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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Monthly Assessment: June 2011

Busy morning yesterday, but the afternoon was quiet. I took advantage of it. Instead of marketing like mad (my usual routine), I spent time on personal writing projects. I was able to make good headway on a few things, which feels pretty satisfying. If only there were checks involved. Someday...

It's time for the monthly reality check. Time for me to be accountable for my efforts. Lucky you - you're the one I'm telling. I suggest you join in, not because we like to kick you when you're down or one-up each other, but because it's a great way to keep yourself on track with the goals. I'll start:

Queries:
I sent out about eight magazine queries, most to new-to-me publications. Very little word back, which if you editors are reading, is frustrating. At least say no thank you. It's just common courtesy, especially if the writer has followed up cordially.

Still, I scored a gig yesterday from those queries. I'll be working with one of my favorite editors again, which is always nice.

As for LOIs, I sent out 29 - most were follow-ups to the ones I'd sent two months ago. I did get some responses, but I'm noting which companies are remaining quiet. I'll keep trying, but there will come a time when they'll be removed from the list.

Job postings:
I broke my own rule and looked. Ugh. Depressing. I'll stick with my method.

Referrals:
I received one referral from a PR contact who knew I was attending the conference. She put me in touch with a potential client with a lot of projects. We talked and will continue that next week. Fingers are crossed.

Existing clients:
This month, three clients make up the bulk of my income. I managed a large project for the first client and two smaller projects, plus the other two clients provide ongoing work. I contacted five present and past clients, but nothing back yet. A few clients with positive, upbeat responses, but no contracts.

New clients:
You can tell summer is here. No one is spending, and the out-of-office responses are frequent. As a result, I've not picked up any new clients. Yet. The day isn't over.

Earnings:
Despite heavy marketing efforts, I'm sitting well below where I need to be to stay on target. Disappointing, but it's not for lack of effort.

Bottom line:
I have to tweak the marketing approach and find new ways to draw in new clients. One thing I will continue is the contact with conference exhibitors. There were close to 3,000 exhibitors and I'm not halfway through the list yet. I know there are opportunities there, so I'll be looking at ways to turn those into assignments.

How was your June? What worked? What do you need to change? Where is the bulk of your work right now?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kicking Down Roadblocks

Interesting day yesterday. I was hard at it contacting folks from the conference when the phone rang. The client who was supposed to give me a call actually did. On time. I'd forgotten. Very strange! That meant I answered as though I were approaching a telemarketer - an abrupt "Hello" instead of my more office-y "Hello, this is Lori." Luckily I was able to recover quickly, and the conversation went very well. Here's hoping the projects will be piling in soon.

I've been frequenting a membership-based writers forum lately, mostly because I've paid for it as part of my membership. What continues to astound me is how many writers will beg for advice, get it, then argue it not applicable to their lives. In one case, the writer wanted pricing advice. I gave mine, and she replied that the price I'd pointed her toward wasn't enough. That begs the question - then why ask if you already know what you're going to charge?

Same thing happened on another thread with another writer asking about freelancing while traveling. I said that traveling shouldn't matter for interviewing as I've done all mine on the phone. The writer said, "But I like to get a feel for them by visiting them." What can I say - you're screwed then, sister.

It's a new form of writer's block. If the words aren't the problem, then the logistics are. The price, the conditions, the communications, whatever are the latest roadblock that stymies and stalls the most fervent writing passions. And much like writer's block, it's no more than a bunch of hooey.

For those writers who push back on every bit of advice they receive, here are some reasons for the roadblocks:

You're afraid to succeed. My gawd, imagine if you scored that project AND earned a decent amount! You'd then have to complete the task. And what if you fail, you're thinking? The likelihood is slim. More likely you'll do fine and move on to the next worry.

The higher price makes you feel inadequate. For some people, the price point freezes them up like a bucket of water in an Alaskan January. You can write for $50 an article, but $1,500? My lord, you'll have to behave like a grownup now! Yet you fail to realize that the price is acceptable to the client not because they're big spenders, but because you've been charging too little all along.

You're a writer-by-proxy. Sitting in the coffee shop talking about all these writer's blocks and price problems and logistics issues gives you the same high as writing without actually putting fingers to the keyboard. However, it's not a career nor are you a writer until you actually write something.

You don't really like the subject. But you're a writer, you think. You HAVE to like it. No you don't. Moreover, if you don't like it, you shouldn't take the job.

You don't really want to be a writer. It made sense to consider it because of the kids, the husband, the odd hours you need to be wherever you need to be. But in your heart, you're not convinced it's the job for you. There's no shame in admitting it or leaving it behind. That's what I'd call a good business decision.

What examples of writers putting up roadblocks have you seen? What does that indicate to you?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fee Schedules: Pros and Cons

Thank you all for your birthday wishes. It was a lovely day punctuated by calls from family and time spent with family nearby. That and some peaceful moments -it's all I wanted.

Despite my best intentions, I did not take yesterday off. I tried. Really. But I sat on the swing writing in my journal and my mind kept coming back to the computer and the work I needed to drum up. When that happens, I've learned not to fight it.

I did tweak a project in the morning, and I received high praise from a client on another project. While praise doesn't pay the bills, it sure lifts the spirits and puts a spring in the step. Thank you, dear client. Happy to exceed your expectations!

I keep seeing talk across the blogosphere about writers presenting their fee schedules to their clients. One really good post shows up on All Freelance Writing, and is a common-sense primer.

Still, I'm not a fan of fee schedules. While there may be justification for it in some cases, I think in general it's not a great idea.

But in the interest of fairness, let's look at both sides of the issue.

Reasons why fee schedules work:

- You reduce the shock factor
- Clients can trust you a bit easier because you've spelled it out up front
- You eliminate tire kickers
- Your clients have a point from which to negotiate with you

Reasons why fee schedules don't work:

- You lock yourself in to a set rate no matter how tough the job may turn out to be
- Clients see your minimum rate and negotiate downward from there
- You don't allow for project incidentals
- You're presenting blind estimates on all projects, even the unconventional ones that require more work

I don't post fee schedules on my website. Projects are too varied for me to give a flat rate and be comfortable with it. Some projects are quick to finish. Others take a lot longer than expected.

So let's discuss. Do you post fee schedules? If so, what reasons justify it for you? If you don't, why not?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Balancing Act

Superb weekend. I spent three and a half hours in the garden Saturday morning and by noon, I was aching in places I never thought could ache. My knees were red for hours. This is all good. The garden looks spectacular and I feel grounded again.

I followed that feeling up with a trip over into New Jersey. One of our meditation group family was hosting a fundraiser for one of our monks. The monk travels from India to the US every year to raise funds for the college the group has built. It was great seeing him again. He's one of those people who's like catnip. He emanates this energy that's just contagious.

Today's the birthday, so I intend to do as little as humanly possible and still justify food. I won't count the numbers - they're just too high now. I'm at that age where I'm transitioning into that "she looks good for her age" bracket. That's the one right before "You're that old? Really. Hmm." But we have to deliver the monk to the train station for his trip to Pittsburgh, and then I'm going to pretend I've lost the ability to work. Just for today.

I'm finally seeing some conference contacts paying off. I got a note from someone on Friday who was referred by a PR contact I'd been in touch with heavily over the years. She was at the conference and knew I'd be there, but the only time I saw her she was in the middle of an on-camera interview. But it was enough that she knew my background and knew I took the industry seriously enough to show up for the conferences. She referred this potential client to me, and it could be a lucrative connection.

I got back in touch with another colleague from times past. He worked with a large broker ages ago when I was an editor. I'd contacted his client, not realizing he worked with them. His client connected us, and it was great to catch up. Plus I was able to give him a better picture of the projects I've handled since the magazine days. He never knew, which means there are other PR folks out there who don't know, either. I have to get in touch with the past a bit this week.

Not seeing much else coming in, but that's summer, isn't it? It doesn't mean I'm not going to keep trying. It just means I won't be sticking my head in the oven when the majority of my attempts go unanswered.

So how was your weekend? What do you have in store this week?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Randomness That Works

Superb Webinar yesterday! Thanks to one and all who attended and asked such great questions. Anne and I were happy for your presence and participation. If you didn't get a chance to join in, drop either Anne or me a note. We'll be happy to let you know when the next one is and see about getting you registered to receive the information.

Dr. Freelancer Jake was curious yesterday because of my hyper-organized post on list-making. In an effort to validate Jake's randomness, I'd like to share a list of work habits that are the only ones you should really concern yourself with - ones that clients dig the most. And Jake, the list is pretty random. No schedules. :)

Show up mentally for the job. Love your job, invest yourself in it. When you're with your client, be with the client in mind and motivation.

Ask questions. Show your client you're invested in the project (and help yourself out in the meantime) by asking questions about their business, customers, and wishes/needs. Asking shows you're interested. Interest helps them trust you.

Respond and acknowledge. Sure, you can say "Got the contract! Thanks." But wouldn't it be better to repeat back to your clients what you think they want you to do? Clarifying it shows you've heard them (they love that), and it keeps you from doubling your efforts should your ideas and theirs not mesh.

Anticipate your client's needs. I love partnerships where one of us anticipates something the other needs. If you're the writer, look for things your clients aren't doing that, if you convince them to do it, would help them in the long run. Prove you're invaluable to them.

Love the job. Maybe love is too strong a word. Be enthusiastic and determined to complete the project.

Exceed expectations. Who wouldn't hire you again if you gave them more than they could have imagined? That doesn't mean contract for a 3-page white paper and give them a 12-page white paper and PowerPoint presentation. It means putting that extra effort into locating those facts, those quotes, or those article sidebars that set the project apart.

Embrace change. Yes, projects morph out of control. As long as your clients are staying within the original contracted time and scope parameters, roll with it. If the project stretches well beyond what you'd both intended, smile as you draw up that new contract or the amendment to the current contract.

What random habits do you exhibit? Can a habit be random? Hmmm....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Simplifying

Today's the day! There's still time for you to register and attend the Unlock Your Hidden Profit Potential Webinar, starting today at 1 pm PT/4 pm ET. Anne and I intend to deliver solid information and have fun in the process. Bring your questions and join us. Click on the link to your left.

Busy day yesterday. I spent the morning sending out magazine queries and follow ups, then in the afternoon I followed up on 12 LOIs I'd sent a while ago. I did some editing of our Webinar materials, and knocked off at 3:30. I had one urgent request for client work, but turns out it was in Chicago and they needed someone in-house. That's one hell of a commute for a three-week gig. Not that in-house appeals, but the project sounds sweet. Shoot.

As I waded through those LOIs that I sent out in rapid-fire succession back in March/April, I realized I didn't follow my own rule. Oh, I marketed just fine. And I was following up. But I didn't keep it simple. I mean, 25 LOIs in one week. Seriously. That's a ton of follow up.

I like to follow up at a set interval after I'd sent out my initial communication. That means this week, when I have the least amount of time, I'm churning out 25 quality follow-up emails. It's more than that, but if I count it, I'll start whimpering. So yesterday afternoon, I cruised websites of 12 of these contacts to make sure I mentioned anything new they may be doing in my note.

I remember telling you guys a long time ago to contact seven existing clients and seven new ones every day. I modified that to mean seven follow-ups and seven new communications. However, I got a little rambunctious right before the conference. I wanted to reach as many exhibitors as possible. And now I'm paying for it.

So here's a more simplified method of marketing that won't kill you or make you curl up quivering in a corner:

Touch base with those seven clients. Or those six clients or two clients. Find a number you can handle. The temptation when you're light on projects is to overdo it. Just remember your zeal now will be your headache in a few months.

Schedule your follow-up. I chose this week to get back in touch with people I'd contacted in mid-March. Two months, in my opinion, is a good length of time between communications. You aren't pestering them, but you're staying in touch should a project be available.

Chart it. Open that Excel sheet and put down the name, company, phone, email, and three or four columns titled "Date." Each time you get in touch, track it. And make a column for notes to keep you straight on what each response was.

Do it whether you want to or not. There's a good chance one of those 25 clients I contacted meant to get in touch but forgot. I'd rather take a nap when I think of the work ahead of me, but I'll wake up to the same pile of loose ends. Dangle a reward - the minute you finish your quota for the day, you can take a walk/get some ice cream/call your sister.

Connect in simpler ways. Some of those follow-ups yesterday (eight of them) were via LinkedIn. The clients whom I'd met in person or talked to in more than one email I connected with. I'll know from their response (or lack thereof) if they're interested. It's a good way to whittle down the list for when I follow up in two more months.

Find seven more clients this week to contact. Or three more. Or two more. Remember to be realistic about your own ability/willingness to keep up with yourself.

How do you simplify your marketing? Do you often forget to follow up?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worthy Tip: Use Your Head

Don't forget: tomorrow is the Unlock Your Hidden Profit Potential Webinar! Join Anne Wayman and me for an hour of ideas and exercises to shift your perspective and help capture more opportunities. Click on the link to the left and join us!

Thanks to Dr. Freelancer Jake Poinier for alerting me to this informal study conducted by Newsweek. They measured - by way of posting a job ad - the real minimum wage in this country. They posted an hour-long gig and lowered the price consistently until they got to the lowest acceptable rate Americans would agree to work for.

Ready for it? It's 25 cents an hour. Yes, that's where American freelancers said "Sure." Apparently, 20 cents was unacceptable. Read the short article and Jake's take on it.

Since this type of insanity and lack of common sense is precisely why I started Writers Worth Week, now seems to be a great time for a worthy tip. Here it is:

Use your head.

I will never understand the thought process that makes it okay to work for 25 cents when federally-mandated minimum wage, the least amount employers are allowed to pay their workers without specialized skills hovers between $7 and $8 depending on where you live. What math formula are you using, and why haven't you figured out yet that math isn't your strong suit?

Use these common-sense measurements to see if you're off base:

If you need a calculator, it's not for you. Unfortunately, I've been in conversations with people who attempted to defend the content-farm model by applying some really screwy math. If you can't explain the pay scale in one simple sentence, you're being shafted. And if you defend your choice with algorithms and insults, you're too far gone to help.

If you don't know what you make an hour, it's too little. If you have to describe your hourly rate using anything more than "I'm making XXX per hour", congratulations. You've just drunk the Kool-Aid and you're working for less than all fast-food employees in the country. And they get free drinks.

If you're working for ad revenue, you're working for free. While there have been instances when freelancers set up their own ad revenue systems, working for someone else in return for a portion (or even all) of ad revenue is pointless. Unless it's one of the top ten sites on the Internet, your checks aren't going to be worth the time you put into it. I've yet to hear any writer make respectable cash from someone else's ad revenue deal. (If you know of someone, let me know.)

If you're working for pennies on the dollar, you're not a professional writer. Strong statement, but I believe a professional would never allow someone to A) dictate their rates to them, and B) pay them less than they're worth.

How do writers justify bad choices? What do you think the problem is that keeps people working for insulting wages?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Begging to Differ

There's still time to sign up for the Unlock Your Hidden Profit Potential teleclass. Anne Wayman and I will present our ideas for helping you rid yourself of those habits and roadblocks that keep you stuck and find new approaches that create more clarity. Click on the link to your left and join us for Thursday's call. We'd love to have you.

Happy Summer! This is by far one of my favorite days of the year. It's the longest (go on, check it out), and it marks the start of my birth season, the time when I'm most in tune with everything around me. I celebrate today more than I celebrate the shortest day, which to me marks the end of those short days and dark nights. I love all seasons, but I don't do well without sunlight. I'd have made a lousy vampire.

For a Monday, I got a lot of work done yesterday. I managed three client projects and got some writing done for our course handouts. Anne and I spent some time in email brainstorming, plus I managed to read a few blogs, which appears to be a luxury for me anymore.

As I was browsing the Internet, I noticed some talk going around that I just can't agree with. Here are some things that just don't add up for me:

It takes ten years to make it as a full-time writer. Honey, I don't have ten years. I need to make it now. So forgive me for not believing this. It takes as much time as you decide it will take. No one has that magic formula. For me it was a few years. For you, it may be a few months. What matters is you learn, grow, and work hard at it.

What are people paying for this type of writing? I think what I object to with this one is the passive nature of the question. What are they paying? Shouldn't the question be what am I charging? It's okay to want to understand the average rate of the industry (and if that's what you're after, say so). It's not okay to accept someone else's idea of what you will be earning.

Resumes are passe. I can't recall where I saw this, but it's completely untrue. Resumes, portfolios, CVs, whatever you want to call them are indeed necessary. You're showing a client a snapshot of your experience. How else will you do that if you're not listing at least your published clips or your client projects?

Ghostwriting is selling out. Wow. So not true. Ghostwriting is taking someone else's idea and helping them find their voice with it. Let me repeat - Someone else's idea. It's not as though clients are stealing your ideas and forcing you to write them. I've done some ghostwriting (still ghostwrite articles and blog posts). I'm compensated to help someone who's not a writer write something. I see nothing wrong with that.

What are you begging to differ on lately?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why Good Ideas Don't Take Off

Because of our technical issues with PayPal last week, Anne and I have extended the deadline for our early registration discount. Sign up for our teleclass today and pay only $44.49. Sign up link is to your left.

I had an interesting conversation not long ago with a potential client. They have a great product, and we were brainstorming ways in which they could get word out. The client then asked "Why don't good ideas take off?"

Good question. It's one I ask myself every time a query is rejected. The idea is good. So what gives? Here's what I'd say to that client, but this works for freelancers trying to sell ideas, too:

The idea doesn't match the need. This is actually pretty common. The idea you send to that magazine may be fantastic. But they may have published that story within the last two or three years. Or it could be their readers don't really need that kind of information.

The message is reaching the wrong people. The client knew their audience - or so they thought. Based on the description of the product, I suggested several other segments that they could market to, all of which they said didn't fit. In fact, they may know best. But their efforts to date have netted less-than-stellar results. Time to open your mind to new options.

The timing is off. Your idea may be super, but your clients may not need it right now. Or they needed it a year ago. It happens.

You're unwilling to invest in getting the message out. Too often clients cannot get the word to the right people because they're busy avoiding spending for it. Same goes for writers. You can't attract clients if you've not invested in the tools or training needed to attract them (websites, skills training, marketing training, etc.).

You aren't open to new ideas. I'm pretty sure the client I spoke with would be willing to brainstorm some more and get some new ideas. But I've had clients who aren't open to anything beyond their own ideas. How limiting. We writers have to be open to new ideas, too. That means shaking off those beliefs we've held on to for so long (as I once proclaimed when I spouted "I will NOT join Twitter or LinkedIn!") and try on new ideas to see if they fit.

Have you had good ideas that go nowhere? Why do you think? How have you turned that around?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Moronic Techno Moves

What a great Twitter chat yesterday! Thanks to everyone who participated. The questions were great and the camaraderie was amazing. Yes, we plan to do it weekly. As soon as we manage through when, we'll keep you posted. Follow along with the #writingsquared tag.

Know that Webinar Anne and I are hosting? Well, for about an hour or so yesterday we panicked and cancelled. Why? Because technology ain't my strong suit. We were seeing no registrations. None. I was scratching my head and having a meltdown. What's wrong? What the heck aren't we doing right?

Turns out the answer was we weren't confirming our email address with PayPal. Mind you, I know I did (first thing, in fact), and when I got on the phone with support, I walked through it again (and the website gave me "You've already confirmed" message). So perhaps having a human involved behind the scenes was the magic ingredient. But Anne was going through some techno-nightmares on her side (her site, then her email, then her phone...), so we weren't leaving anything to chance. All is well and the Webinar is still on.

But since we were having such glitches (woman-made and otherwise), we decided to extend the deadline for early registration. So now you have until Monday, June 20th to get the discounted rate. Join us! We promise the same fun and frolic we had yesterday on Twitter.

One of yesterday's participants asked how to break into a particular market. Because Twitter allows you a whopping 140 characters, I had to say "Study the market" and "Read the pubs." It seems like throw-away advice, but it's not. Both are things every writer needs to do in order to fashion a query that targets the right pub with the right material.

But there are other things we can do.

Introduce yourself. Paula hooked me on the idea of letters of introduction. What a great way to introduce yourself to a potential client! You tell them about yourself, your background, and you touch on your writing - what you are proposing perhaps. One great inclusion is noticing something they're doing right. For instance, "I notice you publish a number of case studies that spell out the benefits of your company's services." Then you ask for the sale. "If I can be of any help in putting those together or handling editing, please let me know." Or ask in a more powerful way. Just ask.

Ask writers who have done it. Rarely have I had a writer protect his or her in with a particular publication. Those who do have their own insecurities, but if you choose to ask someone whose work appears regularly, you're less likely to bump up against someone's fears and more likely to get a positive response. If you're nervous about asking someone who writes for the pub you want to write for, ask someone who writes for one in that same genre. Tell them which pub you're targeting and ask if they can help you understand what editors in general are looking for.

Ask the editor directly. You may not get a response because editors are nutso-busy, but asking what they'd like to see versus sending them something that doesn't fit and clutters up their email is always a better idea. Make it a short note - ask if they're accepting submissions, how the editor prefers to receive it, and what he/she is looking for specifically.

Attend online and in-person events. If the pub or the industry hosts a Webinar, attend it. If there's a Twitter event, go. If there's a conference you can get to easily, make time and do it. If your target client hosts it or attends it, what better way to rub shoulders and get direct access?

Join their groups. Follow their editors on Twitter and mingle with them in LinkedIn groups. Be present and be part of the conversation.

How do you break in to new markets/meet new clients?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If It Didn't Work With Huffington....

Don't forget to stop by Twitter today at 9 am PT/Noon ET for Anne's and my free tweet-up chat. Using whatever Twitter reader you have, create a new column (I use TweetDeck) and use the #writingsquared hashtag to participate and post. Easy peasy.

I received an "offer" in email a few days ago. Instead of explaining it, let me just paste it below:

Dear Lori.
We want to reach out and share information about the Technorati Technology and Blogging Channels. We are specifically reaching out to technology writers/bloggers who may be interested in contributing articles to this area. The posts can be anything related to technology, including: trending news, technology/gadget/app reviews, opinion pieces, commentaries, and anything related to the technology industry.

To get signed up to contribute, simply complete this interest form by clicking here(link removed). We'll rush your approval within a few hours and get you set up to begin publishing on the site.

Additional benefits to writing with Technorati:
• Millions of pageviews per month.
• Articles can be cross posted on your personal site/blog after launching on Technorati.
• Monetize your articles through AdSense.
• Work with a seasoned editorial team.
• Most important - have fun, showcase your work and be part of a fantastic community/site!

We certainly hope you will consider writing with us.

Respectfully,

Jill Asher
Publisher, Technorati and Blogcritics.org


While I use Technorati, I will not be taking advantage of their special offer. If I did, I'd be allowing them to take advantage of my skills without payment.

To me, it feels a bit like Technorati is coming late to the dance and trying to capitalize on a bad idea. Let me rephrase - they're using Huffington Post's nouveau-unpopular idea of not paying writers but offering them "exposure" and they're doing so hot on the heels of those writers suing and causing a media uproar over their own late reaction to being used.

One difference I see - Technorati allows you to get all the AdSense traffic your little heart can imagine. While I don't know how much "monetizing" that amounts to, I still prefer an actual check from the buyer rather than rely solely on the clicks of a reader.

Beyond that only hint of possible payment (and note that it's not any guarantee you'll get anything at all), the rest of the ad mimics all those offers for "exposure" and "traffic" and all those other favorite buzz words that attempt to mask the obvious - they're not paying.

Just because he's wearing a belt doesn't mean the Emperor isn't still buck naked.

Writers, have you ever worked for ad revenue? How did that work? What would you do differently? Would you ever consider working for ad revenue? If so, what would have to be in place first?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The World's Worst Freelance Advice

Don't forget to register before the end of day tomorrow for Anne and my Webinar, Writers! Unlock Your Hidden Profit Potential. You'll save nearly six bucks by doing so.... Plus you get a ton of freebies worth more than you'll pay for the entire Webinar (I added them up - the five freebies are worth nearly $140. The registration link is here.

Neat news: Anne and I are going to hold a pre-Webinar Tweet-up! Join us Thursday at 9 am PT/ 12 pm ET by using the #writingsquared hashtag. Bring questions, concerns, and get ready to discuss your writing career!

Yesterday was busy. I put on my marketing hat and got busy. I researched some top ways to get word out about our Webinar, then I hit the ground running. By noon I think I covered most of the Internet. At least it felt like it. Anne's site went down somewhere around noon, so we were delayed in getting word out to her blog audience. Technology is great until it isn't....

I was noticing some advice being bandied about the blogosphere. For the most part, writers are giving some super advice. It's rare I see anyone floating advice that's antiquated or just plain bad. But it does happen. And when it does, I usually pray the readers are able to look at the advice logically and with a healthy amount of skepticism. Maybe it's because when I first started I nearly fell victim to bad advice.

The advice I received then that nearly had me hanging it up before I started tops my list of the world's worst freelance advice:

Write what you know. And if you've lived in the same small town for 35 years, how will that help you? That was my dilemma when I'd first heard this advice. Instead,

Write what interests you. Much smarter way to learn things while you present saleable, compelling copy. Find something that sparks your interest and go for it.

Start a blog. Why is this bad advice? Because not everyone has something to say, nor is it possible for everyone who starts a blog to build it and maintain it. Instead,

Become a blog guest poster or regular commenter. Some of the smartest writers I know don't own or operate a blog. They frequent blogs, and they build a lot of face time and credibility that way.

Send your article proposal to just one place. Conventional wisdom used to dictate that sending your query to one magazine was good manners, good form, and expected behavior. However, simultaneous submissions are just good business. And here's why it shouldn't matter:

Extend the life of your idea by brainstorming new angles. You're not going to send the same query to Woman's World that you'd send to Fortune. The idea may be one that fits both magazines, but they're each going to require a different focus that reaches a different audience. For example, if you're writing about retirement, Woman's World may want an article on how the transition affects your relationship with your spouse, while Fortune may want to see a Six Tips for Retiring Before You're 60 article.

Content farms are great places to start. No they're not. They're the worst places to start a career. In fact, they're great places to go if you want to kill your career before it begins. Instead,

Seek out jobs that pay what you need in order to meet your earnings goal. That means work for nothing under minimum wage (a hint - if you have to use a calculator to justify how much you could potentially earn per hour, it's a lousy job) and always aim higher than where you are today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Career-Killing Blame Game

What I'm reading: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
What's on the iPod: Tenth Avenue Freezeout by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band


Quick note: Anne Wayman and I will be hosting a free Twitter "tweet up" this Thursday at 9 am PT/ noon ET. To join us, just use the #writingsquared hashtag and follow along! Bring your questions, concerns, and conversation!


Busy Monday. I loved it since I spent Thursday and Friday doing very little. I tweaked my new website, worked out a link problem (not satisfactorily, which makes me less happy with my web development site host), and got some client work started. Also, Anne and I were busy with some Webinar technical stuff. Today a continuation of the same.

I do a lot of writing for insurance agent audiences. One of the messages I send them is how even in the toughest economic market, they can grow their businesses and increase revenue. And they do. Plenty of insurance agents right now are well ahead of their colleagues because they've invested time and energy into marketing and creating new opportunities.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you? We're a lot like insurance agents. Our careers are dependent on our ability to increase our client base and grow business opportunities for ourselves. Yet too many times I hear (and I bet you do, too) writers lamenting the market, the competition, the pricing, even the peripherals as excuses why they can't make it. One of the weirdest I've heard was someone blaming the passage of the healthcare bill. Really? That's why you can't freelance?

Here are charges freelancers make that will kill their careers:

You successful freelancers aren't telling us how to do it! Sure we are. Are you paying any attention? I know several blogs - this one included - that are loaded with free advice and guidance. And if you ask nicely, someone will reach out and help you with specific info. But one thing you can't do is think any writer owes you anything. We don't. If you have an attitude of entitlement, you'll find more closed doors than open ones.

There's a recession! No work exists. Au contraire, mes amies. It is precisely because of the recession that I had the best year of my working career. Companies lay off staff. Now they're short-handed. They hire freelancers. Voila! The recession is no longer your excuse.

No one is paying good rates. And why exactly are you letting other people - strangers - decide what you're going to charge? You own the business. You set the rates. If you can't find it in yourself to do that, perhaps you aren't meant to be a business owner.

All my clients disappeared! That's why you should be marketing every single day, busy or not. For the banquet you're feasting on today will soon run out of food, so to speak. Clients don't always have an unlimited supply of projects. If you rely on a small number of clients to keep you employed, you'll soon find yourself unemployed. I market when I'm busy. It reduces greatly the number of idle days I have.

No one will hire me because I don't have enough experience/was rejected/am too old/young/fat/thin... First, your experience doesn't matter to every client. We all had to start at zero. Make good choices at the outset and you'll have no problem finding clients. As for being rejected, welcome to the club. Happens to me every week. You simply move on, because wallowing in the whys and what-ifs will freeze you. And it's unnecessary. Your proposal may have been perfect, but the clients had no time/money/need... And your age and appearance are moot points. No one cares. If they do, they're dinosaurs and not the client for you.

What excuses do you see writers making? Whom are they blaming and how would you advise them to overcome that?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pumping It Up


I'm thrilled to announce that I have partnered with super freelancer Anne Wayman to bring you something I'm really excited about - our joint Webinar, Writers! Uncover Your Hidden Profit Potential!

Ooo, you're going to like this one. This one hour Webinar will teach you how to:

- Know exactly what you really want from your writing business

- Recognize how your view of yourself can directly interfere with your profits and what to do about it.

- Unlock the incredible value you bring to your business

- Find and contract with clients that need exactly the skills you have, and are willing to pay you well. your target clients

- Build a referral network that keeps you just as busy as you want to be.

- Become mindful as you approach to your business decisions so you're decisions are truly effective.

So who's going to benefit from this Webinar? See if any of these situations ring true for you:

- You want to break out and start your own freelance writing business, but you're not sure if you dare or how to begin.

- You're doing some freelance writing now but you're not making enough money.

- You're wanting to expand your business but you're hesitating.

- Your writing business is growing but it's driving you crazy.

- It sometimes seems if the people in your life hate what you're doing.

- You know you can write well but you don't know how to get the better paid gigs.

- You're not sure you have enough credits, tear sheets or authority to apply for the gigs you want or to approach the clients you'd like to work for.

Now is your chance to straighten all that out. Join us for an hour that will change the way you see your business and yourself. Sign up now through June 16th and get an early-bird discount! For more info on the Webinar, click here.

And if you'd like to help shape the Webinar's focus, please take Anne's brief survey.

If Weekends Were Idle and Work Weeks Were Busy...

It's happened again. I've come back to the work week happy for the break in activity. The stepdaughter came for a three-day visit, so we were happily preoccupied from Friday through yesterday. We had time to work in the garden, though. It was wet at times and warm - high 70s - but the humidity level made even that unbearable. I took to the garden in spurts.

Tired. Busy weekends are exhausting in a good way. But it was one of those stress-free, lovely weekends coupled with a visit with a wonderful young lady. Rare we have no stress around us, and her visit was just icing.

I redid my website, but realized too late that I'd forgotten the post-Paypal page reroute for the ebook. If you happen to buy an ebook, just drop me a note here or an email and I'll send you your copy personally.

The website is good, if I do say so myself. I found a terrific template and I spent the money to make it mine. I showed it to the critic whose opinion made me do it (coach extraordinaire Lisa Gates), and she was floored. I changed hardly a word of my copy from the old site - just the design. Amazing how great design can change your entire message.

Today I'm putting a bit of time and effort into a blog client's posts, then I'm focusing on the Webinar work (see the announcement coming today and please, join us!). I'm also going to get the website pages squared away.

How was your weekend? What's on your to-do list this week?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Three Questions for You

I've been very lucky. I've had the chance to team with some amazing writers to try helping other writers get a leg up in their careers. First, I was honored to partner with Devon Ellington on what turned out to be a superb Webinar/forum (and we do hope to repeat it). And now it's happening again....

If you follow either Anne Wayman or me on Twitter, you may have seen we've been up to something.

We’re going to make the official announcement Monday, but for now, we’ve got some questions for you. There are only three questions so it will be quick.

Just click here for the questions and accept our thanks in advance.

Please give us feedback! It's your turn to talk and our turn to listen.

Good Advice All Around

What's on the iPod: King of Diamonds by Motopony

HOT day yesterday. 102 according to my car's thermometer. Really? This isn't Phoenix, it's Phoenixville. So what gives? In fact, Phoenix doesn't have the 90-percent humidity that makes everything so much more unbearable. Just that blazing brightness and microwaved-alive feeling. Phoenixville is just hot and dripping.

I will say we're thanking our lucky stars we had the good sense to join the local swim club. For once, excellent timing.

Did a ton of marketing this week. I'm light on projects at the moment and I'll be darned if I'm going to rest until I get at least one more client. The conference folks are still deciding what project to do, when to start it, and what my role in it will be. Without anything concrete, I keep searching. Waiting for a contract is career suicide, for the ones you expect don't always materialize, or the show up much later than you expected - usually when the car is packed and you're on your way out on vacation.

It's Friday, I'm wiped out, and I thought it might be nice to share some links I found especially terrific this week. Been dodging a migraine for a number of days, so hopefully since the weather here has broken, the headaches will go with the heat.

Here are my favorite reads this week:

The Avid Writer: Educating Difficult Clients. Super little discussion on how to get your clients to the point when they're not sure where that is.

About Freelance Writing: 30 Days of Writing Tips. I've included one, but Anne has plenty more. Browse them all.

All Freelance Writing: Nonprofit Does NOT Mean Non-paying. Don't apply for any nonprofit gigs until you read this.

freelancedom: Why It Took Me Four Years to Become a Freelance Hard-Ass Steph Auteri gives inspired advice for freelancers at all levels. After reading her rant, saying no is so much easier.

Writer Abroad: 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference. I've been a Chantal fan for a while. This is one reason why - great, relevant posts.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Client Interview

I mentioned the other day I had a call on a project from a potential new client. It's not going to work this time, but mainly because her budget is tight and she's hoping to spend where it makes the most sense. In my opinion, the project she outlined was critical, but I'll let her be the judge. But if we had gotten past budget issues, she would have been given a list of questions to help me see her project as she was seeing it.

I don't vary too much in my questions to clients because in most cases, they're the same general questions necessary to put together a decent first draft. There are cases when I need explicit information or much more detail, but for most projects, the basics do just fine.

Here's what I put in my client questionnaire:

1. What approach are you looking for – professional, conversational, authoritative, friendly?

2. Are you working with any theme at the moment? Is that the overall feel you’re shooting for?

3. What have you tried in the past? How has it worked?

4. Who is your best client?

5. What makes your company or products different than the competition?

6. What do you think are the benefits of going with your company over those you consider competitors?

7. In one sentence, sum up what you think your company is or represents.

8. What is your biggest communications challenge?

9. How does this project fit into the company's overall growth strategy?

10. What do you hope to achieve from our collaboration?

I don't ask about budget in the questionnaire because we have to have had that conversation first. As I said before, if there are more project specifics I need, I'll include those.

What questions do you use to be able to deliver the right project to your clients?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Freelance Essentials

What I'm reading: Inishfallen Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit


I've got a post up over on StoryPot, which is a great blog run by two terrific ladies - Damaria Senne and Pamela Moeng. Hop on over and give those ladies some comment love.

Ahhhh...feels good to have a full bank account again. Just in time for taxes, too. I spent yesterday morning clearing up a small project and some edits plus chasing (and receiving word on) an overdue payment. The afternoon was spent brushing up on some marketing research, some personal writing, and finishing another small project. And the marketing, too. Always the marketing.

I'm pleased with one marketing path I've decided to take recently. Within a week I've had a number of hits on the website and one inquiry. Not bad, especially since it was a freebie. Google AdWords had sent me a free $100 credit, so I gave it a shot. I have to tweak my click rate and rearrange the keywords, but the initial attempt was good.

I've been looking for a laptop. I don't need one - I want one. The one I have is small, older, and slow. It's an IBM, so it's solid, but it's also slow. Did I mention it was slow? That's why I rarely use it. But I thought it was time to consider upgrading within the next six months, so I'm doing a little window shopping. So far, I'm loving the Toshiba line. Daughter has one she's abused (you broke off seven keys by dropping a TV on it? Really?), and it's still going strong.

That begs the question: as a freelancer just starting out (or well established), what products/software/equipment are absolutely essential to own? Here's my hot list for beginners:

Newer computer/laptop running the latest operating system: I'm a huge fan of Windows 7. The prior Windows updates were more of the "Who designed this? Apes?" and "What were they thinking?" variety. Windows 7 is just seamless. At any rate, you should have a newer computer with enough speed and memory to allow you to work in multiple applications at once. The reason I upgraded: Opening a large file while any other application was open froze my machine. Computers and laptops are reasonably priced. Get one.

An all-in-one printer: You don't think you'll need to scan and fax until you have to. These are also priced affordably.

Dedicated fax line/number: My phone company charges me an extra $4.99 a month for distinctive ring that goes straight to my fax. Cheap alternative to a separate line.

A website: You can't run a business in this decade without an online presence. And unless you trust your own design skills or have your hands on some sweet templates, pay someone to design it. I know a number of people who have built great sites themselves, but they seem to be the exception.

Business cards: Cheap and necessary. I paid $19.95 for 250 customized cards.

Digital recorder and phone recorder adapter: If you interview, you need a digital recorder. You also need an adapter that allows your conversations to be recorded. Mine came from Radio Shack, cost me a whopping $24, and plugs into both the phone jack and the recorder. Easy. Plus the files can then be uploaded and saved to your computer (or your cloud storage space).

What about you established writers? Try these:

Online backup: I've been using Mozy for years. When I signed up it was free for the first 2GB. It may cost something now, but it's priceless if your computer crashes and takes your files with it. Another option: Microsoft's Silverlight online Office product, or Mac's MobileMe interface (currently not accepting new subscribers).

Cloud storage: Ever hear of Dropbox? No? Check it out. It's online accessible storage to the Nth degree. Apple's announcement of its new iCloud? Dropbox has been doing the same thing for years. The point is there are plenty of cloud storage options available that allow you to move all your files easily among all your devices.

A PDF editor:Like scanning and faxing capabilities, I didn't think I needed a PDF editor it until I needed it. I have an older version - Acrobat 5 - but it allows me to edit, even at a basic level, which has allowed me to work with clients I wouldn't have been working with otherwise.

Some nifty gadgets that aren't necessarily essential, but are cool to have:

FreeConferenceCall.com: Way to look like a big-time writer! Set up conference calls and get free archived recording. Seriously. Free.

Project Timer:That's what mine is called and I can't live without it. Simple design and easy to use.

An online Project Manager tool: If you collaborate or need to share your files, there are any number of free online platforms from which to choose. I use MS Silverlight, but I suspect any one will do.

What are your essentials? What favorites do you have?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Guest Post: How Writing Fiction Feeds into Business Writing


I've never said it outright here on the blog, but this isn't just a space for nonfiction writers to learn how to grow their businesses. Any and all advice offered here should be applicable to the fiction market, as well.

Still, if you harbor any doubt, Annabel Aidan will set you straight. You know her as Devon. Her new book, Assumption of Right, was released yesterday and has one of the coolest covers I've seen on an e-book. Witchcraft, politics, and theatre collide in this thriller involving Morag D'Anneville and Secret Service agent Simon Keane as they fight to protect the Vice President of the United States. Or does Morag need more protection?

Info on where to buy the book in the bio below. And a huge thanks to Annabel/Devon for her contribution here!

How Writing Fiction Feeds into Business Writing
By Annabel Aidan



Yeah, I write fiction. Under multiple names. You’re about to know me as Annabel. You might also know me as Devon, Cerridwen Iris, Jenny, Christy, or Christiane. My focus is on the fiction/entertainment side of the craft: novels, short stories, plays. Yet those same skills have landed me the highest-paid of my business jobs.

Why? Because I know how to engage and entice the reader.

That’s why companies hire writers -- to produce copy that engages and entices potential customers, and keeps customers coming back for more of whatever it is the company sells.

I know how to create memorable characters. I know how to put them in situations that create a story line around the company’s product. Look how many films use “product placement”. Smart companies use “character placement”, too, and it doesn’t have to be a character already fixed in popular culture. Ads create popular culture. Coca Cola created our vision of Santa Claus. The Michelin Man is memorable. Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials is memorable. The E-trade babies are memorable. Sometimes the characters and story outstrip the product: I remember, a few years back, one of the best Superbowl commercial ever was about cowboys herding cats. I have no idea what the product was, but I remember the commercial. Granted, in terms of product sales, that counts as a miss, but it was still memorable!

My background in theatre and film means I can event-script easily. For those of you who don’t know what “event-scripting” is -- award shows, fundraising events, benefit concerts. Yes, a good host will take the evening to a new level with his or her wonderful ad libs. But there are still certain sequences of events and information that have to be presented in a specific way within a specific timeline. Hence, “event scripting.”

Writing for theatre and indie film also gives me a unique leg up on speech writing. I can have a conversation with a client, and then write the speech, mimicking his cadence. When he speaks it, it rolls off the tongue naturally.

The skills I developed in order to sell my fiction have served me well in the nonfiction aspects of my writing career, and I’m grateful that I can move between them both as intriguing projects come my way.


Bio:
Annabel Aidan writes romantic suspense with a hint of magic. She publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and nonfiction. She spent over twenty years working behind the scenes on Broadway, in film and television, mostly working wardrobe. Her plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia. If you run towards her undoing buttons, she will tear off your clothes and flip you into something else — and then read your tarot cards. Visit her on the web at:http://devonellingtonwork.com/annabelaidan.html.


Assumption of Right is available at Champagne Books.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Deadly Marketing Mistakes

What I'm reading: Inishfallen Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: Helena Beat by Foster the People


Hop on over to Devon Ellington's Ink in My Coffee to get your copy of Devon's latest book, Assumption of Right, just out today! Devon will be by tomorrow with a guest post on how her fiction writing feeds into business writing. A must read!

Gorgeous weekend. Spent Saturday helping with a surprise party for the daughter's boyfriend. His family came, and it was really nice to catch up. Good people, sweet young man.

Sunday we were at Molly Maguire's for the Irish music sessions. Had a good time. If we keep going regularly, I may know the words to the Celtic songs. Came home and sat on the swing, enjoying the cool weather and the relatively bug-free evening. That's rare. For some reason, we're usually inundated by mosquitos. We've checked for water sources - none. Not sure where they're finding a place to propogate.

I was talking with writer friends last week about various marketing processes. We were hashing over how sometimes even the best methods get ruined by bad application. And yes Virginia, you can screw up a marketing campaign. Here are a number of ways to ensure you kill that business before it flies:

Forget follow up. There was that job sitting in your in box, that note from a client saying he'll get back to you in a week. It's been three. Why are you still sitting there? Are you afraid to nudge him? Don't be. Get back in touch. The same goes for that client whose project you just completed. Go on - ask. Was everything okay with the project? Are there any questions or revisions? Is there any other project where you might be of assistance? Do they know of anyone else looking for writing help? Don't leave money on the table. Make sure to wrap up projects professionally.

Engage in political maneuvering. For some reason, some freelance creatives seem to be operating under the impression that demeaning other writers in blog comments/forums or clinging to the coat tails of others (and stealing their traffic) is acceptable, necessary behavior. Here's what happens - you see a spike in your traffic and followers, and maybe even a spike in your income. But it's temporary, and the impression you've left has killed any chances of your ever getting referral business from your peers. Word spreads. Clients may even realize you've stolen ideas or used others to get ahead. You'll find yourself ostracized and bleeding clients. Don't do it. Build your own network organically and don't use others to get it. It shows lack of creativity and skill. Who wants a writer like that?

Get pushy. Have you ever bought a car? Have you ever had that one salesperson who doesn't know when to stop hounding you, cajoling you, or pressuring you or your significant other into that sale? Don't be that salesperson. Don't flood their in boxes or mail boxes with your communications, don't call incessantly, and for pete's sake, don't beg.

Get belligerent. Don't get heated when they turn you down. They don't need your services. Period. However, they may need them in the future. Your response should be a thank you and a "Please keep me in mind." Then follow up every few months.

Apologize. Laugh all you like at this one, but I'm willing to bet many of you have done it. I did in the beginning. I apologized for bothering them. "Sorry to ask, but..." or the one that kills all your chances: "I don't have much experience, but..." Present yourself and your ideas confidently. Many times that's all you need.

Market to people you'd rather not work with. So you think all personal trainers are pumped-up, condescending asses blessed with super-human metabolism? Then why are you trying to capture their business writing projects? If you don't like their business, their practices, or even their personalities, don't consider them as potential clients. Stay away. You'll both be happier.

Insult your client/client's business. It's okay to contact a potential client and offer to establish and manage her blog. It's not okay to contact her and say something like "I can't believe how far behind the curve you are!" Result: client may realize she needs a blog, but who wants to work with someone who just insulted her business acumen?

What marketing mistakes have you seen or even committed?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Things That Make My Head Explode Redux

What I'm reading: Inishfallen Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: The Sweetest Thing by U2


It's Friday, and it's time for my semi-regular brain dump of all those things that just singe my eyes and fry my brain cells. I'm talking about the things that make my head explode - the usual round-up of odd, strange, and just plain bad from advice to news. Here's what has me in a snit this week:

Blanket statements. I tend not to trust people or sources who use phrases like "always" and "never", but it goes a bit deeper here. Blanket statements include "This is the only way to do it"; "If you do this, you're wasting your time/money" (as in someone suggesting on a forum recently that a person with a lousy resume would waste money paying someone to fix it); "As you get older, you'll not be able to do that, so do it now." None of these statements are based in fact - they're based in opinion.

False statements. My least favorite: "There's no better work out there." Can you hear my teeth gnashing? That's because it's an excuse for not trying. It's the modern version of writer's block - I can't, so I have an excuse. Nonsense. You can't because you won't, so you have nothing.

Forums with lousy advice. There's one in particular that I've been visiting that just unleashes my inner beast. I see people advising others to take content farm jobs because "they're stable" (no, you're in a stable being treated like an animal - big difference).

Forums that profess more than they deliver. Really, if you call yourself a group of professionals, don't ask basic questions like "Where do I put the comma?" Look it up and save yourself a ton of embarrassment. And responders - don't. Just let the question die and the writer find his or her own way.

What's got you in a fluff lately?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Running of the Bull

What I'm reading: Inishfallen, Fare Thee Well by Sean O'Casey
What's on the iPod: Almost Famous by Eminem


Yesterday started a bit shakily. I'd called my dad to wish him happy birthday (77 years young), and as I was talking to my mom, I started getting that moving light in my eyes. Great. Migraine. (No, Mom wasn't the cause!) Luckily, lying down with a cold washcloth over the eyes and the head elevated did the trick. Twenty minutes tops and I was back up and working.

Got a small project completed, then I got some much-needed desk cleaning out of the way. Then I marketed. I refused to get up from the desk until I had contacted at least two clients with project proposals. I managed to do that, plus I sent out some greetings via LinkedIn and Twitter.

If you're wondering about the title of this post, it's not to announce the annual organized madness that happens in Pamplona. No, instead I'm bracing for a bull of a different sort to hit me broadside. Remember the client who hasn't reviewed/gotten back to me on the project I'd sent nearly a month ago? I reread the "group" note in detail. And now on top of being ticked, I'm seeing very clearly what's coming. The note detailed some obscure acquisition that we writers are supposed to remain mum about (not that I noticed anyway), a mention of more assignments but the same budget (hmm) and several mentions of how we writers are making errors.

Can you smell it? Yes, that smells like an out to me. Call me a double-dipped cynic, but any time a direct email is answered with a group email, I count one red flag. When that's followed by mention of corporate changes, I see another flag. When that news is accompanied by a somewhat confusing explanation of new assignments but the same budget, I see red flags waving furiously. Then toss on that little gem of a "some of you are making errors" statement and I'm already dialing my local courthouse to get my nonpayment claim filed.

It may be in the 90s here, but I'm seeing the snow (job). You have no idea how much I hope I'm wrong, but here it is five days after I wrote to the client and still no word on where my project stands or what that final word count is. Do I see that check arriving any time soon? It has the same chance as a snowball surviving on my sidewalk right now.

If I were new to this freelance stuff, I wouldn't know that I should:

Contact the client via phone. I've had no phone contact with him, but it's damned hard to ignore someone on the other end of the phone. I may not hear what I like, but if he answers, I'll at least hear something besides panic and back-peddling. Or maybe that's all I'll hear.

Resend the invoice with a late fee: His lack of attention to my project is not something I can hurry along. However, late fees tend to get attention and may help in some way get some resolution, good or bad.

Avoid the emotional chatter. There isn't any indication that the client is an emotional manipulator, but avoiding my direct question is a hint of someone not playing by the rules. Unless he sets my house on fire and the check he owes me is in it, he's getting nothing but facts right back at him. Fact: The project was handed in a month ago. Fact: you've yet to give me final word count or feedback. Fact: We have a contract, and unless you pay me, I'm not obligated to sit and wait. Fact: If I get no response in the next week, I'll take the project elsewhere.

Not care if the relationship is blown. I used to care, but that was before entirely too many former clients tried to stall, cajole, guilt, or lie their way out of payment. If I get no satisfaction, I'm yanking my project and going elsewhere with it. And yes, I have a home for it.

Enforce my payment process. That means litigation should the invoice go untouched once the edits are completed. I don't think we'll get to that point with this client. I'm at that point in the career where only the serious clients need apply. The rest can go yank the chains of those who aren't yet sick of their nonsense.

How do you halt the running of the bull?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What's Your Responsibility?

What I'm reading: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
What's on the iPod: Summertime by Kenny Chesney


Yesterday felt like a marathon. I spent five hours in the morning finishing projects, starting projects, and sending out invoices. When I stood up at 1 pm, I was ready for a break. Off to the pool.

Only the pool was closed. Dummy - I forgot the kids are the lifeguards and they're in school until at least mid-month. There went that brilliant idea. So back home to get some much-needed marketing in. I did get to the pool later, and it was heavenly as the thermometer hit 94. And I picked my first deer tick of the season off. I know it wasn't there yesterday, so I'm sure it came from one of two places - Valley Forge Park or when I mowed the garden. The only two times this week (or this year even) I've not coated myself with bug repellant.

There was this series of emails that came in over the weekend. Five, I think. At first I thought "Great. Someone's broken in to my account and is spamming." Then I read one. Yep. Spam. Only the next one was a continuation of the message, as were the others. I slowed down and read them.

I don't know who it is (yes I do, but he never officially signed his name), but these were emails from someone who'd read an ages-old article of mine. And boy, was he ticked. The article - why employers need background screenings - was hitting a nerve, for he was, apparently, once more unemployed. And he was blaming me.

Mind you, I didn't respond. Who would? Anyone who would blame the writer of an article that was three years old for his employment troubles isn't someone with whom one should play verbal hockey. I don't know him, don't want to know him, and I can sympathize all day long, but his well-being is not my responsibility. He has no idea that the article in question was someone else's idea and it was assigned to me, much like anyone would assign work to a contractor or employee. I had no say in the topic - just the presentation. And while my new pen pal may think it was my fault for presenting the info so convincingly, I'm actually paid to be convincing.

It happened once before. When that scam artist duped me into writing a press release for him, I was chastised by not one, but three different people, only one of whom had the guts to sign his name. It was my fault he was scamming everyone and shame on me (she actually wrote that) for not ordering a thorough background check on him before writing that one, 300-word press release! Right. Let me pay $300 or better for a background check on a press release job that pays about that, if in fact he'd paid me anything.

While weirdness does seem to find me like a lightning bolt finds a transformer, I'd bet some of you may have encountered something similar. Intentional or not, your writing may have struck pay dirt, only in an adverse way. You may not realize the impact your work has on others. Most of the time it's good. Sometimes, it's bad, albeit unintentionally.

So what is your responsibility as a writer? Where does that line get drawn? For me, it's drawn in two places. First, clients have to pass my moral code. If they're acting ethically, if they're able to prove they are (ironically, the scammer had provided proof of his legitimacy - I wasn't aware that an application for nonprofit status or his police badge credentials can be faked), and if they conduct business in a professional, honest manner, that's the first win.

Second, the vetted client is my responsibility. I am paid by that person or company to please. I fill the order, write the words, state the case as convincingly as I can. If I didn't, I'd be unemployed.

While the guy with no job has my sympathy, it's not up to me to convince his employers that he should be hired despite a shaky background. I'd be passing along false information - go ahead, hire someone with a record! - and I'd be doing my paying clients a disservice just so a complete stranger who may (or may not) be reformed can cut a fair shake. I'm of the opinion that if you are truthful on your application, in your interview, and about your background, you won't find yourself walked out of a job you've just walked into. That's your job - not mine.

What would you say to someone like this? Where does a writer's responsibility begin and end, in your opinion?
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