Thursday, September 06, 2007

POST #10: 40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career

PUBLISHER NOTE: If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know about the upcoming freelance writing seminar in October. Details.

Many have inquired about what will be discussed at the seminar. So, in order to answer your questions and to get you prepared for what to expect, I've started a series of posts entitled "40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career."

To start at the beginning, click here. And, welcome to the blog. Now, on to today’s post . . .

The Big Lie Surrounding “Company Image”

Many freelancers assume that it’s the size of the client company that dictates the image of their company. Eg, if you write case studies, for example, your target market is most likely going to be mid- to large-sized companies. Hence, one could easily assume that your company’s image would be professional and reserved.

However, in my experience, this isn’t necessarily true. In my experience, it's the type of industry served that could dictate your company’s image. The reason could is italicized is that I’d even go a step further and say that it is the company’s owner (you) who decides the image. Why?

Because I don’t believe in forcing yourself to be something you’re not. If you naturally have more of an artistic edge, but like finance, then meld that. You could bring a fresh, fun image to the world of finance.

When you are yourself, you free yourself to naturally be better – without worrying about what image you should be trying to project. Instead, you just – project.

What Do You Think of Me?

I attend a lot of networking events and meet a ton of people – really nice people. People I like and wouldn’t hesitate to help out at the drop of a hat. EXCEPT when it comes to business. Huh? What do I mean?

Today’s topic is your company’s image. AND, I want you to forget terms like branding and image. These are Madison Avenue terms that look good on a glossy brochure, but don’t help you grasp the seriousness of the issue. So, I’m going to relay a story to illustrate exactly what I mean.

Want to learn exactly what to do to earn $100, $150, $200/day or more as a freelance writer, editor and/or copy editor? Inkwell Editorial's upcoming Freelance Writing Seminar will tell you how. Details. It's a career anyone who can read and write can start -- with the right information.
What Is the Difference Between a Bun and a Ponytail?

When I ran my staffing agency in New York City, for our outsource division, we used a staff of independent contractors (freelancers) to complete projects. Sometimes, the client would request that the person who worked on their project come into the office for the day.

I had one editor/copy editor/proofreader who was phenomenal – I mean, I never had to check her work because it was always top-notch. She always completed projects on time – usually a few days before, like clockwork. And, she turned projects in with detailed notes that usually gave the client ideas for how to make the project better. She was simply amazing.

BUT, I hesitated to give her projects where a client would likely want her to come onsite. I’d usually give the project to another freelancer. Why? Because she was slightly rumpled.

Her personality – outstanding. Work – impeccable. But, her look was one of disorganization. Let me stress, she didn’t break any overt grooming habits (eg, dirty clothing, body odor, bad breath, etc.).

So, what was “wrong” with her? For example, she had cats and invariably you could see stray cat hairs stuck to her clothing. She usually wore her hair in a ponytail that streamed down the middle of her back – but it wasn’t a neat ponytail. The hair had split ends and usually many of the hairs escaped her scrunchy. She tended to dress in “comfy” clothing that were more weekend wear than office attire (eg, sweatsuits or long, billowy dresses).

My agency’s clientele ranged from biggies like Random House and McKinsey & Company, to small, one-person graphic design firms.

I hesitated to send her onsite at the larger firms because her dress was not professional, and I hesitated to send her to smaller clients because I wanted to leave them with a certain impression of my company. Specifically, we are a professional company with professional workers who do impeccable work.

There were many times I wanted to grab her, put her hair in a simple bun and dress her in a monochromatic suit or simple business dress. But, I never did. I simply didn’t pass some projects her way.

The Lesson Here: Many people will never tell you what they think of you, your company or your customer service. They will simply stop using – and you won’t have a single clue as to why.

Why You Should Develop a “Company Culture” Before You Have a Company

While you may think that your company’s work speaks for itself, everyone you deal with – and refer – speaks to who you are as a company. So, it’s up to you to always make sure that you:

(i) have an idea/image/company culture in mind that you want to present to customers – before you open your doors;

(ii) take steps to foster and grow that image (eg, make sure your advertising and marketing efforts are in tune with your company’s image); and

(iii) ask customers how they perceive your company. This can be done via surveys, feedback solicitation, and/or a simple emailed questionnaire.

Tip: Before you start lining up clients, workers, vendors, etc., think about the type of person/company you’re bringing to your company (or the type of person you refer to others). A prospective client can think the world of you personally, but will hesitate to recommend or use you if you’re lacking in some areas – areas that aren’t even relevant to the job at hand.

NEXT POST: In Post #11 tomorrow, I’ll go over some business tips I got from Keith Bishop of Pitch Graphics, who will be a panelist at the upcoming seminar in October. He’s been in business for 25 years and he was kind enough to let me pick his brain over lunch today.

Note: Seminar attendees -- you're in for a real treat. Keith has a wealth of information that I don't think even he realizes the true value of. And, he shares so freely. I was soaking it all up -- to share with you, of course!

What do you think? If you have questions, comments or observations about this post, send them in. Email them to info [at]

Editorially yours,
Yuwanda (who is this person?)
Coming Next in the Inkwell Editorial Newsletter

September 12: Gordon Graham. We ring in the “editorial season” by interviewing Gordon Graham, aka “that white paper guy.” Gordon writes and edits white papers and case studies. He charges $90/hour just to edit a white paper and a minimum of $4,000 to produce a white paper from scratch.

Most freelancers don’t even dream of making this type of money. Now, do you see why I had to interview him?! I can’t wait for this interview.

Missed the latest issue of Inkwell's freelance writing newsletter? The 8/15 issue featured an interview with B2B freelance writer, Meryl K. Evans. Want to break into this very lucrative market? Meryl's interview sheds some detailed light on how. Sign up to receive your copy to read what Meryl had to say.

Gain clients, web traffic and brand awareness. How? Let us interview you for our popular newsletter? Full details. Read the first issue here.
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