Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I've successfully navigated my freelance writing business around unexpected emergencies before. It was much easier to do when we were still in Atlanta and had an awesome network of support in place to turn to. Now that we've relocated to my hometown, it's pretty much just me and hubby right now. The reality of the matter is when you're dealing with an emergency, that's your problem - not your client's. Your client still expects the project he/she paid for to be completed according to the terms of your agreement (Yes, I'm automatically assuming every freelancer is utilizing some kind of agreement BEFORE starting a project).
This morning I came across a really informative blog post addressing the issue of emergency planning tips. I realize my plan needs updating. A few of the writer's suggestions that stood out to me:
Include a Force Majeure Clause in Your Agreement
This clause protects both parties from liabilities and obligations due extreme, unexpected circumstances - anything beyond you control that could keep you from fulfilling the terms of the contract. Examples include "acts of God," war, etc.
Identify Your "Vulnerable Points"
Every freelancer's circumstances are different. If you're a 25-year old, unmarried freelancers with no children or other responsibilities your vulnerability points are fewer than a single mom with two kids and a mortgage. Take it from me, kids get sick, schools spring unexpected vacation days on you - you have to recognize the circumstances that can turn into obstacles and plan ahead for these kinds of situations.
Have an Emergency Savings In Place
It's important to get into a habit of setting aside savings from each job you complete. If an emergency results in you being unable to work for a period of time, you'll need funds in place to float you until you're about to work again.
Create an Emergency Communications Plan
As soon as things go wrong, you'll need to immediately contact your clients and keep them updated.
Do you have an emergency plan in place for your operation?
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Writers’ Worth week is still going strong over at Words on the Page. Today my contribution, "Flexing Your Confidence Muscle," is up, so please stop by to read and comment if you feel so inclined.
It’s still early, but so far it’s been a great day. I've just returned from my 11-year old’s school award ceremony where she reaped the rewards of all her hard work this year. Scholastically she’s much more impressive than I was at her age, and I hope she always retains her work ethic, focus and discipline -regardless of what she chooses to do in life.
In other news... we found a house. Finally. Despite my husband’s repeated threats to see 30+ houses before he'd even considered one. We found "the one" only three houses into the hunt. I will FINALLY have a separate office space! There's plenty of yard and time for me to really get my vegetable garden going! I don’t look forward to moving again. Ugh. I'm hoping the fact that it’s a local move this time around means it won’t be too bad.
We’re more than half way through May and my earnings have already topped any other month of May since I’ve began freelancing full-time. Follow-ups seem to have been key here – one follow-up resulted in a long-term project. Still, I’m heading into what is typically the slow season for me, so even though I’m getting a late start on work today, I have to squeeze some marketing in today.
I’m juggling a lot more personal writing projects than I feel comfortable with right now, but thankfully I’ve set up goals and deadlines in a way that makes me accountable to a couple of helpful colleagues. I did this to motivate me to carry action over to completion. Without accountability, I’d probably keep putting these projects off and never follow through. These “accountability partners” will not tolerate excuses, and that’s exactly what I need.
How’s your week working out? Feel free to share whatever you’ve got going on.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
There's something for writers of all levels and backgrounds - whether you're just getting started or have been at it professionally for years. Stop by and share some love with all of the amazing writers who have contributed articles in support of Writers Worth Week. Hope you're having a positive, productive and profitable week. :)
Monday, May 14, 2012
Last week I finally received the go ahead to start a ghost writing project I’d been negotiating with a client for several months. This will be a long-term project (around six months), so my terms included the standard down payment plus scheduled milestone payments. The client agreed, so full speed ahead, right?
Well, there was one small thing… The client contacted me last Tuesday to ask if I’d started working on the project. I let him know that I hadn’t received the down payment yet and (aside from any paid projects received before receiving his payment)would promptly began as soon as I did.
He responded telling me not to worry about the down payment – he would be sending it as we discussed and I shouldn’t worry because the funds are secured. This irritated me. Keep in mind, this wasn’t his first time hearing my terms. He’d agreed to them BEFORE I agreed to take on the project, so I kept my responding email message very simple and to the point. I stated, “It is my business policy not to begin a writing project until the down payment is received.” Thankfully, he immediately issued the funds, and I was paid within 24 hours.
I give my accountability partner credit for teaching me that handy, dandy tip about informing clients that “x is my business policy” when the need arises for me to enforce my terms of service. She has a Master’s degree in psychoanalysis and uses her extensive knowledge of human behavior quite frequently in her copywriting business. She and I were discussing the issue of enforcing our terms of service with clients a while back, and she explained that she finds using the “business policy” statement tends to reduce the likelihood of arguing with clients about issues like down payments, number of revisions, etc.
She speculates the reason this technique works is that it’s a reminder to the client that you are in fact a qualified, professional operating a business and not earning pocket change with some new found hobby. It’s not so easy to argue against a business policy – it’s understood that everyone must follow the exact same established terms, and there’s no negotiation.
Business policies and procedures help establish the basic structure for your operation. Clients don’t need to guess about your rules and guidelines, and can choose not to do business with you if they don’t agree with your terms. Your policy can include very simple terms, for example: “50% down payment required to begin project.” “Client receives two complementary revisions. Subsequent revisions will be billed at that standard hourly rate.”
Do you provide clients with specified terms of service outlining your business policies and procedures? How often 9if ever) do you meet with resistance?
Monday, May 7, 2012
Believe in the Worth of the Service You Provide
My friend, Lori over at Words on a Page has been doing the most wonderful thing for the past five years. Each year she dedicates a week in May, now known as Writer's Worth Week, to helping both inexperienced and experienced writers recognize and live up to the worth of the words they write and the valuable service they provide to others as freelancers. This year she will be featuring a number of freelancers offing advice and inspiration to writers looking to break out of the rut of low-paying projects.
I’ve been following Lori’s blog ever since I first got a wild hair to try my hand at freelancing for a living. At the risk of sounding like some kind of fan girl, the practical advice and encouragement she shares with her readers is truly invaluable. I’ve actually gotten clients using some of her marketing tips. I also recommend joining the Five Bucks Forum, moderated by Lori and the equally wonderful Anne Waymann to learn everything you ever wanted to know about freelancing. They even answer questions directly and, as the name implies, the cost to join is only five bucks a month. Come on - if you're like me you're already blowing that during the week on Skinny Vanilla Lattes. It's a very worthy investment in your freelancing career.
FYI: If you’re a freelancer with advice about how writers can overcome low paying jobs, or you have a personal story to share, Lori is currently accepting guest posts to publish on her blog.
*Disclaimer: I received no compensation at all for recommending membership to the Five Bucks Forum. And yes, I happily pay my own dues each month.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
She began asking me how business was going and launched into a discussion about how successful she's been writing within this particular specialty. Can you see where she was going with this? Yeah, neither could I. but i was intrigued, so I listened. She eventually started asking me how I managed the "feast or famine" cycle we freelance writers are known to experience. That's when I asked about the purpose of her call.
She stated that as a freelance writer, she'd come to realize the importance of having a "plan B" for financial security. Freelance writing is her plan A, but what do you suppose her "plan B" Is? I'll tell you: she sells Melaleuca products. And she's doing so well financially, she just had to contact other members of our writer association to let them know about it and offer them a practically no risk opportunity to sign up to sell these products with her.
There are so many things wrong with this situation I can't even begin to tell you; but I'll start with the obvious. She's using the membership site that writers pay good money to join to solicit a service that has absolutely nothing to do with freelancing or the industry. I know for a fact that if I reported her to the Executive Director, he would NOT be too happy. As a freelancer, I understand the "hustle" mentality as well as anyone, but this is crossing some serious lines. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a "plan B" to ensure your ability to make ends meet, but you have to use common sense.
I was polite to her but i let her know that I did not appreciate being solicited in that manner, and that it is not okay for her to ever solicit me in the future. I also cautioned her to seriously consider the consequences of her actions should the Executive Director ever get wind of how she is using the membership contact list.
I hope that everyone who reads this post already knows not to engage in this type of behavior. Utilize membership contacts responsibly and with respect. Treat their private contact information the way you'd like others to treat yours. Has anyone else experienced something like this? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Monday, April 30, 2012
House hunting picks up this week where we left off. My husband is traveling out of town this weekend, so we’ve agreed to schedule appointments to see the interior of at least two that we both actually liked. Fingers crossed – I need this to be over soon…
I spent the weekend creating a very ambitious marketing plan for May, wrapping up a couple of client deadlines and pushing through an ebook project with a May 1 deadline. My business coach encouraged me to get this ebook ready for her special annual promotion of information products guide, but I may have bitten off more than I can chew here. I still need to edit and proofread the content, deal with some minor formatting issues and get the squeeze page together. I don’t want to produce something just for the sake of providing her with a product to promote, so I think I’m going to have to pass on this opportunity and spend a bit more time tightening things up so I can launch it on my own.
Finally received confirmation to start a large ghostwriting project I’d been expecting for a few months(we discussed this initially back in December 2011). That’s the way freelancing goes – sometimes projects don’t come through when you expect or may never come to fruition at all. That’s why consistent marketing is so crucial (stepping off my soapbox now…). It’s coming at a good time. As soon as the client sends the down payment, I’ll get started.
I didn’t earn as much during April as I did in March, but I expected that. Between house hunting, the ebook and some impromptu software training via one of my staple clients, I didn’t put in as much work time this month. A portion of my April payment will arrive in May because I forgot to invoice one of my client’s this month. As long as I get the payment sometime in May, I’m good.
How was freelancing for you during the month of April?
Friday, April 20, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
This has to be the most easy, breezy home improvement project I’ve ever experienced. Seriously. The contractor I hired has operated his HVAC business for over 30 years, and has a very pleasant, personable demeanor. He’s been extremely patient about explaining anything that I didn’t understand, and he really loves what he does. Before we started the project, he practically gushed, “I’m 58 years old now. I love doing this kind of work – for me, this is like an enjoyable hobby!”
Recently I made the difficult decision to walk away from a steady, staple client because the demands were beginning to take over my time to a point where I felt like an overworked employee dreading the start of each week. The payment was good, but that feeling… it’s the same feeling I had when I worked for the newspaper. I lived for Fridays, and Sundays were usually overcast with melancholia and anxiety about returning to work each Monday. That’s no way to live.
The decision to walk away was not an easy one. I’d really gotten use to the income this gig generated each month. Unfortunately the growing workload started making it harder for me to find time for other client projects, administrative and marketing tasks and working on personal projects. What looks good in the short-term isn’t always the best long-term business decision.
Even though this client contributed a substantially to my monthly bottom line, I could never get completely comfortable with that kind of set up. I learned the hard way about relying too much on one client back when I first started freelancing. Diversification is the name of the freelancing game.
The HVAC contractor also reminded me that it’s important to enjoy what you do for a living. Freelancing is not the ideal lifestyle for everyone, but it fits me like a glove. I’ve learned over the years to hang in there and ride out the income ups and downs. I’ve learned through trial and error which projects I excel at and enjoy doing most. And I’ve learned to prioritize and actively pursue my personal projects. Freelancing is not a job, it’s a lifestyle of sorts, so for me it’s very essential that I enjoy what I do.
So now I’ll ramp up my marketing efforts and move forward with the confidence that I’ve made the best decision for me. Have you ever walked away from a steady gig? If so, did it turn out to be for the best?
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
- How much time can I devote to the job?
- Am I free to complete projects on my own time, or do I need to stick to a predetermined work schedule?
- Will the employer provide training?
- Will you receive paid holidays, vacations and sick time?
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
- How many blog posts will you need a week/month?
- What payment terms are you proposing (e.g. weekly pay? Monthly Pay?)
- Do you have a contract agreement? If not, are you willing to consider my terms of service agreement?
- Do you require an image with each post?
- How do you want the blog posts delivered? Do you want me to upload them myself into your blogging platform, or deliver them to you in a Word .doc?
- Do you provide blog topics, or do I submit blog topics for your review?
- Are keywords involved, and if so do you provide them?
- Are there weekly or monthly deadlines?
Thursday, January 5, 2012
2011 was a very rough year for me emotionally. I was not at all sad to see it end. Ironically it was one my best years as a freelancer. I haven’t actually sat down to crunch any numbers yet, but I’m tempted to say it was my best.
What did I do differently this year from last year? I’ve been pondering this question since reading Lori Widmer’s post “Seeing Patterns.” I spent some time reflecting to see if I there were any patterns that jumped out at me. I spent a good part of the year traveling between two states to help care for my father. Then there was the stress of relocating, finding a house to rent and being forced to become a “reluctant landlord” and rent our own home. To say I spent the better part of 2011 in a state of stress is a serious understatement.
I did market, but not very consistently. I forced myself to continue working on some personal writing projects (which resulted in my extended absence here), and managed a steady flow of client projects while helping my family adjust to our new city. With my head and priorities so all over the place, how was it that I stayed busy through the end of the year, met all of my financial obligations and currently have work lined up through March 2012?
That’s when I recognized that there were two things I did repeatedly during this time:
- I turned down projects. My energy level was not in a very good place while my father was sick and especially after he died. As an only child, my husband and I are now responsible for the care and well-being now of my mother as well as our four children. Any shred of patience I had left was primarily reserved for them. I had zero patience for dealing with prospects who didn’t want to pay my rates, wanted to haggle over contract terms, or bring any other work-related drama into my world. If I so much as sensed that a project was going to turn complicated, or require too much effort on my end, I simply said no to the job and kept it moving. This helped keep my sanity intact.
- I followed up with clients I’d worked well with previously. I already knew how these clients worked and what they expected of me, and they trusted me and gave me the space I needed to complete their projects on time. Reconnecting with past clients resulted in more projects (a couple of long-term ones) than I would have expected. I’ll definitely continue doing this.
Even though this is what seemed to work for me in 2011, I know that I need to make so many more improvements in my business operations to meet my goals for 2012. I will commit to marketing consistently. This is usually my biggest challenge, but I can’t argue with facts: it’s what brings in business. I also need to get organized. I’m simultaneously working on various client projects as well as some personal projects. My personal projects are going well, I’m glad I stuck with them. I intend to commit time each week to working on them, so being organized is essential.
What patterns (good or bad) did you recognize in the way you operated your business in 2011?