writing referalsReferrals can become the life-blood of your freelance writing business. When one satisfied client recommends your writing skills to another, its almost easy to land the job. So how do you get referrals? It’s simple, really. You ask for them. Yes, it’s that simple. Here’s why it works: People do love to help other people, particularly when it’s easy. Most people who hire writers do know other folks who hire writers. You’ve done a great job; your client loves to help. It’s a natural.

Feeling nervous is natural

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making all sorts of excuses to avoid asking a client for referrals. It’s almost natural. The fear is probably that you’ll annoy your best client or you’ll discover they really don’t like your writing, or, or, or… you name it. All those things are, I suppose, possible. Assuming, however, you have decent rapport and the client has indicated they’re satisfied with your work, it’s unlikely. But people do refuse. I suspect the biggest reason is that no one immediately comes to mind.

Ask if you can use them as a reference

If the client you ask for referrals has none, thank them for considering it and ask if you can use them as a reference. Chances are they will say yes to that. Then, when a prospective client asks for references, you’ll have them. References can also help you turn a client who isn’t quite sure if they should hire you into a firm YES.

Ask for testimonials

Testimonials that you can put on your website help assure prospective clients that you’re good at your work. Again, you begin by asking for them. If they say yes, but seem hesitant about actually getting them written, offer to draft one for them. I’ve found clients appreciate that because it gives them something to edit. Referrals, references and testimonials can go along way toward helping you build your freelance business. Do you ask for testimonials or referrals or references? All three? If you don’t, what gets in your way? Write well and often, Anne Wayman     Sharing this article with your network is as easy as clicking the buttons to the left. Thanks!

writing for yourself

Yesterday I answered a question about finding time to write. That sparked a question from forum member, Sharon Hurley Hall who asked “How do I find time for my own writing?”

If you’re successful in building a freelance writing business writing for others like Sharon is, you’ll run into the same question. I know I have.

Again, it’s a matter of setting priorities. When, however, you have contracted with clients for writing that amounts to full time or more, it can seem impossible to figure out when to write your novel or your poetry or your book, etc.

Obviously, you want to get the client’s writing done on schedule because that’s how you get paid. Besides, you promised and keeping your word is important.

Here are three tips that may help you carve out a little, or even a lot of room for your own writing:

Track your time

I think every writer should track their time, at least their working time, every now and again for a week. I use Toggl which has a free version and is super simple to set up and use.

The reason I think you should track your time is to see if you’re really working as efficiently as you think you are. If you find time leaks, you may be able to plug those holes with your own writing.

More likely though, is you’ll discover you are spending your time about the way you think you are.

Take a stab at designing your ideal day. I like using a spreadsheet for this. Block in the time you want to spend writing on your own projects first and see if you can schedule the client work around that. This is one way to start taking your own writing seriously because you’ll have a visual representation of your writing and the work you do for clients.

You can get a lot done in short blocks of time

Sure, we all love having a long, open ended period of time for our own writing. But it’s not always possible. It’s amazing how much you can get done even in 10 or 15 minutes a day. The first person to notice that writing a page a day got you 365 pages was absolutely right. Those short blocks of time add up if you’re consistent with them.

It can feel awkward to enter and leave a piece you love writing in such a short time, but with practice it will begin to feel natural.

You can arrange your schedule as you please

One of the joys of freelancing is you can arrange your schedule pretty much as you want. Sure there are family obligations, and what-have-you, but your work time is your own.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying the first hour of your work day is for your writing, and sticking to it. If a client asks for an 8 o’clock am call, you say you won’t be available until 9 – they don’t have to know why.

The same thing can be done with the last hour of the workday. Be wary. It’s much easier to slip personal writing time in the afternoon because the writing for clients will tend to expand.

Some people write for clients during the day, and for themselves in the evening or even late at night.

It really doesn’t matter when. What matters is finding the time, scheduling the time then using the time for your own writing no matter what!

When you need, long, luxurious writing time, and sometimes we do, take a weekend or go on a writing retreat, either official or one you create yourself.

Yes, when your work is writing for others it can be tough to fit in working on your own projects. Go for it. You and your writing will be better for it, and you do deserve to write for yourself.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Pascal Maramis

You can join our forum now – and get your questions answered by other writers.

writing client confusionI subcontract some article work for a company that’s in at least three countries, including India. They had been getting their writing done there but realized, that since most of their clients are in the U.S. they needed a writer with a real American voice. It’s been going well, at least until yesterday when I got back four articles for rewriting.

I don’t mind rewriting. I actually consider a revision or two part of the deal.

This time, however, when I read what they were asking for I recognized they really had no idea how we writers work or what we need to do it well, particularly when dealing with unfamiliar topics.

Nor had I given them any help in knowing what I wanted. We were both expecting somehow to read each other’s minds. When I thought about it I was really surprised this issue hadn’t come up before on this gig.

A list of what I, the writer, need

After talking with the person who hired me I generated a list of what I need to do a great job writing for them, which in this case, is about to do industrial manufacturing. It looks like this:

  • What, precisely, do you do?
  • Who is your customer? (Types of businesses.)
  • What does your customer do with your product or service?
  • Why do you want this article written – an answer for each article
  • What do you want each article to accomplish – sell, inform, etc. for each article
  • What resources do you suggest the writer look at in addition to your own website?
  • How long has the business existed?
  • What else comes to mind?

This list could, with minimal adjustment, work for almost any client who is selling products or services. If they asked me to write something about the company, instead of its products, I’d need a different list.

Writing clients are often confused

Often the folks who hire us are confused. Many of them don’t really know what kind of writing they want or need; most of them have no clue how we do what we do.

It’s really not surprising when you think about it. They are specialists and real experts in what they do which doesn’t prepare them well for hiring writers. The web is forcing more and more companies to create web sites and blogs if they want to stay competitive and that means someone has to do some writing. But how would an expert on say used equipment for the oil industry have any real understanding of content creation? The same is true for maybe even most businesses.

It’s up writers to sort them out

It’s really up to us to not only do the writing they need, but give them the information they need to help us do what they are paying for.

Successful writers know how to question a client about what they’re doing and exactly what they want to achieve. Sometimes this means a project will be delayed while the client figures it out.

Once in a great while a client will balk at this type of questioning, either fearing that somehow you’re calling into question their expertise, you’re trying to steal their secrets, or they think they’re being clear enough. That’s a client to drop – you’ll never get it right and the client will be sure its your fault even though it isn’t

The takeaway here is don’t be shy or think you should know whatever – ask. Ask the client questions so you both are truly on the same page. Your writing will be easier and you’re client will be happier.

Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by DominusVobiscum

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

Ready to join the forum? It’s easy.

writers back up your workEarly last year, at the request of one of my adult children, I began writing our family story. It wasn’t for publication; the goal was to retain some of the family stories and history for, well, posterity.

I’d written maybe 30 pages, complete with illustrations and had emailed this incomplete rough draft to my kids when I hit a snag. Since I wasn’t writing for a paying client I didn’t worry to much, knowing I could get back to it when the time was ripe.

Of course, life goes on and part of life for me was getting a new computer. Why is it that even with the same software or almost the same software the new computer never looks exactly like the old? I always figure I’ll lose at least a day and maybe two getting set up with the new machine.

I deleted it – I think

I don’t remember doing it, but apparently in an effort to tidy up my desktop on the new machine I deleted the family story folder. Over a couple of days I ran several searches, thinking maybe family story wasn’t the right name.

Nothing.

I felt some panic, and even asked one kid if they knew where their copy of the folder/files were – no help there either.

Then I remembered I pay Carbonite every year to automatically back up my computer.

And there was the missing folder; literally a single click put it back on my desktop and, when I checked, everything was there, including the manuscript.

Whew!

What if it had been a writing client?

Now, what if that missing and probably deleted folder had belonged to a client? Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if you had to contact a client, or several and tell them you had lost your assignments and the writing you were doing for them?

If you’re going to be in the writing business, you simply must be backed up, period. Not being backed up and losing client files can end your writing career – really.

There are all sorts of backup systems, but the ones that work best are those that backup your computer offsite automatically.

I know there are some who won’t use such systems for fear of privacy breaches. I understand that and I’ll ask only one question: How often have you skipped your backup scheme?

Why writers need offsite backup

You can have the best backup system in the world right their in your home or office, and it’s not enough. It’s not enough because every home and every office is subject to fire, flood, wind and who knows what kind of damage.

That old tree might one day fall and wipe out part of your roof and all off your computer and backups.

Your kids could pour water over your systems, or the dog chew on it, or you do something wierd… or, as happens often, and without warning, your hard drive dies.

These days it’s just too easy and too cheap to have automatic offsite backup to risk not having it. I pay Carbonite $60 a year. They’ve bailed me out more than once and I’m now familiar with their service. It’s a business expense I’m more than willing to pay.

And there are even free services. Gizmos has an updated listI haven’t used any of those so I can’t recommend them, but I totally agree with Gizmo when they say the worst time to think about back up is when you need it.

No more excuses! Choose your offsite backup solution right now – there’s no reason to postpone it.

How are you backed up? Tell us your solution.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by blmurch

Share this post if you found it helpful – it helps! Thanks.