Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Telecommuting Opportunities for Writers

Freelance writer, Lexi Rodrigo, recently discussed her decision to take a telecommuting position. Lexi has operated a successful freelance writing business for years, and recently blogged about her decision to accept a telecommuting job. A telecommuter is a paid company employee – who just happens to perform their job from home. My best friend has been a telecommuting medical coder for a southeast hospital for 10 years and she loves it. Her employer provides software, reference material, computer equipment, and anything else required for her to do her job. In the past two years she’s lived in three different states, and her employer could care less as long as she continues to meet the company’s performance standards.

If you rely on freelancing as your sole source of income, you know some months can be leaner than others – especially in the early days when you’re first setting up shop. If you want more financial security, a telecommuting gig is certainly an option to consider. Lexi is absolutely right when she says that many freelancers are missing out on writing opportunities being offered to company employees. Depending on your scheduling and income needs, you could take a part-time or full-time position and freelance around that.

Before you commit to a telecommuting gig, ask yourself these questions:

  • 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?

Would I consider telecommuting? Sure, but I currently have a steady flow of freelance clients right now and a couple of personal writing projects that I’m very committed to, so I’d need something that provided LOTS of flexible scheduling. I have no issue at all with meeting set deadlines – as a freelancer that’s pretty much my thing. I just can’t commit to a set working schedule each day.

So where can you find legitimate telecommuting opportunities for writers? I’m told Flexjobs.com is one source specializing in telecommuting jobs, but they are also available on:

Craigs List (exercise caution here)
Twitter (I see job leads posted quite often)
Company websites
Various job boards

Would you consider taking on a telecommuting writing position working for another company?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Want to Learn How to Make Money Writing for Trade Magazines?

Anne Wayman and Lori Widmer are teaming up again to conduct a 2-part webinar on Trade Writing. Click here to learn more and sign up.

The webinar will discuss the trade market and why it can be a lucrative market for freelance writers, query tips, how to integrate trade writing with your other projects and more. These ladies REALLY know what they’re talking about, so it was a no brainer for me to sign up. You all get a free month membership at the Five Buck Forum - a deal in and of itself. Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dealing with Difficult Clients

I’ve been dealing with a couple of difficult clients lately. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often. I’m a big proponent of delivering excellent customer service to the clients I work with. People like feeling that they and the issues that they are dealing with matter to you. When you show that appreciate them and the business they provide, it creates a foundation where loyalty and trust bloom. And let’s face it – it doesn’t cost you a dime to treat people nicely and with respect. My friend, Lori Widmer wrote a fantastic article about how businesses should get back to the basics of offering good old-fashioned customer service as a deliverable to clients. I highly suggest checking it out.

No matter how nice you are, you get a client who cannot be pleased. Some people just like living in the shadow of misery and complaining about everything under the sun. I’m usually pretty good about sniffing these individuals out and avoiding them in both my personal and professional lives; but I’m human and sometimes my “spidey senses” fail to warn me of impending trouble.

Client #1: Nothing is right; but how can it be when he keeps trying to change the scope at every turn? He disappears for weeks and then pops back up at the most inopportune times (e.g. when I’m getting started with new projects) to suggest new changes. To top it off, he has an inflated sense of importance and can be quite sarcastic and demeaning when communicating with everyone working on the project. Now normally I have clauses in my contracts that would have helped me avoid a lot of this type of situation. I took this project on through a marketing firm I used to work with, so I’m kind of stuck dealing with their terms of service.

Client #2: A PR/Marketing and Promotional professional who is completely clueless about what she wants. She’s in need of a professional bio and during our initial phone conversation explained the breadth of her industry experience, saying she wants the bio to reflect that. I prepare the bio based on our conversation and additional information she provided.

Now she says it’s too broad, and she wants it to be more narrowly focused. We scheduled another call to discuss it further, but I realize that she really doesn’t want to participate in the process saying , “I thought I’d just give it to you so that you could complete it without my involvement. I’m just so busy.” Yeah, I gathered that you’re so busy when you missed our last scheduled phone call to instead take part in an impromptu tennis match (BTW - I would NEVER have admitted to anyone that I did that).

All frustration aside, I treat these clients with respect and consideration. Under different circumstances, I would have recognized that they were not the right clients for me BEFORE doing business with them. Nevertheless, here are some of my tips for dealing with difficult clients:

Don’t Let Them Get to You

Easier said than done sometimes, but if my past corporate sales experience taught me anything, it’s that remaining calm and in control when dealing with irate or otherwise difficult customers is important. You have to separate yourself emotionally from the situation and not take things personally. If they get nasty, don’t take the bait.

Don’t Keep Apologizing

This advice kind of seems like the opposite of good customer service on the surface. I NEVER say “I’m sorry by the way. I don’t like that phrase, and think it’s overdone. What I will say is: “I apologize for…” and offer solutions. I make sure that I am clear about specifically what I’m apologizing for. Also, I don’t keep apologizing because when it’s mindlessly uttered over and over it loses its value and just doesn’t seem sincere.

Establish a Rapport if Possible

I’ll objectively listen to a client’s complaints, and offer sincere empathy saying something like, “I can understand your issue with XYZ; I don’t like to be kept waiting either.” Sometimes it helps them calm down and see that I do understand their frustration and am truly trying to help correct the issue or get to the root of it. **NOTE: I don’t recommend doing this if you don’t sincerely feel empathetic because It can come across as completely insincere.

How important is customer service in your business, and you have any additional tips to share?

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