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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

'Nother Contest

Thanks to my chum Kathy for this link to yet another novel contest:

http://www.brianagincourtmassey.com/contests/bfcguidelines

No entry fee for this one. Have at it!
Herding Cats

I'm back at my home office. Yippee! I love being onsite at client locations, but I always feel like my home "ship" is adrift and in danger of sinking. The last three days have been spent getting back into the workflow and tying up a lot of loose ends. Man, it feels good to be back at the helm!

One of the things I worked on today was content for the newsletter. Interestingly, I shot a note off to the rude PR person who discounted my publication because of low circulation numbers. I haven't yet broken the news to him that his client's article could've been in the issue distributed at the huge conference in a few months. I'll wait. Maybe he'll redeem himself. Somehow, I doubt it, but it could happen.

In my short stint away from home, I realized I hadn't quite organized myself properly. I spend way too much time chasing my own tail, when if I'd only follow my own advice and map out a game plan, I'd be much more productive. So this is it - mornings are spent on projects and meeting deadlines. Afternoons, when I'm able, are spent on marketing, networking and other details. So far, I've decided that most of my deadlines are of the Monday/Friday variety. I figure Tuesdays are a good day to settle in to new ventures. From now on, I will call Tuesdays Development Days. These afternoons will be spent learning software, building databases, researching new gadgets, fussing with the websites, etc. Wednesday afternoons may be my designated Collateral Material days. That's when I'll write the brochures on my business, send 'em out, develop contact lists, etc.

Maybe those days will change up to meet the work demand. But my point is a plan, any plan, is better than just herding cats and hoping for success.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Reason to Finish That Novel

Thanks to writing chum Audrey over at www.writershelper.com, I was alerted to this great writing contest:

http://firstchapters.gather.com/

The beauty of this one - first prize is having your book published by Simon and Schuster! If ever there was a reason to finish your book, this is it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Easy Job for the Write Person

That was the way the ad was worded, I swear to you. And this was no employer trying to be cute – this was an ad trying to justify the low payment.

In fact, I’ve compiled my Top Five Clues that it’s a low- to no-pay gig. Look for the following:

· An extensive list of freelancer skills and education
· “Easy job for the right person”
· “Looking for young, energetic writers”
· “If you’re looking to gain exposure/clips/experience…”
· “Get in on the ground floor of this amazing new business/web venture/opportunity…”

What are your favorites?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Later That Day...

I've been asked to be on a panel discussing corporate responsibility in communication. Very cool. Yet when I look around my own little existence, I see so little of either corporate responsibility or corporate communication. Wait - make that effective corporate communication. See, I take onsite work. As someone who is literally on the outside looking in, I can see exactly where a company is screwing up. In one of my more recent projects, I've been witness to high-level changes that trickle down piecemeal to the underlings. I've also seen what appears to be a direct flouting of the rules or someone's keen idea of how to skirt the law in order to save a buck.

If I were to be on that panel today, I would have to speak out against the following -
  • Corporations that require degreed, salaried employees to punch a timeclock. If you make your employees slaves to the clock, you'll get exactly that many hours and not a second more out of them.
  • Corporations that lengthen the work day. Sure, your counterparts may be doing it. But that extra hour is someone's kid's soccer game or yet another reason for that potential candidate to look elsewhere for a more congenial, understanding boss.
  • Office mismanagement. Come on. It takes nothing to jot down a quick agenda every day and distribute it to those who need to see it. One company I did a project for does a great job of this. As a result, their insane production schedule was attainable without too much stress.
  • Lack of real rewards. It costs you nothing to say "thank you" or "great job" to someone who's given his or her utmost. But the feeling that it gives the recipient is priceless.

As I said, I'll be on this panel in a few months. Please, if you have any more suggestions of topics I need to address, you have my unwaivering attention.

More Enjoyable Ads

"Looking for an editer to type noval

must have great typeing and spelling willing to pay anything"

And people wonder why we get snappy when we're not paid well, eh?

Oy.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Telltale Ad

Know how to tell the ad you're reading offers no pay? A few clues:
  • It's loooooong
  • It's requiring applicants to have more experience than most CEOs at major corporations
  • It's offering payment at some future date (note: you'll never see that payment)

I saw a super-long ad on Craig's List today that had all of the above. It was wordy, it was requiring BAs and years of experience, and then the ultimate - at the end, the words "no compensation" with the promise that some work might be compensated at some point.

Do people really buy into these screwball offers? If so, tell me why. Educate me, please. Why would you work your tail off at a job, one that most people are paid for, in return for nothing but a promise? I mean, would you marry someone who presented that kind of offer?

There's only one way these offers will stop coming in - we have to stop selling ourselves short and we must refuse to work for nothing. Period. Let's make a pact. Right now, you and I are no longer going to accept unacceptable terms. We will no longer work for people who won't respect us as professionals. We will no longer be used for our talents, and we will demand proper compensation and respect without apologizing for it.

There - dontcha feel better already? Now, go forth and earn. :)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How to Tick Off a Contact and Act Like a Jerk in One Short Sentence

Maybe I’m just overly sensitive, but I got this note today from a PR rep regarding an idea for my newsletter. Things were going well – and I liked him – until he responded to my email about circulation. “You only have X subscribers?”

You see it, don’t you? It’s the word “only” – as if he feels he’s wasting his time bothering to be nice. There were other things, too. Like his signature. Up to this point, he'd used his full name and included contact info on each email. This time, he signed it with one initial. One - as if using any more would cost him too much. Also, he didn't bother to use his cap button, nor spell check. The message was not even remotely veiled - you're not worthy of my attention.

Guess what, champ? I have deep connections in this particular industry, and I have an elephant’s memory. I won’t forget your name nor your attitude. I hope to gawd you don’t act like that normally, for I doubt you’d make much of a public relations person if you did.

I can’t tell you how many ways from Sunday I want to tell him off. But I’m not into acting like a jerk just because someone else decides to play by those rules. I will, however, remember him and next time I see that name in my email, the message will be deleted without being opened.

I can understand that he wants to give his clients optimum exposure, and my triple-digit circulation wasn’t going to excite him. However, he doesn’t know that my newsletter prints a “best of” issue that shows at all the trade shows, where over 10,000 will see the contents. Oh, methinks if he knew that, he’d be a touch upset with himself for getting all high and mighty.

Rant over. I should be used to it by now, but sometimes I cannot help being amazed at how people choose to behave with others in their network.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Marketing Dilemmas

On Anne Wayman’s About Freelance Writing site, someone from another country asked how to market oneself when making cold calls and follow-up calls to marketing mailings aren’t feasible due to distance. This was after I’d suggested reading Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer and following it verbatim. A good question, and one that deserves some pondering.

As Bowerman’s book states, one should make contact via email or mail and follow up with a phone call. So what to do if you’re in another hemisphere/on another continent? I know I for one wouldn’t want to pay the toll charges from India to America, even if the gigs were guaranteed.

Maybe the answer is this – modify the way you market. Instead of relying on the phone at all, conduct business over the Internet. Email makes it easier, as does instant messaging. And if you just can’t wrap your mind around that one, try looking into either a prepaid calling card that offers decent per-minute rates, or invest in a service like Vonage that allows you to talk over your Internet service and not charging you the moon to do so.

Let’s discuss! Any ideas?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Heads Off the Desks, People!

Fab-u day today. I took time off from the on-site job long enough to catch up with projects. Managed to crank out what I think is a pretty decent draft on a highly-technical article for a client. Why do I love the business techie stuff so much? Maybe because it pays the bills and is interesting. Hey, anything is interesting if you set out to put your own twist on it, right?

That’s what I’d like to chat about today – work and making it fun. I have heard no end of folks whining about how hard something is or how “boring” the topic is. Yes, there are some decidedly non-sexy stuff, like the gazillion workers’ compensation articles I’ve churned out over the years. But guess what? I started out not knowing Thing One about some of these topics (or Thing Two, for that matter). It just took my looking at it as a challenge to overcome in order to make it interesting for me.

I remember the first assignment for a non-sexy topic – write 500 words about new ducts that prevent restaurant fires from going out of control. Armed with exactly three pages of press release info and an Internet connection, I sat there stunned and disheartened. My big break into business pubs was about to go kaput. But then I thought, “What the hell – I’m just going to start writing.” I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? The editor could’ve hated it and I’d have been out of a job. So with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I wrote. Got a catchy little hook – “What’s the hottest thing in restaurant fire safety?”

Guess what? He loved it. He loved it so much, he offered me the senior editor position. Cool! However, now the real challenge began – how to maintain that excitement about all those other dull and completely foreign topics. Ugh. But I did it. I did it by making it fun in my mind. I didn’t try to talk “up” to the audience, as other writers were doing. I talked to them from my own perspective; and it worked. Amen!

If I told you the topics I was writing about today, I’d have to wake you up to finish. However, I’m getting $1/word and ongoing assignments should this article go well for the client. If that doesn’t inspire you to care about your topic, what will?

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year, New You
Yea, we all do it. We make resolutions during the shiny hours of a new year, but somewhere around March, things are back to status quo. So why bother making resolutions? Because at least it's a step in the right direction. So go on - make your resolutions. It's a confirmation of where you are and where you want to be. Check out Kristen King's blog for links to scores of great resolutions for writers.

Keeping them is another matter. Perhaps that takes a change in perspective. If you want to sell that book this year or work toward a monetary goal, that's going to take a bit more work. So as you make those resolutions, map them out on your work schedule as tasks you need to perform in order to reach that goal. Let's say you want to make $5K a month. Fine, but how are you going to do it? Start with a few projects you know you will have coming in, or ones you know you can score easily. Perhaps you can write three articles a month and bring in $1,500 doing so. Okay, so how are you making up the rest? Try taking on press release writing or website copy writing. Hook up with your local printing house (and no matter where you are, you have at least one within fifty miles). Get them to feed writing work to you (you'd be surprised how often printers are asked to perform writing work). Take on some onsite temporary assignments. Write collateral material for trade shows. Ad advertising links to your website. Write weblogs for money. Take on a company's newsletter (or convince them they need one).

No matter what you do, make sure you're mapping out just how you'll reach that goal. Then maybe those resolutions can really work for you.

Happy 2007!
Words on the Page