Thursday, September 30, 2010

Disposing with dignity

Hold on a sec. Not talking about eliminating dignity, here — I'm referring to throwing away things on your own terms.
We recently moved, and part of that process included disassembling my office over THERE and re-creating it over HERE (in a slightly smaller space). As I gazed upon the stuff that had accumulated over the years, I knew that there were a couple of Hefty bags in my future.

Which brings me to disposing with dignity. With some items -- boxes for electronics past their warranty, faded neon paper that I used for a long-ago direct mail campaign, several miles' worth of USB, Firewire and ethernet cable — it's not a hard decision to pitch.

But then you get to those things that may once have held some meaning but now just collect dust: stacks of photos that didn't make the cut into an album or onto a wall; silly awards; CDs of stale computer archives; and, perhaps most painfully and poignantly for a freelance writer, stacks of magazines, samples and old clips that are way past their expiration date.

I threw it all away. The "disposing with dignity" principle is something my wife and I formulated and have employed (usually when moving), and it comes down to this: As the owner/possessor of an item that has some emotional value to you alone, it's best that you are the one to throw it away. Not to go too morbid on you here, but if you were to die tomorrow, this is stuff that would be chucked away without remorse. In fact, it might only serve to annoy the people who wondered why you kept all that crap.

In any event, purging felt good. I had one final chance to pay my respects and reminisce on those things that I didn't really need anymore. I just heard the garbage truck do its pickup...but I still have my memories.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

International Freelancers Day online conference

If you haven't already heard or signed up, the International Freelancers Day online conference will be taking place on September 24, 2010. A quick look at the agenda and 25 speakers makes it look like a worthwhile confab. It's founded by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia of, which is one of my regular RSS reads.

And it's free, too.

If you're registered, you'll also be able to watch replays of the presentations, in case you're working on deadline or out of town.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I am MacGyver

No, I'm not talking about the mullet I wore back in the late 1980s. I'm talking about the fact that, as a freelance writer, there are going to be times when you're given a piece of dental floss, a stick of gum, and a Bic lighter, and you're expected to create a nuclear weapon a brochure or ad campaign or website out of it.

Earlier this week, I started work on a project for a longtime client. He's a great guy, funny as hell, and I know exactly how he works: It starts with a kind of fuzzy, two-sentence email about what he wants the project to be. That's followed up by me giving him a call to find out the details...only to find out that there really aren't any yet, just kind of a big picture this-is-what-I-want-it-to-be. Next, he sends a couple of links to websites that kinda do what he wants to do, but not quite. Similar, but different.

Day two, he sends me a follow-up email to find out how it's going. Which prompts another call from me to say I need more information. Now, I click on the digital tape recorder, and play Mr. Reporter for a while, asking as many questions as I can, grasping at threads. The conversation ends, I transcribe the file, and I'm marginally farther along.

I start writing babble-style, then suddenly the piece starts to take form. Hmmm, not half bad. I shoot him the draft, he shoots a bunch of holes in it (as I mutter to myself, "Why didn't you tell me that earlier?), and I give it a rework. In the end, he's happy, I'm relieved, it's all good, another one's in the books.

The reality is, I wouldn't put up with these antics if I didn't genuinely like him and know that it's just the way he is. It wouldn't do me any good to try to change his style, either. I simply accept it, and I know I'll provide him a product that does what he needs it to do.

And the other reality is, it's kind of a kick to strap on my MacGyver mullet-wig, and create something explosive out of damn near nothing.

Now, where the heck did I put my Bic?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Losing a loyal client or editor

It happens to all of us eventually: Losing a loyal client or editor to a new position elsewhere. But hey, I'm nothing but an undaunted optimist — in fact, it can be a bit of a Johnny Appleseed opportunity, with new work and opportunities in a new company with an old friend. Developing a strong client relationship, always, always, always, is a freelancer's best business strategy.

More details and thoughts on how to handle a client/editor departure at my newest post, "Losing a loyal client."