A common mistake made by many freelance writers is to treat what they do as a job. It’s not a job in the traditional sense of the word, it’s a business. It may not feel that way to you because you’re sitting down to work out of the comfort of your home or the nearest coffee shop, but it is. Instead of looking at freelance writing as a work at home job, pretend you’re a brick and mortar business. How would you treat things differently. How would you approach your “job” if you were the CEO of an organization.
That’s not quite the same as a mere “job”, is it?
Make no mistake, you are a CEO whether or not you choose to use the title. You run your own business even if you can’t see the physical signs around you. Will thinking of freelance writing as a business as opposed to a job or series of gigs cause you to approach things differently?
10 Hints for Transitioning from Freelance Writing Jobs to Freelance Writing Business
Freelance writers are sales people. Not the smarmy, checkered suit variety. However, in order to land business you have to sell yourself and your services. Even most web based jobs requiring an application require a bit of selling. You have to convince your client that you are worth the investment and the best person for the job.
Many people associate sales with being pushy, but that’s hardly the case. You don’t have to be annoying to be convincing. Freelance writers sell by playing up their strong points and convincing potential clients they’re good for business. Freelancers pitch their wares just someone with a product will set up shop. Your product is your writing and your catalog is your portfolio of clips and writing samples. Selling yourself entails putting forth your best effort with every piece of writing and with every query letter.
Marketing is a little different from sales in that you’re not pitching a product as much as you are promoting yourself and what you do. Marketing is participating in events to bring awareness to your name or your brand. It’s networking by visiting blogs and social networking and offering your thoughts. It’s writing ebooks or giving interviews to solidify your expertise. Marketing is building a buzz and creating a presence. It’s using a website or blog for promotional services or creating a cool giveaway.
As a freelance writers you can write every day for select clients or websites, or you can use marketing strategies to bring the clients to you.
3. Customer Service
Good customer service is essential for any successful business. If your clients aren’t happy, they won’t come back. Moreover, if they publicly voice their displeasure it can prevent you from taking on new clients. With a bad reputation you may as well forget about recommendations or word of mouth marketing. Good customer service isn’t only turning in a good piece of writing. In order to rock an awesome customer service experience, you’ll also have to have good communication skills. Don’t leave it to your client to ask for an update, offer one anyway. Keeping your client apprised of your progress on a regular basis will keep him from wondering what’s going on and will enable him to ask questions as you progress, rather than having to scrap a project that was done wrong from the beginning.
Good customer services also means following up after a gig is complete and making sure your client is happy with the finished product. If your client isn’t happy, good customer service means working with him to make sure it’s done to his satisfaction. Happy clients become the clients who will pay more and refer you to other high paying clients.
How do potential clients know about you? Marketing is one way to get the word out, but so is advertising. In this world you have to spend money to make money. Sometimes that means buying business cards or advertising space to help spread the word about your business.
You may not be as big or famous as General Mills or Home Depot, but that doesn’t mean your name is any less important. Go ahead and laugh if you want, but your name is your brand. When you write do you consider your brand? When you visit forums or social networks, do you wonder if your latest rant has any bearing on how others see you? People remember negativity far more than they remember positive experiences. How do you want people to remember your brand.
Businesses handle accounting differently than individuals. It’s not enough to pay taxes or make sure you’re being paid for your work. Good accounting means analyzing the money earned and ensuring the end justifies the means. If you’re working for hours each day and not earning a profit, something is wrong. If you’re simply getting by, something is wrong. Businesses are in business to make money not to merely pay the rent. How you choose to earn your money is up to you, but make sure the math works out.
7. Business Hours
When we work out of our homes, we tend to take up bad habits. Perhaps we work with the laptop on our laps while watching TV. Perhaps we spend more time surfing the web or enjoying the social networks than working or building our businesses. Establishing business hours takes care of several things at once:
- Others respect our time as they see us working the same hours each and every day.
- It establishes boundaries for clients who might want to call at 6:00 A.M.
- We have more respect for our writing when we sit down and work specific blocks of uninterrupted time.
- Having specific work hours helps us to keep focused and we’re not stopping and starting to run errands, make meals, etc.
8. Work Space
I get that we can work from anywhere and I’m not going to argue that. However, having a dedicated office space does help to put us in a “business” frame of mind. How do I know this? I worked for years from my kitchen table. Nothing is more distracting than having to pack up several times a day to accommodate meals or homework. Freelancers with their own work space are more likely to remain focused. We can close our doors to noise and communicate with clients without the sounds of our private life in the background.
9. Work Ethic
Nothing says “professional” like a good work ethic. Your business deserves a good reputation. Good business is meeting your deadlines and turning in clean work every time. It’s giving your best effort to every single project and client. Being a professional is not flaking on your clients or making up a lot of excuses as to why a project can’t be done to the best of your ability. Your name is your most important asset. If you can’t live up to your good name, you might as well get out of the business.
10. Frame of Mind
Do you want to be seen as a business owner? Think like a business owner. Instead of saying, “I need to find a freelance writing job,” say, “I need to find more clients.” Instead of simply trying to make ends meet, make a business plan and set goals. Treat every decision as a business decision. Before taking on each client ask if that person is good for your business. Is the pay what you’re looking for? Do you like that client’s reputation? Will you be able to handle the work load? Think like a business owner and not someone who is looking for work.
Tell me about your writing. Do you have a job or a business? What is the difference?