What I’m listening to: The Fall of Rome by The Airborne Toxic Event
Jeezuz, what a week.
I did the old trick to get more work coming in — I thought about taking next week off for vacation. Not that I need more work, but I wanted a lot of these stalled projects to finish. I do have a big vacay coming up, and I don’t want to leave with stuff hanging.
So I thought “Maybe I’ll head to Ontario next week.”
Worked like a charm. I’m now busy for seven straight hours a day.
I saw a discussion on Anne Wayman’s About Writing Squared forum yesterday about clients that don’t know what they want. That’s pretty common, actually. What isn’t common is the client who can’t articulate what they do, who their audience is, or what they want out of their communications. It’s a rather large gap in the business plan, don’t you think?
It’s also a mistake far too many freelance writers make.
Let me tell you, freelancers make enough mistakes in one day — we sure don’t need to be making mistakes with our business. Those kinds of mistakes can sink a business. There are plenty of ways in which we can screw up. These are some of the scariest to me:
- Relying on too few clients. If you’re working with three or fewer clients, you’re about two clients too close to having the bottom drop out of your revenue. Clients disappear without warning. Projects end. Mismatched writer/client relationships occur. Don’t be stuck with too few options when that happens. And it happens — about ten years ago, I had two clients disappear within two weeks. I had four clients at the time. It hurt. Big time. Think of your client base as being built on sand — it doesn’t take much to move it to a bad place.
- Not having a plan. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written out a six-page document or jotted down a rough idea on a napkin — if you have a plan of any sort, it’s much better than just going with the flow. Things you should be planning –how much money you want to make annually/monthly/weekly/hourly (you choose); how you’re going to contact client prospects; who you consider to be client prospects; how you’re going to track your progress and hold yourself accountable… you can add or subtract from that list as you like.
- Chasing the damn dollars. It is so tempting at the beginning of your freelance writing career to run after dollars. “This will pay me $500!” But it’s too hit-and-miss. You end up with one-off projects that don’t help you build any sort of expertise. Instead, turn your attention toward building relationships with people and companies for whom you’d like to work. If you put time and effort into building a strong network and marketing to the right people, the money will follow.
- Waiting for clients to come to you. Unless you’ve done the legwork in step #3, you’re making a huge mistake thinking clients will magically find your website, swoon over your clips, and hire you. There are precious few “musts” in this job, but one is you must find and attract clients. You can’t do that sitting on your ass waiting for them to show up. You have to actively look for opportunities and, as I mentioned in step #3, build a network.
- Pretend you can ignore the money side. I get it. I’m not a math wonk, either. In fact, my first five years of freelancing repeated the same scenario at tax time — I’d be gripping my head and wondering where the hell the money for taxes was coming from. You have to pay your quarterly taxes. It’s just easier than scraping together the $10K or more you owe (minus penalties) in April. The same goes for knowing what you make each month and what you spend. It can only help you to know what services you offer that are being requested most often and how much you’re making in any particular area of your freelance writing business.
Writers, what major mistakes have you made or seen?
What was the toughest business lesson you learned, and how did you learn it?