Writing for a living means, by necessity, keeping your eyes constantly glued on your monitor, laptop or tablet for many hours each day. Given the implied risks of having strained eyes, taking the time to treat them nicely can only help you to avoid nasty side effects of eye strain, which is very important for us writers and bloggers. [Read more…]
Archives for June 2013
For the past three years, I have run my own virtual writing and editing company, Desired Assistance. Born out of my ability to write and edit, paired with the increasing demand for virtual assistants, I combined the two to create my own business. This journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has certainly been worth it. Along the way I discovered things about myself, my writing, and business in general. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
Work Your Network
When I first launched my freelancing business, the majority of my clients came directly (or indirectly) from my college and church networks. The relationships I’d made and work I’d done in those environments set me up for great testimonials before my business even started. You never know who is observing you and the impressions that you’ve made.
You Don’t Work for Them, You Work for Yourself
This is something that took a while to get into my head on my first (long-term) freelancing job. The individual that hired me was under the impression that I worked for him. I thought this too until my business advisor set me straight.
It’s the same with doctors, dentists, mechanics, hair stylists, and others. We are service providers. It actually helps to see it more as a temporary partnership: they provide the funds and you provide the services to produce an expected end.
If you can grasp this concept now, you will gain a new level of freedom in your business.
Cheap Rates & Frequent Discounts Breed Cheap Clients
This one’s a toughie. When you are passionate about a talent that comes naturally to you, it can be hard to charge and charge rationally at first. This is especially true if you are surrounded by individuals or a community with a pervading poverty mindset. EVERYBODY wants a discount.
But guess what? You need to get over it. Set a new standard.
Think of it this way: Wal-Mart offers cheap prices and frequent discounts. Bergdorf’s does not. Accordingly, each store attracts a certain type of customer. Which end of the spectrum do your clients swing to?
You are a professional. You deserve to make a good living by the work of your hands.
Writing Farms Suck
I hate, loathe, and despise writing farms! Someone or some entity that herds writers like cattle (hence the term writing farm) and expects you to do excellent work for crappy pay. Stop the madness!
Most of the individuals who work in this environment speak and write English poorly. They get hired for pennies on the dollar and when a high-quality writer comes along nobody wants to hire them because they’re content with sub-par work at cheap costs.
If we band together against this modern day indentured servitude, then the world of writing will undoubtedly be a better place.
Stay True to Yourself
I’ll try not to preach on this one, but what is your foundation? What are your guiding principles and values? I’m a firm Christian, yet have been approached by New Age gurus, mediums, and more who have attempted to hire me for projects. And even though at times I entertained the thought, I had to remain true to my values which usually meant turning the gig down. (I’m trying to figure out how they overlooked the titles plastered on my website like Godly Government and Faith and the Imagination!) And let’s be honest, it’s probably best for the conflicting brand to choose a freelancer who’s likeminded or at least familiar with the subject matter.
I refuse to prostitute my talents to support a lifestyle or career that clashes with my worldview.
You may not believe as I do, yet I bet you have your own set of guiding principles which have shaped who and what you are today.
And the issue may not be something as large as religion. It could be filthy language, sexually explicit content, praise of drugs and other unhealthy actions.
Consider this: would you want your professional brand affiliated with the brand or project in question? Would you want to be thanked in the Acknowledgments? How will this truly affect your business?
You must remain true to your brand, whatever it is.
Bottom line: you must value yourself as an individual, artist, and professional. One size does not fit all! And why should it? There are more than enough freelancing gigs to go around if we would only seek them out.
About the Author
Desiree M. Mondesir is an author, columnist, blogger, and entrepreneur who has run her own virtual writing and editing company, Desired Assistance, since 2010. She loves to help writers become better through her writing consultations and coaching classes. Her books include Godly Government, Faith and the Imagination, and How to Write Fiction that Doesn’t Suck. If you’d like to hear more from Desiree, sign up for her email updates and get some great free gifts. You may also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Desiree is 27 and resides in Charlotte, NC.
Everyone has a big idea for a TV show, but only a few of the hundreds of pitches network executives hear will ever make it onto the small screen. In such a competitive market, how do you make your concept stand out from the crowd, and how do you get it in front of the people who can give you a green light? Follow the steps below, and you have a shot at standing out from the crowd.
- Come up with an original idea – Networks have heard the same stories again and again, so make sure you are bringing something new to the table. This may mean creating characters that are quirky and unlike anyone else on television, or tackling a story in a completely new way. You’re not just pitching the idea, but pitching the specific people and situation that the series would be focused on.
- Know your network and your audience – Research is key. Educate yourself on current television trends. Scripted programs are very popular, but you have to understand how shows on AMC have a very different feel to those on MTV. Do your homework on what is working for each network and who their target demographic is, and then decide which networks you are going to pitch to. Be specific in your concept and choose subjects that are marketable to that network.
- Write a treatment – The first step is to put your idea into writing, which is called a “treatment”. A treatment is a one to three page synopsis that states the concept of the show, outlines the main characters, the style of the show and potential story arcs. You should be able to summarize your show idea in only a couple of sentences, which is called a “logline”. The logline should tell the network what the premise of the show is, and what’s unique about it. You will also need a catchy title that will capture the network’s attention. Be creative with word play or known catch-phrases. The title should roll off the tongue and tell you what you are going to be watching. The synopsis is a longer, more detailed show description, outlining what will unfold in brief, powerful points. Revise and refine your pitch. Be efficient and concise with your descriptions yet provide enough information to provoke interest.
- Create a sizzle reel – Many networks now want to see video footage to go with your pitch. This is often called a demo tape or “sizzle reel”. This should be around 2-3 minutes long and should draw in the viewer in the first 10 seconds. It’s important that the sizzle reel is professionally shot and edited. It should show off the essence of the characters, the lifestyle, locations and potential story arcs, and reveal the potential for drama, action and/or humor. If you need help there are production companies that you can hire to help create a professional sizzle reel.
- Get it in front of the right people – If you don’t already have contacts at the networks, you might need to partner up with a production company that has established network relationships. They can connect you with the right people, set up meetings and help you with the pitch. The downside is that they will be expecting a cut of whatever commissions you receive. But this may be the most efficient way to get you in front of the right people, and they may also be able to contribute valuable ideas to your pitch. In order to find the right production company research ones which are already producing shows that are a similar genre to your concept. Call the company and ask to set up a meeting with the head of development, and bring your sizzle reel and treatment. There are also many television conferences and summits which are devoted to industry professionals networking, pitching and exchanging ideas examples, such as Real Screen.
- Time to pitch – It is better to arrange an in-person pitch meeting with a network executive than to correspond by email, that way you know what they are looking for, and what they do and do not like about your pitch. Once you have a meeting set up, go in with confidence and passion. Be prepared to be flexible and take feedback. If the network likes the sizzle, they hopefully will put up money to shoot more, or even order a pilot or episodes. If they have specific ideas, suggest revising your pitch taking into account what was discussed, and resubmitting.
- Follow up – Send a follow up email thanking the executives for their time, and outlining any next steps. If you don’t hear back, or it’s a no, try to keep the relationship going regardless. Once you have a contact at a network, you can go back to them with more ideas in the future. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a yes immediately. Try other networks, keep reaching out to new people and following up. Don’t be afraid to develop new concepts, every pitching scenario will play out differently depending on timing, the players and the project. The more experienced you become at pitching, the more likely you are to succeed. The key is to stay committed and not to give up.
This post is by television producer Joanne Azern, who has written, directed and supervised hundreds of hours of programs for networks such as The Discovery Channel, NBC, MTV, Bravo, the Sundance Channel, National Geographic, Style Network, Travel Channel, and History Channel. You can follow her on Twitter @joanneazern.
- A lack of purpose and passion
- Working a dead-end job
- No one is investing in you
- Insufficient compensation
If you’re feeling any or all of these symptoms, you may be ripe for a change. The launching pad for this monumental shift? A bit of wisdom from Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Whether you’ve freelanced as a side-gig or are just jumping into the ring, taking on a full-time freelance career is not a decision to be made lightly. Full-time corporate employment offers paid time off for vacations, illness and holidays. Medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance are often part of a benefits package. So, too, is a guaranteed minimum income.
So, how do you leave all of that security? How do you transition to freelancing as your main source of income? How do you budget and plan? Very carefully.
Be a Business
Transitioning to full-time freelancing means you are going to be a business all on your own. If freelancing is your main source of income, you can’t be casual about it. You’ll have to start thinking like a business owner, even if your only employee is, well, you. By giving up that secure spot in corporate America, you’ve taken on the following roles (in no particular order):
- Head of Sales & Marketing
- Account Receivable
- Creative Director
- Client Services
- and more.
Are you ready and willing to manage both big and small picture details? Gone are the days of throwing receipts into a shoebox. Here are the days of detailed financial record-keeping. Gone are the days of, “Sorry, just saw this email from two weeks ago.” Here are the days of, “Please see attached for all deliverables due tomorrow. Please contact me with any questions.”
Don’t take this to mean you can expense everything and go on a spending spree to outfit a new office. You have to think about overhead costs, billing cycles, positive cash flow and more. Find a reliable and usable accounting platform. Learn it inside and out. Use it.
Research and apply for credit. American Express has some of the best business credit cards with benefits ranging from purchase protection to flexible payment schedules. Using a card (and paying it off monthly) is a great way to keep business expenses separate from personal expenses. It will make it easier for you to reconcile business expenditures by comparing the statement to your accounting records. You’ll also be building credit for your business. That way, if you’re ever in a position to seek out investors or loans for expansion, you’ll have a credit history.
Set Yourself Up for Success
After years of marching to another’s drum beat, it can be tough to stay productive without oversight. By now, you know what helps and hinders your personal productivity. Does a clean workspace keep you sane? Find and maintain a dedicated and orderly space for your business. Using the kitchen table might seem convenient, until someone spills fruit punch all over a very important piece of paper.
Start with a schedule. Until you’ve found your stride, it’s important to commit to a scheduled workday. It doesn’t have to be eight to five, but you must be fully engaged in work during whatever schedule you choose. Don’t let distractions like daytime television destroy your productivity.
If you need Internet to do your job, do you have a plan at home with adequate bandwidth? What happens if you lose access? Do you have a back-up plan? It wasn’t a big deal when your Netflix was down for a few days, but if your livelihood is resting on reliable email access, that changes things.
Every freelancer wants to be “too busy.” A freelancer’s best problem is having such an overflow of work that turning projects down is necessary. So, how do you get there? You have to make a name for yourself. Relying on a small client base would be nice, but what if the work dries up? Know who you are and what you do. Distill that into an elevator pitch. Imagine this: you run into a friend at a restaurant, and they introduce you to a potential client on the spot. What would you say? Will you have a business card at the ready? You’d better. You don’t have to plaster your face on a billboard like an aspiring realtor. You do need to constantly seek out business opportunities and be ready to pitch yourself at any moment.
Still ready to ditch the suit and forge out on your own? Have fun and stay organized!
This post was written by Amanda Kohn, a bookworm from Phoenix. Although a fashionista at heart, you can find her head in a book or online reading up on the latest headlines. Follow her on Twitter.
There are many reasons why many freelancers choose WordPress for building their portfolio of websites: It’s easy, reliable and flexible (thanks, of course, to plugins). Okay, maybe you will occasionally be told that Tumblr or Blogger is the better choice especially for those looking for a more casual blogging experience. But for the professionals, WordPress always comes out on top — and for good reason, considering the number of features, tools and free plugins you can access to customize and monetize your content. [Read more…]