Posts filed under 'This freelance life'

Upcoming events for media folks and freelancers

If we haven’t seen each other yet this year, now’s the time. Join me as I cohost a mediabistro party for Seattle media professionals next week. Not a resident of Washington state? Not to worry. I’m sharing tips during a teleseminar on February 16. All you need is a phone. And finally, I invite you to bid farewell to March with a day chock full of seminars to help you navigate the freelance terrain during these challenging economic times. Event details follow.

Mediabistro cocktail party – Tuesday, February 9
When:
7 to 9 pm
What: Cocktail party for media professionals – freelance, staff, and those between jobs. Admission free; cash bar. I’m cohosting with freelancer Crai Bower.
Where: Grey Gallery & Lounge, 1512 11th Avenue, Seattle
RSVP: On mediabistro’s website

NOTE: The above party could use a volunteer to help the photographer jot down photo captions. Great opportunity for students and new freelancers who want to meet people in the media business. Email me if interested.

“Getting Started as a Freelancer” teleseminar – Tuesday, February 16
When: 9 pm EST
What: I’ll share tips on how to start a freelance career. Come with questions! I’ve got answers.
Where: Your telephone
Registration: IndieBizChicks.com; $10 for the entire IndieBizChicks Feb-March teleseminar series (my session + many others)

The Marketing Conference for Creative Freelancers: Finding and Keeping Work in a Tough Economy - Saturday, March 27
When: 8 am to 5:30 pm
What: In my session “Diversify or Starve! How to Stay Busy in a Tough Freelance Market,” I’ll discuss how to identify markets that are a natural extension of your skills, break into them, and promote yourself like crazy.
Where: Bastyr University, 14500 Juanita Drive NE, Kenmore
Sponsor: Tabby Cat Communications
Registration:
$75 for entire conference; more info here

1 comment February 8th, 2010

How entrepreneurs can recover after failing spectacularly

In 2002, Marty Metro ditched corporate America to sell used moving boxes. Customers flooded his eco-friendly Los Angeles store, and Metro rushed to open three more locations, hopeful he’d soon be franchising the business throughout the country.

Only thing was, Metro couldn’t figure out how to turn a profit.

“The sales weren’t the problem,” he explains. “It was the operational costs. We couldn’t get the boxes, inventory them, store them and sell them in a way that actually made money.”

Three years later, Metro’s green business was still in the red and he was forced to shutter it. Saddled with $300,000 of personal debt, he found himself selling his office furniture on the sidewalk and back on the market for a day job.

While some would be discouraged, Metro doesn’t consider his failed business a waste of time or money. The lessons learned, skills acquired and contacts made have since served him well. So well, in fact, that he raised enough venture capital to re-launch in 2006 as UsedCardboardBoxes.com–a web-based version of his original business.

Like Metro, you may not walk away from a venture with any cash in pocket. But that doesn’t mean you’ll leave empty-handed.

[Read the rest of this article on Entrepreneur.com.]

4 comments February 4th, 2010

5 ways freelancers can channel their inner entrepreneur

So you’ve had enough of your rotten boss or the hideous job market and decided to give freelancing a whirl. Congratulations. But before you settle into your SpongeBob slippers and turn to the day’s project deadlines, ask yourself this: How’s business? Be honest. Are you bringing in enough work? Making enough money to meet your expenses–and your saving goals? Happy with your current client lineup–or frantically nabbing any project within spitting distance for fear it will be your last?

If your freelance business has yet to meet your expectations, don’t fret. With a little strategy and planning, this could be the year you get there. Here’s how.

Track Your Time
Sure, many freelancers get paid by the project, day, week, month, word, session or click. But it’s helpful to do the math and see what your efforts are yielding per hour. This applies to all indie workers, whether you’re a writer, designer, photographer, programmer, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, social media expert or project manager. If you’re scarcely clearing minimum wage for that client you thought was such a coup, Houston, we have a problem.

Happily, the web is rife with free tools you can use to track your time per project. Examples: myHoursSlim Timer and Toggl. If the hours show that you’re grossly underpaid, you have two choices: ask for more money or replace the client with one that actually pays a living wage.

[Read the rest of this article on Entrepreneur.com.]

2 comments February 2nd, 2010

Online class: Dealing with Nightmare Clients

By popular demand, I give you my online class for rookie and veteran freelance writers on how to handle clients from hell:

“Dealing with Nightmare Clients” is a four-week online course – starting Friday, February 5! — 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 all your burning questions about any nightmare clients you’ve been dealing with. Additional details about the class:
 
When: Fridays, February 5 – 26 (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.

Add comment January 13th, 2010

New year, new goals

Feels like I’ve been writing holiday-themed articles for weeks and weeks. (Among my favorites: Survival Jobs You Never Thought You’d Be Thankful For and All I Want for Christmas Is a Layoff.)

With 2009 mercifully in the rearview mirror, I’ve joined the fresh-start bandwagon and have been furiously outlining my freelancing goals for the next 12 months. Not resolutions (habits you want to form or change), but goals (stuff you want to accomplish).

Reason I make this distinction is because while writing about how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions yesterday, I learned that humans are hard-wired to fail miserably if they try to change too many habits at once. So I’ve got one resolution for my freelance career this year: leave part of each Sunday open for work on my personal writing projects (books, essays, stories), something I’m doing with three other freelance writer pals for extra accountability.

As for the other stuff I hope to accomplish this year, I’m calling those goals. In the interest of sharing, I’ll list some of the biggest ones here:

  • Give this site a much-needed facelift
  • Finish proposal for book #3 by spring
  • Pursue more custom publishing work (trade publications and the like)
  • Sell an article or essay to the print edition of a certain beloved national paper

How about you? What do you hope to accomplish in this brave new year?

8 comments January 4th, 2010

Recession ethics for freelancers

Times is tough. Even if you’re drowning in work, chances are you’ve had at least one steady client cut your rates this year, or worse, cut you off altogether.

Yeah, clients come and go during even the most financially prosperous of times. But in a year when work is harder to come by and the competition stiffer, each little setback can feel like a full-on body blow.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that an Illinois man pocketed more than $470,000 in paychecks from a company he never worked for over the course of four-and-a-half years.

That got me wondering: If a freelance client overpaid you this year, what would you do? Before you say, “Return the money, of course,” really think about it. What if you were about to default on your mortgage? Would you still give the money back?

In an older post, I talked about how years ago a client paid me twice the amount I’d invoiced for. I knew it wasn’t a bonus; it was clear the company had made a mistake. And while I desperately needed money then, I couldn’t get behind lying and keeping the cash. (Admittedly, it wasn’t just integrity at the wheel. Fear of being found out and losing my most lucrative gig helped drive home the decision to refund the money.)

The client in question was an independent book publisher, and the overpayment was just by $1,000 or so. But if a deep-pocketed Fortune 500 overpaid me a piddly amount, I’d return the money just the same. 

For freelancers, reputation is everything. You might be able to recover from a botched deadline (just ask my editors). But recovery from blatant disregard for business ethics? Doubtful.

What do you think? Have you ever had to return a stray payment to a client who made an accounting mistake? Or do you fall in the ”Pocket it and play dumb if they call you on it” camp? (No judgment; just curious.)

Related assignments I did on the topic this year:

8 comments November 2nd, 2009

Online class: Dealing with Nightmare Clients

Just in time for Halloween, I’m offering a new online class for rookie and veteran freelance writers on how to handle clients from hell. 

“Dealing with Nightmare Clients” is a four-week online course — starting this Wednesday, October 21! – 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 all your burning questions about any nightmare clients you’ve been dealing with. Additional details about the class:
 
When: Wednesdays, October 21 – November 11 (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 $135; nonmembers $160.
Register: On the EFA website.
Questions? Feel free to email me.

UPDATE: This class has been rescheduled for February 2010. Details here.

2 comments October 19th, 2009

Freelance writing tips — live and in person this Monday!

Seattle area folks, want to learn the ins and outs of the freelance writing life, and soon? I thought so. Join me this Monday, October 5 for a little talk with a big name, Learn Your Way Around the Business End of Freelancing and Become a Pitch-Slapping Success, which I’ll be giving with my pal Diane Mapes. In this 2009 SPJ Fall Continuing Ed Series class, we’ll give freelancers of all stages our best tips on making your writing business legit and drumming up a steady stream of print and web assignments.

Stuff I’ll be talking about during the two-hour, practically free class:

• Managing the finances of freelancing (setting rates, paying taxes, avoiding food stamps)
• Covering your behind (insurance, licenses, whether you need to form an LLC)
• How — and where — the heck anyone finds freelance work in this blasted economy

As a bonus, the illustrious Ms. Mapes — whose credits include MSNBC.com, CNN.com, a humor column in the Seattle P-I, and a couple of hilarious books on dating, mating, and living single — will share her secrets for wooing editors and writing winning pitches.

The event deets:

Date: Monday, October 5, 2009
Time: 7 to 9 pm
Location: The Seattle Times’ auditorium, 1120 John St., Seattle 98109
Cost: Free to SPJ members; $10 for nonmembers
RSVP: Email Dana Neuts, SPJ regional director
Perk: Free parking, pizza, and bottled water for attendees!

1 comment October 4th, 2009

Open thread: Where do you find your best story fodder?

Newer nonfiction writers often ask their grizzled peers where we get our ideas for all the articles, blog posts*, columns, personal essays, and pitches we’re endlessly cranking out – often on deadline. In an era where computers and phones are exploding with content, links, and commentary galore, this may seem like an odd question to ask. But I thought it would be fun to answer anyway.

On any given week, I’m responsible for turning in at least one career column and three work/life balance blog posts. Then there are the half-dozen or so stories I’m pitching each month to my regular stable of editors, as well as new ones I’m trying to woo. Meaning if I’m not constantly cultivating fresh story and blog post fodder, I’m sunk.

My top sources of content inspiration:

Blog aggregators. YPBLOGS – the Young Professional Blogs Aggregator — is my blog clearninghouse of choice. One, the 225+ Gen X and Gen Y bloggers featured on this site often bring career and work/life balance issues and trends to my attention. Two, all the cool career-oriented bloggers are doing it.

HARO. HelpAReporter.com is the Swiss Army Knife of reporting. Besides being one of the best ways to find sources if you’re in a deadline fix, this e-list gives you a sneak peek at some of the stories other journalists are researching at any given time. And while idea pilfering is pretty unbecoming, sometimes you can riff off someone else’s idea to come up with a brand spanking new story angle of your own.

Google alerts. If you’re not relying on Google’s handy bots to tell you who’s saying what about your pet topics on any given day, it’s time to start. Again, I’m not advocating simply pilfering or rehashing someone else’s brilliant post or story idea. But a Wall Street Journal article about working moms that raises your hackles can make a great springboard for your own post, column, or reported piece.

Twitter and Facebook. I can’t even open Fritter (or would that be Frittbook?) without finding half a dozen links that scream blog fodder during any given hour.

Friends, readers, and real life. I love when I’m at a party and someone tells me about some bizarre work situation they’re experiencing and it’s all I can do to not blurt out, “YOU! MUST! LET! ME! INTERVIEW! YOU!” Likewise, colleagues and readers frequently email me their unique, off-the-wall ideas. If you write about a topic long enough, this will happen to you too. I promise.

So how about you? What’s your holy grail of content fodder?

*No cracks about the infrequent posts on this here blog. Details on what the heck is up to come soon.

8 comments September 28th, 2009

ISO freelancers with part-time jobs that offer health insurance…

…I’d like to interview you for my next ABCNews.com column. The skinny:

If you’re a full-time (or nearly full-time) freelancer or small business owner who keeps a part-time retail, clerical, cashier, dog poop scooping, or other lowish-paying job because of the health insurance, I want to know. I’d like to hear about both your jobs and how much money you’re saving in health care premiums by keeping the part-time mercenary gig. I’m also curious about whether your customers know about your part-time gig at the grocery/shoe/pet supply store — and whether your part-time employer knows that you double as a self-employed designer/copywriter/programmer. Do you ever get the “You’re folding jeans? But I thought you were a bigshot author!” treatment?

Please note: I’m only interested in hearing from self-employed folks working at least 25 to 30 hours a week on their freelance/entrepreneurial gig and making at least half their living from it. Doesn’t matter how many or few hours a week you work at your part-time mercenary gig. It’s fine if you want to be anonymous. If interested, email me here by Monday please. Thanks so much!

2 comments September 3rd, 2009

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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