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Friday, November 30, 2012

Monthly Assessment: November 2012

What's on the iPod: Act on Impulse by We Were Promised Jetpacks

One hour. Tons of potential tax savings.

Take it from a tax expert: you're leaving money on the table. That's why you should join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95Get your spot before it's gone: Register here


Sale time! Start 2013 with a better strategy -- click on the link on the right to get Marketing 365 at 40% off the regular price!

Ah, the end of another month. In what is typical a slow period for freelancing, it's tough sometimes to look at the bottom line. However, if you keep track of your efforts, you'll soon be able to see some areas of improvement, and that's the key to making every month lucrative. And when you share your results with other writers, that makes you doubly aware of the effort you're making. Accountability is a good thing.

So let's look at how I did this month:

I was about to send one when an editor got in touch with an assignment. So I sent none, but I got work. I wish I could bottle that!

I sent no new ones, but followed up on some previous ones. Sad news back from one contact--most of her department was laid off the week before I'd gotten in touch. I expressed my condolences, and I offered to keep in touch. She must be stinging from the layoff still -- no response at all. Can't blame her. That's a tough position. 

Existing clients:
Once again this was where the bulk of my work came from. I'm getting a little nervous that there aren't new clients being added to the mix, so I'm ramping up the LOI and query machine in December. Since most magazine budgets are history by now, I'm shooting for January assignments. One editor got in touch this week with one of those January assignments, so I know there's a check coming in February. Between the two retainer clients, the marketing firm work, and the magazine work, I've been pretty busy.

New clients:
Oddly, one today came from a temp agency I'd signed with seven years ago. The recruiter "found" my updated information on LinkedIn and called. I may have some offsite work coming in for December, so that's promising. If not, I'm going to be plenty busy thanks to the current clients, plus a magazine article due in a few weeks.

I had a few, but nothing that fit.

Amen for retainers in the slow months! I'm fortunate to be doing quite well -- surpassing my new target by 15 percent. 

Bottom line:
Call me crazy, but I get nervous when things are going well. I feel I should be increasing my marketing efforts and trying to secure projects four to six months out. I don't want to get complacent with the few clients I have now, and retainers do make one feel too secure. I know one retainer is about to expire, so I'm looking to replace or extend that income stream for January.

How was it for you in November? Did you meet your goals? What's working? What isn't?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting Paid

What's on the iPod: Uprising by Muse

Tax Season is exactly six weeks away.

That's why you should join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95Get your spot before it's gone: Register here

Good day yesterday. I finished a case study draft, worked through some project parameters with the client via phone, and got a little marketing done. Today, articles to write (small ones, amen), and more marketing. January is looking good, but I want it to look great.

This month's theme of contracts, rates and payment continues. Today, payment. More specifically, how are you going to get paid? If you've been at this a year or a decade and a year, payment is as important as writing talent. The savvy freelance writer will have a contingency for every situation. 

Payment should always be contracted. I hate using the word never, but this is one area in which I feel that strongly. Never let payment be this ambiguous agreement between two people. Have it written. I prefer (strongly recommend) contracts for everything, but if you feel okay with email confirmation, that's your choice. Just get it in writing somewhere. 

Your payment plan should reflect the job. You wouldn't ask for an upfront payment for a small magazine gig, but you should if you're working on a longer-term project. Figure your total payment, then split it into either half or thirds. Bill at the outset of the project, and particularly for a new client, get the check in hand before starting any work.

Payments should stretch across the project. Suppose you sign on for a four-month project. You secure a third up front, but do you really want to wait until those four months are up to collect? Set some midway point in the project, state it in the contract, and invoice on that date.

Payment plans should spell out when the end has arrived. I made this mistake early on with a book project that lasted just under a year and a half. Make sure you have a clearly stated end date, not just "At delivery of final product" because guess what? That product can come back six times in the next year and a half and you've no recourse for payment. None. Instead, try something like "At delivery of final product or June 28, 2013, whichever comes first."

Payment terms should include additional work. Nothing is worse than finishing a project only to have it come back with a request like "I'd really rather it be half this length; and oh, could you add this one more area of concentration? Shouldn't take you more than four days..." Your contract should spell out exactly what you're being paid for, and mention your fee for any work over and above those items. 

Late fees should be part of your invoicing/contract process. Clients should read it in your contracts and see it reflected on the invoices -- a due date and a late fee if that date isn't met. Whether you give them 15 days or 30 to pay you, make your process consistent and practice it faithfully.

An action plan for non-payers is essential. It costs little to file in small claims court (make sure it's in their jurisdiction --easier to enforce). It's also relatively cheap to hire a collection agency. Know what you'll do and when you'll do it before you ever sign that first agreement. For added teeth, you may want to work that plan into your contract so that clients are well aware of what to expect.

Whether you decide to get paid upfront or wait until a project ends depends on you. However, protect yourself with clearly defined deadlines for payment so that you aren't left hanging endlessly.

How do you make sure you're paid?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

PTSD (Post-Turkey Shopping Disorder)

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

Not Too Late for Cyber Monday-like Savings!

Join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95Get your spot before it's gone: Register here


How was your Thanksgiving? We had a marvelously low-key holiday. Just three of us, and entirely no pressure or stress to speak of. The food turned out terrific despite having a new method of marinating and an entirely new stuffing recipe. We were happy and thankful for such a lovely day.

Husband and I started the thankful thoughts the moment we woke up. I told him I was thankful that hot flashes last only so long, and he said he was thankful for Miracle Gro. "Because think about what we had to do before that to get plants started!"

The weirdness continued in the kitchen where, over his coffee and my tea, we ate the pumpkin pie designated for dinner. It's our new tradition -- eat the pie before dinner so you can really enjoy it. Think about it -- pie with coffee or tea. Yep. That's what I'm talking about.

We headed over to Washington Memorial Chapel for the kirking of the tartan - a Thanksgiving tradition we've come to look forward to. Husband was able to rally yet again the Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department, who showed up, kilted, in their fire truck. The Valley Forge Pipe Band marched in (loudly -- small chapel, lots of bagpipes), and we had our kilts and tartans out for the blessing ceremony. Then back home with the top down on the car (last day for it, too). It was chilly. Luckily, home is just over a mile from the chapel. A nice, quiet meal, and then some dessert later when daughter and her fiance came home.

We had a lovely day on Friday, him working in the yard and me resting and working a little inside. My daughter had gone out shopping at midnight, had come home at 7:30, and had dragged me out with her until 11 am. Let me just say I don't do Black Friday, and I sure don't do it on one cup of tea. So our first stop was Starbucks, where we ran into the first (and longest) line of the day. From there, we putzed around the mall and I managed to pick up things for myself that I'd been wanting anyway, then off to Target for something she wanted. I spent maybe $40. She, on the other hand, nearly completed her gift shopping for $250. There may be something to this Black Friday nonsense, though I remain unconvinced it's worth losing sleep over.

The yard work was nearly completed on Friday. Good thing. Saturday's temps never left the 30s-low 40s, and our first snowflakes appeared. He and I decided to look at appliance deals at a chain store. Their package deal was pathetic, but I have managed to narrow down the stove I want and the refrigerator. Dishwasher -- I couldn't care less what it looks like as long as it does the job. But the stove and fridge -- I use those and I know what I need. At least two ovens, though not one whose larger oven is on the bottom (who designed that, I mean really?). I refuse to spend the next 15-20 years bending to the floor to get dinner in and out. That's where the smaller oven should be, in my opinion. 

We went out with stepson and his girlfriend on Saturday night. It was some top-rated restaurant again, and though the food was good, it did not warrant the exorbitant price. Plus the choices were very limited, and we're vegetarian, which they failed to have an option for. Luckily we were able to mix-and-match off the mains to make a meal, but the lack of forethought left a bad taste (pun intended). They won't get five stars from me. I'd have been happier at the local pub because at least they have something for us to eat.

Sunday was church, brunch, and football. Somewhere about the fourth quarter when my team was tanking, I decided to go shopping for decorations. That's when the depression hit.

It happens every year, but for some reason, Home Depot set it off. It's the mixing of traditions, missing of long-gone relatives and family, and the effects of the over-commercialization that get to me. I wanted some simple red candles and some greenery (artificial) that didn't have piles of lights or glitter on them. Right. Good luck.

I found the candles at Target, but their selection (usually good) was pretty pathetic. I was in a full-on funk when I realized I'd picked up a name from the angel tree that morning at my husband's church. So I shopped for "Leon", 71, who wanted a gift card. Choosing the card and a holiday card to accompany lifted my mood entirely. He's getting a scarf too, as soon as I find one I like. 

So this week is a mixture of work and getting decorating ideas in order. I loathe putting up Christmas lights, so I may designate those for my daughter and her fiance to take care of. Or skip them entirely. I want to make the house warm and inviting, and then I want to invite people to spend the holiday with us. My parents, his mother, or anyone who would like to. Then there's his notion of using his vacation and actually going somewhere. I don't like up-in-the-air plans around holidays. It's too chaotic as it is.

So how was your Thanksgiving and the long weekend? What did you do?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Scenario: Contracts and Payments

What's on the iPod: Yes, I'm Cold by Chris Bathgate

One hour, hundreds (maybe even thousands) in savings:
Join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95Get your spot before it's gone: Register here

Special bonus:  One lucky winner will receive a copy of my Marketing 365 e-book and another winner will receive any of Anne Wayman's ebooks. 

contracts, freelance, writing
How was your holiday? It's one of my favorites. No presents, little drama, and all about food. It's work, but it's work I enjoy. I hope you spent the time in a way that warms your heart.

Because we learn by example, I want to present a new twist on the contracts and payments portion of our theme this month. Let's take a hypothetical situation:

Your client has contracted with you for certain projects. In that contract, you've agreed to deliver projects at the client's request at your agreed-upon rate. You get to work, deliver the projects, and send the invoice.

Fast forward four months. You've just sent your third invoice to the client with no response. At all.

Your options:

  • File a claim in small claims court
  • Contact the collection agency
  • Give the client one last try
Let's assume you've chosen the third option. You get back in touch, tell the client you're about to commence collection procedures, and would love to see this cleared up in a more civilized fashion. Surprise! Your once-silent client reappears, excuses (or reasons) in hand, and promises payment.

Then it happens. Your client says "I'll review the work and get back to you. And I won't be paying the late fees."

You want this to end, so it's tempting to let those comments slide. However, a few things are amiss here. First, your client is assuming two very erroneous things:
  • That he doesn't have to pay for work he didn't like or use
  • That he doesn't have to pay a late fee because he's cooperating or simply doesn't see the need
Here's why that client is wrong on both counts:

The contract terms. If your contract is like mine, it doesn't state that the payment due is any less than stated or dependent on the client's discretion. You do X. Client pays Y. End of discussion. And you definitely need to state clearly what the contract states.

Late is late. Even if you have no late fees mentioned in your contract, it's reasonable to charge clients who are late for the inconvenience of waiting for the check.

Clients are not dictators. Nor are they revising the terms or changing their minds or anything that goes against what's stated in the contract. They signed it. Their chance to amend was before the ink hit the paper. 

Precedent should rule. You are a business as they are a business and you have to treat each client in the same manner in order to set precedent. That's important should any of your clients require you to take further legal or debt-collection action. If you show you have a invoicing/collection process that is the same for each client and one you practice regularly, you'll establish yourself as the business you are in the eyes of the law (and other clients).

In responding to clients who are not paying and trying to restate the rules, be clear on contract terms and be firm in your response. Also, remove emotionally charged phrases such as "You never answered" and "Had you bothered to respond." That inflames an already uncomfortable situation and does nothing to get you to the end goal, which is to get payment in full for your work.

When was the last time a client has either refused to pay or used other tactics to reduce or eliminate payment?

How do you respond to late payers and clients who twist or argue the contract terms?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Writer Contract Primer

What's on the iPod: When the Stars Go Blue by The Corrs (with Bono)

Is that your Schedule C showing?Join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95Get your spot before it's gone: Register here

Special bonus:  One lucky winner will receive a copy of my Marketing 365 e-book and another winner will receive any of Anne Wayman's ebooks. 
writing, contracts

See my guest post up over at Cathy Miller's blog.

As promised, this starts the new blog themed posts as I try to bring you more targeted information. For the duration of November, we'll talk about contracts, rates, and payment.

Today, let's review the contract.

Recently I had a chance to put my contracts to the test. It hadn't happened in a long while, but a client was dangerously close to litigation. In fact, I was one step away from signing with a collection agency. But since circumstances seemed very odd (he'd asked for the invoice but had never paid it), I gave the client one last try. The invoice is now paid.

Yet imagine if there hadn't been a contract in place. What would have become of my requests? Since much of my work is in email, there's always a written record somewhere of the project and the client agreeing to the terms (I make sure to ask for that --"To repeat, you'd like 2K words on the importance of business liability insurance, and the fee is $2,000. Please confirm so I can get started."). But it's important to get a contract on nearly every project you touch (I say "nearly every" because it's pretty common to work without a contract for magazine editors with whom you've built a relationship).

What goes into it? In my opinion, these items are musts:

Payment terms. You'd be surprised how many people overlook this one. It's not simply putting a figure down. You need to spell out how you expect that client to pay you - weekly, monthly, in installments, etc. Make sure this is done prior to signing the contract. If you're ghostwriting a book, this is especially important, for you don't want that last payment to be "upon delivery of final product." I've had projects that have gone on for years. Put an end date to that last payment. 

Revision timeline. Build it in at the outset. The client has a deadline, but it's not all on you to meet it. They have to meet their own in order to keep the workflow going. Try a clause that explains that the client has 14 days from delivery (or 30 days if it's a huge document) to get back to you with changes. 

Project expectations. This is where you'll repeat back to the client the parameters of the agreement. You'll do X, Y and Z for the client. Why this is important -- it keeps the client from throwing A, B, and C onto the pile, protecting you from doing double (or worse) the expected amount of work for that one fee.

Client responsibilities. There may not be a specific section for it, but your contract should spell out what's expected of the client, as well. If they're to supply you with research, experts, or original content, say so in your agreement. If there's an ongoing project, spell out all time lines and deadlines. 

No third party clause. I call it the "no posse" clause, and I make sure this is in every agreement -- it states who has input and authority over the content, and what happens should an unnamed person become involved. For example, you're working with Fred on his autobiography, when at the very end, someone named Jeff starts sending his edits and expects you to revise heavily what you and Fred have already done. That's third party input, and the contract is now void and payment due immediately. If you want to continue working with Fred, who's insisting on Jeff's input, work up a new contract including your fee for implementing Jeff's suggestions. Sometimes clients realize their mistake when they see how much it will cost.

Whenever I use this clause (always) I point it out to my clients in my email to them, and I make sure that section is either highlighted or in bold. I do ask them if there are other parties (besides spouses) who might want to review the work. That way you can include them in the contract and adjust the rate to compensate.

Additional work will be negotiated under a separate agreement. This does a few things - it forces the client to examine exactly how much work is needed at the outset. Also, it guarantees that the work you're about to sign on for isn't going to snowball into massive amounts of work that you've bid only a pittance for. If your agreement is to write two articles, write two. Don't take on a third under the same agreement, for that turns into six and now you're unable to pull the plug.

Define your word counts or per-piece counts. While writing the company's corporate profiles or two ghostwritten articles may seem like fairly specific jobs, how many "executives" are they expecting to pile on to your profile heap, and are those articles in your mind 1,500 words and in their minds 30-page white papers? 

What goes into your contracts these days?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Marketing That Doesn't Suck

What's on the iPod: Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons

Don't be naked this tax season.
Join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95Get your spot before it's gone: Register here.

freelance, writing
What a wonderful weekend! We had family in town, and it was just so much fun to walk together, eat together, and talk together. A really nice time, although I will say Friday night was an experience. We'd decided to take them out to eat at our new favorite restaurant in the city. Twenty-six miles. Thirty-five minute ride. Right. Try two hours, and that's including getting off the expressway and taking back roads, which were nearly as jammed up. Never has it taken two hours to get into the city. I wonder how long it would have been if we'd stayed on the expressway? I shudder to think.

The restaurant did a great job in accommodating us. In fact, they were accommodating a lot of late-comers -- the place was a ghost town when we walked in. It was booked solid, too, but the traffic had everyone running at least an hour behind. And sadly, the food wasn't spectacular like the first night we'd visited, though his brother thought his dish was superb.

I know I said I'd start with my themed blogging today, but Kate asked a very good question on Friday, and I didn't want to ignore it. She said "I am feeling completely burnt out by marketing and social media linking. Sometimes, I even feel that social media marketing is killing writers' development as writers. Not that 140 character sentences aren't a skill...How do you deal with all those complexities and still get your writing done?"

Great question.

Here's how I deal with the complexities, which don't seem like complexities once you're able to break it down into a system:

Schedule it. Just like I schedule my lunch, I schedule my marketing. Early morning isn't always my best time, so I'll often choose time right before or right after lunch. I'm winding down (or already wound down) and I don't have to break my concentration.

Limit it. I spend 15 minutes (maybe up to 30 minutes) per day on marketing. I don't spend hours even if I have hours. There's something that happens internally when I spend more than 30 minutes marketing -- I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, almost desperate, even if I'm doing fine with my workload and earnings. Plus marketing shouldn't feel like a job.

Mix it up. Kate mentioned 140 characters. Yes, it's a skill to market on Twitter, but it's also important to market elsewhere. Many of my marketing attempts go out in emailed queries, LinkedIn group connections, or even snail mail. I don't use the phone to market, but if you're great on the phone, do it. And try a few magazine editors -- it never hurts to vary the clients, either.

Make it natural. Kate also mentioned she feels burned out by social media linking. Kate, don't try so hard! Find some favorite blogs. Read them regularly (because you want to, not because you have to), and comment. That's an easy way to get your name and link circulating. Also, remember the rule -- of every 20 tweets, 18 should be sharing or conversation. Only 2 tweets for every 20 should be selling your skills.

Hopefully, this helps writers like Kate find a nice balance in their marketing and social media use.

Writers, how do you fit your marketing in?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fun Stuff Friday

What's on the iPod: With or Without You by U2

This guy makes taxes look sexy.
Join Anne Wayman and me and special guest Julian Block, tax expert extraordinaire, for the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies for Freelancers webinar. Special pricing: the one-hour webinar plus nearly $375 worth of freebies for just  $39.95! Get your spot before it's gone: Register here.

Yesterday was a pretty decent day. I managed to get some marketing done in the morning, get a poem written, and inquire into a collection agency. I'd sent the last invoice October 5th. The client's chance is now over and it's time to get what's due.

Since it's Friday and I have weekend guests coming today, my mind isn't on work. It's on other things --fun things. So why not let that spill over into the blog? Here are some links to fun stuff (and informative stuff, too):

Sale at Jenn's house!  Well, not her house, but her blog "house." Jenn Mattern is selling her e-books at a discount. You'd be crazy not to buy them, especially at a discounted price.

Devon's Fast & Fun Workshop - Flash Fiction. If you want to increase your income potential, why not add some flash fiction writing to your repertoire? Devon hosts a workshop designed to get you up and running in 10 days. Why not? What else were you gonna do? NaNo?

Speaking of Devon: She has a fun article up over at Women on Writing, and it includes some comments from yours truly. Check it out.

Brain Bashers. I have to stay away from these puzzles and games because I don't know when to quit, but that doesn't mean you have to.

Jack White/Edward Scissorhands. Okay, he's not, but he looks a bit like him, no?

Share something fun.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Things That Make My Head Explode

What's on the iPod: Easy Way Out by Gotye

Guaranteed more fun than root canal! 
Due to Hurricane Sandy, the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies webinar has been rescheduled for December 6th. As a reward for your patience, we're offering the webinar at a $30 discount -- just $39.95 for money-saving advice from a renowned tax expert. There are still a few spots left! To get the discount, register here.

What a week. It's only Thursday, but I feel like I've crammed six weeks into one day. It wasn't that I was busy -- I was stressed. To me, stress is the writer's enemy. You can't get a stinking thing done when life is swirling out of control around you.

I won't go into the reasons why (not that interesting, really), but I will say the stress got in the way the first half of my day. You wouldn't think, given that it's not my stress. Alas. Guess again. I worked sporadically on an article (finished it, amen) and started on another, so the afternoon was productive. And I took a call for an article interview, which was very fruitful. I now have a great basis for some research, thanks to this source's comments.

Still, it's been one of those weeks. We have family visiting this weekend (starting tomorrow sometime), so my work day will be a tad fractured this afternoon as I clean the mess that is this house. I'm missing writers group for it, but I think it's where I need to put my energies.

So here are some things that are driving me ape this week:

"Me me me" people. It's only Thursday and already I've had it up to here with people who talk AT me, not with me, and people with self-centered attitudes. One time -- just one -- I'd love to ask someone how they are and not have to listen to a monologue. Conversation. Two people. Both should talk, right? Yet no one these days seems to ask "How are you?" and actually listen to the answer.

Snake oil salespeople. Had an instance where I was able to sample a particular methodology designed to improve one's internal processes. However, I came away thinking "Yea, the Emperor is still naked." I'm a little tired of the latest "best" thing out there and how they shamelessly help you part with your money and create some odd little codependency among followers. Sorry -- not into that Kool-Aid.

Blanket responses. My friend applied for two positions. She immediately received notes back asking for her to come in for an interview at a very specific time. The first note sounded very much like a form response, and proved to be when she said she'd need to reschedule the time. "Good luck in your future endeavors." Huh? The second company responded, but said they would contact her after the first round of interviews should they still need her. I say run. Neither company is professional enough to work for.

Designer cupcakes. My daughter brought home some fancy cupcakes. They're fantastic. And there goes my diet. I have no will power! Don't bring this stuff into the house!

Unresponsive clients. I'm currently searching for a collection agency. It's a small bill, but it's one I will not ignore, and if the client can't be bothered to talk to me, I'm done talking. I gave her three chances to negotiate a payment plan (for a tiny bill!), and she chose instead to ignore the invoices, use the material, and pretend I don't exist. I'm done being nice. 

What has you in a fluff this week?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Theme Me Up, Scotty

What's on the iPod: Breakeven by The Script

The answer: Blowing in the wind. Literally. Due to Hurricane Sandy, the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies webinar has been rescheduled for December 6th. As a reward for your patience, we're offering the webinar at a $30 discount -- just $39.95 for money-saving advice from a renowned tax expert. There are still a few spots left! To get the discount, register here.

Yesterday was a bit of a wash. I got a little work done, but only a little. It was raining and cold, and I was feeling very unmotivated. So I spent the time attending my online courses, catching up on my correspondence, and doing some marketing.

Also, I did some planning. I'm about to implement some changes here that I hope will enhance your experience and bring you more targeted insights and discussions. I'm about to get "themed."

Each month I'll focus on a particular topic -- this month will be Contracts, Rates, and Payments. The goal is to provide you with an annual schematic on how to build a business and conduct business in an efficient, professional way. 

As a result, I'll also be stepping up the e-newsletter deliveries. Until now, I've been a sporadic emailer. If you got one from me in September, there's a good chance it was from someone else -- I didn't send one in September. While I don't believe in sending messages constantly, I do think it's much more helpful to you if my messages are regular and targeted to what it is you may want to read. So expect two emails from me per month, with perhaps two more to announce webinars and specials. 

Also, I'll be looking for more guest posts to help get fresh perspectives on the things we talk about most. If you're interested in being a guest, please send me an email at lwbean AT gmail DOT com. I'll send you the blog topics and we'll discuss from there.

Probably the biggest change is the frequency of posts. Because it's too easy to talk a subject to death, I would much rather post less often and give you solid content than post every day. I'm aiming for two posts per week, but will most likely settle on three.

We as writers evolve in our careers. If we don't, we fade away too quickly. The same goes for this blog. In order to deliver more than promised, I'm making changes that I hope you'll like. As always, your feedback and suggestions are encouraged and welcomed. 

Writers, how do you/did you evolve in your career? Are/were those changes successful?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Post: The Importance of a More Personal Professional Network

What's on the iPod: The Road to Home by Amy MacDonald

She nearly broke John Travolta's heart, too -- due to Hurricane Sandy, the 8 Top Tax-Saving Strategies webinar has been rescheduled for December 6th. As a token of our appreciation for your patience, we're offering the webinar at a $30 discount -- just $39.95 for money-saving advice from a renowned tax expert. There are still a few spots left! To get the discount, register here.

I love when Jenn Mattern shows up on this blog. Jenn's one of those freelancers who develops and grows smart careers. She has innovative ideas that work, and she's not afraid to share them (well, until someone swipes them, but that's another matter). She's a super professional and a great friend with whom I've shared tea and laughs galore. 

Jenn and I were lamenting what passes for networking and support these days. Too often writers -- especially those just starting out -- put all their faith in people who for one reason or another capture their attention long enough to convince them they have all the answers. No one has all the answers, but often for newbies there's no filter, nor is there a way to discuss as peers those issues that bug us all.

That's when Jenn said, "Hey, how about a guest post on the importance of a personal professional network -- those few folks you can open up to, ask for blunt feedback from, share ideas with knowing they won't swipe them, etc?" 

To which I said "Hell yes!"

The Importance of a More Personal Professional Network

by Jenn Mattern 

As a freelance writer your professional network can be rather broad -- colleagues, editors, clients, prospects you hope will become clients in the future. And when you have conversations with people in this network, it's usually best to keep things professional.

That said, freelance writing can leave you feeling isolated. You don't have a close-knit group of employees who see each other every day and talk about things both inside and outside of their work lives. Because of this, I find it's a good idea to have a more personal professional network.

What is a Personal Professional Network?
When I say "personal professional network," I don't mean you should have more personal and casual relationships with your overall professional network. Instead, these people are a subgroup -- a network within a network. These are the people you might exchange private emails or phone calls with on a regular basis. They're the people you might meet up with for lunch from time to time. They're the people you might consider friends even more than colleagues.

Why Have a Personal Professional Network?
I would be lost without the tight-knit group of colleagues I keep in touch with regularly. Those closer, but still professional, relationships have a variety of benefits. For example:

  • You can share frustrations and rant privately to people who understand where you're coming from (rather than publicly ranting about something on your blog or in a forum which might just result in added drama). If nothing else, talking things out with them first can help you cool off a bit before you rant publicly.

  • These are the people who routinely remind you that you're not alone, no matter how isolated you feel. You can share successes and failures, and you actively encourage each other.

  • You can share ideas and projects that are still in the works -- things you might not be ready to share publicly yet. The folks in this more personal network can be a great sounding board to bounce ideas off of.

  • These are the folks you're probably most likely to partner with. By getting to know each other personally as well as professionally, you'll get a better idea of who you could work well with before jumping into a partnership that just wasn't meant to be.

  • Let's face it. Most of us gossip at some point or another, and it's a staple recreational activity in many offices. Having a more personal professional network means you can do that while remaining tactful -- such as spreading the word about a new project someone's up to or sharing a warning if you run across a problem in the industry that you aren't ready to out publicly.

In the end, having a more personal professional network is about letting yourself unwind a bit. You don't always have to be in "work mode." You can just relax and be yourself. You can share the good and the bad with someone who understands (because we can't always count on other friends and family members to get where we're coming from in this business). And you always have someone there to kick your ass back into gear if you need it.

That's why I'm such a big fan of having a personal professional network within my larger networking efforts. What about you? Do you have a group of colleagues or others who you trust and keep in close contact with? How does it impact your work as a freelancer? Leave a comment and tell us what you get out of this kind of tighter-knit network.

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, business writer, and e-book author. She owns 3 Beat Media, a Web development and publishing company which operates websites and blogs for freelance writers, independent publishers, small business owners, and more.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Warriors and Weekends

What's on the iPod: It's Only Life by The Shins

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Great-great-great grandfather's grave - Civil War era
A blessed Veteran's Day to all who have served. We remember.

Sometimes your best plans can turn from good to, well, memory-making. I took off half a day on Friday to drive to DC to see my cousin. He was part of a days-long tribute to Vietnam veterans, reading names from the Wall. That he came from Indiana and spent a number of days in order to do that shows the fierce loyalty these guys have to each other. That I got to participate was amazing.

I arrived and, per usual, had to spend an hour getting from the north side of the city to the south side. loathe driving it, but the other choice was taking the train, paying too much and walking too far. I was up for a drive after a long week inside.

I arrived near the wall, sent him a text, and walked toward the monument. He sent back his location - by the statue of the three soldiers. I looked up. There was the statue. "Where are you?" he'd asked. I typed back "Right behind you." Then I saw him. Hugs and smiles and then right down to the familiar. Mind you, this is someone I've not seen in 16 years, and a cousin who is older, so one I knew, but not well. But you get to a point in your life when family is family, and that's a bond that transcends so much that seemed to matter when you were a different age in a different time.

We walked to the tent where he was to get his next list of names. Then he turned to me -- "They have an empty space between me and then person reading after me. Want to read some names?"

I said it nonchalantly, but I was a wad of emotions. "Sure."

Thirty names. Thirty people I've never met, would never meet. At first, I scanned the list to make sure I could pronounce them. Then it hit me -- any one of these names could be attached to a person sitting in the audience. They weren't just names.

That's how I read them -- as though family had traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to hear them. For those two minutes, they were the most important names I'd ever speak. 

What an honor.

The rest of the weekend was a good counterpoint to those few hours. I spent Saturday cleaning. I started with one drawer -- we'd set a goal to clean out one closet or one drawer a week. By 3:30, I'd cleaned eight drawers and had vacuumed and dusted much of the house. The guest room is ready for his brother, who shows up this week. I still have much to do, but things are starting to take shape.

We spent Saturday night at the local coffee house listening to a local band. Wow. I had no idea talent like that existed in our little town. J. D. Malone and the Experts sang most of their own songs, but I managed to catch a minute of video on their cover of a Tracy Chapman song. This is a tiny coffee house that seats maybe 75 if you shove them in, and the managers may have been looking for large shoe horns -- they were lined out the door.

Yesterday I went to church, where they're looking for volunteers to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to those without a place to go. I'm going to sign us up for a few hours in the afternoon to help prepare. Our dinner can wait. This is a Catholic church like none I've seen. They have a slew of community service projects going simultaneously, and they provide newcomers with a booklet of the projects and how to sign up to be part of them. Glad to see the Catholics becoming more accessible. 

After that, we headed to Philly and did some "ohming" with my homies -- meditation group. It was a great turnout, and it was good to see some faces that hadn't been there in a few months or more.

Today, I'm having a lunch meeting with a colleague to discuss an upcoming project, then back here to crank out five articles and two case studies. Busy week ahead, which I love.

How was your weekend? What's happening in your work world this week?
Words on the Page