Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

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I’m alive…alive!

October 20, 2009

“I’m like a big old hen. I can’t cluck too long about the egg I’ve just laid because I’ve got five more inside me pushing to get out.” ~ Louis L’Amour

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I must apologize for my hibernation. However, I have a good excuse! I’ve been one busy little bee.

My start-up has started to really blossom and take off. After a two-month dry spell at the get-go, I’ve started picking up some regular and steady work. This is a huge relief and revs up my motivation. Not only am I starting to make a profit, but I’m receiving rave reviews. This is the best encouragement any new freelance writer can hope for. I know I’m pleasing my clients, which has promised future work and referrals.

Not only have I managed to secure guaranteed part-time marketing support and copywriting work through a local tutoring company, but I’ve also dug up a few other small corporate writing assignments AND my first magazine article assignment.  I’m genuinely proud of myself and my recent accomplishments.

This is way better than some lousy 9 to 5 office job.

I promise to get my act together with some fresh blog posts very soon!

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I <3 freelancing for rad clients

August 27, 2009

My son is now an “entrepreneur.” That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.  ~ Ted Turner

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I got my first official copywriting client. Boo-yah, baby! I’m totally stoked. Were it not for the obvious lame-factor, I’d be jumping around like a squirrel that just consumed an unhealthy amount of Red Bull. Not that any amount would be healthy for a squirrel…

I feel very, very lucky. As a newbie freelancer, having my first experience with a client be a positive one is just as encouraging as it is reassuring. I’ve been given the opportunity to work with a fellow female entrepreneur that faced hard beginnings and now successfully runs her own educational institution. Hello, inspiration! Since she’s local, I also got to come out of my den and partake in a face-to-face consultation with her.  Things couldn’t have gone better. We communicated effectively, she gave me very clear instructions on what she was looking for and I feel absolutely confident with the ideas I’ve been drafting up to this point. Oh yah, and she fed me coffee and homemade banana bread! Seriously, it doesn’t get any sweeter than that (thank you, client of my dreams).

So in celebration, I’ve come up with some ideas for how to appreciate and hold onto those heavenly clients on your list. Even better? I’ve included detailed examples of how I’ve incorporated them into my own practices. Ready, set…go!

  1. Offer a discount, free service or product…sometimes: I know, I uttered “free”. How dare I. But before you turn around and leave, hear me out. I’m not suggesting you write pro bono all the time or undersell yourself. What I am saying is keep your client’s interests at heart and understand that the payoff is oftentimes worth it. It can help you secure a potential client or keep an old client coming back for more. For example, I offer a 15% discount to new clients on their first project. This helps me build credibility and trust. It also means a potential client who might be unsure about investing in my services will be more likely to take the risk. Why? Because they don’t have to shell out as much cash before having proof of my abilities and accountability. I even offer a 5% discount on a future project to clients who land me a successful new referral. This is a win-win situation – your client has incentive and you get new business.
  2. Talent is good. Unbeatable customer service is better: Be honest about your abilities, turn-around time and expectations. No pussy-footing. Clients appreciate a straight-forward attitude. But what’s equally important is that you genuinely care about your client’s needs. Don’t be solely focused on the moolah. If you want to succeed as a freelancer, you must first help your client succeed. It’s called customer service and clients remember their personal experience with a provider – and whether it was a positive or negative one – even more than the quality of the finished product. Listen carefully, suggest positive solutions, share your knowledge and give them the attention they deserve. Once you’ve handed them a totally kickass completed project and they’ve paid you your dues, send them a thank-you. A personalized note to show your gratitude will go a long way and really set you apart from others, but even an email will do. By taking a real interest in my client’s needs and vision, I’ve been able to secure more work. How did I do this? I listened more than I talked, I incorporated her ideas into my own brainstorming and communicated them to her, I made myself available to her at times that were convenient for her since I knew she had a busy school to run, and I was never anything less than professional, friendly and enthusiastic.
  3. Give them what they expect…then give them something they weren’t expecting: This type of business isn’t about exercising your artistic freedom, even if we are creative professionals. Clients have a set of expectations they require you to meet. So deliver on your promises and don’t be the guy who took the horse and ran with it or they’ll just regret hiring you for the job. They may even spread the bad word to others via fire-breathing rage…and you really don’t want your reputation burned (word-of-mouth is a powerful networking tool, after all). Giving them what they want is good, but if you really want to emblazon your Chiclet-smile and impeccable grammar on their memories, give them something they weren’t expecting. Go that extra mile. Throw in a sidebar for free. Finish the project ahead of deadline. Agree to meet them in-person for lunch or coffee to discuss their project rather than communicating solely over phone or email. Make yourself memorable and you’ll become the go-to for future projects.

This industry has some fierce competition. I know because it gives me the heebie-jeebies everyday. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned early on, it’s that how you deal with clients can make or break your freelancing career. And the last thing you want is to lose the golden ones.

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Invoking ‘Buffy-Power’ in the freelance start-up struggle

August 18, 2009

I thought it was gonna be more like in the movies. You know, inspirational music and a montage: me sharpening pencils, reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked because in the montage I have glasses. Real life is so slow and it hurts my occipital lobe. ~ Buffy

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Here’s a little secret. I’m a shameless, obsesso-fan of the T.V. success that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When teenage life was sucking, the campy horror series was what I turned to–blood-sucking fiends included. It provided comfort when gooey, chocolate-chip cookies were threatening my waistline. Buffy was my hero (sorry Oprah). Not only was she athletic and resourceful, but she could be witty and pretty while kicking demon butt. Talk about girl-power!

Lately, I’ve been attempting to invoke that slayer power to deal with the struggle of starting up a full-time freelance career. I’m going to be honest and tell you that starting up this writing business has been hard work. I didn’t realize the perseverance, patience and motivation that would be required to rise up on two feet. I had visions of sipping on my morning cappucchino, bunny-slippers propped up on my desk, projects rolling into my lap. Well, maybe not rolling…more like dripping from a leaky faucet.

Instead, I’m sporting some lovely black circles under my eyes, using caffeine to combat a constant stream of anxieties–am I good enough, when will the next paycheck come, did my email to that editor fall into a black hole?–wearing 5-day old pajamas. That’s the ugly truth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t regret turning to freelancing full-time after losing my steady office job due to the economy. Especially after reading Ed Gandia’s supportive words today:

So, for Gen Y’ers everywhere, here’s my (blunt) advice: Forget about trying to find a “job.” Forget about politicians’ promises to fix things. Forget about waiting this one out. (Even if you wait it out, you risk having even greater competition when younger rivals start entering the workforce en masse in two or three years.)

Instead, put your faith where it belongs: on your talents, abilities, creative capacity and ability to solve problems. Then, sell those abilities as a freelance professional. You’ll get back to work much faster. And you’ll have the freedom and flexibility you and your generation craves (we all want that freedom, but you guys have taken life-work balance to a new level).

Pretty promising words, don’t you think? And I agree with him. But I’ve also realized that being a freelancer is no easy choice. And even when I’ve been forewarned of the hardships, I always had some niggling doubt. Things will be different for me, I thought. Try again. I got quite the reality check in the past few weeks. Squashing The Sound of Music version of a writer’s life was necessary. But guess what? I’m still just as enthusiastic about pursuing my goals. And you can be too if you’re new to the game, like myself.

Here are some fundamental tasks I’ve completed within the past couple weeks to help launch my personal brand, which I’d recommend all newbie freelancers consider attacking:

  1. Website and business cards designed – Vital marketing tools. I’ve been using the website to start building my own online portfolio and handing out my business cards to family, friends and potential clients.
  2. Revving up the education– I know I’m competing with more seasoned freelancers, so I’ve been doing a bogus amount of reading to further develop and hone my skills. My reading includes blogs and books (check out Paul Lima, Michelle Goodman and the Renegade ladies for some killer resources to add to your shelves). I’ve also been taking a copywriting course so I can get more experience in the field, which is known to be the ‘bread and butter’ of many writers who also contribute to magazine publications.
  3. Setting up a home office– I realized that sitting in front of the T.V. in my living room doesn’t really inspire productivity or concentration. So I found a stylin’ used desk to set up in one corner of my room and purchased some basic office supplies to make it all schnazzy. I’ve got a great work space now that forces me to focus on my work without the typical distractions of home.
  4. Local marketing campaign – I designed a simplistic but professional brochure advertising my services, included a business card and pen (potential clients generally respond well to a small, inexpensive gift related to the services you’re offering), and dropped these marketing packages off at local houses. I’ve only done 50 so far and didn’t expect any response. I got one of my first official clients this way. You never know.
  5. Signed up for Elance – I was avoiding doing this for fear of falling into the rut of low-paying, dead-end gigs. I’ve decided to try it out. If nothing else, it’ll help me flesh out my portfolio and get some diverse samples to show future clients.
  6. Writing and researching queries – I’ve just started to take the query route. I have experience writing for newspapers, but would love to break into magazines. This in itself has been quite the learning curve. I’ve only sent one out and I’m currently in the process of researching and writing two more, so I’ll have to give updates on these as they become available.

This is some of the most challenging work I’ve had to do, I won’t lie. Yet I have faith in my skills and the passion to back it. Giving up isn’t an option. And just like Buffy, I plan on kicking some serious butt…only I’ll be doing it in the real world.

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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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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.

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Make Editors and Clients Want More.

October 31, 2008

Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world. ~ William Shakespeare

Happy Halloween to everyone! Halloween is definitely one of my favourite times of the year.  I remember as a child lugging a pillowcase over my back, grunting and swaying like some hunchback, determined to accumulate enough sweets to give myself a sugar-high for weeks to come.  I wish you all many tricks and treats.

Today I wanted to write a small post about what I have learned to date in establishing strong relationships with editors and keeping them coming back for more.  Feel free to comment and add to the list!

  1. Go the extra mile. Editors and clients appreciate writers who make their work easier.  This means you may have to extend yourself a bit.  Try your best to always get enough information about the writing project up front so you aren’t constantly harassing them for more details.  Understand the requirements ahead of time so there’s less editing and revision in the long run.  Make sure your piece is polished when submitted so your editor doesn’t have to almost entirely re-write your words.  Sloppiness will get you nowhere.  Try to work as independently as possible so your editor or client doesn’t feel like they have to make extra time to give you guidance and support.  If a photograph is required for a project and you’ve got the basic skills to do this yourself, why not take the initiative and provide a photograph yourself so an extra person doesn’t have to be hired to do the job?  Not only do you earn their appreciation for cutting down on their workload, but you can make some extra cash for handling both elements of the project.
  2. Be open to suggestions. If you’re writing for a living, part-time or full-time, then obviously you’re talented.  Sure, sometimes a client or editor makes a suggestion for revision that makes you gnash your teeth together and contemplate sticking your eyeballs with two straws and firing them like spitballs.  You’re the professional writer, after all.  You know best, right?  Maybe.  Whether or not a project is better the way you imagine it, if the hand that feeds you has something else in mind, take their needs and wants into consideration.  This is priority.  If you really fear that it will negatively impact the finished product, discuss this openly with them, state your reasons, and try to seek middle ground.  But never, never, never downplay their input.
  3. Don’t be lazy – respect deadlines. Unless you’ve been incapacitated by some finger-eating flesh disease or zombies have invaded your city, always make sure you get a project in by its deadline.  In fact, getting it in a day or two in advance will make editors kiss the ground you walk on and clients come back with more projects in the future.  Life happens and occasionally you may have to request an extension, but only do this under dire circumstances and do it well in advance so editors or clients have time to rearrange their own schedules if necessary.  If missing deadlines becomes a regular occurrence, you may soon find that nobody wants to hire you and you have a reputation that limits your opportunities.
  4. Always be professional. Don’t treat editors or clients like best friends by being overly casual.  You are running a business and should therefore conduct yourself accordingly.  However, this doesn’t mean you can’t meet for coffee on occasion or send greeting cards on special holidays.  You want to be friendly and approachable, but you also want to be taken seriously after all.
  5. Suck up…but just a little. Overt ass-kissing is never pretty.  You don’t want to come across as pitiful and desperate.  But you still want to show gratitude and appreciation for the business your editors and clients provide you.  A compliment here and there always helps.  Keeping the lines of communication flowing even when no current projects are taking place is important too.  If you show interest in your editors and clients, they will return it, and this increases the likelihood of landing gigs.    
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Nose-Diving into Economic Turmoil.

October 24, 2008

We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are. ~ Tobias Wolff

The economic recession. One could argue it’s the hottest topic on freelance blogs these days. Some are muttering low-toned warnings of hardships to come. Others are screaming – ready to abandon the freelance business like a bad date – unable to muster the courage to search for positive possibilities. And here I am, embracing it as I teeter on the tip of the diving board, ready to fall into a sea of uncertaintyI could sink or swim.  How can I even consider pursuing this career in its beginning stages when our financial grounding is so unreliable? I’ll tell you.

Men with Pens wrote this fabulous post about recessions being a good time to start up a business, and I agree with them.  So hold onto your quizzical stares and gaping mouths for just a moment.

I bet your current corporate job isn’t ‘secure’ either. Not only is the freelance business ‘iffy’ as far as financial security, but that steady office job you may rely on isn’t either.  In fact, you’re always at risk when your ability to work and make a decent income is dependent on someone else.  The economy has just served to worsen the situation due to increased lay-offs and more companies deciding to outsource rather than pay full-time employees that require extra compensation.  And in the freelance business, you can’t get laid off.  The only one in charge of your success is number one…you.

Freelancers generally have multiple streams and sources of income, not just one. If you work for a company that is going under, they’re all you have.  They sink, you sink.  However, most freelancers have multiple sources and streams of income…if one deteriorates, so what?  You will have other clients to rely on and in the meantime you can start marketing for new clients.

It’s cheaper for companies to hire freelancers than employees. In-house staff will decrease, giving freelancers more opportunities to get work.  Work still needs to get done, companies are still buying, and freelancers are the cheapest option.  More outsourcing means more work for freelancers, and more work means more money.

Freelancers aren’t new to marketing themselves, selling themselves, and relishing that entrepreneurial spirit. We’re flexible by nature, and marketing and selling ourselves is one of the biggest aspects of the business.  This gives us all an advantage over people who have been long-term employees and aren’t used to having to continuously search for employment.  Furthermore, many freelancers are taking advantage of the people in this situation by offering their resume writing skills up for grabs during a time when job-searchers desire any little extra ‘bling’ that will set them apart from the competition.

There’s a higher demand for marketing materials. Due to the recession, many companies are revving up their marketing output.  This will give copywriters a chance to increase their own business by helping struggling companies regain the cutting edge they need to continue being successful and rise above competing businesses.

So don’t push the panic button just yet.  Increase your marketing efforts, try to put a little more into savings, but take advantage of what opportunities are there.  And they are there…you just have to be open to them.