Tag Archives: freelance help

Freelancing In Crowded Markets

Joe Wallace Freelance Social MediaWhere I live in Chicago, there are record stores in practically every neighborhood. I can count ten that I go to on a regular basis from my local shop (the venerable Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square) to places wayyyyy out in the western suburbs. You might think this makes for a very tough market for record sellers to thrive in, and you’d be right. I myself sell vinyl records, but taking one look at the already-crowded landscape several years ago, I decided a storefront was a scary and probably ill-advised investment.

Instead I sell online and at conventions. My choices on where and when to market myself have kept me in business, however part-time, for many years. And that’s something I learned from being a freelance writer. Choosing where, when, and how to offer things in a crowded market isn’t something I was born with, I had to learn over the course of my career. And sometimes that learning was painful.

For a while, I struggled as a freelancer to make ends meet, and found a “secret” place to land gigs and pay the bills–creative temp agencies. But while the money was very good and the people I worked for equally so, I learned that I wasn’t that happy temping, even as a writer. Long-term clients and short term gigs are what I’m all about, but a good number of the creative temp jobs offered to me required on-site work, often out in those far-flung Chicago burbs where some of my favorite record shops are.

I found myself fretting over wasted time spent in traffic–time I easily could have spent actually working instead of driving–and dreading those rush hour commutes every bit as much as I dreaded not paying the bills. In the end, I ditched the temp work and found more long-term clients on my own. I work for plenty of people I have never met face-to-face, and the entire process is far more efficient when I’m not wasting two hours or more of my day behind the wheel waiting for the lights to change.

Finding the work in crowded markets isn’t easy–I’ve had to get very creative about the types of writing and social media work I can do. I realized I had areas of interest that hadn’t been mined to death in the freelance world and I started moving toward writing about them. I also found there are some topics that I have a unique perspective on due to experience and am very qualified to write about, and a great deal of my work lately is informed by those experiences and skill sets.

Mining my own experiences for freelance opportunities is one of the best things I ever did–looking inward to find my own expertise instead of trying to find editors willing to publish my work in other areas, hoping I might be able to tap into something I’m less experienced with has worked better for me over the long haul. For some, the opposite winds up being true. Which one are you?

–Joe Wallace

Freelance Advice For Newcomers

This YouTube video, posted by the folks behind LockerGnome.com, is not for anyone currently working as a freelancer. But I refer you to it anyway because we ALL get questions from people who want to–or THINK they want to–become one of us. How many times have you wanted to refer someone to a specific resource or link that could answer some of the basic questions that we’ve all answered 100 times or more?

This video is a great reference primer for people on the outside looking into the freelance world. Bookmark this, send it on to your friends who keep asking you about the freelance life, and save yourself some breath. Admittedly, there is a bit too much self-promotion about LockerGnome for some tastes, but the value of this clip for freelance outsiders can’t be underestimated:



A Mini-Freelance Epidemic?

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsA lot of freelancers I know are having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. Some of them wouldn’t describe it quite like that, but I find it very interesting that some of the best ones I know are branching out into new territory, taking chances on new types of work, and generally mutating themselves into something rather different than what they started off to become.

One freelancer made the jump into racy fiction–a big switch from the comparatively dry, totally fact-based work she had been doing prior to adding a bit of steaminess to her repertoire. Another freelancer I know has taken up painting. And then there’s my own turn as a vinyl seller, DJ, and multi-media junkie. Is this an identity crisis, or simply diversifying?

For me, it was a bit of both in the beginning. Success in one area doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of success in another. But when I started, I wasn’t sure about that. How much time could I dedicate to my new income selling highly collectible vinyl records and DJing and still maintain my freelance writing and editing work? Turns out both work together just fine–it’s just a question of time management.

Others I know have put in enough time in one type of freelance trench and are ready to explore different options–they want to keep their hand on the till, so to speak, but move out of the heavy lifting part of freelancing into a more managerial role. And who can blame any of them for that? Writing isn’t easy work in spite of what our office-bound friends might think. Neither is editing. Or PR, photography, musicianship, etc. It’s WORK. Even when it’s fun.

But if you’re thinking about diversifying, chances are good that you’ve done one or two things in your head that have brought you to this point. Or maybe it’s safer to say that I have done this. Either way, have you caught yourself saying to yourself:

1. You don’t know how you can keep up the pace/lack of pace that your current work offers;

2. Your income is wonderful–when it’s actually there;

3. Your income is wonderfully consistent and plentiful, but you’re spending far too much time on projects for other people and not enough on your own;

4. Your work is great, yet not quite as satisfying as you’d like it to be;

5. Your freelance career has taken off, but headed into a direction you’d rather not be moving toward.

In my own case, I’ve had all five of those at various times in the last seven years. The real question I felt all these statements leading up to? What’s next? What choices do I have to make to answer these concerns? It’s not easy, and no blog post can answer that for you–but I find being aware that the “identity crisis” is happening is a good start toward resolving it. Recognizing the internal tug-of-war over these issues helps. You’re NOT going crazy, you’re not a flake for wanting to try new things. Most importantly of all, doubt is GOOD.

The supremely self-confident person can easily become the self-delusional dork with a misstep or two. Doubt keeps you honest, and sometimes leads you to take a few chances you might not have otherwise attempted. The key is–at least for me–to take a few calculated risks at first and see how things play out before making a full-blown commitment. One of the most important rules in marketing is to do market research before you try to launch a new venture. That sort of thinking can also apply to your freelance identity crisis if you’re having one. Give it a shot–whatever IT is–on a part-time basis and see how it feels.

Joe Wallace has been many things in his long and winding career. His first unsupervised job was as a janitor. He later ditched that for a job in radio, and eventually wrote his way into all sorts of fun, money, and trouble from Texas to Iceland. Today he’s head mischief maker at Turntabling.net, and blogs/writes/edits/DJs for fun and profit in Chicago.

Blogger Advice: Are You Guilty Of This?

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare Recordsby Joe Wallace

Last night I read yet another blogger advice post telling people how to make their blogs an “internet sensation”. By the time I was done reading it I was so annoyed that I threw my laptop across the room counted to ten and said pleasant things to myself in an effort to prevent having a major wig-out.

Here’s a bit of advice for people who want to give a bit of advice: BE SPECIFIC.

If you want to tell people how to make their blogs more noticeable on the Internet, try giving them something actionable, like “Insure the headline of your blog contains an SEO-friendly keyword related to your topic and also make sure that keyword is repeated within the first two sentences. You don’t need to stuff keywords, just make sure you have something Google can latch onto within both the headline and opening statements.”

This is much better than the nonsense I read last night, which was basically a straight-faced, humorless version of what you’ll see in this clip. Don’t be like the people in this short video…seriously.


Joe Wallace is a writer, author, social media manager, video editor, and musician. He manages to combine all these pursuits at his vinyl blog Turntabling.net. He is available for assignments–contact him at jwallace(at)joe-wallace.com.

Freelance Jobs–What’s Your Advantage?

Joe Wallace Freelance Social Mediaby Joe Wallace

If you’ve been scouring the freelance job boards lately, you might have noticed a trend among the ads–those offering freelance job gigs aren’t necessarily asking for the dependable old resume and cover letter combo.

Consider the job ad I found while researching this topic at Problogger.net; one job ad merely asked for a sample of websites worked recently and a list of five reasons why YOU are the right person for the gig.

Which begs the question–why ARE you the right person for the job? Can you rattle off your top five strengths for your given specialty? I asked myself that question and found myself slightly rusty.

Unless I fell back on a couple of my old cliches–which seems pretty unsatisfactory to me, so I ran down my own personal checklist and refreshed my memory for a couple of recent accomplishments that would be relevant to anyone in need of an editor, ghost writer or social media manager.

Sometimes it’s good to blow the cobwebs out of the old brain box and remind yourself why, if you were a hiring manager, you’d hire YOU. It’s impossible to tell when you will need to rattle off a few of those recent accomplishments to impress someone who might pay you…a party, casual encounter at the coffee shop, anywhere at all.

Joe Wallace is a freelance editor, writer and social media manager. He is currently reviewing vinyl albums for the book WTF Records: The Turntabling.net Guide To Weird and Wonderful Vinyl and writing a travel diary about indie record stores called Vinyl Road Rage. Wallace is founder and chief vinyl collector at Turntabling.net

Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer–Mistakes To Avoid

by Joe Wallace

book and script editor for hire Joe WallaceThere’s plenty of advice floating around out there telling you what to do to market yourself as a freelancer. Let’s not re-invent the wheel on that one.

Instead, let’s take a look at some things you should stop doing right now.

FOLLOWING THE HERD

We all do it, even I’m guilty. But the worst way to market yourself is to try wading into a crowded marketplace with too many people in it and try to get noticed. If you fly with the flock, you’ll never stand out from it.

Instead, try hitting some markets that don’t seem so obvious. Travel writers would naturally gravitate to something like a Lonely Planet type guide or magazine–why not write travel pieces for food mags instead? The proper angle is the key. Freelance editors get stuck thinking about books and scripts, websites or magazines…but there are plenty of catalogues, brochures, technical manuals and other things out there with the same need for a sharp eye.

Think outside the box. WAY outside. Forget the traditional routes and find something so crazy you don’t think it’s ever been tried before. Once Catherine Tully and I co-wrote an article about martial arts.

For a JUGGLING magazine.

Get the idea?

Not Having Your Own Domain

One prolific blogger I know bought a domain called “IAmJohnDoe.com”. No, John Doe isn’t her real name and that isn’t her actual domain name. (It’s not live yet so she asked me to keep it private). Her chosen domain name (JohnDoe.com) was already hogged up by some other type of business, so she got creative.

The point is, if you are marketing yourself, you need to put your name out there connected with all the keywords in your specialty. Freelance writer, freelance editor, graphic designer, catapult builder, whatever. Yeah, I’ll say it–”for free” domains are useless for you if you are serious about marketing yourself. The first impression factor alone might not matter, but the amount of control you have over your own domain versus one of those free ones is worth the price.

Not to mention that if your free domain company goes bust at some point, or switches to a for-pay model you don’t like, you lose any Google value your site has built up over time.

Your goal with a site like this should include building it up so that if someone does a Google search on “Your Home Town Here” and “Freelance Writer” or “Freelance Editor” or “Freelance Cat Juggler” they should be getting YOU in the top results, because your resume site includes the right combination of keywords and relevant information.

Marketing Yourself To Other Freelancers at the Expense Of Your Target Market

I  belong to a few e-mail lists for writers and editors. A lot of people spend an inordinate amount of time doing PR stuff on these mailing lists, chatrooms, LinkedIn groups, etc. “Hey, I’m teaching here” or “Read my interview there” and such–a high volume of material that’s aimed at other freelancers. My question is this–how much time are you spending getting street cred with your fellow freelancers versus marketing yourself to potential clients?

I am NOT saying don’t participate in these groups. What I am saying is beware of spending more time with your colleagues than you do with your target market. Blowing your own horn is great, but if you’re just blowing for the rest of the orchestra to hear you aren’t really PERFORMING, know what I mean?