Are you the kind of person who’s always coming up with great ideas? The next “big thing”? I certainly do, and I really do have some off-the-chart, awesome ideas. But what good are they if I never do anything with them?
I got to thinking about this because of this really cool blog plug-in called Post Ideas. Whenever I think of a nice blog post to write, I add it to my Post Ideas. The problem is, I never get around to actually writing these posts.
So here’s the first of the post ideas that have been sitting around collecting dust. My library of ideas is full, and I have no excuse to keep you wondering when I’ll next write a post.
Also along the lines of big ideas, feel free to contact me if you need an idea for something. I have a million of them. Just the other day I thought of a really sweet music video. If you’re a friend of N.E.R.D or any other band, let me know. It’s a hit (I don’t have music or lyrics, just the concept for a video). I don’t mind sharing my brilliance if I wasn’t planning on using it myself anyway.
Do you have a storehouse of ideas? What are your plans for them?
Recently I agreed to do an editing project for an acquaintance of mine. We agreed that I would be getting paid for my services, and I agreed to work for less than I usually do.
This may not be a problem on its own, but I made the HUGE mistake of not getting a written contract. Or even a spoken contract. I trusted the acquaintance and thought that I’d at least get paid a fair wage for my work.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I know the damage is done.
Being a nice guy is great, I suppose, but if you want to get paid properly you really need to get some kind of contract. By just letting things fall where they may you set yourself up to be used. You can be a nice guy by giving your friend, family member, or acquaintance a “nice” contract to sign. It may seem harsh, but it’s the only way you can (sort of) protect yourself.
Even with a contract there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid. This is one reason it makes sense to get some type of deposit up-front…at least you get something for your work. But without a contract you set yourself up for getting nothing at all.
What kind of contract should you write?
The simplest (and maybe nicest) contract is an email exchange. After you talk on the phone or in person and iron out the details, send a short email summarizing what price and terms you’ve agreed to. I did do this with my last client, but I didn’t do one more crucial step. Before you start working on the project, WAIT for your client’s emailed response. In that responding email the client should clearly concur with your summation.
Another method is to write up a general agreement that outlines your terms and the price you’re charging. You should sign it and then give it to your client to sign. Either make a copy of the signed agreement or just have two agreements for the each of you to sign. Once you have that in hand, go ahead and start working on the assignment.
Contracts that are spoken — oral agreements — are legally binding, but they’re difficult to prove and, therefore, difficult to enforce. Don’t feel like you’re being a bad guy by running your business properly. As a benefit, you’ll start finding that clients treat you with respect when you command it from the beginning.
What kinds of contracts have you used for your freelance work? Do you have any horror stories?
Follow up. We hear it a thousand times. If you go for a job interview, make cold calls, or deal with a business for just about anything, it’s apparently crucial that you follow up.
Well after that initial contact — that initial great impression — the person you met with gets busy doing their everyday thing. And unfortunately, they start to forget things. Even that amazing conversation they had with you. Or even if they don’t forget, they get a follow-up call/email/letter from another candidate, and your brilliance suddenly becomes out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
Here’s a quick and easy follow up method. Hopefully it will work, even for the laziest among us:
Before you head to the interview or appointment, address and put postage on your thank-you note’s envelope.
During your appointment, start thinking about what you’ll say in your personalized follow-up note. For more ideas on how to accomplish this, take a peek at this Freelance Switch article on following up.
As soon as you get home, write a personalized handwritten or typed note. If your initial communication was via phone, write a follow-up note before the end of the day.
Using some type of reminder system (Outlook, tickler files, cellphone, calendar), set a date no more than a month in advance to send another follow-up note. This one will be similar to the first “thank you” note, but it should mention how excited you are to eventually work with them.
If you’ve gotten no negative remarks, go ahead and schedule another note that goes out during a holiday or something similar. The point is to stay on your prospect’s mind in case a gig becomes available.
In my experience, the most difficult thing about following up is committing to doing it. If you’re pretty good at following up with potential clients, what’s your secret? Do you have a different method to share?
Blogging has been fun for the past 2 years, but recently it seems I’ve lost my mojo. I think about Crayon Writer everyday, but somehow I never could make myself put my fingers to the keyboard.
Part of it has to do with being a perfectionist. I didn’t reach my 400 cold call goal, and I haven’t followed up properly with those calls that I did make. But I have to realize that life still happened and perhaps my readers still want to know what’s going on.
So how am I going to find my lost mojo?
I’ve decided that I’m just going to write about whatever’s going on, even if it isn’t directly related to my writing business.
Crayon Writer is a blog about my life as a single mother of a now 4-year-old daughter, and it’s about my goal of being a freelance-writing, work-at-home parent. Along the way I may work a full-time job, struggle with daycare, and dabble in less lucrative writing ventures. In other words, I may just live life while I reach for my goals.
Though I haven’t done a poll in a while (a long while, actually), please feel free to let me know what you think of my new method to finding my lost blogging passion. A couple of readers did tell me they enjoyed Crayon Writer because it was about a real life aspiring writer. If that’s what you enjoy too, you’re definitely in the right place.
A couple of weeks ago I started my Well-Fed Challenge. My goal is to make 400 cold calls to local businesses in 20 work days, letting them know I’m a freelance writer and finding out what their needs are. August 20 is my deadline.
So how am I doing?
So far I’ve made 103 calls! Yay!
Of those 103 calls, about 58 agreed I could send them my online commercial writing portfolio. Mind you, many of them were secretaries who were probably trying to get me off the phone, but it counts. I can now add them to my snail-mailing list of potential clients.
Of the 58 who gave me their email addresses, 18 were “hot” prospects. Either they use freelancer writers or they were very interested in seeing my portfolio. One of them even wants to interview me for a part-time position teaching copywriting at their college. I have the interview next week!
The companies I targeted for this first round all have a website, and were listed as having 25-250 employees in my library’s database. They are also all local. I made sure to have a few website designers, graphic designers, and advertising agencies in there too (so I wouldn’t get a million no’s).
One of my tactics is to be sure to ask for an email address every time, even if the secretary agreed to send me to voicemail. This is something Peter Bowerman suggests in The Well-Fed Writer. I figure that once I have an email address I can send future correspondence by snail mail (postcards, letters, etc.). I’ll start my snail mail follow-up campaign in a week or two.
Now for the downside.
I had to alter my plans a bit. I wanted to make 20-25 calls every day, but child care wasn’t available every day. So several days had to be skipped. On days when I did have child care, I sometimes would only have 2 hours to make my calls (and research each company a little bit before each call).
Also, when I did make my calls for the day, I still had to find time to go back and send emails with a link to my portfolio. With limited child care, and with a limited amount of steam (I fall asleep at about 10pm, shortly after my daughter goes to bed), I found that I needed to create time to send those emails. Sometimes I had to take time away from calling to do that.
After all, making the calls doesn’t get my information in front of people. Most of my calls are for information gathering only.
Next week will be a challenge. I have that interview, a doctor’s appointment, and I’m going to investigate another childcare provider. I will probably only be able to make calls and send emails on just 2 or 3 days (I hope).
Even if I don’t make my goal, I’ll keep reaching for it. Stay tuned!
Do you give up when you realize you can’t make your goal, do you keep trying, or do you alter your goal?
When you need help staying motivated and on-task, it makes sense to issue yourself a challenge. And what better way than to publicly challenge yourself. If you’re game, join me and we can have a mini-contest.
The other day I started reading The Well-Fed Writer (I’m reading the ebook version until the hard copy arrives). So now I have a plan of action.
I started out with my local library’s business database. I did a search for companies in my local area with more than 20 employees. I also made sure they had web addresses, so I can do a little research while I make my cold calls.
Using a free database like this, though, I could only print/download up to 25 records per search. So that meant searching repeatedly. Anyway, I have a list of about 200 businesses now.
My goal is to make 400 calls in the next 20 workdays, starting tomorrow. That gives me until August 20, 2009. When I’m not able to call, I’ll send out cold emails at least, and I’ll follow-up with a phone call.
Now that I’ve decided to make my freelance writing business really work, I realize it’s time to make some serious moves.
First thing’s first. I need powerful ammunition to stay on-task and motivated. The first book I read on freelance commercial writing was The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman. His book laid out an easy-to-follow blueprint for success, and when I followed directions I really did make money. I had clients, a decent income, and I was on my way.
I do tend to get side-tracked (as you know), and Peter’s book was written mostly from his point-of-view. But he just published a new, updated, expanded edition. There are lots of anecdotes from other successful commercial writers, and I’m just so impressed with what he’s accomplished with this edition.
And his book came at just the right time. Right after I made my decision to get serious with my business, I got an email from him alerting me to his newest book. Serendipitous!
I’m also impressed with Peter’s willingness to answer questions. I’ve had several replies from him, though I’m careful not to overdo asking him stuff. Being personable has won me over as a fan. I’d buy and promote almost anything he writes since he takes the time to respond to inquiries.
Do you have dreams of becoming a successful commercial writer? Maybe we could start a writer’s group to motivate each other. Or if you already have a freelance writing business, maybe you need a good kick in the rear too.
Click on this link to check out the new edition of The Well-Fed Writer. You can buy it in ebook or hardcopy formats (or both), and there are a few other ebooks you should consider as well. I also got the Toolbox and Timeline, both of which are well-worth it.
When you buy it, let me know. I’d love to have others to discuss it with, and you can feel free to leave a mini-review in the comments.
What are you waiting for? Check out the 2009 The Well-Fed Writer and let me know if you’re as impressed with it as I am. His site also has a bunch of free things too, so if you’re even a little bit interested you should head over to The Well-Fed Writer.
Have you been bitten by the commercial writing bug?
Blogging is something I enjoy, especially when I get to hear feedback from my readers.
But as a blogger, when you’re not sure what to write about, it makes sense to find out who your readers are.
First, let me remind you about who I am: mother, freelance business writer, business owner, blogger, wannabe computer geek, and social networker. I’ve been juggling and struggling with being the single mother of a now four-year-old girl while trying to have a successful freelance writing business. I’ve stopped my dream while working at part-time and full-time jobs, I’ve been a stay-at-home/work-at-home mother, and who knows what’ll happen next.
Now it’s your turn! In the comments, tell me a bit about who you are. Besides telling me who you are, let me know why you read my blog, how you found me, and how often you visit.
I’d like to get to know my readers so you know the other readers you’re talking with, and so I can get a better idea of what you might like to read when you visit Crayon Writer.
And if you’re a blogger or Twitterer too, feel free to leave a link to your blog and/or Twitter username. You might make a few friends while you’re here too!
So introduce yourself and talk amongst yourselves. And welcome (back)!
Thanks to Twitter, I’ve been reading a ton of wonderful articles these days. Now I want to share some with you in this Monday Minute. And if you haven’t joined Twitter yet, you really should. And you can start by following Crayon Writer.