Quick & Easy Traps

What’s on the iPod: Fear of Falling by The Badlees

What a day yesterday. I’d like to tell you how much work I accomplished. I’d like to tell you how much marketing happened. I’d like to – but I can’t. I managed the Home page for a Web project, a phone call with a potential client, a trip to Staples, another trip to Fedex/Kinkos, a lawn mowing, a quick trip to Marshall’s for some conference clothes (I swore I wouldn’t but I thought dresses will be more versatile than pants), dinner, and then a hockey game that nearly made me cry. It certainly made me curse, but that’s another story.

Actually, I guess I did get a lot done. I had to make over my brochure, too. A few tweaks and a color scheme change, which wasn’t too bad. However, fool that I am, I introduced an error. Publisher is a pain to proofread in, so yes, the error made it into the final, paid-for product. It was an apostrophe. It was killing me, so I took a Sharpie to every one of the brochures. Also, I opened Publisher and made the correction in case I use this template again. Ugh. My own worst nightmare sometimes.

I was contacted by yet another company, so I have plenty to do this week preparing for booth visits. I bought ten portfolio folders at Staples, but I’m not sure I’ll have time to fill them. I like to leave them with clients. Perhaps the better idea is to send them to them after the show (no one likes to carry extra stuff home). If I do that, that will free up about two hours of my time this week. I desperately need those two hours.

On top of all that, I’m trying to get posts done for Writers Worth Week. It begins the day after I get home, and I decided to do a blog tour this year. Great, but my timing is pathetic. I have five posts out to their respective sites, two more to write, then posts to get ready for this blog for the next two weeks.

And in the best news, I got an email from an editor on this new story I’d sent him. He praised it. It felt good to hear him saying how well researched and written it was. He said it was obvious I’d put a lot of work into it. It didn’t feel like work – it was a blast to dig this stuff up. Maybe that fun I was having showed. But damn, that feels good to get a note like that! We freelancers don’t exactly get pats on the back regularly, do we? Actually, I don’t think our office counterparts do, either.

I was talking with a fellow writer I’d met on a forum. He reached out after I’d joined up to encourage everyone to work harder at their careers and stop lamenting the low-paying jobs (surprise, huh?). I like his style. He’s decided his worth isn’t being met, so he’s changing his methods and reworking a soon-to-launch marketing campaign. Good for him!

It made me think about my current workload. We all do it – we take the “quick” and “easy” jobs to fill in the gaps. It’s fine, but not if those jobs become a primary staple. I’ve been doing resumes for four years (maybe longer). It started as a supplement, became a full-time, stress-filled job, then I quit that client and found a better one.

It’s back to being a supplement, but I had to cycle through the job having a lot of projects and too few writers (meaning we all worked harder), and cycle back to just a smattering here and there. If you don’t plan for it to drop off, you get stuck with a smaller check and no additional work.

I’m an advocate for having at least two regular gigs to sustain you should a client or two disappear. Ideally, I think three regular clients are best because once upon a time, I lost two regular clients one right after the other. At that time, I have four regular clients. It hurt, but it didn’t sink me.

So how many regular clients do you have now? By regular I mean any client needing monthly or more frequent work from you. If you have a magazine editor you can rely on for assignments should you need it, count it. How do you find your regular clients?

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  • Eileen April 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Send your folders after the conference. It's another touch point, and you want lots of those.

    How many clients? This year I have one. One. Yes. One client. It was a huge risk, and I love it. In theory, I could take any more assignments that I want, but so far, not much has come up, and I probably wouldn't have time any way. I have a year's contract, which can be cancelled by either party with 30 days' notice, and if that happens, it happens. The work, the team, the collaboration, the subject matter, and the pay are all a joy. It is truly a freelancer's dream. I know how to rebuild a business from scratch if I have to, so this one is worth the risk.

    In the past, I typically had three "anchor" clients, who represented about 2/3 of my income. The final third was from a smattering of different assignments. I recommend every freelancer do a spreadsheet or a pie chart or whatever floats your boat and clearly identify where your income comes from. It's very eye opening and will help you to adjust your marketing if needed.

  • Lori April 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Yes, but I suspect you're well compensated for that one, Eileen. You're working onsite, right? I don't see how you could take more clients on under those conditions.

    Great idea on the flow chart! Seeing it graphed is eye-opening.

  • Eileen April 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Yes, I'm very well compensated. Nope, I'm not on site. I'm in the Mid-Atlantic, he's in the Midwest. Lots of skype phone conferences do the trick. I don't think I could ever work onsite; I'd feel like I was in jail.

  • Cathy April 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Lori, can't wait to hear how the conference goes for you. I had a similar idea for the SHRM Conference in San Diego last year, but had t pull out when my Mom needed surgery.

    Right now I would say I have 2 1/2 regular clients. Two have ongoing monthly assignments and the other has assignments every other month. I have two more that float in at least once a quarter.

  • Devon Ellington April 26, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Another big difference between your area of the business and mine — if I meet with someone, they want to take away the materials at that moment, not have it sent to them.

    I'm always wary of regular clients — I like Eileen's name, "anchor clients", that feels less restrictive for me. I've got one right now, well, two if you count the publisher who's putting out the book in July and to whom I have to get my second book soon. I think, after this next marketing push, I'll probably have a few local clients. We'll see. I'm juggling a bunch of fiction projects right now, and the business freelancing really has to be once-and-done for the moment. If I'm on a roll with the novel and i have to stop for four hours for a business project, I've lost my momentum for the day. And if I know I have a business writing deadline hanging over me, it hurts the time put aside for fiction. I'd like to stack in a lot more once-and-dones in the next few months, since I plan to take August completely off, due to the fact that September – December are insanely booked. My bank account will be thrilled,but I'll be pulling very long days for those four months.

    It will be worth it next year, though.

  • Lori April 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Cathy, SHRM is a great conference. I can see why you wanted to go!

    Eileen, glad you're not chained to an office! I think my head would explode if I had to do that again.

    Devon, from my experiences with these conference attendees in the past, they don't want to lug home more stuff. I have the brochures, which they'll get, but my portfolios are going out with the post-show thank yous. I'll have one to show them, then I'll promise to send them their own later. By then I'll have been able to weed out the lookie-loos, too.

    I'm like you – deadlines drive the fiction right out of me. Although, there are some good poems that have come from my time with my back to the wall… 🙂

  • Paula April 26, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I'm with Eileen on sending the materials after the conference. It's less for you to haul, less for your contacts to lug home and offers the perfect excuse for a swift follow up.

    I also like the term "anchor clients." My favorite client (aka Favorite Editor) is bi-monthly, but I usually have anywhere from 1-6 pieces per issue. Nothing in the current issue, but I've already been paid for several pieces in the June issue. They also pay pretty well – and quickly.

    Another anchor client generally keeps me busy from spring through fall, with occasional assignments in between. I don't count on the in-betweens, but during the busy time they usually assign at least one or two articles per month and farm out a bunch of quick fun capsules that freelancers can write in 15 minutes with little if any research. (Just got one of those yesterday – 75 words due by May 26. Think I can manage that? LOL)

    I have one client that I write 3-5 quick columns for per month, but they don't pay much.

    One publisher could have become an anchor client if they'd bothered to pay for services rendered. They paid for the first two articles, quickly loaded me up with five more (for three titles)…all five have now been published, but none have been paid for. Not exactly an ideal client.

    You're right about the resumes – they can ebb and flow. Sometimes they flow when I'm busy and ebb when I'm not. Wish it were the other way around. They can be a nice little supplement.

  • Eileen April 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Lori, I think you should create an information product: "How copywriters can get business from a conference."

  • Lori April 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Eileen, don't think I haven't entertained that notion! LOL Great minds, sister. 🙂

  • Kimberly Ben April 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Anchor clients…I like that term too. I only have two such clients right now. I recently ended a relationship with two anchor clients. One expected me to be available for them as if I were their employee and didn't have other clients. the other would spring projects on me at a moment's notice (e.g. "We need you to interview a client and write his newsletter. You'll need to call him within the hour because he's going out of town tomorrow."). Um, thanks, but no thanks.

    I once had a rotation of at least four regular clients, and I honestly didn't have to deal with this type of drama.

  • Jake P April 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I suppose I think of my clients as satellites — sometimes they're visible to the naked eye, sometimes on the other side of the planet; sometimes they escape gravity or crash to the ground. At any rate, there are currently 8 or so that need monthly or better attention, which is an OK rate of orbit for me.

    Today, I had a client ask if I wanted to work as a contract writer at their office…*that* to me would be an anchor all right, but not in a good way. I was reminded of one of my fave quotes: "A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." — John A. Shedd, Salt From My Attic

    Sorry about the Pens last night. I'm hoping my Bruins can put Les Habs out of biz tonight!

  • Lori April 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I like Eileen's word for it too, don't you, Kim? 🙂 I'm with you – the moment the demands outweigh the rewards, it's no longer worth it.

    Anchors, albatrosses…. it's all about as heavy, isn't it, Jake? 🙂

    Oh, the tragedies in hockey! I appreciate the sentiments. And yes, as much as I love various teams for various reasons, I'd love to see your Bruins do some serious damage up north. 🙂

  • Samantha Bangayan April 27, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I absolutely loved reading what everyone's involved with right now! =) With your help and advice, Lori, I finally have two clients and one of them just offered me a raise! WOOPEE! =)

  • Lori April 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

    That's fantastic, Samantha! Congratulations! Feels pretty damn good, doesn't it? 🙂

  • Samantha Bangayan April 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Unbelievably good, Lori! =) Thanks and hugs!

  • Lori April 27, 2011 at 7:20 pm