I’m a yes-person.  If someone at my kids’ schools asks me to chair a committee I ask when I need to begin. If they want me to chaperone a dance, I’m there with a smile and the embarrassing dance moves that make my son threaten to stay home.  If they need me to bake 5,000 cupcakes for the teacher’s semi-annual appreciation luncheon committee meeting and fly-fishing tournament, I’ll get up at 2 AM and begin baking with a vengeance.  As you can see, saying no is not the easiest task in the world for me, even though the majority of my time is stretched pretty thinly to begin with.

However, if you want to be a successful home worker, you are going to have to become comfortable with “NO”.  Repeat it over and again if you must.  Practice in the mirror with a firm, serious look on your face.  Don’t be afraid to master the head shake along with the finger point and stern gaze combo that seems to work really well.

There are going to be people in your own corner of the world who know you freelance, they know you are serious about freelancing and they know you are working very hard to be successful at your freelance business.  Yet these same people who can be so patient and supportive are often the first people to play the “but you’re home all day” card. 

Case in point; my mother is a lovely woman in her late sixties who is retired yet still very active.  She used to call me up a minimum of at least three times a week wanting me to have lunch with her or take her somewhere to run errands.  (She can’t drive as her eyesight has greatly diminished).  Now, I have a lot of difficulty saying no to my mother.  She gave me life and made all kinds of sacrifices for me when I was growing up.  But my business will suffer greatly if I am constantly taking her places every day, and I am trying to earn a living and help support a family.

So she and I struck a bargain.  She has one afternoon a week where I am truly at her disposal.  We go out to a local deli or pack a picnic and sit among the shade trees in the park, talking and watching squirrels. Then I take her to run all of her errands and do her shopping for the week.  She is happy with this arrangement because now she is getting the attention and assistance she deserves from me and I still have four full weekdays to run my business and keep all of my ducks in a row.  Now that’s what I call a win-win for everyone.

Working as a freelance writer can be a lonely job.  You spend hours of the day alone, just you and your keyboard.  Sometimes it seems as though you are the only person on the face of the earth.  I've been known to head to the mall and walk around just to be with other living, breathing human beings - and I HATE the mall!

But working solo doesn't have to be a way of life.  There are many ways to network with other writers, and the more connected you are with them the bigger your freelancer support system will be.  I have found that staying connected through social media has been most helpful.

When I joined LinkedIn, I immediately joined a number of freelance writer forums.  There I have connected with some amazing individuals.  We have shared tips, tricks of the trade, celebrated each others' ups and commiserated with the downs.  As the town I live in does not have a large network of freelancers, or any writing groups for that matter, I find these exchanges and the camaraderie I get in these forum discussions to be vital to my well-being as a writer. 

Being a freelancer is a career I have chosen and I've never been sorry.  Learning to network and communicate with other writers has enhanced that career and has introduced me to opportunities that I would never have had otherwise.  Reaching out to other writers was difficult for me initially; what if I was bothering them?  Would they even want to talk to me?  They seemed such a tight-knit group.  But they welcomed me with open arms and now I do the same with new writers in the group.  Do not be afraid to make these connections.  You will be so grateful that you decided to join a very supportive family unit.

I have been writing my entire life.  When I was a kid I wrote poems and short stories; one of my poems even won a local poetry contest.  When I was in my teens and twenties I kept a journal chronicling the ups and downs of my life, problems with my family and friends and all my hopes and dreams.  As a young adult, I continued to journal and sat down on several occasions to try and start a novel, which usually ended up with me writing an outline and first chapter and then getting distracted by life.

But through all that writing it never occurred to me that I could be a writer for a living.  I never envisioned myself making any money for what I considered to be a hobby.  Then one late November day I found myself laid off from a job that I loved, a victim of the downturn in the economy.  As I sat at home in the first few weeks of my unemployment I boned up my resume, sent out hundreds of copies, had one less-than-stellar interview and grew really downhearted about my future prospects.

I was on the computer one day, checking job sites, when I saw an ad for a freelance writer on Craigslist.  I sent in a very poorly constructed letter of interest (or LOI) and waited.  I ended up landing the job after sending a couple of clips that I'd written for a friends' blog and having a great Skype interview with the client.  While I no longer write for that client, that one communication led to a whole new career, one I never could have envisioned from the four walls of my small office in a mom-and-pop business. 

Is my career perfect?  Far from it.  I am still fine-tuning my marketing skills (an entire area that I never considered important when I first started but now appreciate for it's importance) and I am still attempting to grow my client roster, though that is beginning to happen; I've gotten a handful of steady clients amid the one-off jobs.  I continue to network through social media and conferences and I have been sending LOI's to several local businesses.  Writing every day is something that I love doing.  Getting paid to do so is just the icing on the cake.
Okay, I'm being a bit facetious with the title.  I don't know many writers who love cold calling potential clients.  I mean, we got into writing to WRITE!  But it is an important part of marketing and growing our freelance businesses, so we must get comfortable with the concept.

In an informal survey of some of my fellow freelancers I can tell you that the biggest issue most writers take with cold calls is the idea that they're pestering the person on the other end of the line.  First off, let's dispel that myth straight away.  Anyone in the business world is more than used to getting calls from various businesses and organizations trying to get them to use the goods or services they have to offer.  When you truly think of yourself as a business with a valuable service to offer, it becomes nothing more than a run-of-the-mill business call.  No pestering whatsoever!

Another problem is fear; fear of rejection, fear of making someone "angry", fear of someone leaping through the phone and strangling them to death.  I can assure you, the last example certainly won't happen (although it's a killing move I've never seen before in a horror movie; maybe I should write that down!)  The second is highly unlikely to occur unless you've truly caught someone on the absolute worst day of their life, in which case it's not about you anyway.  As for the first, yes, there is a chance that the person on the other end of the line might say no.  If that happens, be gracious.  Send them an email afterward thanking them for their time and reiterating the services you offered over the telephone; this will leave a positive impression on them and you might be surprised when you get a call from them in the future requesting your services.

And another tip that I've heard; don't think of them as "cold" calls.  Warm them up by mentioning a friend in common or a LinkedIn connection.  Tell them you follow their business on Twitter or Facebook.  Just be friendly, be yourself and be confident that you have something they need.  You might just be surprised as you watch your client roster grow.
I belong to many different LinkedIn groups for writers.  There has been a lot of discussion recently in the forums regarding content mills and the definition of a fair price for services rendered.  Fair price is another post for another day, but let's discuss several postings on job sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.

If you're not aware of how these job sites work, let me break it down for you.  Writers (or other types of freelancers, such as designers, administrative professionals, etc) will post a profile on these sites, listing their experience, background and how much per hour you prefer to earn.  You receive a certain amount of "connections" per month for free; the number varies per website.  You use these connections to submit proposals for jobs that you select from a job board.  If you want additional connections you must pay a fee (starting at $10 per month and up, depending on the site) and you can receive as many as you're willing to pay for.  Most jobs require one to three connections depending on how much the pay for the project is.  The higher the pay, the more connections required.  Sometimes clients will invite you to submit a proposal; when this happens, you aren't charged any of your connections for your submission.

There are legitimately good opportunities available on some of these sites; you just have to learn how to read between the lines.  For the most part however the projects available on these sites are extremely low paying.  You will see entries such as "50 articles for $20" or even worse.  These project posters are not looking for real writing; they are looking for anyone with a computer who can string a few words together and stuff them with keywords.  Real honest high quality clients understand and appreciate the job that we do.  They are willing to pay accordingly for quality writing.

The other issue that I have with content mills is that, as long as there are writers who are willing to write for pennies, the more clients will assume that is the norm and prices will stay low.  This affects all freelancers.  If you are a hobby writer -- someone doing this for fun and a few extra bucks -- then by all means, accept that kind of work if you so choose.  But if you are truly trying to market yourself as a business, steer clear of content mills.  Your bottom line will thank you!
As a freelancer, it's really important that you stay on top of your marketing plan.  Years ago this meant taking out advertising in print publications, attending conferences and networking with editors, publishers and other freelance writers.  But that's all changed now.  While those methods are still good ways to draw attention to your business and to the services you provide, they have almost completely taken a backseat to having a social media presence.

As WildWordz is fairly new, I've been spending more time than I will a year from now working on my social media platform.  I am on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and I am trying to master Google+ although that is turning out to be a bit more complicated than I originally anticipated.  I am going to keep at it though, because harnessing social media is an undeniable benefit to anyone in business for themselves. 

Edison Research, a business/government/media research firm located in Somerset, NJ,  has done a comprehensive study of social media trends for the last several years.  They have found some surprising statistics: 

  • Twitter has grown by 76% in the last year alone, attracting over 12 million new tweeters, almost all of which post status updates regularly.
  • Facebook is the most popular social media, with most Facebookers checking their pages or feeds an average of five times each day.
  • Users who follow brands or businesses on social media has increased 106% in the last year.
  • The fastest growing segment of new social media followers are professional adults between the ages of 45-54.

It cannot be stressed enough how vital social media is to your bottom line.  But using social media for business purposes means using it responsibly.  One freelancer friend of mine suggested that once a month or so we Google our own name and see if anything "embarrassing" to us pops up.  A friend-of-a-friend was trying to gain employment in a very conservative field and the HR Director who was to interview him Googled his name.  There was a seven-year-old post in a forum about "how to scam chicks at bars".  Sadly, he was declined for the position he so coveted. 

It just makes good business sense to maintain your professional code of conduct when using social media to increase your client roster.  Don't post anything that is controversial, be it political, religious in nature or anything that is considered inappropriate sexual content.  Watch what forums you post to regularly and stay away from any that might cause you humiliation or cost you a client; a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself "Would I be embarrassed if my kids or my parents (or your pastor, for those churchgoers in the crowd) saw what I posted online?"  If the answer is yes, hit that delete key!

Social media is booming right now and it promises to get even bigger.  Just use it responsibly, keep your most controversial thoughts to yourself, and watch your business grow by leaps and bounds.  Your bottom line will thank you!

Many times the only thing keeping a freelancer from getting a project for which they are qualified is the proposal they’ve submitted.  You can have the skills and the expertise; it matters not a bit if your proposal is vague, sloppy or just completely off the mark.  The following are some of the most commonly made proposal mistakes.

Misspelled words or poor grammar

As a writer, I find it offensive to see other writers’ profiles or proposals that are full of misspellings or grammatical errors.  You’re selling your ability to write in your proposal, yet you don’t care enough to make sure it’s constructed according to the correct rules of grammar.  If this isn’t your strong suit or you are a freelancer in another area besides writing, there are some great English grammar guides that will help you construct your proposal properly.  My favorite as a writer is Merriam-Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style.  This guide is easy-to-read and understand and is available at any bookstore or on Amazon.

Undefined proposals

When submitting a proposal to a prospective client it is important for you to show that you fully comprehend the scope of the project.  Writing a proposal that is vague, generic and not tailored to the client’s specific needs is a surefire way to get a rejection.  While it is okay to keep a “proposal template” that states your qualifications, that template should never be submitted as-is to the client.  You need to ensure the client knows you understand the project and that you are able to concisely state in your proposal why you are the right contractor for the project.

“Pointless” proposals

Submitting a proposal for a project in which you have no experience or background is what I call a “pointless” proposal.  I write; I don’t design websites or write programming code.  Therefore, I’m going to submit proposals to clients who are looking for a writer.  I would never write a proposal for something that I’m completely ill-suited.  What happens if for some reason your complete lack of experience is overlooked by the client and you land the project?  You will end up looking foolish and the client will be unhappy at the least; at worst, you’ll get a reputation as being a contractor who bites off more than you can chew and you may find the offers are coming fewer and farther between.

I got up this morning with one goal in mind; I had an assignment to complete a 2500 word article for a client about the history and the importance of land surveying.  Now, the knowledge that I have regarding surveying could easily fit in a thimble with room to spare, so I know that I first need to research land surveying and find a surveyor willing to answer my questions.  This all seems pretty cut and dried: research, phone calls, transcribe notes from my calls and then begin writing the article.  Within five minutes of sitting down I have a perfectly acceptable plan of action that should guide my work day and keep me busy and productive.  Now, here is what my workday really ended up looking like.

9:00 AM – Get out notepad and pen.  Discover pen is dried out.  Throw away pen and decide to pull out and test all pens.  Find that at least ¾ of my pens are dried out.  Throw them all away and organize the remaining pens based on color of pen, amount of ink left in cartridge and color of ink left in cartridge.

10:00 AM – Go online and order new box of pens from OfficeMax.com.  Realize I need a new printer; start researching wireless printers, paper, ink cartridges and while I’m at it, check out the price on a new fax machine as well.

11:00 AM – Get out notepad and pen with new found resolve to start land surveyor research.  Realize I’m hungry; make promise to myself that once I’ve made three phone calls and done cursory research links query on Wikipedia I will make myself a grilled cheese sandwich.

11:05 AM – Get too hungry to type.  Make myself grilled cheese sandwich and can of tomato soup; after all, who can have a grilled cheese sandwich without tomato soup in which to dunk the sandwich?

11:15 AM – Spill tomato soup on my notepad while dunking and updating my Facebook status; realize it’s the last notepad in my arsenal.

11:16 AM – Go back online to OfficeMax.com and add notepads to my shopping cart.

11:45 AM – Finish lunch, clean up the mess in the kitchen and lie down to nap away my full stomach, with the resolve that tomorrow I will get up and be organized, methodical and productive enough to complete this article that was assigned almost a month ago that is now due in four days instead of five. 

12:00 PM – Zzzzzz.