3 Decisions That Can Make or Break Your Freelance Business

Ever since I broke free from content mills, I’ve had a 3 sentence manifesto that has helped me set up my freelance writing business and get better paying clients.

I have it taped to my desk, my dresser and even my bathroom mirror.

Here’s what it says:

I’m a writer

I’m a bloody good writer

My freelancing isn’t a hobby – it’s a business.

That’s right. Freelancing is a business.

The day I started thinking of my freelance writing as a business was the day I made the three most important decisions of my writing career. I decided my rates, specialization and marketing plan.

That’s when things started to fall in place for me.

If you’re struggling to keep your freelance business afloat, it might be time to adopt my manifesto above and answer the questions below.

1. Rates: How much will you charge?

It’s so tempting to play it by the ear when you’re starting out. You don’t know the market rates and more importantly, you don’t know your own worth!

But here’s the thing. If you don’t set your rates, you’ll be wasting time responding to work inquiries that either don’t lead anywhere or result in low paying work.

In order to attract as many clients as you can, you end up attracting the low paying ones.

Don’t just pull a figure out of your head when setting your rates. Go through websites and blogs of other freelancers to see if they’ve listed their rates. Email and ask them if they haven’t. Use social media and online forums to get your answers.

Even if you don’t state your rates on your website, decide them at least.

Personally, I’m all for stating your rates online. It has worked wonders for filtering out the cheaper clients. Granted, the queries I now get are comparatively smaller in number but they almost always result in a signed deal.

While I’m not averse to offering a discounted rate in special circumstances to clients, I don’t make a habit of it.

Want some help deciding your rates? Feel free to head on over and check out my freelance writing rates.

2. Specialization: What kind of writing will you do?

It seems like everyone and their uncle is offering 20 different kinds of freelance services. Set yourself apart by specializing. Figure out 2-3 kinds of writing you enjoy and are exceptionally good at and then stick to them.

I love blogging and writing ebooks so for me the choice was obvious. I added a couple of complimentary services like blog editing and planning and set up my Hire Me page to reflect that.

It’s rare for a client to hire me as a blogger and not take advantage of my content planning or blog editing service.

3. Marketing strategy: How will you find clients?

Oh boy. This is the question that has broken many a camel’s back. If you don’t figure out how you’re going to find clients, your freelance writing business isn’t even going to get off the ground.

The best gigs aren’t found in job boards, Craigslist or Elance etc. They’re found through marketing and actively reaching out to prospects.

Figure out a simple process to look for clients.

Find and contact prospects every day – whether it’s searching through twitter and LinkedIn to look for prospective clients, your local classifieds (ever notice how so many business include their website URL?) or your personal network.

At the very least, set aside a couple of hours over the weekend to do so.

Because if you don’t do that, your freelance business is going to tank.

Has your freelance business made these 3 all important decisions? If not, what are you waiting for?

Posted in General

4 Ways to Fire a Client without Burning Your Bridges

Different ways to fire your client

If freelancing were a religion, firing a client would be considered blasphemy. But there comes a time in every freelancer’s life, when for the sake of her freelancing business (and sanity!), she must do exactly that.

Maybe it’s the client who’s difficult or maybe it’s you who finds the work soul crushingly boring and want to move on. Either way, the choice of walking away from a gig is as much yours as the client’s.

Yes, it’s a tricky situation and if handled wrong, it can spell disaster. The good news is that if you play your cards right and keep things professional, the whole thing will go smoothly enough.

Here are five ways to fire your client without ruining your reputation or your relationship with them.

Word of caution: Before firing a client, make sure the problem isn’t you. Correcting your own shortcomings is a lot easier than going to all the trouble of firing clients and dealing with the aftermath.

1. Raise your rates

You know that amount you dreamed of ultimately charging your clients? It’s time to raise ‘em to that level.

A quick email to your client saying ‘Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be raising my rates to xyz. In case these rates don’t work for you, please let me know. I’d be happy to recommend another freelancer.’ is all it takes

If the problem is the client, they’re probably going to balk at paying more. Trouble clients usually just believe in troubling their freelancer and not in going to the trouble of paying more for great work.

If the problem is your lack of interest or motivation, quote a number you’ll be happy to continue writing for in case the client agrees to your new rates.

2. Find more work

A lot of times freelancers balk at firing clients because they’re worried about the loss of income. So spend a few extra minutes scouting for new clients every day until you land more clients who will more than make up for the soon-to-be fired client.

Once you have work lined up, letting your trouble client go by telling them you’ve gotten too busy to do them justice and refer them to someone.

3. Lessen your workload

Another way to get rid of the client from hell is to lessen your work load – drastically. Deciding to let a client go can be a wake up call. What might have started out as an excuse for firing a client could be the nudge you needed to revamp your freelance business.

Do you really need to work for so many clients? What if you could earn the same amount by working for fewer clients?

4. Take the blame

Sometimes, you need to come clean and tell the client that you can’t work with them anymore. You don’t have to tell them you’re parting ways because if you continue working with them you’ll go insane.

Instead of slogging through the work, do the right thing by letting your client know and save yourself hours of agony.

Give them the classic ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ speech.

Refer a couple of freelancers you know will take good care of your client and make a graceful exit.

Delivering the bad news

Firing a client requires diplomacy. You may have your reasons ready but how you deliver them is more important.

The simplest way to tell your client is to sandwich the bad news between good news.

Good news –> Bad news (You’re being let go) –> Good news

Start off on a positive note by telling them it has been great working with them. If your experience has been really bad and you can’t bring yourself to say it, use words like enlightening, interesting etc. – any positive words your stomach can… stomach.

Move on with mentioning how your business has evolved and grown during this time to the point where you’re making some big changes and moving it in a new direction. That’s your first good news.

As a result you will no longer be able to work with them. Give them any of the above reasons. That’s the bad news.

Now reassure your client – whether it’s completing your current project with them or recommending another freelancer. Let them know you’ll take care of them. That’s your second good news.

Thank them for their business and wish them all the best.

Have you ever had to let a client go? How did you do it?

Posted in General

Email Course: Break Free From Content Mills – In Just 6 Weeks!

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a freelance writer in possession of good writing skills will never be happy writing for content mills.

(If the above sentence sounds familiar, it’s because I stole it from Jane Austen and… modified it ;) Brownie points to whoever guesses which novel it’s from!)

Writing for content mills is no one’s dream job. Granted, content mill writing taught me some important freelancing skills but all in all, it was a suffocating relationship.

Ever since I got past my fear and told the world (through a guest post) about my content mill writing origins, I’ve been shocked at how many writers are in the same boat I was.

They say the exact same things I was saying. I have

  • No experience
  • No samples
  • No referrals or testimonials

Who’s going to hire me?

I remember being this close to pulling my hair one day after I’d read another post on how I needed to quite writing for content mills right now.

Then I wanted to smack the blogger silly.

Stop telling me why I need to stop writing for them and tell me how to do it.

How do I break free from them? How do I convince a client to hire me when that client is convinced that my work is inferior because the only experience I have is of writing for content mills?

It took a long time and lots of trials and errors before I broke free from them. But I managed to do it.

You can break free from content mills too.

I created the Break Free from Content Mills email course to help freelance writers who are stuck writing for content mills.

This email course is my response to the gazillion freelance writers out there who’re asking the same question I was.

If you’re desperate to break free from content mills, work with a real client and earn more, then Break Free is exactly what you need.

Ready to break free from low paying content mills?

If you’ve had it with content mills and are desperate to break free, this course is for you. Click on the link below to see the course overview, read what other freelancers are saying about it and of  course, to sign up!

Click here –> Break Free From Content Mills

Posted in General

3 Things Writing For Content Mills Teach You About Freelancing

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Content mills have been a topic of hot debate on almost every freelance writing blog I follow at one time or another. While I haven’t written about them here, I did guest post over at Make a Living Writing about it last year.

What you might not know (unless you’ve read that post) is that I started my freelancing writing for content mills.

With no experience and no writing samples, they felt like a god send. It wasn’t long before I realized that writing for content mills wasn’t doing me any favours. Not only was the money crappy, but I couldn’t land any clients because content mill writing is considered inferior. No one wanted to hire a content mill writer so I stopped mentioning it in the jobs I’d apply for.

Then came the realization that freelancers didn’t respect content mill writers either. While everyone talked about their clients and pay rates, all I had was my content mill work and the few dollars I was earning.

You can bet your behind I stopped mentioning my association with them fast.

While it took me well over a year to break free from content mills, I learned a few things about freelancing along the way that paved the way for my freelance business.

1. Establishing goals & decision making

Any business, be it a freelance one or otherwise, can’t grow without having some goals or targets to meet. To achieve those goals, you need to make some decision that’ll help you do so.

There’s nothing like earning $5 an article to make you realize you’re never going to achieve your goals if you keep writing for these rates.

Whether you like it or not, content mills forces you to make a decision. Are you going to continue writing for low paying content mills or are you going to do something about it and change your life?

Once I figured out I would never be happy writing for such crappy pay, my ‘earning enough to cover the rent’ goal turned into another two-fold goal:

Land my first real client so I could get the hell out of content mills and earn more.

Making the decision to break free from content mills was the scariest decision of my freelance writing career.

All I knew at the point was that I wanted to earn more. With content mills, at least I was earning something. If I left them, there was a good chance I wouldn’t earn anything if I didn’t find clients!

No decision since has been as difficult or as scary.

2. Hard work

If there’s one thing content mill writing teaches you, its hard work. When you’re earning $5 an article, you can’t afford to slack off.

You need to write 20 articles just to bring in $100. And because you’re a good writer, those articles are going to be well researched and well written – which takes time and effort.

That’s not to say freelance writers who don’t write for content mills aren’t hard workers. They definitely are. Content mill writers just have an edge in that department – desperation tends to do that.

A note to prospective clients: If you’re looking for hard working freelance writers, content mill writers are the ideal choice. Not only will they work hard, but they’ll go above and beyond what’s required because they’ll be so happy to have an actual client. Their business growth depends on how good a job they do.

3. Hustling

Content mill writers are one of the biggest hustlers you’ll see out there. Because they know they won’t find better paying work as content mill writers, they do anything they can – no matter how unconventional – to land a client and get work.

When I was trying to break free from content mills, I wrote free samples that I would send in without the client asking for it, I’d follow up on job applications after a week and if I got a rejection – which was often, I’d follow up after a month to see if the person they eventually hired worked out or not.

I used social media to project an image of a – if not successful then a well off freelancer. I’d talk about the articles I was writing and make it sound like really interesting work – no one needed to know they were for a content mill. I’d make a big deal out of taking some time off to go catch an afternoon movie or hang out with friends. Again, no one needed to know that the reason I was taking time off was because I didn’t have any client work.

In short, I hustled.

There’s no condoning writing for content mills. However, no experience goes without teaching us a few lessons.

What lessons did your early freelancing experience teach you?

Need to earn more? How To Break Free From Low-Paying Writing Gigs (And Earn More) is 6-week ecourse that shows you how to do just that. There are only 10 spots available so sign-up before they get filled! Email courses not your thing? You can also get the self-study and ebook version of the course.

Posted in General

About Writing Squared – The 5 Buck Forum

A few months ago, I wrote a post for Hongkiat.com about the benefits of joining online forums. At the time I wrote that post, I was and had been part of quite a few forums with varying degrees of success. Ultimately though, I gave up on all of them.

I tried free ones and paid ones. Forums that charge you an arm and a leg and ones that ‘only’ charge you a month’s worth of your kid’s lunch money – okay I’m being dramatic here.

Every forum I joined made some big promises – promises of free or discounted stuff, webinars, boot camps etc. And they stuck to it too!

So why didn’t I stick to them if they were delivering on their promises?

Because it got overwhelming.

Some had too many sub forums. Some forums were so large you had to wait for your turn to ask a question from one of the experts.

Thanks to John Soares’ Productive Writers blog, I recently discovered Anne Wayman’s and Lori Widmer’s “About Writing Squared – Home of the 5 Buck Forum” – and was shocked!

My first thought was “Whoa… $5?!”

And by such big names as Anne Wayman and Lori Widmer? I’ve paid 5 times that for forums run by less experienced freelancers.

I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about it and went off to sign up for it immediately.

Inside About Writing Squared

Once inside, it took me less than 5 minutes to acquaint myself with the forum. About Writing Squared comes with no bells and whistles attached. It’s a simple forum that focuses on providing support and help to fellow freelancers.

I particularly like the Tip of the Week section where Lori and Anne post a tip you can use that week go grow your freelance writing business. I implemented the most recent tip Lori had posted and it resulted in me contacting an old client who gave me a referral to another client.

Then there’s the Odd & Ends sections which is the virtual water cooler for us freelancers. It’s the perfect place to hang out if you’ve got a few minutes and want to talk to other freelancers.

The forum community is unbelievably helpful and welcoming. They offer the kind of support I wish I had when I started out and got stuck writing for content mills.

In fact, had this forum been there when I was writing for content mills, I’d have gotten free from them much sooner than I did and saved myself tons of misery and insecurity.

Whether you’re a content mill writer trying to make it as a freelancer writer or an established one who just wants a place to hang out with other freelancers, About Writing Squared is the place to be.

At $5 a month, you have absolutely NO reason not to sign up.

Even a content mill writer can shell out $5 for a forum that has enough information and support to help achieve his writing dreams.

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About Samar

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Samar is a freelance blogger and ebook writer.

She's the voice behind this blog, the writer behind each post and the one responsible for all the awesomeness around here.

If you want to outsource your blogging or get an ebook written then she's your girl!

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