English: A map of the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having grown up in Lancashire, then moved to Yorkshire at 18, my accent is a strange mixture of both sides of the north, often combined with a slight twang of whoever I happen to be talking to. To have a good listen to what I sound like, you can listen to some of our podcasts!
I do have a fascination with regional accents, not least because we have such a wide range of them in the UK. This video is a lovely snippet of Ian McMillen – a delightful poet from Barnsley – explaining the different accents within Yorkshire to Stephen Fry, highly adored national treasure.
It is followed by a video of a young girl with a broad Yorkshire accent – it is an adorable snapshot of how some people sound in this part of the world.
We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.
Lots of new freelance writers fear that they will never get any work because they don’t have published articles or novels already. However, when you remember that every successful freelancer started out in the same way, it becomes clear that it is definitely possible to get hired as a writer even if you have no clips to show.
But how, exactly? In this podcast episode, I go through lots of different ways to get yourself some clips, build up your portfolio, and to persuade people to take you on regardless.
And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!
Hello and welcome to A Little Bird Told Me, the freelance writing podcast about the highs, the lows and the no-nos of successful self-employment. This is episode 35 and today I’m going to be talking about how to get freelance writing work when you don’t have clips.
I’m Philippa Willitts and I’m a full-time freelance writer. I’m here without my usual co-host Lorrie, who’ll be back next week, so if you’re missing her, tune in again next week.
You might be listening to this podcast on your computer, your iPod, your phone, and so if you want to make sure you never miss an episode, do head over to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com where you can find links to subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher or RSS. You can also – if you have a Podomatic account – subscribe there so you’ll get an email every time there’s a new episode.
On the Podomatic page, you’ll also find links to the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook page, as well as mine and Lorrie’s various websites and social media bits and bobs.
Magazines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, as I say, today I’m talking about how to get freelance writing work when you don’t have a portfolio of published work – magazine articles, commercial samples etc. A lot of people think they can’t possibly approach an editor or business, and pitch themselves to that publication or place because they don’t have any experience – and they expect to be told to come back when they have examples of past writing. And this can happen, however – if you think about it – every successful freelance writer started at some point without any clips or any kind of portfolio. So it is entirely possible to break into freelance writing as a career even if you haven’t been published or had any high profile writing out there.
So what I’m going to do today is look at some of the different options you have if you’re desperate to start out but are scared to get an email back saying, “Send me what you’ve already done” before you can get any work. In my experience, surprisingly few clients and editors have asked me for examples of my past work. Some have and I’ve sent them that, but actually an awful lot don’t ask. If you make a good enough approach, demonstrate knowledge of your subject and produce a good enough pitch, clients and editors can deduce that you’re probably a decent writer and you know what you’re doing.
Now, on my professional sites – philippawrites.com and socialmediawriter.co.uk, I do have links to my published work. And this might be as simple as a blog post, or it might be a link to a national newspaper, but I do have a page dedicated to “Have a look at my writing” so if people want to know more, they can see what I can write – they can get an idea of the styles I can write in etc. So I wondered whether the reason that so few people ask me for clips is because they’d been on my website.
And so I had a chat with my usual co-host Lorrie, because I know on her website, it’s quite different to my own with not so much focus on what she’s written before. So I asked Lorrie whether in her experience clients ask for previously published work, and she has had a very similar experience to me – it does happen, but it’s rare. I think that’s interesting because it suggests that, regardless of having clips on your site, a lot of clients and publishers just don’t ask for them. So if you’re wary, bear that in mind and make an approach – if you write a good pitch email or approach letter, the thing you’re fearing (where they get back to you and say, “Send us 10 examples of work published in international magazines!”) won’t happen.
I think also, if you have good clients who respect you and what you do, they often assume that, if you’re approaching them, it’s because you’re capable and experienced.
Another problem that commercial copywriters and fiction writers can face is if they do ghost writing – they might have tonnes of experience and have written five novels and 18 websites but, if they’ve signed a none-disclosure agreement or have just agreed that the writing they’ve done belongs to whoever paid them and can’t be claimed as their own, then they can still have an empty portfolio. So it’s not just an issue that new people face. But, I think the more experienced ghost writers would have a more confident approach and would be better at wording things to show that they’re capable and competent.
And it’s important to look at this issue, not just because a lot of new freelancers get caught up in it and feel like they don’t have much confidence without clips, but also because it’s used as people as an excuse for procrastination – it’s a nice way to avoid having to put yourself out there and make some pitches and see what happens. So do listen on and find out more ways to prove to people that if people hire you, you’ll do a great job. And also, to start getting those clips so, as they build up, you’ll have more to show what you can do.
So you’re in a situation where you’ve had a great idea for a story or you’ve found a company you’d love to write for but you don’t have anything to show. Or so you think. The first thing to do is really have a think. Stretch your imagination a bit. There’s a chance that you do have something to show that can prove your writing ability. For instance – have you written something to your company’s annual report? Have you contributed an article to your local neighbourhood newsletter? Have you had a letter to the editor published in a newspaper? When you’re starting out, all this stuff does count, even though it might feel irrelevant but it can work as a confidence booster. Over time, as that works, you’ll get new clips and examples of what you can do, so you can stop including the school newspaper or whatever it is – but it gives you somewhere to start from.
If you find you really don’t have anything, or you’re worried that your work is inadequate, it’s time to start creating writing samples. Make your own portfolio. Sure, it won’t have been published by anyone else, but what a lot of companies and editors are looking for is proof that you can write and examples of your writing style. They want to see those things a lot more than an arbitrary publication of something. An unpublished example may not be as influential as a published one, but it’s a place to start and it shows the most important thing: how well you can write.
There’s one easy way to start producing your own clips, and that’s to start a blog. Especially if you have a professional website – a blog is a perfect way to add to it. If you don’t have a professional website, it’s time to build one or to just start a blog anyway.
Now, what blogs do is give you an opportunity to get your writing out there. When you approach someone – especially if you have a target focus, say cosmetics – then you can show potential clients links to four brilliant blog posts on the latest trends in the cosmetics industry. You’ve got a head-start. If you particularly want to write about trade fairs or focus groups, start a blog and do it. It shows you can write, that you have the knowledge and that you’ve taken the initiative and that you enjoy writing and are good at it.
Another approach – and you can do this instead of having your own blog but I’d suggest doing both – is to approach the owners of prominent blogs, especially in your specialism, and offer to write a guest post.
Now, some blogs offer to pay for guest posts but most don’t so you’ll have to make a judgement as to whether that crosses the line into working for free and being exploited or whether it’s a case of increasing your platform, getting your name out there and helping out a blog you enjoy. I’ve done guest posts for some blogs but turned down others. If the blog is making money but not paying writers, then I’m not that keen, whereas if it’s something I feel strongly about or a platform I really like, I’m more keen to go ahead. We’ve all got a line and while I’d never support working for free to get started, where you stand on guest posts is something you have to work out for yourself. But, potentially, it’s an opportunity to get your name out there into the sector you want to work in. You get a link, a clip and some good contacts in the sector as well. We do have a whole episode on how to get started with guest-posting, which I’ll link to in the show-notes, so if you want to know more, do check that out.
Now, another approach you can take is to just write some articles that show off your best writing, your knowledge of your subject, and have them on hand so if a client wants to see more of what you can do, they can have a read. This works well if you have a specialism because you can write your best stuff about the area you know well. If you’re more of a generalist, it still shows your ability to write, be persuasive, be funny, depending on what’s needed. Now this is an option some people choose. Personally, I tend to think that if you’re going to the trouble of writing these articles, it’s worth creating a blog and putting them on there so people can find you there rather than you always having to find people. However, if you really don’t want a blog or website, then write four or five exceptionally good articles and have them ready for if someone wants to see what you can do.
Now, with these or having your own blog, it’s so important to do your best work. If these are examples to potential employers and clients, then they need to be as good as they can be. Make sure everything’s spelt correctly, check commas and capitals, make sure everything’s worded in the best way. A few hours now will pay dividends over time as you use them.
Another way to get some published writing experience is to do some writing on a voluntary basis for a charity or non-profit. Normally, both Lorrie and I do strongly advise against working for free – almost without exception. But, one of the exceptions we share is if you want to volunteer your time and skills, then doing some free writing for a non-profit can be a really good way to do that. If you’re starting out and you want published examples of work, approach a charity you like and support, and offer them some free writing – a pack of press releases, an annual report – and ask them in return whether you can use the work in your portfolio. I imagine most charities will bite your hand off – who wouldn’t want free writing from a professional writer? And you both benefit. So again, I wouldn’t approach a business and offer free writing, but if you find yourself wanting to volunteer some time, have a chat to a charity whose work you support and see if you can come to some kind of agreement.
English: email envelope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are other ways to get published and hired if you don’t have a portfolio bursting with tonnes of experience and published article. A vital one – whether you have a portfolio or not – is to make your pitch or query email outstanding. This is what grabs attention, whether the recipient is a newspaper editor who gets 60 pitches a day or a busy marketing manager who needs a copywriter. The first thing they see if the first few words of their email, then your first sentence, so to get them to the end of your pitch email, it has to be really good. And if it’s good enough, they’re already persuaded you can write – so do make sure your pitch is as good as you can make it. Don’t reuse the same one again and again, bring in something they’ve recently published, make it relevant to them. You should also bring in your strengths. OK, you don’t have a lot of professional work behind you, but what you can do is show you can write by the content of your email.
Also, emphasise the strengths you have. Have you previously had experience in the sector? Going back to the cosmetics example, were you previously a make-up artist? Were you a marketing executive in a huge make-up company? This is something people want to know and could make the difference in getting you the job.
Your strengths and experience are so important. Do you want to write about weaning a baby? Maybe you’ve just weaned your baby. This helps. This will make someone want to hire you over someone who wants to write the same article but doesn’t have kids. Make the most of the experience you have – make it apply to what you want to write for this person, and make them see that. You do have strengths and expertise that you might not immediately think of, but that do apply and can make you the perfect person for the job. So good, in fact, that they forget that they haven’t seen what else you’ve had published.
Also, the way you portray yourself is important. If you sound apologetic – “Oh, sorry I don’t have any experience” – they have no real reason to have faith in you, so go in with confidence. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Research in advance so you’re not taken by surprise by an awkward question. It’s always a good idea to be honest.
Now, I’m not saying open your email with, “I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE!”, because it doesn’t portray you in a good light, but if they ask whether you have experience and you don’t, say no. Don’t just say no – say “No, I don’t have published articles, but I have written this and this (attached) and I worked in that industry for four years, and it’s also a hobby of mine.” So you’ve turned a negative into a positive, but never lie. If you’re attaching articles to an email, don’t lie and say they’ve been published – don’t mock up some fake Time Magazine layout! If they find out, you’ll never get hired and you’ll damage your reputation.
Similarly, if they ask whether you’ve written about orchestral instruments before, and you haven’t, say “No, but I have written about guitars.” Or “No, but I used to be a piano teacher.” Turn it round to what you can offer. Don’t mislead anyone, or tell lies, but present yourself in the best way you can.
There are also some tips that apply mainly to commercial copywriters rather than the other kinds of writing work we’ve talked about in this episode, such as newspaper and magazine feature writing. The next tips apply to commercial copywriting predominantly.
Firstly, testimonials. If a client can see – ideally on your website – that other clients speak highly of you, this will really encourage them. Make the most of the good feedback you get. Be careful naming people if you haven’t got permission but do try and make the most of it.
The second is to have a filled-in LinkedIn profile and get endorsements and recommendations on there. I think people have even more faith in those testimonials because you have to use full names. You can’t make them up unless you make some kind of fake account and that’s not a big problem on LinkedIn, so if someone sees a testimonial on your LinkedIn profile, they have more reason to believe it. Plus the new-ish endorsements, where you can click a +1 equivalent to various skills that someone’s said they have. So if you’re on the site, it’ll pop up and ask me whether Lorrie has skills in literary editing and I’ll click yes – she gets an extra +1 for that skill. It’s a good thing to do in terms of good karma as well – not least because people get a notification that you’ve endorsed them, and they might do the same for you. But don’t do it always for that because sometimes doing things without self-interest is more attractive.
But yes, if you do have lots of LinkedIn endorsements, make the most of them. There are plenty of ways to get freelance writing work when you don’t have clips or published articles. You can’t get every job without clips – you’re unlikely to get a four-page feature in Cosmopolitan if you can’t show them any examples of writing – but if you start with trade press, maybe you can. Or if you get some links from guest posts you’ve written for prominent blogs in a particular industry, that will help you approach other people in that same industry. There are ways around it. Sometimes they won’t be enough but you can make the most of your situation, so don’t use “I don’t have clips” as an excuse not to approach people. Because that’s the only guarantee you’ll never get any work. Part of being a freelance writer is approaching people and getting no response, or getting, “No thanks, not at the moment.” It’s just part of the job and you have to face it. It might not be pleasant but it’s how things are, so if you’re going to be a freelance writer, you’ll have to get your head around it.
And sure, you might lose out on a few jobs when you’re starting out because you lack published work but plenty of people get their first job without any. Both Lorrie and I rarely get asked for examples and that doesn’t seem to be because I have lots of examples on my website, because Lorrie doesn’t and she still doesn’t get asked for examples. Be persuasive in your approach and they already know you can write well.
And now it’s time for the Little Bird Recommendation of the Week! My recommendation this week is a blog post called, “10 Very Costly Typos” from the mental floss website. As writers and proof-readers, we have to spot typos all the time.
There have been situations where typos have cost companies actual millions of dollars. If you’ve ever doubted the need for a proof-reader, this post will make sure you get especially careful about anything you publish. A book that had to be recalled at a cost of $20,000 for accidentally typing a recipe where instead of “seasoning with salt and ground black pepper” it recommended seasoning with salt and ground “black people.”, so 7,000 copies had to be destroyed. Or the bible publisher that was fined £3,000 in 1631 – a lot of money! – for saying that one of the 10 commandments was “Thou shalt commit adultery” or whether it was the poor guy who sold a 150-year-old bottle of beer on eBay but put a typo in the name. Someone else spotted it, bought it for $304 and sold it for half a million. Gutted for him! I’ll put the link in the show notes. It’s slightly light-hearted but it goes to show that not checking things really can cost a lot of money.
So I hope this episode has been helpful. The message is, don’t hold back – put yourself forward even if you think you’ve got nothing to show what you can do. Follow the tips I’ve given, let us know on Facebook how you get on. Check us out at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, come say hello on social media and tune in next time. Thank you for listening – I’ve been Philippa Willitts.
We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.
Freelancers need to constantly market themselves and their services in order to keep the work coming in. To make sure that your self-promotional efforts hit the mark and don’t put potential clients off or even offend them, Lorrie and I made this podcast episode to summarise some of the most crucial dos and don’ts for four different marketing platforms.
We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.
Freelancing can be a really tough business. While it’s a common preconception that working from home and working for yourself are an easy ride, like any other job being a freelance copywriter has its ups and downs. In this solo episode, Lorrie discusses what to do if you feel like your freelance writing career has reached crisis point. She talks about how to tell the difference between a career crisis and a temporary blip, and outlines a number of helpful solutions to common freelancing problems.
There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.
Hello, and welcome to Episode 33 of A Little Bird Told Me: the podcast about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful freelance writing.
You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, and there you can subscribe to the podcast via RSS, iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio or on the Podomatic page itself. You can also find the link to our Facebook page, where you can chat to me and my co-host Pip, ask us any questions you might have and give feedback on the episodes you’ve listened to so far. At the Podomatic page, you’ll also find links to my websites and social media feeds, as well as those of the lovely Philippa.
I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and today’s episode is a solo one, so tune in next week to hear from me and Pip as a dynamic duo – if you click on subscribe, you’ll get a notification the next time an episode is posted.
Day 23 – STRESS (Photo credit: isabisa)
This week, I’m going to be talking about what to do if you feel like your freelance career is in crisis and everything’s tumbling down around your ears. Feeling like your career is failing is a horrible, awful thing, and when you work for yourself, the isolation can increase the sense of panic and confusion a hundred fold. When you’ve got no one to bounce ideas off and share your worries with, it’s easy to imagine yourself standing at the edge of a really bad decision with no one to tell you otherwise.
First off, breathe. Career fear is something everybody goes through at some point or another. It feels real at the time – it is real – but that doesn’t mean you won’t get through it. No matter what happens, it won’t last forever. Decisions about a job won’t mean the difference between life and death, and hopefully this podcast episode will help you to put your worries into perspective a little bit and face a tough decision with your logical head on. If the worst comes to the worst, you can always come and have a chat to me or Pip (or both of us – we work well as a pair, as you might have worked out!) and we’ll do our best to advise.
When you start to feel like your freelance career is flagging, and the red flags are going up, and a little voice in your head is saying, “Maybe this isn’t working?”, it’s important to determine whether it’s a crisis or a just a really bad blip.
Ask yourself how long you’ve been feeling this way. Can you think of anything that triggered it? If there’s an event that seemed to start you off on this train of thought, is it work related or something else? Either way, you need to ask yourself whether stopping freelancing will be a solution to the perceived problem.
If you’re not sure what’s causing the general negativity, a good exercise is to get a pen and paper and do a spider diagram. Jot down words that represent how you’re feeling on there – it doesn’t matter what you write, just keeping scribbling for a couple of minutes and see what you come up with.
You might notice that you’re just generally fed up, in which case it might not be your career that’s the problem. Maybe you’ve had a bad time of it recently in other ways – family worries, relationship trouble, depression, anxiety, boredom – all of these things can make you feel like you want to abandon ship. Whether jumping ship will help solve your problems or add to them is another matter, so even if you feel like you want to throw in the towel now, now, now, be a professional. That’s going to be a common theme throughout this episode – it’s important that you conduct yourself as a professional, no matter what decision you come to. So make yourself go through the motions – sit down and have a good hard think.
Blips aren’t always tiny little hiccoughs – sometimes they can feel horrible, and sometimes they can go on for ages. What I mean by a blip is a period of negative feeling, a temporary problem or a resolvable one. If you’re having a down period in your freelance career, it might be time for a reality check. Reassessing your expectations of freelancing will do you good whether it’s a blip or not – a lot of people have a wobble about three to six months into a freelance career when they’ve got over the novelty period, realised there really is nothing good on TV and started to come to terms with all the not-so-great bits of being self-employed. Feelings of overwhelm can start to settle in, and you need to work out what your freelance career is likely to entail in the long term in order to determine whether you’re going to be able to hack it.
Every job has its downsides and, as Pip and I have mentioned in previous episodes, being a self-employed writer is no different. It can actually be even more of a shock when you start a career that you think is going to be just up your street and you find that you’re experiencing difficulties. Maybe you thought it was going to be easy. Maybe you thought working from home would be less stressful. Maybe you’ve been shocked to find that your writing isn’t as ‘good’ as you thought it was. Or maybe you’re finding that doing something you really enjoy all day every day is taking the enjoyment right out of it. These are all totally normal things, and there are ways to manage them – but it’s up to you to decide if you want to try those. You do, of course, have to have the desire and determination to stick with a freelance career – if you don’t want to, that’s another thing entirely!
Some of the other most common blips are as follows:
– feeling burnt out: taking on too much work, not being productive enough in the time you’ve got, not scheduling enough down time into your days, weeks, months or year and getting to the point where you feel like you need a holiday – preferably a six month one, from life. Some of our past episodes have dealt with how to plan your time effectively and make the most of what you’ve got, so really do go back and have a listen to some of the tips. They’re quite easy to implement but can makes a huge difference to the way you’re feeling. A career’s not about working forever, and one of the biggest draws of a freelance career is that you can achieve a healthier work-life balance if you just get it right. Episode 27 is about how to cope with acute feelings of overwhelm, and episode 21 is more generally about planning your time.
– isolation – isolation can be a horrible thing when you’re a freelancer. If you’re a sociable person, particularly (but even if you’re not) being on your own all day every day for the rest of forever can be a daunting prospect. It can feel awful not to have someone there to bounce ideas off or chat about last night’s telly with. And isolation doesn’t just make you feel lonely – humans are essentially sociable creatures, even if we might not always feel that way, so even if you think you like being on your own a lot, it’s important to make time for contact with others. Isolation can lead to loneliness, anxiety, depression, jittery feelings and serious cabin fever.
Pip has been known to forget what other humans look like during her busy periods, and I’ve been known to terrify the postman by being super chatty when he’s the only person I’ve seen in days. It happens to us all, so you need to take care of yourself and ensure that you work contact with others into your job, even if that’s just a trip to the supermarket at lunch-time and a phonecall to a client rather than another email. Episode 11 is specifically about how to deal with isolation, because it really is that common a problem, so have a listen and try to take on board some of the tips we share. And, if you’re really feeling desperate, you can always come and have a chat to me or Pip online – or both of us, for that matter: you may have noticed but we do work well as a pair!
– low salary: When you start out as a freelance writer, it’s likely that you won’t be making as much as you did in a salaried position – unless you had a really low paying job or you’ve landed on your freelance feet with some very well paying clients. Either way, it’s easy to have a panic when you realise you’re living on savings and finding work is getting to an urgent point. As I mention in episode 9, the key thing is to avoid coming across as desperate to your clients. There are ways to boost your income and client base, but begging for work, working for free – or next to nothing, and airing your panic on a public platform is no way to do that.
Now, I realise I’ve outlined problems there while directing you elsewhere for solutions, but my point is essentially that none of those things I’ve just mentioned means that freelancing is wrong for you. They all have solutions.
When it comes to deciding whether these problems are terminal for you, you need to ask yourself when you went freelance in the first place. Maybe you’re not achieving some of those aims yet, but have you given yourself enough time? Are those aims still in reach – or could they be with the solutions we’ve talked about? And do they still matter to you?
My Workplace 2 (Photo credit: davemelbourne)
If you find that you inherently miss working for a company, for example, and you want to be able to do eight hours writing work a day and forget about the rest of it, it might well be that freelancing isn’t for you. Perhaps an in-house copywriting or marketing position would be better.
But, if you find that you miss the contact you used to have with people but still want to run your own business, for example, maybe shared working space and regular working lunches could be a solution. So try to drill down and find out whether you’re unhappy as a freelancer or unhappy because it’s not working right yet. You probably spent a lot of time and effort getting into freelancing, so really do make sure that you’re not considering giving up for a solvable problem.
If your freelance career is going well generally but you’re falling out of love with it a bit – even if there are no specific problems and everything’s going well – there are a few things you can do to refresh your career.
Firstly, maybe it’s time for new clients. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of the old ones unless those relationships really aren’t working for either party, but targeting new clients can offer you a challenge and remind you why you enjoyed freelancing in the first place. So maybe make room for a few new one-off projects. Similarly, why not try targeting new sectors? If you work in, say, recycling and waste management, renewable energy is a short step. Or, if you work with careers services, lifestyle coaching isn’t too far from that. Alternatively, you could go for something completely new – you’ll need to do a lot of research, lots of training, familiarise yourself with the trade press publications in that sector, plus all the big names. It can be just the challenge you need.
If you’re happy with the sectors you work in, why not consider ways you could diversify your service offerings? If you offer copywriting, why not branch out into proof-reading and editing? Again, this isn’t an instant switch – there’s a lot of research and training that needs doing, but there are plenty of online resources that can help you get to grips with new skills like this. Or, get social media savvy and offer consultancy and social media management services. Find services that suit the aspects of your personality. If you’re quite spontaneous and miss chatting with people, maybe a couple of real-time social media management services could be up your street? If you want to write in a more chatty way without dealing with PR crises and customers in real time, how about offering blogging services? Maybe you want to get back to your roots and deal with local firms – why not offer full service marketing strategies for a couple of SMEs? There are always ways you can tailor your job description to better suit you – after all, you’re the boss! Don’t stick with stuff that makes you unhappy.
I’ll finish up with one important point, and that’s self-care. Working from home is tough, so you need to take advantage of the situation to look after yourself properly. It’s easy to get lazy about things like going to bed on time, getting up on time, eating breakfast, having a proper lunch, getting exercise every day, but these are hugely important things – it’s easy to underestimate sometimes how sedentary a freelance writing lifestyle can be and how easy it can be to slip into bad lifestyle habits, like late nights, late mornings, skipping meals, watching day-time TV, working in bed, essentially letting things slide. You need to remember that you’re doing a job and that you need to take care of yourself – and your career – properly.
Sometimes, the solution is time off. That might be a day off a week for the next month, or it might be a week off now before you reach snapping point. Remember, while it’s not good to disappear off the radar, health is priority one, so if you feel like you’re at breaking point, stick your out of office on, pop a professional sounding message on your answerphone and take time off like a responsible adult. There’s a really helpful article from the Guardian actually – it’s a couple of years old now, but it’s called How To Be A Happy Freelancer (I’ll link to it in the show-notes) and it has some great advice on how to keep yourself happy and healthy as a freelancer.
Of course, one other option is to reduce the number of freelance hours you do and seek out part-time work . This could be part-time writing work, say for an agency or as an in-house writer, or it could be something completely different like admin, retail, cleaning or bar-tending. Although part-time work is hard to find, particularly at the moment, you might find that you just need the stability and variety that a different job provides.
Ultimately, the decision to stick with freelancing or call it a day is yours – only you’ll know what you really feel and you’re the one who has to deal with the change of circumstances if you decide to quit.
My advice would be the same to you as it would be to someone deciding to quit a salaried position to go freelance: don’t do anything until you’re on a stable footing. If you do decide to go back to salaried employment, take note of the following points:
– find a job to go to before you stop freelancing
– make sure you’ve got money in the bank
– make sure you’re not letting any clients down: just because you won’t be freelancing any more doesn’t mean you can flick two fingers to your clients – even the really annoying ones – and ride off into the sunset. There’s a delicate phrase – “Shit sticks” and it’s true. If you let people down, cancel on them last minute or tell them where to go, your reputation is unlikely to recover. So don’t burn your bridges. Give people notice; help them find someone else if appropriate. Finish the work you’ve got on and wrap it up like a professional. This also leaves the door open for a return to freelancing if you decide later on that it suits you or your lifestyle better.
So don’t burn your bridges. You never know what you’ll fancy doing in future. Your lifestyle or family situation might change. The economy might change – again! You might be made redundant, you might get ill, your significant other might get abducted by aliens, leaving you to look after the kids, pay the bills and sort everything out. You just don’t know.
Do go back and have a listen to some of the episodes I’ve mentioned in this one. If you’ve got a particular problem, as I say, do come and have a chat with me and Pip. We’ll always do our best to offer practical advice – although we obviously can’t tell you what to do, it really is good to talk!
I really hope this episode has been useful in letting you know that you’re not alone when it comes to having freelance hiccoughs. Life isn’t always smooth sailing, and there are plenty of challenges to face and overcome, however you choose to do that.
Tune in next week to catch Pip and me again – we’ve got some lovely new topics to cover and, if there’s anything you’d particularly like to hear, come and let us know on our Podomatic page – alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, on our Facebook or on our social media profiles.
I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn, and Pip and I will catch you next time.
We ran out of storage space for our earliest episodes. But fear not, we have made these many, many hours of freelance writing goodness available for just £10. If you want access to them all, please click Add to Cart and buy through our e-junkie account for instant access.
Should you take on one-off projects as a freelancer, or only work with clients who promise long-term work? What are the risks associated with long-term clients? And how can freelancers turn clients who started off with a one-off project into clients who work with you for an extended periods of time? In this podcast, Lorrie and I cover it all!
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LH: Hello and welcome to Episode 32 of A Little Bird Told Me: the podcast about the highs, the lows, and the no-nos of successful freelance writing. You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, and there you can subscribe to the podcast in any number of ways including RSS feed, iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio or just on the Podomatic page itself. You can also find the link to our Facebook page where you can post any thoughts or questions you might have, and there are also links to our websites and individual social media feeds.
I’m Lorrie Hartshorn…
PW: And I’m Philippa Willitts, and today we are going to talk about the pros and cons of having long term clients.
As a freelancer some of the clients you get will be a one off, they might want a particular task doing and then that’s that, whereas others want you on a more regular basis, either doing a set amount of work each week or each month, or sometimes you work with them over a long period of time but just as and when they need you.
So yeah, so we’re going to look at there are benefits and there are disadvantages really of both long and short term clients, and so that’s what we’re going to look at today.
LH: Like with deciding whether to charge by the hour or by the project deciding whether to have long term clients or just one off clients will actually shape the way you work quite significantly and like with the payment options it’s something that needs to be right for you. You know it varies from person to person. It might be something that you find you have only a little control over when you first start out because you just take in whatever work you can get, but as you start to see results from your marketing and your business development you can decide which sectors of the market to target and how, and that will give you slightly more control over whether you attract people who are looking for a one term collaboration or a long term collaboration.
01 (49) (Photo credit: Victor1558)
PW: Yeah, as Lorrie said when you first start out you don’t have much choice really over taking long or short term clients. You take what you can get and that’s the right thing to do, but quite often what begins in a discussion as a one off project will turn out to provide you with long term work anyway.
Clients are understandably nervous about taking someone on they don’t know and saying, “Okay, we want six months work from you.” So they might well initially say, “Can you write three press releases for us?” and then if they like not only your work but how you work and, you know, your attitude and that kind of thing it can develop into a long term client.
So equally if you would prefer lots of long term clients don’t turn down work that looks like it’s just a one off because that’s often how long term work starts.
LH: No, that’s very true. You know somebody might say, “Oh, we’d like a website redoing” but, you know, if they’re integrating a blog into their website, for example, you might pick up on the clues that if they can’t do their own website content they’re not likely to be able to do good SEO blog content either. So have a look for the opportunities that appear to be presenting themselves and then if it is only a one off thing you’ve not really lost anything.
PW: No, not at all.
LH: If you prefer to work long term with people a one off collaboration, it’s no great loss, it’s something for the portfolio and it’s something that will keep your bills paid.
PW: And it’s a new contact, someone who might come back later or recommend you to someone else.
PW: I mean in terms of the positives of having long term clients I think the most obvious thing in favour of it really is that it results in regular predictable work, which results in regular predictable income. You can start carefully to rely on a set amount of work coming in and you can feel reassured that week after week after week you might not have to do as much marketing or finding new clients because you do continually get assignments from these one or two or four clients.
LH: Yeah, definitely, and in terms of managing your workload as well, whether you’re doing the work, or in my case you’re doing some of the work and then outsourcing other pieces of work, it helps you to get into a regular rhythm and that’s something that I quite like and I know that both you, Pip, and I have traditionally busy and quiet days every week.
LH: You know for Pip I know that Wednesdays and Thursdays are very, very busy days, whereas perhaps Mondays and Fridays are days on which you can fit in slightly more internal deadlines, things like marketing, admin, finance, that kind of thing.
PW: Yeah, I mean it definitely helps you to plan your week out, doesn’t it, because you may get someone contact you on Monday and say, “Oh, can you do this by Friday?” but equally you know that every Wednesday you have three blog posts to do for that client and you can have a picture of how your week’s looking.
LH: Yeah, I tend to just block out days or hours of days more accurately.
LH: And know what I’m doing on a Monday morning or what I’m doing on a Monday lunchtime. You know I know that I need to get the story suggestions over to certain clients by Tuesday afternoon. So it helps me to just shape the rest of my week and know when I can fit in ad hoc pieces of work, if somebody wants something one off, and when I can’t.
PW: Yeah, definitely, definitely I’m the same. You can also feel reasonably confident with long term clients that you know what you’re doing and that the work you get will be something you’re familiar with and capable of. If you get used to a mixture of, say, case studies and blog posts you can get really good at doing not just those styles of writing but doing them in the particular style that your client needs.
LH: Definitely and it’s nice to become a valued part of a client company, even though you’re external, because while you’re freelancing you’re not employed by anybody particular. Sometimes it is a little bit isolating and it’s nice to feel that, you know, over time you get to know the people in the company and you get to know the big players in the company sector and you get to know the trade press publications and you can start, if you want, to get more involved in the marketing process, or yes, as Pip says, you can just end up really, really savvy about what the client wants and you’ve reached the point where you deliver exactly the kind of content that they want every time, and often without much input from the client themselves.
LH: Yeah, I have certain clients who say, “Right, we need blog posts. We need x number of blog posts per week. Can you come up with some ideas?” and I know the kind of thing that works for them and I know the kind of thing that people in their sector will want to read about. So that’s something that I can be really useful for them.
PW: Definitely. I know like with some of my regular clients that I write blog posts and news updates and things for when I first started with them they’d give me very clear instructions, whereas now they might just send a 10 word email, “Hi Philippa, can you cover these Facebook changes?” and then a link and that’s that. They know I know how they like it, I know what they expect from me and it works really well and what you say as well about kind of suggesting your own work, you can do that more and more I think as you get to know clients and as they get to know you. For instance, some of the clients I blog for give me a set… like tell me what to write about each week, whereas others leave it very much they give me the general gist of their blog and I find the subjects and write about them, but you can also get yourself into a position where you can suggest extra work, like you could say, “Oh I’ve just written up a blog post about this but actually I think you could get a really good press release out of it. Would you like me to take that on?”
LH: Definitely, definitely, definitely and it’s nice, you can do the same thing internally. You know I have some clients who’ve been on board for years and I can say to my contact person in that client, “I’ve not heard anything from Linda for a while” or, “I’ve not heard anything from Jim for a while. What’s going on in x department? What’s happening over in y?” You know you can realise that this company has different service areas and different key members of staff who are likely to have good ideas or they’re up to something that is worth blogging about or worth writing a news story about, and sometimes it just takes you to prompt your contact person.
LH: You can come up with some really good stories and really good extra work out of it. You know it’s a win-win for everybody. Content marketing is hugely important for a company. It’s massively, massively important to have really good quality content, not just for, you know, the strictest SEO purposes but for viral marketing purposes, you know for share and share purposes, and if you can help your client come up with things like that it’s going to be just an extra string to your bow.
LH: And besides anything else it’s a nice feeling to know that you’re an important part of a company’s marketing team and the thing is if you’re really savvy and you’re really forward thinking with your client you get recommended and word of mouth is such a powerful thing. You know I’ve had people contact me on LinkedIn and say, “Oh, you know, x person at x company’s told me about you. I thought we’d connect on here because I might be looking for some content work.” You know it really does work, you know, and I end up working for several companies who all know each other in various ways just because word of mouth has travelled from company to company. It’s a really nice thing.
PW: Yeah, definitely and there are different ways, like I mentioned, that long term clients can work. I know I have some, like I’ve mentioned, that I’ll do a certain number of blog posts for a week, or a certain number pieces of work for a week, and there are others that are long term; I’ve worked with them over a long period of time but they don’t need weekly work or monthly work, it’s just that…
LH: As and when really.
PW: Yeah, once or twice a month they’ll email me with a list of 12 articles they want and I’ll do them. So it’s not predictable in the way that we’ve been talking about can be quite nice with long term clients but it’s still somebody you already know, it’s somebody who trusts you already, it’s somebody who you presumably work well with and so you can have clients that are long term but not necessarily regular.
If there’s a client who wants more regular work out of you over a long period of time they might work on a retainer basis where they pay you a set amount per month, for instance, for a certain amount of work.
LH: Yeah, I mean retainers are a really good way to secure the long term arrangement and it goes for your client as well because with the retainer… I work on a retainer basis for a couple of companies and it tends to be that I invoice them at the start of every month for a set amount of money and they expect a certain number of, say for one client, press releases, news stories and blog articles per month.
PW: Yeah, I work that way with several clients as well.
LH: Yeah, so the number of hours for me, because I work on an hourly basis, the number of hours per month is arranged and I know what I can do in that number of hours. So effectively the number of pieces of work is arranged.
PW: Sure. I do it on a piece of work basis in general but yeah.
LH: Yeah, yeah it’s effectively the same thing because I tell them I can get x done in one hour.
LH: You know, so yeah, but I mean it’s a great way to work with people because then, you know, you get paid on time because the company’s used to paying you the same amount on the same day you know, but you’re not tied into anything, you’re not their employee. You know if they decide they don’t want you anymore or you decide you don’t want to work with them anymore, of course you give notice, you know that’s just well…
PW: Yeah and you complete the work that’s been paid for.
LH: Oh absolutely, yeah, you don’t just disappear. “Thanks for the £400, I’m off.”
PW: [Laughs]. I think a really important thing actually, if a company wants to hire you on a retainer basis is to be very, very clear about what that will mean from your end. Don’t let it be some kind of open ended, “We’ll pay you £400 a month and we’ll send you what work looks, you know, like it’s your area” because you could end up really in trouble then. Be very clear what it will involve. Like Lorrie said, she would do it on an hourly basis, you know, “For £400 a month I will do x number of hours work and this is probably this number of words” or whatever. I would do it on a, you know, this number of blog posts, this number of press releases, whatever basis. I’d be more likely to. I do do some work on an hourly basis but…
LH: Yeah, I completely second what Pip said. Get it down in writing. Get it down in writing exactly what you’re going to get. It doesn’t matter if it’s like a proper agreement or if you put it in an email and ask them to confirm by reply that they’re happy with that because then you have it, you have it in your hand what they’ve agreed to.
PW: Yeah, definitely.
LH: Because you know I do have cheeky clients, you know I do have clients that say, “Couldn’t you do a couple extra?” and I say, “Well if you pay me for a couple of extra then yes.” You know I could do a couple extra but as it is, no.
PW: Yeah, no absolutely, absolutely. The last thing you want to do is find yourself doing £1200 worth of work for your £400 and you’ve got no recourse because you agreed to them sending you over what looks appropriate. You know you can get yourself in real trouble and…
LH: Yeah, you just find yourself quitting if that were the case because I wouldn’t say that you’ve got no recourse but the only course of action you have is to quit, which is not ideal.
PW: Yeah, yeah.
LH: You know you can’t do anything to them if you don’t have a formal agreement you would just get more and more resentful and then stop working for them and that’s not really what anybody wants, and people forget that you’re a freelancer and that you’re a single person and that you’re not a company you know, because we all like to feel like we’re getting a bit extra from a company, you know.
PW: Of course.
LH: I bought a pair of shoes the other day and there was a scuff on them and I asked if I could have some money off and she said, “Yeah, yeah that’s fine, we’ll give you 10% off and, you know, it’s non-refundable.” So I said that’s fine and when it came to the till she knocked off a fiver out of £15. I was like that’s a big 10%, but I felt like I’d won the day.
PW: Yeah, definitely.
LH: I just won these shoes.
PW: Well getting a freebie, I’m a real sucker for a freebie. Because I live in a big city there’s quite often people in town giving out free samples of…
LH: Ooo, free chocolate.
PW: Yeah, some chocolate or toothpaste or bread or all sorts of things really, and the joy you get just for getting a free loaf of bread, you feel like you’ve beaten the system.
LH: You’re a sucker for marketing.
PW: I know, it’s really bad but you do feel… people want to get the most out of what they get and if what we just talked about in terms of retainers you might be thinking, “But £400, but for how much and what do I do?” Do go back to the beginning of the year. We did three episodes about finance.
PW: We did one about how to decide what to charge, one about kind of the nuts and bolts of invoicing and charging and one about how to increase your rates and if what we talked about in terms of retainers just left your head spinning with 8000 questions you’ll probably find that a lot of them are answered by those three episodes.
LH: And if not come and have a chat. Yeah, we’re happy to go over things. If you let us know on our Facebook or our social media that you’ve not followed something, that you’ve had a listen to those three episodes and you’re still not getting it we’re happy to chat to you on Facebook, we’re happy to chat on Twitter, we’re happy to even record a podcast if we think there’s enough in it for a whole episode.
PW: Yeah, absolutely because, you know, we’re aware that while we do try to make all the information we give as accessible as possible because we’re both doing the job full time, and have done for a while, there may be things that we think are just a given that we’ve kind of maybe forgotten are more complicated than they sound. So, you know, if you feel a bit lost or if you’ve got any questions that we haven’t covered yeah, do let us know.
LH: Definitely you know, and just to sum up on the retainer business, I think it is a pro. I think being on a retainer is a positive thing because you’ll find that retainers are mostly monthly and it’s just a certain amount of your monthly target, because I have a monthly target for my salary, it’s a certain amount that’s accounted for and it’s a certain amount that, like I said about the weekly work, you get used to it being in the rhythm of your month.
LH: You know you set aside a day or two days, or whatever, you know perhaps spread out actually over several days but that amount of time and you get the work done and it’s nice, it’s nice to have somebody on board as long as you’ve made sure that the terms are favourable to both you and the client.
PW: Yes, absolutely, because much as you don’t want to feel resentful about the work you’re doing you also are never going to have a good relationship with them if they feel resentful about how much they’re paying and whether they’re getting value out of it.
LH: Yeah, I suppose that’s one point to make before we move on from retainers, is that communication is good. You know if you have a long term client…
PW: Vital, yeah.
LH: Yeah, better than good, it’s vital, you’re right. If you have a long term client talk to them. You know I have long term clients, I have long term connections, I have long term people working for me and it’s important to check in with these people regularly and say, “How are you feeling?” Like don’t invite clients to ask you to drop your rates. They’ll say, “So how are you feeling about that massive invoice that I just sent you?” you know because if you’ve taken the advice that we’ve given you and you’ve worked out your hourly rate or your project rate fairly then alright, your client might be stinging when they get a large invoice but they will be paying a large invoice because you’ve given them a large amount of work, but what I mean is sort of say to them, “How as that press release? Was that in line with everything you wanted? How are you feeling at the moment? How’s your marketing going? Do you need any more? Do you need any different types? I’ve noticed that we haven’t done any case studies for a while, how about that?” you know keep talking and you’re likely to find that they’re more satisfied with your work and that they’re more likely to carry on with you on the long term.
PW: Plus a few months ago I had a long term client who pays me at the beginning of each month for a certain number of news stories each month and after this working well for a good eight or nine months suddenly there were three or four months where the payment was late in a row after that never happening before, and so you know the first time I overlooked it and the second time but then after a few more I actually got in touch with him and I said, “You know I really enjoy working with you but I’ve noticed the last few months you’ve paid late and I don’t know whether actually you’ve got some kind of ambivalence now towards the work we’re doing. So I just wanted to check in with you because if there’s something you’re not happy about it’s much better if you can tell me. If you want to change the work we’re doing that’s fine but could you just let me know” and I kind of opened the…
PW: Yeah, exactly, opened the channels of communication and what actually happened was that there was an issue with the finance department of his business. It wasn’t anything to do with him not being happy, it was a communication problem between him and his finance team. So the invoices weren’t being processed properly but it meant that I felt better because I was confident then that I hadn’t done something wrong or that he wasn’t pleased with my work and our relationship got back on track again because it had been getting quite awkward.
LH: Well of course it will if somebody’s paying you late and you don’t know why and they just carry on doing the same thing.
PW: Yeah, yeah. So that kind of communication, it’s vital in every… you know in all sorts of areas really.
LH: Definitely and especially in an age where, and we’ve talked about this before, where email is so prevalent over phone contact it can be easy to really distance yourself and, you know, some people might like that but I really don’t enjoy having clients for whom I produce work but with whom I never speak.
LH: Even if it’s just a bit of chat over email. I have some clients, and I’ve had them for months or years, well not years but I’ve had some clients for months and I’ve literally never spoken to them.
PW: Yes, yes it is weird.
LH: So I don’t know what they sound like.
LH: You know and some clients I will probably never speak to on the phone. You know some are in different time zones, some aren’t native speakers of English and I think they’re just more comfortable with communicating by email, some we just don’t need to but it’s nice to have a little bit of friendliness and I think if you show yourself to be open to communication, and you communicate in a nice way, again that’s going to facilitate a good working relationship in future.
PW: Anyway, we were talking about the pros and cons of long term clients, so I think we need to get back to that.
In terms of the cons one of the negative aspects of regular clients, long term clients is that you can get bored. You don’t have the challenge of finding new clients, of taking on pieces of work that are slightly outside your comfort zone, understanding a new company’s style or of writing about a new subject and so psychologically you can get bored but also your writing can get a bit tired.
LH: No, it’s not good when your writing gets tired because it’s immediately obvious to anybody reading it, you know, and I would go as far as to say tired writing just doesn’t get results.
PW: No, no.
LH: It’s not persuasive. If you’re not putting it in to your writing people aren’t going to get it out of your writing, it’s quite simple, and it can also be an issue in terms of working for the same client if you’re charging by the hour, which of course as I’ve said I do. Where I find that my online news articles for one client, say, now take an hour previously, when I was getting to know them, they might have taken 90 minutes say, and it’s not inherently a problem for me because I get a lot of work from all of my regular clients and as we’ve discussed before, I make sure that I get a certain amount of work from them, if not on a retainer basis then I’m quite an active pursuer of work with some of my regular clients because I know that if I suggest something to them the worst they’re going to say is no, you know they appreciate me finding work. So I get, you know I get a lot of work and if I find that, “Oh, that didn’t take very long” I’ll search out something else and see if they fancy me doing that for them as well, but imagine that you’re just doing a few one hour pieces of work for someone every month, say you’re doing four hours of work for someone every month, and then over time you find that they’re only taking you 30 to 45 minutes it can start to feel like a bit of a waste of time because with every client you have to keep up to date with the developments and the trends in their sector to prevent exactly what Pip was talking about. You need to prevent your writing getting stale. You need to be able to write informed, relevant, up to date, key word rich content for your client but if you’re spending more time doing that background research that’s needed for your client rather than spending that amount on paid work it can be a bit of a pain and it can actually not be worth your time.
PW: Yeah, I know Lorrie does a lot of work in the kind of recycling sector and I do a lot in the Health & Safety sector and various others and we are both always up to date with the latest news and there’s a lot of law changes going through, Health & Safety law, at the moment and I know all about them and…
LH: Yeah and it wouldn’t be worth your while, would it, if you were doing like…
LH: …two hours a month on that?
PW: Yeah, it’s keeping on top of that in Google Reader, which we’ll lose Google Reader.
LH: Do you know, I’ve never used it but I’ve noticed like tears before bedtime all over my social media.
PW: I am not the only devastated person.
LH: Poor thing. What are you going to go with instead?
PW: I think Feedly but I’m not sure. Someone started a Government petition but the Government rejected it [laughs].
LH: I’m not surprised. Oh, desperation’s palpable at this point.
PW: I know but yes, keeping up to date in Google Reader but also I’m on mailing lists for all sorts of Health & Safety magazines and…
LH: But it takes time, doesn’t it?
PW: It does.
LH: You have to get in the zone for a bit of Health & Safety unless you’re really passionate about the subject and getting in that zone you’ve got to sit down and make time for proper engaged reading. You can’t just skim read things like this because you have to know in-depth what you’re talking about.
PW: Yeah, yeah and so having all that going on and that resulting in two hours a month, like Lorrie says, it’s not really worth it. If it results in 20 hours a month that’s a different matter.
LH: Yes, yeah. So that’s perhaps another reason in favour of paid per project rather than paid per hour but if you’re like me you know I am committedly paid per hour for myself. For some reason it’s just what’s worked best for me and it’s what I’m cosy with.
PW: And that’s what it’s all about to be honest. Throughout this podcast what we always say is, you know, “I do it like this” and then Lorrie might say, “And I do it like this” and we’re not saying you must do what I do or what Lorrie does. We’re presenting you with information about different ways to do it and you know what works and then, you know, make your own choices based on what suits you. I do a bit of pay per hour stuff. I can see the benefits of it but I’m more confident with pay per project. It’s all about what works.
LH: It’s horses for courses. You know we’re not trying to create lots of little Lorrie and Philippa clones because our lives aren’t…
PW: [Laughs] Team Lorrie: hourly wages, Team Pippa: project pay!
LH: I see a few tee shirt sales coming from this.
LH: But yeah, you know lives aren’t the same. My life’s not the same as Pip’s and our lives aren’t the same as yours. So whatever works best for you really.
PW: And try a few things out if you want to. Yeah, I warmed more to pay per hour when I did quite a lot of it for one client and I started to see more of the benefits than I’ve been able to without having done it in any considerable way.
LH: Yeah and likewise, you know when I started working on retainer I saw the benefits of pay per project.
LH: You know it’s all where you are in your life and your career at that time and what works there.
PW: Yeah. If you’ve got one regular client that provides the majority of your work a possible problem with that, and this would really bug me I have to say, is that you can start feeling like an employee. You probably chose to become self-employed for many very good reasons and feeling like you’ve still got a boss who expects to know where you are and gives you most of your work and they’re dictating what you do and when you do it you might not feel that different to when you were in someone else’s office.
LH: Definitely and I’ve got experience of that. You know, as I say, I do have… most of my clients I would say are long term clients. You know I don’t do that much one off work compared to the amount of long term work I do simply because I outsource a lot of my long term work so I can keep more of it on but yes, I’ve certainly experienced it when one particular client forgets that you’re not their employee.
LH: And they’ll send you an email sort of last minute about something urgent and then they’ll be phoning you and phoning you and phoning you and there’ll be this tone of sort of not belligerence but sort of, “Where were you?”, “Oh, I’m not your employee. I’ve done my work for this week and if you can’t get hold of me it’s because I’m busy with something else and I’ll get back to you when I can” and I’ve had clients phone me at 8 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday saying, “We need you to do this immediately” and I’ve said, “Well let me check my diary and it’ll be time and a half because it’s a rush job on the weekend” and that kind of brings them back to it, it’s a bit like, “Oh. Oh right, okay” and it’s, “Well no, my weekends are my weekends” and I do have to keep a certain amount of distance for this very reason. You know I do have to remind them sometimes I need to check what I’m doing for my other clients; I need to balance that with my other commitments.
PW: Yeah or if they want something today you can say, “Actually I’m already fully booked up today and tomorrow. I can do it for you on Thursday.”
LH: Yes, yeah exactly that and it can come as a bit of a shock to clients I think.
PW: Yeah. I do remember a point where the vast majority of your work was coming from one client and you were almost, well not even almost, you were very much actually caught up in office politics.
PW: Which is really one of those things that when I went freelance I was glad to leave behind. I wasn’t having to deal with all the internal turmoil but yeah, there was a point with you when so much of your work was coming from one place that you may as well have been there in terms of dealing with that kind of office politics situation.
LH: Very much. I mean when you start out it’s easy, as we’ve said before, to get caught up on one client because you have to take as much work as you possibly can from wherever you can get it. So the way I kind of dealt with that, because you know that client’s still on board, they’re a great client, it’s just that they have so many different departments that there’s bound to be lots of office politics between. So what I basically said is, “I will deal with x person in this company. If anybody else needs to contact me by all means, feel free, but x person is my point of contact and this person should always be aware of anything that you’re sending to me. You should see this person in” and that’s cut down on a lot of the, “He said, she said but I thought we were doing this and I didn’t think we were doing that” and you know, as you say Pip, it’s easy for them to get caught up in thinking that you’re part of the company and to involve you in things that you don’t need to be involved with.
PW: The point of asking for one contact within a company is good advice regardless of office politics. If you get in a position where… like quite often I find that a piece of work I’m doing will be used by, say, the PR department and the marketing department and you can get really caught in a position there where the PR department wants to pull you one way with it and the marketing department want to pull you another way.
LH: Yes, similar.
PW: And if you’re dealing with one person from each of those departments at the same time it is impossible to get it done, it’s impossible to get it submitted in a way that people are happy with, whereas…
LH: Yeah, right.
PW: Yeah, whereas if you’ve got one contact then the others can pass information through them but you’re only answerable to one person and it makes it much more doable and you can do the good job that you were going to do in the first place.
LH: Definitely and I’ve done the same thing with, you know, email trails where I’ve had sort of four or five members of a project team on the same email and I’ve said, “Right, I’ve done Stage 1 of my work. All my actions are delivered. I need you to come to a consensus before you get back to me.”
PW: Yes, yes.
LH: And that is absolutely fine for you to say that.
LH: You need to be able to take a step back and say, “Okay, I’ve done my bits, now your actions need to happen and then I’ll do my next bits.”
PW: And often with something like press releases and case studies, I think in particular, you might need to get a handful of quotes from different people and quite often what will happen is your contact will give you other people’s contact details to get quotes.
PW: And so you then send them all an email saying, “Could you give me, you know, three quotes on this new product that you’re selling” and then you can pick the ones that fit, and that’s all fine and most of the time they’ll get back to you, especially if you say, if you give them a deadline, “Get back to me by Thursday with these three quotes” but sometimes you do that and you don’t hear back from someone and you might prompt them and they still don’t hear back from them. That’s where your contact comes in handy because you then go to your contact and say, “I’m having trouble getting a quote from Margaret, could you try for me” because then you’re not in the position of chasing, which isn’t your job, and your contact is aware that you’ve got a problem that’s arisen that’s out of your control.
LH: And I think going back to, because we’re coming up with loads of really good stuff and I think this is all a really good insight into what it’s like being a freelancer, to kind of take it back to the overarching theme of the cons of working for long term clients is sometimes clients won’t realise that that’s not your job.
PW: Yeah, especially if you do do it for a while.
LH: Yes because it’s easy not to know where the line is because you chase once, you chase twice and then you send it back to your contact saying, “I’ve not heard back from x person. I can’t get hold of them” and if a client wants me to chase I make it clear that I will charge for the time.
PW: Yeah and if you weren’t assertive enough and spent your first three months doing all that yourself it’s harder then…
LH: Yes, it is.
PW: …to say, “This isn’t my job” because they’ll say, “Well it’s what you’ve been doing.”
LH: Yeah, you would have to go back to them at that point and, you know, it’s something we’ve all lived through and it’s scary, it’s scary in the same way that upping your rate is scary and the same way that communicating problems with clients is scary but it needs doing and if you go back to a client and say, “Right, the communication within the company is preventing me from doing my job. My job is x, y, z and I’m having difficulties with a, b and c. I’m not hearing back from this department. That department aren’t available when I need to speak to them and this department keep telling me to get quotes that I can’t get.” You know you list the problems, what the solutions would be and you come up with something that’s favourable, again, to yourself and the client. So either, “I’m not going to be the one to chase for this, I’ll get back to my contact person and tell them whatever I need chasing or I’m happy to chase but I will charge you.”
PW: Yeah. Sometimes you do have to just go to a client and say something isn’t working.
PW: And it’s hard because you feel like you want to… you feel like you’re making yourself look bad but actually if something’s going wrong over a period of time and you’ve tried various things to resolve it sometimes you do have to go to them and say, “This isn’t working.” I had a situation with a client really recently where we both really tried to make it work but for numerous reasons outside of both of our control really.
LH: Yeah, there was no fault in this situation. I think I know the one you’re talking about.
PW: Yeah, it just became clear that we weren’t going to be able to work something out and we had a very respectful conversation, we worked out a new way of doing it, which involves an entirely different way of working to what we’d planned, but had both of us not been honest. We tried, we tried different things but the way we’d started out was not working and it did come to a point where we needed to have that conversation rather than both kind of getting more and more unhappy.
LH: But it’s nice that you both valued each other’s aims enough to have that discussion.
PW: Yes, absolutely, yeah.
LH: You’re wanting to deliver what your client needs.
LH: And your client is trying to deliver what you deserve and have every right to expect.
PW: Yeah, yeah.
LH: You know that’s really, really nice. Yeah, so as you say, communicating a problem is actually showing that you value the client/freelance relationship.
LH: So if you fit that’s not necessarily, you know it’s not necessarily going to be an unsolvable problem that your client might sometimes slip into the pattern of treating you like an employee.
PW: And on the other side if you have a long term client you’re more likely to be able to communicate better with them…
PW: …because you’re familiar with each other. So, you know, if problems do arise it might be easier to tackle them because you know them well.
LH: Yeah, no 100%. You know a relationship with a client is like any other relationship. There are going to be ups and downs, there are going to be times where they say, “Oh you know you sent that with a funny subject and it got lost in our spam filter” and you go, “Oh I’m really sorry. I’ll come up with a subject for that particular type of work and you’ll never get it lost again. You can put a filter on it.”
LH: You know that’s a problem solved, or you say to them, “I’ve been paid late a few times. Is something going wrong?”
LH: And they say, “Oh well our contact in the finance department keeps losing your emails or keeps forgetting, so I’ll cc that person in in future.” So no matter what the problem is, or what the problem seems to be, it’s always best to try and solve it and to have a good conversation with your client company because otherwise there’s no real solution.
PW: I know in the past both of us have agonised over sending particular emails and we’ve run them by each other and, “Does this sound reasonable?” and, “Oh my God, what if they take it the wrong way?” and then both of us have sent it off and within half an hour got a response going, “Yeah, that’s fine.”
LH: Yeah, or, “Oh I’m really sorry.”
LH: And it’s like, “Oh, it’s okay” you know you’re almost weeping with relief, “That’s fine.”
PW: Yeah. I think the biggest risk that freelancers can face with regular clients is that if they disappear you can be in real trouble. If they realise they’re sending you an awful lot of work and it actually might be more cost effective to hire an in-house writer, if they decide to go with a different freelancer for some reason, if they run out of money or have a change of staff or, you know, worst case scenario but it’s happening these days, you know going bust, closing down altogether then if all or a lot of your work is coming from one place the majority of your income can disappear overnight because you’re not contracted to them, they’re not under any obligation to send you work.
LH: Not at all.
PW: And you can find yourself in real trouble, especially because the process of marketing and approaching new clients and building good relationships can take weeks or months.
LH: Definitely and this is why you have to keep all your plates spinning and we say it again and again and again…
LH: …people hate marketing. You know loads of people we’ve spoken to go, “I don’t want to market myself. I’m a writer. I’m not a marketing person, I’m just a writer.”
PW: “My work should speak for itself.”
LH: Oh yeah, obviously, yes that totally happens all the time on the internet! It just doesn’t you know and to a certain extent there’s a risk that you can’t avoid. You know when you’re starting out I would 100% support you in taking as much work as you can get from any client that comes your way.
PW: Absolutely, absolutely.
LH: 100% and if they disappear it’ll be a kick in the teeth and it’ll be a pain in the bum and all sorts of other things but it’s not a reason not to do it.
PW: No, it’s work you’ve had even if it’s not work that continues, so it’s still money in the bank.
LH: Yeah but, as Pip’s pointed out, be aware of the precarious position you might be in.
PW: Don’t get complacent.
LH: Yes and don’t concentrate all your efforts on one client at the expense of others.
PW: Yeah and that level of security shouldn’t be underestimated. I mean the biggest fear that freelancers have and the biggest fear that people who are contemplating freelancing have is, “What if I can’t pay my bills? What if I don’t get enough work?” and there is a lot to be said for the security of somebody who for the last 12 months has paid you every month a certain amount of money, or even varying amounts of money but still regularly. There is a lot to be said for that and we shouldn’t underestimate, even amidst the various disadvantages that we’ve talked about, but people do feel good with that element of security.
LH: It’s nice you know and some of the writers that I hire, you know the way I work is that I have particular writers for particular accounts.
LH: So for Client A and B I’ll have one writer who does regular work so that I know that my writer can get up to date with the sector and the trends within the company and the company style, but then it’s not a full time job. You know I’ll send over, for example, 20 hours a week to one writer which leaves that writer free to find other work.
LH: So effectively it’s the same situation as my own.
LH: You know it’s just branching out and spreading that situation a little bit further. You know I’ve got a certain amount of time per week that’s accounted for and the rest of the time that I’ve made free by outsourcing I look for different work and with my writers they have a certain amount of time per week that’s accounted for because I send them that certain amount of time per week worth of work.
PW: And they’re in the exact same position where you might one day have a change of career or you might take someone else on if they’re suddenly not doing the job well enough, they’re in the same position where it’s brilliant for them that you’re providing them regular work but this isn’t guaranteed for the next five years.
I mean for me, overall, a combination of long term clients and new clients works perfectly. I feel like I’ve got a degree of security from the long term ones but each of those provide only a certain proportion of my work each week or each month. I also keep marketing myself, keep approaching new people and keep doing either one off work for newcomers or developing long term relationships with them. It’s about not keeping all your eggs in one basket and it’s also, and this is for me really important, about keeping a variety of work in my week. Different topics, different styles, different types of writing keep it interesting, because I can get bored quite easily [laughs] and they make sure my writing doesn’t get stale.
LH: Yeah, no 100%. I mean with the way I now work I prefer having a number of long term clients because it doesn’t take up all my time.
LH: You know, as I say, I outsource so it’s lovely to have that security on there and I know that the security’s being passed on to other writers, which makes me feel really good, but I do like the challenge that new clients present when they come on board.
PW: Yes, I do too. It’s stressful but in a really nice way.
LH: Definitely and I like it, even if I’m hoping they’re going to become a long term client it’s nice to have that freshness from a new person.
I prefer not to work with people on a one off basis on commercial stuff. That’s a personal preference. There’s nothing wrong with doing that.
LH: I prefer to work on a one off basis with literary editing stuff.
LH: And that, by its nature, can be a very, very one off thing.
LH: But that being said, you know I do like to follow up with people and the authors that I’ve worked with have often come back to me for different services.
LH: Not always but, you know, sometimes.
PW: I’ve had a series of people recently who’ve hired me to proofread their CV and they’ve been, without wanting to blow my own trumpet, so impressed with the feedback I’ve given them that they then send me a different version of their CV to proofread and their covering letter and their everything else. It’s like they’re suddenly going, “Oh wow!” and so it’s happened a handful of times just in the last few weeks where what started as a CV proofread, which I do quite a lot of and which is nearly always a one off, has actually produced more and more work, it’s really nice.
LH: It’s nice to make somebody feel that they’re getting you know real excellent value from you.
LH: And it’s the same, you know I’ve had authors come back, well I’ve had authors come to me for a developmental critique you know when they’re writing a book, you know, “Am I going around this the right way? What do you think to my proposed chapter structure? What do you think to my proposed plot? How’s the narrative working?” you know and then you wish them luck, you send them a developmental critique and then they come back to you and the book’s finished and you’re like, “Yay!” and you have a little celebratory moment with them, like, “Well done you” and they’re back for a proofread and an edit and I just really do prefer to work with people and companies over a length of time rather than just letting them ride off into the sunset simply because it’s nice to have history with people and also because I’m kind of nosy, I kind of like to know what’s going on.
LH: So basically, in conclusion from a very long point, is that I don’t object to working with people on a one off basis and I can see all the benefits of it. I really do like a new challenge, especially when I’ve got the time on my hands to enjoy that, but my one offs just usually do end up becoming repeat regular clients and I do like that. I like having people on board.
PW: I think that’s a really good reason to not turn down one offs on principle because I’ve had the same experience and one starts off wanting one thing and then if you do it well they do come back.
LH: Yeah and I think like much of freelancing, as we said right at the start of this windy, wandering early morning podcast, it’s a personal preference deciding whether you want to work with long term clients or short term clients. It’s up to you. Getting to know how you like to work will determine what kind of clients you want to attract. You know maybe you’re a spontaneous sort of person and you love new exciting challenges and you’re not risk adverse.
LH: You know and things have a way of working out for you. You’ve got a stream of incoming one off projects, in which case go for the one offs, enjoy it, enjoy the roller coaster. If you’re a little bit more like me and you’re nosy and you like chatting to the same people over again and seeing how things develop and you like the certain level of stability then go for long term clients.
PW: I think there are people who need, when they start at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning, they need to already know exactly what their week looks like.
PW: And then there are other people who can get an email on a Wednesday morning saying, “Can you do this by midday?” and they say, “Yes I can” and they do it.
LH: And that would be fine for them, yeah.
PW: Yeah and I’m neither of those, I’m somewhere in the middle I think.
LH: Yeah, I think most people are.
LH: I think it’s a continuum, isn’t it, and most of us will find ourselves wobbling about somewhere in the middle and it will change over time. You know sometimes you’ll want a bit more stability. You know I know a lot of freelancers that I chat to on social media are working mums you know and they’ve decided to stay at home while they’ve got young children. So a couple of long term clients would be brilliant for that.
LH: You know say over the back end of your maternity period and then while you’ve got a new born maybe you wouldn’t take on so much one off work, you know maybe that would feel just too much stress for you, maybe it wouldn’t you know, which is absolutely fine, but to have a long term client ticking away in the background would be lovely.
LH: You know, so you don’t have to set it in stone, you don’t have to wear a uniform that says, “I take on one offs” or, “I’m a long term Larry.”
LH: You know do what works for you.
PW: Yeah, yeah. So hopefully we’ve covered there some of the benefits and the drawbacks of long term and short term clients.
LH: And a lot of other stuff in between.
PW: And a lot of other stuff because it’s all related, and I think, like the continuum Lorrie was talking about, most people have a similar continuum in terms of new work and repeated work and it’s all about your preferences but it’s also all about making a living and that sometimes you have to make choices that don’t fit your ideal…
LH: That’s a good point.
PW: …but will pay the bills and so you may prefer to have long term clients, but if you have no work and three short term people come up don’t turn the work down on principle. You know you’ve got to be sensible. It’s not all about it being perfect for you.
PW: When it is all about it being perfect for you that’s lovely but it’s also real life and sometimes you have to do things you’re not 100% in love with.
LH: And you’ve got to see the wider benefits as well. You know maybe a one off piece wasn’t what you were looking for. Maybe you needed another regular client to come on board, but think about how well you can do the one off piece, think about how many people that person knows, check out the sector that person’s in, milk that opportunity for everything you can get out of it. Talk about the work that you’re doing on social media. Say, “I’ve just had a really exciting piece of work on.” Tell people on your Facebook what you’re doing.
LH: Client confidentiality accepting but, you know, say, “I’ve got a client in this sector and I’m doing a really exciting few case studies for them” or, “Just been taken on by a new client who wants a website doing.” Promote that situation. It doesn’t have to just be one off in terms of the benefits, even if it’s one off in terms of the collaboration.
PW: And if it’s a new area for you, say it’s a particular… someone wants a website about a particular health condition, then you do all your research and you write the website and then use the research you’ve done to also then pitch articles on that health condition to three different women’s magazines, send some articles on it to constant content, you know, and approach other clients who need writing on that health issue. You can use what you get from a very short term piece of work to widen the work you’re doing.
LH: Absolutely, I mean that’s such a good point. It’s all about imagination.
Now it is time for our Little Bird recommendations of the week.
PW: Lorrie, tell me about your recommendation.
LH: Well I’m quite pleased with my recommendation this week because I always find myself thinking on maybe a Wednesday or a Thursday, “Oh, I need to recommend something” like, “What have I done?” and because so much of what you do as a freelancer becomes second nature it’s easy to forget that things that are a given to you could be something new and exciting to listeners.
LH: But this week I have something that I’m quite pleased with. It’s nothing super intuitive, it’s nothing super fancy but it’s something that I’ve really been enjoying. Now recently I’ve been preparing, on my creative writing blog, for a particular blogging challenge and it’s the first one I’ve taken part in and it’s called ‘The Blogging from A to Z Challenge’. Now it’s an annual challenge. It involves choosing an overarching theme, say writing or reading or e-marketing or travel, photography, whatever, and producing a blog post every day in April, apart from Sundays. So that adds up to 26 days with the 26 letters of the alphabet.
PW: Ah, clever.
LH: Aha! So while it’s probably a bit late to start preparing to take part in the challenge now because we’re already on Day 2, so yeah, it’s completely too late actually, I’ve actually been enjoying the sense of community that you get from taking part in something like this because while a blogging challenge is usually devised by one person or one blog or one website people find it out and they create things like hashtags…
LH: …spread out across social media and, you know, people will stop by your blog and social media for a chat if you use these particular hashtags and you’ll find lovely readers and critics for your work, you know in terms of creative writing, which is what I’m blogging on, and you get the chance to read work by other writers who are tackling topics that you’re interested in. So whether it’s more creative writing or photography or travel, whatever, even if you’re not taking part in the challenge, and this is where my recommendation comes in, I’d recommend having a look at the hashtag, and it’s #atozchallenge.
PW: I’ll link to the search results for that in the show notes.
LH: Thank you and you’ll be able to see who’s taking part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and there’s also a complete list on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge website where you can browse by author, blog or topic.
PW: Although, as Lorrie says it’s probably too late to start this one, there are lots of blogging challenges around.
LH: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
PW: So if you can’t do this one but you really like the idea do a search. There are lots of options and you can find one that suits you exactly.
LH: Yeah, definitely. I mean this one is a big one in the sense of you have to blog every day in April, apart from Sundays, but there are some like there’s Friday Fiction or Friday Flash, I’m not sure, I don’t take part in that one, but every Friday people write a bit of flash fiction and they hashtag it up and it just helps draw a bit of traffic.
PW: Yeah, a few years ago I did NaBloPoMo, which is related to NaNoWriMo but it’s National Blog Posting Month and…
LH: I like it.
PW: Yeah, you basically just have to do a blog post a day. It doesn’t give you any… there’s no further guidance about what it needs to be about, you just have to do a blog post a day and it’s quite good for discipline.
LH: And motivation as well.
PW: Yeah because this was my personal blog a few years ago and I’d really got out of the habit of posting there and it just got me back into the habit and I was able to start keeping it up again.
LH: It’s lovely you know. So have a look around, as Pip says, at these blogging challenges and they’ve usually all got hashtags because that’s how you get people to know about them, of course. I blog in WordPress and you can search for hashtags on WordPress. You know you can have a look in your WordPress reader and search for the #atozchallenge in there and it doesn’t necessarily need a hash symbol before it but that’s the term that’s searchable and people are tagging up their blog posts with that and you can find brilliant new people to follow, have a chat with, give feedback to and it’s just a lovely thing for a sense of community, and as Pip says, getting you back into the swing of blogging if you’re a bit out of it.
Now what this did all get me thinking about, you see I’m coming to my point, was a post I spotted a while back on a brilliant website. I love this website and it’s brilliant for research and training. It’s called Suite101, and we’ll link to that in the show notes, and the post itself is about the top 100 hashtags that writers and authors should get to know. Now it’s a brilliant resource. It’s just a list but it’s a list of all the hashtags that authors, marketers, bloggers, e-book writers, copywriters, commercial writers might need to find their fellow fish in the big social media sea.
So I guess my recommendation for this week is kind of a theme rather than one thing in particular. I’m recommending that you use the amazing resources out there across blogs and social media and that you tap into the viral connections that exist out there between authors and writers and publishers and anyone who’s interested in the written word because, like with so many things we mention, it’s something that can have an immediate benefit, say can get you posting more on your blog or can put you in touch with other people, but I really do think the benefits ripple out.
PW: Yes, absolutely. I mean hashtags are… my Tweet Deck has so many columns with so many different search results and lists and hashtags but yeah, it’s a brilliant way of finding contacts, learning new things. So yeah, great recommendation and good luck with the challenge as well.
LH: Thank you. Oooh.
LH: So, Philippa, what is your Little Bird recommendation of the week?
PW: My recommendation is a blog post called ‘How to Work with Me on a Low Budget’ and it’s written by a graphic designer and it’s all about… it’s basically a response to people who contact him and ask him to work for free.
LH: Ooo, I think I’m going to like this.
PW: Yes. It’s, as you know if you’ve listened to us for any amount of time, is an issue that we come across quite a lot.
Now he’s very reasonable. He explains very clearly what the issues are. He says, “There are four scenarios where I can imagine people might approach me to work at a reduced fee. No. 1, you like what I do enough to risk a refusal. No. 2, you think I’m a soft touch. No. 3, you think whatever it is that you’re doing is more important than my son’s education or my health insurance. No. 4, you’re chancing your arm” and then he goes through various… he explains firstly why he deserves to get paid for the work he does, he explains why that’s not unreasonable and he also goes into, “If, if I say that I will do this for free these are very clearly my conditions and you certainly don’t have any say in these because I’m already working for you for free. So these are the things I expect from you” and it’s a good post. Yeah, he explains… he just explains it really clearly. I think anybody wanting someone to work for free should have a read because it does point out that they are being quite unreasonable but he’s also not just yelling at people but yeah, it’s an interesting post.
My sister, who is a landscape architect, sent it to me because she sees the stuff I Tweet out often on this very subject. So thank you Carolyn…
PW: …for this one but yeah, that’s my recommendation and as with Lorrie’s it will be in the show notes at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and it’s by Larry Hynes.
LH: That makes me so sad that we’re having to come up with new ways to tell people why it’s not okay to beg for work for free.
PW: And again and again and again. It’s not…
LH: And again, you know, and the fact that we’re… you know it’s a brilliant article; I’ve just spotted it now.
PW: Yeah, it’s good, isn’t it?
LH: It’s fabulous and it’s really nicely laid out and it’s nicely written because, as you say, it’s not a rant.
LH: It’s so easy to have a rant on this subject because, as we’ve just said, it’s again and again and again but yeah, this guy has actually come up with a way of really laying it out and I can see this blog post being something that people link back to for years. I mean looking at it it’s not even a new blog post.
PW: No, it was written last August and it’s still doing the rounds, so.
LH: Yeah and I’ve not seen it yet and I’ll certainly be sharing it…
LH: …because it’s completely right and I love the idea actually of saying, “If, if I decide to work for free or for very little for you don’t think you’re off the hook.”
LH: Don’t think that you can just pat yourself on the back and say, “Right, here we go. I’m just going to get on with what I want this person to do.’ I’m going to lay it out and I’m going to get exactly what I would get from somebody to whom I was giving a professional wage.” You know there is a balance that needs to be met and if Larry Hynes is going to work for you for free his conditions are very, very clear and I applaud him for that.
LH: No, I really, really do because like anything in life benefit has to go both ways, whether that’s financial or otherwise.
PW: Absolutely, absolutely and the conditions he’s put in place for if, “It’s a very rare occasion that I agree to work for you for free” are kind of the things you would like any client to have but certainly are things that you don’t want to be messing about with if you’re not even being paid. Like one of them is, “I expect you to be organised. I expect you to communicate clearly, show up on time and have whatever information is required to hand. I expect you to sweat the details because you’re not paying me to do it and details are very important to me.” Now that’s the kind of thing that ideally any client, you know, would be doing but certainly if you’re not paying someone get your things together.
LH: I don’t even like the phrase, “If you’re not paying someone.”
PW: I know, I know.
LH: Because for me I don’t want to talk… I applaud Larry Hynes 100,000% but I don’t like the idea of talking reasonably to somebody who is begging work for free. I will never be okay with it.
PW: No and he’s been very clear that although these are his conditions for working for free he makes it very clear that that’s a very occasional situation where he nearly always says no and he gives good reason for it, not that you should have to justify not working for free. One of the things he says is, “Do you get paid? You know when you go to work do you get a wage?” Yes, you know, and have a think about that.
LH: No, it’s like what we’re saying back in Episode, oh Episode 4, all the way back in Episode 4 when we were discussing a certain gentleman who was asking people to proofread his full length novel in return for chocolate.
LH: Now, listeners, if you didn’t listen to Episode 4 it’s fairly ranty but it’s on this topic, so if you find that you’re liking this bit of the discussion go back and have a listen, or if you find that you’re not liking it go back and have a listen so you can come and have a bit of a discussion with us on social media, but as Pip and I pointed out I don’t send a bar of chocolate instead of money for my gas bill.
LH: I don’t go into a shop and say, “Right, I really like that tee shirt. I’m going to buy it and here are two Toblerones” or, “Here is a bar of Dairy Milk.” No, people trade with money.
PW: I mean he says, “You’re getting a salary. Every week or month you get paid and you want me to work for you for nothing. This is not going to happen. You show me where you deferred your salary and I’ll listen to your proposal. I am serious.”
LH: That’s superb.
PW: Yeah, “You’re asking me to forego my income, so you first.”
PW: You know he’s not messing about.
LH: 100%. I need to have a good proper read of this because I have a feeling that he’s got a lot of spikes that have come out for this.
PW: Yes, I…
LH: And it’s good, it’s excellent, it’s a really, really excellent post because I think I’m stuck in the situation where I’m like, “But I shouldn’t have to say this. We shouldn’t have to justify it” but the fact is we do.
PW: And certainly not for the 100th time but here we are having to do it again.
LH: Yeah and here we are chatting sort of passionately about an article that’s talking about just that, exactly because it’s such a common thing.
PW: And there will still be people on Twitter later today wanting free proofreaders.
LH: Course there will, or beta readers as they call them.
PW: Oh [sighs].
LH: Like I can see it, I can totally, totally see it where you say to people, “I’ve written something. I’m thinking about self-publishing. Can you let me know what you think?” That, to me, is a beta reader.
LH: That’s a beta reader. It’s somebody that you’re friends with or that you know well or that you chat to regularly on social media and you have some credit in the bank with that person, you know you have a long term relationship with that person, or you have a mutual sense of appreciation, or they’re getting something from it…
LH: …and you say to them, “I value your opinion. I want to know what you think about my piece of work. Just in general what do you think?” rather than, “Can you go through and proofread it and I’ll give you some chocolate?”
PW: And like I… in the unlikely circumstance that I wrote a novel Lorrie is one of my closest friends but I still wouldn’t say, “You wouldn’t have a look at this for me for free, would you?”
LH: Aww, you’d be welcome to.
PW: Yeah but you’d be the person I’d go to because I trust your skills and your abilities but I wouldn’t expect you to do that for free even though we’re very good friends because I know it’s as much a part of your job as the other things we do.
LH: True and I would assess the situation as it was. If I was absolutely rammed for time and flat broke then I might say, “Okay Pip, let’s talk mates rates.”
LH: If, as I am now, I’m quite comfortable, you know I’m happy and I’ve got a little bit of time and, you know, I’m not struggling for any money at the moment then I would say, “No, pass it over” because it’s very much like paying for dinner for a friend.
LH: Once you’ve been friends with somebody for long enough you don’t have to say, “Let’s split it 50/50” and you don’t have to say, “You get this one, I’ll get the next one.” One of you just pays and it just balances out at some point.
PW: Yeah, yeah.
LH: But yeah, you get so many people approaching strangers on social media saying, “Will you work for me for free? Will you translate this for me for free?” and I don’t…
PW: It’s going in titles, isn’t it?
LH: Oh it’s so arrogant and I think we’re going to have to do another episode for it at some point.
PW: We are because we’ve clearly not got it out of our system.
LH: No we’re not, no, and I’ve not even had a coffee yet. So imagine when…
LH: …caffeined up how strongly I’ll feel about this again. I’m sure we can tackle it again.
PW: Oh no doubt.
LH: My recommendation, don’t ask people for free work.
PW: Especially not if we’re watching.
LH: Oh that’s true.
PW: Or Larry indeed.
LH: Larry’s watching [laughs]. Poor Larry. He’s probably never heard of us and he’s being invoked as some sort of all seeing important freelancer.
PW: Or my sister.
LH: Hi again Carolyn.
PW: [Laughs]. Anyway, thank you so much for listening. We love doing the podcast and we love that people really enjoy it, we love that people find it helpful. Do leave us reviews on iTunes and Stitcher and promote us on your blogs and on Twitter because we want as many people to benefit from what we say as possible.
LH: Yeah, we always try and be responsive and flexible and we love hearing from you. You know if you’ve got any queries, as we said earlier, come and have a chat to us. We can answer you on social media, we can link you to useful blog posts, we could answer you in a personalised blog post if it came down to it, if there was something you particularly wanted to know that only Pip and I have the answer to. I can’t imagine what that would be.
LH: [Laughs] but you know if it came down to it and you brought up something that would be useful for loads of our listeners we’d be happy to record a podcast on that subject. We’ve got a list of podcast subjects that we want to tackle over the next few months. We can always slot somebody in. So if you come up with something that you think would be a really good podcast episode let us know and we’ll have a chat.
PW: Yeah, we spent 45 minutes the other day in a shared Google doc and we came up with three and a half pages of new topic ideas. So we are raring to go.
LH: We are, it’s like a sweet shop and we want to get a bag full out there to you right now. So come and take part, come and let us know what you want us to talk about, it’s probably already on our list but we’ll certainly answer any concerns that you’ve got, any questions you have. So yeah, come and have a chat. We don’t bite, we’re nice.
PW: Thank you for listening. I have been Philippa Willitts.
LH: And I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn and we’ll catch you next time.
When I went to Woodstock, the last thing I cared about was taking care of business. [Philippa] apparently represents the new incarnation of the now-quaint Woodstock subculture: meticulous, professional, driven to reach for perfection. Many thanks.
I love it. It’s exactly what we need. I could not have come up with this at all, so thanks a million.
Amazing work ! Thanks for going BEYOND my expectations. I will be sending you more work soon. What a difference between my old CV and NEW CV THANKS A MILLION!
Working with Phillipa has been a great experience. The work is well done and i feel more balanced after the proof reading is complete. Thank you for the fantastic work. look forward to working with you again.
I had a tough project, but she went the extra mile.
Thanks for the great work and speedy delivery
Outstanding, written like the writer is having a conversation with the reader. I’m so impressed that I’m going to ask them to write another.
Amazing quality with fast delivery time. Thanks!
“Very good quality articles. Will come back again.”
Thank you very much for proofreading my documents.
You did a great job. My work now looks much better and professional thanks to your fantastic help.