Friday, June 18, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
My previous corporate life taught me a lot about value. Providing value to my customers brought them back, got glowing letters written to my superiors, and helped me feel great about the job I was doing. I felt good when I showed customers ways I'd saved them money or hit corporate goals and stretch goals. I loved getting a "Wow that was fast" or "Dana, you're awesome!" I work hard today to get the same reaction from my writing clients. It's not possible to hit the mark and wow customers 100% of the time but I'm happy to say that most people feel good when they send me money for the service I've provided and most of them come back for more.
Although I'm a freelance writer and web marketing consultant who has traded dress shoes for fluffy slippers, I've retained my corporate set of core values.
I haven't turned lax just because I'm not wearing pantyhose. Let’s say I wear virtual pantyhose with my fuzzy bunnies ;)
• I ask questions. I make sure I try to gain a full understanding of what clients want.
• I treat their business as if it's my business. That means that even though I might be ghostwriting, I still work to put the same amount of care and effort as I do when I put my own name on it. If someone wants to sell something, I work my hardest to help them do that. I'm exuberant when a client tells me that they've had great results as a result of something I did for them.
• I answer emails fast. People like instant service.
• I try very hard to never make one client feel less important than another client. If your smallest client feels like they're your most important customer they're more likely to become a bigger client for you.
• I give more than I get. Value. I often provide little extras so that customers feel like they've gotten value from me. I love the reaction I get when I tell someone I've done something extra for them.
• I care about the outcome. I want my writing to provide customers with results so that they feel good about what they've spent, they'll want to buy more from me, and they'll tell others about my services.
• If I get it wrong, I do whatever I can to make it right. I've seen writers refuse to step even a smidgen outside the scope of what they feel they're being paid for or become miserable when they have a rewrite request. Of course we'd all love to get it right the first time but the way you react to criticism can make a big impact on a client's perception of you.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
If you’re an experienced freelance writer, when is the last time you learned a new skill? Could learning a new skill help break some earning barriers for you? Is your comfort zone stopping you from earning the sort of money you want?
I took on a new skill area in November. It was one I really had zero desire to tackle. I had given a job lead to a writer I knew. She was a very experienced freelancer and I thought she’d be better suited to handle a query I’d gotten from someone who’d found my website through some of my marketing efforts. In return, she gave me a lead for some regular work in a new area I hadn't yet tried. I almost said, "No thanks" but something told me to step outside of my comfort zone. In April that new work source sent me a cheque for $1,860 for the work I’d made that month and this month it’ll probably result in about $1,500. This is just one of the many baskets of work I now have.
It wasn’t easy to get over my fears of learning to do something I didn’t think I wanted to do. After the first several assignments I was ready to quit. The client was ready to give up on me, too. But one morning I started earlier than usual in a quiet house and I had a breakthrough. I suddenly realized I could do this and discovered why it would benefit me to persevere. This skill could help me help myself as well as help others. When I calculated the hourly rate I’d make at it, it not only seemed like a good option but seemed like a way to buy myself something that I don’t have nearly enough of --- time. By doing more of this type of work I could work fewer hours and maybe achieve more of that balance I talk endlessly about. Hmm.
Soon I discovered that it wasn’t just better paying but it did something a lot of my other writing work didn’t do--- it really challenged me. At the end of each assignment I felt like I’d accomplished something.
I’m not about to put all my eggs into one basket --- after several years of doing this for a living, I know better --- but expanding horizons and stepping outside of my comfort zone has been a great thing for me. Is it something you should consider?
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I never said I wanted to work 350+ days a year but somehow it just... happened.
When I started freelance writing in 2006, at first I worked around my two-year old's schedule so weekends were a necessity but now that he's been in kindergarten for a while and attending school full days alternate weekdays, I expected to be able to work fewer nights and weekends. But it hasn't changed. So...I need to do something about it.
Family and friends who try to make plans often don't understand my "having to work" having the same meaning as non-freelancers "having to work" on weekends. Most who work for someone else just don't get what it's like to run your own business from home and be unable to shut it off at 5:pm, especially 5:pm Friday nights. I have no one to cover me and time equals money. No sick days; no paid vacation days.
Part of it is the freelancer's fault, though. It's true. Sure, there are times when I HAVE TO work but at times it's more like I am addicted to work or maybe just habitual. I don't shut it off because I do love what I do. Having your own freelance writing business becomes something you want to grow and nurture. It often doesn't feel like work. Besides, there are times when I get a heckuva lot done by working on a Sunday afternoon or when I have a second wind after midnight (such as when this post was written @ around 12:30 AM after two post-6:pm coffees) (and I must admit to occasionally having to "work" on a weekend when there's an event I'd just rather not attend. But Shhh about that.) All in all, a flexible schedule can be good thing --- so long as your business doesn't become a barrier to rest and relaxation... and your health.
I've become flexible with clients to a fault. I really don't want to continue to work most every weekend forever so I've decided on the following game plan to help me scale back.These tips could help you, too. A lot of business owners are in the same boat. If you want to work weekends, that's great but if you don't you don't want to be perceived by your clients as suddenly unreasonably unavailable. Set expectations so that if you do work on weekends, it's going to be most often because you've chosen to, not because you're expected to. Before long, your existing clients will adjust and you'll set expectations up front for new clients you bring on.
Here's my game plan:
- Stop initiating weekend emails. Clients who think they can expect a one hour response time on the weekend or for you to pick up the phone on a Sunday probably never got the push back when they started that behaviour. And there's a good chance that you started the cycle by being the first one to e-mail on a Sunday. Just like Rebecca said in comments on my post 7 Signs You Need to Break Up with That Client, you need to set clear boundaries. If I have to work on a Sunday, I'm trying to see that as my own time so different rules apply, such as turning off IM and not responding to e-mails unless necessary. I've started to try to save communications and finished assignments for sending on Monday morning. If people don't think I work on weekends, they probably won't, as a rule, expect me to.
This doesn't mean I won't ever answer an e-mail on a Saturday night, though. Showing people that you are willing to respond, particularly in an emergency, can be a good but the more often you initiate the email on a weekend or agree to a weekend deadline, the more you're setting the expectation that you are open for business all the time and the fewer weekends you'll be able to take off because you'll have to plan for it. If clients email me on a Sunday night and I read the message, I'm going to start deciding whether to answer immediately or save it until business hours. If I'm working on the weekends, it's going to start being on my terms.
- Stop setting weekend deadlines. I've made it a point to try being more careful about agreeing to weekend deadlines. I'm also starting to answer in terms of business days rather than calendar days. By telling a client "5 business days" as a project delivery ETA you are essentially setting an expectation that you work business hours, Monday to Friday.
- Stop emailing clients and talking on IM at night. I have clients all over the globe. I have clients in
Australia, in the US, UK, in , and elsewhere but that doesn't mean that I'm always working at 1:am when it's their business hours. If I am, I'm now getting in the habit of turning off Skype / MSN/ Yahoo so that I can work and not get into conversations that should wait. I do set late or early appointments to talk to clients in other time zones on Skype or on the phone on occasion but am going to try to stick to my own time zones in terms of setting deadlines in order to try to maintain work / life balance. I also ask clients to set appointments to call, rather than just picking up the phone when they feel like it. And, if I'm working after 10:pm, I am going to be more productive if I'm working on finishing something rather than doing ten things at once. Mauritius
- Stop working weekends. It's a simple concept … do something fun instead. Too often, freelancers roll out of bed, put the coffee on, turn on the computer and start working out of habit. I’d like to begin to choose whether or not to work weekends so I need to keep that in mind when setting my schedule, accepting work, managing my time, and making plans. Too often, I'm catching up on weekends because I've gotten sidetracked with my Writer's ADD syndrome and had a snafu in time management so have to play catch-up on the weekend.
Above all, let us all try to remember this one very important thing: Your business...Your rules.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
There are different ways to approach freelance writing for the web. One way is to quietly go about the business of being a ghostwriter and apply for jobs and stay in the background. Another way is to put your name and face out there and try to attract people and get them to approach you. I like the latter approach as a way to get clients tracking me down rather than being on the constant hunt for work. How do you start this process? It can take time but here are a few strategic marketing steps you can take to develop your brand so that you get noticed.
1 Create a Website
4 Helping Others
5 Social Media
Your Writing Business Website
My writing business website has been a powerful marketing tool for me.
When I got started, I used a free Google page to use as a one page online resume that I linked to when applying for jobs. But no one really found that site on their own. As soon as I created my business website (which cost me an initial $35 and the majority of a weekend as I put it together myself) I started increasing the likelihood of potential customers finding me. In fact, I almost never look at job boards. If I find my workload lightening, I market with my website and that typically creates new queries coming in.
A lot of writers don’t agree with writing just for the byline and neither do I. My methods do more for me than let me see my name online. They've helped me build an online presence. I write for article directories and link back to my website and this has helped me do several things:
1. It helps me get indexed for my name in search engines. Article site profiles are on page 1 of Google when people search for my name. Some clients don’t find that very impressive but many of my clients have searched through that profile to get a feel for my writing style. I really wanted to control some of what would be found on page 1 under my name and so this worked like a charm.
2. The sites help with the SEO for my business site and my niche blogs. By keyword anchoring words I wanted to rank for in search engines in the byline, I improve the marketing potential of my website because I increase the chances of people looking for my services finding me. I also use this for article marketing which helps me supplement my income.
Beyond free sites, I’ve also used passive income article sites to help me in this regard. While building some passive income streams, I have increased my presence and several places have led people directly to my website and my “contact” page.
Blogging is how it all started for me, really. I started blogging for fun and found out that people were getting paid to write so I decided to pursue creating a writing business of my own. Blogging helps me expand my SEO reach because I work to rank for keyword phrases in niches that I enjoy writing in. I write on about a dozen of my own blogs to help me build links back to my writing business site, to help me expand passive income streams, and to create samples as well as increase my online portfolio. I also use blogging on my business site to keep traffic and search engines visiting regularly.
If your writing business site becomes static, like a brochure, search engines will eventually stop indexing you and you’ll slide off the first page for terms you worked hard to rank for. Blogging on the site helps me put fresh content on the site, allowing me to gain attention for various keyword phrases I want to target and I also build links pointing to those blog entries to help with my overall search engine optimization strategy as well.
By being a helpful online citizen, this can help you gain attention and build a positive brand. Answer questions on forums and in blog comments and provide information to others (such as by mentoring others in your niche). Doing unto others will definitely reap you rewards and will enhance your online reputation so that when potential customers look you up, they’ll find great things about you. By being public and sharing, you can become known as a subject matter expert in an area of writing and this could also help you command higher rates from new customers as well. When people approach you, you are definitely in the driver’s seat when it comes to rates.
Social media allows you to amplify all of the above suggestions by helping you gain more attention from search engines and from people. You can use it to generate traffic to your site, your blogs, articles and guest posts you’ve written. You can also use it to develop relationships and to network. I’ve had writing jobs come as a direct result of social media tools. Embracing social media has done wonders for my writing career and has provided some great inspiration and motivation for me as well.
Only you can decide what type of writer you want to be and whether or not you want to put your name and face out there for others to see. If you do decide to market and promote yourself, you'll find loads of free tools to make the job easier and help you have fun and expand your writing talent in the process!