by Jargon Writer

Writing my way to becoming a freelancer

More Marketing Matters

Monday before last I started in on Chapter 7, which is all about marketing your services. A big part of marketing your services is developing your marketing position – which includes defining your business both verbally and visually.

The first step to creating your marketing position is to define your business – what makes you different from the competition? What sets you apart? You may want to come up with three adjectives that fit your concept of your company. Or, if you have regular clients already, you may even benefit by asking them for three words they feel define your business.

For me, the first three words to come to mind are: simplicity (I believe the process of hiring a writer should be hassle-free), clean (work I deliver will be error-free, correct and concise) and  helpful (I’m more than willing to throw in free consulting or advice along with my services – my goal isn’t just to deliver copy, but to help each business I work with achieve its goals).

So how does this translate to a visual brand? As you’ll see when I finally get this blog switched over to a self-hosted site and get my own personal site set up, it translates into simple design with clean lines and a lot of white space. For a more modern look, maybe you’d want to use colors like slate and plum; I have plans to mix the large amount of white with a little bit of dark gray and either a green or a blue.

In this chapter, Parker discusses her belief that the visual concept of the company should carry over into its logo design, its letterhead, its business cards and its website. But it carries even further than that. You should keep your company image in mind at every step of the process – correspondence should prove that you are helpful, for example. Error-free emails and communications will help create a “clean” image of your company in clients and potential clients’ minds.

Your sales materials should pitch that image. When you go on sales calls, you should dress to match that image. Your voice mail message should reflect it – if your image is “concise” then leaving a voice mail that tells your life story will not create the desired impression.

I think you get the picture.

One thing I believe in doing is surrounding myself with words that I think inspire me to achieve my goals. On the walls by my desk at home and at the day job I hang quotes and sayings – and once I determine my final business name, tag line and the 3 words I think describe my company, I will hang those there too, to serve as a constant reminder of what I want to achieve.

What words describe you or your business? How would you describe your image?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, research | 1 Comment

Marketing Research Questions

Since I discussed both what goes into conducting market research and what conclusions could be drawn from said research, I thought I’d also share the questions I am asking the Small Business owners in my area, as part of my R&D.

I plan to print out 30-something of these questions, so I can track each business owner’s answers on his or her own sheet. I’ve set the questions up so that I can circle answers, but still have room to jot notes. They are quick questions, because I know the people I am calling are busy, and will not want to spend a long time talking to me.

Another thing you’ll notice is there are six of them. Not 5, and not 10 but 6. First, I read a post (that I now can’t find) from another blogger on the power of using nontraditional numbers when making lists (3 & 7 are the most common “marketing” list lengths because they are apparently more likely to catch the eye than 5 or 10) – second, I’m slightly OCD (not really but still) and don’t like odd numbers; third, I couldn’t think of a 7th question that REALLY needed to be asked.

The last question contains several of the names I’m considering – i figured getting some market feedback couldn’t hurt. Other than that, the questions are fairly self-explanatory, I think. I’m trying to determine if there is adequate demand in my area (although thanks to the internet, I can work outside my area if I want) and what price this market will bear.

  1. Do you currently hire a writer when creating brochures, website content or other written information about / for your business (why or why not)?
    YES / NO
    ______________________________________________________________
  2. If so, where did you look to find a writer? If not, where would you look if you wanted one?
    ONLINE / PRINT / NETWORK / OTHER __________________________________________
  3. How much would you expect to pay to have a brochure written? What about content for a website? A press release?
    Brochure $_______ ; Website $___________ ; Press Release $___________.
  4. How do you market your business?
    SOCIAL MEDIA / EDITORIAL / ADVERTISING / OTHER _________________________
  5. What would be most important to you in choosing a writer out of the following: EXPERIENCE / STRONG SAMPLE WORK / UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR BUSINESS & ITS NEEDS / OTHER ________________________________________
  6. Out of the following four writing services, based on name alone, which would you choose? TYPED IDENTITY / INK JOT / CREATIVE CONCEPTS / IDENTITY WRITING SERVICES

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, research | 1 Comment

Marketing Vs. Selling : Go to Market

“Marketing is what you do to make the sale possible — before your first contact with the prospect. Selling is what you do to make that contact and close the sale,” Parker writes.

Both of these are an important part of starting a business. But for many freelancers, marketing is an almost insurmountable task.

According to Parker, there are two primary reasons writers fail at marketing. First, she says they try too hard. That as writers, we expect to come up with the “perfect” marketing pitch – something unforgettable, something smashing.

The truth is, you have to be in it to win it. Or as the instructor of a marketing class Parker took said, If you’re there, you’ll get your share.

Chances are good you don’t suck. I mean, you may, I haven’t personally evaluated your work, but so long as you don’t completely suck, if you put yourself out there you will do some business. But you won’t do any business if potential clients don’t know you exist.

Second, Parker says that writers fail because when they get busy, they focus on the client work and fail to continue marketing themselves. When we’re swamped, like in up past our ears so that all that peaks over the piles of paperwork on our desks is our eyebrows, the last thing we want to think about is finding more work. But guess what? If we don’t, when we finish wading through that pile of papers, there won’t be another one waiting.

In order to make sure you don’t end up in a dead zone, with work behind you but none in front of you, it is essential that you develop a marketing plan and that you stick to it. This is not nearly as daunting of a task as it may seem.

The fist step is to do some market research. At the most basic level, marketing research is figuring out who your clients are and what they want.

If you know a few people who fall into your target demographic, invite them over for pizza and beer and tap their brains. If not, do what I’m doing.

Today, I began doing the preliminary work for my own market research. I put “Astoria” and “Chamber of Commerce” into Google and hit the search button. After realizing that there are a lot of places named “Astoria,” I refined my search and found the Queens Chamber of Commerce website. Listed there are a ton of local businesses.

I began by scrolling through them looking for likely prospects. I believe that my services will be more in demand among service vendors than among retailers; there may also be some demand from manufacturers. In addition to looking for potential clients / contacts, I checked out local small business events on the site’s event calendar and scanned the list for potential competition.

My next step will be to compile a list of contacts and contact information. I will write up a few questions (Do you hire a writer for your marketing materials? Would you? Why or why not? What would you pay for said services?) and then call, tell them I’m starting a small business and would like to ask them their opinion on a few things.

I’ll ask about what these people read, where they look for services, and what kind of small business events they attend.

Recording the answers for a dozen or so calls will give me a pretty good feel for the potential demand for a writer in the area. It may turn up potential competition. If I need more information, I make more calls, until I feel like I have a good idea how to reach the clients that I want to work for/with.

The next step will be deciding what steps to take based upon this information.

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, research, writing | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Case of the Missing Internet

When I got my own apartment my very dear brother bought me a wireless router. At that point I had a PC and was very pleased with his present. It was something I genuinely needed, yet it was a thoughtful gift and one he knew more about buying that I did/do.

Fast forward: I leave my PC in a cab and the cabbie makes off with it (or else his next customer does). I never get the computer back. I buy a Mac, with the assistance of my fantastic other half (and then promptly pay him back for his portion of the investment). My Mac likes my wireless network. My roommates PC likes our wireless network. However one or the other of us frequently gets booted off.

So I consulted with my amazing tech guy who does all sorts of electronic mysterious things for me for free (because he’s amazing – and I reiterate that because he reads this blog). He says the Mac and PC are competing for the same IP address and the router isn’t sophisticated enough to assign different IP addresses to the different computers so that doesn’t happen. He can not access the router to tell it to do this because for some reason I do not have or know the appropriate password, despite my obsessive compulsive habit of writing down everything and keeping it for unreasonable periods of time.

In chapter 6 Parker discusses the different things a writer needs, technology-wise, to be up-to-date and survive. As I’m sure you can imagine, in today’s digital age, a stable reliable internet connection is among the must-haves.

Trust me, there is NOTHING more frustrating than typing out a long email or blog post, hitting update, and receiving a message that your computer is no longer online. F.R.U.S.T.R.A.T.I.N.G.

So I have decided that, with my next freelance gig, I will buy a new router. In the meantime, I’ve dug out a cord (ah, I remember ye, oh wires of old) and when the internet is on the fritz I plug in. It significantly reduces where I can work (it reaches my living room and my office – but not my bedroom, which is where I’m writing from now) – but it allows me to connect, so I can still contact my clients and they can reach me.

March 8, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, research, writing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare wrote in Romeo & Juliet that, “that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

I hate to break it to him, but that’s not true when it comes to naming a business.

When starting a small business, choosing the right name is a big part of the process. A name needs to be memorable, have the proper connotations and be something that can grow with the company it represents.

I’ve been slaving over choosing a name for my own freelance writing business for a while now. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work under my own name (and use something like “Melissa Breau Writing & Editorial Services”) or if I wanted to established a fictitious name or DBA (Doing business as).

After carefully evaluation, I’ve decided NOT to use my own name for several reasons:
1) No one can pronounce my last name correctly; often I have to say it several times before they get it right and then they will quickly forget the pronunciation even when I use my “memory” trick – “It’s pronounced ‘Bro’ – Like ‘what up bro?'” – I don’t want to have to say that to a client… at least not any more than I can avoid it.

2) There are a lot of different spellings for “Melissa.” People frequently add an extra “L” or take out an “S.” Not to mention there are a lot of names that sound similar but are different – like Marissa.

3) I may someday get married and I’m old-fashioned enough to want to be able to take on my husband’s last name without ruining my company. Perhaps that’s silly. But it was a major contributing factor to my final decision.

Once I decided I was going to have to choose a DBA I began researching how to pick a good name. I understood the basic concept of brainstorming name ideas – creating a list of words, possible names and concepts that I liked. Evaluating the image I want to portray. Essentially, everything Yudkin recommends on her site.

So I came up with a list of words I like. I’m still building it, but here are a handful of them:
Jargon, Concepts, Scribble, Ink, Jot, Signature, Scripted, Adjective, Linguistics, Verbal

I still haven’t found a name I like a lot – I think it’s important that my name at least partially convey that I work with words and that I’m good at manipulating them. My name needs to be an example of how good I am, without being kitschy or cliché.

I was feeling very pressed to find a “perfect” name. Then I flipped through Parker’s book and took a look at the name of each of the companies the writers she profiles owned. Here are the names they used:
Kristen King Freelancing
Fehr Editorial Services, Inc.
Wordbucket Marketing communications
Franck Communications
Really Good Copy Company
Writing, Editing and Online Writing Instruction
Martha Bee Productions
Pete Williams, Author, Journalist, Sports Memorabilia expert, broadcaster, speaker
Schneider the Writer
Media Relations and Corporate communications

None of these, with the possible exception of Wordbucket, conveys an image and few of them are what I’d consider “short” as About.com insists they should be. Most of them are fairly bland. Most of them break a lot of the rules all my research turned up. But you know what? All of them are successful writers. They work full-time as freelancers and still pay their bills. Parker has gone back to most of them edition after edition, re-interviewing them about their businesses.

So while that doesn’t mean I’ll settle when looking for a name, perhaps it does mean Shakespeare wasn’t so far off.

Some other articles I found enlightening on the topic:
The Right Name For Your Business, BusinessWeek
How to Name Your Business, Entrepreneur
8 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business, Entrepreneur
How to Get Your Business Name Right, About.com
How Do I Pick the Best Domain Name for My Website?, Entreprenette

March 7, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, research, writing | 8 Comments

Weekly Roundup

So it’s going to be a brief post tonight – sorry all, fortunately I’ve got client work to do! I found a gig writing articles for a holistic website, and as I mentioned, I’ve networked with Dsngr Unlimited and they need me to do a client proposal this evening. However, here’s some stuff to read to tide you over:

12 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Have Tattooed On Their Arms – I love quotes. I especially love quotes that are about 1) writing or 2) success/working to be a success. The written part of this post is a bit boring, but skip down to the quotes. They are awesome! I sort of collect these sorts of things ….

Salesforce Rolls Out a Facebook for Businesses – I have long said that facebook is not built for businesses. Well this story is about a new social networking site that is built special, JUST for businesses. Do I think it will work? Probably not. After all, consumers prob. won’t flock to a site to learn about companies. But I suppose we’ll see… after all, what are the yellow pages, really?

Why All Entrepreneurs are Designers – this post is all about how “entrepreneurship is a branch of design thinking”. Fascinating theory, and one I think I agree with. I can def. see some of the similarities…

Lindsey’s Blog – Ok, so first off this chick has me on the blogroll – isn’t that enough proof that she’s awesome? Well, if it’s not (humf) then perhaps the title of her blog will get your interest – Use Your Words: The Business of Writing” – how cool is that as a name? You’re still on the edge? Well, take my word for it. She has some great stuff – including a post on why we should try to be more like the mango man, “do I need a copywriter,” and how to conquer work stress at home.

One final note: On Monday I guest posted on Andrea’s blog, Hello. {Work.} – check it out here!

Check these out – and if you have something to share, comment about it. Even if it’s just a writing quote. I promise, if you comment I’ll check out your blog …. (do I sound desperate enough yet? just comment, damn it!)

March 2, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, research, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Registering a Small Business (Legal Mumbo-Jumbo)

Chapter 4 in Parker’s book is about becoming legit. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a topic I’ve been avoiding … but it’s time to get serious about it.

She starts out by telling us that while many freelancers set up the business half after they’ve been working for a while, that is a mistake (oops!) namely because there is a potential for “property use violations, fines, back taxes, business name lawsuits and issues of business ownership.” Albeit she allows that registering is more important for writers serving corporate clients (in case, for example, you were supposed to charge them tax and didn’t – you’ll end up paying for it).

What Kind of Business Should You Be:
The important decision is deciding what type of business you (or I) am going to have: a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. Then, figuring out what needs to be done to dot the i and cross the t. Most freelancers probably work as a sole proprietor – you claim your income from freelancing on your personal taxes and are solely responsible for your business (including any debt you incur in its name).

A partnership would involve bringing on another person – the main difference here is when filing taxes. Partners are still liable for debt incurred in the name of the business, and either partner can be held responsible for any expenses (meaning you could end up paying for your partner’s charges). Arrangements vary greatly, and if you are interested in this for some crazy reason, I recommend doing a lot more reading. If you decide to go this route, set up your partnership agreement very very carefully and I highly recommend you consult a lawyer. Parker recommends Form a Partnership:The Complete Legal Guide from Nolo Press.

There are a couple of intermediary options – limited partnerships and LLC (limited liability company). Limited partnerships involve one of the partners being less liable. Limited liability companies are a good option if you’re worried about the risk you may be taking and its potential impact on your personal finances (in my opinion, less important for a freelance writer than, say, a food product manufacturer, where you could accidentally poison someone and get sued). A LLC works like a sole proprietorship in terms of income taxes but like a corporation when it comes to liability (essentially, it’s limited to the business’s assets).

Finally, there is the corporation, “a legal entity in itself.” The benefits include: limited liability, insurance options. Disadvantages: a LOT of paperwork – and regular paperwork at that.

My Decision #1: I’m going to have a sole proprietorship. I haven’t decided yet if I want to work under my own name or if I want to have a “company” name. If I choose to use a company name (even if I just add “editorial services after my own name) then I have to register as a DBA (doing business as).

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, research, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resources for a New Freelance Writer / Sm. Biz. Owner

At least once a week I want to share links to some of the great articles I came across that week. Check them out – there are some great pieces here!

4 Measures to Put in Place so Your Freelance Writing Clients Won’t Rip You Off
Contracts, kill fees, late fees and deposits help make sure you don’t do the work and then never see your money.

And from the same site …. Do You Know What You’re Selling? Successfully Marketing Your Online Freelance Writing
This piece talks about how important it is for a writer to define their own business – after all, if we can’t put our own company into well written words how can we expect anyone else to trust us to do that for their company?

Work Smart: Increasing Productivity & Efficiency – I would love to write for this site at some point in the future – but this is a great piece from Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed. We all have enough distractions – the key to being a successful entrepreneur (and, as a “freelance writer” that’s what I am) is to prioritize and set up systems to get things done.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, research, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pinocchio Syndrome

Pinocchio wanted to be a real boy. I want to be a real freelance writer. Don’t I wish there was a good fairy for me…

In a recent post I discussed Making It Real – the idea that even if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s still possible not to feel like a duck. In my case, even though I’m building a client base, have begun making some money freelancing and am taking (slowly) all the right steps, I still didn’t feel like a professional freelance writer.

So, in an attempt to gain a ruler by which I could measure myself, I turned the question around and asked the members of one of my small business online networks what they saw as the first 3 steps to establishing a company’s existence. At what point does a company become “a company?”

Rachel Vincent, Vice President of Kikini, a new social matchmaking site that will launch this spring, responded with the following:

(1) formally organizing the company under state laws. Is it a corp, LLC, sole proprietorship (probably the last as a freelancer). There are lots of websites that can do this quickly if you want something simple.
(2) sit down and decide what your brand looks like (visually & verbally). What are the 2-3 most critical points you want people to know about you.
(3) a website (could as simple as adding a page to your blog). I’d say a phone can wait. You can always change the greeting on your cell.

I thought she made some really great points. I’ve been actively working on part three; part two still needs a little bit of work but I’ve gotten started on it; part one I’ve been actively avoiding. Parker talks about the legal issues of starting a home business in Chapter 4. So I’m going to continue procrastinating on that one until next week.

However she did inspire me to do a little research. I ordered two books today that I think will be helpful on several of those points. The Complete Book of Business Plans: Secrets to Writing Powerful Business Plans by Covello, Covello and Hazelgren and Start Your Own Business by Lesonsky. I’ll let you know if they are worth it.

And, while I agree those three things will help make my business become a “real” business, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment recently where I realized I was further along than I had thought. When I was working on yesterday’s post, Creating a Press Kit, I uploaded examples of client work I’ve done, and that required going through different client projects I’ve worked on thus far. I was surprised by the number of assignments I’ve already done. Even if I don’t yet have a full-fledged and certified writing business, I am definitely a freelance writer – and now I feel like one too.

February 18, 2010 Posted by | research | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Types of Writing Jobs

Chapter 3 is both one of the most useful chapters and one of the least interesting – in it, Parker lists 60 bread-and-butter (or, as she calls them meat-and-potato) jobs for freelance writers. The idea is to think objectively about the types of jobs a new writer can get and the types of jobs that pay the bills… and to find where the two intersect for you.

One of the worksheets in chapter two asks each of us to critically analyze our skills – what we bring to the table as a writer that is unique. What we are qualified to write about and who we might know that we can work with. Chapter 3 looks at who we can work for.

Parker asks the reader to look at the jobs and decide if each job is something he or she would like to do, could do now or could learn to do …. and, if the job is something he or she has no interest in, it’s assumed that she’ll just ignore it and move on.

The jobs I could learn to do (and would like to do):
*if you are reading this and have a job in one of these areas I will offer you a discounted rate in exchange for the experience
Advertising Copy
Collateral materials (order forms, spec sheets, invitations, etc.)
Direct mail packages
Radio & TV ads & promotions
Telemarketing Scripts
Annual Reports
Policies & procedures writing
Catalogs & Product sheets
Conference & Trade show materials
Manuals
Menus
Contributing Editor Assignments

Things I can do now:
Brochures
Sales Letters
Public Relations services & materials
Resume Writing
Personal Statements (though this involves a very in-depth interview and takes up a LOT of time)
Website Content
Blogs (clearly illustrated here)
Editing
Letter writing
Newsletters
Press Releases & Press Kits
Proofreading
Proposals

This week I’ll go through some of the more common of these (things I can do now) and discuss how to do them and what differentiates a “good” piece vs. a “bad” piece.

If there are any in particular you’d like to me discuss please leave a comment.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | research | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment