Tag Archives: freelancing

Resist The Urge

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorI can’t say I learned any valuable lessons today after reading some of my fellow freelance lifestyle bloggers, but I do feel I’ve gotten a good reminder to count to ten, hold my breath, check and double check my writing after ranting.

Not that all my fellow bloggers are ranters, just me.

I was reading a better-left-unmentioned freelance blog post about what freelancers can learn from celeb missteps in the public eye. Something bugged me about the article and I really, REALLY wanted to open fire with both barrels over it. But I’m sure (OK, I am HOPING) it was just poor word choice at work, so I decided to let it go.

Sort of.

The article mentions a famous person’s far-too-open comments during interviews and in social media–using them as an object lesson for freelancers on what not to do in the public eye. The article stated the celeb made “racial comments”, offered up too much sex life detail, and made “homosexual comments”.

The “homosexual comments” bit really bugged me and it took a good five seconds to figure out why. In a not-quite-a-laundry-list of ill-advised things this famous person did, “homosexual comments” stood out as being a negative and a bit singled out–the previous complaint had to do with sex life TMI, so why the attention on “homosexual comments”?

I can’t accuse the writer of being a gay basher, and that’s not my point. But a more thoughtful choice of words would prevent the impression–however fleeting (or not)–that there’s some anti-gay sentiment going on in that article. Note that I’m not accusing anyone of actually being a hater, but rather pointing out that poor word choice can lead to that perception.

My inner optimist wants to think the person who wrote this is only guilty of a poor turn of phrase and has no real bone to pick with consenting adults who spend their time in a manner of their choosing regardless of how intriguing or threatening that might seem to people unfamiliar with a given lifestyle.

But my inner pessimist thinks maybe sometimes some people somewhere make a Freudian slip (intended or not) and that slip can be a big red flag with regard to professionalism, EEO and a myrid of other things. Is that true in this particular case? I’m going to side with the optimist for fairness’ sake. I can’t honestly say there was malice aforethought here. But again, that’s not the point.

As professionals, our words are read, scrutinized, absorbed, made fun of, regarded as wise, and repeated. We’re all guilty of writing, saying, and doing insensitive things. But it’s a different sort of thing when you’re trying to give advice to other professionals and those aspiring to follow your lead.

Dispensing advice from on high is pretty damn easy to do (beautifully illustrated here by me), but don’t let a throwaway phrase knock the wind out of the entire presentation. Nobody likes to be excluded, but in this particular case one segment of the audience may have gotten a little taste of exclusion–whether intentional or not. “Homosexual comments” could mean anything to anybody. But it doesn’t sound good, and it’s not what the writer wanted that article to be remembered for.

And there’s the lesson.

–Joe Wallace

Don’t Let The Freelance Competition Get You Down

Unfortunately a lot of people new to freelancing or considering the leap feel the way this YouTube video poster does (see the clip below). Freelancing can be an intimidating thing indeed–the staggering amount of work it can take to find clients and establish new relationships makes people want to look for short cuts in the that process.

Unfortunately, there are no short cuts. Word of mouth business, for example–something this video poster brings up–only comes when you’ve taken the time and care with your existing clients to generate that word of mouth buzz. The person in this video expresses hope for a shortcut by using a third party service, but such hopes are misguided for more reasons than just the obvious ones.

That’s because the Youtube clip winds up being a shill for a seemingly defunct company called ManifestingInMotionNow.com. The website returns a 404 Not Found error when you try to see the site. But freelancers can still learn a great deal from this video–especially when it comes to how NOT to market yourself or your company.

Marketing should be clear, direct, and to the point, and after watching this video, please tell us–were those qualities present here?

Did You Resolve For 2012?

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorby Joe Wallace

For once, I actually made a New Year’s resolution. I’ve guffawed at them for ages, but this year it seemed appropriate to make the resolution not to say “This year will be MY year” but instead try to work harder at making EVERY year “my year”.

For me, that means finding an agent for my book WTF Records: A Turntabling.net Guide to Weird and Wonderful Vinyl.

It also means NOT wasting my time sending off queries to agents who couldn’t care less about my book about strange and fun records because they don’t work with authors who don’t do narrative non-fiction or manage non-fiction books aimed at more scholarly pursuits.

For my resolution, I’m forced to spend more time doing my homework and research to maximize the postage and printing costs rather than firing blindly at anybody who happens to have an address posted on “Find An Agent” pages on the Internet.

It also means I have to carefully read the instructions on these agent pages when I do find someone who seems suitable–one agent wants only 25 consecutive pages, by mail. Another wants a sample chapter by e-mail, but ONLY after getting a positive reply based on my initial query.

It’s a lot of work getting a book written, polished, and published. Really, the easy part is the manuscript, or so it seems to me. That’s the part that requires no approval from anybody except yourself…until the agent and editors get a hold of it, of course.

Then your property becomes the subject of discussion, critique, possible revision, possible more revision, etc. I told myself to enjoy the manuscript part of it as much as possible, because it’s the only part of this I could do without having to wait on other people.

So the third portion of my resolution, at least where this book project goes, involves being patient and not expecting the world to come rushing to reply to me just because I bothered to drop a line.

I say all this as much to remind myself that I have to do all these things as to share with you what I’m learning from the process. So thanks for reading my glorified To Do List for 2012, disguised as a blog post.

Did I forget to thank you for reading this year? And last year? And the year before that? If so, forgive me for being so ungrateful and know that you are GREATLY APPRECIATED.

Here’s to an awesome and productive 2012 for all of us!

–Joe Wallace

Joe Wallace is the author of WTF Records: A Turntabling.Net Guide to Weird and Wonderful Vinyl, which is currently being shopped to agents interested in pop culture, music, and bad album covers. Wallace is the founder of Turntabling.net, and works as a professional blogger, social media promoter, and yes, he admits to being a music journalist. Wallace has been freelancing since 2003 and thinks the whole world may be joining him sometime soon. Contact him: jwallace(at)turntabling(dot)net

Lessons For Freelancers from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop

Ernest Tubb Record shopby Joe Wallace

I’m writing and working from the road this week. Yesterday I had a stop in Nashville and a visit downtown gave me some food for thought about the freelancing game. Nashville has plenty of music shrines including the legendary Ernest Tubb Record Shop which is, like the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, a must-see destination for fans of a particular type of music who love not only the sounds, but the style and image of it all too.

I’m not really a fan of country music, but I do love vinyl records so I thought a trip to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop would be a fun diversion. There’s just one problem—there didn’t seem to be an awful lot of records in the place.

Now the obvious disappointment could be my own fault–after all, I’m the customer married to the idea that a “record shop” would naturally feature a lot of vinyl records. But these days the term has evolved to mean something a lot more than that even if actual records aren’t quite as in demand as they were in the 60s through the 80s when the recording format basically ruled the business.

But it got me thinking. Does my freelance marketing presence set up a potential client for any similar kind of disappointment? Am I somehow setting people up for one thing only to discover that I’m really something else?

Conversely, am I making the most out of my marketing (my resume site, cover letters, etc) and creating the right kind of image? The Ernest Tubb Record Shop may not be as fully stocked with vinyl as I’d expect, but the mystique the shop creates around Tubb, country music, and the era he recorded in? It does a very effective job of delivering that.

So now I’m taking a hard look at everything I do to put myself out there as a freelancer, an author, and as a blogger and comparing it to what I saw at the record shop to see if I’m missing the boat. Could my resume site be less cluttered with extraneous details that don’t directly contribute to a specific first impression?

Could I use graphics and text more effectively to convey who I am and what I do? Is there some kind of iconic image or series of images I could use on my resume page that tells you more without writing a word? How can I take these lessons to my blogs?

I know very little about Ernest Tubb, but walking out of the shop, I felt like I knew a lot more even though I don’t. Tubb, one of the heroes of old-timey “both kinds, Country AND Western” crooning, has a specific image and legend reinforced 100% by everything in the shop–even the stuff without his name on it–because of smart design, clever use of visuals and text, plus a complete lack of anything that would water down the Tubb brand–for example, the shop doesn’t sell any non-country music–it doesn’t cater to anything specifically outside it’s specifically definied niche.

I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about my own stuff compared to how effectively the Tubb shop comes across–it really is a masterpiece of marketing and even though I’m no country music listener, I see there is much to learn a lot from how the Nashville folks run their businesses….

The Unconsciously Competent Freelancer

unconsciously competentBy Jake Poinier

Peter Bowerman wrote a thought-provoking post the other day at his Well-Fed Writer blog: One Big Reason Why Commercial Writing Pays Better and Resists “Off-Shoring” (and Why This Other Kind of Writing Doesn’t…) It’s worth reading the whole thing, but it was actually the comments that sparked me to write this riff on his thoughts—which revolved around epiphanies.

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, or even in semi-serious athletics, you’ve probably heard of a psychological principle called “The Four Stages of Competence.” Briefly, they are:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: You don’t know how to do something, and you don’t recognize it.
  2. Conscious incompetence: You understand that you have a deficit, but you still don’t know how to do it.
  3. Conscious competence: You know how to do something, but it takes a concerted effort.
  4. Unconscious competence: You understand something so well that it’s second nature, and you can even teach it to someone else.

I recognize all of those learning steps in my progress as a freelancer. I suspect you do, too. But what is interesting to me is understanding how differently the writing side and business side evolved. As someone who’d written for magazines, PR and marketing/advertising firms, I estimate I was somewhere in stages 3-4 on the wordcraft end of things when I left my corporate job.

I was firmly in stage 1, however, when it came to running a business. Of course, I had *experience* in various businesses and industries for 10 years, and even exposure to financials and sales calls with people who were at stage 4.

But there is no replacement for time and hard knocks from entrepreneurship—and shoring up the business side is paramount, even if you’re a stage 4 writer, editor or graphic designer. In fact, Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers, defined a “10,000-hour rule” as a specific timeline for success in a pursuit. In case you want the math, the road to becoming an unconsciously competent freelancer will take about 5 years at 40 hours a week. And it’s worth every minute.

Freelancers: When you assess your own career, what stage are you in on the creative side? On the business side?

Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group and blogs as Dr. Freelance. His most recent post was “Brochure writing and playing nice.”

Image courtesy of cobrasoft.

What Freelancers Can Learn From iPhone Apps

iPhone 4by Joe Wallace

Those who dispense advice about iPhone app creation often advise bloggers to ask an important set of questions before deciding to create an app for a blog or website. Some of those questions can also help inform your freelance business model and how you promote yourself in a very crowded marketplace.

1. What Problems Does Your App Solve?

If you’re creating an app for a website, what’s the thing your proposed app does that makes it better or more efficient than just looking at the web page? The answer varies in every case. How do you translate that question to your freelance business? What does YOUR business do that other freelancers don’t? Do you have a corner on the market with a particular skill, the way you work with your clients or what you can offer them? Define what it is you can do for your potential clients that other can’t do or won’t do as well.

2. What Do You Want Your App To Do?

In the same way that a blogger should give serious thought to the answer to that question, freelancers should ask themselves what they want to be doing for their clients. A great many freelancers (all right, I mean ME) cycle through too many gigs that turn out being unsatisfying because they aren’t really what the freelancer wants to be doing. Don’t take on ALL comers–decide what you’re best at and what you really want to be doing and commit do working THOSE skills.

3. How Hard Is Your App To Use?

In the same way a mobile app needs to be simple, user-friendly, and easy to understand, so should a freelancer’s resume page and list of services offered. Make everything readable at a glance. Sometimes that’s all the time the reader has to decide whether to add you to the “for further study” list rather than the “never mind” file.

Simple advice, to be sure, but it’s often the most simple things that trip up a freelancer in the struggle to slice out a piece of the freelance pie.