Tag Archives: Business

In Praise of Failure

By Jake Poinier

If I’m honest with myself—and, yeah, that can be tough to do—I recognize that I have learned as much or more about the freelancing business from failure as I have from success. I’ve been at it for 14 years now, and have enough distance from some of my most major screw-ups to laugh about them. For others, the sting is a little too fresh and harsh.

You’ve got your obvious mistakes, when you bid too low, or let the client run you ragged with scope creep, or simply took on a job that looked boring…and it turned out to be worse than you imagined. But the main thing is to not make the same mistake twice. That’s not failure, it’s foolishness.

There’s another aspect of failure, though, that’s a little more subtle and a lot more under your control. In order to improve your freelance business, you need to try things that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s experimenting with different industries and media types, or trying out different marketing techniques. (If you want a ton of low-cost, high-potential-upside failures, cold-calling is a great exercise.)

The bottom line is that we may expect perfection from our actual creative work as freelancers—perfect grammar, punctuation, turns of phrase—but the sales/marketing/management aspect of the business doesn’t follow the same rules. If your query letters aren’t working, perhaps it’s not that the story ideas are bad. If new clients are haggling on price, it’s not necessarily because your rates are too high. If you’re having trouble finding prospects, it could be simply that you need to take a different approach.

Normally, you think of January as the time to try new things, but I’m telling you right here, that there are freelance clients out there now, coming into the pre-holiday rush, who can be grabbed with just the right pitch or approach—and it might be different from your current methodology. Sure, you might fail. But what would happen if you succeed?

Jake Poinier recently published his first book about freelancing, The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid. He runs Phoenix-based Boomvang Creative Group and blogs under the pseudonym Dr. Freelance.

Can You Reach the Right People via Social Media?

by Helen Gallagher

You might think being on blogs, Facebook and Twitter gives you enough exposure for your professional profile. But what if your desired reader or client isn’t out there?


Numerous studies show that men and women have differing online habits. While this may seem obvious, it is important if you’re counting on people finding you online and hiring you to work with/for them.

Examples from recent news items in The Atlantic and Christian Science Monitor:

— Fewer men use social media, and they are dramatically less likely to log on everyday.
— Men spend 28 percent less of their online time on social networks than women.
— Males don’t “Like” brands, update their status, or comment on others’ pictures as frequently as women.
— Women view social networks as a way to connect with family, friends, and co-workers. Men do not.

So, before wasting time on social media, hoping to reach the right contacts, consider spending more time reading up on sites that share meaningful industry-specific content. In other words, go where your clients are. Ideas include:

CNet.com, and wsj.com for business contacts
LinkedIn.com industry-specific groups
MediaBistro.com for journalists and media industry news

And, don’t overlook traditional trade magazines. (See tradepub.com).  Whether your client works in insurance, housewares or transportation, you’ll keep up with industry news, and be ready to talk business the next time the client contacts you for a freelance assignment.

Helen Gallagher blogs at Freelance-Zone.com to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes about, coaches and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through www.releaseyourwriting.com.

Do You Mean Business?

by Catherine L. Tully

Are you in this field because you want to make a living?

If so, you need to treat it like a business, not a hobby.

Catherine L. Tully
Catherine L. Tully

I have recently seen a bunch of articles on this subject, and I have to say, it’s true. A lot of freelance writers simply throw up their hands and lament the fact that they don’t have business skills, rather than taking the time to get qualified. I read a great post on this subject at Redhead Ranting (Warning: if you are offended by strong language/swearing, skip it. If not, you’ll enjoy this very much!) that let freelancers have it for their lack of business savvy.

Here are a few tips for thinking like a pro: Continue reading Do You Mean Business?

Business Networking

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now. Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

business networkingby Joe Wallace

Networking is one of the most important thing you can do as a freelancer. It goes against the stereotype of the lone scribbler, locked away in a writer’s garret for days on end, coming out to blink in the sun only when the lastest masterpiece is done–and that’s exactly why you need to do it.

Nobody writes in a vacuum. Not you, not me, not Stephen King. There’s an army of trained professionals all working together in this game we call freelancing, from the people who make sure your blog can still be viewed on the ‘net to the fact checker responsible for annoying you for one last detail before that magazine article goes to press.

But how does a new freelancer make some inroads in the networking game? Newcomers rarely know people in the business, and the few they do know can only help so much…but networking isn’t quite the daunting task it seems when you’re just starting out if you can remember a few simple concepts:

1. A newcomer’s enthusiasm and drive is a huge plus in any undertaking. You may not have much experience, but your willingness to throw your lot in for a common cause–a charity, a benefit, a volunteer project, whatever–earns you more than just the experience of doing it. You’ll also be remembered as that high-energy person so willing to devote themselves to the project. Who will the people you worked with think of first when asked if they know any good quality people for something that pays in your line of work?

2. Your skills in other areas may be more valuable than your writing skills…at first. Networking sometimes means taking a side journey that leads you to more direct opportunities as a freelancer. I volunteered to help someone run a table at a horror convention last year, which led to a direct opportunity to write for a newsstand magazine later on. The power of being in the right place at the right time shouldn’t be underestimated.

FreeSmall_300X3003. Networking doesn’t have to be strictly business. Sometimes just making friends with your fellow freelancers on social media or via local mixers or meet-and-greets is a great idea–your new friends might not have anything going but their own projects, but what happens when one of them decides to move on, cut down a client list to a more manageable size, or change specialties?

Speaking for myself, I’ve always given my friends and freelance colleagues the first shot at things I knew would be opportunities. Nepotism? Sure. But why not, when you have people you trust that you can recommend? Friends first, networking potential second…but that is definitely there for the people in my life. I’ve shared plenty, and if the day ever comes that I’m in a fix, I know a select group of people who would only be too happy to lend a hand.

4. Network your own life. That’s a play on the old computer geek saying, “Hack your own life.” Know somebody who needs a writer? Maybe you don’t right now…but you will. Never be shy about offering your services in non-obnoxious ways in your existing circle. Here’s a hint–“friend prices” and deep discounts are never bad thing in this context, but always offer with a caveat along the lines of this:

“I don’t normally offer rates this low (or free), but I’m a big believer in ‘friend prices’. Everybody else pays the going rate, so please don’t share the details of our arrangement or I’ll be swamped with offers that can’t help me pay the rent.”

5. You can start networking TODAY. Just go to where the pros congregate on Twitter, Facebook, MediaBistro.com and anywhere else where comments, advice, and resources are shared. Introduce yourself, be friendly, and meet people.

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now. Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

The Freelance Business Tax Break You Didn’t Know You Had

money This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now.  Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.

by Joe Wallace

Some bloggers and freelance writers like me who specialize in finance writing are afraid to go on the record about giving tax advice. They issue these disclaimers saying, “this is not tax advice”.

And while I am not a tax professional, I do believe a writer should stand by their words or don’t write them at all–I’ve got the guts to say this is tax advice, plain and simple. It’s advice, it’s about taxes, and I’m giving it. And there’s no possible way to get into trouble taking this advice–in fact you might get the exact opposite effect. The IRS may actually like you better for doing it.

And yeah, transparency alert, I’ve given the “this is not advice” disclaimer myself in the past, but I’m done with all that. Let’s live like crazy people and really go out on a limb here. Woohoo!

I talk a good game, but this isn’t some kind of nutty tax protester advice I’m handing out here. Instead, I’m telling you to find ways to love the IRS. The IRS is your friend. Keep saying that to yourself long enough to get past April 15th, mkay? Be dilligent, rely on good records, and all that. But that’s not the “wisdom” I need to impart today.

Here’s my earth-shattering tax advice. NEVER ROUND YOUR NUMBERS on deductions and related details. Use exact figures.


Do it the hard way and write in exact figures right down to the dollars and cents for your expenses  and deductions. Same goes for when you calculate them–why cheat yourself out of those extra cents? They add up. Five cents here, ten cents there…if you have over 100 receipts, 500, a thousand, well, you get the idea. No, it’s not a fortune. But add that to your SEP IRA, your mileage, your legitimate business expenses for meals and incidentals…and there’s also this other thing.

The headline of this post implies that not rounding your freelance deductions is a tax break you didn’t know you had. That’s true about getting a more exact figure to put in your Schedule C income tax forms, but it’s also possible, according to Business Week writer Karen E. Klein, who says putting in exact figures looks more like you’re using your actual records instead of guessing, which the IRS is inclined to take a dim view of.

Avoiding an audit sounds like one hell of a tax break to me.

This post is sponsored by Outright — Your Livelihood, Right Now. Getting your taxes right with free bookkeeping.