It’s been a while since I posted here. I am sure know how we happen to be worst content providers when we employ “yours truly” to develop content for myself, don’t you?
I must admit that I’ve been slacking, off late. I wasn’t able to do as much as I should and that kills me. I wish I could have been a super human with unlimited energy and capability to do more and I wish I could be living on another planet that’s got, say, 48 hours in a day.
Since that’s wishful thinking, I gunned for plan B – get better at what I do and how I do it.
Enter Trello.com: a project management tool that’s free to use and something that you profit from in many different ways.
Trello.com – How Simplicity makes you money
I’ll admit that I am a tool junky. I run after almost every web-based tool available online. The magic happened after I signed up. Trello.com, by far, has the simplest project management interface ever. Simplicity is at the very core of the tool. Simple drag and drop and you are good to go. It won’t take you long to get used to the system and the way trello.com interface works. What’s more, it has responsive design – meaning that it’s interface adapts to the device you use. Of course, it automatically updates your inputs across all connected devices.
How Trello seduces me into productivity
It’s been 5 days since I signed up for Trello and I noticed that ever since I put out my to-do lists and boards (one board for each project I have to work on). My productivity has shot up to unprecedented levels. Why so?
There’s something about the “damned to-do list that stares you forever while you stare at the computer” sort of interface that trello boasts of.
When you create a board, this is how it looks.
Your things to do get into “To Do”, Work in progress gets into “Doing, and anything you finish gets into “Done”. You can do a lot more than just this like inviting members over, adding checklists, set-up due dates, move lists and boards according to priority.
Now, when I create my “to do” list, it doesn’t seem to be like the lone to-do list whose individual items are at the mercy of my work ethic. Just because the “doing” and “done” lists stand right next to each other, you’ll be compelled to finish your list items one after the other. If you don’t, the guilt kills you.
I can’t explain why that happens. I don’t know how putting up two more blank lists that relate to your main “to do” list makes you actually work.
So far, that’s what’s been happening. I have to thank Trello for finally forcing me to write on my blog again.
Have you used Trello? What do you think?
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?
In business for 8 years continuously and I’ll admit that everything I learnt was a combination of veiled-truths and “reading between the lines” along with my own experience. I’ve come a long way from “reading emails for cents” to running my own Internet consulting business and straddling the learning curve has been a humbling experience, to say the least. I don’t you to spend another 8 years trying to decode secrets to freelance writing. Here are some powerful secrets that the freelance veterans and long-term career online workers won’t ever tell you:
Skills are not your USP; think of something else
Skills are not features to fill brochures. The fact that you are skilled is an unspoken understanding that clients will accept on face value. Your website, portfolio, your profile copy, the copy on your LinkedIn Company Page or the kind of content on your Facebook Fan Page will give clients insights on who you are, what kind of writing you do, your writing style, and much more. That reminds me: you got to have your own, hosted website today. Enough Said.
Putting Your Ass To The Road
Writing is hard work. Ask any long-term freelance writer and they’ll all admit this over a drinking session, maybe. Getting projects, working on those projects, waiting to get paid (and sometimes not getting paid), dealing with clients (while every client is different with varying needs), and managing deadlines (even if you had to miss your own funeral for it). In the end, some clients will continue working, some won’t. Finally, there’s the actual work itself. For any self-respecting freelance writer, even a 150-word blurb involves research, attention to detail, and also trying to match client’s voice (especially if you are ghost writing).
It’s hard work. No doubt. If you do it well enough, it pays.
“There’s no secret sauce, Po”; it’s all about marketing
You did watch Kung Fu Panda I & II. Didn’t you?
Po (name of the character that Panda portrays) walks away deserting their village when his father asks him:
“I’ve been waiting to tell you something for a long time, Po”,
“Do you know the ingredients of the secret sauce to Po Noodles?”
“There’s no such secret sauce. It’s what you make of it”
Freelance writing is just like that: there’s no secret sauce. The big secret is that what you make each month depends on just a few parameters. The first – and most important of these parameters – is your marketing effort. How many bids on freelance job boards do you throw out? How many individual proposals go out daily? Does this marketing effort continue throughout the month, every month? Do this once and see for yourself. Assuming your proposals are written well, you’ll soon have more projects than you can possibly handle.
You are selling “You”. So, How exactly are you?
Freelancing success is not about your academic degree, qualifications, certifications, and years of experience. It’s always about you. How do you come across as a personality when you communicate with your clients? Do you fun? Are you cheerful, accommodative, less demanding, and easy-to-work with? Or are you hard-nosed, strict-to-the-bone, highly demanding, condescending and somewhat rude? In case you didn’t know, how you write projects your personality in a way you never imagined. Every email, proposal, social media message (such as Tweets and Facebook Fan page Posts) says something about you.
That’s all there’s to it: have a USP, market more (religiously, everyday), showcase your personality and be true to yourself while being frank and straight-forward with clients.
Do you have any of those “sharable “secrets to share? Please comment below.
It’s an incredible feeling: everyday I come to work expecting the best and the worst. My love for writing is taking good care of me, there’s no doubt about that. Yet, there’s this nagging fear in the depths of my heart that one day, I might just stop marketing myself. That kills me before I even begin to fear death. While I have these apprehensions deep within me, a few things I read, such as Why Good Writing is Essential For Business by Christa Carone from Fast Company, makes me feel better about commercial writing, blogging, freelance writing, and social media management – all the stuff I do.
Whatever I do, there’s one thing I have to do every single day: market myself. Since my business is digital, my marketing is completely digital too). How do I do it? What drives me? Read on:
Market first. Write next
Writers are of various kinds, aren’t they? For instance, the Internet gave birth to Bloggers, general writers, SEO writers, technical writers, and ghostwriters. We already had novelists, non-fiction writers, newspaper journalists, and magazine columnists. We just don’t get it though. You can be anything you want, professionally. You aren’t making a single dollar unless you learn to market yourself. Period. Search Engine Optimization pros usually keep permanent backlinks and their providers a secret. That makes it impossible to get a reference from an expert for a provider that is good, since they gain nothing, and potentially lose – if they help.
I come to my desk to market first; I write later. Marketing allows me to live the lifestyle I want; it pays the bills – every incoming bill seems less frightening with every outgoing pitch or proposal to a potential client.
What if I am Rejected? What happens to my ego?
Please leave your ego in a guarded closet back home; that three-letter word can plunge your business into an abyss. It might sound funny, but rejections are good for you: they tell you that you are closer to a deal than you thought you were. If rejections don’t kill you, they make you stronger; they bring out the best in you; they turn you into marketing machines. Trust me: marketing geniuses will never find themselves out of work.
By the way, even if a client rejects your proposal, you can still be in touch. Just keep that “I love you, no matter what” thing working on your professional life too.
Got a project, but it pays shit
Yes, you get paid peanuts because that’s what you asked for. Guess what? Every pitch or proposal takes the same amount of effort. Post proposal, if you end up getting a project, the effort that goes into writing a blog post remains the same too. Yet, you choose to write for $2 for an article, which has to go through the desk of an editor. For clients who do choose the $2 article, they don’t understand that if the Panda attacks don’t kill them; their readers will.
Sales is such a hard job; I just want to sit and write (edit, design, develop, dance, whatever you do)
Pick a blog off wordpress.com and start writing poems no one reads or stories about how your cat chased a bull down the avenue. What do you get out of that? You lose precious time and opportunity, that’s what. It’s hard to make a sale because it pays. Further, the less you know about making a sale, the harder it gets. Go make a living as a receptionist at a switchboard where the only calls are from telemarketers while you bite your nails (or polish them).
That isn’t an exciting life, is it?
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.