Monday, August 30, 2010

Freelance Follies: "How much is it going to cost?"

Time's short today...we're moving and I have to install a hardwood floor in my new office before I can transition the desk, computer and filing cabinets over. And in the midst of it all, trying to get all my work done.

In the meantime, enjoy Freelance Follies, Episode 3: "How much is it going to cost?"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lessons in self perception

It's a bit hackneyed to say that playing a round of golf with people will tell you everything you need to know about what they're like in business: Are they fun? Do they cheat? Are they a stickler for the rules? Do they take stupid risks?

I'm reminded of all this as I recently returned to playing golf after a 16-year hiatus. I used to be halfway decent; in fact, my first two editorial jobs were with Golf Digest and Golf Illustrated. Today, I have several clients in the golf business, so I've committed to bringing my game to an acceptable standard.

But coming out of retirement has been a reality check: I am older, weaker, less flexible, and have worse depth perception. On the flip side, I'm also a bit wiser, slower to anger, and more patient -- funny enough, much like I have become in business. Recognizing that I was getting worse with each progressive round, I knew that I needed help, or I might just abandon the game again for good.

So, I paid a visit to a pro at the local municipal course last night. Before doing anything, she asked me to hit a couple of balls to see what my swing looked like. Stage fright took over, and I hit a series of awful-looking line drives and topped shots that bounded feebly down the range.

After making a few quick technical adjustments, though, we spent the next hour working almost exclusively on perception vs. reality. What I thought I was doing was pretty different from what I was actually doing. Really, you kind of need to trick your brain into rethinking its understanding of alignment. One hour didn't get me back to 1994, but I was amazed at how much more comfortable I felt. There's hope for me yet.

Your mileage may vary, as far as using golf (or any activity) as a way of judging personality. But the business lesson for me was very personal: Getting to the end of my rope, and seeking out the help of a skilled third-party professional, was a reminder that we're often terrible self-judges of what we're doing.

And perhaps more important, that asking for help is not a weakness, it's a strength.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The taxonomy of bad freelancers

Reading "Freelance Screw-offs" this morning at Lori Widmer's Words on the Page blog, I was reminded of one of the reasons I got into freelancing in the first place: As an editor, I knew quite a few freelancers who weren't particularly skilled writers or adequately responsive to my needs. Missed deadlines, botched assignments, and a bucketful of excuses is no way to go through life, son.

Yet, they seemed to make enough money to survive. I figured I could do better, simply by operating as a business rather than someone who took assignments for granted and expected a dollar a word for a mail-it-in effort.

In any case, I highly recommend a click over to Lori's blog, whether to make yourself feel better (you'd never make any of those mistakes, right?) or to remind yourself to hew to a higher standard -- and avoid a place in the taxonomy of bad freelancers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Freelance Follies: "When are you going to get a real job?"

It's every freelancer's favorite question: "When are you going to get a real job?" (I think I finally stopped hearing that after I'd been in business for myself for about, oh, five years. Your mileage may vary!) Then again, depending on how much someone likes working for The Man, they just may never understand why you'd want to be an independent freelancer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The psychology of "inclusive we"

In grammar, there's an inclusive we, which means you're including the addressee, and an exclusive we, which means you aren't (not to be confused with the royal we, which is, being snobby). Wiki's definition does a good job of illustrating the distinction.

What I'd like to throw out for consideration today is the power of using the inclusive we during the sales process—and I believe it's critically important for a freelancer. When I'm in a prospective client meeting, the sooner I can get a prospect to think of me as a member of his or her team, the better. As an example:
  • Outside Consultant Voice—"Your large email database makes an e-newsletter an affordable option."
  • Team Member Voice—"It'll be a slam-dunk to generate ROI for our e-newsletter." 
  • Outside Consultant Voice—"What's my deadline?"
  • Team Member Voice—"What's our timeframe on getting this completed?"
It's a subtle shift in psychology by being conscious of the words you use. On the other hand, you don't want to overwork it, or make the shift too soon, lest you come across as presumptuous (or pompous, a.k.a., being mistaken for the royal we). You need to have established some basic rapport for it to be credible; which means being sensitive to the client's demeanor. (Which is what it all comes down to in sales, anyway!)

So, are we on the same page? I thought so.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Curing writer's block

Before you get your hopes up that I've conjured up a magic elixir of inspiration, my post "Curing writer's block" at Freelance-Zone actually takes a more cynical view of what gets lumped into writer's block and why curing it really ought to be a non-issue for the professional freelancer.

Read it there, and comment on it there...or here! Sorry for being lazy and stealing from myself, but I've got two meetings and several deadlines before the day runs out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yiddish folklore and the freelancer

In my days at McMurry (an excellent custom magazine publisher and communications firm based here in Phoenix), a coworker of mine told me an old Yiddish folk tale that went something like this...
There was an office drone who ignored his inbox for a good period of time, and it stacked up halfway to the ceiling. At some point, he decided that it was a danger to his job, and maybe a fire hazard, so it was time to address the accumulated pile.
He started from the bottom. The issue in the first memo had already been solved. Reading the second piece of paper, he found that it was about a project that had been dropped. Same with the third, fourth and so on—every single problem had either been resolved, put on hold or abandoned entirely.
Upon returning from my vacation, my inbox isn't necessarily like that. But I am comforted by the fact that nothing blew up while I was away. I'd like to think it's because I planned well, gave all my clients plenty of notice, and left things in relatively good shape. The reality is, it's more likely because things always seem more emergent when you're available to work on them.

Now, gotta go. Back to my inbox.