Tag Archives: freelancing

Six Tips for Making “Free” Work a Success

If you are a freelance writer, artist or have a talent, offer a service or product, you will be asked to give it away for free. Often it comes with the promise of “getting your name out—good marketing.” I’ve talked about avoiding false marketing schemes, but today the issue is different.

Donating your work for free can be a gift to you. . .

A good way to get your services, company’s name or your own name in front of people is to donate your product or services in a way that it will get seen by your target audience. The key is, as always, the right audience. Let’s assume you are fielding requests from several good organizations, all with your target audience.

The request involves both your time and materials, which have a value. They also require time and effort, which has a financial worth–part of the price. (Price and value are two completely different things.)

. . . or donating can be a load of, well, you know.

How much should you give away? How much free time is too much to give away? Don’t get angry at people for asking you. It’s a sign they think you will generate traffic for them, so it is flattering. Be smart when you make donating time, services and product part of your marketing budget. (You don’t have a marketing budget, do you? OK, I know. But this will still work for you.)

1. Treat the request as a real job. Never give away something sloppy because you aren’t charging for it. If you are contributing, it represents you, so it has to be your best. Many requests will try to make the request look smaller by saying “just send anything.” Don’t do that. What you send represents you to your potential audience. Send your best.

2. Limit your time and costs. Not by being fast or sloppy, but through smart time management. Instead of starting from scratch, re-write a good article for this specific audience. Make new art, but not with a new technique. Create something you already know how to make, but in a new color.

3. Know when to say ‘no.’ Ask about the deadline before you agree. Most requests for “free” also come with tight deadlines. Don’t be afraid to turn down a request if the deadline doesn’t work for you. Know your limit for “free.” A good rule of thumb is between 5 percent and 10 percent of your non-committed time in any quarter. That figure includes all charitable work–from volunteering to producing. And count in all of your production–planning, buying materials, production.  (Check with your tax person about how much of these donations are tax deductible. It’s much less than you think–your time isn’t tax deductible in most cases.)

4. Plan out the project. Let’s say you offer to write an 800 word article. Use your calendar to block out the time for research, writing, re-writing, proofreading, as if it were a real assignment. The entire block of time is now not available for any other charity work. Putting it in your calendar is a handy reminder to do the work, but also a good reminder that you can’t do any more volunteer work at the same time.

5. Understand your motivation and stick to it. Most of us get in trouble because we want to be nice, friendly, helpful and loved. So we don’t say ‘no.’ We say ‘yes,’ become resentful, rushed, and do a bad job. And inadvertently become not-nice, cranky, a problem and hated. The opposite of what we wanted in the first place. You cannot accept work to be loved if you don’t have time to be loved.

6. Know how to say ‘no.’ Saying ‘no’ doesn’t have to be a rejection of the person who asked.  Here are some ways to say no that are both clear and kind–and that’s the real key to turning down an offer. Be clear and kind.

Say ‘no’ to now, but offer a time that’s realistic for you. “Thank you for asking for an article, Mary, I’m honored you want me to be a guest blogger. I’m booked up for the next two weeks, so tomorrow doesn’t work for me. I could get you something in three weeks from Thursday. Would that work for you?”

–Say ‘no’ because you have booked up all your volunteer time. This shows you are already loved and booked. “Thanks for asking, Mary, but Carlos asked me last week, so my volunteer time for March is already booked. I’m honored you asked.” Delivered with a smile, this feels good and is clear.

Point to another source. This will make you a valuable resource and not cost you future work. “Thanks for the offer, Mary, normally I’d jump at the chance. I’m booked right now, but you might want to ask Haji. He’d be great for your project.”

Free work, handled like real work, can be a good marketing idea. Or it can be the project from hell. Either way, it’s yours to accept or turn down. Don’t create your own hell, I learned that lesson the very publicly embarrassing way.

Images: Giftbox from VectorDiary.com, garbage truck from DailyBargain.com

Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist and certified creativity coach. She’s made her fair share of mistakes and, painfully, what she should have done instead.

Freelancers and Perspective

If you read the blog, you’ve seen several articles on perspective. (Here’s one using a fence,  one with a Homer Simpson tree,  the ugly dog mindset, and one using landscaping). Most people think perspective is an artist app, or maybe a New Age-y way of looking at life. But for a freelancer, knowing how to work with perspective can be the difference between saving and losing a client relationship.

Do your math. Is the client worth keeping?Case A: Ms. Freelancer is a trainer. She has several clients, and Client A wants to lock the training days in place for the company’s budget. In July, at the beginning of the fiscal year, Client A and Ms. Freelancer agree to 5 training days through December. In October, two days before the training date, Ms. Freelancer calls Client A to confirm the upcoming training hours and ask for final registration numbers. Client A is flustered, having forgotten. There are only three people registered. Client A cancels the class and apologizes. Ms. Freelancer is left with no class, no pay, and not enough time to replace the work. Client A says, “Enjoy the unexpected day off.

Problem: To Client A, the only consequence is embarrassment. To Ms. Freelancer, the problem is both financial and supplies–she’s spent now-unpaid time preparing the class and money on class materials which now need to be stored for the next time.

Perspective: Ms. Freelancer makes money only on days she works. Client A gets paid every two weeks, no matter how much or little she works. She has no idea that she has caused financial problems for Ms. Freelancer. An unscheduled day off looks very different for each of these people. For Client A, it looks like a day of fun. For Ms. Freelancer, it could easily mean a bill-paying problem. Maybe even a grocery-restriction problem.

A contract is a negotiable document before it's signed.

Case B: Ms. Freelancer has saved dates for Client A, and lost one of them. Client B calls and asks for a training, which must be held on a date already promised to Client A. Ms. Freelancer worries that Client A may cancel another class and begins to wonder if it wouldn’t be smart to cancel Client A’s class and take Client B’s.

Problem: To Ms. Freelancer, having been burned, lining up another client might seem like a good idea. To Client A, it means a break in trust, and possibly a cancellation of the rest of the job.

Perspective: To Ms. Freelancer, having once been burned, it might look like a good idea to take on Client B. To Client A, it will look like a break in trust and contract. To Client B, cancellation will look like an unreliable freelancer at work. (Or not at work.)

Solutions: In both cases, it’s a matter of client education. A good idea is to add a kill fee into the contract. If the class is canceled less than a week in advance, the client pays a fee to the freelancer. Often, however, the client will refuse this. That’s how it is for most contracts–both parties want to have the upper hand. This is a time to negotiate. Before that, it’s good to explain to a client how life works for a freelancer. Don’t fall into the “I can’t buy groceries” trap. Showing neediness to a client is like having an overly-needy friend–you immediately want to push away, knowing that no matter what you do, it won’t be enough.

Better to say, “When you cancel, you are breaking the contract. When you do it with one-day notice, I have no way of replacing the training day, and I lose money. The purpose of our contract is to assure you that your group will be trained, and assure me that I will be paid. If you want to change the contract, we can talk about it. But canceling a day I have reserved for you needs to be covered financially.”

While that sounds tough, freelancers need to be clear. The client doesn’t have your perspective and can’t be expected to. When explained objectively, there is a better chance for good results. The other important part of perspective discussions, is to show the same situation if the client got the fuzzy end of the lollipop–if you canceled with one day’s notice.

Of course, one discussion won’t fit all sizes. Your experiences will vary. A client who is sloppy and cancels routinely is one that you need to drop. And that might require a shift in your perspective–a lousy client isn’t a client, it’s a financial liability.

Quinn McDonald is a trainer, writer, and author.

 

Freelancing: It’s Not for Everybody

If you just got laid off, don’t think of yourself as a freelancer by force. In fact, if you don’t want to be a freelancer, immediately begin a job search.Call all your friends, contacts and acquaintances, use LinkedIn and Twitter, post your resume, and do something every day to look for a job. Just don’t call yourself a freelancer.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
(c) Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calling yourself a freelancer or consultant because you got laid off helps no one. You will not do good work, you won’t have your heart in it, and you will damage the reputation of those of us who freelance or consult full time.

Freelancing is not the place to be for 3 months till you find something better. Printing business cards identifying yourself as a consultant when you don’t know exactly what you are consulting on is not fair to your career or your potential client’s business.

Freelancing is a full-time job of searching for, and working for, a number of clients. Freelancing springs you from the job of commuting, the pressure of pleasing a boss, the worry of promotions or office politics. Freelancing also lets you worry about steady work, increases your stress as you take on multiple clients, all with different priorities, and lets you figure out how to find and keep health insurance. Freelance writing is not for the confused, the weak or the unsure.

For those of us who own our business, who write every day, who make meaning when we write, even if it is for someone else, can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. The risks are not as important as the amazing rewards of tackling new work, completing it and growing with each writing assignment.

There are organizations every freelancer should know about. They can help you find jobs, untangle contracts and provide some help getting the right kind of jobs, jobs that pay well in an age of “everything on the Web should be free.”

The  National Writer’s Union is available for freelancers who make money writing. The fee is a sliding scale, from $120 to $420, depending on your income. Benefits include a job hotline, members’ discussion groups, a press pass, and access to their resources.

The Author’s Guild offers its members free book contract reviews from experienced legal staff, discounted health insurance rates in some states, low-cost website services including website-building, e-mail, and domain name registration, plus some other benefits. First year dues are $90. If you live in New York, Florida or Massachusettes, you can subscribe to health insurance.

You might also want to check out other resources for freelancers.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and certified creativity coach. She runs workshops and seminars training others in business communications.

Saying “No” and Keeping the Client Relationship

There are times in your freelance career when all of your clients seem to converge on your at once.  All of them needed a fast turnaround. All of them have gotten quick responses from you before. And none of them knew you were in the middle of a project that was sucking up time faster than a Shop-Vac sucks up dust bunnies, on a project that demanded focus and came with a tight deadline.

NoYou beg off two projects only to get hurt or angry emails, insisting you help and pointing to some guilt lurking off-stage that guarantees wincing on your part.

Several years ago I accepted too much paying and non-paying work and paid the price of humiliation and unfinished, promised work. Not wanting to do that again, I gathered up my coaching stamina and skills. . .and stayed up till 3 a.m. for three nights doing everything so people would like me. Damn. Personal growth can be a bitch.

Here’s what I learned. (I hate learning while it’s going on; afterwards, it’s always worthwhile. But when i see a learning experience coming on, I cringe.)

–People who don’t do your work invariably underestimate how much time and effort is involved. You cannot explain it because they don’t want to listen, they want results.

–When people ask you to re-write something,  they think it will take 10 minutes. It doesn’t. It takes 3 hours. When you open the email request,  send back an email that says, “This will take me 3 hours, and I can get to it next week. Is that all right?” When you get back an email that says, “I thought it would take 10 minutes, I just want you to glance at it and give me advice,” reply, “Nope, that’s 3 hours. Next week OK?” The key is to stick to the time it will take you and when you can get to it. Let the requester decide if that fits their deadline. If they tell you they need it sooner, you can honestly say you are booked. That’s the point where you started.

–In an ideal world, people get their work done before the deadline. In my world, I get requests to look at this “right away.” If I’m jammed up myself, I make up bad pictures of them thinking I have nothing to do and how inconsiderate is that? In reality, they aren’t thinking of me at all, they are trying to get something done. Back goes an email, “I’m jammed up right now, I can get to this in three days.” You have to stand up for yourself. Without making up ugly stuff about your colleagues. Just stick to the facts.

If you don’t want to do it, simply say “I can’t take this on right now.” You don’t have to offer more explanation. That’s hard, because we want people to like us and tell us it’s all right. But people are not concerned about what we want, they are concerned about what they want. Which is why they don’t care once you’ve said “no.” It’s amazing how well it works

If only I could follow my own advice. Meanwhile, you are free to try it out.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who is still learning, and plans on making a life out of learning. You can see her work at QuinnCreative.com

Choosing the Life of a Feelancer

If you just got laid off, don’t think of yourself as a freelancer by force. In fact, if you don’t want to be a freelancer, immediately begin a job search.Call all your friends, contacts and acquaintances, use social networking, post your resume, and do something every day to look for a job. Just don’t call yourself a freelancer.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

(c) Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calling yourself a freelancer or consultant because you got laid off helps no one. You will not do good work, you won’t have your heart in it, and you will damage the reputation of those of us who freelance or consult full time.

Freelancing is not the place to be for 3 months till you find something better. Printing business cards identifying yourself as a consultant when you don’t know exactly what you are consulting on is not fair to your career or your potential client’s business.

Freelancing is a full-time job of searching for, and working for, a number of clients. Freelancing springs you from the job of commuting, the pressure of pleasing a boss, the worry of promotions or office politics. Freelancing also lets you worry about steady work, increases your stress as you take on multiple clients, all with different priorities, and lets you figure out how to find and keep health insurance. Freelance writing is not for the confused, the weak or the unsure.

For those of us who own our business, who write every day, who make meaning when we write, even if it is for someone else, can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. The risks are not as important as the amazing rewards of tackling new work, completing it and growing with each writing assignment.

There are organizations every freelancer should know about. They can help you find jobs, untangle contracts and provide some help getting the right kind of jobs, jobs that pay well in an age of “everything on the Web should be free.”

The  National Writer’s Union is available for freelancers who make money writing. The fee is a sliding scale, from $120 to $420, depending on your income. Benefits include a job hotline, members’ discussion groups, a press pass, and access to their resources.

The Author’s Guild offers its members free book contract reviews from experienced legal staff, discounted health insurance rates in some states, low-cost website services including website-building, e-mail, and domain name registration, plus some other benefits. First year dues are $90. If you live in New York, Florida or Massachusettes, you can subscribe to health insurance.

You might also want to check out other resources for freelancers.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and certified creativity coach. She runs workshops and seminars training others in business communications.

Freelancing in 2009: Resources for Writers

The sky is not falling. This may come as a shock: stop chewing yourself up about the economy. If you are a freelancer, stop even sooner.

Daily writing

Daily writing

Why am I being so seemingly callous? First, because you are not in charge of the economy, and simply worrying about it helps no one, least of all your bank balance

Freelancing is still lucrative. Second, because freelancers may have a break in this economy. There have been business layoffs, and the few are left to do the work of many. That makes freelancers more attractive than full-time employees.

  • Freelancers save companies money by not getting benefits
  • Freelancers don’t take up space
  • If we are smart, we don’t get involved in company drama
  • If we are smarter, we hand in work on time and within budget
  • That makes hiring freelancers attractive and smart. In turn, that makes being a freelancer lucrative. For those who are willing to work at it. (How do you know if you are freelancer material?)

    Having gotten that out of the way, if you want to be a freelance writer, you have to construct a list of resources.

    Below are some decent places to look for freelance work. Before you start opening links, please understand that these are not magic writer-ATMs, and that you won’t make money instantly by clicking on the link.

    Every resource has the potential to be a scam, not what you wanted, too much work. Being a freelancer means that you have to do your own heavy lifting to find work. Here, then are the resources.

    Suite 101 seems to be looking for writers all the time. Make sure you know how (or if) they pay. Many of these sites pay only after you have a certain number of readers.

    Craigslist.org is a old favorite, and offers range from outrageous scams to, well, real work. The trick is not to limit yourself to the city in which you live. Many writing jobs don’t demand your presence in an office. Check out larger cities in your state, or check various-size cities for your niche.

    Ed2010.com lists all sorts of editing/writing-related jobs, so you will have to dig, possibly hard. They also have how-to articles, which are a resource all by themselves. Yes, there are full-time, location-specific, must-be-here jobs, but that may also be an opportunity to explore. I have found good freelancing gigs by offering to work part- or short-time, giving the hiring manager more time to find the right person.

    Freelance Writing Gigs has a huge following. It has tips, hints, how-tos and lists that are, thanks goodness, updated regularly, which probably accounts for it’s huge following among freelancers.

    Freelance Success is a subscription-based site. It costs $99 a year, so it’s for serious freelancers. Before you shrug it off because you think everything on the Web should be free, you should know that the jobs are the better ones, at least $.50/word.

    Media Bistro offers classes, job listings, and articles. While this site is largely for media jobs (producers, music mixers) looking for full-time jobs, it’s useful for it’s breadth of work available, classes and the ability to set parameters for exactly the job you are looking for among the listing.

    Wooden Horse provides freelancers with a free newsletter and a fee-based database of new/existing magazines that provide writing, photography, poetry opportunities. You can access the database —one year for $119 (while it’s on special) or six months for $69.00 (also on current special).

    Writers Market is a listing of publications, their requirements and contact information. You may be familiar with the book, this is the online version. You can access their Website for free, but the database is fee-based.

    –Quinn McDonald is a freelance writer, life- and creativity coach. She runs workshops in business communications and personal journal writing.

    Managing Phone Time

    “Call me anytime.”
    “Use my cell, I always have it with me.”
    “I’ll be home, give me a call.”
    Phrases I hear all the time, but know aren’t true. The phone has become a casual piece of entertainment to most people, but it’s the chief way I communicate with clients. I finally purchased an unlimited minutes cellphone plan, not because I love yakking, but because my cellphone is my business phone.

    images-1.jpegIf you own your business your phone is your marketing system, lifeline, communication tool. If you are like me, at the end of the day, you don’t want to talk anymore. Your ear hurts. But other people have a different view. Many people believe that if you own your business you have lots of free time. So it doesn’t matter when they call.

    As a writer, and a developer of writing training programs, I have deadlines. And I need to schedule. Because I am also a life- and creativity coach, I have to set times and guidelines. When someone says, “give me a call anytime tonight,” my reply is never “OK,” my reply is “How about 7?”

    Often the answer is “Whenever,” but that won’t do. I have a West Coast conference call at 6:30 p.m. It has a firm beginning and end. At 7:30, I have a coaching call, for a client that doesn’t want to talk at work. So my available time is 7 to 7:30. It’s hard to explain this to people who go to work and come home at regular times, and once they are home they are free to choose their schedule.

    “Sure, call me at 7″ they answer, but when I call, they are on the phone. I leave a message and start to prepare for my next call. That means taking care of physical needs (drinking water or putting it back), or standing up and stretching, looking up something, making a note so I won’t forget.

    The phone rings and it’s my friend. “Geez, you are so prompt. I was talking to. . .” I look at the clock. Five minutes to the coaching call.
    “What’s up?” I interrupt.
    “I thought we’d talk about that meeting we’re going to.” I know this is a long talk, involving content planning and who will drive and where we’ll eat.
    “I can drive, and you can choose the restaurant,” I say, now at 3 minutes left.
    “What do you want to do your presentation on?”
    “I thought I’d do it on communicating with people you like and know, but don’t have time for,” I say, thinking this is a topic I’m an expert at.
    “OK, so let’s talk.”
    “I can’t. I have a call. I can talk tomorrow at 2 or at 5. Which is better?”
    “Oh, call me anytime tomorrow. I’ll be home all day.”

    When you own your own business, time is a currency that needs to be budgeted and counted. To those who see time as a space to be filled, the geometry of talking doesn’t match with the neatly packed rolls of quarter-hours to be doled out.

    –Image: http://www.infowit.com

    –Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She watches the clock, and tries to explain the measurement system to others, often without success. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

    Marketing When You Don’t Have Time

    Whether you are an artist, freelance writer, or any small business owner, you know you have to market yourself and your work.  And as soon as this crush slows down a bit, you plan on doing just that.

    Now it’s too late. The time to do marketing is when you don’t need to because you are busy, when you don’t have free time. Once you have free time, it takes weeks for the marketing to work and money isn’t coming in. I hate hearing it; I hate saying it, and it’s true. So I devised a way to get around the roadblocks and market.

    One of the ways I market my work is to publish articles in magazines and ezines. Published work not only displays your talent and expertise, but the clips also help you market your work to others. There is a certain amount of drudgery involved in pitching your work,  getting rejections, finding another magazine, re-writing and then re-pitching your work.

    I write an article–just getting down the ideas. What Ann Lamott calls a “zero draft”–not even a first draft. If the article is longer than a page, I staple it together and stick it in the yellow folder in my bag. When I’m in line at the post office, the grocery store, or waiting at the dentist, I pull out the folder and read through the articles. Sometimes I circle a paragraph and mark it for deletion, other times I’ll write notes in the margin. I don’t line edit it. I’m not ready for that, I’m still working on the idea stage.

    When I’m waiting for a client to call back, when I can’t read another email, when I have a few minutes of time, but no more, I pull out the zero draft and review the notes. Sometimes the zero draft is really two different articles. Sometimes the zero draft is not worth keeping. If the article has promise, I’ll write the first draft, and toss it back into the folder. Over time, creativity wins out. The articles get written, re-written, edited and polished.

    When I send them out, I am no longer attached to them. Rejections don’t crush my spirit. And because there are more of them in the folder, if one is rejected, another one can go out. Or the rejected one can be rewritten.

    The marketing benefit comes from producing publishable articles without setting aside weeks of time to do it. The emotional benefit is that staying objective about the articles helps you pitch and rewrite more efficiently. There is the added benefit of not buying candy while you are in the supermarket line and not being as anxious when the dentist calls your name.

    It’s a slow process that makes the most of how creativity works. Your brain keeps working on the writing, even if you are not focusing on it directly, and the process moves forward in small, but definite steps. When you get an article accepted, it seems like a bonus. Over time, I’ve noticed that I get more and more accepted, and the checks are an incentive to keep working.

    –Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com