Category Archives: client relationships

What You Can Learn About Freelancing From Vinyl Records

Josie and the Pussycatsby Joe Wallace

When I am not freelancing, I sell vinyl records on Etsy, Discogs.com, and on my vinyl blog Turntabling. Vinyl records is a passion of mine and also an additional revenue stream for me, helping me stay in business as a freelancer and remain generally self-employed.

Believe it or not, the two worlds have a LOT in common. The whole reason I turned to vinyl in the first place, years ago, was because of the freelancer’s need for diverse income sources. Clients come, clients go. Some pay on time, some never do.

So diversifying the income portfolio, as it were, is a must–you want to eat every day? Make sure you have three or more checks arriving at various times in the month. Save up a cushion to deflect the problems created by those late-payers. That’s the message the freelance life has consistently given me since I started in 2002.

But the most fascinating things I’ve learned about freelancing from vinyl records can really be summed up by that Josie and the Pussycats vinyl record you see here. Look at this thing! You probably laughed when you spotted it, right? But here’s a fascinating little piece of data–that record is, at the time of this writing, up for sale on Ebay (not by me) for TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

It’s sealed, very hard to find, and somebody might actually pay that $200 to get it. MAYBE NOT–but there’s actually a chance, because of that tricky combination of nostalgia, impulse buying, and the near-eternal appeal of vinyl records for some.

The lessons I take away from this for the freelance life? Pretty simple but very important:

1. Like the vinyl record, your services are worth what people are willing to pay for them. I have been paid $200 an hour or more for my work. I’ve given it away for free, I’ve bartered, I’ve cut people deals. But at the end of the day, you get paid because a client was willing to pay and you were willing to do the work. It can be counter-productive–at least for me–to view freelance work in terms of fixed, unchanging price tags.

2. There is a market for expensive services, and it’s harder to find. In the vinyl market, I have customers willing to pay large dollars for rare, near impossible-to-find records. But I have just as many who simply want good, decently priced vinyl they don’t have to scour the earth to purchase. Balancing the high-paying hard-to-find commodities with lower-priced volume income is key. When it comes to my writing work, some writing has much greater inherent value, and therefore costs more. Some is intended to keep Google’s attention focused properly through steady posting and dependable content. This lower-priced work is not the same research-intensive stuff as the high-priced material, not should there be an expectation that it be anything more than what it is.

3. Go where the market is. I’ve tried selling on Amazon, at fan conventions, on Etsy, eBay, Bonanza, and many other places. When one avenue isn’t working over time, I ditch it and move on to something else. If you’re pounding your head against the proverbial wall in one area of your freelance career, it may be time to look elsewhere for better results. This is a notion that has served me very well since 2002.

There’s more, there’s SO much more…but the last lesson I can impart from my experience selling and collecting vinyl records is knowing when you’re in danger of overstaying your welcome.

Joe Wallace sells vinyl records, writes about military issues and finance, and runs several blogs and social media concerns. Since 2002, he’s written for acres for magazines and the Internet. His credits include American Fitness, Indie Slate, HorrorHound Magazine, and is one of the many essayists featured in a forthcoming book about obscure and under-appreciated horror films. You can reach him by email at jwallace242 @ gmail.

Stress Management or “How To Freak Out and Throw Things.”

lady-screams

A portrait of the author.

By Amanda Smyth Connor

We’ve all been there. Suddenly all of your deadline worlds collide, all of the stresses of the world unite and it all falls on your shoulders. No matter how carefully you maintain your deadlines, schedules and plans,  work stress can’t be helped.

I’m not talking about the day-to-day stress of maintaining your daily workload. I’m talking about the days when everything is on fire, all of the clients are calling and your inbox has hit its max. You find yourself spiraling out of control until you’re rocking in the corner and your productivity is shot.

Stress management is essential to the freelancer, particularly in an industry known for job flow that is feast-or-famine. As a freelancer, you may go weeks or, God forbid, months without a new client. This is a terrifying ordeal. What may be equally as terrifying is when all of the clients come calling at once.

There are only so many hours in a day and at least a precious few of those need to be dedicated to eating and sleeping (note: showering is always the first thing to go when the deadlines come calling.)

Stress management comes in various ways.

1. Prioritize the insanity to the best of your abilities. Is one project really on fire or is it merely smoldering? Can we de-prioritize it behind the project that is at “stage 5 inferno?” Which deadlines require immediate attention and which ones can be put off for a day with a simple email or phone call response.

2. You can’t work yourself to death. It’s counterproductive to be dead. When spiraling, I tend to forego sleep and I forget to eat regular meals. I run myself down quickly, I hit a wall and then I become useless to everyone.

Take breaks. Eat a meal during which you don’t check email, even if it’s for just 30-minutes. And try to get at least 6-hours of sleep, otherwise you’ll just crap out.

3. The worst thing you can do is to relieve stress by lashing out. Do not lash out at innocent bystanders who happen to get in the way of your rage-stroke. This won’t help you feel better.

 

How do you handle stress management when things get crazy? 

 

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.

Expanding Your Freelance Network

freelance networkCatherine’s post yesterday, “Helping Another Writer = Good Karma,” was a timely one for me, and I wanted to expand on her thoughts—because it’s even better for your freelance business if you expand your freelance network beyond just referrals for other writers.

Some examples from the past week:

  • I received a referral from a client for a PR project that was really outside my expertise, so I sub-referred it to someone I know who’s capable of pulling it off.
  • I referred a long-time graphic designer colleague, who’s recently gone freelance, to a client who needs some high-end talent.
  • And while editing a white paper for another client, it occurred to me that another client (a professional speaker and author) might find the content useful for her audiences, so I introduced and connected them, too.

None of these will result in direct business for me, and I don’t know for sure if it will mean additional business for any of the people I’ve introduced to each other. And as Catherine pointed out, my motives for doing it were a blend of unselfish and selfish. Sure, I might help some folks generate some additional revenue. Sure, if my matchmaking works, I’m going to cultivate some good karma with clients and potential clients as well as fellow freelancers…and maybe some additional business or referrals will come back my way down the road. There’s nothing wrong with that, eh?

From a bigger-picture perspective, I think we often fool ourselves into thinking that participation in social media means we’re being social. It doesn’t. Real business means picking up the phone or sending a thoughtful email, personally connecting partners, clients, colleagues or friends in ways that improve their own networks and results.

In the comments, share your matchmaking tips or anecdotes. What do you do to expand your freelance network and influence?

Jake Poinier dispenses freelancing advice at DearDrFreelance.com and runs a Phoenix-based editorial services firm, Boomvang Creative Group.

Photo courtesy of Nate Brelsford.

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?

meeting

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.

Want Better People-Skills?

Here’s another bit of advice from Robert Bly’s book: “Make Every Second Count.” discussed last week.

This list is even easier than his ideas to gain ten percent productivity.

A long long time ago, BF (Before Facebook) there was a concept known as “people skills.” Bly’s suggestions for better people skills are worth reading, and can be distilled down to a few basics that can carry you far when working with others.

I’m distilling them down to the essence, so you can tweet or  put ‘em on your phone and carry them with you today:

  1. Make a conscious effort to be positive.
  2. Answer emails and phone calls promptly.
  3. Take an interest in people’s lives.
  4. Meet people halfway.
  5. Listen before speaking, maintain eye contact, and admit when you’re wrong.

Read more in Bly’s book if that list doesn’t turn you into a charmer. He explores the psychology behind these traits. People tend to want to work with you if you communicate well and can keep impatience or annoyance off your face.

If you want to be on the ‘preferred vendor’ list in your world, it couldn’t hurt to apply these few principles.

BIO: 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. Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network (SPAWN.org), and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

The Client Is Always Right

Yeah, yeah, I know. “The Client Is Always Right.” Cliché city.

But I’m here to tell you that one of the key customer relationship strategies to successful freelancing is knowing when and how to disagree with a client…and when to simply give in.

Last week, I received an assignment from one of my longtime graphic design partners for a company that needed some help with a brochure. First, they asked for some thoughts on a new tagline, and I supplied about a dozen ideas. They ended up sticking with their original, which I won’t reveal specifically here, but let’s just say it used the words “dedication” and “value” without giving any indication as to what the company actually does.

So I had an inkling of what I was dealing with. The second task was to edit the brochure text the company supplied. It wasn’t the worst thing I’d ever seen; I cleaned it up as well as I could, fixing the various typos, awkward constructions, and Randomly Capitalized Words.

You might guess what happened next: The final proof came back from my designer with a note: “I’m sure all the edits were all grammatically correct, but sometimes the client wants what they want.”

I proofread it one more time, chuckled at the places where they’d retained the original language, alerted them to a misspelled word that they’d apparently wanted to keep, and moved on. I could have fought the noble fight for grammatical perfection and consistency, but why bother? If they’re happy with it, so am I.

Call me a mercenary. The piece won’t going into my portfolio, but the check will be going into my bank account.

Jake Poinier has been freelancing since 1999. He blogs as Dr. Freelance and runs Phoenix-based Boomvang Creative Group.