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Friday, April 29, 2011

Nice Day for a White Wedding...

Did anyone hear rumor about some big to-do over in Great Britain? It can't be hockey, so I don't know...

The press coverage over this was a bit over-the-top, but at least it detracted from the birth-certificate fiasco. I loved the headline in the London newspaper yesterday: The Day America Took Leave of Its Senses. I couldn't agree more. I have my own theories, including what I think to be the real reason, which is there are some people who just cannot accept that a man who is not white has the intelligence and the support necessary to lead this country. But I hate political discussions, so I'll let that be my last thought on that issue.

I'm busy trying to wrap things up today before the trip, so let's just enjoy a wedding and maybe start that weekend a bit early. To kick off the celebration, here's Eddie Izzard's interpretation of British movies versus US movies:



I'll see you all on the 9th. Meanwhile, I've left a trail behind for you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Smells?

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Better Together by Jack Johnson


I've always known I work better when my back is to a wall, but I'm surprising even myself this week. I got back revisions on the Web project, proposed and completed some blog posts, got some Writers Worth Week posts finished, finished a small project, and arranged a few more conference meetings. When my head hits the pillow every night, it's instant sleep.

Last night was a bit of an exception. Too much hockey, if there is such a thing. I'd like to thank the local networks for showing the Boston/Montreal game instead of the one going on in this state. Super planning, you putzes. Although, maybe it was a favor. My boys did not prevail. A hard-fought series and my team, which showed heart and soul despite losing its best players to injuries about 50 games ago, did what they could, but it was too much. Tampa Bay had exceptional goal tending and they win the prize for penalty killing and defense if last night's game was any indication.

Oh, and a big congratulations to Dr. Freelancer Jake Poinier. Your Bruins were impressive. Great game!

How do you know when a client offer is a good one or a stinker? Sometimes, you don't. Sometimes it takes getting to know the client to be able to determine the validity of the offer. And sometimes you can smell a raw deal a mile away.

Take, for example, a recent offer bestowed upon yours truly. I had met with the client about a year ago and it was apparent then that I was too expensive for them. Or rather, they weren't interested in investing in the right things to improve their business. The relationship dissolved over my fee - not that we got into fits and fights, but rather that they didn't like what I charged and told me to lower the fee. Call me crazy, but I rather think I'm the one who decides if I lower my fee. I declined their suggestion.

Fast forward - I get a phone call. The client is excited because he has a nifty little project and he needs my help. He's assembled a great cast of characters to help him with his one-day project. My reward - rubbing elbows with the people in the room. Seriously.

Here's why this project isn't a good fit:

- My time isn't compensated
- The client sees nothing wrong in asking me to work for free
- The client has assumed wrongly his labor of love is one I'm willing to take on labor pains for
- The client has in the past shown he doesn't respect my business by A) not negotiating professionally, and B) telling me I need to reduce my price

So what makes an offer smell?

Lack of respect. Clients who expect free work, demand reduced rates at the outset, or think dangling a carrot instead of a check is acceptable are not your clients.

Empty promises. If any other client had asked me this, I may have helped them depending on who they are, what our relationship has been like, and what future benefits this may bring to my business. Saying these are "potential clients" is like saying "This lottery ticket could be worth a million dollars." The chances of someone who doesn't want to pay at all finally letting the moths out of the wallet are nonexistent. I don't care what incentive they offer - payment is the only option you should consider.

Faulty assumptions. Perhaps some clients assume that writers are eager to please and waiting impatiently for them to throw us a bone. Why I hate these types of assumptions - clients assume (falsely) they are in charge. They are - of their own businesses. Not of yours or mine. They're also sporting the idea that we're sitting idle, we don't have any professional backbone or business sense and are, therefore, eager to take on just about anything. It's your job to educate them by letting them know A) there's a line forming and presently they're at the back of it, B) you're engaged with paying clients, or C) you can do it for a fee. Nothing gives them the light-bulb moment like a little professionalism on your part.

The exploitative favor. Wow. You're really going to introduce me to your business friends as payment for a lot of work on my part? I should be so honored, right? Wrong. This isn't a favor at all. It's no more than a method used to get something for nothing. Keep it.

Odd math or weird twists. If you can't figure out simply what you're being paid (or IF you're being paid), or if the project is framed as anything but what it really is, it's a stinky deal. Example - I communicated with what I thought was a potential client once who promised $800 per project in email. Two minutes later in a chat session, the payment terms changed dramatically - cut in half and contingent on that ever-elusive "approval" clause. When stuff like this confronts you, trust your gut. If it smells now, it's going to reek later.

How do you know when a deal isn't really a deal?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's Your Value?

What I'm reading: Bits and pieces of poetry - too busy!
What's on the iPod: True Believer by The Clarks


Wow. There are days I'm amazed I can still remain upright given the amount of work I get done. Yesterday was another marathon day. I got a small project out of the way in the morning, ran off to get the hair done, back in time to start (and finish) the first drafts on a website project, keep the plumber company, and get blog ideas out for my blog client. Oh, and I managed another Writers Worth Week post for the blog tour.

Not that I'm able to rest any time soon. I have to get my portfolio squared away today, more blog posts for the client, a few more for me, and hopefully I'll finish this one resume project in front of me. I had to turn down additional work. I hate doing that - hate it. But there aren't enough hours left to keep me sane.

I was watching from the sidelines as a few in the blogosphere were trying like the devil to find ways to make revenue from their sites. A few do it correctly. For my money, I'd follow Jenn Mattern's every move. She can monetize every syllable without bashing us over the head with it. And I appreciate her ability to do so and her sensitivity to her audience. Her revamped site is a great example of someone who understands her audience, her market, and her presentation.

Jenn has value. She's a freelancer who's walking her walk. Her words hold much more value because she's showing us she's applying successfully her own lessons.

But I saw a few bloggers recently whose value isn't terribly apparent. Yes, it's wonderful to charge for things, but shouldn't there be some substance behind the fees? I see the dude who was ripping off writers' sites (and claiming he had full rights to steal). His value wasn't in his product - in fact, he had no product that I could locate. In other cases, I saw instances of bloggers wanting to go subscription-based or launch new products, which is fine, but is your content really that powerful? In a few cases, I'd say no.

So what's your value?

What do you like doing best? Don't say "Earning money." Everyone enjoys that. What about your job thrills you? You may be a strong fiction writer or a great marketer. Develop those areas into career focal points (if you haven't already).

Are you actually good at it? If not, how can you be better? When was the last time you looked at your career objectively and honestly? If you love teaching but haven't the experience, why not gain the experience first?

What can you offer that no one else does? You're a darned good writer, but so are a few thousand of your colleagues. What about you makes you unique? Can you crank out exceptional newsletter copy every time? Do you enjoy working with clients and delivering exactly what's ordered each time? Are you a trained in a specific area?

Who cares? Don't just say "I'm selling an e-book!" Say why others should care. What about that e-book makes you the person to write it? If you can't answer that question, perhaps you need to build your specialty in that topic area before launching that virtual book tour.

How are you going to convince everyone? What's your plan for showing your target market why you're the person for that particular task? To whom will you market? What does that ideal client look like?

What other ways can you assess your own value?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quick & Easy Traps

What's on the iPod: Fear of Falling by The Badlees

What a day yesterday. I'd like to tell you how much work I accomplished. I'd like to tell you how much marketing happened. I'd like to - but I can't. I managed the Home page for a Web project, a phone call with a potential client, a trip to Staples, another trip to Fedex/Kinkos, a lawn mowing, a quick trip to Marshall's for some conference clothes (I swore I wouldn't but I thought dresses will be more versatile than pants), dinner, and then a hockey game that nearly made me cry. It certainly made me curse, but that's another story.

Actually, I guess I did get a lot done. I had to make over my brochure, too. A few tweaks and a color scheme change, which wasn't too bad. However, fool that I am, I introduced an error. Publisher is a pain to proofread in, so yes, the error made it into the final, paid-for product. It was an apostrophe. It was killing me, so I took a Sharpie to every one of the brochures. Also, I opened Publisher and made the correction in case I use this template again. Ugh. My own worst nightmare sometimes.

I was contacted by yet another company, so I have plenty to do this week preparing for booth visits. I bought ten portfolio folders at Staples, but I'm not sure I'll have time to fill them. I like to leave them with clients. Perhaps the better idea is to send them to them after the show (no one likes to carry extra stuff home). If I do that, that will free up about two hours of my time this week. I desperately need those two hours.

On top of all that, I'm trying to get posts done for Writers Worth Week. It begins the day after I get home, and I decided to do a blog tour this year. Great, but my timing is pathetic. I have five posts out to their respective sites, two more to write, then posts to get ready for this blog for the next two weeks.

And in the best news, I got an email from an editor on this new story I'd sent him. He praised it. It felt good to hear him saying how well researched and written it was. He said it was obvious I'd put a lot of work into it. It didn't feel like work - it was a blast to dig this stuff up. Maybe that fun I was having showed. But damn, that feels good to get a note like that! We freelancers don't exactly get pats on the back regularly, do we? Actually, I don't think our office counterparts do, either.

I was talking with a fellow writer I'd met on a forum. He reached out after I'd joined up to encourage everyone to work harder at their careers and stop lamenting the low-paying jobs (surprise, huh?). I like his style. He's decided his worth isn't being met, so he's changing his methods and reworking a soon-to-launch marketing campaign. Good for him!

It made me think about my current workload. We all do it - we take the "quick" and "easy" jobs to fill in the gaps. It's fine, but not if those jobs become a primary staple. I've been doing resumes for four years (maybe longer). It started as a supplement, became a full-time, stress-filled job, then I quit that client and found a better one.

It's back to being a supplement, but I had to cycle through the job having a lot of projects and too few writers (meaning we all worked harder), and cycle back to just a smattering here and there. If you don't plan for it to drop off, you get stuck with a smaller check and no additional work.

I'm an advocate for having at least two regular gigs to sustain you should a client or two disappear. Ideally, I think three regular clients are best because once upon a time, I lost two regular clients one right after the other. At that time, I have four regular clients. It hurt, but it didn't sink me.

So how many regular clients do you have now? By regular I mean any client needing monthly or more frequent work from you. If you have a magazine editor you can rely on for assignments should you need it, count it. How do you find your regular clients?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sprinting

What's on the iPod: Restless by Chris Bathgate

I hope your weekend was wonderful - mine was despite lots of rain. I drove back home and spent time with the parents, the sister and her family, and some special visitors. My dad's brother, his wife, and stepdaughter were back from San Diego. It was the first time in 15 years I'd seen him, and it was as though he was sitting there just waiting for us to join the conversation. It's an easy, great time with Uncle Ray. He's making some serious noise about moving back home. Amen. We've been waiting.

We had enough sun for me to get a sunburn, which I never expected. My oldest niece was dragged against her will to see her mother's, father's and my daughter's alma mater - IUP. That meant her siblings wanted to go, and since I had a convertible and the sun was out at the time, I was tapped to take them. Hence the sunburn.

Sunday morning I was awakened by a turkey calling outside. I couldn't see him, but the nephew saw a flock in the neighbor's yard. Not uncommon to see them in my parents' yard walking past the kitchen windows.

A wet drive home, but halfway there the rain stopped and I was able to ride the rest of the way with the roof down. There were some sprinkles around Harrisburg, but nothing serious. I came home and left almost as quickly to go listen to the Irish sessions at Molly Maguires.

Today starts the sprint. I have a ton of work to get done before Friday. A few more of my LOIs hit pay dirt, and one prompted a phone call today to get a release out by Friday, I'm guessing. Another is for a face-to-face at the conference. So I'll be preparing one more portfolio for the show. So far, this has been a fantastic marketing endeavor.

Today I'll be working on a Web project I was handed last week, and I'll be calling that new client. Plus I have to tweak my brochures. I may open the wallet and let Staples or Kinkos print them. I've no time. Plus there are portfolios to compile, which means I have to make a trip to Staples for the booklets I use for these handouts. Then the wardrobe for the conference and the trip. I'm okay with the clothes, but ironically I don't have "work" shoes that will be comfortable enough all day. Either I have to buy pants that work with flats or comfort shoes. I'm probably headed for the Aerosoles store.

That's my Monday. How was your weekend? What does your week ahead look like?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Finish Line

What's on the iPod: Summertime by Kenny Chesney

Got a great deal done yesterday despite a slightly interrupted day. I managed an interview, a resume, an article (800 words), and an oil change (paid for it this time - drat!). I wanted to do more, but I needed to pack. I'm going back home for the holiday and I was nowhere near ready.

I'm thrilled that today is the last day of Lent. That giving-up-complaining-for-Lent notion nearly killed me. Okay, I exaggerate. It wasn't too tough, but it did deter me from speaking my mind a few times. Not entirely a bad thing, either. Trust me. Next week, watch out. She's ba-ack....

I have one more week in which to finish some rather big projects and get my ducks in a row for Vancouver. We're flying into Seattle and driving. It's cheaper, and I hear it's a stunning ride. Who wouldn't try it?

Next week is getting my handouts and portfolios put together and deciding on a wardrobe. I don't need to shop - I just need to maximize. If I don't have to check a bag, amen. If that means wearing three outfits on the plane, just watch me do it.

So I'm driving west with nothing but my iPod and my thoughts to entertain me. If you're Christian, have a wonderful, blessed holiday. If you're not, have a beautiful spring weekend.

Meantime, here's one of my favorite bands: We Were Promised Jetpacks



If they don't do it for you, try The Airborne Toxic Event



See you Monday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Safe Versus Good

What's on the iPod: Lola by The Kinks

I'm glad I'm able to get a ton of stuff done in the mornings lately because my afternoon yesterday dissolved quickly. I was good until about two - then the plumber arrived. We had a small leak and a minor fiasco surrounding our water heater, its replacement, and its replacement's replacement (long story - just know that life here is always interesting).

I was tapped to help the plumber get the newest tank into the basement, but he, thinking girls can't lift heavy stuff, wouldn't agree to my helping him remove the old tank. We didn't mention the time we helped the husband move a V-12 engine or I might have been hired to do the heavy lifting. I figured that was an argument I'd rather not win. I paged husband, who came home and dealt. I tried to go back to the page, but at that point, the rhythm was hopelessly lost.

In the morning, I managed two blog posts and a bit of pre-conference details. I coordinated with another writer on an upcoming project, and I turned down work. Had to. The editor needs it by next Friday and I have two big projects that are due at the same time. I referred it to a writer chum.

I was mulling over a recent assignment where the client was expecting safe copy rather than creative copy. I'm of the opinion the client gets what they wish, but it seems I'm seeing more requests for simple, no-frills copy, usually from clients working online. I can't say I'm a fan.

I remember one client saying "Our readers don't have time to guess what you're writing about (titles, anyone?) - just get to the point quickly."

How does a writer handle that? Here's what I did:

I wrote my lead my way. The client didn't see it because I removed it before sending it, but if it takes that to get me into the article, why not? They want no frills - I'm frilly (not literally, but you know). I write with personality. I can strip that down, but there's no way I can remove it completely. I'm not sure I should.

I pretended I was in a hurry. Just the facts. Quickly. No time to dally. If you drink a little caffeine, it helps.

I decided this wasn't a lifetime commitment. Just a few assignments in and I was feeling a bit devoid of any color or flavor. It's okay for a few small assignments, but I wouldn't want to make that a primary source of my writing work. I use these clients now for a quick assignment between projects. Once I understood their requirements, I can crank them out as ordered. Not my best clips, but respectable enough and well-researched. I'm not displeased.

So writers, have you had assignments where the flavor was vanilla and the wrapping was beige? How did you do with those? What are your thoughts when reading these types of articles?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's All in the Perspective

What's on the iPod: Ten Thousand Things by The Avett Brothers

Yesterday was one of those productive days that makes me glad to be a freelancer. I managed a crazy schedule without interruption because A) I work from home, B) I don't have to attend meetings, and C) the commute time is better spent writing. But look who I'm telling, huh?

I managed an interview, one of two projects, another new client (actually, an ongoing client with a new business she needs help with), a ton of LOIs for the conference (around 25), scheduling of a few of those LOI responses, and a bunch of blog posts for the upcoming Writers Worth Week. And I wrote this post (if I didn't write them the day before, you wouldn't hear from me until noon). All before 5. Yes, I'll be burned out by Friday, but I'll have a lot accomplished and I can take the day off. I won't have a fresh word left in me, but the drive back home will allow me to find a few new words, probably all relating to traffic.

As I went through the motions of sending out 25 or so LOIs, I realized that it was due to a change in perspective on my part. I started thinking differently about some aspect of my target industry, and it may turn out to be quite a good change.

I've gone to this risk management conference for years. I've missed a few years in between, but in total, I've had my toe in the industry for 11 years now. Back in late February the notice came for conference registration. I decided then it was time to show up for the conference instead of just, well, appear at the conference. That's when I started contacting exhibitors and asking to meet with them.

The response rate has been amazing. Those of you who know marketing percentages know that a seven-percent response rate is pretty darned good. Of that, I'm already working with one of those contacts. It's a start.

So beyond attending conferences, how can you create your own perspective shift?

Look somewhere else. You've written for clients in the financial industry forever. But have you tried writing for technology clients? They're worried about money, too. The same issues that affect CFOs affect the CIOs, just from a different perspective.

Suggest new services. There are a few of these LOI recipients who are in serious need of more active blog time, better Web copy, and a little more promotion. I'd bet your clients and prospects are also lacking in a few areas. Just don't approach new clients saying, "You know, your site really sucks." Find a diplomatic way to bring up how you can help them.

Identify your strengths. This goes back to my first point. The skills you have that make your clients come back for more could translate into new areas. But you have to know what those strengths are, don't you? If you can't figure it out, ask writer friends or family. Then decide what clients need those skills.

Expect more. Yes, you earn fifty bucks a blog post. Why not expect more and ask for it? There's no reason why that blog you've been writing for for three years shouldn't entertain the notion of paying you more now that you've helped them increase their audience.

Turn your current assignments sideways. You write resumes. Why not add career coaching to that? Or how about suggesting a column to that online publication you write for? Try turning what you're doing now into more opportunity. Lift things up and look underneath - what potential is lying there untapped?

Writers, when was the last time you shifted your perspective? What did that look like? How has that helped your career?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Saying Goodbye

What I'm reading: Inishfallen Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: Small Town by John Mellencamp


Sometimes, you can just rock a Monday. Yesterday was one of those days I had a list longer than Route 95 and only nine hours to work with. I managed nearly all of my list, with some small bits left over for this morning. I signed on with a new client, so I have projects, amen.

I have this conference in Vancouver coming up - and naturally, it's right before any of my expected payments should arrive. Luckily it's all deductible and I was able to use my mileage points and his to pay for airfare. I was more than a little ticked at US Airways. Last time I had mileage points, it took 25K for a free ticket. This time, that's one way. And yes, they charge you mileage points EACH way now. I guess they figure since they shortchange you on their new points system, they'll quell the bitching by allowing you to get at least one direction without paying. Real big of you, putzes. And thanks for charging us for sharing points.

I had time to watch an inspirational video in the morning. It's long - over 30 minutes - but it is probably the best video for writers and business owners at any stage of their careers. It's titled "F*ck You. Pay Me.", and it's by Mule Design's Mike Monteiro. Watch it. It sums up how smart business people deal with clients.

Great points in it, too. It's repeating what I consider to be smart advice - contracts always, breaking up with clients, and chasing payment.

I think the breaking up part is probably the toughest decision freelancers will make, too. Okay, the pleasers will always accept too little money or take the most ridiculous terms as acceptable working conditions. But in the end, the decision to fire a client has us wrestling with our consciences. How do we do it? Here's how I do it:

Honestly. If they're not paying enough, tell them. They can't change their behavior if they don't know they're behaving badly. Hopefully, you've already asked them to increase your fee. If not, consider it. They can always say no, but what if they say yes? Just make sure this is the primary reason. No sense hanging on to a client who's been awful to deal with.

In email. We're writers. We do better on paper. So breaking up in email gives you the ability to edit and to make sure it's stated clearly and cordially before you send it. You don't get that luxury on the phone.

As soon as the problems become uncontainable. I've dropped clients mid project, but the conditions were awful or I'd have stayed through to the finish. Why? Because it makes for clearer invoicing and frankly, it's the professional thing to do. If your client's just called you a scum-sucking half-wit, by all means fire them immediately. If your client's lumped ten more demands on you with a deadline of two hours from now, first fix their perception of time versus capability. Then finish and fire them.

Directly. As the video suggests, leave no doubt they've been fired. And make sure they know why. If you just float away, you'll have to deal with scads of emails or phone calls, any number of "You haven't finished our project!" notes when they think you're doing what you're sure your not doing. Better to do it with one swift, sharp slice rather than a few chops with a dull blade.

Professionally. There's never a good reason to behave badly, even if your client is evil. Cordially let them know what the issue is you're not able to work around, thank them for their business, and wish them well. I've had clients call me all sorts of fun little names or accuse me of not knowing a pen from a pixie stick (not literally, but the same idea). Doesn't matter. The note that goes out is something like this: "I feel we're not able to communicate effectively as a team. Therefore, I am unable to continue working for you on future projects." Resist the urge to tell him he's ugly and his mother dresses him funny. Even if it's true.

How do you break up with clients?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Bits

What I'm reading: Inishfallen Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons


How was your weekend? We managed to get nothing done on Saturday (amen) thanks to heavy rains. Our trip to Macy's for their sale proved to be the repeated thought of thousands of other people all looking for somewhere to escape the weather.

Sunday proved nicer and thanks to high winds, I was able to mow the front lawn. The back yard is still mushy, and there are several things in the way - namely a big tree that fell during the storm and piles of hedge clippings. He managed to finish the hedge just as the torrents came on Saturday. And they're barberry hedges. You have to wear assault gear in order to get rid of them or you'll be sporting thorns for months.

We finished the state and local taxes. Per usual, PA state was a breeze. The feds could take lessons from them. Ten minutes to report two people's income, including self-employment stuff. That's how it should be.

Our municipality went with a new tax collection firm. Let me say I'm not impressed. Because I have income on both 1099-Misc and invoice, I have to combine them on the Schedule C. However, the tax firm wants a list of the 1099s separately. Fine. Except it's not fine. They don't ask if these 1099s are in addition to or as part of your total income as reported on Schedule C. I typed in ten of these before realizing they were counting my income twice. Simple solution - delete them. If the firm needs to see them, they can call me. I'm done guessing how to work their "simple" automated system.

So, Paula reminded me that Writers Worth Day is fast approaching (and I needed the reminder). My goal this year is to spread the word even farther across the Internet. So I'm asking for your help. Do you know of any blogs or bloggers who would allow a guest post on the topic? If so, please let me know. With the HuffPo kerfluffle and the collecting wising up of lots of content farmers, the message is even more important.

Today I'm sending off my article to the editor. I'm really happy with how it's turned out - I hope he is, too. I'm starting another article, then I want to bang out four more queries for ideas that came to me over the weekend. Then blog posts and more marketing for the conference. Plus I picked up two more projects on Saturday (it paid to be stuck inside on a wet day), so that work will start today, as well. A lot to fit in.

How was your weekend? What's in front of you today? And do you know of bloggers who would love to spread the word or would welcome a guest post?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Randomness on a Friday

What I'm reading: Inishfallen, Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: Sweet Sophia by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers


Yesterday was gorgeous. Sun was out, birds chirping, flowers in bloom.... too bad I was stuck inside working. I did manage to get to the park at lunchtime and put in a mile or so. Then I grabbed the daughter and forced her to join me on flower alert. This trail along the river in the park is famous for its bluebells, which make a stunning blue-purple carpet once a year. They're not quite in full bloom, but in the next few days it should be glorious.

The buttercups, however, are a yellow blanket. I can't wait to see them both blooming simultaneously. The picture above is from 2007 - a sad representation of the bluebells, but all I have at the moment. Today's a bit of work (a big bit of work), airline reservations, and some organizing for Vancouver. I need to get more companies lined up. I'm spending just two days at the conference, so I want to make the most of those two days.

So what else is new?

My daughter gave me my Mother's Day present already. Let me just say the girl knows me. My gift - four tickets to the U2 concert. She'd slipped the card in my purse and I'd found it as we were driving to lunch. Thank God she was driving - I don't even remember what I was yelling, but she said I kept saying, "Oh my God! Oh my GOD! OH! MY! GOD!" or something similar. I was almost as psyched as when I found out I was going to Ireland. Almost. It may even outshine the Santana tickets she gave me eight years ago for my birthday. Shouldn't I be spoiling her?

The dude who was lifting content. Ah, you'll love this one. Despite his caustic notes to me (and to another writer, who was told he didn't have time to argue her "intellectual property ignorance"), his website is now devoid of ALL writers' feeds. From nearly 50-60 listings to zero. My work here is done. I'm glad he saw the light. I doubt he'll ever admit fault or accept the blame, but I don't care. He's no longer taking from others (at least, not writers).

I'm now familiar with the Gaussian copula formula. Not that I understand it at all, but in writing this current article, I wanted to find out why the financial meltdown was so widespread. Enter a mathematical equation that easily quantifies risks and potential losses. Seems a lot of financial institutions were lining up to use it. And when they did, they failed to realize it didn't take into account a catastrophic meltdown of the housing industry. Ah, once again, the best laid plans.....

Five pm writing is sometimes pretty good. The writers' group teases me for it, but I start my manuscript that I plan to read usually around 4:30-5 pm. Our meetings start at 6:30. Last night was no different. The poem was aptly named "Procrastination and the Writers Group." They loved it. I was expecting a lot of edits, but instead they've adopted it as our theme. I'm not the only one who does things spur of the moment.

The weekend is expected to be rainy, so I'm planning some cleaning, a little decorating planning, and a lot of reading.

How was your week? What's the weekend looking like?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

One More Day

If you haven't picked up your copy of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business, do it today. Remember, the $2 discount is good until April 15th. Then the price goes up to $11.95. Still a bargain for info that could help you boost profits (and is tax deductible).

To order, click here.

First the Cart, Then the Horse

What's on the iPod: Hick Town by Jason Aldean

Unless you've been unconscious the last few days, you've probably heard about the lawsuit filed by angry writers against Arianna Huffington, demanding $105 million in payment from the Huffington Post's founder. The writers, upset over Ms. Huffington's deal with AOL to sell the online venue for $315 million, are calling her a "plantation owner" and demanding restitution for what they feel was her using them to increase the value of her commodity. And now they want money.

To that I say good luck. But don't look for the check any time soon.

The sad fact is these writers agreed to write for free - and in some cases defended their actions when the rest of the writing community, hit them with a lot of "WTF?" style commentary. It was raising their profile! It was a prestigious site that helped them get noticed! They can have their own columns there! They're getting noticed!

What you ain't gettin' is any money, dudes.

The best thing to have done here was to ask for payment before you started working for HuffPo. See, the bargaining power you may have had, the rights you're so pissed at losing were there at the beginning. Not now. So far after the fact is your outrage that I wonder if the outrage isn't due to the sheer embarrassment of working for free and being chided for it in public by more discerning writers. And that, dear HuffPo writers, is a choice you made - maybe even gleefully so - without any thought to how rich you were making that site.

And content farm writers, this is your wake-up call. That five bucks you're so damned proud to earn "without having to market," as I've heard until my eardrums bleed, pales in comparison to the deal your so-called "journalistic clients" (I can't even type that without wanting to wretch) will someday make, leaving you in an equally cold, lonely place.

And before you argue that at least they're paying you for your troubles, ask yourself if what they pay you comes anywhere near what an employee at McDonald's makes for much less work than you have to do to get minimum wage (which is $7.25, not $5). Imagine - you're making less than minimum wage for an article that any other writer could make $450 or better for. Really? That's not going to wake you up?

I hope the HuffPo writers do succeed. I hope they set a precedent that warns these scum-churning farms and mills that the current business model could cost them in the long run. Any action that causes one or more of these places to close up shop is a good thing, especially for those modern-day serfs who grind out keywords for crap wages because they think it's the only gig in town. It's time writers like that were dropped into the real writing world and learn how to build a respectable business that sustains them, not chains them.

But remember this - these chains were not slapped on any writer without their permission. The choices they made enslaved them. The word "no" never entered into the equation. For that, the blame should be shared.

My words are harsh. My intentions are good. Make better choices now and you'll not have to sue greedy businesses that wouldn't pay you in the first place because you weren't professional enough to ask for what you're worth. And you are worth more - much more. Now go prove it to them by getting a better gig.

Writers, thoughts on the HuffPo lawsuit?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Whatever Works for You

What's on the iPod: How To Save a Life by The Fray

Yesterday it rained, it was cooler, and the car was getting its inspection - a perfect day for me to get some work done. I managed a great deal of research and writing on my article, which barring major writing catastrophes elsewhere, I hope to finish today. It'll be a few weeks ahead of schedule, but better that than late, I say.

Scored another new client, which came about in an email conversation with another writer. I pitched an idea and within an hour I was getting a contract. Love those kinds of leads!

I decided to join a professional organization because a few writers had mentioned it, and mostly because the price wasn't prohibitive. If I hated it, I didn't spend much to find that out. True to my nature, I headed for the forums first.

Tell me why some writers find it necessary to scoff at or belittle another writer's process. This particular case was one where a writer had stated in a conversation that too much time spent digging for sources was wasted freelance time/money. The response from one writer - I would never think like that and you need to be educated on the right way to do things.

Not the best first impression by this group.

What bothered me about the exchange was that Writer A was explaining the real-life issues with trying to do the best job possible without belaboring the point. Writer B took the "time is money" thinking to mean there were corners being cut and that this writer needed a dressing down about it.

I can't speak personally for either of these writers, but I can say that doing the best job possible and not wasting unnecessary time on it is my approach. I can do a great job for a client whether it takes me five minutes or five hours to find sources. I prefer five minutes. That works for me.

I have a writer friend who over-researches every article and delivers twice what the editors ask for. That works for her.

I know a writer who can work off one-word assignments and turn in brilliance. That works for him.

I know a writer who has to be given not just the story assignment blurb, but sources, phone numbers, and sometimes even the questions. That works for her.

The thing is if it takes you minutes, hours, or days, it's your process. If whittling down your time researching will affect your final product, no suggestion or prompting to do so will fit you. Likewise getting sources. If you can deliver the same level of excellence using an online media source service than digging up sources organically, do it.

Because we charge hourly, time really is money for us freelancers. Anyone who scoffs that notion either doesn't work full time at freelancing or doesn't quite make that connection yet between time and money.

I guess this relates to what we were talking about yesterday. If your expert or some self-appointed Lord of the Written Word tells you your methods don't work, think about whether that's actually true or if it's the words of someone who enjoys pontificating.

Writers, what's the worst piece of advice you've ever received? Why didn't it work for you? What's the best advice you've received? How has that helped you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beware the Gurus and Experts

What's on the iPod: Into the Mystic by Van Morrison

Before I forget, I have a post up over at About Freelance Writing. Please give Anne some comment love.

Let's blame the fact that the weather yesterday was delicious. It was sunny, 85 degrees, and hardly a drop of humidity. I took that as a sign - get the roof down in the car and get the foot working that gas pedal. I grabbed lunch, a book, and a blanket and headed to the park. It was a short break - just under 30 minutes - but enough to add a layer of freckles and a bit of a burn.

That meant my article sat idle. It was probably a good thing - I'd taken the generic version of Zyrtec and by 3 pm my eyes were crossing. Wow. Do they make that in non-drowsy version? I was toast. I managed some marketing until about 4:30, then I had to get up and shake away the mothballs in my brain.

I was looking around the Internet a little last week and over the weekend. I'm seeing a lot of self-appointed "experts" and more than a few "gurus" popping up whose advice is followed like a thirsty crowd to tainted Kool-Aid. And I wonder - it's great to have a mentor, someone to look up to, but what if they're wrong?

Maybe it was the proliferation of tweets quoting the same marketing "guru" that bugged me. Because I know that particular expert from tweets alone, I saw each tweet by his followers as, well, DUH. The man has made a superb living off saying some pretty common-sense stuff. But everyone has a niche, and he's doing no one any harm.

Yet there are pillars of various communities out there that are doing harm. Any time I see a respected writer suddenly do an about-face on a topic, I notch up the skepticism. Why the sudden turnaround? And why are followers just taking it on fact? It's happened a few times, especially around the content farm issue. One expert in particular - someone I'd read before the Internet - was now saying it was okay to work for these rat holes. Bloggers of lesser importance (but with big followings) were starting to say the same things.

So maybe we need a checklist to measure our experts by.

What's their motivation? In a few cases it was directly related to their affiliations and ad revenue from these places. In more than a few cases, it was to drive traffic. If we're talking about something controversial, we could get more new readers! Right you will. But you'll lose plenty of them the moment you switch teams again.

What's new? I love that the one marketing expert is quoted so often. From the very little I know about him, he gets the tweets because he restates and reshapes his concepts. That's pretty cool. But how many do that? The smart ones certainly do. But even then, is the material being repurposed still relevant? If so, great. If not, question if this is a relationship that still works for you.

Why do you follow? Do you like the camaraderie? Do you think everything your expert spouts is perfection vocalized? Do you think without that person, you'd never make it in your career? In other words, what's your motivation and is it helping you or holding you back? Are you following because it's the cool thing to do? Remember the words of your mother - if that person jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?

Is your expert coasting? If you're reading a blog in which your expert is restating the same thing ad nauseum or has posted stuff that leads you to think he/she is simply showing up because a blog is something that must be done these days, you may be looking at someone who's ridden the idea to death.

Are you getting actual content you can use? I saw one blog that used bold heads and subheads - that said nothing. The big build-up to the next great idea turned out to be a whole lot of fluff with no substance. "HOW YOU CAN BE FREELANCING TODAY!" stuff with the "useful" advice like "DECIDE YOU'RE A WRITER AND GO FOR IT!" Really? That's all you've got?

Vet your experts. If they consider themselves A-listers, who gave them the title? If they tout awards, just what award did they receive? Look seriously at the content and decide if it's useful info or just the same regurgitated ideas repackaged. If the repackaging works, stick with it. If not, it's okay to leave your expert behind.

Have you had experiences with following popular gurus or experts that turned out to be less than satisfying? What matters to you in a relationship with a mentor, expert, or other industry leader?

Monday, April 11, 2011

New: Query Writing Bootcamp

Date: April 21, 2011
Time: Self-paced
Price: $29.95

Ever wanted to pump life into your queries? Here's your chance - I'll be hosting an online query-writing boot camp to help you increase the effectiveness of your proposals.

In my Query Writing Bootcamp, you'll learn how to craft each section of your query. You'll also be able to interact with your fellow attendees. I'll be on hand from 10 am-12 pm and from 3 pm-5 pm (EDT) for discussion and guidance. Plus one lucky attendee will win a copy of my e-book, The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business.

Don't let time limitations get in the way -- this is a self-paced workshop.You're able to drop in and out of the workshop space as needed at any time during the day or night.

To sign up and become eligible for a free e-book, go here and scroll down to the Bootcamp info.

I hope to see you there!

Blooms and Sprouts

What's on the iPod: Nothing Like You by Frightened Rabbit

What a weekend! We walked Manhattan (just 40 blocks or so, not the entire thing), hung out with many kilted comrades, and enjoyed the Tartan Day Parade from the center of it looking at the crowds for a change. The MacBean clan was represented by four, but we were there in full spirit.

We then walked through Central Park, enjoying a glorious day that was warm, sunny, and full of promise. The boys elicited a few comments, a number of compliments, and people wanting to connect and learn about kilts and tradition. What will continue to amaze me is those few people who found it threatening to their personalities enough to comment "Nice skirt" or similar projected insecurities. One dude we passed in Times Square in particular, whose face I'm glad I didn't see, felt it necessary to scream obscenities and shout "You're wearing a f***ing skirt! What are you? A man or a girl?"

Husband turned and said, "I'm a man - what are you?" and then walked away laughing. The dude stood there flipping out, shouting obscenities, then said "I can't f***ing take this! I'm outta here!"

What probably upset him - he made his first obscenity-littered statement when he saw just one of the boys walk by. When he saw two, he was suddenly outnumbered. That's right - just because they're not wearing pants doesn't mean an ass-kicking isn't in your future. (And believe me, I was ready to give it.)

What was very nice was immediately after that little moronic meltdown, three different groups of people stopped us to ask about the kilts, compliment them on how nice they looked, and give general thumbs up.

We had a great time at St. Andrew's Restaurant on West 46th, and my husband proved once again his persistence pays off. We were told upon entering that the wait for a table was "hours." This statement was coupled by a declaration that "the seating manager was upstairs, but I'm sure there aren't tables."

He smelled the loophole. "I'll wait." Minutes later, we're sitting down at a nice booth upstairs. He does this with parking spaces, too. He just knows where they are, a gift that's come in handy a lot in Manhattan.

Yesterday was recovery. I was feeling the effects of the gorgeous daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia, and the pear trees about to bloom. Allergies just inflame my throat and my shoulder muscles. Time to listen to the body and rest. I had plenty of time to plow through my book and make dinner. We got outside a bit, but the malaise and misery brought on by the pollen drove us both indoors faster than we would have liked. We spent that time planning my business trip to Vancouver in a few weeks. Nothing firmed up, but we're definitely flying into Seattle and driving. It's much cheaper.

Today, two small projects, then back to the article, which I may be able to complete today or tomorrow if nothing interrupts. I want to get off-the-record comments from corporations, which at the moment won't say anything because of the clout of some of these people who will be profiled in the article. I can't say anything more, but this is shaping up into one juicy story.

The rest of the week will be spent getting in touch with companies heading to the risk management conference. I'm making the most of the two days I'm spending there. Lining up meetings now ensures the best use of my time.

What are you up to this week?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Why You Should Be Freelancing

What I'm reading: One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding by Robert Gover
What's on the desktop Zune: The Story by Brandi Carlile


Another day, another announcment - stay tuned at 7:12 am EDT for yet another "What Lori's been up to" update.

Yesterday was somewhat productive. I managed a nice chunk of work on my article. I'm taking this one slowly because it's a meaty topic. I'm savoring everything I'm learning and I'm loving putting my own twist on it.

I put some time in on the aforementioned "to be announced" project, and got things in order for that. I got some blog posts taken care of, and I did a little marketing for the upcoming trade show. The more people I get to talk with directly, the better the trip will be for me.

I talked with our writer friend referenced in yesterday's post. She was feeling more empowered thanks to all your suggestions and advice (she said especially you, Devon). She's a fiesty woman, and I loved hearing her say she was considering listing this client and their subsidiaries as her "proof" she was a freelancer. LOL Atta girl. Play the game using your rules.

I was reading through some of my post responses over on Anne's About Freelance Writing blog, and while there was no one reason why writers made the leap, there was a common theme. Each writer knew it was time. Some waited for enough writing credits, some were utterly bored with the 9-to-5, and some did it for personal peace of mind.

Then there are those who had to because life was, well, getting weird. Here is my list of top eight reasons why you should be freelancing:

8. You showed up for work in your pajamas. Again.

7. You've done it so often, no one's even noticed you're in your pajamas. And it's 4 pm.

6. You're getting tired of hiding your Facebook addiction during work hours.

5. Your PowerPoint illustrations are starting to look like police sketches of the victims in your murder mystery manuscripts.

4. Despite the loud protests of your coworkers, you really can't stand washing your hair or wearing deodorant that often.

3. You've devised your own "People I'd Love to Snuff Out" list, and it includes your boss and coworkers. And that nasty dude who cuts you off at the intersection every day. And the guy who takes the last bagel from the lunch room. Boy, you'd really like to snuff him out.

2. You can now take a tax write off for that high-speed Internet connection you bought to play World of Warcraft.

1. You enjoy generic food. No really. You do.

Why else should you be freelancing?


Have a great weekend, everyone! If you're in Manhattan tomorrow, stop by the Tartan Day Parade on 6th Avenue between 45th and 55th. We're making a day of it, and here's hoping the weather holds. You'll find me - I'll be the one in the kilt.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Addendums and Oddities

What's on the iPod: Strange Condition by Pete Yorn

It must be a week of best-laid schemes flying out the window. Yesterday was no exception. I had what I thought was a smallish project in the morning that turned out to be much more complicated than it presented itself to be. There went three hours.

But I did manage some work on my article, and I've decided today is the day I get blog posts done and the article as close to finished as I can get it. I'm also awaiting word on a new client project, which will need to be done quickly.

I had an email conversation with a writer friend who presented a scenario that I've now seen twice. Because it seems to be some emerging trend brought about by nervous companies, I told her I'd share it with you and get your opinions. Here's her story, paraphrased:

I write for XXX. I have a contract through them, which is pretty good and I’m happy with it. However, they are going to do some branching out in terms of content and a number of us expressed interest in writing on other topics, so they decided the create an addendum with a separate work for hire/freelance contract. I don’t have an issue with the contract itself but I do have an issue with the application and Schedule A they’ve created.

I didn’t have to fill out an application to be a contractor with them in the past, so I don’t understand why one is needed now. But that’s not the real issue. They want the names and contact numbers of all of my present clients in order to provide proof that I am in fact an independent contractor.

I’ve never given names and contact info for my clients because most of the time I sign a non-disclosure, especially when it’s ghostwriting. In the past I’ve always supplied links where my work could be viewed.

The application concerns me only because this is not information I’ve ever supplied to a client before – even a relatively large digital client. The agreement I’d be signing already states that I agree and acknowledge that I am an IC so I don’t understand why additional documentation is required.

Then there's the affidavit (or Schedule A). I’ve never signed one of these before and it makes me uncomfortable that even after signing they could require me to obtain worker’s compensation insurance.

I would be okay with signing a release of liability but to buy worker’s comp insurance would be silly (I think) and could actually hurt me financially.


She shared Schedule A with me. Here's what it says:

Schedule A

If you do not have a worker’s compensation policy, please prepare a NOTARIZED AFFIDAVIT meeting the following minimum requirements:

1. The affidavit must be printed on your pre-printed invoice or letterhead.
2. It must state your business name and address.
3. It must state the type of work to be performed and the location.
4. It must state that you will perform the work without the assistance of other individuals.
5. It must state that you are in business for yourself and have other clients.
6. If services are rendered by a partnership, you must submit a copy of the partnership registration with the affidavit (no exceptions).
7. The affidavit must state that the job will be performed on a lump sum basis and that services will be solely performed by you.

An affidavit format is attached for your reference.

Once submitted, your affidavit will be evaluated. You understand XXXX may require you to obtain a worker’s compensation policy and that your submission of this affidavit is not the sole factor XXXX utilizes to determine whether you are an independent contractor.


Overkill? I think so. Personally, I'd be fine with signing an affidavit. Notarizing it seems a bit much, but I'd be fine with that. However, I'm not fine with the "XXXX may require you to obtain a worker's compensation policy..." language. They cannot force you to purchase a policy. They can make it abundantly clear that you're not covered under their worker's comp policy, but to require you to buy insurance? That's overstepping their authority.

My best guess is someone is using standard contractor language meant for construction or trades contractors, who usually do need to purchase worker's comp coverage on their own. I say push back, say no, have that part removed, or turn down the "offer."

What seems to muddy the waters for this company is that they're requiring an application. As this writer pointed out in conversation with me, it felt to her like an employment application one would fill out for a regular staff position. So here's a company treating contractors like employees on one hand, and requiring them to behave like construction workers on the other hand. I would love to hear the wisdom of those two moves from the legal genius who created these hurdles.

So writers, have you come across anything similar? What would you advise this writer to do? What would you do in this case?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Mister, Can You Spare a Dime?

What's on the iPod: On Fire by Eminem

Note the new page for The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business.

To paraphrase Robert Burns, yesterday was one wad of best-laid schemes gang aft agley-ing all over the place. I started the day okay, working on another one of my side projects (and finishing it, amen). Then a quick trip to the local convenience store, with plans to buy - and mail off - my son's favorite coffee quickly going down the tubes.

My car - my lovely, quirky, moody little car - decided yesterday was the day it would not start. I sat outside the convenience store waiting for whatever electrical issue is causing this intermittent sputtering to reset itself.

I tried my "Saab Repair Kit" - a bottle of tap water poured over the transmission - usually an easy fix. Nothing.

Ten minutes later I'm seeing my work day dwindle away. I gave up and called the daughter, got the lift home, then had her drop me off again on her way to work. It was an hour total - enough time for a fickle little Saab to exhale and say "Okay, I'm ready now."

Like I said. Quirky.

And no, the coffee never made it to the post office.

I did have time in the morning to chat with a writer chum. There was plenty of lamenting (on both ends of the phone) the state of the market and the increasing frequency of what he calls the "ten cents a word" gigs. I call them other things, none of which are printable. He said he's seeing more of these and fewer "legitimate" jobs. I'd love to say he's wrong. But he's not.

So what's happening? My best guess - content farms and SEO cheap-o jobs have effectively driven down the rates.

So what can we do? Look somewhere else.

There are any number of great places to sell our work - places that pay us decent rates. They may be currently outnumbered by places not interested in paying those same rates, but they're there if we look.

I'm a firm believer in perception creating reality - if I believe I'm not going to find anything better, guess what? I won't. I "uh-uh" -ed my way through the recession, refusing to believe it would impact my income. It didn't - until this year. And I'm still refusing to believe it. There's something else going on. I'd rather believe I'm looking in the wrong places rather than give in to the easy opt-out.

So if the small-fry jobs are all that you're seeing, you're simply looking in the wrong places. Repeat that until you believe it. And while you're doing so, start looking elsewhere.

Today I hope to get my article roughed in and get a press release started for a new client. Plus a few blog posts and hopefully some marketing for both the e-book and the soon-to-come project.

It's mid-week: how are you doing?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Space Not Available

What I'm reading: One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding by Robert Gover
What's on the iPod: Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones


Before I forget, I have a post up over on About Freelance Writing. Please give Anne some comment love.

Beautiful weekend. It's Tuesday and I'm just getting to it? Wow. That's what happens when you get busy. Anyway, spent lots of time in the garden Sunday after chomping at the bit Saturday - it rained intermittently, wasting perfectly good dirt-digging opportunities. I got two beds cleared and made sure to clear out some of the daisies spreading like wildfire around my poppies. The poppies are loving the place I put them, so I'm thinking to get a few more this week.

And of course it was the first Sunday of the month, so we headed over to Molly Maguires for traditional Irish music sessions. Some Irish dancers showed up, having traveled an hour from Reading, PA. It was great fun, and the band responded by playing more fiddle tunes. We were also graced with some lilting (the Irish version of "scat") by one of the band's singers. He's won some championships at it, and it's great to hear such beautiful singing.

Plenty of you have received the same guest post requests from strangers that I get. Here's a weird one, and honestly, it sounds way too organized and third party for me to take it seriously:


Dear Lori:

My name is E*** from A**** Writing Services. We have a client who would like to pay you for the opportunity to sponsor a blog post that you have recently written. We know that blogs can be expensive to run and our client would like to opportunity to support you in that endeavor.

In return our client is asking for one link that they specify placed into the body of the blog post(no porn or gambling). Feel free to contact me with any concerns or clarifications you may have.

If you would have any questions or would like to start the process, please email me at e***@a***-writing-services.org so we can begin.

Sincerely,
E****
Outreach Manager


I have no intention of saying yes to an offer like this for several reasons:

1. This blog's idea-sharing space is not for sale.

2. This blog is a community. It's sharing and discussing and debating. I will not be inviting strangers, who aren't vested in the community, to blog in return for a fee.

3. I have no idea who this woman is, nor did she tell me who her client is.

I won't sell this space - your space - to the first person who waves money in front of me (or the second person or 29th person, for that matter).

I have my own products and services now, and it causes me a little angst to even post them here. I don't want you to think - ever - that I'm more intent on marketing to you than building a community with you. So I promise this - I'll bring up my side projects, tout them for a day or so, then move them to a separate page with a link over on the left side of this page. It may not be "smart" marketing in the sense that I'm not beating you over the head with it, but I'd rather you feel comfortable being here.

Have you seen anyone who's had posters that clearly have no relation to the blog? What did that do to your perception of the blog or blog owner? How many of these offers have you received?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ebooks and Learning & Discounts - Oh My!

If you've been following the blog for a while, you've heard me mention time spent last month on not one, but a number of projects. Well, here's one of them.

The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business ebook! It's a 90-page guide that gives you practical, use-it-today information that can help you increase your business potential. A lot of the information in this ebook is culled from this blog, presented with much more detail, and now neatly packaged in one place. For just $11.95, here's what you get:

- Building Confidence
- Business Planning
- Marketing
- Worth-inducing advice
- Business expansion tips
- Client advice
- Contracts

Packed into 90 pages and ready for your computer or mobile device, The Worthy Writer's Guide will give you guidance and advice on steering your career in the right direction.

And hey, since I have your attention - if you order before April 15th, you can get the ebook download for $9.95 - a $2 savings. Click here to order.

Giving Your Audience Substance

What I'm reading: One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding by Robert Gover
What's on the iPod: Dust Bowl by Mumford and Sons


Oooo, big news coming on the blog here in about 10 minutes. If you're here before 7:10, stick around. You may not want to miss it.

I'm eyeing the weather report closely. Normally, rain, snow, whatever... I'm inside. However, tomorrow is Toms Shoes' One Day Without Shoes movement. If you know me and my shoe collection, you won't fail to see the irony of my going one day without any shoes. But it's a great cause - to raise awareness on what it's like to live without shoes as so many millions in the world do.

I hope you take part. I plan to, though I'm thinking the cold is going to prevent me from going very far outside without shoes. And isn't that the point - to understand how people live without shoes in any climate?

One thing I won't be doing tomorrow is reading any more blog drivel that promises great content, then dashes hopes. There are a few blogs I've seen lately that have these huge build-ups to their BEST IDEA EVER!!! or some such rot, only to deliver - um, yea, the same stuff someone else just said a week, month, or year ago. Worse, I've seen a few posts that create gigantic amounts of hype, then deliver - well, nothing. One I read through twice only because I thought I'd missed the point, the big climax. Turned out there wasn't one.

If you write a blog or even if you write for your clients, don't promise them the moon in every sentence leading up to what you think is the biggest, most dramatic moment ever. Instead, make every sentence count. Here's a list of what I'd avoid or include:

Lose the exclamation points. Seriously. Forcing emotion through exclamation points means you'd better have something so incredibly fresh and new to convey or you're going to tick off a lot of people.

Try creativity. Use it instead of false promises and overworked marketing ploys. Find those adjectives and construct your ideas soundly in a way that conveys to your readers your message, not beats them over the head with your ideas.

Stop showing. Remember the show-don't-tell rule? I'm thinking it may not apply here. LARGE FONTS and those dreaded exclamation points (!!!!!) may seem like the best idea yet, but look objectively at your message - are they skipping over the text because of your heads and subheads? More to the point, are you using these things because you really don't have all that much to say?

Study your peers. You have favorite bloggers. What are they doing and how are they presenting things to their audience? Can you use some of their techniques? And please, don't take that to mean you have to steal their content. If you do, you shouldn't be blogging. Hell, you shouldn't be writing.

Don't present leftovers as a feast. Be original. Sure, ideas are often recycled. Find your own twist, your own perspective, and make it ring true to you and your readers.

Have you seen any blogs that turn you off? What are things that make you stop following?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Monthly Assessment: March 2011

What I'm reading: One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding by Robert Gover
What's on the iPod: She Hates Me by Puddle of Mudd


Nice day yesterday. I got one project out of the way in the morning, proposed another project to an editor, and finalized blog post topics with a client. I had to run out and look for a lamp, which I never found, but at least I had the spare time to do it.

I'm hoping yesterday marks the end of the notes from the indignant blog lifter (I haven't looked at email yet). It's never surprising when people like this haul out their legal "expertise" whenever faced with doing something wrong and being called on it. He didn't fail to satisfy in that regard. I do one better - I haul out the actual legal experts. Trumps supposed expertise any day.

I'm proud to say that in those communications, I stayed out of the emotional junk and stuck with the facts. He tried like hell to pull me into arguments. Nope. I don't have time to play games. I'm a working professional. At least one of us was acting as such.

I know it's April Fool's Day and all, but I don't "do" that well, so I won't even bother. However, when you see my totals for this month, you'll think it's a joke. Taking that time to develop an online course and another two projects really hit the income.

So let's get to the accountability portion of our program:

Queries:
No one can say I slacked off here. I sent upwards of 38 queries out to upcoming conference attendees, to editors, and one or two to clients. Maybe it was more like over 40 of them. I stopped counting at 38 and I haven't totaled it up.

Job postings:
I don't know why I include this in my measurements. I don't even look at them, and haven't in ages.

Referrals:
I did get two of these from a new Twitter contact. And in one case, I've been pitching ideas to the editor. In the other case, the magazine used only contributed articles from industry folks, but the editor wanted my info. She said there are occasions when her association folks come looking for writers.

Actually, I got a third referral, but the way the other writer framed it, it sounded like a nightmare I should avoid. So I did.

Existing clients:
This month, just two clients kept me working steadily, though a third did give me an assignment, which I'm hoping to have finished next week.

New clients:
Let's call them new client prospects. Of those 35+ letters of introduction I sent to conference exhibitors, five got in touch immediately. Two don't have anything at the moment, but three are tossing out ideas to me. I'm meeting some of these five at their booths during the conference.

Earnings:
It was a little thin on the earnings this month, but I'm okay with that. I'm off by half my targeted goal. Still, I see the time spent on development as future earnings, and the projects that are about to launch will add ongoing revenue.

Bottom line:
I did a lot of marketing and it's paying off. I plan to do an equal or better amount this month, and my goal is to secure meetings with conference attendees so I can make the most of the conference. My earnings were off, but Devon and I started something that will be repeated. And I need to send notes out to existing clients. Work may be there that I'm missing. Also, I want to get at least one more client who needs ongoing work.

It isn't pretty, but it was March. How was it for you?
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