Monday, March 28, 2011

Are You a Freelance Writer or Business Owner?

I’m so behind on administrative tasks that it’s scary. I thought about posting a picture of what my desk is looking like right now, but I’m just too embarrassed. I have a tendency to be a little messy (much to my much tidier better half’s chagrin), but the disorder going on over here has seriously reached another level.

Part of the problem is that in the midst of working on client projects, I’ve been traveling/working in another state two weeks out of every month for the past six months, and I’m also in charge of making sure my lovely family of six stays on schedule with packing up the house for the Big Move in June. Gah! Regardless of these challenges, I still have a business to run, and my clients expect a certain level of service.

I’ve notice that when I’m asked for advice about getting started with freelance writing for commercial clients, some inquirers seem surprised to find out just how much administrative tasks are a part of “living the dream.”

For those who think that all freelancers do is put up an “open for business” sign (or website), sit back and watch the projects/checks roll in, this is a bubble I must immediately burst. Whether you freelance for print publications, online publications, resume companies, or other private clients, it’s important to approach the services you provide as a business; and in any business administrative duties are part of the operation process. There are quite a few daily tasks that can negatively affect productivity and the quality of your work if you fail to stay on top of things. Every writer’s business operation is different so this is by no means a comprehensive list. I thought I’d share some common administrative tasks that typically require regular attention:

Email Management

I maintain four email accounts and I can’t allow my inboxes to become clogged with unread emails. Now, I’ve admitted to you about how unorganized I can be, so as you can imagine it’s really easy for me to let read and unread messages pile up.

I remain organized by creating folders in each of my accounts and dealing with emails immediately as they come in. I also utilize my smartphone to manage my email madness while I’m in the car waiting to pick my kids up from school or out running errands.


If you’ve spent any time reading this or any other freelance writing blog, you already know that the best way to keep busy with projects is by constantly marketing your services. There are so many online and offline marketing methods to utilize that I couldn’t possibly name them all: email queries, cold calling, direct mail/post card mailings, attending networking events, blogging, participating on forums, etc. Make marketing a daily habit.

Following up with Clients and Project Inquiries

Sometimes communicating with clients while working on projects can be time consuming. Some projects are easier than others. I deal with clients who have preferred methods of maintaining communication: email, Skype messaging and phone calls are most common. I prefer email, but defer my own preferences to those of my clients. Sometimes communication via email and Skype is unclear and a phone call is the best way to cut through the confusion.

Communicating with clients is a necessity, but it can become dangerously time consuming if you don’t maintain control over the time you spend doing so. Depending on my work load, I may return non-urgent emails/calls in the morning, or I may wait and respond toward the end of the day. I work this around my writing schedule for the day. I respond to client emails as soon as I can within my designated work hours. On my website I state that I respond to all (new) email inquiries within 24 hours.

Social Media

Social media can fit into the marketing category of administrative tasks. I have gotten work from both Twitter and LinkedIn. These platforms provide writers with an excellent opportunity to form valuable networking relationships with other writers (the community is incredible), and make possible client contacts within a specific industry/niche. I haven’t been very consistent during the past few months, but I’m putting forth an effort now to show up at least once a day.

Maintaining Client Files

I’m transitioning from paper to electronic files for my clients. My goal is to eventually go paperless, and it’s a process…

It’s important to keep files up to date with vital information like contact information, contract agreements, NDAs, research information, etc. Client files make it easier to follow up periodically to remind them that you’re available for any projects that may come available.

Are there any administrative tasks you regularly tackle that weren’t included on my list?


Tamara McRill said...

Some days I feel like I spend just as much time listing every query, idea, deadline, published article and paycheck in the appropriate spreadsheet, as I do writing. It keeps me on track, though.

Kimberly Ben said...

I know what you mean, Tamara. But imagine the chaos and confusion if you didn't take time to handle those tasks!

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