I sat on a panel tonight at a personal branding event at the University of Washington. One of my suggestions was that creative freelancers — writers, designers, illustrators, photographers and the like — set up an online portfolio as soon as possible.
You even don’t need your own website to create an online portfolio. A number of free or nominally priced prefabbed portfolio sites make creating your own digital portfolio a cinch. Here are a few I’ve found. If anyone knows of any others, feel free to add them in the comments.
For writers and media professionals: mediabistro, ebyline, contently, pressfolios
For designers, illustrators, photographers and other visual artists: behance, carbonmade, cargocollective, etsy
For those who need a landing page to tie together all their online projects: about.me
I’d also be curious to hear what kind of freelance job leads people are getting from these prefabbed portfolio sites. I’ve had my portfolio on mediabistro for the past couple of years and it’s paid for itself many times over. Yes, some inquiries from potential clients and editors don’t pan out (usually because their budget is too small for my taste). And yes, I may not get a nibble from an interested editor for months. But this month alone, my portfolio page yielded a four-figure assignment for a women’s magazine I’d never written for and another contact at a high-profile newsstand magazine that I hope to write for in the coming months.
How about you? What portfolio sites do you use and what kind of leads are you getting from them?
August 21st, 2012
You know those days when you’re so overwhelmed by the 19 pressing tasks on your to-do list that the only logical course of action is to spend an hour posting squeal-worthy kitten videos on Facebook? If the client you just asked for a deadline extension is your Facebook friend, so do they. Ditto for the colleague you said you were too busy to lunch with. If you’re going to play the “I’m sooooo crazybusy!” card, you’d best not get caught goofing off on social media an hour later.
I wrote about this on ABCNews.com this past week, listing four ways freelancers, telecommuters, and employees trash their reputation on social media. Read the piece here, and tell me what you think in the comments below. Have you committed any of these cardinal sins of social media? Have you seen other freelancers messing up their professional rep on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites? Do tell.
[ABC News: Four Ways You're Hurting Your Rep on Social Media]
August 19th, 2012
I recently was interviewed for the freelance journalism site Ebyline by Susan Johnston of the The Urban Muse. Here’s my favorite question from the bunch. (You can read the interview in its entirety here.)
What changes have you observed in the freelance landscape over the past several years?
Online assignments have gotten shorter. Many national media outlets that once asked writers for 800-1500 word web stories are now asking for 300-600 word blog posts. This has decimated pay rates for freelancers writing for these sites. Online aggregation has become the norm, too, with many leading sites heavily relying on partner content (for example, msnbc.com routinely using stories from sites like Forbes.com and Entrepreneur.com). This also means fewer opportunities for freelancers.
But not all hope is lost. Freelancers who want to write for mainstream web outlets just need to fold in more lucrative assignments to supplement their income. Consumer magazines, trade and custom publications and copywriting remain a good bet, as do editing, teaching and coaching. And diversification, staying on top of publishing trends and following the money is perhaps more important than ever before.
A few other changes that seem to be the norm now thanks to web and mobile publishing:
- More freelancers are expected to provide links, photos, videos, audio and/or HTML tags when filing their stories, as well as promotion via social media outlets when the story runs. Depending on how well you negotiate with editors, this will either mean a bit of extra work per assignment or a bit extra of pay.
- Given all the aggregation that’s happened in recent years, all-rights and work-for-hire contracts are fairly standard for online writing these days. That’s not to say you can’t negotiate or can’t find an outlet that will let the rights to your work revert back to you at some future date. It just seems that these deals are more scarce.
- Many online startups have no qualms asking freelancers to write for free or close to it. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of new, hobbyist or exposure-hungry writers willing to take the bait. For this reason, I advise inquiring about the rate in the first conversation you have with a new-to-you outlet.
[Read the rest of my Ebyline interview here.]
February 16th, 2012
We’re told not to get hung up coveting the careers of those more successful than us, to stop getting bogged down by what we don’t have and focus on building up what we do. However, new research on envy shows that this advice may be misguided.
[Flickr photo by rileyroxx]
Apparently, when we covet the lives of others, we not only study them carefully, but we’re more apt to remember the details of what they have and how they got it.
As John Tierney writes in the New York Times, “By paying more attention to these people, we might learn to emulate some of the strategies that yielded their advantages.”
So, exactly how does a freelancer use the green-eyed monster to advance their career? Herewith, some suggestions:
Research the career trajectory of those your envy. Study their bio online, and if you can, their LinkedIn profile. Read articles about them, interviews with them. Listen to their podcasts and watch their videos. What clients have their worked for? What training and job titles have they had? What professional associations do they belong to? What awards have they won? Where have they published or spoken publicly? What of this can you emulate so you, too, can achieve what they’ve achieved professionally?
Study their professional philosophy. Does the object of your envy have a favorite mantra? If so, abide by it. See which of their ways of thinking and working you can adopt. Read the industry blogs and publications they read. Go where they go to get inspired. Join the organizations they join. Learn who inspires them, who they envy. Then study the objects of their envy to see what other sage advice you can glean.
[Read the rest of this post on NWjobs]
October 14th, 2011
I spent this past weekend at the most inspiring writing workshop I’ve attended in I don’t know how long.
[Flickr photo by jemsweb]
No matter how energizing a professional event, though, my usual MO is to slip back into my hectic routine without acting on all the ideas, tips, and connections generated. So here’s the plan of attack I’m taking this time around.
By this time next week, I vow to do the following. You have my permission to ask me later if (a) I stuck to it, and (b) it made a difference.
Reread all my notes from the conference. Before too many personal commitments and professional deadlines get in the way, I’ll go over all the good stuff I learned so it’s less easily forgotten.
Make a to-do list. I refuse to let all those marketing, productivity, and career change tips I collected lay buried inside my inch-thick notebook. Instead, I’ll pull them into a nice, neat, one-page cheat sheet where they’re easily accessible.
Take action right away. Rather than wait for that mythical “spare time” to appear, I’ll start chipping away at the aforementioned to-dos this week. If need be, I’ll schedule every last task into my daily calendar.
Use Skype, a listserv, or a social networking site to stay in touch as a group. The event I attended was an intimate 15-person gathering, with attendees from around the country. To stay connected and bounce ideas off one another, we’ve convened as a private group via the social networking tool Podio.
[Read the rest of this post on Nine to Thrive]
September 27th, 2011
Sunday night, after a glorious weekend on the Olympic Peninsula, I came home to several hours of uncompleted work. Due 9 a.m. Monday, hard stop. After two leisurely days of beach strolls and sunsets, communing with my computer was the last thing I wanted to do. So I picked up the remote, switched on the tube, and landed on an episode of “Deadliest Catch.”
[Flickr photo by madame.furie]
One of the skippers was chewing out a deckhand who’d retreated indoors with a torn stomach muscle. With just a handful of crew on his Alaska crab fishing boat, the skipper needed all hands on deck, pain be damned.
“I’ve worked through torn muscles and all kinds of pain,” the skipper snarled. “Unless you have a bone sticking out, you suck it up and get back to work.”
Obviously, writing is nowhere near as grueling as fishing for Alaska king crab. Still, those were the words I needed to hear. So I switched off the tube, and with “Unless you have a bone sticking out, you suck it up” as my mantra, I slogged through my project and made my deadline.
When it comes to how we approach work, I’m a firm believer that each of us has our own mantra, motto, or credo. It may be a quote by a beloved author or philosopher. It may be something you heard a friend, relative, or reality TV star say. You may even have an entire theme song running through your head while you work.
[Read the rest of this post on Nine to Thrive.]
July 25th, 2011
You know those emails and status updates we frantic freelancers love to write about how we’re so busy juggling 11 assignments that we don’t know how we’re going to make it to Friday? We’re not helping ourselves — or our freelance friends — by playing the stress kitty. After reading a Women’s Health article on the topic, I blogged about this Stressier Than Thou phenomenon on Nine to Thrive yesterday. Here’s a snippet, complete with takeaways:
Don’t gloat. Stop bragging about how stressed and busy you are. It’s not impressive. Instead, you’re likely to repel those who’ve found better ways to cope with their own taxing schedule. Exude too much frenetic energy at work and you risk looking like someone who simply can’t handle the pressures of the job.
Don’t enable. The next time a friend or colleague boasts about their bloated workload, resist the urge to reply with, “I know. You should see what I have on my plate today. Seven meetings, a presentation I need to finish for next week, and a report due tomorrow morning. It’s madness.” Instead of playing the one-up game, say something like, “Wow, sounds like a hectic week for you. Any plans to relax after work tonight or this coming weekend?” In other words, encourage your pal or colleague to chill the heck out.
[Read the rest of this post on Nine to Thrive.]
May 12th, 2011
Last week my editor at ABCNews.com asked me to write a column outing what goes on behind the closed doors of freelancers, telecommuters, and kitchen-table entrepreneurs who work from home. I had a load of fun collecting the confessions of virtual employees and self-employed folks who work from their domicile (catnap, anyone?). As you’ll see below, I’ve got a handful of confessions of my own. Feel free to chime in with yours in the comments below.
Last fall my significant other and I moved in together. Although he was no stranger to my feral freelancer habits — living in my robe, working late into the night, not leaving the house for days on end — I cringed at the thought of him seeing me daily in all my unkempt, agoraphobic glory.
So I did what any disheveled freelancer would do: I got an office job — one that required me to show up at approximately the same time each day, looking fresh and professional.
Three months into the gig, I began to miss my bathrobe. Six months into it, I gave notice.
Now that I’m back to full-time freelancing, I’m trying to prove to myself and my new husband that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean living a life devoid of structure. But it’s not easy.
April 28th, 2011
L. asks: One of my favorite copywriting clients has me on a retainer, which usually works out very well for us both. However, in the last two months a third project manager has been added. My lovely retainer has gone from well-managed to every reason to say “no” to such work in the first place: non-stop emails, minuscule timelines, and repeated fires. When I talk to the PM and try to correct the behavior, her response is, “Just tell me and I’ll get another writer.” (A family member of hers is a copywriter.) My three contacts are peers, so I’m not sure how to best broach the issue. I’d hate to lose the client, but things do need to change. Any recommendations? Thanks!
I answer: Ack! I feel your pain! Obviously this is not a sustainable situation or you wouldn’t be writing to me. Some suggestions (feel free to mix and match as you see fit):
1. Meet with all three managers (or whomever was your initial contact) and tell them you can better serve the company by having one point of contact, not three. Make it about the benefits to their business (more efficient, more personalized attention, whatever) than the benefits to you. If you only meet with one of your contacts, don’t badmouth the others; be diplomatic.
2. Let the client(s) know that the workflow has changed and it’s no longer efficient. (Last minute requests mean you’re not always available that minute or you have to do a rush – and thus, less than ideal – job.) Suggest that they funnel all requests into one daily or weekly phone meeting or email. Any other requests will have to wait until the next meeting/call.
January 29th, 2011
My online class for rookie and veteran freelance writers on how to handle clients from hell is back!
“Dealing with Nightmare Clients” is a four-week online course – starting Friday, February 4! – sponsored by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). Although I’ll be delivering the lessons right to your inbox, you can follow along from anywhere, at your own pace, even if your own pace means working through the lessons at 3 a.m. on a weekend.
In this class, I’ll discuss how to tame those beastly clients and editors who seem all too happy to stiff you, mess with your deadlines, and contact you at all hours of the night. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
- Chase down MIA payments and ensure you don’t get stiffed in the future
- Handle runaway revisions and keep scope creep at bay
- Deal with clients who are always late with deliverables
- Set firmer boundaries with editors, project managers, and creative directors
- Bolster your contracts with clauses that can help prevent scope creep, deadline changes, and late payments
- Determine whether a troublesome client relationship is salvageable
Since we can all learn from one another’s trials and tribulations, I’ll devote the last session of the class to answering your burning questions about any nightmare clients you’ve been dealing with. Additional details about the class:
When: Fridays, February 4 - 25 (four online sessions).
Where: Your computer. Each lesson will arrive in your inbox (also accessible via Yahoo Groups on the web), which means you can follow along on your own time.
Cost: Editorial Freelancers Association members $134; nonmembers $159.
Register: On the EFA website.
Questions? Feel free to email me.
January 18th, 2011