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Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Maybe it's the Gnomes

Like I said a few days ago, the minute you decide to leave town the clients come out of the shadows wanting work completed. An entirely new project came in yesterday from an old client. It's large enough that I was able to put it off until I return. What's odd is that I was told this was coming, but not from any writer friend or veteran freelancer. No, I had a psychic tell me so. And she said I have the gnomes to thank for it.

A close chum of mine talked me into visiting a taro card reader once. I expected it to be fun and a lovely waste of money. However, we were in the midst of a taro card reader who also billed herself as a psychic. Mind you, I'm skeptical by nature, but hey, I was in this for fun, so what harm was there?

I walked into the dress shop where the woman operated. My friend went first while I browsed. Then it was my turn. I sat down, smiled and said hello. It was about then that all hell broke loose.

She turned over cards, which revealed some very nice things. I was happy. I had a man who was nuts about me. I was creative. Okay, all three anyone could probably guess and get right. Then her face darkened. She went into things, very private things, that no one could've guessed. I won't go into them here, but they involved people close to me. As I got up to leave, the woman was close to tears and I was, well, a bit shook up. She was experiencing the personal turmoil of people I know but that she didn't know existed. That bumped up her credibility a bit, for she was bang on in every instance.

When my chum asked me to go back, I couldn't help myself. We visited months later. This woman remembered me, and as the cards were revealed, she said things had worked out for someone in the house. She was right. She also said my fortune was coming. "Look for it in April." Well, April came and went - twice. No fortune.

This year, I was talked into going back to see her. I had to be convinced because now the fortune question was looming. It hadn't come. Nor had a very specific prediction for a friend. Let's just say I went for my friend and not for myself. I wanted answers.

The first card was turned and she said, "The gnomes want something from you. They've given you a lot and they want something." Okay, what gnomes? And exactly what had the Travelocity dude done for me lately? She said the upswing in work I was experiencing (how did she know that?) was a result of them protecting me. Uh, okay. She said if I reward them, write a story about them, do something to please them, they'll be happy and I'll be uber prosperous.

If it were any other creature, I'd have laughed this off in a heartbeat. But see, I was subjected to (almost voluntarily - it's strange what you'll do when a hot guy does the asking) an 8-hour seminar on nature spirits. These buggers have been around for eons, it would seem, and folks like Rudolf Steiner have written about them at length. Even though the hot guy and I left that seminar both uttering "what the...", we remembered. How could you not? And I'm a big believer in a sequence of events that happens for a reason. That I knew what gnomes were (in detail enough to explain to the psychic, for she didn't know) because of that seminar, well, that's just too coincidental to ignore, right?

Gnomes, apparently, are subterranean troll-like things that work the earth. Think seven dwarfs here, only slower and shorter. Oh, and probably invisible. Yea, that's why we left dazed and chortling halfway home.

But now I was facing probably the oddest moment in my odd little life. How do you repay a gnome? Does ripping off a statue from someone's lawn and sending him around the globe count? Well, I couldn't afford that anyway, and it's been done to death. Gotta be more creative. After all, they're counting on me. So I started where I figured they'd be. I dug up and replanted the garden. I spent oodles on perennials, started seeds indoors, transplanted, watered, fed, weeded. I don't know about the gnomes, but I was pretty pleased with the results.

Now to the weird part (and you thought that was it, right?). The minute I started the garden work, my writing work flourished. I swear this is the best year I've had freelancing. I easily surpassed last year's total already this year, and things are definitely aligned to finish off better than I was ever paid at any full-time job. Do I believe the gnomes did it? No. I believe my marketing, contacts, and skill set has much more to do with it. But hey, you don't want to tick off a gnome, so I'll keep digging and weeding.

At any rate, I've now completed my GRP (gnome recognition plan). This story, this blog post, is about the gnomes. I may not really understand mystical things, but I'm not one to turn down an opportunity to go into unexplored areas in the name of creative progress. It doesn't hurt to explore the idea of something we don't know about or understand or even believe. Beyond a dent in my own credibility and the risk of embarrassment among peers, this post costs me very little.

But hey, if I get a book deal soon, I'll put a good word in for you with the guys. ;)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Difference Between a Startup and a Startup

No, that's not a typo. I'm trying to make a point here. Irreverent Freelancer Kathy had a great post yesterday about her latest encounter with a startup, which you can read here. Word Vixen responded with this: "For some reason, people seem to think that launching a website, starting a sole proprietorship, or a side business is the same as "start up". It's not the same thing..." How right you are.

The definition of a startup, according to, is this: "Early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise where the entrepreneur moves from the idea stage to securing financing, laying down the basis structure of the business, and initiating operations or trading." Note the "secure financing" part. That part right there is what all startups, even the pseudo-startups, must determine long before they, well, start up. They determine early what kind of cash they'll need for the entire operation, not just the fax machines and computers. And that's where most startups make their first mistake - not factoring in the money needed for adequate vendor services. It's why we writers often get projects from startups and then wrangle with them for months to secure payment. These are legitimate startups, but they have legitimate shortages of cash.

So what's the difference between this and the other startups, you ask? Don't they both suffer cash issues? It's this - someone sitting at the computer one day reads an article or a blog post about how to make tons of money right there from that chair. It could be acting as a value-added reseller, selling widgets made by others, selling articles written by others, or plopping tons of advertising on a weblog and then paying others to write it. Whatever the scheme, this person thinks "Hey! Easy money!" The website goes up, the ads are in place, and the person now has to find cheap labor in order to fill that space. Guess where they're going? Right to your door, hat in hand, with the same old same old - "This is a labor of love for us....since we're a startup, we can't pay much at the moment....once the site takes off, the right person can make scads of money...." Please. The site, which we've not heard of until today, has the same chance a snowball does in Hades. It may sit there for a while and be a great little blip on the radar, but unless there is some serious financial backing or a new and innovative way to market on a shoestring budget, it's just going to sit there.

That's where we come in. We answer ads, taking great care to craft an enticing query. We send samples. Then comes those three little words Kathy mentioned: "We're a startup." And? What's that to me? I'm a full-fledged professional. As such, I expect professional wages. What I don't expect, what I won't tolerate, is someone making excuses for not budgeting for my services. To that I say next!

It's why I back off the minute I hear the word "startup." The pseudo-startup has a business model that excludes fairness to vendors. Don't believe me? I'll quote an excerpt of a speech given by essayist, programmer, and programming language designer Paul Graham in which he explains the premise of startups to the Harvard Computer Society: "You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible."

That's why you're not getting paid what you're worth. Pseudo-startups interpret this very basic business model to mean you shouldn't get paid. They fail to see that part of the necessary costs of running a successful business includes paying appropriately for services rendered.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overworked and Under Deadline

It never fails - announce to the world you're going on vacation and the work comes out of nowhere. Yesterday's email brought a large book editing project and a ton of articles (which I can't do because of the time needed for the editing project). Today - a press release needed by Friday. I have one article due on the 1st, but since I won't be around next week, guess when I have to get it done? That would be correct - this week.

Hopefully I've left you enough fodder here this week to read. This is all there is for today's blog post, I'm afraid. However, let me leave you with a question: Have you checked on those goals you set for this year? Any good news to report?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Misspellings and What We Do Wrong Regularly

I volunteered to teach a Vietnamese woman English. Every Wednesday for the past 2 years, we've met at the library and worked our way through new words, new idioms, and proper spelling. She gets the spelling part very well. Too bad we Americans don't.

We're kind of lazy when it comes to spelling. Sure, English is loaded with words from all sorts of cultures and languages, and our rules are enough to drive anyone batty. But we misspell things all the time. All of us - writers, executives (you guys are the worst because no one has the courage to correct you), teachers, etc.

Here are a few words I've seen misspelled (and in some seriously odd places) just this week:

Decribes. I know what they meant, but the Spell Check wasn't used that day. (This was found in a legal notice sent by my car maker)

Independant. This one's a common mistake. Here's how I remember: it's independENT because ANTs group together. Independents work alone. ;)

Harrass. You didn't harass me until you used one too many Rs.

Ommission. Another easy-to-remember fix. If you omit one of the Ms, it spells what it is - an omission.

Sintillating. There's no point in using big words if you're going to misspell them. Here's how to remember the C: It's scintillating to see you use the C.... (okay, a stretch, but you're going to remember it now, aren't you?)

Any misspellings you've come across recently?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Down Time

Time spent on a swing is never time wasted.

I bought a swing a week ago - one of those ones with a canopy and room for two. It's amazing how much that little swing has changed my perspective.

I sit down and I'm in a different world. I'm not running through lists of things to do, nor am I wanting to jump up and get one more thing accomplished. I'm sitting. I'm swinging. My brain has slowed down and all I see is the garden in front of me. The bees are suddenly more fascinating to watch. The bird songs - did I hear those before? I smell the lemon balm mixing with the sage and I wonder where to find the bees making honey from that, because I want some.

It's funny how the simple act of pushing back and letting your feet lift off the ground can transport you back decades. I'm on the porch back home. The sun is trailing off to the right over the valley below. Crickets and lightning bugs fill the air with chirps and flashes, and my brother gets the jar and my sister and I sneak up on one, leap at another, and eventually catch a lightning bug. My mom is sitting on the swing snapping green beans. Dad is sitting on the step with a beer, his shirt damp and his boots sporting fresh mud from the corn field. Life at its simplest and best.

What's really interesting is, once I'm on that swing and my mind has slowed, how the ideas come. In one short week I've had several ideas for books, articles, and networking. I don't sit there to purposely come up with these things. In fact, if I did, I'm sure the ideas would never come. I just sit. The rest happens once I relax.

Do you allow yourself to relax at the beginning or end of your day? What's your relaxation look like? Did you know you can get a swing for $74 at Lowe's right now? Just sit. Really. Enjoy what's in front of you and leave the work behind you. Do it not for the promise of ideas and brainstorms. Do it for yourself.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Working with the Ebb and Flow

Jennifer over at CatalystBlogger had this post echoing my Seven Truths of Freelancing post of July 1. Jen's points were equally true. A number of them stood out, but her point about learning to love the ebb and flow of our jobs stood out to me. It's because right now, things are slowing down. That's not a bad thing because I've been working my tail off since February. In fact, it's a good thing. Vacation time. Again!

I've made a conscious decision to take advantage in some way of all slow periods. In many cases, these slow times are seriously temporary and more work is due in or is here but not due to be finished. Today I have one small thing to accomplish. Monday, one. Tuesday through Friday, same. The following week, I'm going fishing.

Because my slow period has come in the middle of July - vacation time for many - I'm going on another vacation. Damn right. It's my payoff for those 12-hour days back in February and March. I have work to come home to, so the guilt I'd normally have in taking time off has disappeared. The fish are biting and Dad has the boat waiting. That's probably the only draw strong enough to break me away from work.

If you're facing a slow period because you have no future work, you need to use that time to research potential clients and send out proposals. If you're lucky enough to have just a short break in the action, give yourself a break, too. Why not? You've earned it. As Jen pointed out, this cycle is natural. I would suggest you do a little preliminary organizing to make sure you have work to come home to - I made the mistake once of clearing my desk of everything before vacation. It took me three weeks to find more work. Dumb, huh?

Without a doubt things will blow up on me the day before I leave. There will be urgent messages and work to be done yesterday instead of same day. It's happened time and again as I prepare to vacate the desk. But again, fish are biting. That, to me, is pretty urgent, don't you think?

How do you prepare for a vacation? Do you take them? If so, what do you find most surprising about your departure/return? If not, why not?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Kind of Editor Are You?

I was meeting with a potential client last night about her book project. She came well prepared with an outline of what's been done and what's to be done on her manuscript. Amen. This is someone who understands how to organize! I can't wait to get to her story.

In the conversation, I asked her what kind of editor she needed. It was pretty clear to me that this person, who's already published a few times, needs less of a grammarian and more of a structural person to help her. I still went over the various types of editors to make sure there wasn't something else she was looking for, as well.

So what kind of editor are you? Do you know the differences? Here are a few of the editors I've come across in my day:

1. The line editor. Easy one to figure out. This editor goes through your manuscript line-by-line in search of mixed messages, grammar errors, and problems with conveying ideas.

2. The structural editor. This person looks at the piece as a whole and helps identify areas where your copy would best work. This editor is best known for shifting copy, building transitions, and bringing more order to your manuscript.

3. The extensive editor. Here's where things get deep. This editor does practically everything the first two do as well as suggesting changes, making revisions, suggesting rewrites, handling small rewrites, etc.

4. The justify-my-existence editor. Not the editor any of us want. This editor's looking at your copy and suggesting useless things like changing a word because "I'd rather it said this." That's not a useful edit. If the worst thing your editor can say about your manuscript is "I changed all your 'said' references to 'replied', you're either an excellent writer or you've found an editor who's looking for job security. Think the latter, for any good editor can find flaws in any writer's work.

What other editors have you come across?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Sexy Side of Technical Writing

Yesterday's post showed you the downside of technical writing points, which are actually more your problem than ours (we tech writers, that is). We love what we do. And here's why:

1. We can talk geek. Oh, honey. It's sexy when someone opens up to a conversation with, "So, how are those captives of yours?" If your mind goes directly to offshore investing, you've just made a new friend. If instead you conjure up an episode of Gilligan's Island, we'll still talk to you because hey, who doesn't think the Professor was hot?

2. If you tell us you like our robust platform, we're not going to slap you. That's because we know the insider jargon. Nothing is more impressive at a party than saying, "But they're transferring their risks into protected cells! Isn't that brilliant?" Well, perhaps the guacamole will impress them.

3. We get jobs others are turning down. Tell me the last time you applied for a job writing about Superfund sites or construction risk. Ooo. Never, huh? Too bad. While you guys are avoiding these topics, we tech writers are working.

4. Technical isn't always technical. We love that people lump anything that's not mainstream writing into the "technical" category. It means we have lots to work with. For instance, would you write a story for Cosmo or Elle about a drug with a side effect of lengthening eyelashes? Or how about articles on proper hand hygiene for Family Circle? You would? So why aren't you writing it for the pharmacy mags and emergency physician mags that hire us to write the same stories? I've written "technical" stories that include reviewing accounting software, profiling businesses (profiles, people! They practically write themselves!), nurses working in war zones, and debt collection software reviews. Yet I'm not an accountant, CEO, nurse, or debt collector. Hmmm.

5. We get a lot more money. Our work requires someone who's willing to learn an industry enough to write about it. For that we are well compensated. We're talking buck-a-word rates in some cases. Nothing is sexier than cashing a nice check.

6. We get repeat business. Because not too many writers are willing to venture out of the comfort zone, we get the work others turn down. We're rewarded with more work and more checks. We like that.

All you tech writers - what's your favorite part of the job?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Downside of Technical Writing

I write technical stuff. Okay, stop that yawning right now. When I say technical, I'm not talking math or science or even computers. I'm talking stuff you use or come in contact with, like insurance (okay, go ahead and yawn, but just for a second!), risk management, healthcare, offshore investing, accounting, financial services, sales reps, real estate, business services, Internet services, and more. Not the juiciest topics on the planet, which is why we tech writers face a bit more cons to our jobs than consumer writers. Like these:

1. The deer-in-headlights stare. Oh, we saw you. The minute you heard we were writers and you asked all excitedly, "Oh really? What do you write?" we told you and there it was. The look. The look that said, "Damn, where's the exit?" or "Oh shit, this will be boring." You can't hide that. And you can't escape. If you were willing to listen to what you thought was going to be a gripping plot line to a thrilling mystery novel, you're damn well going to listen to my telling you how sovereign wealth funds from other countries are shoring up our economy, or how a doctorate in nursing practice is dividing healthcare professionals about its practicality. Muhahahahaha!

2. No one to funnel extra work to. I've tried. And a few of my dearest writing friends have come back begging for mercy. A few others just stopped writing to me. It's tough keeping friends when they volunteer to help and then realize, too late, that this writing for trade journals or business mags isn't like writing for Penthouse Forum. It's sexy to me, but a different kind of sexy. Sort of like tight leather pants on an obese rock star. Oddly fascinating and fun to listen to, but it's not exactly going to conjure up exotic fantasies.

3. This stuff doesn't interest you as much as it should. We can't convince anyone beyond other geeks in the field(s) that this stuff is really the meat of how we live and breathe, but try finding someone with the attention span or the interest to hear more. Perhaps we should hang out with more risk managers. They're wildly entertaining. Really. Some of the best fun I've had has been listening to their stories of how they reduce company risks and create safe workplaces, but still try proving that three college-age men can indeed climb out a fourth-floor window using only bedsheets.

4. Our creativity is limited. Rare is the article on worker's compensation that will include the line, "He grabbed her to him, ripping her bodice as he did" unless it's followed by something like "...fracturing three ribs and creating not only a worker's compensation claim, but a sexual harassment suit against his company, for no manager should demand that much attention of an employee." But we can dream.

5. We'd write about math, science, and computers if we knew how - and some of us do. Most of you might find that pathetic. Oh hell, I find that pathetic. And yes, I'd write about all of those if there were a way to do it without getting a PhD in any of those areas. Then again, I read quantum mechanics books for fun. I read other stuff, like P.D. James mysteries and John Irving books, but you're going to brand me a geek for wanting to read about Schroedinger's cat, aren't you? Do you even know who that is? Hey! Wake up out there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Terror and Self Doubt

I'm facing a brand-new project area today. I will meet with the client and go over her plans as well as my outline of her project. It's an area I've long wanted to expand into, and the outline's been written for a year. And I'm terrified.

With all this experience, with the skill set I have versus the job to be done, I know I'm more than qualified. But I'm shaking in my shoes. Why? Because it's new. I nearly talked myself out of it, but I know this is something I can do easily. It's just that fear of tripping up, of looking stupid, that keeps me from being elated. Instead of the confidence that should be there, I'm resisting the urge to hide in the corner and pretend no one can see me.

This isn't new to any writer. We've all experienced the fear of the unknown, the terror that we may - gasp and egad! - make a mistake. We doubt that our abilities aren't up to it. In nearly every case the abilities are there, but do we believe it? No. We'd rather believe we're in over our heads. Why? Because if we make that dreaded mistake, however small, we can say we knew it all along. It's like bungee jumping for the first time (I would imagine). In your head you know someone's done a thorough safety check, but your heart can't help thinking you're about to be flattened on the hard surface below. Okay, maybe not quite the same, for we writers aren't going to be road kill if we botch something, but the terror is just as real.

I'm pressing forward. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. If I mess up, I come home and continue on with my other projects. I can't afford not to try. I've almost convinced myself that this is just a meeting and if we don't have the same vision, no harm done. I've prepared as much as I can, and I'll chalk it up to experience.

So what about your feelings of dread, doom, doubt, or anxiety? When do you face them? Every deadline or just the new project's deadline? How do you psyche yourself into pressing forward? What was your last moment of freelance fear and how did you overcome it?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Absence of Copy Editors

You just have to read it to understand. This article appeared in The Washington Post last month. Hysterical!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Six Phrases That Mean "I'm Not Paying"

By now we can pretty much recite most of these, but just in case you're new to writing, here are some sure signs the employer has no intention of paying you for your work.

1. "This is a labor of love for us." Time and again, this has gone on to say "....and for that reason, we cannot pay at this time." The minute the word "labor" is involved, it's usually you suffering the labor pains.

2. "Post your work for free on our site!" Oh dear gawd. They really mean for us to believe that they're doing us a favor. Another word that means the same thing: "showcasing" your work. Yea, right. I saw one last week that actually read "Promote yourself on our site!" What they really mean to say is "We need content, so we'll just pretend we're helping you out!" Get your own website and promote yourself without furthering some lazy shmuck's goals.

3. "We need writers looking to build their resumes" or "Build valuable clips." You'll never build your resume properly by giving away work. That's what they're asking you to do. As for clips, do you honestly think someone there will edit your work or that the site will have enough traffic or branding to be clip worthy? Again, post your writing for free on your own site. Keep your copyright.

4. "The perfect job for stay-at-home moms and college graduates." Great. Now they've insulted two classes of society in one sentence. What makes them think moms and grad don't need money or have talent? Putzes.

5. "We cannot pay at this time, but there is potential for future earnings." Sure there is. And Christmas now comes in July.

6. "We pay in ad revenue." Just run like hell. Even the most popular sites aren't paying that much in ad revenue. Either a per-word or per-article rate or buh-bye, losers!

Any others you can think of?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Defining Success

Saw an interesting post somewhere on the blogosphere about a writer whose friend looked down on her, took pity on her for not making the kind of money he does (that could be any number of blogs, eh?). Okay, that's just wrong. Pitying someone for making less than you do? What the heck? One thing did stand out - the definition of success.

So how do you define success? What does it take, in your mind, to be successful? Are you there yet? If so, when did that happen? If not, when do you expect it? How does a writer, or anyone for that matter, define success?

I'm successful. This year has been the best so far. Was I successful last year when the bottom was falling out from November through December? Hell yes. I was still doing it on my own, still meeting my bills and obligations, still providing for my kids. I made less - a lot less - than this year, but I felt successful.


Thursday, July 03, 2008


On another site, I was reading correspondence between a deadbeat client and a writer demanding payment. As I read through the exchange, the question came up in my mind - when is it okay to drop your professional demeanor and just let them have it? My answer? Never.

These are people looking for excuses to use to explain why you're not getting paid. In the case I was reading about, the client had promised payment, lied about payment being sent, and then found fault with the writer's work toward the end of about 5 or 6 months worth of the back-and-forth. The writer was understandably upset. He/she used profanity in the correspondence. It certainly got the attention of the deadbeat client, but it didn't help the cause at all. In fact, the client got snotty and refused to discuss payment until the writer cleaned up the language. Again, wrong answer from the deadbeat, but getting upset obviously did not work for the writer.

The client is clearly in the wrong here. Months and months of promised payment that ends with the sudden questions as to the quality of the work? Oh, have we ever heard that one before! But I say the writer should have at that point stepped back from the emotions (which is tough, I know) and looked at the only issue that matters - payment was overdue and action was about to be taken. Anything beyond that is a waste of time and energy.

At the point where you think you need to tell them to go to H-E-double hockey sticks you should instead go to an attorney, a collection agency, a small claims court, etc. Actions, especially in this case, reap more than harsh words ever will.

Speak softly and have an airtight backup plan. Do you agree? Have you ever used profanity on a client? Do you feel it was justified? Is it EVER justified? Convince me.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Time Machine

One more call yesterday, one more project. It's great, but I need to find a way to get more time in my day.

I bet you go through that too, don't you? How can you possibly get it all done inside of 8 or 10 hours? Well guess what? You have plenty of time (so do I). You're just not capitalizing on it.

Take this time right here, for instance. What time is it for you? If it's before working hours or after, good for you. But if it's say 10 am or 2 pm and you're staring down a couple of immediate deadlines yet still surfing the blogs, tut tut. Honey, I'm guilty of it, too. I'll get on a writing roll and get the excitement level up in my ADD brain, then I leap onto the Internet "just to check" the blogs. If you can find a way to disable IE during writing hours, do so. And tell me how because I'm suffering here, too.

Then there's email. This one's an easier fix. Just close the damn thing. Right now. Do it. Resolve to close it and not open it until you take a lunch break. Don't worry about someone not being able to reach you instantly. Just because instant contact exists doesn't mean we have to be slaves to it. Turn it off and pretend no one's home.

Same for your cell phone. For some reason, this bug has never really infected me. Maybe it's because I had the basic crappy plan phone for ages and only recently upgraded. Still, my cell phone is on, but it remains in my purse all day. Seriously. Turn it off or put it somewhere you won't hear it. Check it at lunch time.

Then there's the "land line" phone. This one's the worst for me. Calls from family and friends sometimes get in the way. Do yourself a favor. Turn the ringer off if you can, inform everyone you're going to screen calls during business hours, use caller ID and don't answer unless it's work-related.

Now, if you could just get the rest of the family to move out until your quitting time. Kids are the toughest, but if you live near a Y or any other organization with activities for kids, sign them up. Get them in the car in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. Use your mornings to write uninterrupted. When they're back from day camp or Bible camp or whatever, you can have lunch with them or spend 30 minutes reconnecting and giving them your attention (that's all they want, you know). Then you can let them know you're off to work. Hug them. Make eye contact and tell them you're glad they try to be quiet for you. Close the door if you have one. Work.

How do you find time in your day when time seems to be at a premium?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Seven Truths of Freelancing

1. The longer the list of requirements in a job listing, the less the employer intends to pay. Go on. Look. Test this one out. Nine times out of ten, it's absolutely spot on.

2. The amount of work you're about to get is equal or greater to the amount of time you have to finish it all. Again, it comes in droves or not at all. I had two deadlines last week. Didn't I get two calls for two more big projects?

3. Thongs are just a bad idea. Okay, not so much a freelancing truth, but true nonetheless. They place material in exactly the place we've been trying for years to remove it from. But I digress...

4. The more people involved in your project, the more likely your project will fail or you'll be replaced. Your project could fail with one person as a client, true enough. But the moment another person, or lord forbid, a posse of client friends, family, colleagues, etc. gets involved, you're done. You cannot, will not, please everyone. In fact, if you attempt to, you'll please no one. As you enter into contracts and projects, make it abundantly clear to both you and the client who the sign-off person is. That's your audience. Make it equally clear that any involvement of a third party that you must now write or revise to voids the contract and requires the client pay in full on the spot without any further work from you.

5. If it's December, we're broke. Projects slow down around November and literally vanish in December. It's okay. Just expect it, plan for it, shop early, and market harder.

6. Same for July. This one's debatable. I'm working pretty hard right now on articles and corporate projects. The articles I lined up weeks ago. The corporate projects came in because, surprise, staff are on vacation. You could make hay with it or you could fall short. Either way, plan for it.

7. The threat of litigation will move the most immovable client to pay your invoice. I've had to threaten three times in my career. In every case, the check was nearly hand delivered upon that threat. Use it, but use it only if you plan to back it up with actual litigation.
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