes things happen and deadlines can’t be met, or you realize it's best to end a client relationship. There’s a professional way to handle each scenario, starting with letting the client know as soon as possible. This is value your clients have every reason to expect from you. People like to work with people they like and can trust. Become the person your clients automatically turn to when they need top notch, dependable service. Set yourself apart from the freelancers that haven’t grasped this concept.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Local Businesses Need Online Marketing Advice

As I was driving back home this morning after dropping the kids off at school, I noticed the neighborhood dry cleaning service had a new banner stretched across the top of the building that read: “Now on the Internet.”

Most of the clients I serve need help with creating and/or spreading their marketing message to a targeted audience online. I tend to automatically assume that “everyone” is already utilizing the Internet as part of their overall marketing strategy. That banner, however, is proof that this is not so. There are still plenty of small and mid-size local businesses out there in need of guidance when it comes to marketing online.

When I was visiting my hometown last month, I stopped to grab a quick lunch at a very popular mom and pop owned sub sandwich shop. The owner and I struck up a conversation about how they could effectively utilize Facebook or Twitter (they have a huge customer base consisting of college students) to bring in more business.

After a meeting with my father’s lawyer last month, the attorney asked if we could set aside extra time during our next meeting to discuss his website copy and whether or not establishing a blog would be beneficial.

Look around your own community at local businesses that may need help establishing a presence online. Call them up to find out who’s in charge of hiring contract/freelance services and send them a brochure. Then follow up within a couple of weeks to discuss how you may be of service.

Do you regularly market your services to local businesses?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Link Love

Friday was complete and utter chaos here in my little home office. It’s bad enough that I have books, files and miscellaneous papers strewn all over the place as I attempt to simultaneously manage freelance writing client projects, the kids' school projects and keep my family on a packing schedule for the Big Move in June (It really is a sight to see. Maybe I’ll get brave enough to post a photo of all this madness).

On top of all that my oldest and youngest both got sick. My oldest has a chronic health condition resulting in a midnight ER visit Thursday night/Friday morning. The youngest decided to bring home the latest bug passing through his Pre-K class Thursday afternoon after school. Perfect.

Hubby and I immediately launched into team mode – he made the ER trip that night with our daughter while I stayed home to work on getting the little one’s fever down, and making sure the twins were up and ready for school on time Friday morning. Needless to say I took Friday off for some much needed rest. Not much packing got done this weekend, but I did take time out to enjoy a few of my favorite blogs. Hope you enjoy these links as much as I did.

Navigating the Pitfalls of a Client – Friend Relationship
3 New Twitter Apps I Can’t Live Without
How Freelance Writers Can Build Editor Relationships
Which Online Resources do You Utilize to Develop Your Freelance Writing Business?
The Trials and Triumphs of Freelancing of Freelancing Abroad

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Optimize Your Freelance Writing Business Online for Local Search

Thanks to the Internet, being a freelance writer means being able to work with clients all over the world. There are very few limits. Unfortunately, many writers totally ignore their local market’s need for professional writing services, especially when marketing their business online.

For niche/specialty writers, (writers specializing in a specific area such as medical/dental writing, insurance, legal(writing for attorneys, etc.) optimizing your website or blog for improved local search engine results makes it much easier for local businesses to find you. Some local organizations prefer working with vendors in their own neighborhood so it makes good business sense to take advantage of every opportunity, proximity included.

Rep Your City

Can you imagine how many writers out there are claiming common titles like “copywriter,” “online copywriter,” “web writer,” or “blogger?” There’s nothing wrong with this, but online you’re literally competing with thousands and thousands of other writers sporting the exact same title. So what can you do?

Try tweaking the keywords in your title. You’ll get a lot more attention calling yourself the “Austin Texas Real Estate Blogger” than simply going by the title “blogger” or even “real estate blogger” alone. If you serve a specific niche of localized businesses like attorneys, dentists or doctors, this can give you an online marketing advantage. When I added “Atlanta” to my web writer title on my business blog, I started getting contacted by more small and mid-size businesses within the city and even a couple of surrounding states.

Update All Profiles

All online profiles representing your business should be consistent and include information like your title (as stated in the previous section) and location.

List Your Business with Google Business Center

This isn’t for everyone. It’s free to list your business in Google’s Local Business Center, but the catch is you need a physical address. Many writers don’t list their local address for obvious reasons, but if you happen to share office space, or listing your location is not an issue, listing your business can give you a nice localized ranking boost in the search engines.

Keep All Online Business Information Consistent

Keep your business identity consistent. Your website address, mailing address (if you choose to include this information), phone/fax number and email should be the same in profiles and all other business sources where you list your business. This definitely impacts local search results.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do You Need Permission to Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates?

Over the weekend a writer acquaintance and I were discussing rates. My writer friend was planning to raise her rates within the next couple of months. She asked whether or not I thought she should send her current clients an email explaining why she was making this decision.

I asked her to think of businesses she regularly patronizes – the local cable provider, grocery store or favorite restaurant. When they raise their rates, do they offer explanations? It’s a given in most businesses that as operation expenses increase, rates must increase as a result. I suggested she take this same stance with her rate increase.

Sending out an explanation for a rate increase can almost seem as if you’re seeking approval for a logical business decision. Your rates have to cover business and living expenses, and there’s absolutely no reason to apologize for that. I suggested sending out notices altering clients of the rate change giving them a chance to schedule projects at the current rate before the price change takes effect.

Do you let your clients know about rate increases?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I Choose Freelance Writing Over Employment

Is it just me, or does anyone else break out in a cold sweat (or hives) at the thought of working a “nine to five?” Please don’t think I’m some self-employed snob. I worked in a corporate environment for eight years, and I‘ll admit that I’ve sometimes wondered whether it would be easier to get a guaranteed check every week, employer provided benefits and paid time off for vacations, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than being able to provide those things for myself.

Why am I even discussing this? Well, something interesting happened to me this week. I was doing some marketing late Tuesday evening, contacting prospects by email about my services, when I unexpectedly received a response email from a company’s Human Resource Manager. She asked whether or not I would consider employment status over working for her company as a contract writer.

Her question caught me off guard for a moment. On the one hand I was being offered the promise of reliable pay and work, but at what cost? I know we’re still dealing with financially troubled times right now, and some might be reading this wondering what kind of idiot stands around questioning a steady pay check? Well I’ll tell you what kind.

My background is in the newspaper industry. Although I left my job before the industry truly crumbled, my position provided a front row seat to the unpredictability of working for someone else. Some of my coworkers had worked for this publication for 20+ years. This publication had a well-earned reputation as a place where employees stuck around until retirement. Then came the Internet, and around 2000, it’s presence was felt as print’s biggest revenue source was threatened – advertising. I could see the writing on the wall as I left. Unfortunately, many of my coworkers continued to be lulled into a false sense of security and the mass layoffs caught them off guard. My inability to pay child care for my soon to be newborn twins and two year old was the catalyst that led me to resign, otherwise I may have ignored the signs and continued working along with everyone else hoping for the best.

I have a family, so naturally the idea of security appeals to me; but my life also requires a great deal of flexibility. Even though this Human Resource Manager was offering me an opportunity to work from home, a flexible work schedule wasn’t part of the deal. And maybe I’m spoiled now, but I don’t want to be obligated to work on projects that don’t work for me.

So in the end I politely explained to the HR manager that I prefer to maintain a freelance status, and am always open to other opportunities. She seemed okay with my response and offered to pass my name along to the person in charge of hiring freelancers and other vendors.

I’ve been freelancing for five years now. I’ve seen my share of financially tight months, but I’ve managed to stick with it and find a groove that provides a contentment and security my old job could not. Working for several clients feels more financially secure to me than relying on one job, so sticking to my freelance writer status works best for me.

What would you do? Would you choose a full-time or part-time position over freelancing?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Okay to Just Say "No"

The first time I turned down a project, it felt really weird. I’ve written about this experience in a previous entry. Long story short: the client was extremely demanding, didn’t want to deal with service agreements and was constantly trying to nickel and dime me at every turn.

Fast forward to today; I’ve worked with enough clients to know that I most definitely made the right decision that day. Now I understand that the relationship between freelancers and client is just as complex as any other relationship. Sometimes there’s chemistry. Sometimes there’s not. Sometimes your personalities and approaches to working on a project are complementary. Sometimes they’re not.

In the past when I’d find myself in a difficult working situation (not too often, thankfully), I would resign myself to just grin and bear it thinking that’s just good customer service. Besides, who was I to turn away a paying gig?

It took another more seasoned freelancer to help me see the light. She explained that just because I’m a freelancer doesn’t mean every client, or project, is going to be a perfect fit. Freelancing means you have the freedom to do things like decide who you work with and who’s best to be avoided like bubonic plague. She assured me that with time I’d learn to recognize the signs of projects I should avoid early on – and she was right.

It chose to freelance because I wanted freedom and control over the way I worked. It wouldn’t make much sense for me to spend my career working on projects that make me miserable.
So how do I know when to turn down a project?

  • When a prospect keeps trying to convince me to lower my rate.
  • When there are too many decision makers working on the project.
  • When it’s too difficult to get the information I need to do my job.
  • When the scope of a project keeps changing.
  • When a client has a problem signing an agreement.
  • When there’s a personality conflict.
  • When I have so much on my plate that I know that I won't be able to give a project 100%.
What would make you turn down a potential project?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Are You Ready for Spring Break?

It’s spring break around here. The challenge: meet my weekly/monthly freelance writing income goals in spite of four children under 11 engaging in constant combat and constantly complaining of boredom. Add the fact that we are packing to move out of state by June, and I’m leaving town on Wednesday, and you’ll understand exactly why I‘m praying for patience.

The good part about this spring break is we’re probably more prepared this year than we’ve ever been. Come to think of it, this is also a good time to start making summer plans for the kids. We’ll be in another state, so I’ll need to do some research now to find out what’s available. Making sure the kids have something to look forward to and do when we get to our new city will make it easier for me to unpack and transition more smoothly into my new office space (I hope).

In the mean time, I’ve planned my work schedule around a couple of fun activities, and have plenty of snacks and dvds on hand. I think we’ll survive.

What are your plans for spring break? Working (like me) or vacationing?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Should You Be Offering Your Clients a Money Back Guarantee?

Today is April 1st – we are entering a new month and a new quarter. Can you believe it? Time to review the first quarter to see where you are in your business. Did you meet any short-term goals? Are you still on track with marketing and other objectives? Do you need to make any corrective changes to your plan (it’s okay if you do; I do it quite often)?

Earlier this week I was reading a post at Freelance Folder by Lexi Rodrigo about whether or not it’s good business to offer freelance clients guarantee. I think she did an excellent job of ultimately arguing the case against doing this.

As freelance writers, time is our most valuable commodity. When you spend x hours working on a project, you can never get that time back. And since every project is specific to the client being serviced, it’s not like you can just turn around and sell what you’ve done to someone else because the client doesn’t like the end result.

I do know some writers who offer a guarantee of project completion – meaning they offer clients money back if the project is not completed by the projected deadline. I’m assuming the occurrence of extenuating circumstances is somehow outlined in their agreements.

What do you think about offering client’s a money back guarantee?

Once again I enjoyed quite a few blog posts this week. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites. Enjoy your weekend!

Why Your Own Blog is a Better Marketing Tool Than Cheap Client Content
Copyright Primer
5 Reasons to Write for Underrated Trades
How to Figure Out Which Editor to Query
Does Your Business Blog Need CPR?
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