Posts filed under 'Toolbox'

Plan your exit strategy

When Vanessa Troyer and Chris Farentinos launched MailBoxes4Less.com in 2000, they didn’t give much thought to how they’d exit the online mailbox distribution company.

All that changed in 2006. Recognizing the huge growth potential in manufacturing high-end mailboxes for builders and retailers, the Los Angeles couple decided to channel all their efforts into a second business, Architectural Mailboxes. This meant selling the highly profitable MailBoxes4Less.com to free up the necessary funds.

It wasn’t a scenario most entrepreneurs envision when they think about exit strategies.

“No one was sick,” says Troyer, 45. ‘We didn’t want to retire. Investors weren’t saying ‘I’m done.’ There was no reason to sell the business.”

But sell the couple did, garnering more than $1 million for the venture they’d founded eight years earlier with just $25,000.

It was the right move: Today Architectural Mailboxes continues to grow, with products in every Lowe’s store in the nation and more than half of Home Depot’s locations. Amazon carries 140 of the company’s products. And, Troyer says, the business is on track to grow by 38 percent by the end of 2011.

Hoping to follow in Troyer and Farentinos’ footsteps? Experts say the best way to ensure you leave your company when and how you want–with money in hand–is to start plotting your exit strategy now, even if you’re still developing the business plan. Sadly, study after study shows that a majority of entrepreneurs have no exit strategy whatsoever in place.

If this sounds familiar, don’t fret. You’re about to get a crash course in preparing for two of the most common ways to successfully exit a business: turning the reins over to a relative and selling the company.

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

2 comments April 7th, 2010

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

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

I’m now on Twitter…

@anti9to5guide

Are you tweeting too? If so, how are you using it? Here’s what I’ve gotten out of it in the few short weeks I’ve been using it:

1. Another way to spread the word about my books.

2. Another way to find sources for articles I’m writing in a pinch.

3. Another way to share/discuss articles of interest with other freelancers and freelance sympathizers.

4. Another way to meet interesting, influential editors, bloggers, and media peeps.

5. A more immediate way to engage in some online dialogue than the ole blog. (Though I have every intention to keep this ole blog alive and well. I heart it — and the people who read it.)

6. Another way to amass more links to interesting articles and blog posts I hope to read when time permits.

7. Yet another way to waste time if I’m not careful.

I imagine many of you saw The Golden Pencil‘s excellent post on 8 Ways That Twitter Can Grow Your Freelance Business. I have yet to land an assignment through Twitter as Jenny of The Golden Pencil has, but I certainly wouldn’t mind doing so.

How about you? What has Twitter done for you lately?

8 comments January 30th, 2009

How to reign in runaway negotiations

My Global Career ran a short excerpt from My So-Called Freelance Life last week. Here’s the start of it…

Clients who don’t know what they want can chew up countless hours of your time with exploratory emails, phone calls, meetings, and requests for more details if you let them. Ditto for blood-sucking zombies who milk you for free advice but have no intention of ever hiring you. Here are some suggestions for “training” indecisive clients and weeding out the bloodsuckers:

Cap getting-to-know-me meetings. Bloodsuckers are fans of meetings with agendas like “let’s spend the next four hours talking about how you’d execute our project were we to actually offer it to you.” For this reason, I have a rule about complimentary getting-to-know-me meetings: One hour max is all you get — by bat phone, webcam, or in the flesh — and then I’m billing you for it. Likewise, I don’t dress, drive, and give up my morning for just anyone. Unless there’s big money, repeat business, or real PIE potential, I phone it in.

Use templates. Although I have a bio and work samples on my website, I still need to email interested clients my references, additional samples, and a more detailed bio or resume from time to time. The materials I send vary wildly, depending on whether I’m talking to an arts organization that wants me to teach, a potential copywriting client, or a news website that wants an article written. Rather than reinvent the wheel each time, I have a nice collection of templates I employ: ShamelessInstructorPromo.doc, Fortune500Bait.doc, and MediaWhore.doc.

You can read the rest of the excerpt here.

Add comment December 9th, 2008

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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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