I’m cranky. I’m spending my spare time standing in lines and making my way through aisles strewn with items of clothing, poorly placed kiosks and impulse displays. As I wait behind about fifty others so I can pay for a single item, I have lots of time to think and make comparisons.
How Freelance Writing is Like Christmas Shopping
Yesterday I stood on line for 45 minutes in order to pay for a pair of Clone Trooper pajamas. Rather than roll my eyes and suck my teeth like the other shoppers who waited until the last minute and feel, miraculously, that the crowds should part like the Red Sea for their stress free checkout and immediate service, I thought about other things I could be doing. For example, watching paint dry.
As I contemplated the Bumpit that was falling out of the hair of the lady in front of me and wondered why I don’t shop in July like all the supermoms in my neighborhood, I became inspired by the scene around me. A mental blog post formed amid the hustle and bustle. Rather than lose this bit of genius by the time I got home, I hunted out some old receipts and an eyeliner pencil so I could get it down on paper.
4 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Christmas Shopping
I know! So creative.
If you act early you can avoid the crowds
By early I mean any time before Black Friday.
In the month following Thanksgiving, the stores are packed with shoppers. It’s a challenge to walk without bumping into someone or something. Articles of clothing are stepped on or strewn about and lines are so very long. It’s all rather messy and inconvenient. Last minute holiday shopping isn’t always conducive to a pleasant experience.
With freelance writing acting early could mean standing out in a potential client’s mind before other job seekers find out there’s a job available. Not that this isn’t always the case. Most clients look for the best candidate for the job even if it means sifting through 1,000 resumes. However, I do know of a few clients who say that after the first 50 applications or so, everything sort of starts to look the same. There’s something to be said about wrapping one’s bright and early beak around the proverbial worm, especially for clients who need writers right away.
There’s also something to be said about putting feelers out to catch gigs before they’re public knowledge. Doing searches on Twitter yield a gold mine of leads. In fact some Tweeters will toss a job out on Twitter before making it available to the mainstream job boards. It never hurts to meet and network with the people who hire writers in order to gain inside tips.
If you wait too long, the stuff you want is gone
Every year I tell myself I’m going to start shopping throughout the year and every year I put it off until December. This year I was so busy building my business, I put off my shopping until the last two weeks before Christmas. As a result, some items are out of stock. Now, I have several choices: drive all over town and check every single store for said desired items, back order and hope it’ll get in by Christmas, forget it and tell my child he’ll have to deal with being the only kid at school without the toy of the year, or pay astronomical shipping costs. Shipping costs usually wins.
You miss out if you take too long to apply for a gig, too. Not everyone takes 30 days to select the right candidate. It’s been my experience that a client makes his decision within a week or two. By all means, plan a strategy. Create a pitch and make sure your clips are perfect. Take your time to tailor your pitch and clips to your clients needs, but if you wait too long you’ll miss out.
Acting impulsively doesn’t always meet with the intended results
Mr. Ng generally shops during the day or two before Christmas. He hates crowded malls more than I do and does his best to get out of there as quickly as possible. This means he can be a lousy gift giver. Even though I suggest the nearest jeweler is never mobbed, he runs out to the supermarket to see what he can find there. I’m sure you can imagine how I felt last year on Christmas morning upon finding a spatula and a bag of coffee in my stocking.
Spontaneity is a good thing, being able to act in the moment or when a burst of creativity happens can lead to brilliance. Acting impulsively is an entirely different matter because it means you act first and think later. While the stores encourage this, as a business owner it’s not a good idea. Always use good thought in your decision making process. If you’re adding in a bit of last minute copy, make sure the changes make sense. If you’re making a decision regarding a client, think long and hard. Look into the long term and not just the moment.
Drastic markdowns require pause
Why are all those sad little Santas and snowmen thrown into the dollar bin? Because they’re filthy, they have fingerprints on them, and frankly, no one wants them. If they were a great seller they would have flown off the shelves a long time ago. If you stop and think about the stuff that’s on drastic markdown you might notice taped up boxes as if items were returned, or tears or minuscule cracks. Always ask why.
If you’re quoting bargain basement rates to your clients, they may also take pause. Why do you charge so little? Are you new? Are you a bad business person? You can be a terrific writer who is simply trying to drum up some business but that won’t necessarily cause potential clients to wonder why you quoted such a low rate.
What are some comparisons you can make between Christmas shopping and freelance writing?