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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Writers Worth: Change One Thing

What's on the iPod: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye

Thanks again to Ashley for yesterday's blog post. I love it when you guys give your perspective. I learn something new every time. Ashley, you framed worth in one of the more creative ways I've seen.

I think the primary challenge we writers have with understanding our worth or our value is understanding how to change the status quo. It's great for you to read any of these posts this month and say "I'm worth so much more!" It's wholly another issue to change what you're doing.

So here's today's challenge:

Change one thing.

Yes, you could sit down today, rewrite (or write) a business plan and marketing strategy that helps you understand your market value and gets you earning more now. I'd encourage you to do that -- sooner rather than later. However, the idea may be too much for you to take on all at once. So choose one thing you're doing now and change it. Here are some areas where you might want to improve on things:

Price. Do a little research. Look at guides like Writer's Market to get a sense of the price range you should be targeting. I'd caution you not to rely on that entirely -- my own prices don't fall within their parameters. But it's a good way to understand what's considered normal versus what you're doing. Also, ask other writers to share their rates with you. Most will. And don't forget to calculate how much you want/need to earn annually to get to your rate.

Clients. If you're working for a client who isn't paying enough, is avoiding paying, or is a handful of trouble, sever that relationship. Don't wait for another gig to come around first -- that rarely happens. However, often after you bid farewell, another client will appear (usually because you've spent that time actively searching).

Where you look. If you find your work through job listings, stop. That's too passive, and frankly, it's depressing ten minutes into it. Instead, spend that time deciding where you new clients are. Draft a killer letter of introduction, and find those clients who both need you and understand your value.

Marketing. If you're marketing the same way you did last year and things are, well, stale, shake it up. Try another way of reaching out to customers. Try new customers. Send them snail mail instead of email. Call. Interact on social media. Send them something useful. There are many ways to reach clients. Go beyond the expected and the overused.

Your skill level. I used to be weak in certain grammar areas. I've changed that by studying grammar and style guides regularly. I may never have textbook-level skills, but my sentences are much improved. Find your weak spots. Work on one at a time until they become non-issues.

Invoicing. If you spend more time fretting over unpaid invoices than cashing the checks, adopt a new invoicing system. Send out no more than three invoices. Each one after the initial invoice should have a late fee attached (and it should be written into your contracts that late fees will be assessed and expected to be paid). That last invoice should go out with the Final Notice -- either the threat of litigation or collections. And make damn sure you follow through. If you merely threaten, you're wasting your own time. Know how you plan to collect before it becomes an issue.

Confidence. That's right -- change your confidence level. That means no more worrying that you'll lose the client if you don't accept their terms verbatim. No more taking questionable work at questionable rates because you're afraid of starving  (you won't). No more allowing clients to control your price, your work hours, your work process, or your business. How do you stop it? By changing your thinking. You own your business -- you're not merely a freelance writer. In fact, until your confidence improves, remove the word "freelance" from your title. You're a business owner. A principal. Approach clients from that perspective.

Writers, what one thing did you change that made a big impact on your success?
Where are your current weak points? How do you plan to overcome them?


Sharon Hurley Hall said...

Confidence is one of the most important factors, Lori. You have to be able to put your own worth above any short term financial gain.

Anne Wayman said...

Yeah, I agree... as we increase our confidence or self-worth the other changes seem to happen...

one way to do that is to find 3 things we're grateful for each and every day... could be 3 things in your business if you want a target.

Paula said...

I like that tip, Anne. At the top my my list of things I'm grateful for would be the great community of writers I've met through you, Lori, Cathy, etc...

Cathy Miller said...

I love these simple tips! You know I ♥ simple. ;-)

And, Paula, right back at 'cha!

Lori, choosing just one thing to change is so smart. We are more likely to follow through. And you nailed the business owner part. In fact, that is one thing I did to change my mindset.

When forms asked for my title after the name of my company (my name), I started putting Owner. I find that more apropos than CEO or President - but whatever works.

Anne, I'll play - 3 things I'm grateful for as a writer. 1) My health, 2) My sense of humor (it keeps me sane), 3) The incredible generosity of our writing community.

Jennifer Mattern said...

Good post Lori! Even the little changes can make a big difference. I can't even count how many times dropping a bad client or trying a new productivity tool or changing my rates led to much bigger and better things. :)

Georganna Hancock M.S. said...

Best single change I made was to insist on a down payment before work begins - even rush jobs. Then, final payments before finished product is delivered. Once burned ... never again!

Great post! :-)

Lori said...

Sharon, Anne, I think confidence is the most powerful attribute we writers can possess. It saves us from ourselves, so to speak. :)

Paula, we're glad you're part of our orbit, too. :)

I like that, Cathy. "Owner" has a different connotation than "freelancer." I've been tempted to start using my business name again just to get a little more respect out of some of the tough birds.

Amen, Jenn. One thing -- hard to believe how a single change can have such a bit impact.

Georganna, I miss seeing you here! Glad you came back around. :) I'm with you -- money up front or no dice. Only those proven to pay are trusted without down payments, and they have to be PROVEN over and over.

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