Monday, January 16, 2012

You Ask Too Many Questions

When I first started freelancing as a business writer, I used to troll Craigslist and other job boards regularly. My experience was pretty positive. I didn’t feel very confident in my ability to approach companies directly and offer my services back then. Responding to ads seeking help was easier.

Over time I’ve noticed the prospect of coming across decent paying opportunities has become pretty slim. My experience on Thursday is a good example. I still wonder over to Craigs List every blue moon (I know, I know). Although I don’t have time to dig around there regularly for clients, I can’t completely dismiss it because back in September I quite literally stumbled across an ad that was NOT your typical Craigs List gig that has so far provided a nice steady stream of well-paying projects. It appears that you can still find a jewel among the rubbish, though I’m not sure I’d recommend relying on it to build a solid client base.

Last Thursday I thought I might have come across another gem – a regular blog writing gig in my area of expertise offering pay that stuck out like a sore thumb among all the $10 and $15 per post blogging jobs you usually see littering the site.

I responded to the ad, and received a response pretty quickly; only it wasn’t at all what I expected. The respondent stated that he was very interested in working with me based on the information I’d provided, but listed a completely different rate for the project – one that was significantly lower than the advertised rate. I replied asking for clarification since the ad listed one rate while he’d responded with a lower rate. His response to that email: “Fine, I’ll pay you $x. When can we get started?” No other explanation of why he changed the rate.

Before you even ask, yes, red flags were popping up all over the place; but I was too curious and couldn’t resist asking a few more questions , namely:

  • 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?

Now I didn’t ask all these questions all at once. Initially I asked my contact if he would be providing project details. He had no idea what I was talking about. He just needed me to start cranking out posts, stat.

Eventually all my questions must have rattled him because he finally responded saying, “You ask too many questions. I like being able to tell a writer what I need and get it. This just isn’t going to work.”

Indeed. I receive no project details (other than the general topic of the blog and some bait and switch per post rate), and then get chastised for asking too many questions?

If you spend time searching for writing jobs on Craigs List or other job boards, scams aren’t the only thing you need to look out for. You must qualify each job opportunity carefully. Sometimes it takes responding to get the full gist of the offer. Lots of people use these platforms to find writers, yet have no idea how to work with a professional writer.

It IS possible to find good projects/clients on these sites, just make sure to do your due diligence when using them.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Identifying Patterns in Freelance Writing

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?

Designed by Lena