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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monthly Assessment: November 2010

What I'm reading: The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
What's on the iPod: The One Who Loves You Most by Brett Dennen

If agony had a physical presence, it would be my career this past month. I knew things would be slow post-surgery, post-vacation, and post-house guest visits. At a standstill? I never expected that. I had plenty in the works. Sadly much of it dried up. One long-time client cut back the number of projects per month, as did another. Ouch. I was hoping to cruise a little on those jobs until I signed on others. Nothing doing - $1K of that income disappeared. Right at holiday time. Egad.

Luckily I'd saved. Mind you, when my mother was here I went on a buying spree, but I still had enough to cruise through the holidays. Only with the month not producing much more, the cruise turned into a bumpy ride mighty fast. Such is the life of a freelancer.

Let's look at the damage, shall we?

It's not for lack of trying that I sit idle. Between letters of introduction and queries, I blanketed new markets and old. I sent out over 14 queries and LOIs alone. One assignment and a few nibbles, but nothing beyond that.

Job postings:
One. I responded to one. It was for a new magazine, and as I suspected, they can't afford me. The publisher sent me a lovely note thanking me, noting that my experience outweighed his, and offering an apology for not being able to work together. Classy guy - he didn't berate me for charging a fair rate. That's a professional business person.

Existing clients:
I've already mentioned the agony of losing some work with my two favorite clients. I did put out about six feelers for a client with whom I'm ghostwriting articles. And yesterday, I scored a placement for them. That may help salvage December.

Also, I managed to get confirmation of two upcoming assignments with another favorite client. It will be nice to start January with some potential cash in the works.

New clients:
I contacted a number of potential new clients, hearing much the same thing from many of them - they can't afford me. And newbies, that is not the time to doubt your price. For me, it's a time to doubt my sales avenues. Aim higher.

Also, two referrals, neither of which have gelled yet, but I'm working on it.

And one LOI netted the editor's request for a resume and samples. Fingers crossed there.

Ugly. Just ugly. I'm 80 percent off my monthly goal. Totally unacceptable. Understandable given the length of time I was off, but I could have planned better and been working and earning much sooner.

Bottom line:
I can't change what's past, but I can change how I approach things from this point. I've been sending out oodles of queries and making good use of the 2010 Writer's Market (don't ask me why I didn't buy the most recent - I have no idea). The LOIs are starting to get some notice, so I'll continue along those lines. And since clients may be avoiding projects right before the holidays, I'm targeting more publications. They always need copy.

Now for the good news - how was your month?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Today's Second Post: A Response to a DS Question

What's on the iPod: Evil is Alive and Well by Jakob Dylan

You know how much I hate returning to the same old argument. But a comment left on this thread today pretty much has me revisiting and reopening old wounds. Mind you, the comment started out with a rational attempt at clearing the air, but of course turned to accusations. But I'm a person who sticks to my word. I promised this person I'd provide evidence of what I'd written.

"Chris" said he/she wanted proof that writers were fired from Demand Studios for questioning assignments. I know some of you who have worked for DS have related that story to me. Because some of it was done in confidence, I won't reveal your names, but if those of you who have had this experience want to share it, please post here. I'm not wasting a lot of precious time defending what's all over the Internet, and I sure as hell won't delete comments that disagree with my opinion. But I won't let someone accuse me of "making shit up" in order to defend my point. I don't do that. It's not in me to do that. I've also asked Chris to provide me with proof to the opposite. We'll see if there's a response.

So, have you had dealings with DS in the past? If so, were you fired? Do you know someone who was? Let me know.

The Push is On

What's on the iPod: January Wedding by The Avett Brothers

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. Ours was spent with my youngest at her off-campus house in western PA. She made an incredible meal, and we spent the day with her and my parents. Then we went to see Harry Potter. It rained, but the next two days were quite cold, and Saturday we awoke to snow.

We drove home, stopping at a rest stop in the middle of the state, where I walked in and saw a classmate I haven't seen in decades. Ironically, we had both talked on Facebook about going home, but neither of us were sure we'd be able to visit anyone. And there she was, 100 miles from our hometown, ordering lunch at the same rest stop.

Today will be spent contacting more potential clients. Today, I'm contacting former interview subjects. I interview a lot of people, and I've secured one or two regular clients that way. I don't ask while the project is still live as I don't want any notion of conflict of interest, but I don't see a problem with contacting folks after stories have run and checks have been cashed.

Also, today will involve more knocking on former clients' doors. I'm staring at a pretty dry month, much like last month, which is typical for this time of year, but isn't acceptable. Holidays are just plain expensive. I think the only bright spot of not having projects in front of me and a reduced workload from regular clients is it makes taxes less painful come January.

Tomorrow I'll post my monthly assessment. I hope you do, too. Some of you are very good about putting up both the good and bad of it. That's what the exercise is designed for - to get us to remain accountable to ourselves and each other. Nothing motivates me like having to face the masses - even if you're friendly. :)

What's your week looking like?

Friday, November 26, 2010

When Breaking Up is Easy to Do

What I'm reading downstairs: The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
What's on the iPod: Mercury by Scott Blasey

Sometimes, making those tough decisions becomes that much easier. I'd been building toward cutting a client loose for a variety of reasons (not just price), and I'd resolved to do so within the next few weeks. Then a minor event - let's call it the last straw - caused me to pull the plug entirely.

They are lovely people. However, lovely people are not always the key to a great client/writer relationship. They have to have projects that don't compromise our standards, they should be clear in what they want, and they should pay us respectably and without argument. When even one of those factors is missing, it can be a deal breaker.

In this case, they were nice, but that nice exterior masked a cheap, somewhat devious interior. They originally argued my price - rather, they decided to state firmly that they were paying $XX for something I'd charged at $XXX, and something they'd agreed to at $XXX. It was the first time we parted ways. They came back contrite. I agreed at my rate, but I wasn't sure.

Seems I was right to doubt. Since then, they have used a number of shallow, tired tricks to avoid paying my invoice. They avoided paying for one project because, as they claim, it was unusable. I asked for proof. I saw that a lead was rewritten (using the same facts I'd used) and that a few sentences were changed - again, style changes. And they used the "poor grammar" line, pointing to my starting a sentence with the word "And" as proof. Since I'm not prone to letting people argue about the legitimacy of grammar usage because they want to avoid a bill, I was done.

They weren't the only problem children. In each case, I learned to hear what wasn't being said and to trust my instincts. Here's how you know the client's unhappiness has a deeper, more sinister foundation:

They ask you to rewrite someone else's work. Yes, they did. They wanted me to make an article for a nationally recognized publication from one source. I said no and lost their number.

They don't give you enough direction. Links are great, but if they're not giving you anything beyond "Here's an interesting link", you can't know what they want. If they're not willing to put more work into telling you what they're after, you're never going to please them.

They question your capabilities. One client argued that my writing was "unprofessional" and that they had to revise endlessly to "fix" it. I held my tongue and went over the copy, editing out the mistakes that were just edited in. And I sent it back with a note that it should read better now, not mentioning the tongue-lashing I'd received. And then I cut them loose.

They start nitpicking. "Your grammar and sentence structure are weak." This must be the catch-phrase for every deadbeat client. They toss this out as justification for not paying, but not once have I received any real proof to back up their accusations. I've been called on the carpet for starting a sentence with "But", "And", and in one case was brutally told off because I used "possessing" as a verb. Uh....

They decide to scrap your project and give you a new one. And watch their heads explode when you bill them for the scrapped project. My most recent encounter involved a project based on one Internet link. I wrote from the facts stated in the supplied link, and I added the company's own, stated stand. They argued it wasn't factual (it was) and that it wasn't their stand (when their prior emails clearly stated the same stand). They said "Just write about this instead." Nothing doing. I sent them the final invoice and ignored their pleas to return.

Writers, when have you found it easy to break up with a client? What was the situation?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

What's on the daughter's iPod: Love the Way You Lie by Eminem with Rihanna

I didn't think I'd have time to post today, but the turkey is in the oven and we're waiting for when the rest goes into production. My youngest is doing her first holiday meal, so we traveled to share the day with her and with my folks.

But I wanted to share the day with you, too. You're all a big part of my life, so it wouldn't be right to let this time go by without saying thank you for being part of my life and enriching it so beautifully every day.

Here's what I'm thankful for:

- My writer friends, virtual and face-to-face
- 169 followers and all who lurk (say hello!)
- The ability to live my dream and write for a living
- The talent and skill to do so
- My husband, who surprises me daily with his displays of affection and humor and devotion
- My kids and step-kids who have great souls
- My parents, who always supported us emotionally and financially
- My hometown and dear friends there, who shaped me into a person with strong convictions and stronger devotion to friendships

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Boredom and Creativity

What I'm still reading upstairs: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
What's on the iPod: Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen

How bored can a working person get? If you've worked in an office, you've been there. Nothing at ALL on your desk and you're forced to look busy lest you send the message that either you're slacking or your job is no longer necessary. But when you freelance, there's no looking busy. There's wishing you were busy. That's where I am right now.

I got a small project out of the way in the morning, and then...I waited. And I searched. And I sent out proposals. And I checked and rechecked my email. Nothing. It is a holiday week, so I shouldn't be surprised.

I busied myself. First, I did laundry - essential. We were out of clothes.

I helped him change the oil in my car in the morning - also essential. The car was due.

I sent out some queries.

I baked snickerdoodles. I would argue these are also essential as they help me think.

I wrote poetry.

I put up Christmas lights.

I set up a new e-newsletter form right over there on the left of this page (please subscribe - I won't use your emails for anything but the e-news).

I painted fingernails.

Jeezuz, is it only three pm? Okay, now what?

Sometimes, you just have to walk away. It's frustrating not having a project to keep you busy, but it's also okay to turn off the brain a bit.

Still, I did get quite a bit accomplished in a short amount of time. If you're sitting there with a holiday lull ahead of you, here are some things you might try to boost your business profile and feel like you've done something useful:

Learn a new tool. Mine was MailChimp. I've wanted an e-newsletter for a while, so I took the time to learn how to send one. The idea is to increase blog traffic while providing you with something useful. You could do something similar. Learn Twitter. Join LinkedIn. Check out Twellow. Do something for your business that will increase visibility.

Organize. I should have known when I started on the closet this weekend that my need to organize would spread like a virus. That's okay, since I work better when my desk is neat. Take your free time and file those files, scare up those bills and invoices (tax time isn't that far off), or create a spreadsheet for tracking expenses and income.

Write. Remember doing this for fun? Now is your chance. Open that file you've been avoiding or wishing you could get to, turn off the phone and guilt, and immerse yourself in something just for you.

Research office equipment. Well, for me this is fun. Remember, I have a serious Staples addiction, so looking for office supplies and products is like looking for new shoes. Indulge your magpie-like tendencies and price out the shiny new printers and laptops. If you have the spare cash, now would be a great time to buy as everything is on sale for the holidays.

Learn how to monetize your blog. My next slow day will be spent doing this. I'm all for a quick-and-easy Google AdSense, but when it earns a penny a day, that's a sign I could be doing it better. Like me, you should be learning how to bring in more passive income as you're going about your daily routine.

Assess your business practices top to bottom. Everything from how you market to where you host your website - give it all careful consideration. What's going well? What could be better? What haven't you bothered to put time into that maybe you should?

Find new markets. Arm yourself with a Writer's Market or get thee online and find your next clients by doing some research into their company and their practices. Locate contact people, create a letter of introduction, and convince them you rock. Also, brainstorm about where you'd like to be going and how you'll get there.

If you spend idle time working on improving your business and the way you work, you'll increase your work and your earnings potential.

Writers, how do you use your idle time?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your Best Advice

What's on the iPod: Ships with Holes Will Sink by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Last week I had a nice conversation with a friend of a relative. She was about to say goodbye to her full-time job and wanted to hear about my experiences with freelancing. This is a person with a solid background in some specialized areas. I suspect freelancing would be a lucrative choice.

But we who have been at it a while know that it takes more than talent and expertise. It takes tenacity, marketing skills, networking, and energy. Careers don't build themselves, nor do they maintain themselves.

I chose what I wanted to tell her before she called, but I could have gone on for a while. There are so many lessons I've learned and the advice would be rolling out for ages. But I don't think that works. I think even my worst experiences or my best ones are often personal. Sometimes the lessons I learn aren't necessarily important to others.

But there are things I think every writer beginning down the freelance path should know:

1. Mind your contracts. Translation: Have one. And make sure it protects your interests fully. Don't settle for some standard contract that doesn't address a freelancer's unique risks.

2. Know your worth. You knew I was going to say it. I'm an advocate for writers setting their own values on their skills. Don't let clients tell you what to charge, and do the math. Make sure you're charging enough to meet your obligations and your goals.

3. Market when you're busy and when you're not. In other words, always market yourself. Always. If you let marketing slide when you're busy, you'll find yourself not earning. Pretend this present job is the last one you'll see. Act accordingly.

4. Understand when a client problem is really a problem. Those of us who have been around a while have heard it all. If your client is expressing a concern, consider this: is it before or after the invoice was sent and/or late fees were applied? Are they not paying because they're not using? Look deeper into the reason why this client is unhappy. If it's truly a matter of miscommunication, fix it. If not, you'll know by the tone and the approach when you push back a little.

5. Never settle. That goes for contract terms, client terms, negotiations, and payment. Do not compromise your standards in order to win a job that may not be worth winning.

6. Trust your instincts. You'll know when it's a good match and when it's not. Don't ignore your inner voice - heed it. If it feels wrong, walk away.

Writers, let's help out the noobs. What's your best advice for newly minted freelancers?

Monday, November 22, 2010


What I'm reading: The Maytrees by Annie Dillard (a book to savor)
What's on the iPod: Sunshine by The Clarks

Busy weekend. If you looked around the house, you wouldn't think I did a thing, but if you opened my closet - voila! I cleaned, organized, and hauled away two bags of clothes and purses. Now everything is hanging on color-coded hangers in my particular order - white means a button-down shirt, black is a chiffon or charmeuse, clear is a cotton blouse....yes, it's a sickness, but I harm no one so they let me be.

Went to a kilt shop opening (yes, we live LARGE) Saturday night. USA Kilts moved from downtown to the next town over, and we were on hand to celebrate their gaining triple the space they had. I was able to wear my "girl kilt" made by the owners, and he was in his kilt.

Then yesterday was amazing football. Usually a game that ends 35-3 is dull, but not this one. The penalties were rampant and at one point, a player was ejected for punching my team's QB in the face. When the crowd in Pittsburgh takes up a loud "Ref, you suck!" cheer, you know things are bad. And when the announcer agrees with the quote "Just put the quarterback in a skirt" you know the penalties are becoming ridiculous.

Add to that the phenomenal finish by the NY Jets to beat the Houston Texans 30-27 in the final ten seconds of the game. Wow. That's when the sport is exciting to watch.

I was also thinking about the post here on Friday about choosing a better gig. As I wrote it, I realized there were people who, no matter what I wrote, would argue why it wasn't possible. Imagine me sitting there writing and saying to myself "No wait - there are some who would say this...." That's why my simple post went on for days. I presented counter-arguments as I went.

We tend to self-sabotage our careers, don't we? If you've ever taken advice and pointed out the reasons why it won't work for you, you could be a self-saboteur. Here are some common excuses used when someone tries to point out a better way.

1. I'd have to wait to get paid. So that's why you stay in a job that pays you one-tenth your actual market value? Seriously? You can't be that impatient. Most of my clients pay within three weeks of the invoice. Only one magazine pays on publication, which is usually three months out.

2. I tried that once. I hear this one when I bring up marketing. Just because you've tried it once doesn't mean you should quit it entirely. How many people did you contact? How many days or weeks did you try? Did you follow up? Unless you've truly exhausted that method, you didn't really try it. Yes, there are some that may not work for you, but don't write them off entirely. There are marketing methods I don't use often, but I go back to them occasionally because you never know when it will work.

3. I don't have that kind of experience. Sure you do. It's called curiosity. All writers have it. Yes, you may have a time convincing some editors to give you a shot, but if you present an amazing idea in a well-written query letter, you'd be surprised how often that gets you an assignment, even without the experience. I'm living proof. I know NOTHING about emergency physicians or nursing and even less about CPAs, but I've written for all three markets. It's the idea, not always the background.

4. Marketing takes so much work! I'm better off at the content farm. Then good luck to you. Marketing isn't hard if you're doing it right. It's like the word "networking." It only sounds complicated. My marketing resembles 15 minutes a day when I'm busy, longer when I'm not. It takes no time at all to send a note to a potential client introducing yourself. Also, once you get your query letter writing down, you can get magazine ideas out quickly, too. Why wouldn't you spend 15 minutes a day contacting a potential client than writing content-farm articles when the pay could have two or three zeros in front of that decimal, not one?

So what have you heard when you've given advice? And if you've received it and not believed it, post it here. We'll help you with it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Worthy Tip: Write This, Not That

What I'm reading: The Devil's Tour by Mary Karr
What's on the iPod: Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit

Men's Health Editor-in-chief David Zinczenko impresses me. He's made a lucrative career out of showing us healthier food options in his popular Eat This, Not That series. I'm a fan of both his suggestions and his style. It's a simple plan for improving your lifestyle.

And it's applicable all over the place, especially in writing. If you examine your career choices in the same way Zinczenko teaches us to examine our food choices, how much better would your career be for it?

So in an attempt to help you improve your career choices, I'm going to start a small series here - Drop that job for this job. Consider it your free virtual coaching session.

Let's look at this week's job:

Freelance Writers for Business News Content at Leading Demand-driven M

(Company name) is looking for professional grade writers who can share their own perspective on the facts of current business topics. Writers are required to write according to (Company name)'s style guide and are trained by Business Channel Manager on topic selection and ways to increase readership for maximum pickup from the search engines, other media sites, blogs and social networks....

Topics include:

• The economy (U.S. and International)
• Markets
• Company News
• The DOW
• Global
• Small Business
• Media

Writers can earn hundreds or more per month and are paid:

Per Article: $2.50-$10 for any articles posted on (Company site) that receive a minimum of 250 unique page views and Monthly Bonus: $25-$100 based on the popularity of their writing throughout the month


If only we were all so popular! Alas, the insanely low pay scale doesn't even measure up to minimum wage. But let's give the writers the benefit of the doubt - a "professional grade" writer should be able to earn about $5 an hour for 2 articles (or a whopping $20 an hour for the higher end of the pay scale). Popularity is another, loosely defined promise (how many page views before you see a single bonus dollar?).

The attraction is obvious - instant cash (or so it is assumed). Those already employed by such places would argue that there isn't anything else out there. Some have accused other writers of bogarting the good jobs.

Instead of going through the process of getting trained and then working endless hours just to get a few bucks, why not try this:

Business Fleet Magazine
Bimonthly magazine covering businesses which operate 10-50 company vehicles. Needs nonfiction how-to, interview, new product, personal experience, photo feature, and technical articles. Pays $100 to $400 for articles from 500-2,00 words.


Let's assume the first client's articles are 500 words in length. How does it compare with the sample magazine article?

- The pay at #1 is 90 percent less than the pay at #2. That's assuming the writer is getting $10 for it, not $2.50.

- The pay could come faster with #1 (assuming it pays weekly, which is not stated in the ad).

- The writer must write more than one article (a minimum of 10 articles) with #1 in order to earn $100. That could mean 3,000+ words written for $100. With #2, the writer writes 500 words for that $100.

- The article written for #1 must receive a minimum number of page views (250). If the writer's article gets 249 page views, that writer gets no money. The article written for #2 is paid upon either receipt of article or publication. There are no page-view requirements.

- The article at #2 is vetted by an editorial staff. The article at #1 may be, but it's unclear.

- You do run the risk with #2 that your article idea won't be accepted. The same holds true for #1.

For all those writers who say there aren't any viable options to the low-paying jobs - is that really true?

What project do you have currently that you could improve on? How have you improved your earnings potential in the past?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Unnoticed Blogs

What I'm reading: Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
What's on the iPod: Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit

Once upon a time, I was named to a Top Blog list. It was when Maria Schneider was heading the Writer's Digest blog, and she called this blog "the little black dress" of blogs. I was over the moon - first because it came from Maria, second because she equated this blog to a fashion staple. It was the only time I won any type of blogging award. And I'm blissfully happy with that.

Frankly, there are so many blogging awards that float around the Internet from time to time that one could make a career of chasing them down, begging for nominations, and fanning away crocodile tears when someone does. It's just so odd to me. Most blogging contests are set up in this way - choose a number of blogs you'll name as top blogs, set the parameters, and watch the feeding frenzy as bloggers prostitute themselves for nomination and their friends scramble to second and third them. Then the nominated blogs have to face an arbitrary decision by the judge(s).

The lists will contain a few of my favorites, but more often they seem repetitive. I follow blogs for various reasons - for information, for community, for commiseration, for a bit of solidarity in a solitary profession. If I were to nominate blogs, I'd be choosing those written by people who don't just inform, but build community. I'd choose someone whose blog makes me laugh, think, or makes me feel less alone in my job. I know each blog award giver-outer has their own criteria. It's just rare that these awards mesh with things I'd actually love reading with every post.

So here are my nominations and winners for Best Unnoticed Blogs:

Ink in My Coffee - Does anyone reveal more of herself in a blog than Devon? If you've read her blog, you've bonded with her. And you want to know her. I'm fortunate - I do.

Screw You! - I found Kathy's blog long before I started this one. She's honest and open and delivers a no-holds-barred look at writing and her writing life. I can't get enough. Please don't ever stop, Kathy. My day wouldn't be the same without you.

About Freelance Writing Before Kathy, there was Anne. She built first a community on her page, then successfully moved it to her own site, once more building a super community and resource for writers at all levels. Anne is someone I would follow through flames.

Simply Stated Business Cathy Miller, you make me smile. Your ideas are great, your blog is fun to read, and you champion the beginning writer. Amen.

Avid Writer Here's a woman who gets it. Kimberly Ben has a way of bringing you the info you need in a way that makes you feel like she's talking to you over a cup of coffee.

All Freelance Writing Jenn Mattern, I want to mirror your every move. You've made an art form out of how to build a freelance career, and that website is my go-to site for both info and laughs. I'm eagerly awaiting your query-free writer book. Type faster.

The Well-Fed Writer Blog Peter Bowerman not only writes fantastic writing books, he's also a terrific, congenial person. He poses great questions and gets a lively discussion going every time.

love. Carrie Link shares every joyous, wonderful, achingly painful moment of her life as Rojo's and Woohoo's mom. She is love personified.

A Writer's Edge Here's a writer with some edge - Georganna Hancock is a seriously witty, wild, warm, edgy writer who makes me laugh and think at the same time. I adore her grammar lessons almost as much as her soul-baring posts.

I have a list much longer, but those are the ones I frequent most often, and the ones that pull me back in every post.

Now it's your turn. Which blogs do you frequent that get your nomination for Best Unnoticed Blogs?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turning Over Rocks

What's on the iPod: Alleluia by Rufus Wainwright

Finally over that cold that grabbed hold of me last week. It was a strangely short-lived one - three days and vanished. There are remnants of it, but not the usual symptoms of stuffiness, sore throat, aching, etc. I was feeling better by Wednesday. I like that - a cold that doesn't stick around.

I'm still a bit short of projects, though I managed an article assignment with a long deadline. So yesterday, armed with the latest Writer's Market, I headed to Burger King, where I ate my veggie burger and scanned the book for some new markets.

Let me just say this now and get it over with. I have no idea who was overseeing the final publication of this year's book, but if I made that many editing mistakes, I'd not be working. Ridiculous amounts of mistakes. Normally, one or two in a book that size is acceptable, but not four in the same paragraph. And this from a writerly publication. There were a few that could have been cleared up with Spell Check. Others - like sentences that ended mid-sentence or listings that had a subhead and then a "." - screamed either amateur in charge or someone asleep at the keyboard. When I saw a listing for a market I knew was defunct (for three years now), I began questioning the validity of other markets. And for this I paid $31.50.

But I did locate some markets worth courting, so it's not a total waste of money. I now have a list of a dozen select markets and notes on how I plan to approach them. Some will get LOIs, others will get queries. It's been great having the extra time in which to do this type of planning. Instead of cursing the lack of work, I'm thankful for the time to seek a new direction.

In fact, the time off has allowed me to revamp my website, review my marketing, and find new potential clients and work. Here are some places I'm looking:

Twitter and LinkedIn. I've had success in the past with both, so I'll toss in the occasional "I'm available for work" update.

Magazines. Magazines are not my primary source of income, but they're great supplements to it.

Current clients. I've started asking for referrals. Asking people I've already pleased is a great way to get a good referral.

Press releases. As I receive them, I look for story ideas. What better source than through people already armed with experts?

Wanna-be clients. Make that clients I "wanna be" working for. There are a few who have been on my short list. I'm reaching out this week and convincing them they can't live without me.

Where do you look for work? How long has it been since you expanded into a new area?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Change the Things You Can Change

What I'm reading downstairs: The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
What's on the iPod: Late in the Evening by Paul Simon

Yesterday we talked about reasons to part ways with clients - and frankly, they have similar reasons, I'm sure. It's all about meeting each others' needs. And while it's sometimes wise to walk away from a client relationship, that's not saying every misunderstanding is grounds for business divorce. In fact, I think we should attempt to understand where our clients are coming from, and, when possible, come to some agreement.

So let's revisit yesterday's reasons for splitting up from a different perspective:

The pay is too low. Sometimes clients simply don't know what to charge. Educate them. It's okay that they don't know and it's okay that you're too expensive for them. You may not come to an agreement with that client, but you'll show your professionalism and maybe help someone make better business decisions in the future.

The parameters are ridiculous. So push back on them. If the client expects a complete article written, interviews included, in 2 hours, don't agree to it then gripe about it. Tell them why that's impossible, then quote the more realistic time frame. They may not realize the amount of work needed for the job. Again, educate them.

The stress is too high. There are times when you can control your level of stress. I was on a project once that turned out to be 90 times harder than both the client and I anticipated. I was killing myself trying to meet an October deadline. Then I realized the deadline was arbitrary. No one beyond the client was expecting it. Sure, he'd be disappointed, but better disappointed in delivery time than in quality. I finished it in March of the following year, and he was satisfied with the end result. The moral - ask for the extension, state your needs, and communicate any project parameters that are turning into too much for you.

The people you report to change. You started working with Betsy, but now Betsy and her friends are changing the focus of the project. Fine. Point this out to Betsy, mention that this voids the current contract (and full contracted payment is due right now), but that you're willing to negotiate a new contract for a new project including her friends. One of two things will happen - Betsy will realize the error of her ways and you'll be back to working one-on-one, or she'll drop the project entirely, which still results in your getting paid. Notice I didn't say Betsy is willing to pay for her friends' input. Rarely does that happen. However, if Betsy is like one of my former clients, she'll try sneaking in her friends' edits and revisions. You'll know them when you see them, for it will come out of left field. Just remind her again of the money due immediately and your willingness to sign a new contract with her.

The client dictates your rate to you. Unless the client has never worked with a writer, this is a deal breaker. However, there are clients who will set project budgets when they advertise. Have a conversation with the client about what they'll get for that rate. If it's too ridiculously low, don't waste your time.

The client is a lousy business person. I've had wonderful clients who were disastrous to their own businesses. I managed to work with them despite their inability to organize the simplest of tasks. I devised a system of communication with one client in which I reminded her of our phone conferences (she'd make them then forget about them - religiously), and I'd tack on an additional fee to the project because I had to organize her in order to get my own work done. And of course the checks were always late, so I learned to add the late fee at the outset, knowing she'd ignore it later, knowing that I'd spend three months without payment. She never questioned the line items, either. As I said, a lousy business person.

The client is focused too much on your hourly rate. Then simplify it. Give the client one flat rate for XX hours of work. Add the option of tacking on to that rate should the project suddenly appear to have a long tail.

Like I said, not all clients are worth saving, nor will your tactics guarantee success. But sometimes a little extra effort can help you reach an agreement you're both satisfied with.

Have you managed to change a lousy situation into a good one?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hanging on to Dead Wood

What I'm reading upstairs: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
What's on the iPod: Quiet Little Voices by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Sitting idle the last week gave me some time to get much-needed website work done, and get some invoicing out of the way. Also, it gave me time to re-evaluate. In looking at this past year's clients from a more detached perspective, I saw some cases where I should have cut the cord sooner.

We as freelancers tend to get a client and then drive ourselves nuts trying to keep them. That's great, but the problem then becomes when should we let go? When is it okay to fire clients? Are we getting all we need to out of the relationship?

I've fired a few clients. In most cases, it was because the work and stress exceeded the pay. But that's not the only criteria for parting ways with a client. In fact, sometimes the pay does outpace the hassle, but you're left to decide if the hassle is minor enough to continue dealing with. It's not always.

How do you tell if you and your client aren't working out?

The pay is too low. Easy one. If you're not getting anywhere near your hourly rate, find something better.

The parameters are ridiculous. Oh yes, they do give you some weird requirements. I remember turning away from one client when she chastised me for not being available from 7 to 7 every day (weekends included) for IM sessions. Another client expected a complete rewrite and three new interviews done in two hours. If the client expects things like endless free revisions, same-day service, or constant contact, decide if the pay reflects these additional expectations. And if the client thinks they'll pay only if they use it, invoice them and cut them loose. Your payment due is not subject to someone's whims.

The stress is too high. No client project is worth a sleepless night. Most jobs, if communicated effectively, should be relatively easy to complete. I dropped one client when the job kept morphing into something else.

The people you report to change. If you know me, you know I will not tolerate a client adding additional work or expectations generated by friends, relatives, coworkers, or acquaintances. I quote a per-project rate based on a specific person's/team's input and cooperation. If the client adds one more person to that (or three more, as was the case in one project), they've increased the work tenfold and confused their intent and their message.

The client dictates your rate to you. Some people are okay with clients determining what they'll make. I'm not. The moment you surrender control of your earnings, your business suffers. Rates may be negotiable, but they are not something clients should be setting for you. I have the right to charge my rate. They have the right to refuse it. That's okay. One client was given the wave when I stated my rate and he told me "We'll need you to reduce that." I suppressed my knee-jerk reaction, which would have been "Really? I was thinking I need you to increase your payment."

The client is a lousy business person. Most clients I've had are super people with loads of talent and knowledge in their industries. However, there have been a few who were super people with absolutely no clue. If they can't run their businesses effectively, you're wasting time.

The client is focused way too much on your hourly rate. It's why I've stopped quoting one. Too often I get the "Just give me two hours and nothing more." If that client is watching the clock, they can't afford you. Worse, you have no potential for additional business. Move on.

What signs do you see that signal that the party may be over?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Driving Traffic the Organic Way

What I'm reading: The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
What's on the iPod: Restless by Chris Bathgate

Another slow day yesterday, but I'm making hay with it. I met another freelancer for lunch and we enjoyed swapping not so much work stories, but life stories. Those are infinitely more interesting, and you get to see the layers of a person. How very cool.

Later, I worked on my website. I have an awesome Web designer who had given me an updated site. A year ago. I know, I know. Get on it. But I was so busy with client projects that I didn't have the spare hours to put it up, for I knew I'd find a way to break it.

It wasn't a critical break - just images. One word from my Web guru and I was back on track. Except I couldn't possibly put that same tired copy back on that site, and didn't I want to add something else? And so it snowballed....

I'm still tweaking it, but I'm going to devote today to marketing first. I have one client project, a few invoices to get out, then the free time is mine.

At lunch yesterday, my freelancer friend and I talked a little about honor. Actually, we wondered out loud about the lack of commitment some freelancers have to their own word. In a few cases in recent months, a few freelance writers have acted directly against everything they'd been saying and in a few cases, against their own advice. These weren't cases of someone realizing the error of their ways - these were people who one week were pro-this or anti-that and the next week they'd change their tune entirely with no warning.

In at least two cases, the money talked. In another, the motive wasn't clear. Then it dawned on me - someone was saying outrageous things in order to drive blog traffic. Did the writer mean all those reversals? From this chair, I have my doubts.

It's true controversy drives blog traffic to your site. I saw a huge spike in visitors during the Demand Studios debate. However, it spent me. I don't enjoy firestorms, and I didn't like the atmosphere that came with it. For me, it's just not worth it to incite mini riots just to prove to myself I'm popular. I don't care about popularity. I care about building something useful and true.

I suppose it's about what you're trying to accomplish with your blog. If you enjoy flip-flopping on critical issues just to get the numbers up on your site, go for it. Just count me out of the readership. Like reality tv, it's artificial.

But it's easier to market an argument, isn't it? There's no legwork involved, no need to spread the word about your efforts (the arguers do that for you), and no real reason to offer anything beyond controversy. The question is how much do you want the traffic and how much do you want the integrity?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mixing Up the Marketing

What's on the iPod: Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Happy Veteran's Day to all who have served. We appreciate you.

At the moment, I am what you'd call "between projects." I'd panic, but I have some things coming up that will keep me busy through the rest of the month. Plus one of my regular clients, who is an absolute dream to work with, has instructed a staffer to keep me busy with work even if it means removing work from others. I've been a huge supporter of her business, and we've formed a friendship that extends beyond the work. And I'm currently sorting out some ideas for another client, who has asked for a few articles to help promote their organization.

So I spent yesterday sending out LOIs and contacting a few clients and one potential client. In one case, I already knew the answer. My rate wasn't within his budget. It's a shame because I liked him and admired his business model. Maybe in the future.

Like I said, it wasn't a surprise. He has a smaller business - it's grown quite rapidly and impressively, but I think he'd still categorize his business as small. One thing he did mention was the economy, which has hit his business pretty hard. He was the second person to tell me that yesterday - small businesses are really feeling it. I guess I'm lucky. A one-person shop can take the ups and downs much easier.

So my marketing yesterday was aimed a bit higher. I sent letters of introduction to larger, more prominent publications. I contacted businesses that have a few different locations. I made sure that I didn't target smaller establishments. If two companies are feeling it, that's enough of an indicator. Time to go a few more links up the food chain.

I'm not one to track my marketing methods beyond what's inside my head or on my virtual sticky notes. You don't have to, either (unless that's your thing). Try these things:

Look for what isn't working. You've been answering those Craig's List ads for months with no luck at all. Why? Time to trash that and try something else.

Pay attention to what clients and potential clients are saying. They're telling you in casual conversation what the market is like for them. Look for similarities in thinking. If clients aren't able to hire you because they've fallen on economic hard times, there's a good chance it's going to be affecting plenty of same-size businesses.

Revise your approach. I could have spent a few hours yesterday writing multiple targeted queries. Instead, I sent out some targeted introductions that may have left a better impression than an idea that may or may not have worked. I asked for the invitation to submit ideas to new markets.

Offer them what they haven't asked for. If you're used to contacting clients every few months to see how things are, next time present them with an idea - how about a business blog, a white paper, a press release, or a media kit?

How are you bringing in the business these days?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Details, Details

What's on the iPod: Timshel by Mumford & Sons

Yesterday was a frustrating day of trying to get something to work. The new printer came. I'd love to tell you how much nicer it is than the old, reliable Canon. I'd love to go on about its wireless capabilities and I'd love to give it a glowing recommendation. And maybe if I ever get it to actually print, I'll do that.

I'm not a complete techno-putz. Close, but I know enough to be considered dangerous. I set the printer up easily, following the idiot-proof picture instruction sheet. I got it to fax almost immediately, and found how to set my number of rings. Then it was time to set up the wireless connection. It found my router easily. A little trouble on my end remembering the passkey, but viola! It was set up. I hit "Print Test Page" and waited.

I'm still waiting.

That started the cycle of uninstall/reinstall - everything from software to print drivers, which are all there. I repeated - twice - the wireless connection process. And still it sits there, not printing.

I filled out HP's survey, letting them know their instructions are a waste of paper. I know I'm not the only person having installation issues. The Internet is rife with complaints. But I figured I was smart enough to figure it out, and I was sure that three-year-old complaints surely would have reached the ears of the HP execs, who surely would have fixed the problem by now.

Right. That's what you get for dreaming.

Workwise, I didn't get much done. Thankfully, there wasn't much to get done. I revised a client project and I think I have the project in a place where we're both satisfied.

I did order my new Writer's Market. I had driven to Borders to pick it up, but why would I pay $50 in the store when I can get it online for $31? I'm eager to browse it and find some new opportunities.

Today, it's writing letters of intent and figuring out how to get the wireless to work on this ridiculous machine. There's a way. I'm missing something. But what?

How is your day shaping up?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Stick a Fork in Me

What's on the iPod: The Wishing Well by The Airborne Toxic Event

Interesting day yesterday. Not bad, not great. Just....interesting.

If I had a nickel for every client who tried to use the old "had to fix numerous errors" message in an attempt to avoid payment, I'd never have to put fingers to the keyboard. Yesterday was no exception. Mind you, I found out about the topic of the project the day before it was due, and I managed a good project in relatively little time.

Naturally, I heard about "grammatical" errors - those ones that exist because someone thinks high school English is THE style guide for life. What I didn't agree with was the client thinking because they embellished the project in their own words that I didn't do what I was hired to do. Nonsense. The work I handed them was fine. They personalized it. Also fine. However, it is not a reason to penalize me by not paying, as I told them. Payment is now due. If it doesn't come in 30 days, late fees. I have a collection process and I follow it with every client, no exception. I'll make your project the way you want it, but that means I get the chance to edit. If you don't give me the right to revise it, I can't satisfy you.

This is a good point for beginning writers, and even those of us who haven't yet had to defend work to a client. There are certain things we writers need to make clear in order to guarantee project success.

A project is a partnership. That means pleasing your client means having enough cooperation from your client so that you can deliver.

You need enough time in which to please them. Your goal is to please your client, but you have to be allowed enough time to do so. For example, if you have two days to complete a project (which frankly is a ridiculously short amount of time), you should be given ample time after the project to help the client with any revisions.

Clients adding their own prose is at their own discretion and does not affect your rate. If the client feels like adding to it after you've done the first draft, fine. But that is not a license for them to refuse to pay you. You provided that first draft. You did the work in the allotted time.

Revisions are part of the project. If you're not allowed to revise for whatever reason, then the project fee is due from your client upon receipt of the draft.

We'll see how the client responds to my note back to them. I'm glad they added text as they saw fit. I'm not glad they worded the note to me in a way that suggests I didn't do the job properly. Not true. It was done according to the scant details I was provided. Additions are welcome, but will not count as a penalty against me. I'm happy to do the work if I'm allowed to - I can't please them if I'm cut out of the process before I've completed all phases of the job.

Have you had clients not build revisions into their time schedules? How have you dealt with clients who frame your work negatively when you're certain you've completed it as stated?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Weekend Colds and Wireless Wonders

What's on the iPod: Sunshine by The Clarks

Every time I fly, I end up with a cold. Until yesterday, I thought I'd gotten lucky. But I woke up unable to breathe and sounding like I was channeling Kermit. What was a nuisance stuffy nose on Saturday turned full-blown cold yesterday. He enticed me to Molly Maguire's for some Irish music. Since it occurs just once a month now, I agreed. And the hot toddies they served did help a little. But I wasn't feeling it entirely.

Given the things I've had to cram into the last 10 days, it's no wonder. It puts a bit of a damper on the first full week back, but I have a light schedule - for now. I'm back with the one regular project, and I'm talking with a former colleague who connected with me on LinkedIn. He and I are talking today. He wants to start a niche magazine and we're going to bat around some ideas.

My NaNo count is low. I'm okay with that. I don't have the energy post-vacation and post-party yet. I'm just getting something on paper. If I get a free day, I'll write like crazy, but it's tough to do when your energy has been spent. For today, just a little work and a bit of rest.

Exciting news (for me): I ordered a new printer. I went with HP this time. I love the way Canon's printers operate and the quality of what they print, but I'm tired of replacing them every three years, and I'm really tired of paying $95 every time I buy ink. For that price, I can get a new printer with much more affordable ink. From what one of their certified repair folks told me, you must buy their ink. Something in their printer's function causes the ink to super-heat. They formulate their ink to withstand the heat, but any bargain inks will overheat and burn out the print heads and other parts. To me, that's a deal breaker. Yes, their inks last a long time, but I'm still required to drop $100 each time I buy ink.

So I opted for an OfficeJet with both wireless and ePrint functionality. The ePrint sounds so cool - I can print from any mobile device. That means someone can send a document to me from their cell phone that will print on my printer. Not that I foresee using that a lot, but then again I didn't foresee needing a wireless connection when I bought the Canon, and I've wished for it for three years now.

The best part is the price - $138 with tax and free shipping. I managed a great price through one of my rewards programs - this one was Border's. It did knock the price down from $189, so I was pretty proud of myself.

Off to start another week. Queries will be going out and hopefully an idea will find a good home.

What are you up to this week? How was the weekend?

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Cycle Turns

What's on the iPod: To the Sea by Jack Johnson

Interesting day yesterday. I managed four projects and the beginning of a fifth (project, that is) before 3 pm. How I'll never know. Maybe it was my eagerness to return to working. Nothing done on NaNo. Every time I started I remembered another project that I could dash off.

Today may be somewhat frustrating as I finish a larger project and take care of some very unnecessary errands. When I was in Manhattan on Monday, I'd bought something at Club Monaco. With all the guests here, I didn't open the bag again until yesterday. They'd left the security tag on it. So now I have to A) ship it to New York so they can remove it, B) take it to our local store, which is in the city and a train ride away, or C) find a way via the Internet to get the infernal thing off. And let me tell you - I was presented with only the first option by a manager who was not quite present enough in the situation. I got an apology, but if I follow her suggestion, I also have the expense of mailing that sucker back. I may get back on the phone and get heated. Because of someone else's inattention, I'm having to double my efforts just to wear the thing.

Some bad news on the work front - two clients came to me with reduced workloads. One is reduced by 75 percent monthly. The other is at the mercy of their clients, whose job requests have tapered off for some reason. That's about a $2K bite out of the income. So I spent a little more time yesterday crafting queries.

But don't we know that's coming anyway? Ours is a cyclical business. Those regular clients today turn into distant memories within a week. Budgets dry up. Needs are fulfilled. Directions are shifted, and we're suddenly without those projects that serve as our financial foundation. I was somewhat prepared, but not adequately.

So how do we prepare for the unexpected? We have to treat every day like it's our last with our regular clients. It may be. In numerous cases over the years I've watched what felt like sure things dry up overnight. Here's how I combat it:

Market constantly. It's why I preach marketing when you're busy. Tomorrow, you may not be busy at all. Keep the projects coming in and you'll not have such an impact to your income when one or two clients bow out.

Keep in touch with existing and past clients. Today's email or Twitter interaction could be tomorrow's gig. Make sure you cultivate your relationships. Just be genuine about it. No one likes to hear from someone whose only message is "I need work - have any?" Build relationships like friendships - care about that person.

Heed the intuition. The one client's note came as no real surprise. I had been wondering for two months now if the work was about to be decreased. I was supplying quite a bit. If you feel it, act on it.

Always have another direction in which to go. I'm sitting on a writing course I've developed. I could put it online tomorrow. In fact, I may. It's something I've been tweaking endlessly. It's a direction I've not gone before, and it's something I've been wanting to do. What are you wanting to do? Use that as your next new direction.

How do you recover from lost business?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Back to the Dance

What's on the iPod: Backwards Walk by Frightened Rabbit

Today is my first official day back. All mothers have been sent back to where they came from, and the house has returned to normal. It was a wonderful time seeing family. I'll miss them.

We spent the time preparing for a party. I've realized something about myself - I work much better alone (no surprise - I am a freelancer). I had the help of two women and a husband, yet I got the most accomplished when everyone was looking the other way. I cooked all the food, minus the samosas and veggie tray, for the party, and the only casualty was when the pumpkin decided to burn on one side and deflate. That was my soup bowl (I bake stew in a pumpkin). Out came the crock pot. The stew was cooked, so it was a matter of reheating. And I made it thick enough so that bowls weren't necessary, a must with a buffet-style party.

The party was a huge hit. The step-daughter was bartender and served up incredible strawberry margaritas (she worked behind the bar during college). The husband kept the whisky glasses full, and I circulated. It ended by eleven. We put food away and went to bed. By morning the dishes had been done. Step-daughter had done them. Amen. The kitchen was spotless. What a great way to wake up!

Sunday we rested and took the moms for a walk. Monday, we headed to Manhattan on a whim, where my mother got her first view of the city from atop Rockefeller Center. She was in awe. My cynical mom, who makes a sport out of not taking things seriously, used the word "wonderful" more times than I've ever heard her utter. We ate at Candle 79, probably the best vegan restaurant in the country, and she uttered "fantastic" a few more times. If a restaurant can please a die-hard meat eater, they're doing something right.

His mom flew home Tuesday, and my mom got on the train yesterday. It's quiet here. But I need to get back to work. Hospital bills are rolling in. The surgery and stay cost just under $21K. I'm responsible for $750 of it. Thank God for insurance.

Back to the grind. Two projects to start today - one I hope to complete by tomorrow. I loved the time away, but with NaNo started and the bank account needing more, it's time.

And I missed the interaction with you all. I know I was posting, but I had little time to sit here and really interact. I'm glad to be back.

So what's new with you?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Monthly Assessment: October 2010

What's on the iPod: Nothing. Too busy to listen.

I'm still on overdrive post vacation, but the guests are leaving one by one. I'm stealing a few minutes now to share my monthly assessment. If I don't, I'll never do it, which means you may never do it, and that's not good. So here goes:

Short month for me with all the vacation time and guests showing up. I worked seven days. Guess how this is going to look?

I sent out six queries despite the abbreviated time I had. So yes, you can market for work even when you're busy. I'm living proof. Nothing has come of it yet, but I have two ideas in particular I know are strong enough.

Job postings:
None. I don't know why I keep this category because for me, there aren't enough hours in the day to weed through the garbage.

Existing clients:
Last month I survived on existing client work. Two ongoing projects made up the bulk of my income, and a few occasional clients have added the rest. I finished the major project and cashed the check. That's always good. And another regular client came to me during vacation for more project work, which will help alleviate any fears of what November will look like.

New clients:
I contacted them through queries, but so far, nothing new.

Despite having only seven days of work time available, I kept to my earnings schedule. I earned over one fourth my target, which is a feat given the fact I was packing, planning parties, and booking B&Bs until the moment we left.

Bottom line:
All signs are pointing to my earning much more these last few months. Sure, they're the slower months, but I've been able to earn under some pretty stressful conditions. If I concentrate on proactively searching and securing more work, I'm certain it's there to be had.

How about you? How was your October?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Like the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland

That's me today - guests leaving, still some here, lots to do, no time to do any of it in.....

Short and sweet today, folks.

Favorite memory from Ireland:

We were walking in Glengariff Park, a nice trail along a stream. He lagged behind to look at birds while I went ahead exploring a bit. As I came to the foot bridge over the stream back to the parking area, there was a family with a dog, and a woman holding a six-week-old puppy wrapped in her coat.

But that wasn't the memorable part - it was what was behind them. There in the grass behind the bridge was a sheep- a noisy, bleating sheep that was moaning and looking all over as though he'd lost something. He couldn't be soothed. He walked up and down the shore of that stream, glancing anxiously, bleating loudly. When it was obvious his people weren't returning, he took to the road. He went down the road that skirted the stream (and the trail) like a sheep on a mission. When my husband returned, we hopped in the car and decided to head in the same direction. There he was, one parking lot down, still searching, still fussing up a storm. I tried calling him over, but when he realized I wasn't his person, he made a sharp left turn and continued down the road.

They really are like pets sometimes.

Back tomorrow sometime.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Politics of Freelance

What's on the iPod: The Cave by Mumford and Sons

I thought that when I became a freelancer I'd be well rid of people jockeying for a higher position. You know the ones - the office folk who make your ideas sound like theirs, who step in and attempt to sound like the expert on the idea you just proposed, the person who delegates to YOU when they hold the same position or lower. You can't blame them for wanting to appear to own the job they want, but if they're casting the shadow on your abilities, that's totally not cool.

Like I said, I thought I'd be well rid of that behavior. Alas, over the years I've found that even in freelancing there are those who want the spotlight, crave the attention, and would sell their mothers on eBay if they thought it would drive traffic to their blog. And it baffles me. If you go out of your way to discredit or steal the spotlight from another freelancer, why? I can't understand it. It may speak to someone's inability to trust in their own value or their own talents. Or it could be old-fashioned jealousy. Who knows?

But oh, the things I've seen:

The Pseudo Originator. It's happened on other blogs and on this one - visitors who feel compelled to straighten us out or in one odd case, take someone else's words and repeat them back, making the idea sound like that poster's original thought. I remember one particular poster who posted directly after I did, rephrasing everything I'd said and adding one of those "No, Lori, THIS is more to the point." Actually, it was the SAME point.

The I'm-the-one-you-should-be-asking Expert. This one is so strange, but it's happened a few times. Blogger puts up a post outlining an idea or original thought. Commenter comes along and treats the blogger's post like a comment asking for help - and then proceeds to dish out help on a topic that may or may not be related to what the original post was about. And of course there are links to that person's blog. Usually the comments are long and contradictory in some way to the original post. It's probably the one I see less frequently, but when I see it, it stands out as someone showboating, someone who can't allow another person's experience to trump their own (in their mind). And it's a totally different feel than those who post contradictory or long advice that's relevant. You'll know it when you see it.

The Blog Pimp. Never fails - you get a good dialogue going, one that's actually helping someone, and up pops the Blog Pimp. You get a response that says something like "Wow! I blog about this ALL THE TIME, and here are the links..." That's not to say sharing relevant links, even to one's own blog, is bad. It's not. It's bad only when it's done constantly or isn't really helpful.

I'm thankful none of these types hang out here. Can you imagine how that would alter the atmosphere?

What attention seekers have you seen? How can you distinguish between someone who's being blunt and helpful and someone who's trying to gain an advantage of some sort? Have you had one or more of these people on your blog ever?
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