5 Ways To Screw Up Working With A Freelance Writer

Nothing can put a damper on your marketing and corporate communications mojo more than not having a consistent and clear Orange text box with white font "OOPS! Don't Do It Again."brand voice. We all know businesses that struggle with that—maybe you’re one of them.

 

Consistency builds recognition and customer trust. Every brand—small and large—depends on those things to succeed.

 

So when you find a freelance writer who understands you, you won’t want to let her (or him) get away! You’ll want to do what you can to build a long-term working relationship and avoid pet peeves that might drive writers away.

 

Five Ways To Ruin Your Working Relationship With A Freelance Writer

 

  • Waiting Until The Last Minute

Contrary to what some people believe, a career in freelance writing demands managing time carefully. A well-established freelance writer will have a full project schedule that doesn’t allow much (if any at all) bandwidth to work on rush assignments that pop up out of nowhere. While true writing ‘emergencies’ might occasionally happen, most often we-need-it-yesterday projects happen because of poor planning. Get your act together so you can give your writer enough time to do the job well without undue stress.

 

  • Not Providing Enough Direction Or Information

Even though you should expect a writer to bring the element of creativity to assignments, you still need to share some details, expectations, and guidelines. Are there word-count constraints or requirements? Who is the target audience? What purpose will the piece of content serve? Is there a subject matter expert at your company whom the writer can call with questions and to draw out more information? What key details should the writer incorporate in the content? By providing as much information and direction as possible up-front, you’ll allow your writer to focus on producing great content rather than pulling teeth.

 

  • Not Responding With Feedback

Nothing is more disheartening than busting butt to accommodate a client’s deadline and then receiving radio silence after sending a draft for review. If your writer has pulled out all the stops to meet your schedule, do her the courtesy of responding with your feedback and change requests in a timely manner. At the very least, acknowledge you received her work and let her know if you won’t have time to review it until later.

 

  • Starting…Stopping…Then Restarting A Project

I’ve been a part of several projects that seemed to live on forever because clients didn’t make them a priority or even a passing thought. Starting, stopping, and then restarting a project after it has been on hold for months or years demands more time and effort than a writer has bargained for. It requires re-visiting every detail and getting up to speed all over again. That’s frustrating and infuriating. If you begin a project, be prepared to see it through on your end.

 

  • Habitually Not Paying On Time

Because freelancers can only handle so many clients simultaneously, getting paid on time is essential to their business success. If you constantly make a writer shake you down for the money you owe, you’re hurting her cash flow. Ouch! And that will hurt your chances of having that writer work on future projects for you.

 

Freelance writers are an adaptable lot and realize s*&% happens, but frequent offenses that create a difficult working situation will eventually take their toll. Fortunately, with some planning and common courtesy, you can do your part to build a mutually beneficial client-writer relationship—one that will last long-term and facilitate a consistent brand voice.

 

Your turn!

Are you a freelancer who has struggled with any of these issues? How have you overcome them with your clients?

Are you a client who has built a long-standing relationship with a freelance writer? What tips can you share about creating a successful working relationship?

Freelancers And Small Business Owners: Being Great At Your Craft Isn’t Enough

You’re an experienced and talented [insert professional specialty here]. That’s a fabulous selling point, but it may not be enough Black text Value Is Everything on blue backgroundto attract your ideal clients or keep them happy for the long-term.

 

Sure, when you excel at the work you do, you have a competitive edge. To sharpen that edge, however, you may need to demonstrate other important skills, too.

 

Besides seeing yourself as a freelancer/professional extraordinaire doing your craft, strive to fulfill other roles, as well, to make yourself an invaluable resource to your customers.

 

Three Personas To Improve Your Professionalism

 

Competent Project Manager

Some clients have it all together—others not so much. If you have project management skills, you can fill a critical void for customers who lack the ability to organize efforts and keep projects on track. I was fortunate to have had the experience of working as a telecom product manager in my past career. Tasked with managing time lines and deliverables across various groups, the competence I developed in coordinating projects has become one of my biggest value propositions as a freelance writer.

 

Kick-Ass Communicator

Describing products and services, proposing rates, setting expectations, confirming responsibilities, explaining processes, and so on—things every business owner needs to do almost daily—all require communicating clearly. Concentrate on organizing your thoughts and getting to the point in conversations written and spoken. As an accomplished communicator, you can more effectively avoid misunderstandings and ensure you and your clients will be on the same page.

 

Intuitive Listener

Listening so you absorb what clients are saying, recognizing the motivation behind their words, and going a little above and beyond to understand their challenges can really set you apart. By getting to the heart of your clients’ issues rather than simply treating symptoms with Band-Aid solutions, you will earn trust, respect, and hopefully long-term business relationships. For example, I regularly have prospects come to me thinking their websites’ existing content is why they aren’t generating online leads. But after listening to them, reviewing their content, and looking at the big picture, I often find content alone isn’t their problem, and my services independently wouldn’t significantly improve their outcomes. In those situations, I refer these customers to other professionals who have the ability to fill the voids I cannot (like website design/development, SEO, and social media strategy).

 

The Value Of Being More

By developing these identities within your professional persona, you become more than just a service provider—you become an indispensable asset to your clients.

 

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” ~ Warren Buffett

 

Give them value and you’ll gain trust, respect, and loyalty.

 

What will you do to be more today?

7 Signs It’s Time To Kick A Client To The Curb

Not all business is good business. I learned that early on when I first started my freelance writing business in 2010. And it’s aThanks But No Thanks piece of advice I give to every new freelancer who asks me for tips that might help them survive and thrive as a solopreneur.

 

Although turning away revenue isn’t typically an attractive option, for a variety of reasons, accepting work from a new client or continuing to work with an existing client may not be worth your while. Sometimes, earning a buck can cost you more time than you bargained for, frustrate you, and rob you of your mojo.

 

As an example:

 

Several years ago, I said “no” to a prospect who offered an ongoing writing/editing assignment for a print publication that would have given me a steady and perfectly respectable stream revenue indefinitely. During the contract discussion process, she was calling me multiple times every day to chitchat. And when I’d ask specific questions related to our prospective business relationship, she wouldn’t provide firm answers. Quickly, I realized she would completely deplete my energy and patience. Thanks, but no thanks.

And I’ve turned work away from other prospects and clients, as well, when I’ve seen signs of trouble and felt uneasy about going down the path of no return.

7 Reasons You Might Consider Kicking A Client (Or Prospect) To The Curb

If you have a prospective client or existing customer who exhibits any of following characteristics/qualities, you may want to second guess accepting work from them:

  • Always springs assignments on you at the very last minute.
  • Never knows what they want and then reprimands you for not being on target with what you deliver.
  • Tries to nickel and dime you.
  • Never pays on time and only pays after you’ve sent numerous payment due reminders.
  • Is so needy and demanding that they distract you from giving proper time and focus to clients who do value and respect you.
  • Calls or texts you at all hours of the day/night, expecting you to drop whatever you’re doing to tend to their needs.
  • Working with them drains you emotionally.

 

Sometimes it’s easier than others to recognize if you’re better off parting ways. Sometimes the signs are subtle and you need to go with your gut (which will become more intuitive with experience). But always pay attention to what will be in the best interest of you and your business.

 

Your turn! Have you ever kicked a client to the curb? What qualities or habits are deal breakers for you?

A Good Product Or Service At A Good Price Isn’t Always Enough

When you’re a small business owner, your product or services and price will only take you so far. If your customers don’t feel appreciated, they’ll eventually walkThe-Little-Things away.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked me if I had ever attended the local martial arts studio her son is enrolled in. I hadn’t, but I know of the owners because they had attended the same studio I did in years gone by. My friend told me, although the owners are fantastic with the kids and offer a wonderful training program at a fair price, she’s planning to find a different studio for her son.

Great with kids. Excellent program. Good price. What’s the problem?

It’s simple—and sad.

The owners seem to think it’s too much trouble or just plain don’t think it’s necessary to acknowledge students’ parents with as little as a smile or a “hello” when they arrive at their studio.

End result: They are going to lose business because they aren’t willing to put forth the minimal effort needed to show they value their paying customers.

As small business owners, we’re human. We all get busy or distracted or stressed or frustrated and might slip up in showing our customers the appreciation they deserve. But NEVER can we let it become a habit. We can never take it for granted that our skills, products, or price will carry the load for us.

We have to put forth genuine effort and energy to show customers we value them. Fortunately for us, it doesn’t usually require that much of either.

Smile freely.

Say “Thank you” often.

Care.

A little can go a long way.

How Much Should You Pay For Content Writing?

As tough as it is for freelance writers to set their rates, it’s equally as difficult for clients to know whether they’re getting quoted a fair price.Price tag

When I started my freelance writing business over five years ago, I did some research to help me arrive at my pricing. What I found confused me more than helped me.

The disparity of rates among writers offering similar services is astounding.

Many freelance writers don’t post their rates on their websites. But to get a feel for the range of rates that are out there, a quick search of Upwork’s (formerly oDesk) writers turns up billable rates of $10 per hour to $100 per hour. That’s quite a variance.

As a writer, I’ll sometimes check my rates for reasonableness by using Writer’s Market’s “How Much Should I Charge” guide for writers. It lists an array of writing projects and provides “low,” “average,” and “high” rates when billing by the word or page, hourly, and by the project. The distance between the low and high ends, however, is often substantial. For example, the low rate for blogging is $6 per post and the high rate is $500.

No wonder you, as a client, don’t know what to expect or what to accept.

So what’s fair?

It depends.

What Makes A Writer Worth The Price?

Besides having solid writing talent, there are other things that set good writers apart and make them worth their rates:

  • They take the time to ask questions and understand the scope of projects before quoting a rate.
  • They want to understand your business, your prospects, your customers, and your objectives for the content before they start writing.
  • They meet deadlines.
  • They’re clear about what they’ll need from you and when they’ll need it to meet deadlines.
  • They’re collaborative and easy to get along with.
  • They’re professional and will represent your company with integrity if you ask them to interview sources outside of your organization.
  • They offer suggestions and ideas to make your project a success.
  • They approach freelancing as a serious business, not as a hobby.

The last bullet point is one I should expand upon. As small business owners, freelance writers have more than just their time on task to consider when setting their rates. They pay taxes, and they incur costs for things like their phones, internet, project management tools, proposal generators, insurance, computers, printers, office supplies, invoicing and bookkeeping software, fuel for their vehicles, accounting and legal consultations, business entity formation, website development and hosting, social media management tools, and the list goes on. And after all that, they need to pay themselves.

They also need to factor in the non-billable time they spend operating their businesses (reconciling bank and credit card statements, preparing invoices, following up with prospects, networking, organizing files, updating their social media and websites, staying up to date on industry news, dealing with tech issues, etc.).

Cheap Could Cost You.

It sounds cliché, but when contracting a writer, you will often get what you pay for. Dirt-cheap writers are often cheap for a reason.

Writers who don’t have the right skills or who don’t take their work seriously, could end up costing your business far more in the long run than what you’d pay a really good writer.

  • You could end up with content that sounds unprofessional.
  • You might find yourself spending your valuable time requesting a significant amount of corrections or changes to content that’s far off from what you asked for.
  • You could miss out on generating new business—or losing business—if assignments drag out past their deadlines.

All of those things can hurt your bottom line, so keep them in mind before you run from a writer who charges more than bargain basement rates.

Can you afford NOT to hire a good writer?

Does [Client] Size Matter?

The bigger the client, the better?Ruler

 

That’s the mindset of some professional services solopreneurs and freelancers I’ve met.

 

And what’s not to love about landing that big-time corporate client with a limitless budget and an endless stream of exciting projects waiting for you?

 

When I first started my freelance writing business, I had my sights set on moving away from working with smaller businesses and marketing firms to getting signed on by larger companies. After all, they’re bigger so they have to be a better quality client, right?

 

Not necessarily.

 

After working full-time as a freelance writer these past five years, I’ve learned that the size of clients often has very little to do with how fulfilling—and lucrative—the working relationships will be.

 

What Really Matters

If your skills, expertise, and services are a match for a client’s needs, don’t discount them as a bad fit purely because their business is small.

 

Good clients come in all sizes. And so do the not-so-good clients.

 

Rather than using size as a way to qualify or disqualify prospective clients, consider other qualities and characteristics:

 

  • Can they/are they willing to pay you what you ask?

    You might be surprised to discover that the largest of businesses might claim to have the smallest of budgets when outsourcing work. I’ve already turned down work from a very large international company because they proposed to pay an amount so much lower than my billable rate that it was downright insulting. Conversely, I have solopreneur clients and business clients with two or three employees who give me no pushback on my pricing because they value what I do for them.

 

  • Do they pay on time?

    This might be difficult to assess until you’re actually working with a client, but you’ll want to know what to expect. I’ve heard and read horror stories from a few solopreneurs who have waited up to six months to get paid by large corporate clients. When you need that income to pay your bills—and pay yourself—waiting 180 days for a check can hurt. Smaller sized clients can be late payers, too, but there’s far less administrative red tape to get through to get paid. As you’re discussing an opportunity with a prospective client, ask them what their typical payment cycle is and identify what your payment terms are in your proposal. One of my large corporate clients shared that they pay in 45 days rather than in 30 days as my proposal requested. I was fine with that—and they have indeed paid all my invoices within 45 days.

    Tip: Some companies will shorten their accounts payable cycle if you accept payments electronically through PayPal or credit card.

 

  • Do they have their act together?

    Clients who are all over the place with their idea of what they need from you can suck up a lot of your time and energy. If they don’t have clear goals or vision of what they want to achieve, you could find yourself doing a lot of rework or completely scrapping what you’ve done to accommodate their whims. Note that good clients will often need your guidance and recommendations to fully shape their vision. As an expert in your field, you should expect that. But a client who is a “hot mess” will likely be high maintenance and give you more stress than the opportunity is worth.

 

  • How many layers of approval will your work need to go through?

    If you’re an impatient person, prepare for frustration if your work will need the seal of approval from multiple people within a company. Expect to wait longer for feedback and expect multiple change requests. This can happen with small clients, but it’s more typical of larger businesses with various departments and a corporate hierarchy in place.

 

What Really, Really Matters

Last, but not least, never underestimate your intuition. Are you feeling a connection with your prospect? Are you getting a good vibe from them?

 

This may sound superficial, but it can make or break how much you enjoy your work. AND it can affect your attitude and energy level overall. It’s tough enough to manage all aspects of your business. If you’re working with clients who are nasty to you, make unreasonable demands, or are otherwise difficult to deal with, you’ll find yourself mentally drained, unmotivated, and void of self-confidence.

 

You don’t have time for that and your business could suffer under those circumstances.

 

Size up your clients carefully. And remember, bigger may not be better.

 

Your turn! What qualities make clients a good fit for you?

 

Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Four Cs To Stop Pushback On Your Pricing

Competing on price alone is a losing proposition for small business owners who provide professional services.Hand-No

  • It sets you up for burnout because you need to take on ridiculous amounts of work to make a living wage.
  • It sends the message that you’re of “bargain basement” caliber. (Nice reputation to have, eh?)
  • It attracts cheapskate clients who will try to take as much as they can from you for as little money as possible.

Who needs that? Not me. Not you.

And not your clients.

Speaking as a client of other professional services providers, I—and I think the majority of B2B clients—don’t mind paying a higher price to a vendor who delivers these things:

Competence

Naturally, it makes sense to want the job done well. Does it matter how cheap you can get a professional service if the person or company providing it doesn’t seem to have the expertise or skills to provide quality results?

Collaboration

Working well with others, sharing ideas, and coordinating efforts—collaboration makes a tremendous difference in the end product and client satisfaction. Excellent collaborative abilities help keep projects with multiple moving parts on time and on target.

Communication

Good communication skills set expectations and avoid misunderstandings. Sadly, not everyone has them. People who are good communicators…

  • Ask the right questions to fully understand clients’ needs.
  • Define the scope of work and the responsibilities of themselves and clients before starting projects.
  • Keep clients informed of their progress.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Respond promptly

Conscientiousness

If your vendor is disorganized, doesn’t pay attention to detail, or is a procrastinator who veers off course or can’t stick to deadlines, does a cheap rate make that OK? Conscientious professional services providers care about doing the best job possible and meeting expectations. They’re meticulous about delivering quality and consistency.

Avoid The Low Price Pitfall

A low price doesn’t do clients any favors if they’re not getting quality work but are getting major headaches from working with a “professional” who is cutting corners by not devoting the time and energy needed to the business relationship.

As a small business owner who provides professional services, take your business—and your clients—seriously. The rates you charge should reflect the value of you as a total package. And your total package will be worth a higher rate if it includes the four Cs I mentioned above. Deliver on them, and you’ll find less pushback on price and more appreciation of you as a business professional.

How do the four Cs differentiate you from your competitors?

 Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

Why You Might Not Get A 1099-MISC From Your Clients

You’re probably (hopefully!) aware that if your business is a sole proprietorship or LLC and a client has paid you more than $600 in non-employee Tax formcompensation, they’re required to send you a 1099-MISC form for the just-completed tax year.

 

But did you know clients who pay you through PayPal or credit card aren’t required to issue you a 1099?

 

The Burden Of Reporting Electronic Payments Made To Solopreneurs Doesn’t Fall On Their Clients

That’s right. Starting in 2011, the IRS put the responsibility of reporting electronic payments on PayPal and the credit card companies. They are required to issue a 1099-K form—but only if you received $20,000 or more. Which means you might not get a 1099 at all.

 

Honestly, up until yesterday, I wasn’t aware that clients who make electronic payments to me through PayPal weren’t on the hook for sending 1099-MISC. One of my clients who pays by PayPal monthly discovered it when he went to process his 1099s for vendors.

 

I’m figuring other independent workers AND companies who do business with them aren’t in the know about this either.

 

Cause For Keeping Insanely Accurate Accounting Records

With not all clients realizing they don’t need to send 1099-MISC forms if they paid you electronically, you could end up with 1099s from them anyway. That raises the concern of both PayPal or credit card companies AND your client reporting your income (i.e., your income from that client could potentially be reported twice to the IRS). Moral of the story: KEEP ACCURATE INCOME RECORDS. It’s your best defense if discrepancies arise.

 

For more on this topic and 1099s in general, check out these helpful articles:

 

Must You Send 1099 Forms to Contractors Paid Via PayPal or Credit Card? via Small Biz Trends

Fast Answers About 1099 Forms for Independent Workers – UPDATED for 2015 via Small Biz Trends

General FAQs on Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions via the IRS website

Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income via the IRS website

What Is the IRS Form 1099-MISC? via the Intuit TurboTax website

 

Disclaimer: All that I write on this blog is for your reading pleasure and informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only. It is not meant to serve as professional advice. Readers absorb and take information from this blog at their own discretion and risk. Please use responsibly.

3 Ways Texting with Clients Can Hurt Your Business

Lots of businesses have started using text messages to keep customers informed about special deals and to creatively Business woman reading text messageenhance the customer service experience. This article on Inc.com shares the ways businesses can use texting effectively. When implemented with control and purpose, texting can be a boon for business.

But if you’re a solopreneur,  incoming texts from customers can be a distraction.

In his blog post, “Another Tax Season Down — 2014 Tax Season Recap,” Jason Dinesen of Dinesen Tax & Accounting, P.C. shared some notable challenges with texting that I suspect other solopreneurs are experiencing, too:

Clients sending excessive texts and clients sending texts when they should be communicating via other means.

I find texts from clients acceptable and helpful when they’re sharing they’re running behind schedule for an appointment or if they want to see if I’m available for a quick, unscheduled call. But texting beyond that can become problematic.

The Issues with Text Messages from Clients:

    • Expectations for an immediate response to non-emergency issues – People expect text messages to be answered more instantaneously than email. When we text, we usually do it because we want to communicate quickly. We text when we’re running late for an appointment. We text while we’re at the grocery store to ask whether our kid wants original or Cool Ranch Doritos (Important, right?). As a solopreneur, you can’t always respond to texts of a non-emergent nature immediately. That could disappoint or even anger clients.

 

    • They’re disruptive – Think about it, if all of your clients start texting you about this or that throughout the course of the day, you’re getting pulled away from your real work every time you hear that ding or buzz from your phone calling out to you. And then there will be the texts that arrive during dinnertime with the family, at midnight, or some other obscene hour of the day when you need some much-deserved time away from your business.

 

    • Important info could slip through the cracks – If clients send you important information via text, it’s not as easy for you to save and file it with all the rest of the details about their account and projects. I’d be less than thrilled if a client were to send me notes about the key points they want included in a new brochure or on their website via a text message. With texts, the details live on your phone and are separated from the rest of what you have on file about your client. Although apps that enable you to send text messages to email (Google Play’s Email My Texts App for $4.90 and iPhone’s Messages app), you’re still stuck doing extra work to keep your act together.

 

How do you set text messaging boundaries with clients?

If you present clients with a service agreement that lists your policies and procedures, you might consider adding verbiage to address text messaging. If you don’t have such an agreement in place, you can try explaining to clients that you’d prefer them to contact you by email  (or call or whatever you prefer).

Another option: ignore the text initially. Don’t text back. Pretend that the text was actually an email, and then send an email (not a text) with the subject: “Following up on your text message.” Make sure that the timing of the email response is in line with how long it would have typically taken you to respond to your client had she sent an email in the first place. Then, of course, mention corresponding by email works best and ensures no important information will get overlooked while you’re working together.

You’re in control

You might find it challenging to keep texting with clients under control, but ultimately your actions will set the precedent for how you communicate with your clients. The key is to be clear about how you want to communicate, and stay consistent in how you communicate and how you respond (or don’t respond) to clients’ text messages.

Your turn! What’s your take on accepting text messages from clients?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Want Your Work to Delight Your Clients? Make Sure This Happens First…

It’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time (so goes the cliche). But as a freelancer, pleasing clients stands as Thumbs upthe most effective way to secure more work and gain referrals.  Why wouldn’t you want to please clients all of the time? It’s counterproductive to aim to do anything less. That’s how I see it anyway.

Pleasing clients doesn’t mean achieving perfection on the first try. Perfection is quite subjective, anyway. Is anything I write perfect? Is anything a web designer creates perfect? Is anything an artist paints perfect? “Perfect” is in the discriminating eye of the beholders and depends upon their frames of reference and expectations. It’s generally that way with clients.

And while perfection may not be achievable, satisfying – even delighting – clients is. Before you can accomplish that, however, there’s one thing you need to do. And you need to do it each and every time you work on projects for your clients.

Freelancing Rule to Live and Work By: Make sure you’re happy with the work you’ve done BEFORE you submit it to your clients.

Will that 100% guarantee your clients will be 100% thrilled and require no tweaks? No. But you’ll be much closer to achieving satisfaction if you yourself are pleased with your work than if you feel only half-happy with what you’ve completed.

BEFORE sending work to your clients…

  • Ask yourself…

    • “Was I clear on what the client wanted/needed from me, and did I fulfill it?”
    • “Did I do the very best I could?”

The answer should be “Yes” on both counts every time.

  • Sleep on it.

Try to plan your work a bit ahead of schedule so you can finish it a day in advance. Don’t submit it right way! Instead, let it sit overnight, and then look at it again the next morning. Chances are you’ll discover you can make a final tweak or two to make it even better before sending it to your client.

Keep in mind each and every client will be different. You’ll find some easier to please than others.  That’s precisely why it pays to get in the habit of ensuring YOU are always pleased and proud of your work before you hand it over to your clients. You may still need to make some alterations to what you’ve done, but by holding yourself accountable to you, you’ll always be closer to delivering an end product your clients will love.

Your turn! What are your secrets for delighting clients with your work?

By Dawn Mentzer
Another post by the Insatiable Solopreneur™

 

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net