Freelance Writing Opportunities for June 5, 2009

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Something I’ve been struggling with for the past year is what is more important – my brand, or the brand I’m paid to build up. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m paid to do a job, I give it 100%, but if there’s one thing I learned recently is that my own brand is just as important – if not moreso. It’s not an ego thing at all. As a writer, blogger and social media consultant, I want potential clients to choose me over someone else. Without my reputation, a good brand, that’s not going to happen. How can others trust my brand if I don’t believe in it myself?

Leads…

Good luck!

Comments

  1. Which one pays more? :) (Think long-term, too. ;) )

  2. Tish Davidson says:

    I find the whole concept of personal “branding” to be a pretentious re-labeling of what people have always done to build a reputation. No matter what you call it, the way you get jobs and build clients is the same as it always was. If you do it correctly, your interest in promoting your “personal brand” should align with their interest in promoting their corporate brand and the question of which is more important won’t be an issue.

    There are few shortcuts. It takes time to build what I would call your reputation or, in trendy lingo, your brand. I’ve been on both the hired and the hiring end of the writing business full time for 20 plus years, so here are nine bits of probably unwanted advice.

    1. Produce material to the client’s specifications on or before deadline and at a the agreed to price.

    2. Do your best work on every job. Maybe you can type our 500 words in 15 minutes for $10, but is it well enough written and proofread that it will get you better work next time? Always try to write to a level above the minimum the client requires.

    3. Develop an area of specialization and concentrate networking efforts in this area plus a few that are on the fringes where you would like to expand. Think of your networking target area as the pattern a stone makes when tossed into a quiet pond. Start from a central core of interests and skills and work outward. The problem in this age of facilitated communication is that it is too easy to spread a scattered net and call it branding. You can tweet or link-in or blog all you want, but it isn’t going to have much impact if you don’t concentrate your efforts in a specific direction.

    4. Clarify terms of the job–work product expected, number of edits you will do, deadlines, pay, including any covered expenses, and payment schedule, before you start working on it. If you are unclear about what the client wants, ask for an example. I am amazed at how many writers are afraid to ask their clients about the details of a job. Legitimate clients are upfront about their needs and what they are offering. They generally have specific ideas about the tone, length, and content of what they are commissioning you to write, but they may not tell you if you don’t ask. It is not unprofessional to settle these details upfront. In fact, it tends to give the client confidence that you are a professional who knows what you are doing if you do ask questions and address the details. If the client doesn’t respond, this might be someone you do not want to work with. Formal contracts are good and necessary for big jobs, but a clarifying e-mail is often equally satisfactory for a small job or a regular client.

    6. Detach your ego from your words. If the job is a big one, send a sample of the first piece of it you do to the client and get their feedback and then accept the feedback as useful information rather than arguing with the client. Clients make edits. Your words are not sacred. Get over it.

    7. If the situation becomes unacceptable (client changes mind too often, work is greater than described, payment slow, etc.) tell the client what the problem is, how you would like to see it fixed, and if you can’t come to an agreement politely detach from your client. No need to be angry, but it is okay to be direct and tell them that you can’t make 5 edits of every piece for the price they are paying or that you can’t accept that they moved the deadline up two weeks or that you can’t write any more for them until you are paid. Be firm but professional. There is no point in needlessly angering a client no matter how good it feels to tell them off. You never know where they or you will end up.

    8. Make yourself easy to work with. Answer phone calls and e-mails promptly. Set the automatic spell checker on your outgoing e-mail and proofread every e-mail you send a client. They are hiring you to write. Every e-mail is a chance to make a good impression. Send a detailed, professional-looking invoice. Don’t complain about things that are not under the client’s control. If your world is imploding and you aren’t going to make a deadline, let the client know as soon as possible. The client may not be happy, but they will be a lot more understanding if they get an advanced heads-up rather than silence on the deadline day.

    9. When you have finished a job for a good client, thank them for the assignment and ask them to refer you to their colleagues and if you can use them as a reference.

  3. I know these days we’re supposed to think of ourselves as a “brand”, like Pepsi and McDonalds, and it can be useful to look at it that way. I also think it’s useful to look at it the old-fashioned way. In the “before times”, we used to call it “character”, which was often defined in terms of dedication and reliability. I think if you use those kinds of characteristics to measure yourself by, you’re improving your personal brand, no matter if you’re working for yourself or someone else.

    My advice, Deb, is to continue to give 100 percent to your job (like you wouldn’t!), but to make sure your clients, etc. KNOW that you give your employer 100 percent and that you would do the same for them. When it comes down to it, we’re always promoting someone else’s brand. It’s the way we do that that defines OUR brand.

  4. “Reputation”! That’s a much better word than what I used. Obviously, I didn’t see Tish’s comments until after I posted mine.

  5. When I first read the word “branding” about two years ago, I thought, what an interesting concept of creating a new way to make money as a public relations or marketing person.

    Madision Avenue used to call it “positioning” in advertising. They might still call it that for all I know.

    Fine example of successful positioning in advertising is The UnCola. What comes to mind? 7UP? Right.

    Another example is the Volkswagon and Avis. Volkswagon made a name for itself in the states with “the ugly car.” Avis made a name for itself as the “No. 2 car rental company.”

    Sure reputation (word-of-mouth) is important but you have to sell your product to get word-of-mouth advertising. Positioning or branding helps sell the product.

    BTW: The Positioning Era is an excellent booklet on this subject if you can find it. If not, email me and I will help you locate a copy.

  6. Tish,

    That is excellent advice, all the way around. Thanks for taking the time to put it out there. I enjoyed reading it and I completely agree.

  7. Tish Davidson says:

    Kenna,

    Can you give us some ideas about how a writer can go about positioning themselves? I understand your examples, but they were the result of market research and major advertising. How can lessons in positioning be applied to freelance writers who don’t have big budgets for advertising?

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