Tag Archives: freelance money

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

Books about Freelancing

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorby Joe Wallace

There seem to be quite a lot of books about freelancing. A quick look at Amazon.com shows a number of titles, some of which seem dangerously close to being outdated judging by dates alone. Why do I say that? Because things change so much in this electronic age that the book in 2008 or even 2010 that seemed relevant and on-target is quickly dated by the types of social media platforms and fads used to network, the always-shifting challenges when it comes to the quality and availability of freelance work, etc.

There are two basic types of books on the freelance lifestyle. One I personally have no use for–the ones with titles like, “How To Make Bizillions of Dollars In Freelancing” and “90 Days to Quitting Your Day Job Forever And Ever Amen Because You’re a Hotshot Freelancer Now”. Sure, saying there are only two basic types is a massive generalization, but a quick look at the books out there does tend to make one believe that generalization has legs. Or at least is growing them rather quickly.

The OTHER type of book about freelancing is far more valuable. These are the books with titles like, “How I Went From Being a Day Job Zombie To A Full Time Freelance Superstar”.

See the difference? One type of book is stopping just short of claiming it can help turn YOU into a full time freelancer in 90 days or less (or whatever), the other type is explaining “How I Did It”.

The value in the second type of book? There are NO PROMISES IMPLIED. Unlike the first kind where there’s the implication that if you just follow the magic formula, success can be yours. These selling points are fairly misleading even when they don’t set out to be; “How I Did It” is far more valuable, honest, and worthy of your hard-earned book buying dollars.

Sure, many will disagree. Some will tell me not to judge a book by its cover. But I’m NOT, I’m judging it by the title and any promises implied therein. Maybe it’s even more shallow to judge a book by its title…but I believe in the old idea about truth in advertising. And if your book’s title isn’t “ad one” for your work, what is?

–Joe Wallace

Joe Wallace sells vinyl on the internet, writes articles about personal finance and veterans issues, edits book manuscripts, and is an audio professional specializing in field recording, post production, and sound effects. Contact him: jwallace@freelance-zone.com

Today’s Writing Tip: From Worse to Worse

sig2010I’m surprised at how often I see the phrase “from worse to worse” in print. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a lot like the term “I could care less.” Neither one says what you want them to say.

Let’s reason this out. If I am number 10 in line in the grocery store and I move forward one spot, I become number nine. If I move back one spot, I become number 11. In either case, there is a sense of motion and movement. Something changes.

If I go from worse to worse, nothing much changes. I am still number 10 in line at the grocery store – or maybe I’m 10 1/2. I have to go from worse to worst in order to see a significant change.

An easy way to remember this one is to think of the opening line in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Thus, you want to go from worse to worst. Although of course, you don’t really. That is the outcome that most of us are hoping to avoid.

As a postscript, I will add that the correct way of saying I don’t give a damn is “I couldn’t care less,” because if you could care less it means that you already care. If you couldn’t care less, you care so little that your interest in the matter is currently negligible. Thus, it couldn’t become any more unimportant to you; hence, you couldn’t care less.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

Blog Posts, Attribution, Fair Use, and Copyright

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsI once freelanced as Managing Editor for an online startup. This company needed a writing staff built from scratch, which I was happy to do, but less happy to have one employee more or less imposed on me because of the new hire’s friendship with one of the owners.

I didn’t see it as much of a problem initially since this new hire’s credentials looked pretty solid. But the writer didn’t have blogging experience, so some of the things you might tend to assume or take for granted? Couldn’t be done in this case. Since I didn’t know this person from a hole in the ground, I felt the need to lay out a few ground rules just in case.

I carefully explained to the new hire (at the risk of insulting someone’s intelligence) about the rules about attribution. “Generally, if you’re promoting a product, it’s OK to use product images from the official site. It’s best to attrubute sources, but when you’re helping to sell a product, the owners don’t seem terribly interested in suing you”.

This site was retail-related, so there would be plenty of promotional writing–almost ad copy. But we also did non-promotional writing, so I also mentioned a few other cautions. “Use royalty-free stock images wherever possible. If you do use someone else’s work in reference to their web page, blog, or work, be sure to attribute the source. Be transparent. Don’t just lift things without permission–give attribution at the very very least.”

That advice–given years ago–still played too fast and loose with the rules of permission & attribution. It should have been far more hardcore scared-of-getting-sued. So I blame myself when I learned that this person, who was still with the company after I moved on, got into a serious amount of hot water for disregarding my advice.

According to my sources, this person lifted some images from another website without attributing the source, and did so for a post that was non-promotional. So basically this employee “borrowed” non-royalty-free images, didn’t attribute, and didn’t get permission. Everybody does it once in a while, right? Right? RIGHT?

Except in this case, the person who owned the copyright to these images got in touch with the company and demanded compensation. And he got PAID. As in, compensated big time in order to avoid legal action.

Did you know that in such cases you can complain to the web hosting service of the offending web page and–potentially–have the site taken off the web for good due to Terms of Service violations?

Read the fine print in that web hosting agreement of yours and you’ll see…those who are borrowing images, text, or other content without attribution, permission, etc don’t just live with the possibility of getting a Cease and Desist or even a potential lawsuit. They also run the risk of losing the entire website.

Permission and attribution take far less time to accomplish that building a whole new website from scratch.

–Joe Wallace

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.

Part Time Freelancing

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsFreelance Folder recently featured a blog post called Part Time Freelancing–Is It Worth It? The post addresses a variety of concerns for the part-time freelancer, but leaves out a question on the minds of many newcomers to the freelance game.

“Do I mention that I’m only a part-time freelancer?”

That’s not a big deal to some, and a much bigger issue for others depending on the client. Larger companies seem to be interested in people they can form long-term relationships with, while it seems smaller clients are just happy to get the work done. How much scrutiny is placed on the full-or-part-time question is really down to you.

Even when I have been a part-time freelancer in the past, I’ve never mentioned it, and it’s never actually come up in any conversation. But some freelancers are compelled to say something about it for whatever reason–usually to address any potential scheduling conflicts that might arise between the client work and the non-freelance gig.

I w0n’t offer any advice on which path is best as it’s really a personal choice based on your needs, but I can say this from my own personal experience–I’m mostly concerned with maintaining a professional image. Actually, “concerned” is the wrong word. I’m anal-retentive about it. And I have a personal policy that I DO NOT bring up side issues like whether I’m full or part time.

Instead, if I anticipate schedule issues, I simply make it known to the client that he or she is not my only client and that my workflow is manageable, but does require some allowances in order to make deadline.

This is tricky–you want the client to feel they are getting your full attention, but you have to communicate that you are not at their 24-7 beck and call. I simply begin and maintain the conversation by mentioning my other ongoing work in a general way without revealing much.

Oh, and I also don’t over-extend myself to the point where the clients don’t get their money’s worth.

It’s your call on how much to reveal, but my personal preference is to leave unnecessary details out of the picture. Keep it simple, that’s my motto.

Joe Wallace writes about vinyl records and the music industry, personal finance, and makes snarky jokes at the expense of celebrities. He enjoys writing about himself in the third person, impersonating Ronald Reagan, and makes field recordings of strange noises with expensive microphones. Visit his vinyl blog and bad album cover emporium Turntabling.net.