Monthly Assessment: October 2012

What’s on the iPod: She’s Mine by Brett Dennen

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I meant to get to this yesterday, but a post-hurricane update was a little more pressing. Again, thanks to all who worried, prayed, held good thoughts, and checked in. You guys are great. 🙂

Time once more to check the way things were. I do this every month in an attempt to be more accountable to someone – anyone – everyone – in meeting my own goals. If you’ve not played along before, please, give it a shot. Use the comments section to give your own update on how you did and if you’ve met your goals. If you’ve not set monthly or weekly goals for yourself, give it a try. It’s amazing how this little exercise can really help you focus.

So here is how my marketing and earnings went this month:

Sent none. I was too busy and I knew I’d not have time for any quick turnaround deadlines that one editor has given me somewhat frequently. I’d much rather avoid disappointing. And I have those two assignments I got last month from the one query. That kept me busy.

Again, none. I have plenty of potential clients (and actual clients) to follow up with right now. I’ve scaled back on LOIs given the busy nature of October, but November I intend to pick it up again.

Existing clients
My current clients kept me busy. I just agreed to another monthly retainer arrangement. That makes two, so I’m thinking of raising my monthly target again. The two retainers I have now allow me to exceed the monthly goal. Time to aim higher.

Also, I delivered an article for a magazine client, a special-edition newsletter for another, and regular projects for yet another. The work was pretty constant, and I’m happy for it. I admit I was frazzled and exhausted, but no one ever remembers the exhaustion when the checks come.

Two colleagues from my past came back, both with referrals. They were both my bosses at the magazine (and I admire and respect them both), and neither one realized the other was about to contact me. Nothing came of any of the referrals yet, but I’m following up today.

Thanks to those two retainers and some additional work, I surpassed my earnings by about 33 percent (lousy at math, but I earned about 2K more than I expected). My plan in June was to earn enough in October and November to make for a nice Christmas. That goal has been met, amen.

Bottom line
Marketing is about to start up in LOI form again as I’m looking at January and seeing perhaps one of the retainers needing either a renewal or replacement. The current one is through December, so I’m not banking on anything. That would be earnings suicide. Instead, assume the worst, hope for the best, and market like there’s nothing in the pantry. 🙂

How was your earnings for October? What surprised you? If this is your first assessment, how do you think this exercise will help you?

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  • Kimberly Ben November 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Glad you guys got through hurricane Sandy, Lori. I know so many freelancers – many who frequently comment on your blog – live along the North East coastline.

    My October earnings were much better than last month and slightly higher than last year. Most of my time was spent working with existing clients, and I got two new clients (waiting to get project details – one is based in NYC and is dealing with the after affects of the storm). I was supposed to have completed one of my personal writing projects this month, but life happens.

  • Gabriella F. November 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Congrats on a above-par month, Lori. Mine was right where I like to be, and November is packed already.

    Love those retainers, huh? I just finished the last project for a client that put me on retainer this year, and I was fretting, "Was this a one-year project? Did I do something wrong, and I'll lose that hefty income?"

    Nope. She said she'll be in touch soon on the next installment. Yay!

  • Devon Ellington November 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Had the deadbeat client not bounced the check and caused a ripple effect that will take weeks to sort out, I would have been fine. Not great, but fine. Now, I'm in difficulty, and I doubt I'll ever see the $$$.

    Feeling discouraged this month.

  • Paula November 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    "Market like there's nothing in the pantry." Love it. That's so me. (This time of year I always feel the need to stock up so I'll be set if I'm snowed in for a week.)

    Good luck with the deadbeat client, Devon. I'm already about to go after Late Payer again, and he's only one day past due on my most recent article (and one month past due on the other). Sent them a preemptive reminder the other day: Pay it all. Now.

    Now, to play along….

    Queries – Sent a batch of ideas to Favorite Editor, resulting in one (really fun!) assignment.

    LOIs – Sent two new LOIs by snail mail, both led to editors asking for more info and e-clips to send their co-editors. Positive vibes from both. Followed up on five previous LOIs, resulting in four encouraging replies. (One asked my rates, but didn't respond after seeing them.)

    Existing Clients – Finished one article for Favorite Editor and started the new assignment. Wrote three columns. Edited several batches of executive bios for the new-ish client. Longtime client asked me to update an old web article.

    New Clients – None right now, but I'm optimistic about a couple of those LOIs.

    Referrals – Finished a résumé for a friend's niece. Yesterday a friend of my sister asked me to help her edit an essay for a job application to fit the 500 word limit.

    Earnings – Less than $250 away from my modest monthly goal, but invoices out now total way more than that monthly goal.

    Bottom line – Always follow up!

    Not too bad for a month with some major interruptions. The storm damage repairs and the meetings to discuss the details took a good chunk of time (and we're not done yet). And last week when my dog was sick I couldn't focus much on work – thank goodness she's healthy again!

  • Cathy Miller November 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Earnings I'm still feeling the effects of the screeching halt on projects. I have 3 invoices billed that had they been received in October would have exceeded my monthly target. Oh well. More for this month, which I'll need since I am going to be gone 2 out of the 4 weeks. I exceeded last year's total earnings in June, so despite the dry spell, I'm still okay. I just didn't expect it to totally stop. It's the 1st time that has happened to me.

    Existing Clients Two came back with new projects in October – case studies.

    New clients I'm pretty hopeful at least one will close this month. I have a meeting in San Diego with someone I used to work with and their marketing director. I also spoke with someone in a different division and state of a current client and almost certain I will have work from them soon. I missed out on one project because of their delivery deadline, which is while I'm in San Diego.

    Marketing The leads came from email marketing efforts. A postcard marketing hasn't delivered yet, but hope springs eternal.

    I'm not closing the year as well as I thought (seeing where I was in June and with all the health issues). But, things could always be worse. I could still be working corporate. 😉

  • Lori November 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Life does happen, Kim. Sometimes the work is more than the hours in a day. It's tough to squeeze personal writing in, especially if you have kids and family obligations on top of it.

    Devon, I'm sorry. I'd be finding ways to collect on that client — collection agency would be the best way, I think. Hang in there. If anyone can do it, you can.

    Not a bad month at all, Paula! Good stuff. Don't you love those favorite editors? As long as their budgets hold out, there's always a yes there somewhere.

    Cathy, given the challenges you've had this year, I'd say you're doing pretty great. And just think what your November totals will look like! Wow! 🙂

  • Paula November 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Even better – Favorite Editor is trying to get a jump on spring issues and assigned me a fun "charticle" that I hadn't even pitched. Then they asked for more ideas!