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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Worthy Writer: Bending Without Breaking

What's on the iPod: Life by The Avett Brothers

It's been a nice, slow week so far. I'm glad for the break since I'll be working this weekend. I can remember one other time I did work a weekend, and it was under similar circumstances. When clients have hard deadlines they must meet, and when I can accommodate, I'll do it.

Truth is most of them don't have hard deadlines. With just a little resistance on your part, you'll be able to tell which deadlines are firm and which are arbitrary.

Not all freelance writers get that, either. I was on a forum recently when the topic of rush fees came up. Only one other writer said they charged a rush fee. Everyone else said they simply worked the weekend or the late night and "made up" their free time later.

So much for the quality of life of the freelancer.

It wasn't that their regular hours included weekends, either. While I agree that writers can make their own hours and their own decisions on when they agree to rush jobs, it seems a little, well, desperate to agree to terms outside the parameters every time because you don't want to lose the client or the job. Or maybe some writers don't set parameters?

Hard to say. What's easy to say is it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.

I like to be flexible for my clients, but flexibility has to come with boundaries, too. If a client comes to me today with an "I need it now!" request, sure. I'll try to honor it. However, if there are projects ahead of them, there's going to be an extra charge for me to give up an evening for them or for pushing another project into the evening hours so I can accommodate their request.

It's like calling a plumber at 9 pm with an emergency pipe leak. You're going to pay for that. The same should apply to clients whose fires light up right at 5 pm. On a Friday.

Here are ways I navigate the rush job:

Charge for it. Seriously, if they want your time right away or beyond your normal working hours, there should be additional compensation for it. When I have been approached with these requests, I say "Yes, this time I'm able to. Just so you know that will come with an additional fee for the after-hours/rush work." In most cases, the fire dies down immediately. If they don't, you at least have the additional fee for having to put in late/extra hours. And make the charge significant enough -- otherwise, you're going to resent it.

Offer alternatives. They come to you with a need-it-now request. How can you tell it's not arbitrary? By saying "I'm busy at the moment, but I can get to it in two days/a week. What's your absolute deadline?" You'll be surprised by how often that deadline can move. Not always, but the reason I've worked just a few weekends in eleven years is because I've asked this question. Another option would be to tell the client "If you can push that deadline back one day, I'll work just one half of the weekend (or a few hours extra each evening) and it won't cost you as much."

Retrain the serial latecomers. Yes, it can be done. In a few cases with some long-time clients, I've answered them right away, but told them I could get to it on this day or that day. Also, with one client that always dropped a massive project on me at the last minute, I started contacting them a month before it would normally arrive. Sometimes it's poor planning, but sometimes it's just inconsiderate. This particular client had asked me more than once if I was busy over my Labor Day weekend. Had I said no, I would have worked it without added compensation (they had a fixed budget).

Frame it with limiting language. I've said, "Yes, I'm happy to help this one time" or "Normally, I don't, but I'll make this one exception." You have to set boundaries so that going forward, there isn't the same expectation.

Say no. Sometimes you just can't, or just don't want to work the extra hours. There's nothing wrong with saying "Sorry, I'm fully booked."

Writers, how do you handle the rush job or weekend work requests?
When will you say yes?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Freelance Writer: Looking Big

What's on the iPod: Hate Music by Owl John

After a month of full-out writing, it was nice to have a break yesterday. I sent out some queries, contacted a few potential clients, and did some grunt work (a.k.a. things I've been putting off, like cleaning the desk).

News on the home front: daughter has just been offered yet another job-- this one in her chosen field. She had a moment of panic (didn't want to turn down an offer she'd already accepted), but I think she realized the opportunity being handed to her. Here was a job that was more than a stepping stone. I think she'll take it.

I was talking with another writer offline about clients, client reactions, and what I think might be the cause of some of the reactions and low-ball offers we see. It may not be everyone's experience, but my own experience is one that sees occasional insults or other odd behaviors. I think those reactions -- at least two of them -- are directly related to two factors: being female and not appearing "bigger."

The female part I can't control, nor will I go out of my way to prove to someone I'm "just as good" as a man. If they can't tell from my portfolio, screw them. Sorry, but I've no time for sexist behavior.

I'm too busy working for people who value my skills for what they are.

But that second part -- the "big enough" dilemma-- is one I'm still trying to come to terms with.

It's not just a perception, either. In a few cases, I've had clients:

1) Give me their toll-free number to save me money
2) Ask if I'm still freelancing
3) Explain what a W-9 is
4) Treat my invoice like junk email
5) etc.....

It's only recently I've wondered if I should do something about it. It was after a potential client signed off with an asshole remark about my rates. It was then I wondered if he'd have done that had I been a man, and if he'd have done that had I been a company.

While I can't say if either of those things would have changed his unprofessional behavior, I do wonder sometimes if having a larger presence -- like your own company name -- would make rates easier to digest for some clients.

So I'm going to do a brain dump right here. I invite you to play along.

Pros of doing business under a business name:

More impactful presence. If I do business under my registered business name -- LDW Publishing -- there's a bit more of a professional persona attached, don't you think? Instead of saying "She's nuts to charge $125 an hour!", potential clients might think "That company is a bargain at $125 an hour." Or they could still say I'm nuts, but at least now they're saying it about the company.

Less pushback on price. I could be simply inserting my own dream into this one, but I've seen companies hire other companies and never flinch at the price. There's some sort of detachment that keeps things from getting too out of control when it comes to negotiating.

Invoices are taken seriously. That's my hope, anyway. I would suspect stiffing Jane Doe is much easier to get over than stiffing Primary Writing Services LLC. Both might threaten legal action, but the company gives off the image of having a staff large enough to handle that.

Cons of doing business under a business name:

Lack of personal touch. That's been my biggest reason for continuing to work under my name. Not that having a business name changes anything, but it's all about perception. If the client is hiring a writer for the first time, they may want someone who seems to be accessible.

May chase away some clients. I get a few clients who are individuals and not businesses. Would they get in touch if they thought they were reaching a "corporate" presence? Also, some clients may see the business name and think I'm out of their price range when in fact I'm right in their price range.

Current clients lose you. And another huge reason for me to stay who I am -- I don't want my current clients to have troubles finding me, nor do I want them thinking I've grown beyond being able to serve them.

Writers, what do you think? Do you do business under your name or a business name?
What reasons can you think of to either choose a business name or stay with your own name?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Free Advice Friday: Cutting Through the Writing Advice Noise

What's on the iPod: Misfits and Lovers by The Wallflowers

It's been a relatively slow week since Wednesday. I'm rather happy for that as I know next weekend I'll be putting in extra hours. Normally, I don't work weekends, but a favorite client has their back to the wall and needs help.

Excellent news on the home front -- my daughter has accepted an offer of employment. More money, closer to home, and hopefully, no more bullshit. The story of her decision to leave a job she loves is one I can't relate publicly, but I can say that when you're in the firing line of someone higher up trying to secure their own position by discrediting or eliminating yours, you'll never win.

Except when you leave -- that's when you win because the target is no longer on your back.

I had extra time this week to visit forums and blogs. In a few cases, I saw some pretty slipshod, bad advice being bandied about. In one case, the advice didn't fit with the question at all. Writer was asking about X -- other writer answered about Q.


Worse, the writer asking the question was all set to take the advice. Luckily, more than one person politely pointed out that in this case, Q doesn't fit.

Thanks to the Internet and the world of blogs and forums, way too many people believe they are experts in writing. Any writer, experienced or not, would have a tough time trying to cut through the BS and find advice that fits. Even experienced writers have to contend with "experts" who proclaim something as a "MUST DO" area. I remember a case not long ago where the expert was going on about the only way to track website analytics. It took one email from a writer friend who is an expert to dispel the advice. And the expert was attempting to "sell" a webinar on the topics. So why would you want to pay for that?

You don't. There are so many blogs that offer that advice for free every day. These Friday posts of mine are meant to help you get that info for nothing. So no reason to part with your money just yet.

So how do you cut through the noise and get down to the real advice? Here are some suggestions:

Stop listening to other people. Yes, I said it. Stop listening to other people giving you advice. Think. Not everything about this writing business isn't hard to figure out. Some of it is common sense, some of it is common business sense, and some of it is intuition. Before you search for answers, look within first.

Start listening to yourself. Weird advice, right? Well, if you want to build a freelance writing business, you have to start listening to that internal voice. That's where you'll learn what it is you want to do, how you think you want to go about it, and where you're going to point your business once you start (or start improving what you have).

Go into teaching mode. To paraphrase the saying, if you want to learn something, try teaching it to someone else. Show your spouse, friend, kid, or aunt how you're intending to build your business. It's amazing how much you'll uncover as you talk it out. Not only that, you're going to get questions. Questions from people outside your writing world can often be the best unbiased filter for your ideas.

Talk it out. Ask a friend to be your sounding board. Brainstorm your idea, let your friend interject questions or ideas, and make sure you're taking notes. Bouncing an idea off someone is a super way to see where your plan is weak, what your strengths are, and what you need to study in order to get up to speed.

Search credible sources first. Start with free courses (Coursera, OpenCulture, iTunes University, etc.) to learn basics or to get some serious inspiration. Then look for those freelance writers -- the successful ones -- who aren't afraid to give you free freelance writing advice. You'll be able to spot them -- they'll be the ones giving you unique, original content, not rehashed stuff with a price tag attached. Hint: if you can read through a blog post/forum post by scrolling quickly for that one nugget thrown in three quarters of the way down (past all those bold subheads), that would be a rehashed, unoriginal post.

Search credible blogs and forums next. Credibility may seem tough to spot, but if you pay attention to who's following the blogger, what career level they're at, and how many dissenting opinions are allowed to appear on the comments page (strangely, there are bloggers who filter out people who don't agree), you'll find the credible ones. Remember to look for original content, too. Oh, and another good test is to see how many links the blogger includes to other bloggers. Fewer links could mean someone less likely to share attribution or build a real

Establish your own support network. Sometimes the best place for advice is from people you trust and respect. You'll see them in blog comments, on writing forums, and around the writing blogosphere. Ask a question, share some insight, and make friends. Despite what too many writers think, we are not in competition with each other. You'll know which writers are worth befriending by the way they respond to you.

Writers, how do/did you cut through the BS?
What free resources can you point other writers to (at any career level) that can help them improve their businesses?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Be an Exceptional Writing Pro in 7 Steps

What's on the iPod: I've Been Waiting for This by Butch Walker

Good week so far. I had a lunch meeting with a potential client on Monday, a bit of work to do on a current project, and some out-of-town guests here last night for dinner. I spent a lovely weekend at my son's house in Northwestern Connecticut, and we couldn't have timed that trip any better. The leaves were peak and stunning. What a ride!

At my lunch meeting, I had the chance to catch up with my potential client, who knew me from my senior editor days. He told me about the changes in his company, the opportunities, and then we talked shop. That's the part I like best -- the professional persona relaxes just a little so you can connect on a more human level.

We talked about various clients and writers and situations. The underlying theme to all of it was how exceptional writing is valued, and how a professional demeanor is absolutely required.

And yet some of our stories were about those writers or clients who were anything but professional or exceptional -- proof positive that you don't want to be remembered for the wrong reasons, and proof of just how long those wrong reasons can stick with you -- some of our stories reached back decades.

It had me thinking about what makes up an exceptional writing professional. There are plenty of competent, good writers out there, and there are probably just as many good business people who aren't stellar writers. If you can combine both the skills and the business acumen, oh my. You're not going to be without work very often.

So what does it take to be an exceptional writing professional? Here are things I think are important:

Skills. The basics are fine, but you should always be stretching beyond yourself to learn more. But if basics are all you have right now, make sure they are perfect. Still, you should go where you're not comfortable -- learn how to write press releases, learn about those industries that support your main client focus, improve your grammar and spelling, learn how to shift from print to web (or vice versa).... there are countless skills you can learn or improve upon. Don't ever settle, and don't ever convince yourself that you're the best. Someone somewhere is just dying to prove you're wrong.

Discernment. A solid professional needs to know how to understand people and situations clearly and with a certain level of smarts. Is that job that pays $350 a month for 20 blog posts a good fit? Not if you can do math. What does your potential client do? You should know that before meeting with them or communicating with them. You don't have to learn everything there is to know about them, but you should understand their business model, their customer, and their products.

A champion attitude. When I work with a client, I'm their champion. I support them in their goals. I'm there to solve problems, to deliver beyond expectations, and to make sure they're saying what they want to say in the best possible way. The goal is to help them across the finish line.

Professional demeanor. How you conduct yourself is as important as the skills you bring to the job. If you were to meet a client in person, you wouldn't show up in sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt (tell me you wouldn't). Even if you're not meeting them in person, your clients deserve a professional attitude. Repeat back your project parameters. Use contracts to cement the terms. Meet deadlines. Make suggestions where you see fit. Become that client's partner for these projects.

Lack of ego. Freelance writing for businesses is not like writing for magazines or anywhere where you'll be bylined. Clients own their ideas and need you to help them realize it. The words you put on paper? They're not yours. Clients will change them and you need to be okay with that.

Detachment. Hiring you or not hiring you is a business decision. You can't take it personally. Likewise, feedback given to you from a client shouldn't be taken as a personal attack. It's not (well, most times it's not). Your job as an exceptional writing professional is to encourage feedback and make your client comfortable with the process. Discuss the feedback. Make suggestions where you see fit, and don't defend yourself or your work. Remember, no ego. If it means thinking of those words as your clients' words, do so.

Exceptional listening skills. Funny how this little trait comes up so often (Cathy Miller mentioned it in Monday's post comments). If you can listen, you will go far. Let clients talk - don't try so hard to impress them. Listen to what they're saying and what they're not saying. Hear what they need and deliver it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top Tips Writers Series #5: Jennifer Mattern

What's on the iPod: I'm A Mess by Ed Sheeran (acoustic version - and fabulous)

Know what it's like to rub shoulders with one of the most successful freelancers in the business?

You're about to find out.

I met Jenn Mattern through online conversations, and met her when Devon Ellington and I decided to meet for lunch. I invited Jenn along. The result: a fun, lively, decadent friendship. If we don't email every day, it's close. I have the added bonus of living within a short drive of Jenn. Her family live in my town. I've propped my feet up on her footstool a few times.

Besides being wicked fun, Jenn is a wicked-good business pro. Her background in PR and social media is evident -- hers is one of the most comprehensive, top-ranking sites for freelancers you'll find. What's more, you can trust her advice. She's done it herself. No borrowing from others, nor does she tell you what you want to hear. She tells you what you need to hear, and it's the wise freelancer who listens.

Here are Jenn's tips for improving your freelance writing business:

10 Tips for New Freelance Bloggers

by Jennifer Mattern

Something I frequently hear from new freelance writers is that they're afraid to pursue blogging gigs because they've heard there's no money in it. That usually when I let them in on a little secret -- what they've been told before is complete and utter BS.

Freelance blogging can be quite lucrative as long as you know what you're doing and you don't associate yourself with bottom-of-the-barrel providers like search engine spammers. These ten tips should point you in the right direction.

1. Specialize.

I can't say this enough: clients do not pay top dollar because you can string pretty sentences together. They pay top dollar when you bring specialized expertise to the table.

If you want to earn top rates as a freelance blogger (as in at least $500 for a 1000 word post, and often much more), you need to specialize. That might mean specializing in an industry or niche. Or it can mean specializing in a specific type of blog content such as tech tutorials or being a ghostblogger for CEOs.

2. Know your target clients (and their audience).

It's not enough to say "I want to be a freelance blogger." Who do you want to blog for? If you can't describe your target clients, you're unlikely to find them. And that's how you can find yourself surrounded by low-paying "prospects" who shouldn't be on your radar in the first place.

It's where many of the misconceptions around blogging pay rates come from. If you want to ghostwrite corporate blog posts for Fortune 500 clients, then make sure your marketing very carefully targets that group. Go beyond that though. Know who they are trying to reach, and make sure your samples show you understand your prospects' audiences and how to appeal to them.

3. Don't limit yourself to advertised blogging gigs.

One of the worst things you can do as a new freelance blogger is rely on bidding marketplaces and advertised jobs. You can occasionally find mid-level gigs advertised publicly (and yes, $100-200 per post would be a mid-level gig even though it's the highest you'll often find advertised). But most of the really high paying work is never advertised. These include many corporate blogging gigs, small business blogging gigs, and ghostblogging jobs.

These clients tend to find writers through referrals or through their own searches. If your search engine ranking rankings and lack of a network make you invisible, it's unlikely you'll land these gigs. This is why your writer platform is so important. Occasionally these kinds of clients will post jobs through their own internal job boards. So if you do a bit of digging, you can sometimes find decent public leads through those.

4. Pursue prospects who don't have a blog (yet).

Sometimes the best prospects are the ones who don't realize they need you yet. That includes potential clients who don't have their own blog. By approaching them and convincing them to give blogging a try, not only can you land ongoing blogging gigs, but you can also get paid to help them set their blogs up or consult with them on an initial content strategy.

5. Price by the post.

Like with most types of freelance writing, it's in your interest to price by the project (in this case by the post) rather than advertise hourly or per-word pricing. Everyone knows what they're getting. It eliminates some of the tension between freelancer and client (where your interest is in doing a good job and their interest is in having you rush to keep costs down). And as you get better at your job, you essentially get paid more per hour without always having to raise rates. It's like having a built-in bonus system where you earn more the more you get to know each client.

6. Make sure you're being paid for all of the "extras" involved.

Blogging isn't like many other kinds of freelance writing. Your work doesn't stop when the client's happy with your latest revision. They often expect you to answer comments on your posts (sometimes indefinitely). And they might expect you to find legal images they can use or even promote your posts via social networks.

You can account for these things by increasing your per-post rates. Or you can offer a base rate for writing only and charge more for extras. I take the latter approach because much of my freelance blogging work is ghostwritten (which almost always means the client will take care of comments addressed to them).

I also don't consider my social media profiles "for sale." Those networks are for my own audiences -- usually colleagues -- and not for promoting things for clients. A post would have to be incredibly relevant to my own audience for me to make an exception, in which case I'd likely promote it on my own without being asked to do so. I do, however, contract with some clients to manage social media promotion on their accounts.

7. Secure ongoing blogging contracts.

One of the biggest perks of freelance blogging over other freelance writing projects is the fact that clients usually need blog posts on an ongoing basis. That means you have the potential to turn a one-project client into a regular.

My suggestion is to let new clients order a single article from you if they want to "test" you. It makes sense that they'd want to see how their readers react to your writing. But if they're happy and they want to continue, I suggest requiring a certain minimum commitment (anything from at least $XXX per month to at least a three-month commitment).

This can be a good way to stabilize your blogging income early on, and you can always loosen the rules later when you want more flexibility to pursue new projects.

8. Market yourself every day.

You need to market yourself regularly -- as in every single day. (Well, every single work day at least.) This doesn't have to involve a huge time commitment. Email a new prospect. Post to your own blog. Write a guest post. Review and update the copy on your website. Update your social media accounts. Research your biggest competitors. These little things add up.

Need more ideas? Lori's e-book, Marketing 365, is full of them.

9. Don't be afraid to give up a byline.

Not all blogging gigs need to come with a byline. Many of the highest-paying freelance blogging jobs do not. And that's okay. Prospects who need a blog to give them a voice, but who have no time or inclination to write their own posts, are often happy to pay you handsomely to do that for them. Don't get so caught up in seeing your name plastered on everything you write that you miss out on the best gigs. If you can't stand the thought of not getting credit, remember that a testimonial from the client can be just as valuable as a byline -- sometimes more.

10. Have your own blog in your specialty area.

If you want to be a freelance blogger, there's no excuse for you not to have your own blog. Clients expect it. And they should. After all, they want to know you're familiar with blog platforms, comment management, and all of the basics of writing for the web. Your blog shows them that you can handle those things (plus social media promotion, strategic content planning, and search engine optimization). Just make sure your blog speaks to either your target clients or their target readers.

What else would you recommend to new freelance bloggers? If you are a new freelance blogger or you're considering becoming one, what other questions do you have?

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger and freelance business writer. You can join her free community for freelance writers, bloggers and indie authors at where you'll find business advice, writing forums, free tools and templates, and much more. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Free Advice Friday: 4 Freelance Lessons You Should Learn Now

What I'm reading: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
What's on the iPod: Call Girl Blues by Diamond Rugs

Friday already? Where did the middle of the week go? I've been busy, not extremely so, but a focused sort of busy. Time flew by. As this project winds down, another one is about to ramp up. My TGIF celebration may have to wait.

In a conversation with a client not long ago, I learned I wasn't the first freelance writer they'd worked with. At first, he just mentioned it briefly as I explained how to work with a freelance writer (not condescendingly, but "here's the way I usually work"). Then as the conversation continued and became more relaxed, he said it again--the company had worked with a freelance writer in the past, but the writer was horrible.

Horrible? Yes, that's what he said. He qualified it further -- this freelancer gave them content loaded with spelling errors.

Really? Do we really have to be reminded to use Spell Check? Apparently.

I don't know if there were other issues with this writer, but to lose a client over something so...basic is just stupid. Honestly, if I'd handed a client something riddled with spelling errors, not only would I apologize for being so stupid, but I might rethink my career. Everyone makes a mistake now and then, but making them constantly is just sloppy, lazy writing.

It's just one of those lessons we freelancers need to learn when starting our business. These are things you're not going to learn in books (except for the spelling part). These are little lessons that slap you in the face when you least expect it.

For those of you who are professional freelance writers running a writing business, this advice may be moot. For the rest who are just starting or who are struggling and can't quite figure out why, consider these lessons:

Learn to spell. Can a person be called a writer if he or she can't spell? This is America -- you can call yourself whatever you damn well please. However, that doesn't make it true. Yes, we all make mistakes. However, Word makes it simple to avoid many of them by simply clicking that Spell Check icon. Beyond that, proofread your stuff before you send it out.

Learn to take criticism. It always surprises me when a client apologizes for revising something -- it's not my baby they're dressing, so to speak. It's their project, their image, their company, etc. You may hand them what you think is perfect prose (it may well be, too). However, if it doesn't fit with their tone, focus, audience or some other factor, they're going to want to change it. News flash -- nearly every client will change something. Resist the urge to pitch a fit -- do what they ask. And yes, there are times they make it worse (or unintelligible). Advise them in writing, make the changes, and let it go.

Learn to filter. That's good advice that you can apply to nearly any facet of your freelance writing career. Filter out the bad job offers, the lousy advice, the nasty comments from clients, or the piece of your mind you've been dying to give that client. Step back, remove the emotion completely, and filter your response or your reaction from a detached perspective. If you have to, pretend you're someone else -- like the Queen. Would the Queen work for a content mill? Would she tell off a client? She might say "We are not amused" but that would probably be the extent of it.

Learn to let go. Toughest part of the job sometimes, isn't it? As I said before, this is not your baby. Your words are your tools. You use them to build things for other people. If they don't like how you're building something, they have every right to say so. They may have the writing skills of a half-dead octopus. Doesn't matter. If they don't like how you've phrased something, it's up to you to please them, not please yourself. Do what you can to protect their image, but know when it's time to lose the battle or lose the client.

Writers, what have you learned that you won't find in a book?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Writing Career Cross-over

What I'm reading: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
What's on the iPod: Only For You by Heartless Bastards

My busy Monday became a busy Tuesday became another busy one today. The projects I have aren't complicated, but the deadlines are short. Plus, there's some corralling of interviewees, so that takes some time. One project is roughed out and waiting for input. The others -- sales sheets -- are well on their way to being completed.

I had a conversation with a new client prospect last week. In it, the client asked me if I'd ever written anything specific to their business. I had, and I sent over clips. However, even if I hadn't, I had enough clips that touched on that specialty, albeit inadvertently, that I would have sent.

It's a conversation many of us have with writing clients: do you have any experience in this area? Can you show me writing credits/samples or written articles?

The client wants reassurance that we writers can handle their industry. You can't blame them. Still, how do you convince a client who's working in, say, the ergonomics field, that your work in medical case management or workers' compensation translates?

Here are methods I use to show clients that my skills and knowledge translate:

Make the connection in the intro. Whenever I get in touch with a new client prospect, I let them know that my skills lend themselves to their industry. So if you're trying to win over a client in the fashion industry, you could let them know that you've written for the retail shoe or intimates industry. "My experience, which has been in the retail shoe industry, could be an asset to you as I can write about both consumer and manufacturing aspects, as well as talk about trends."

Show them loosely connected threads. For one client, I'd never written about Medicare set-asides (and if you have, you know what I'm talking about). However, I'd written several articles on workers' compensation and how costly it can be to a company. Same thing with the ergonomics company -- I'd written enough on return-to-work programs that showed them I could understand this new-to-me focus area easily.

Use the buzz words. Industries do love their buzz words. While it may drive the freelance writer nuts trying to convince them not to use "value proposition" or "paradigm shift", it never hurts to know a few acronyms or key phrases that will show your client prospect your understanding of the industry. Every industry has them -- use them to gain the trust and the job.

Send high and low samples. Besides reassuring them that the topic isn't over my head, I'll send clients samples that are much more technical than what they need, and I'll show them samples that are more conversational/easier, as well. Then I explain that I can handle both ends of the spectrum as well as anything in between.

Write a short piece and send it as a sample. I don't do this often (last time was years ago), but it's a good way to show them you can do the job by choosing something about blog-post size and whipping up a short piece that demonstrates your knowledge of the topic.

Writers, what do you have in your published background that can cross over into another area?
How do you convince clients that you can do the job even without the exact experience?

Words on the Page