Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On Cons and Con Artists

The other day, I visited our neighbourhood Indian store which is filled with exotic veggies and fruit and snacks and sweets. It's also filled with stainless steel cooking utensils and storage jars, and I wanted to pick up a few of the latter. In addition to three jars, I picked up a few potatoes, onions, and mangoes and when I reached the checkout counter, I was distracted by my kids near the sweet bin (filled with nutty delights, which my son is allergic to). So I paid the bill without checking (or questioning) it, only to discover later that night that I was billed for items I didn't purchase.

Could it have been a mistake? I don't think so. The counter was empty and the cashier has plenty of time to check the few items I had purchased.

Don't you hate it when you get cheated? Now how about when the person who cheats you is a fellow writer?

I recently signed up for an online course run by a 'reputable' writer whom I met through one of the online networking groups I frequent. She took my money, sent me the first two parts of a five week course, and since then I haven't heard from her. My emails don't get responded to despite the fact she's still active in the networking group.

So, cons come in all shapes and sizes, nationalities, and job fronts. My recommendations?

Double check whom you do business with.
Report any scams to Better Business Bureau (I did both) and to any other online scam reporting sites.
Share your stories with others so they might benefit from them.

Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Multiply Your Writing Income Through Referrals

The most frustrating thing about working on a netbook is not realizing the glitches your computer may have, which ends up in a perfectly good post getting deleted! Which is what happened to me recently. I was tired and sat working on my bed, writing the post well into midnight. Only to find out the next day that the heading appeared, but the actual content did not!

Oh well- another reason to check and double check your work. And I'm lucky it happened to my own blog and not one that belongs to a client.

And speaking of clients, I've had three this week who've referred me to their colleagues/friends, thereby doubling my income for the month. How great is that! Coincidentally I received a newsletter from one of the writers I subscribe to which also talks of referrals. In it he mentions that 50% of his business is through referrals. While I can't claim such a high figure, I can tell you I've found a direct way that works for me: I simply ask for them.

If I know a client is pleased with my work, I ask for two things: testimonials and referrals. I usually put the request down in an email so it stays with the client and he's reminded of it when he checks his inbox. I accompany my request with a nice note to let him know I enjoy working with him, and provide him with the option to refuse if he wants to. This way, there's no pressure for him to say yes, and neither does he feel obligated.

You can also carry out a promotion - refer one client and get a 50% discount off your next job - or put a note on your invoice asking for referrals.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Top 5 Freelancing Myths Deboned!

Myth 1:

You have a lot of freedom: You all read about the freelancer who sits back and enjoys the fruit of his labors while seemingly doing nothing. The truth is freelancing is a very hard job and it does involve a lot of work; including things you may not have otherwise undertaken, like accounting, marketing and secretarial duties.

Myth 2:

Do a good job and clients will come to you: Not true! What is true is that you may get a few referrals, but there’ll certainly be no queues outside your door.At least not for a long while. You still have to work very hard at marketing your services and continue to do so long after you’ve built up a nice little portfolio for yourself. It may get easier, but it certainly doesn’t stop.

Myth 3:

My work speaks for itself: Not really. You still have to push it forward. Having a great online portfolio will go a long way in showing clients who you are and what you can do; but you’ll still need to work hard to get those clients to your site.

Myth 4:

I do only what I love: Eventually, that’s your goal. But for now, you’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to get started and keep on going. You’ll take on certain projects which are boring and those thankless jobs no one else wants, and you’ll do it well because you know that’s your entry into the world of freelancing.

Myth 5:

You’re your own boss: In theory, yes. In reality, you will always have the clients being your boss. And telling you what to do and how to do it and when to meet deadlines. No freelancer is truly free of a boss, not as long as they have clients.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Top 5 Ways To Generate Leads

What are the two top things every freelance writer needs to do to be successful? Write great copy and generate leads. If you can do both of those, then you’re on your way to joining the hundreds of freelance writers who enjoy a steady income.

Simply put, leads are potential clients. Every freelancer needs good leads and a lot of them, because only some will convert into actual sales. Leads are clients who have been referred to you or perhaps have seen your work, website, portfolio and come to you with a request. They may have emailed your or spoken with you over the phone. And if you can win them over then the sale is in your pocket and money in your bank!

Ask for Referrals: You can always contact current or past clients who are happy with your work and ask them to refer you. Most of them will be happy to do so. To make it easier, send them an email listing of all your services, which they can then forward.

Direct Mailing: The quickest way to getting your name out there is through Direct Mail. Mail out your services (or send a short introductory email or make a short phone call) to your potential clients.

This is another great way to meet people interested in your work. Networking does not necessarily mean going physically to a networking event (though of course that’s a great option). Sites like Facebook, twitter and other social networking sites and blog forums are also excellent places to network online.

Simple but an effective way to get leads. Even a simple free ad on a site like Craigslist can bring you potential clients.

Become a Speaker
: This is not necessarily an option or choice for everyone. But if you feel comfortable speaking in front of an audience, then don’t hesitate to go for it. Even a small group may generate leads which in turn may convert to sales.

So try them all, or just one of them and see if they don’t work for you!


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Friday, August 6, 2010

Freelance Writing Rules to Boost Your Career

Freelance writers starting out a new career often find it bewildering - lack of visible support, job sites with low paying projects and fierce competition can often make even the strongest throw up their hands in dismay.

There are so many things that I now look back in retrospect and wish I had known about. The following are the top 5 list of things I had to learn the hard way.

Writing with direction:

When I developed my first blog and website, I had no real aim. I just knew I wanted to write. And so I spent hours and hours developing it, sourcing story ideas, free images (I had no spare change to spend at photo sites) and writing about the things I loved or felt strongly about. Was that a wrong thing to do? Not at all. But it would have been better if I had invested all that passion and energy into writing with a more focused aim. It would have allowed me to capture a larger audience and diversify into something more meaningful.

The importance of social networking:

It took me longer that it should have to get onto the social networking bandwagon. Why? Because I didn’t know the benefits that could be achieved by being on it. Once I did get on though , I began to see immediate results. A lot of my subscribers and clients come to me via sites like Twitter and I’ve gained a lot of followers and friends through blog chat forums.

Marketing on a daily basis:

Now I market myself on a daily basis. Nearly 30% of my online time is spend promoting myself and my work. And because I do so, I can afford to spend an equal amount of time on Facebook and other chat forums solely for the purpose of having fun and connecting with other excellent bloggers and friends.

Weeding out undesirable job sites:

As a freelance writer, you will spend a large proportion of your time job hunting. There are a number of job sites and potential clients with promises to make you a millionaire before 30 (or in my case, before 40)and it’s really quite difficult to weed out the good ones from the scams. Nowadays, I do a quick Google search before I sign up for anything. If there are a healthy number of poor reviews, I treat the site with scepticism. If the ads that pop up are mainly craigslist ads, I also avoid them. And remember, if you are a newcoming, it doesn't mean settling for low paying jobs. Persist and build up a good portfolio and you can ask for the money you feel you're worth.

Having a mentor:

A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you’ve paid to learn from. While you will no doubt benefit tremendously from having a full time mentor, even for a short period of time, you can also learn from someone more experience than you by subscribing to their ezines or e-courses. If they have books and eBooks out, you may want to invest in a few of them.

Stick with these 5 rules and you’ll definitely enhance your freelance writing career in a short while!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

3 Copywriting Tips That Work!

Copywriting is an intense craft that has a lot of tips and tricks to
remember. You can use a play on words, keep is simple and straightforward, or
make the audience guess at what you're trying to say - they all work simply
because there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing creative copy.

There are however plenty of tips. The following three are ones to pin up
and apply to any copywriting project you're about to undertake:

Visualize your target audience.
Who are they? What do they look like? Where to they live? What do they like/dislike? Some copywriters actually tear out photographs of their demographic group and tape them up for inspiration. I write mine down on a whiteboard and make sure I refer to them. If I'm in the mood, I might even doodle some figures to give it more color.
Whatever works right? The point is, never forget your target audience - not even
for an instance.

Don't speak down to them.

That's an insult. Most books on copywriting will tell you to keep it simple. And that's the truth.Unless your audience is extremely sophisticated and knowledgeable about your product, it's best to avoid using technical jargon and complicated words. On
the other hand, I'm not sure what 8th grade lingo is either - possibly the liberal use of cute, like, awesome and chillaxin - which is what some courses and books recommend you adopt. Instead, speak to them as you would a friend.

Focus on your headline.

That really has to be captivating. As does
your first line. Make them too long, too vague or too clever, and you've
already lost your audience. Keep it catchy and concise and focused on what you
want to say, and who you want to say it too (check your blackboard, doodles, photographs).

And then have fun with your words. There's nothing nicer than seeing
your brochure, your ad or your website - don't let the web designer fool you
into believing it's his creation - out there for others to use.

Ps: If there are any 8th graders out there reading this who disagree with my interpretation of their lingo, I apologize. I have a few years to go before my kids reach that age!