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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monthly Assessment: May 2011

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

Wow, another month bites the dust, eh? This one flew by for me. I had a week off at the beginning, thanks to the Vancouver conference and vacation. I expected a lower total as a result. Good thing - it was low.

Maybe part of it is chasing nonsense I have no time to chase. I'd contacted a client last week who owes me a payment. I'd heard from him three weeks ago when he'd mentioned that he'd not looked at my project and that he'd have to tell me what the total word count was for the invoice. Fine, but three weeks and no word? Unacceptable.

So I sent him a quick note stating I wanted to know before the 31st so I could prepare the invoice. I'm not hopeful, for the response I got back was a group email (which was surprising - didn't know I was one of many) outlining changes to the company's business, but in no way addressed the issue at hand, which was lack of payment. If I hear nothing today, I may withdraw the project. I'm too far into my career to put up with payment-dodging games. I'd slap a late fee on him, but my guess is he'll not open that email, either. I've had it with him, and I've only begun to see the games.

Well, I've put it off long enough. Let's get to the ugly truth:

The ones I sent were LOIs to clients I'm courting. I sent out a handful, and I sent about 30 follow-up notes to conference contacts. I intend to work those again this week to see if I can get something contracted for June.

Job postings:
Zero. That's why I'm still sane. I didn't chase the job offers - I created them instead.

I did get a few - one in Twitter and oddly enough, one at the trade show. I was glad for both, though I'm not sure either will come to anything.

Existing clients:
Still working with three regular clients, and all three have given me the bulk of my work this month. These are clients who pay on time and are great to work for, which is just a bonus.

New clients:
Should I count her as new? A regular client handed me a special project, and I was able to make her happy (amen) and collect a nice additional fee. Fantastic!

I'm on target with weekly goals, but missing a week really hurt. I'm off my target by a thousand and change. Still, the week at the conference has such potential to pay off (with talks already happening with various attendees) that I won't regret it.

Bottom line:
With summer's lean months here, I have to pump up the marketing and get more projects in the pipeline. My goal is to get July booked so that the usual August drought doesn't hurt so much. I have some magazine queries to get out, and I have a few more ideas for a potential client, and I hope to secure his buy-in to at least one of them.

How was business for you in May?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why It's Okay to Be Alone All Day

What's on the iPod: You Were Never There by Diego Garcia

HOT day at the ball park! Not sure how hot, but when we got home our thermometer (the one in the shade) registered 87 degrees. But there was a nice breeze and I had a new Phillies hat, so we toughed it out. The Phillies prevailed 10-4. Not bad for a Thursday afternoon.

Watched a great segment on Morning Joe yesterday - Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough assembled a fantastic panel of guests to discuss the value of women in the workplace. I thought I'd heard all I cared to hear, but I was floored by the stories by some of these most powerful women (senators, singers, CEOs) who were in positions to make decisions that adversely affected their images at work, their incomes, and their voices within the company. Just fantastic dialogue, and I hope it's a segment that's repeated and posted on the Internet.

I'm finishing up the newsletter today and I hope I'm able to talk with a contact Monday (he and I both forgot it was a holiday, I think). If not, Tuesday for sure. There are a few contacts I need to reach out to today for upcoming projects, and I want to touch base with my collaboration partner on our upcoming project.

A few nights ago he and I were sitting in a restaurant when he said, "I don't know how you can stand being alone all day. I'd go crazy."

I smiled. How do you explain to someone who's spent decades in an office setting surrounded by scientists and other like-minded souls that it's fantastic to work alone? You can't. You can only say something like what I said, which was "I'd go crazy if I had to answer to twelve people at once again."

Maybe it's because creating requires a bit of solitude, but I love every minute of my job. I can't think of a better way to work - with no one around to stick their heads in the door, call me to meetings, tie me up with lengthy conversations or bitching about office politics, or force me to eat one more birthday cake. If you've never held a full-time office job, watch Office Space. That will cure you of any desire to do the 9-to-5.

Here's why I love being alone all day:

I call the shots. All of them. If I have an agenda and I don't like it, I don't have to follow it. I don't have someone coming in and killing my story because he found something sexier to cover.

I make the hours. Truth is, when I worked in an office, I was there eight hours because I had to be. My work was usually done in far less time than that, but rules are rules. If I finish my work early now, I get to garden, meet a friend for lunch, or catch up on Ghost Hunters or Project Runway episodes. I still get paid, and more importantly, I don't get hassled because I'm not looking busy.

I can ignore phone calls. Ring away! You're not bothering me. If I'm busy, I can keep on writing without worrying if the boss is on the other line.

If I can't work with someone, I simply don't. This didn't seem important when I spent the first three years working with fantastic bosses. However, they left and in came the, well, not fantastic boss who didn't care for me in the slightest. Now if I have a client who's unruly or somehow not meshing with my personality, I move on. I still get paid, I still can work, and there are no Walk of Shame moments to repeat.

I can take an hour each day to work on my personal writing - and no one will care. Try that in the office, especially in the environment of IT monitoring and employers looking for any reason to downsize or shed the unwanted. At home, I can write when I want. Even before lunch.

I save two hours a day to spend however I want. That was my commute time. You don't realize what a loss that is until you get home and find there's no time to do much more than cook and collapse in front of the tv. Now I have two hours to waste. And yes, I savor the wasting.

Why is it okay for you to be alone all day?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Not Really That Bad

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday (and loving it) by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Sad Song by The Cars

Yesterday went well. Lots done before noon, which meant I was able to take off in the car (roof down) and enjoy the only sun we've seen in weeks. Two hours of the glorious outdoors later, I headed back to the desk. There, I managed to pound out a few more newsletter items, start a third, outline a collaboration, and get some marketing done on Twitter.

I cruised a few of my haunts - writer blogs, forums, Twitter hash tags. For the most part the writers I follow on blogs and tweets are savvy professionals. But I will say the forums are disturbing. Everything we've hashed out here - low-paying jobs and how to improve your career and business - are still being lamented on several forums. I want to yank out my hair in frustration. But then I'd be bald and they'd still be making lousy choices and excuses, so....

And there's the larger issue - I see the laments as valid. There are some really crappy gigs being pushed. What I can't accept are the excuses. "This is all there is." To which I say horse hockey.

In the past year, I've had not one instance where I thought the jobs available were lousy or the best I could get. I'm earning at the rate I've set, not at some basement-level insult of a rate that some moron with a big idea and a small wallet has determined.

The big difference - I don't frequent job listing sites.

Those of you who also avoid Craig's List and other similar sites know it's true. Your mood lifts exponentially the minute you take the crap out of the equation. I tried explaining this on some of the forums, but there are times I feel like I'm shouting into a vacuum. So I'll just repeat here what we already know in hopes that someone new to this blog may see it and learn from it.

It's really not that bad because:

It's not true. Hooray! The market doesn't stink! Only.... why is it you're only seeing this garbage? Maybe it's because you aren't really doing it right. Uh oh. Sounds like work. Well, it is. But you can do it. I do. So do most of the successful writers I know.

It just takes a little more determination. Sure, you're trying. But you're passively searching for work. When was the last time you built a real marketing plan - something that targets your ideal client and industry? Get a little more proactive - set your own rates and go after the clients yourself.

No professional writers I know compromise that much. So if pro writers are getting their rate and all you're finding are these lousy offers, the problem isn't really with the profession, is it? Leave these job offers behind you, file them under "not my problem" and teach yourself how to attract real clients.

Good jobs are out there for writers with good credentials. And you can be one of them. Much of my work last year was referral work. That came from building an online presence, satisfying a few customers, and creating a reputation of reliability and skill. Why can't you do that? Oh wait - you can. So get busy.

Writers, what signs have you seen that tell you it's not really that bad out there?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Many Points of Contact

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: King of Diamonds by Motopony

Wow, just head off to lunch thinking you have tons of time....the emails must have come in instantly after I left the house. Five urgent requests, all of them a priority. I sorted through quickly and got to the easiest ones first. Then I exhaled.

Today it's blog posts and more newsletter work. I meant to get on the phone yesterday and chase down some missing newsletter copy, but the afternoon ran away from me. Plus I have one smaller project I'll start (and hopefully finish) today.

I spent some time putting together some mailings for clients I'd contacted and met with. It got me thinking about how many ways we can build a presence and created a lasting impression.

So how exactly do you do that? You contact them as often as possible, and in many different ways. For instance, when I went to the trade show recently, I contacted potential clients twice. Those who responded to my queries I met at the show. When I got home, I thanked them via email and gave them yet another quick summary of my background. Then I sent some things out this week to those who requested the info. In all, I touched base with them five times. Each time was unique and in most cases, different.

So here are some ways to increase your points of contact with clients:

Introduce yourself. I did it with emailed LOIs sent a few months before the show. That allowed me ample time to plan booth visits and schedule meetings during those two days I was attending.

Meet in person. Obviously, this one isn't happening much. But if you have the geographic opportunity presented to you, do it. No other impression you'll leave will be as powerful as a face-to-face with your client.

Send stuff. Start with a brochure, a sales letter, an email, a phone call - something that puts your name in front of the client in a good way.

Follow up. Send that follow-up email or postcard in about a week. I'd say if you're doing email communication, why not follow up with a mailed postcard or note? Mix it up a little. Maybe email isn't your potential client's preferred form of communication.

Send more stuff. I met with potential clients at the trade show three weeks ago. Yesterday, the ones who requested them were mailed portfolios. The portfolios also included another brochure and business card along with my CV. That was after I followed up via email once I got back.

Tag them with news they can use. Don't make it all about business. Try sending them an article that reminded them of their business, or an industry story that relates to what they do. Show them you've heard what they have to say. I like sending blog links - it gives them something they've not seen in their own news feeds.

The idea is to stay in touch without pestering. Be useful to your clients, not that person who simply will not go away. Initially, keep the communications close together - note, follow up, additional info. Then space it out so that every one-and-a-half to two months your potential client hears from you.

What favorite ways do you use to increase your contact?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where's Your Sizzle?

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Moving Clocks Run Slow by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Interesting day yesterday - Mondays usually are. I had troubles getting going, but I managed most of my to-do list. Weird when that happens. I felt a little guilty for not working harder, but what can you do? Sometimes the marketing is done and the writing is done and the day is, well, over early.

Not long ago, I worked on a project my client called their "sizzle" piece. They knew they needed something more compelling, but they weren't sure how to get it. That happens when you're too close to the business or the topic. You just lose sight of what the next step should be.

Same happens with us writers. We're so hell-bent on telling the world how special we are so we can get the job we forget one thing - what it all means to them. A list of features without benefits is just plain boring.

An example: which would you rather buy?

A features approach:
Jolly Pops lollipops are sugar-free and made by a company with a unique recipe. We have spent four years in development in order to bring you our product, which comes in four flavors: cherry, grape, lemon, and orange. We manufacture every Jolly Pop using wind energy and sustainable packaging. Try Jolly Pops today!

A benefits approach:
Wash your senses in the Jolly Pops experience! Our high-impact, sugar-free flavors will drive your taste buds insane! Wrap your lips around one of our four just-picked flavors, including cherry explosion, grape eruption, pucker-up lemon, and orange blast. Dive into succulence while protecting the environment - our wind energy manufacturing and sustainable packaging process lets you help save the planet. Lose yourself in the Jolly Pop explosion!

Okay, I wrote these on the fly, but which one makes you actually want to buy the product? Features are great, but they don't make your clients care. So let's reframe your writing business:

I am a top blogger. Yea, beyond your mother, who cares? Why does that matter to your clients? Try this instead:

I have a background in growing blogging communities and building online networks. Who wouldn't like that?

I have over ten years of editing experience. Ho hum. So do I. But what does that mean to your client? Try this:

With over ten years of editing expertise, I can elevate the clarity of your marketing and branding messages. Just sounds better, doesn't it?

I have won several writing awards. Really? That's great, but how is that going to help your client? Why not tell them how?

My award-winning writing has helped clients increase visibility and drive traffic to their sites. Sign me up!

I am a fantastic writer. Get in line. There are plenty of fantastic writers and even mediocre writers claiming to be fantastic. Why not show instead of tell?

I have helped my clients increase business and retain existing clients by exceeding project expectations and working with clients to assure complete satisfaction. Now you sound like someone who thinks beyond yourself, and that appeals to your clients.

Writing is my passion and a labor of love for me. You didn't say that to your clients, did you? Way to sound like you just started in the business! Here's a better way to put it:

Infuse your writing projects with innovation that gets your business noticed - hire me.

How do you show your sizzle?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Choosing Your Mentor Wisely

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Sign of the Times by The Clarks

My car is back! Actually, it's been working since Thursday. It was still dead when the mechanic got to it on Wednesday, which made the cause easier to find. It wouldn't stay dead, however, but it was failing often enough that he could drive it, let it cool, and test as it died. It's fixed, and I hope that's the end of my intermittent start issues. But it's one of those problems that would happen months apart, so I can't exactly relax for a year....

Had a good weekend. The sun came out and I was able to tame the garden. The grass is another story - neither mower wanted to cooperate, so I have half of the front lawn chopped to bits. The push mower was the only one that would start and stay that way, but I had to quit when it started smoking. I think the grass was simply too thick and it was overheating the thing. The oil level is fine. Just weird...

I was talking with a writer a few weeks back who'd asked about finding a mentor. It's a great question - how do you find a mentor or even a coach who's worth following? From what I've seen, I have a few ideas:

Avoid the over-promoter. Maybe it's just my natural-born skepticism, but if they're screaming their expertise from the rooftops, they're not the ones I'm inclined to follow. Good mentors and coaches have experience, results, and word-of-mouth doing much of their talking for them. Mind you, they do market, but they don't have that same desperate "Look at ME!!" attitude.

Dissect the available info. If your mentor/coach has a blog, read it carefully. Is what he/she saying relevant to your needs? If so, look further in. Is he/she saying something valuable, or is it a repeat of the same, tired old stuff floating around the Internet? Is your potential mentor someone who will be your champion, or is he/she too wrapped up in being his own champion? You can tell by the tone and the presence/absence of too much "me" talk.

Don't go with a copycat. I've seen a few of them. Their FABULOUS NEW WEBINAR!! is usually based on one that just occurred or was announced by someone else. Your mentor/coach should have original ideas and approaches. Even if the idea is familiar, the mentor who can brand it in his/her own way is the one to follow.

Get referrals. They can shout from the rooftops about being the most wonderful coach or mentor on the planet, but the proof is in what others think. Contact people who have worked with them. What did they like? What didn't they like? What value did they get from the relationship?

Ask for recommendations. The best way to find a great coach or mentor is to work with someone others are raving about. Also, pay attention when writers talk. What are they saying about their favorites? And when they're complaining, what's upsetting them about that person? The smart mentor/coach is someone who builds a valuable network and has a genuine nature. This is a person who cares about your welfare and your professional growth - a phony cares about how many people he/she is adding to the list of "successes" for the resume.

What criteria do you use to choose a mentor or coach? What experiences have you had - good or bad - with coaches, mentors, or even course leaders?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Worthy Tip: This Job, Not That Job

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Yesterday was phone-and-email day. I had a bunch of interviews to conduct, and I finished contacting all the folks I'd met at the conference. Today I'm talking with one of them in more detail about what he's looking for.

Part of the work yesterday was putting together a conference-specific tracking sheet. No sense in meeting 42 new people in order to work with them if I don't follow up. I've had informal tracking sheets before, but it's time to get a bit more serious. So I started an Excel sheet with simple info: name, company, phone, email, and date of contact. Also, I added columns for following up. I intend to date them for about 8 weeks out and set Outlook to remind me.

I know all 42 won't work with me. That doesn't mean they don't get a note in two months. Their circumstances now may change. What isn't a potential client today could be in a year or so.

On the heels of Writers Worth Week, I decided today would be a good day to send out a little reminder that every day is a good day to change your business habits for the better. So let's compare two separate gigs, shall we?

Job #1:
Article Writers Wanted
We are looking for American, English article writers who can write in “How to” format and who can write articles that are Content-Rich and SEO optimized. Sample article titles include: (How to Tie a Tie, How to Lose Weight, How to Get a Passport, How to Get a Home Loan, etc…).

Article Length: 200 words minimum

Originality: Articles must be 100% original and unique. All articles will be checked for plagiarism through Copyscape and other plagiarism checkers. You will NOT be permitted to reproduce, reprint, resell, or lease the articles to other clients. You must NOT have committed any fraud by copying other articles and submitting them or allowing other authors to use the same articles that you wrote!

Topics: You can pretty much write about any topic except (news, recipes, gossip, or poems). All titles of articles must start with “How to”. We do require that you select an article title from the "AVAILABLE ARTICLE TITLES" list at least once per month.

Pay Scale: (You will paid based on how many new articles you write for us)
$1.00 per new, approved article (1 – 50 articles)
$2.00 per new, approved article (51 – 99 articles)
$3.00 per new, approved article (100+ articles)

Payment Terms: Payment will be sent as soon as we finish proofreading and checking that your articles are 100% original, unique and without spelling and grammar errors....

Project Terms: Every writer hired for this project will be hired on a trial basis. Once you write 50 articles, we will let you know if you can continue with the project....

Sample Article: (Please provide a sample article in “How to” format. You can choose any topic you wish. Please be sure the article is original, unique and at least 200 words minimum.

I think the pathetic grammar and sentence structure in this one would be more than enough to send me running in the other direction. But per usual, these awful job listings never fail to entertain.

This listing is particularly heinous. First, you have to provide a "sample" article. No word on whether you get a buck for it, either. Bet not. Second, if you manage to write 50 articles a month, you get a whopping three bucks each? Wow. Look out, Trump - I'm about to out-earn you!

Third, and most disturbing, you can't write enough articles to make it pay. You just can't. So why kill yourself for a measly dollar or two? Try this instead:

Cyberguide is an online family guide with practical information to help make the Internet experience enjoyable, safe, and rewarding. It is a value-centered magazine that also offers our readers advice and insights into issues--ranging from legal, to financial, to the aesthetic--as they relate to the World Wide Web.

Pays $50-500 for 250-2,500 words (assigned articles.) Pays $25-250 for unsolicited articles.

Even the unsolicited articles pay more than the keyword-stuffing job. This took me less time to find than the bad job.

What gigs do you have that you can improve on? What lousy offers have you seen lately?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Follow Through

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

I'm slowly getting back into my routine post-Vancouver and post-Mom. Yesterday was a good work day. I managed a number of interviews, some articles, and a few blog posts. Today, a little more of the same. Plus I have a few more business cards from the conference to follow up on.

Back when I was renting a condo, I had my insurance through my landlord. A great guy, the landlord sold me some excellent car insurance, as well. And when it came time for me to shop for professional liability insurance, I never even considered him.

Why? Because I heard from my agent/landlord once a year. I'd get the calendar at Christmas. He didn't send me anything nor did he call. He knew he had my existing business. What he didn't know was that I had other needs.

When I realized I'd overlooked him as a potential provider, I felt pretty awful. This was a great landlord. But then I realized the fault wasn't mine. As much as I liked him, he wasn't top-of-mind when I went searching. That wasn't my doing.

So how do you follow through with your existing clients? How about those contacts you've made that you were sure would turn into work? Did you check back or did you just sit there waiting for them to remember you? Just because you remember them doesn't mean they have the same memory. They could be sitting there right now saying "What was the name of that writer?" And that work they're trying to tap you for - gone to someone else because you didn't stay in touch.

Here are some ways to make a great impression:

Follow up with an email. Drop a note asking after them and their needs. Point them to an article that reminded you of their business. Do something that makes them see you as someone who's invested in their business.

Call. This is a potent tool if you're willing to use it. People who communicate via email will often remember that phone call that accompanied the email. I myself remember PR contacts who follow up with a quick call.

Send some materials. You've sent them the brochure. Why not a brief "What's happening" one-page newsletter? If they've requested samples, send them a portfolio. I use presentation books from Staples for my resume/samples.

Keep trying. They don't need you this month. But if you make a habit of getting in touch every 6 to 8 weeks, they're going to remember you as someone who A) doesn't pester them (that's why you make it longer than 4 weeks), and B) someone who is available.

Ask specifics. They call it upselling in the retail world. I've tried it with some success. Ask your clients if they've considered that weblog or that e-newsletter. Show them online samples to entice them. Anticipate their needs and present them with new ideas for increasing their visibility to customers.

How do you follow through? How often? What works for you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stuff I've Learned

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Nothing. The car's in the shop and the iPod is in the car.

Why does it seem like I'm running through my days lately? Maybe because I am. I spent yesterday trying to get to phone interviews and doing everything else. But everything else is now put to rest.

Today is devoted to interviews. There will be a little marketing mixed in, plus I have to contact a vendor from the conference to discuss projects. Then I have a collaboration to work out. I've been going at full tilt for three weeks.

Currently I'm shopping for an external hard drive, but so far the wish list isn't meshing with the product offerings. I find one that has it all and the litany of complaints scare me off. Or the one that has a five-star rating doesn't network well. Still shopping.

There's so much rain here I'm beginning to feel gray and soaked like the clouds. Can it really rain this much? Really? I'd weed, but the garden is mud. I'd walk, but the rain is incessant. I'd sleep, but that's pathetic.

I was thinking about some of the stuff I've learned over the years and how much of that I've learned from all of you. Since I've seen a spike in new visitors, I want to share with them (and you) some of the stuff I've learned that you can learn without doing so the hard way. I've learned:

How to spot a phony. Not just phony clients, but phony writers. There have been a few who have used and walked over others for financial gain - clients and writers alike. Luckily, they all practice similar methods and are easy to spot.

How strong contracts need to be. Had to learn this the hard way a few times, but I'm confident in my current contract and how it protects both my client and me.

How to be genuine. Honestly, you're either born with it or you're not. Most of us, thankfully, are. Say what you mean, do as you say. I've found that being genuine with people is a reward beyond anything monetary, for it proves you have integrity. I'd rather be poor and trusted than rich and alone.

How to stand up for myself. For me, it took separating my emotions from all business dealings. The minute I stopped worrying about clients not liking me if I stood firm on rates, my business earnings and professionalism improved exponentially.

How to say no. It took nearly drowning in work to get myself to a point where I said "I just can't do any more." Ironically, it was a former client who was known for overworking writers to make a profit that ended my accommodating ways. After shoveling 2 projects a day at me that took 2 hours each (and cutting the pay in half, thanks for nothing), I cried uncle. Then I cashed in and dumped them.

What have you learned?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Startups or Not

What I'm reading: Guide to Human Conduct by P. R. Sarkar
What's on the iPod: Better Together by Jack Johnson

Back to normal. With Mom back home, I had about three hours uninterrupted to get some work done. I managed a good bit. I have a head start on the newsletter project, all parties contacted, and one interview already done. Let's hope today is as productive.

Thanks again for all the comments and support for Writers Worth Week. And now, thanks to an online random number generator, here are the winners of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business:

- Ronda Levine
- Mojo
- Jake P.
- LC Gant

Congratulations! Drop me an email and I'll send you over your copy today. Thanks again, everyone!

On one of the blog posts I wrote last week, a small discussion ensued about what types of clients some writers avoid. One writer said she avoids clients who are startups and individuals. I can see that as valid. And yet, I can't.

I too have had no end of issue with startup companies and the occasional single client. The first tends to put all its money into the trappings - shiny new offices, slick technology, and the best possible address for the price - and forgets that there will be additional expenses, such as contractors. One odd truth I've come across: the slicker the business card, the less likely they're paying anywhere near your fee.

Yet there are any number of great startups that have planned and budgeted for contract help. The same with individuals. The difference seems to be in the contract itself. The strength of the contract at the outset is the best indicator of how well the relationship will work.

That's not to say they won't test it. I had a client that decided midway through a project that the fee we'd contracted at wasn't something they were interested in paying any longer. They said "We'll just pay $XX for this." Right. And I'm going to fly to the moon next week.

What needs to be in that contract to protect you?

Sensible payment terms. It's not enough to agree to three installments with the third coming "at the end of the project." There's the loophole - who and what defines the end? If you're smart, you will. Always put a date on that end payment. I learned this the hard way when one project dragged on for a year.

Hourly limits. If you've not worked for the client before, make sure to spell out how many hours of your time that fee is paying for. Otherwise, that $3,000 fee could dissipate under 12 rounds of edits and months of back-and-forth.

Revision limits. Make sure you allow your clients enough revisions to get their project to a good place. However, don't give them endless edits. That is interpreted as "Well, if we want to tweak this in six months or a year, we can." I give them three edits, then we start charging my hourly rate for each additional edit or rewrite.

The number of people involved. You who know me know how I feel about posses - those friends, family, and colleagues who suddenly show up at the tail end of your project to give your client (and subsequently you) a ton of editorial advice. I've had client relationships dissolve as a result of the posse's involvement. Now my contracts state very plainly the parties covered under the contract, those who aren't, and what will happen if Uncle Fred now decides he can write better than the paid professional. The minute Fred appears, the contract is void and full payment is due immediately. And yes, I've had to wield that clause once or twice.

Project parameters. Spell out exactly what you'll be doing. It clarifies it in everyone's mind, and it helps you avoid project creep so your article doesn't morph into a white paper or a manual.

Writers, what do you put in your contracts? What are your thoughts on working with startups and individual clients? How do you know when it's a good fit?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Forward Motion

Thanks to everyone who participated, commented, and spread the word about Writers Worth Week. Thanks especially to those who hosted my blog posts last week. If you missed them, you can find them here:

Cathy Miller
Kimberly Ben
Anne Wayman
Jenn Mattern
Devon Ellington
Tiah Beautement
Zukiswa Wanner
Damaria Senne

If you missed commenting on Friday or yours was one of the posts Blogger deleted in its outage, I've decided to extend the contest entries to midnight tonight (EDT). If you're one of the four lucky commenters chosen, you'll score a copy of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business.

Mom's about to get on the train home this afternoon, so back to work. I feel like May has completely slipped away. I took a working vacation, but it was more vacation than work. Maybe it's the Catholic in me - the guilt of having fun when I'm not supposed to has me wanting to work harder, I guess.

I have a newsletter project to start today and finish this week. Amen for the time to do it. I cleared time by understanding my limits and passing on a project to a writer friend. I knew I had no time for it. In the past I'd have taken on any and all projects within the timeframes mentioned and worked into oblivion to finish them. Plus entertain my mother. This time, nothing doing. I'm tired.

We entertained Mom thoroughly. She arrived Wednesday afternoon and Daughter and I dragged her to DSW to buy her shoes. She needed a new pair of wellies, and she found a nice pair of sandals, so we let her choose, then snatched the boxes away and wouldn't let her pay.

Thursday we took her to Atlantic City where she fed the slot machine her money. We hit the outlets there and she was tempted, but didn't buy the Coach bag for my niece who has been working to buy one. Friday, Daughter stole her in the morning for some outlet shopping while I got some much-needed work done, and got to talk with a writer chum about an upcoming collaboration. Saturday was the Celtic Festival in town, then I drove her to Lancaster to see her friends who were there from Ontario (they do an annual antique-shopping trip). Then back into town to Molly Maguires to listen to a Celtic rock band. Yesterday was church, then to Molly Maguires for the traditional Irish sessions.

She'll be glad to get home and rest.

So the work starts again today in earnest. I'm also looking to continue conversation with one conference contact who's looking for some communication consistency.

Remember, if you've not entered or your entry was lost to the Internet gods, please comment today and you'll be eligible. I apologize for the glitch, though it caught me by surprise as much as it did anyone else.

Thanks again, one and all, for helping make the 4th annual Writers Worth awareness campaign so successful. Let's recap - what did you learn that you didn't expect to learn? What one or more things will you be practicing regularly? What's the best advice you've ever received?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Writers Worth Week, Day Five: Bringing it Together

I'd like to thank Blogger for giving me minor coronaries as it decided to break yesterday and only now get up and running. I have no idea if this post will even show as my last one from yesterday is still MIA.

The final stop on the Writers Worth Week blog tour is the blog of Cathy Miller. Cathy’s been a great friend and a wonderful supporter of the Writers Worth cause. She’s also a wealth of info and sharing. Give her some love, folks.

This has been a terrific week, hasn’t it? Despite Blogger acting stupid, we had the best week of awareness yet. Thank you to Paula for suggesting a full-blown week, and thank you to all who hosted me on your blogs. I appreciate the help in spreading the word.

So far this week, we’ve talked about changing your perspective, viewing yourself as a business as well as a writer, and creating the reality you want to have. We’ve also talked about improving your skills and your business savvy, plus defining your target so you know where you’re going. So let’s bring it together.

Today, map out about 30 minutes. We’re going to build a business. Let’s start here:

Choose your monthly target and annual goal. Get the figure you’d like to earn this year (and yes, you can go this May to next May, if you like), then come to that number you need to earn monthly in order to reach that goal. Once you’re armed with these, the rest will fall into place much easier.

Decide when you’ll market. Never mind deciding what days you’ll market. That’s going to be every day. What you need to decide right now is what time of day works best for you. Some writers like mornings – get a few queries out before that second cup of caffeine, send a few emails, connect with potential clients on LinkedIn forums or Twitter. Others prefer afternoons. I like just before lunch or right after. It’s a great way to wind down from an intense project, or get wound back up into work mode after eating or exercising. Whatever you choose, set it in stone at first. Nothing is worse than planning loosely then forgetting altogether.

Identify whom you’ll be marketing to. No stabs in the dark. Find a mix that works for you. How about a few magazine queries a week mixed with plenty of letters of introduction? Or are you interested in reaching out to Twitter contacts? Whatever the mix, make it clients you’re interested in working for. Also, choose how many potential clients you’ll contact a day. I like to contact at least seven. You may be more comfortable with two or three. Make sure to keep it to a manageable level, and always always track your submissions/LOIs/contacts. Make sure any formal contact you make is charted and followed up on.

Put your invoice system in place. It’s simple. When will you invoice – at the end of the project or the end of the month? How many invoices will you send, and how often, before you attach first late fees, then litigation/collection notices? Once you decide, follow it to the letter. Don’t be afraid of chasing off slow-paying clients. They’re not the ones you should be keeping anyway. Who wants to hassle with someone over a bill every month?

Get the business gear. We all have the computer, printer, and fax capabilities (or should). What I mean is get yourself business cards, a website, and think about creating your own brochure. It doesn’t take much money, but it creates a huge presence. If you’re not a stellar designer or you don’t like the templates available on your ISP’s site, hire a designer.

Think about specialties. You don’t need one, but you may find yourself gravitating toward certain topics or industries. If you like that work and it’s something you do well, you may want to consider specializing. Otherwise, make sure to highlight those areas that interest you on your resume/website.

Practice negotiating. Seriously. We’ve all had that gut-wrenching feeling when a client asks for a lower price. Decide now what your absolute minimum is. Don’t allow yourself to go below it. In fact, picture yourself standing over a pit of alligators – if you say a number lower than the one in your minimum, the board you’re standing on will release and you’ll be an appetizer. Learn to push back with suggestions such as installment payments, a discounted rate if the client signs on for two more projects (now, not later), a smaller project scope, etc. Making it affordable while maintaining your own financial health is good business.

Remember that your business plan is a living document. If something isn’t working, change it. Be consistent in your approach, but be sure to switch things up if you’re getting nowhere.

Writers, how did you build that business of yours? What are your business’s essential elements?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Writers Worth Week, Day Four: Define Your Target

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison

Hurry on over to Jenn Mattern's All Freelance Writing. Jenn, who is a writer and business person we should all emulate, has given yours truly the space to rant on about more things worth-related. Give her comment love, will ya?

My mom has come for a visit just as A) I returned from Vancouver, B) Writers Worth Week revs up, and C) my car decides to finally die. I say "finally" because it's had this intermittent starting issue for two years now, and the mechanic can't diagnose it unless it dies and stays that way. So it's a good thing. Just bad timing.

I will be in and out today, but leave comments! Remember, all comments this week that offer some form of advice are entries. Four lucky commenters will receive a free copy of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business. Leave some advice for your peers and take away the same from them.

How often has this happened to you - you decide you're going to make a certain income this year, but months go by before you realize you haven't come close? You're not alone.

One of the areas in which writers make a clear misstep in their careers is in their goals. Sure, a writer will say "I'm going to make $80K this year!" and he or she may in fact do so. But how are they getting there?

I struggled with this, too. I had the goal in mind, but I wasn't setting up the targets in order to reach the goal. Then I got smart about it. I decided the only way to hit the goal was to hit the target.

So your worthy advice for today - define your target. Decide today how much you will earn annually (it's not too late to set a goal like that). Now go one more step. Decide what you're going to earn monthly in order to reach that goal. It's simple math.

Of course, that leads to a bit more planning. Once you see where you need to be earnings wise each month, you should do the following:

Examine each current client relationship. Which ones are paying you adequately? Which ones aren't? Keep the clients that are helping you reach the goal. The ones that aren't paying enough but are taking up a lot of your time need to go.

Look at your networking and marketing. If you want to hit a target, you have to aim. Marketing and networking are your eyes locking in on that target. You may need corrective lenses - in other words, a revamping of your current approach - in order to see your target more clearly.

Be honest about your actions. If your current marketing plan isn't working, why? Is it because you're targeting the wrong people or because you're not consistent with it? The best marketing and networking plans in the world are killed by inertia. You may not realize it, but it's relatively easy to find new clients. Just define a path that suits you and apply it liberally.

Emulate your peers. Do you have a freelance friend whose career you envy? Look at what he or she is doing to attract those clients. Ask. Ask if you can shadow that person or pay him or her to coach or mentor you. Learn from people who are making it happen daily.

Open new doors. Current clients are great, but there's only so much they need. Spend an hour or two looking over your clients' businesses. What other companies and clients are there that do similar things? What cross-over industries can be tapped for writing help? If you're interested in Magazine A, how would your articles fit into Magazine B?

Aim higher. I can't stress this often enough. Always be looking for clients up the food chain, not down it. You may snag a neat little blogging gig that pays you $75 per post. But how does that compare to the newsletter gig that pays you $1,200 a month? Be aware of how many lower-paying gigs you take on, and pretend each one reflects directly back to your reputation. Each one does. You'll be putting your experience in a portfolio. Seek out those jobs that will look the best.

How do you define - and reach - your targets?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writers Worth Week, Day Three: Improve Yourself

What I'm reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What's on the iPod: Summer Nights by Rascal Flatts

I must be nuts. Riding the fumes of my business/vacation trip to Vancouver, I schedule Writers Worth Week. Then right smack in the middle of that miracle of scheduling - today - my mother arrives for a visit. I'm hyper-organized, but this may break me. I'm still fighting off the remnants of jet lag. I'll sleep next week. Sometime.

I saw lots of you tweeting the Writers Worth Week news - thank you! I appreciate your comments and your help in spreading awareness to other writers. Keep up the good work!

And please, keep commenting. Any comment you leave this week (until Friday at 11:59 pm EDT) will put you in the running to receive one of four free copies of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business.

Today's stop on the blog tour is courtesy of Ms. Kimberly Ben, proprietor of the Avid Writer blog. Kim's been a great friend and a superb resource for writers at all career levels. Give her some comment love.

Thanks for tuning in one more day to improve your career. And that, friends, is today's advice - improve yourself. Whether it's using some or all of the advice you get here this week or finding another way to improve your skills or your business prospects, your investment in yourself will pay off infinitely.

I worked with a client once who was a fantastic marketer. She could build a superb marketing plan and gain first-rate attention for her clients. What she couldn't do was string two sentences together coherently. Her forte was marketing, not writing.

Yet she was a sought-after marketer because she recognized her weakness and found a way to compensate. She hired a writer - me - to both write and edit for her. As a result, she had stronger communications pieces and her clients gave her referrals and repeat business.

So what's that one area of your business where you could improve? What skills don't you have that you can learn? Here are some ways to improve yourself:

Hire a coach. Sometimes you just need a nudge. Find a trusted coach who can mentor or coach you over those lumpy areas of your career.

Take a class. If you can rock an article but hate approaching those query letters, that's a serious roadblock. What if you can't market to save your life? Your career isn't going too far if you don't know how to secure new clients. Find someone who's teaching that skill that you're weakest in and spend the money getting help. Often it's more a mental block than an actual lack of ability.

Buy the book. Self-help books are one of the top-selling genres. If there's a niche you'd like to learn, there's certain to be a book about it handy. A simple Google search or Amazon search will turn up a guide to the very skill you're trying to hone.

Ask. You'd be amazed how many people are eager to share with you their lessons learned. Become part of a writing community and ask questions. Mind you, if you ask "How do I start?" you'll be met with either dead silence or outrage (it's a lazy question). Do a little homework, then ask a pointed question, like "What's the best approach for trade magazines?"

Join. Yes, join. Join a community, a forum, an association, any place that allows you to talk shop and rub elbows with other writers. It's amazing the tidbits that you pick up in ordinary conversation.

Study different techniques. Whether it's on a blog, in a book, or by simple observation, take note of various writing or business styles. Try them on. Practice using someone else's methods. Do they work? If not, how can you adapt those methods to fit your style?

Brush up. My mother-in-law was surprised to learn recently that I still refer to grammar guides. That's because writers often pick up bad habits without realizing it. And honestly, we are never too experienced to learn more. It used to be that sentence structure wasn't my strong suit. By reading a grammar guide regularly, I tamed the beast. I still make mistakes, but I make fewer of them.

Writers, how do you improve yourself?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Writers Worth Week, Day Two: Create Your Own Reality

What I'm reading: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (finished it!)
What's on the iPod: Soul and Skin by The Clarks

Thank you all for a fabulous start to Writers Worth Week yesterday! It was a great outpouring of support and suggestions. You've proven once again that the writing community is the best support system on the planet.

Keep commenting on any of the Writers Worth Week posts all this week for your chance to win a copy of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business.

Today's stop on our blog tour is Devon Ellington's Ink in My Coffee. Devon's been one of my super best chums for a while now, and once more she opens her blog up to my rantings. Go give her some comment love.

And here's another stop on the blog tour: Anne Wayman's About Freelance Writing. Give Anne a visit, as well.

Even on vacation last week, I had time to think about how to build a stronger career. I didn't have to think too hard. The trip I was on started because of a conference. I turned the conference into a huge networking event. The early results - terrific. I handed out brochures only to vendors who expressed genuine interest. If they looked trapped or uneasy, I walked away. I had taken 50 brochures. I came home with eight. So yes, the networking was more successful than I could have imagined.

The work won't come today or tomorrow, but I have no doubt that, in at least eight cases, the work is definitely going to come. I spent about $1,000 on that trip. It could easily net me $30,000 in work. You bet I made the right decision. I went with the intention of creating work, and I'm happy to say that's going to happen.

And that's today's advice - create your own reality. It's easy to approach your career with trepidation. Isn't that the nature of freelance, to wonder if you're going to get that job or keep that client? Ironically, I've found that the easiest way to score the job is to behave as though you don't need it. Let me explain.

I didn't hard sell these conference people on my skills. In fact, I didn't talk about myself at all until they asked me what I do and who I was with. I let them tell me all about their products and services. I listened, too. I looked for gaps in their marketing or in the way they were communicating. Not that I pointed it out at all, but I made damn sure to note what I'd be suggesting to them in follow-up conversations. When they asked what I did, I told them. I mentioned I had written for most magazines in the room and that I wrote for companies such as theirs, helping with marketing. Then I paused and judged the reaction. If they reacted any way but enthusiastically, I let it drop. Fortunately, most were eager to hear more.

But I left a business card and an impression with those who weren't so receptive. I didn't beg them for work, nor did I even ask for the job. I left them with the feeling that I didn't need to. If they need a writer, they'll call. If not, they may pass my name along.

I created two realities in that one trip, actually. I was determined to go into the conference prepared and ready to land new clients. The other reality - I made sure they viewed me as a valuable commodity, not someone desperately begging for crumbs. Not bad for just two days, eh?

So your assignment today - create your reality. What approach, actions, or presence could you improve in order to increase your value in your client's mind? How have you created your current reality? Is it the one you thought you'd have or is it better/worse?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Welcome to Writers Worth Week!

I'm baaaaack.....

Okay, I'll admit to writing this before I left, but I know I won't have the energy after the cross-country flight that gets in late in the evening. So forgive me that, okay?

Today kicks off the fourth annual Writers Worth celebration! I have blog posts popping up all over the Internet this week, so as they come up, I'll post links for you. Here are the first three:

Damaria Senne: Story Pot – Building Worth
Tiah Beautement: - Fiction Writers
Zukiswa Wanner: - Zukiswa Wanner

Thank you to Damaria, Tiah and Zukiswa for hosting me today! Damaria is amazing - she heard I was looking for places to post and she rounded up her blog friends. A big thank you to you, Damaria. :)

That doesn't mean we won't still be celebrating here. In fact, let's start it off with a contest. I'll post a worth-inducing post of tips and advice. You do the same. Comment by the end of the day Friday (11:59 pm EDT) and you can be one of four people to win your copy of The Worthy Writer's Guide to Building a Better Business. Over 90 pages of good stuff designed to help you rock your career, and you can be one of those four lucky folks who gets it without paying $11.95.

So let's start this celebration of awareness with some ways in which you can improve your own sense of worth:

Think of your writing as a business. You are running a small business - you're not just a writer. Adopt the mindset of a business owner. It will help you protect your business health (right down to the rates you charge or accept), and it will position you as a professional.

Plan it. You cannot know where your business is headed if you don't plan the path. Map out your goals - monetary, client pool, expertise areas, etc. Then map out ways to get to each one. It's not hard once you start. In fact, it's kind of fun and it's a great time to brainstorm and be creative.

Stay accountable. The regular blog community here is subjected monthly to my online assessments of what went right or wrong with my business. You don't have to do it online, but find someone to be accountable to. You can't imagine the motivation behind having to report your results. Nothing keeps you on track better with your business, your marketing, and your invoicing.

Make better decisions. That means saying no to offers that don't fit, finding new ways to market smarter, biting your tongue in half instead of engaging in a war of words with unruly clients, and developing an airtight invoicing system.

Contact new clients every day. Give yourself a break on weekends (or what accounts for your weekend), but make sure to get in touch with new client prospects every working day. I suggest seven new clients and seven existing clients, but some writers don't have seven existing clients. In that case, contact 14 new clients each week. It's not hard. Meet them on Twitter, chat with them on LinkedIn, introduce yourself via LOIs - all of these count as contacts. And track them. You'll want to get back in touch within 6 to 8 weeks.

Please tweet if you think of it, and spread the word any way you can. One more writer making great business decisions is one more professional in our ranks!

Leave your comment as your contest entry answering this question:

How can you improve your worth within yourself and/or among your clients and potential clients?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Things That Make My Head Explode

Ahhh..... Lent is over. I will now resume my usual level of skepticism and pointing out of major stupidity and disgust. I was getting used to the kinder, gentler life, but some things just ache for outrage and complaint.

For example:

AOHELL: Kathy Kehrli over at Screw You! pointed out this move by AOL, in which the company says they're not paying any longer, but hey, we still want you writer to work for us. A true WTF moment indeed.

Writers still promoting content farms. I won't say where I saw it, but there is a large contingent of the writing community who still believes that the aggregate sites are the best places to find work. You know I'm not standing for that without speaking up. I started a few threads on these forums, and time will tell if I help them see the light or get tossed out for going against popular opinion.

Man in cow suit steals milk from Wal-Mart. Only in America.

Inebriated Irish man tries to move a beehive. Then again, maybe in Australia, too.

What weird things are you seeing lately?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Meltdowns and Ensuing Mayhem

By now I hope I'm sporting my "eh" lingo and fighting off the urge to eat peameal bacon. I'm also hoping we were able to score hockey tickets while in Vancouver, but I'm not holding out too much hope.

A Twitter colleague sent over an interesting link. It's an Internet-based meltdown of an author over her book's two-star review. Let me just say it takes a bit to shock me these days, and I was dumbfounded. Give it a read.

It emphasizes exactly why a professional demeanor and response is so essential. I don't know the young woman in question, nor do I know her book. I will say my opinion of her is forever stained by her response, which I understand is a knee-jerk response and made out of sheer embarrassment. However, that's exactly when we need to suck it up and say nothing. Just take the lumps, cry over them in private, fire your copy editor (or hey, how about hire one?), and move on. Now her rant has gone viral and it will be tweeted and posted to Facebook until the next scandalous thing happens to bump her off the front page.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Reliability Factor

By now my time at the conference has ended. In two days, I hope to have secured enough work to sustain me through December. We'll see.

I was busy right up until the last hours before bed on Friday. I wanted to arrange for some posts, but I wanted to get things squared away for my Writers Worth Week blog tour starting this coming Monday. It's the first time I'm taking it on the road, and I hope we're able to raise awareness and reach more people than ever before. If you can visit the links I'll be posting, I'd greatly appreciate it. And if you can, tweet it for me. The goal is to reach the most writers we've ever managed. One more writer who sees the light is one less writer taking too little for too much work.

Avid Writer Kimberly Ben has a great post up about reliability. She had been thanked by one client for being reliable. Having been told that myself, I know what a compliment that is.

Back in the day, I worked for the local newspaper as a stringer. They'd hired about 20 the day I was hired, but within a few weeks they were down to a handful. I had an editor who worked with me on the local government and school board articles I furnished, and since it was my first gig, I was a little frustrated. She was an overworked woman, and rarely did I hear one ounce of feedback.

That changed. She called me one day, saying she wanted local business profiles. She wanted me to work with her on these because, as she put it, "You're reliable."

That's it? Reliable? Wow. She never noticed my writing style.

Wrong. She did. But to her, a woman with a huge newspaper to fill, she didn't have time to dole out compliments to wet-behind-the-ears correspondents. It wasn't until years later that I realized just how big a compliment she paid me.

I've worked with writers on several occasions. I can now see why a busy editor would turn to the reliable writers first. I came to appreciate reliability so much more than actual talent. Never thought I'd say that, but I've worked with my share of writers who craft brilliant prose but couldn't hit a deadline if it was a stinging bee taped to their faces. When you're working on tight production schedules, that missed deadline creates a huge hole in your magazine.

If you're on staff and miss enough deadlines, you're not getting that raise you'd hoped for. If you're a freelancer and miss enough deadlines, you're not getting work. Huge difference.

Here's how to ensure your reputation for reliability remains pure:

Do what's promised. Don't say "Sure, I can write that article in two days" unless you really can. Case in point - I just turned down an assignment because the editor needed it in eight days. I had too much going on already. No way I could have done a good job in the time allotted.

Plan for success. If that deadline is next week, don't start working on the project an hour before five pm on the deadline date. Come on. Plan ahead. It's what all the cool kids are doing.

Don't go silent. I remember an incident when a kid I knew wanted to quit their job. Instead of telling the boss, the approach taken was to hang up every time the boss called the house. Not cool. Don't take evasive action. If the job becomes too much, get in touch with that client immediately. Either ask for more time or pass along regrets. Just do so in enough time so the client can find a replacement and meet her deadlines.

Meet that deadline. The client said the project had to be in by Thursday. Don't send it over Friday or Monday unless you've already cleared it with the client. If you miss a deadline, they'll notice. Mind you, if they miss a deadline that's not going to even be mentioned. It's one of life's little inconsistencies that we have to learn to live with (and it's an entirely new post on how to deal with that). Just meet your deadlines religiously.

How do you up your reliability factor?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Free Wisdom for the Asking

The conference continues and I hope by now I've managed to secure at least one client. One client project pays for the entire trip. Two is gravy. I'm shooting for a banquet.

Because of my absence, I wanted to leave you with some of the best blog posts from the last few weeks. Give these folks a visit and a comment. For my money, I'd follow them all. Actually, I do.

Optimize Your Freelance Writing Business Online for Local Search - Simply brilliant pack of ideas from Kimberly Ben over at Avid Writer.

11 Must Answer Questions About Ghostwriting - A great measurement of whether ghostwriting fits you by Anne Wayman over at About Freelance Writing.

How to Market an E-book - Seriously, I wish I'd read Jenn Mattern's post before I launched my e-book. In fact, her entire All Indie Publishing site is worth a subscription.

The Reluctant Rock Star Close - Peter Bowerman of The Well-Fed Writer offers a great negotiating tactic that saves everyone time.

Making the Mental Shift from Employee to Freelancer - Our favorite Urban Muse Susan Johnston has a few noteworthy posts about the freelance switch. This one caught my attention.

Today's Definition of Networking? Not So New - A big thank you to Steph Auteri of Freelancedom for her insightful post about the basics of networking-done-right.

What posts have caught your attention? Please leave a link here. I'd love to see more freelance wisdom from your favorites!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Monthly Assessment: April 2011

I'm not here, but that doesn't mean we can't have oodles of fun hashing over our monthly goals and near misses, right?

So let's get busy seeing where things are going right or wrong:

Queries -
I must have sent out fifty LOIs. I have 25 written down, but somehow I think I forgot to note the second batch. The results were terrific - I've secured 8 client meetings at the conference, finished one project for another new client, and have justified my expenses for this business trip. Can't do much better than that.

Also, I sent out about 4 magazine queries, none of which met with success. I'm still doing the pitch dance with one London-based client, but nothing concrete yet.

Job postings -
I responded to one a friend had sent over because it was a perfect fit. Apparently, it was a fit for other writers, too. No response. It's why I avoid job listings.

Referrals -
Plenty of referrals, this time from clients, writers, and PR contacts. One came from another writer who'd seen a comment of mine. His sister works in insurance and he forwarded my info to her. Then there was the new website where I pitched an idea (thank you, Susan). The idea was accepted within the hour and I've completed the assignment already. Nothing from any of the other referrals. Yet. I'm hopeful.

Existing clients -
The resume work has dried up substantially, but that's been going on for the last few months. No surprise there. What did surprise was when the owner hired me to write her website copy. That was a good boost to the monthly income, and I adore her.

I'm still doing the blog for another client, an ongoing monthly blog project for another, and getting a smattering of magazine assignments from my favorite editor. I hope his being pleased with my last article means I'll get more juicy assignments from him. In fact, I think I'll ask.

New clients -
A good month for new clients. I have two I'm working with now, and they're both in my specialty. One is a blog and the other is more corporate communications. And I'm hoping by the time you read this I'll have signed on a few more new clients.

Earnings -
What a difference a little marketing makes. This month's earnings are just slightly under my monthly target. Amen. With more work on its way, I'm a very happy camper.

Bottom line -
Tying marketing to the conference was a great idea. I started the end of February compiling the contact info from the exhibitor list, and even though I made it just partially through, the work has paid off. I didn't stop with the magazine queries, nor did I turn down a referral. I was busy enough that I did have to refuse two smaller projects - not something I wanted to do, but with all the other projects I had to get done, I felt I made the right decision. Yes, the money would have been great to have, but something would have suffered in quality. I'd rather not.

How did April treat you?
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