What I’m Reading: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
What’s on the iPod: Blue Christmas by Martin Sexton
Good news a second time this month — I have another poem being published. This time, it’s in TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics. I’m thrilled. One poem published could have been dumb luck; a second one means there’s hope for me yet.
I just got my Christmas cards in the mail this morning. Usually they’re out the door the first week of December, but we just returned from a two-week driving vacation to Savannah, Charleston, Stuart, FL, Boca Raton, Sanibel Island, Sarasota, Cross Hill, SC, Pittsboro, NC, and finally Valley Forge and our driveway.
I’ve learned a few important strategies to surviving a trip that size — drive a car with fantastic seats (we did) and pack light (I didn’t). By our re-entry to South Carolina, I was completely ready to be home. But I’m glad we kept going. We met some wonderful people and had a ton of fun.
Along the way I was able to unclutter the brain enough to see some opportunities for marketing and boosting the freelance income that I wouldn’t have recognized if I’d stayed here in “work” mode. It’s like my “swing therapy” without the garden swing — the minute I stop thinking about work, the ideas flood in.
As much as I hate making New Year’s resolutions on New Year’s (it’s too forced to work), I’m more the type who likes to hit the restart button whenever things aren’t going as well as planned. That’s a lot more proactive anyway, and any freelancer who keeps a close, frequent watch on their progress will do better than the freelancer who makes an annual resolution that’s forgotten in a week. Whatever you do, make a promise to yourself to follow up every month with yourself. Seriously, if you have to schedule it on your calendar, do it. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Here are a few strategies I use to increase my freelance income and keep my business on track. Feel free to adopt whatever fits and revise it to suit you:
Check out mentally. Once a month, I like to sit down with no plans, no agenda, and no interruptions. I don’t intend to do anything. Just sit. Go to a mall and sit. A coffee shop. A quiet corner of the house where I don’t usually sit (a comfy chair in the basement or a spare bedroom maybe). I give myself permission to not fret or think.
Scan old projects for new ideas. I mentioned in a previous post how a client’s project approach suddenly made sense for me to use. What have your clients done in terms of marketing or communications that have appealed to you or stood out as good ways to gain new clients?
Measure your progress. I have done it here for years — a monthly assessment that goes over my efforts. The accountability (and that’s the important part) helps drive me to stay on track to reach my earnings goals.
Study marketing methods. I like to read blogs, but I’d much prefer books. Books aren’t rehashed ideas (usually aren’t) repeated endlessly. I read a chapter and think about how I can fit that into my current plan. Or not. Not all ideas fit.
Revisit the old ideas. Remember when we used to send actual mail? Nowadays, that method is actually more eye-catching than yet another email. Also, some marketing advice is sound decades later.
Organize the marketing and the client contacts. These simple steps alone have helped me keep in touch with people who could fly under the radar way too easily. The conference contacts in particular are ones whom I need to be in front of more often (to keep my services fresh in their minds). I’m using a spreadsheet to gather their info, but it’s all being moved to a CRM application to make it easier for me to stay on top of mailings.
Remind clients of the skills. I try to let clients and contacts know that I don’t just write for publications. I remember one contact, who’d known me for ten years, being surprised that I wrote website and marketing content. That shouldn’t happen, so I’ve adopted a way to let them know what I do without beating them over the head with it.
Plan one fantastic move per year. It’s more than a resolution; it’s a plan to get to a specific goal. My goal this year is to add more credentials to my resume, so I’m planning time into my schedule for courses and expert blogs. You might want to move into fiction writing or become a known expert in technology. Whatever it is, try writing it down (by hand at first– it helps you focus) in an easy-to-follow process.
Re-establish connections with clients and contacts. It may have been years since you talked with a few of them, but send a quick email or a mailed letter asking them how they are. Talk with them on Twitter or LinkedIn. Find a way to get back in front of them and do your best to reconnect and strengthen that relationship.
Reach beyond your current borders. You write for health care publications. Why aren’t you writing for the people who advertise in them? Or the people who belong to the associations? And have you considered writing for medical facilities, medical manufacturers, suppliers, accountants, etc? Think of how far out your current specialty or focus can reach. Once a month, I brainstorm new avenues to explore. It may not always lead me to my next big client, but I’m learning what works and what won’t.
Writers, how do you plan to improve your careers in 2015?
Do you plan it or wing it?
How do you track your progress?