Archive for June, 2009

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Why a website should be part of every freelance writer’s arsenal

June 22, 2009

Having a website was absolutely essential to building my business. I now also have a blog, and they both bring in enough work to more than pay for their own overhead costs. My website and my involvement with American Independent Writers were the two biggest external contributors to my freelance success. Busting my butt nonstop to go after work was essential, but I don’t think it would have been nearly as effective without those two elements. ~ Kristen King

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In the twenty-first century, professional freelancers are expected to have websites. If you don’t, potential customers are probably going to avoid you like the troll under the bridge. It’s as simple as that.

Carving out your own personal bubble on the worldwide web has many advantages, not just drumming up clients:

  1. It serves as a ‘home-base’ for building your brand – Does anyone even know you exist? Especially if you’re new to the freelancing business, exposure is going to be important to you. Your website does just that. It increases your visibility and helps people find you when they’re searching for writers via the Internet. Furthermore, its design and your about/bio page (which should be included on your website) will speak volumes about your character. You’re no longer just a name, you’re a personality and a face. This helps potential clients tap into the ‘real person’ behind the services you’re offering, and is important for developing relationships and fostering trust.
  2. Let your writing speak for itself – With a website, you can demonstrate you’ve got talent by keeping an online portfolio with samples and published clips. And don’t forget, since your site is accessible around the clock, your promotions might land you a client while you’re sleeping. How’s that for easy marketing?
  3. Easy schmoozing and bye-bye bidding – You can spend a lot of time scouring the job boards for crap-tastic writing gigs that pay $10/hour or less. Instead, start advertising your website. It doesn’t take long to send the link out to all your friends, family and professional contacts. By cultivating relationships through referrals and word-of-mouth, you’re not wasting your precious time on dead-end projects that are just going to make you rip your hair out and start treating your dog Fluffy like your personal therapist.
  4. Everything is in one place, which saves you time and gives you peace of mind – When querying a potential client/publication/editor and you’re expected to provide samples of your work, wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to copy and paste your clips into your email, provide numerous links or worry about attachments? With a website, all you have to do is provide one link. All your clips are in one place and the person you’re contacting has the opportunity to learn more about you or look at several of your published samples if they so please. Talk about quick, easy and efficient.
  5. Validation, baby – Having a website will make you feel like a bonafide writer, totally legit. It gives you a vision of your professional accomplishments and goals.
  6. Everyone loses business cards – Here’s a likely dilemma. At a networking event you meet a potential client. You give them your business card. A couple months later, they have some work for you, but oh no…your business card got lost in the kafuffle. How will they know how to contact you? If you have a website and its had a chance to climb the search engine rankings, they can just type your name into a search engine and find your personal website (where hopefully you’ve included all your up-to-date contact info). Voila! Having a website helps people find you.
  7. Proof you’re an expert – Your website is the perfect space to prove your knowledge and highlight your niche(s). If you say you’re a technology writer, you can demonstrate it with your list of relevant articles, making yourself more credible.

So pay the itty-bitty monthly hosting fees and get yourself a website. Keep it up-to-date, banish all spelling and grammatical errors so your web content alone proves your skills, and let your personality and creativity shine. You can’t afford not to.

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Develop a business plan, already

June 12, 2009

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim.  When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. ~ Seneca

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Every morning when I crawl out of bed with drool tracks smeared across my cheeks and my hair looking something akin to a sparrow’s nest, there’s only one thing I can imagine being worse than the annoying honk of my alarm clock at 5am. That’s trying to summon the motivation to go into the basement and pop in my kickboxing workout video. On comes some 4-foot-nothing blonde ball of energy, bouncing across my TV screen like those kangaroos on the Discovery Channel. She tells me we’re going to have “a great time sweating”.  I stare at her from the other side of the room, wearing Betty Boop pajamas and a scowl, thinking…I wonder how many Snickers bars it would take for me to get like that.

Still, there’s one thing she says to me every morning that resonates. She tells me you have to write down your goals if you ever hope to achieve them. She tells me I need a plan. And she’s right. When it comes to being a freelance writer, developing a business plan is essential. As someone who prefers the spontaneous side of things, I know many of you are probably thinking you’d rather be forced to listen to the “Ice Ice Baby” song for 5 hours straight (or, er, maybe that’s just me). But writing down your goals doesn’t have to be a daunting or torturous task.

It’s easy, really. I advise you to make a 1-year roadmap detailing your freelance goals (especially important if you’re a newbie, such as myself). Make a list of major goals you have, such as landing your dream client, putting more bacon on the table, or maybe even breaking into a new niche. Give each of these a start date and deadline so you have the end in sight. Next, figure out the sub-steps or mini-goals you’ll have to take to achieve your bigger goals. Write these as bullet points underneath your main goals. Whatever you do, make sure your goals are realistic. In other words, if it’s your first year of freelancing, no duh you aren’t going to win the Nobel Peace Prize for your first published work. Don’t make yourself feel like you’ve already failed by picking impossible goals to attain within the timeframe you’re considering.

You can write your business plan on paper and tack it to your wall or frame it over your office desk. You can record it on your blog. Whatever works for you. Personally, I prefer to keep mine in visible sight somewhere I’ll see it everyday, so I’m constantly reminded of what direction I’m headed in and how I plan to get there. I even like to give them creative names. My business plan for this year is entitled: How NOT to become Johnny from The Shining anytime soon.

Business plans are so valuable to freelancers because:

  1. They keep you motivated and on track.
  2. They give you a way to assess your current progress and evaluate whether or not you’ve put in the necessary effort at the end of the year so you’re always moving ahead and advancing in your career.
  3. They remind you of the reasons you blew off that 9-5 gig after all, just to sit in front of your computer for hours on end in cartoon pajamas and bird-nest hair, scooping mac&cheese into your open piehole.
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The not-so-safe 9-5 office job

June 8, 2009

unemployment-line

There’s about a 95% chance I’ll be losing my steady office job at the end of August.

Don’t worry, I’ve already taken many deep breaths and clamped down on the muttered curses.

This isn’t an elephant-sized surprise.  I was hired on a 1-year contract with the potential for continuing employment.  And although my bosses have said they’d like to keep me on, budget costs are being cut and the company I work for can only afford to upkeep the tech guys.  The general research staff (aka…me) are being considered disposable unless things change between now and then.  They won’t really have the work available to keep me busy nor the money necessary to feed my wallet.

When I was presented with this tidbit of information, I didn’t freak.  Surprise!  Actually…I kind of breathed a sigh of relief.  Okay, well first I laughed about my assumption that my 9-5 grind was such a safe and secure bet.  And that there was no way I was disposable with such a solid education beneath my belt.  Shows me.

I’ll tell you why this wasn’t such a bad revealing though.

  1. I hate the job anyways. I’m getting paid laugh-worthy wages to do stuff I didn’t sign up for.  Most of the time, I have nothing to do.  So I spend my time staring at a blank computer screen.  I even contemplate stabbing my eyeballs out with two straws and blowing them like spitballs at office mates on occasion.  Yes, it really is that boring.  This job fulfills me about as much as that week I tried a coffee diet.  Think I’m joking?  I actually filled out an application to be an elephant groom at African Lion Safari just to escape its clutches.
  2. I have a back-up plan. My previous employer (whom I absolutely adore) has reminded me on more than one occasion that her door is always open.  Sure, it’s still in the research field, not completely in the direction I’d like to be heading.  But it’s something.  Whether I can get part-time or full-time work with her, at least I’m promised some sense of security with a paycheck for the time being.
  3. I have an excuse to aggressively pursue my true dreams and career aspirations. I can finally devote more of my focus and time to getting my freelance business off the ground.  When I gave the news to my dad about my potential job loss, even he said: “It’s probably the best thing that could happen to you.”  And he’s right.  Because I’m not happy where I am or with what I’m doing.  I’m not stimulated, I have no sense of self-progression, and all I’ve gotten out of the deal is a wallop of frustration.

Ed Gandia’s post at The Wealthy Freelancer made a great evaluation of the current economic climate and increasing lay-offs when he said:

That’s why I’m confident that a large percentage of these “funemployed” will come back (when their severance and savings run out!) as freelancers and solo professionals – not as corporate execs. They want the high pay, but they’re not willing to compromise too much to get it. Which means that in many cases they’ll have to settle for less until they build their solo careers.

But I think most of them will be OK with that. The freedom to design the life they want and live by their own rules will be the biggest reward. And it won’t be long before many of them are earning more (and doing more of what they want) than they did in their corporate jobs.

So for the rest of you facing a similar situation, here’s to working twice as hard for twice the rewards!  We’re all going to be just fine.

relief

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Like Nike said…just do it.

June 2, 2009

To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing. ~ Eva Young

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I came across a thought-provoking post today on Freelance Switch entitled “Just Get Going”.  To be quite frank, I sat up in my chair faster than my closest girlfriend takes to decide that a $300 pair of heels from Aldo is a perfectly rational purchase.  I became suddenly and uncomfortably aware that  I had fallen prey to the mind-boggling form of procrastination Martha calls “I must get all my ducks in a row before I start promoting my business”.  Bummer.  Why did it take such a kick in the butt for me to recognize the  unnecessary limitations I’ve been putting on my potential success?

Actually, I guess it wasn’t that big of a surprise.  This has always been one of my biggest pitfalls.  For whatever reason, I imagine that it’s possible to be absolutely prepared before making a decision or taking action.  I’ll spend more time than needed on a particular project because I’m confident that some level of quality perfection can be attained.  It’s kind of like a syndrome, now that I think of it.  And it really does prevent me from making progress or jumping on opportunities that I might otherwise have snagged.

I was startled by how little marketing I’ve been doing lately when that’s really where my focus should be since I’m just starting my writing career.  I mean…no matter how many tweaks I make to my business website, it’ll never be perfect enough for my tastes.  Despite how much I research and read up on the business of freelancing, experience will always be my best teacher.  And that fear of letting go of a writing project until I’ve revised it a bazillion times is only sucking up the time I could be using to build my business and scope out additional assignments or clients.  That’s what I should be doing.

I think I’ll take Martha’s advice and just get going – or as the Nike proverb puts it –  just do it!  Who cares if my ducks aren’t all in a row?  They probably never will be.  Time to get off the procrastinator bench and be a doer.  I’ve got to market fiercely and concentrate on sniffing my way to new assignments and clients rather than dwelling in the slush pile.  I recommend you other creative perfectionists to do the same.  Eventually your rise to action will pay off.

And remember…reward yourself.  You deserve it.