I bid, apply, hustle, and market myself every single day. As a result, I win projects at an alarming rate. Of course, I don’t pick up every project that comes my way. Those that I start working on won’t last forever. Those that seem to last forever will go away one day. Meanwhile, many projects manage to crawl into in my “blue folder” of “things to do”. The dynamics of winning and losing projects isn’t exactly like getting a job and retiring from it 3 decades later. Let’s try to decode the dynamics here, shall we?
The Mindset of “Anything Goes”
As a freelance writer, here’s a particular mindset that helps you manage the complexity of winning and losing projects: the mind frame of “anything goes”. By that, I mean that you’d work to get yourself into a Zen-like state where nothing effects you – be it a $10,000 project coming in or an equally large project going out. You won’t squeal and celebrate when you win a contract. At the same time, you won’t take to binge drinking when you lose one. You remain indifferent to the flow of projects – that’s the life of an average freelancer. We’ll learn to live with it.
The question is: Are you working towards such a mindset?
If there’s a flow, you’ve almost arrived
The good news is that if you’ve arrived at a stage where you see projects coming in and going out, it means that you are doing many things right: Your marketing efforts are pumped up, you are in business, and you are at an advanced stage where you are able to choose and reject projects. Instead of giving too much thought to “Why” projects come and go, you’d be better off to accept the flow of projects and focus on getting more, managing the projects you have, and keeping in touch the clients who no longer do business with you.
If the flow of projects doesn’t crush you, it’ll help you grow
You are a changed person by the time you get around to “letting go” of the anxiety that comes with this rapid influx and outflow of projects and opportunities. Only two things happen at this stage: you’ll be crushed with distress and loss of self-confidence or you’ll rise from the ashes – more learned, experienced, and wiser. If you emerge as I expect you’ll, that Zen state I mentioned earlier is next up.
That flow is good. Projects that come will go. Accept it. Work on it. Play with it. Make it happen.
How do you handle this project flow? As fellow freelancers would you like to share your experience?
Most freelancers find it hard to get business, myself included. On top of that, sometimes, some clients can be hard to please. I’ve had my share of “Clients from hell”. Just like most things in life, these things “just happen” to you. The question is: what do you do about it? I hope that my personal take on what I do at work might help you. Here’s what I do:
I set objectives, milestones, prices, and scope of work clearly before starting
Never jump straight into a project the moment it comes about. It really helps if you take some time out to set down objectives, the necessary milestones (it’s your job to come up with these, not the clients’), the exact scope of work, your expectations from clients, and also ask what clients expect from you — all of this, before starting the project (and not while working on one).
Well, that’s nice to hear. But what do I mean by setting down expectations? Assuming a ghost blogging project, which involves writing 600- 1200 words, here’s what I would do:
To the client:
· You own 100% copyrights to my work. I will not showcase this work as a part of my portfolio or even pretend that these blog posts are mine.
· Blog posts will be in the range of 600 – 1200 words. The range is wide so that it can have the space to give a wide berth to ideas.
· Research, originality, linking out to other blogs or sources, using royalty-free stock photos, adding tags, picking categories, and optimizing for SEO are all included in the price quote and are to be expected as deliverables.
· As for the topics, angles to take, opinions, etc. Here are some choices:
o You may suggest topics, put forth your ideas, and give me explicit instructions to follow.
o You may have me think of angles, put up the topics for your approval, and I write based on our mutual understanding.
· In spite of all the hard work that goes into trying to find your voice, match your personality, and to impersonate your character, these are still blog posts with MY ideas. There could be a possibility that you might not want to use the post. In such cases, I’ll take my article back and I’ll retain my rights over those articles or blog posts.
· If posts have issues with spellings, grammar, language, syntax, etc., I’ll make changes until you are satisfied.
I give wiggle room
We are all different people. We think different. Each of us has different ways of thinking. While we mostly have the same goals such as financial freedom, money, good health, fame or recognition – the way we approach each our needs is vastly different. Our behavior with others, ego states, personality types – all different.
Why am I talking about this? Clients are people, after all.
Hence, I give them room to wiggle. I start with trial projects and see how things go. You’ll be surprised at how different it feels to work for every single client (which reinforces my thought that people are different after all). But I determine how much room I give out for clients to wiggle. Sometimes, unfortunately, things don’t work. Scope of work expands inconsiderately at the same price points, ideas don’t match, etc.
I give up, more often than not
I do give up on projects. Actually, I give up much sooner than most of my freelance writer or blogger friends I know. Maybe this is something I should work on or perhaps I do the right thing, I am not so sure. A few instances of mismatch, and the projects are off.
But I am fair. In fact, I am also generous. I cancel projects but:
· I don’t invoice my clients for the work already done (even if I am right or if I am actually justified in invoicing).
· I still edit my articles or blog posts, make final changes, or add what the client asked for in the last email. Like maybe, number of words falling short of average? Or maybe the Meta information for blog posts needed changes? I know I won’t be paid for this, but I do it anyway.
· I clearly state why I am cancelling the project. The client has a right to know why I took this step.
· More often than not, I let my clients keep the articles, blog posts, reports, or whitepapers already completed, with full rights.
You might call me ridiculous, but this is who I am. This is how I do business.
You applied but nothing worked: they didn’t bother calling back, they rejected my proposal, they say that my “bid is too high”, they sent back an email saying that my “proposal did not match what they were looking for, ” or perhaps they “prefer another style”.
Guess what? About 20% of your potential clients might attest that any of the above might be true. I’d bet that 80% of them would sit over a glass of whisky and say/think that you are so “full of crap”.
Oh no, that’s harsh. No, I am just practical. Here’s why your proposal got rejected:
The vibes begin with your pitch and your approach. The first email, call, proposal, or meeting you set up with your clients has more importance than the rest of the days/weeks/months/years you spend time working with your client. That’s because clients – they are humans (note that you are close to inhuman if you write as much as I do) – have nothing much to start from except that first email (for instance).
So, what counts?
Grammatical and punctuation errors
· “i am a writer experiencing 5 years of writing? “ – Did you notice the small “i” and “Experiencing writing?”
· “i wud like 2 wrk fr ur company. Please give me a job” – No comments.
The tone of your proposal
You are a dead goose if you sound condescending as you are so good that clients should get off their chairs, raise their a** up and bow down in obeisance?
The language you use in your proposal
Professional. Enough Said
The presence (or lack of) a distinct personality that you are
Hey human! I don’t know which planet you came from. Around here, we have personalities? What do you have apart from scales and metal rods that doubles up as your spine?
Lack of (or presence of) life in your pitch
Please, make that proposal pop, will you? Your email just made me feel suicidal
Passion & Enthusiasm
If you don’t have this, you don’t have “You”. Don’t bother pitching next time honey; go find a shovel to clear the snow.
Other little red flags that give away so much about you
… And you didn’t even know.
Client Q: How do you take to working under pressure?
Freelancer: Before making any commitments, I would like to be clarified on the total number of hours you want me to commit for this job and number of words per article. I would like to commit only after knowing your expectations.
Excuse me? How on earth is your answer even relevant to my question? You are a freelancer and you determine your hours. Who am I to tell you how many hours I need. If even I did want to suggest X hours, I really don’t like the way you just wrote this. On second thoughts, why don’t you commit yourself to complete, utter failure? Eh?
Client Q: If your work flows from writing to administration and then back to writing again, will you be able to adapt?
I have no knowledge of administration. However, I will be willing to learn.
Client thoughts: You have no knowledge of your responses stink, Ms. Know it All. Without knowing administration, how the hell do you manage your own freelancing business? What about all those posts you upload, images you find or create, the inbound links, the outbound links, the tags, the meta information, the invoicing, keeping track of deadlines, doing research for writing articles – what do you call these tasks? Dancing in the moonlight?
Freelancer: I would also like to know the following:
1. Mode of Payment:
I wonder why you are so worried about the “mode” instead of worrying whether I’ll pay you at all.
2. Leave plans
Leave plans? Would you also like me to book a tropical holiday for you? Freelancers don’t take leave. If they do, “they” plan it. Not me.
Get real. Beware what you send out to your clients.
Dear Client, do you get this load of crap into your inbox? My sympathies are with you.
As a freelancer writer and an Internet marketing consultant, I scout the web for opportunities. Unfortunately, our potential customers (Individuals, small & medium business owners) don’t even know what to ask for. It’s not their fault but I don’t charge you to talk to me, do I? Here are some instances of project briefs or requirements that won’t work for your business:
Looking to pay cheap
There are two kinds of customers in the world: those who pay premium to get the best and those throw the almost proverbial, “peanuts” to monkeys. I am not kidding but I’ll show you the kind of content you’d get if you threw those “peanuts”. Looking at a trial attempt one of my team members did on Twitter (for a client’s) account when I decided to test them out for an hour, as a test. The screen should tell you everything:
That’s the kind of shit you get when you pay less. Please, for heaven’s sake, allow me to work with you for free. Don’t pay me a dime for years together. I’ll still do it for you. But don’t pay me like $2 per hour or $1.45 per blog post and expect me to slog my pink bottoms for you.
X Fans, Y Twitter followers by the end of the month
I might get sick soon if I see another posting or a project requirement that demands social media professionals to fetch you X number of Facebook Fans and Y Twitter followers by the end of the month. What on earth is the matter with these guys? Do you get fans and followers on the shelves and aisles of Walmart? As social media professionals, we do our best to build a network for you (across your chosen networks) the right way – the one that reeks of love, support, help, friends, and those who think high of you.
Would you live with a “purchased” wife? How about “buying” kids? Maybe, you’d like to “pay” a girl for a date? How much did you pay to hang out with those cool friends you got?
You get the point, don’t you?
Need X leads, $X payment – No more, no less
It’s perfect when you set your budget, and have clear expectations from your project (that’s such a blessing, really). I have a problem, however, with your demand for X leads. You see, marketing is a slow process and it has a lot to do with a huge number of variables. You’ll need to have a reasonably good product or service to start with. You’ll need to be open to ideas Internet marketing consultants give, and finally, you should be willing to experiment with various things while implementing the basics.
You ask for leads? I ask you:
· Do you have a nice, functional website that’s usable?
· Do you have a “lead generation system” such as opt-in forms, email auto responder system, etc.?
· Do you have a blog?
· What is the quality of your content?
· Do you have Facebook, Twitter, Dribble, LinkedIn, Quora, Focus.com, delicious, and other such social media accounts?
· Do you believe in Inbound Marketing? Have you developed free reports, giveaways, or other elements of lead generation best practices?
Of course, Internet marketing consultants will double up and work on all this content, set systems in place, and work on auto-mode for you. That’s only when you understand how lead generation works and not make a demand like X leads in 7 days – now, that never happens.
I’ll work for free, any number of years you want me to be. I’ll fly down to wherever you are and set-up camp (on my expense). I’ll work on your business as if it’s mine – never pay me a dime.
I am passionate about your business. I want to help you. Please feel free to talk.
We are freelance writers and we have a great profession to live. If every brand has to keep publishing as Tim Gray suggests in his feature article on Entrepreneur.com , the ‘brand journalism’ that he advocates is only possible with ghost bloggers, freelance bloggers, and freelance writers doing their part, every single day.
But it’s not an easy journey, this freelancing. You’d wish it was, but it isn’t. To help you tide over the everyday problems that you might have to face in your freelancing journey, we’ll need a few ‘rules’ to live by.
Here are some of them:
Be proud of what you do
I was moved by the plight of some writers when I wrote this piece on hubpages for writers who write for pennies, especially with the now extinct BMR (Build My Rank) fever . I opined strongly that a freelance writer should never write for pennies. When writers do this, it tells me that you have no respect for your own work. If you sell yourself short, you are unconsciously telling the world (and potential clients) that you are a monkey who is worth the peanuts that are up for grabs.
Don’t let the market dictate opportunities for you; create them instead
Too many freelance writers and freelance bloggers depend on markets for their living – be it freelance bidding sites or other job boards. It’s a good practice to develop a system that covers these sources for freelance writing jobs but these are NOT the only sources. Further, the more you depend on ‘markets’ for projects, the more you let these markets dictate the state of your freelancing career. Create opportunities instead. Many companies don’t have blogs yet. Some do, but they are not updated frequently. Get out, shout out aloud, and tell them that they need you.
Can you do that?
Be the first to raise your voice
As a freelance blogger or writer, your words are all you have. Opinionated writers make for good bloggers. Whether you write for yourself or for your clients, develop a voice that’s strong, firm, and knowledgeable. As a writer, you should be the first voice to be heard. The rest of the world can take pleasure in hearing your voice, but you got to voice it first. You might entertain some people, and piss some others off. Who cares? It’s your voice, and you are entitled to an opinion. You haven’t lived yet if you haven’t opinionated. Have you?
Forget the past, embrace the future, and live in the present
Clients come and go, projects are here today and gone tomorrow. There are good times and bad times. Your bank account bleeds for a few months and some times it threatens to burst at its seams – that’s the way of life for everyone. You could even do some mistakes. Say no to some real, high-value projects; go through some dry days in your freelancing career; suffer writers’ blues. People have been through worse. What allowed winners to win? They just live in the present while preparing to embrace the future. The worse your past can do is to teach you.
Dedicate everyday to market yourself
Marketing seems to be a “sleazy” word; most people hate the very thought of doing this “hustle”. But if there’s ONE single thing you got to do everyday to make sure that your freelancing business is in tact and thriving, you’ve to learn to market yourself. Get out there. Hustle. Don’t bother if you are sick of doing this. Ignore “rejects” that come your way. Don’t even slow-down if potential clients tell you that you are “too expensive” or if they “need someone from a particular country”.
Just ignore everything. Apply, bid, market, pitch – every single waking moment, if you can.
Step out of that chair. Comfort zones can kill you
“I am comfortable with blogging”, “Writing comes naturally to me so this is all I’ll do”, “I’ve been writing for 25 years, and this what I’ll depend on” – impressive but it’s a stupid thing to do to stick to comfort zones. I believe that the longer you stay in your comfort zone, the sooner you’ll rot. If you are a writer, pick up some coding and design skills. If you are a designer, pick up blogging skills. If you are done with both, then start a full-fledged company and start learning from the schools of entrepreneurship.
It doesn’t ever end.
Manage by asking questions
When I say ‘manage’, I mean everything from applying for new projects to delivery and then getting paid. Management by asking questions is a powerful way to work with others. For instance, ask questions before you pick up projects. Feel free to ask your clients about why they want a presence on the Internet, their idea behind blogging, what they intend to do with Internet marketing, etc. Asking questions forces you to reflect while making your clients think.
In a way, you are providing tremendous value.
Never accept cheap work
Don’t accept to work for those looking for “cheap articles” and “low cost writers”. Yes, there’s a huge market for cheap clients who look for cheap work. Guess what? I know this and I am sure you know it too – these businesses won’t last. Our monkey hunters will realize that their “$1 for 500 word” efforts have all gone down the drain.
Why do you want to drive through bad neighborhoods? Get out of that quicksand and find better clients.
Work with dignity
Not everyone is nice to work with. Some clients can be rude, some of them don’t pay on time, and some of them actually treat you worse than I treat my dog’s shit. Now, how much shit you should take is for you to decide. All I’ll say is that you GOT to have a threshold or “shit-taking limit”. Once a colleague, client, fellow writer, team member, or anyone else crosses the line – fire them.
Without dignity, what the heck are you working for?
Learn to let go
Sometimes, you’ll realize that some things are just not in your hands. Oh yes, you’ll do everything you can to salvage a situation. You’ll skydive or walk the extra mile but you’ll not understand everything. As Richard Templar writes in his book The Rules of Life “People will behave oddly. Things will go unexpectedly wrong – or right”
Set up shop for quality before you hang a pricing tag on your work
No one cares about your experience, journalistic achievements, or the number of blogs you posted your content on. All they care about is the price: value equation. For the price you quote, what’s the value they get? I know how some fellow writers charge for little things like uploading images for posts, adding a few tags, and picking ONE category while posting blogs for clients (which I believe should be a part of the package?).
If you are in the freelancing business, forget thinking for yourself. Think about the client. It doesn’t make sense to pay you extra for doing odd work like finding an image to go with the post, adding a few lines of Meta Description on WordPress blogs, promoting your clients’ posts on social media, etc.
If you have the balls, answer this: Assuming skills, education, and experience remain the same among 30 potential bloggers, why should a client choose you?
Help others. Give. It doesn’t hurt you to do that
Involve yourself in vibrant communities on the Internet. It’s funny that we are writers and we start pricing every word we have to type. You don’t have to. Just go out there and help others while you can. Answer questions on these 4 Q & A sites that Bina Omar points out. What you give will all come back to you.
You’d like it when it comes back, wouldn’t you?