What's on the iPod: I'm Shakin' by Jack White
Yesterday wasn't as productive as I'd hoped. Too many phone conferences. I would love to bottle the time wasted in phoned meetings. While the ones I was part of yesterday were productive (and well run), most are a huge waste of time. I've actually worked with clients who've said at the end of the phone call "Let's schedule another call to discuss" when I thought the call netted an actual game plan. That's what I get for being optimistic.
As I was juggling client requests amid a visit from our Aussies, I realized the only way I was able to keep from freaking out was A) experience, B) lack of sleep and patience, and C) having a strong business voice. That combination allowed me to say no, I can't instead of agreeing to do something I had little time for.
Finding that voice - ah, that's the tough part. You have to start with confidence, but that's not always ingrained in you from the start, is it? There's that trepidation, that fear of a misstep, that terrifying realization that you actually have a business and people are starting to call.
That's when you need to kick that voice into action. Here are a few things to try to gain your voice:
Know what you want. You want your weekends off, right? Or you're about to take that holiday weekend off, aren't you? Know exactly what you require to remain a happy, productive writer with a business that's perceived as viable and professional.
Know what you won't accept. You won't work that Labor Day weekend without a higher fee attached, will you? Nor will you work for half what you normally charge. You'll not accept any working conditions or demands that interfere with current client work or your own needs. Those parameters are the beginnings of these things called boundaries. Decide right now what it is that will be unacceptable to you. Write it down if you have to.
Know how you'll handle the tough stuff. But didn't that new client just ask you to give up a weekend? First, a new client should never make such strict demands on your time (that's not your client -- that's a problem waiting to attach itself to you). Second, didn't you just decide you weren't working weekends unless it's a dire emergency? To date, I've not seen one person die of comma overload or prepositional fever. In other words, there are very few real writing emergencies -- only clients who have bad planning skills. So how will you respond to those tough situations? Practice your response now. Write it down. Memorize it. Repeat it until it no longer makes your heart race to say it to a client.
Stick with it. There's no sense in developing a business voice if you're going to cave every time you use it. Set your boundaries, assert yourself, and don't back down without a superior reason that makes sense to your own schedule and needs.
How do you establish and maintain a business voice? What else goes into it for you?