Marketers break grammar rules with catchy slogans and tag lines all the time. Unfortunately, those creative liberties have a nasty habit of bleeding into social media posts and updates – a place they simply don’t belong.
One of the reasons that the Web has become a legal minefield is because it deals with laws and ethics that, prior to its creation, almost no one had any reason to know.
Before the Web, the only reason to understand libel, privacy, copyright, trademark and other areas commonly associated with mass media law was if you were a journalist, a publisher or someone else involved in some form of media. The average person just didn’t have the means to really reach a large audience, not without filtration, making the laws fairly pointless to know.
But now, with the Web, anyone can reach an audience the size of the largest newspaper or TV station, but without any of the understanding of the laws that govern such distribution. That’s a big part of why I write this column here on Freelance Writing Jobs.
But there is yet another problem. The Web often times leads one to have a false sense of privacy. Social networking and social media are supposedly all about one’s friends and personal connections, not the larger world. However, the law, in many areas, doesn’t make a strong distinction between those two things as, in many areas, the difference between lawful and unlawful isn’t based on the number of people a message is sent to.
Here are just a few examples of why social media can still be a legal minefield, even if it feels like a safe haven.
100 or a 1,000,000
In most areas of media law, the law isn’t concerned with how many people received the message, but rather, what the content of the message.
For example, with copyright, burning a copy of a CD and giving it to a friend is a copyright infringement the same as sharing it on a major file sharing network. The only difference is the amount of damages one would likely be able to claim.
The same is true for libel and privacy law. Though the damage done might be greater with a broader audience, especially with libel, all one has to prove is that a 3rd party saw the libelous statement.
In fact, with libel, social media can actually be worse in many ways than publishing on the broader Web as the message is targeted at those the subject knows, possibly causing more direct harm.
In short, as far as the law is concerned, the only thing that changes when you post something on your social networking account versus the broader Web is the amount of damage. But given the high damages often won for even small missteps, that should not provide much comfort.
Privacy? What Privacy?
The one potential benefit to sharing such materials via social media is that it is much less likely the person who would take offense would every find out.
For example, if you share a copyrighted work on your Facebook profile, the odds of the copyright holder finding out are much less than if you posted it on the broader Web. The enclosed nature of Facebook, especially with good privacy settings, offers a shield against search engines and other detection techniques.
However, the idea of privacy on the social web is, in reality, only an illusion. Even if you post something only to your closest friends and even if the security is flawless, nothing can stop the people who receive your message from spreading it farther without your permission.
Sites such as Lamebook specialize in taking semi-private conversations and posting them to the larger Web (though it removes personally identifying information). These conversations are, usually, submitted by friends of the person the site is poking fun at.
Ben Franklin once famously said that, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” and that truism holds fast on the social Web too. Anything of great interest will leak out and, as the person who put it out first, you would have at least the lion’s share of the responsibility. Though repeating or even linking to libel is a violation in many cases, the original speaker, whether copyright, libel or privacy violations are involved, usually takes the brunt of the burden.
In short, unlike Vegas, what happens in your social network rarely stays there, especially if it is interesting enough to repost. The nature of the Web as a copy machine not only works against you when trying to control who copies your public work, but who copies your private ones as well.
Unfortunately, both can get you in legal trouble.
There’s a temptation to treat one’s social networking profiles as a kind of digital “home base”, a place to relax, be among friends and let one’s hair down. Unfortunately, we have to remember that social media, both in terms of the law and in terms of your privacy, are still very much a public place.
Any legal missteps that you make on your social networking profiles, no matter how private they may seem or even be set to, can come back to haunt you and often do.
Facebook may provide greater privacy protections but it is by no means a safe place to post unlawful messages. The law doesn’t make much distinction between the number of people who see a message and the privacy that these networks promise are really an illusion.
You can’t stop your friends from sharing that which they “like” so it is best, from both a legal and an ethical standpoint, to treat your social media interactions the same as you would any other activities you do online.
Have a question about the law and freelance writing? Either leave a comment below or contact me directly if you wish to keep the information private (However, please mention that it is a suggestion for Freelance Writing Jobs). This column will be determined largely by your suggestions and questions so let me know what you want to know about.
I am not an attorney and nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice.
Time was, all writers had to do was write. We did the cool creative end of things and left the business and marketing to other, more qualified souls.
Today, writers can no longer afford to leave their fan base out in the cold. Thanks to the Internet, there are more words than ever competing for readers, so breaking through the clutter requires more than eye-catching marketing. It requires interaction.
I know “marketing” is a scary word for some, but I promise the kind of marketing I’m talking about is nothing to be afraid of. You don’t have to come up with marketing campaigns, slogans, or spend countless dollars on advertising. Marketing today is as simple as striking up a friendship — and just as effective.
I’m talking, of course, about social networking. The whole point of social networks is to bring people together — family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc. — so you can stay connected and share things of interest with their friends. Personal news, photos, videos, cool links, and more; it’s all part of the “stream” of information you constantly receive from your friends on networks like Facebook and Twitter. Best of all, social networks and the services they provide are entirely free.
Even if you’re not a part of any social networks, I’m sure you’ve heard of Facebook and Twitter. They’re the big two, with more users than any other networks, because they do what they do smartly and efficiently. They’re also super easy to use. Yes, they do require you to give up a small amount of privacy (as the news headlines love to remind us), but it’s no different than inviting a new friend into one corner of your life, and any risks are minimal since you have complete control over the flow of information.
But how can a writer use social networking to further their career? That’s the question, isn’t it? There are tons of social websites out there where you can find job listings (including the site you’re reading right now), but that’s not the kind of networking I’m talking about. To answer this question, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture for just a moment.
To be a successful writer in this day and age, you have to put yourself out there as a brand. Make your name recognizable to readers who like what you do, and make it as easy as possible for them to find more of your work. Most freelancers write for lots of varied publications and websites, and you can’t count on those places to link to all of your other work for you. So having a way to corral your entire body of work together in one place is crucial.
Start with a website: www.yourname.com. If you don’t have one, get one immediately. Link to all the blogs, websites, and magazines where you write. Put photos of yourself (if you’re camera shy, suck it up, because letting readers put a face to the words they read helps them feel like they know you, which invests them in your work all the more), a bio/resume, and if you’re professionally published, put links to places where readers can buy your work (magazines, books, etc.). Keep a blog and let readers know what you’re working on, what you’ve done that’s generating a lot of feedback, or just whatever’s on your mind. Offer helpful tips on a subject you’re knowledgeable about, or go deeper into a subject that you didn’t have room to expand on in a recent published article or book. Last but not least, link to the social networking sites you’re a part of.
But now we come to it: which social networking sites should you join for the most effective self-promotion? There are a ton of social networking sites out there; feel free to try any and all of them, but only a few of them are likely to reap any results.
Beyond Facebook and Twitter, probably the most crucial one for writers is Scribd. If you don’t have a Scribd account, sign up at once. It’s the best place on the web to share your work with others, and it’s incredibly simple to use, allowing you to upload PDFs, Word docs, or even PowerPoint presentations into online documents that anyone can read. Once you’ve connected with friends there, you can share your work with them, or discover great works by others and share that with your readers, too. Most of the material on Scribd is easily downloadable, or can be read either online or on your mobile device. You can even embed Scribd documents into your own blog or website, the same way YouTube users embed videos. I use Scribd to post free samples of my novels and other creative works. These are things I could post on my personal website, but putting them on Scribd instead makes it infinitely easier for my readers to share my stuff with their friends.
Another great one — particularly for creative writers — is one that most people would never think of: DeviantArt. Their Literature section is host to user-written prose, poetry, scripts, and more. And just like other social sites, you can connect to others and share your work between friends and fans.
There are a ton of social networks out there targeted specifically at writers, but I’m not all that impressed with what I see from most of them. Many of these networks amount to little more than niche book clubs, with only a few hundred or thousand users each, and mostly feature writers hooking up with other writers for critiquing, advice-giving, and general camaraderie. If that’s what you’re looking for — and there’s nothing wrong with those things — then by all means have at it. But with all of the social networks out there, I spend my time only on the ones that can truly help build my brand and get my work in front of more readers.
Here are a few other generalized social networks to consider:
- A hot up-and-comer right now is FourSquare, which lets you “check in” at real-world locations so your friends know you’re there. I always check in whenever I hold a book signing, for example. Or a freelance journalist might check in at an event they’re covering; FourSquare can help you find friends and acquaintances who are also there. (Facebook just this week launched a new feature called Places that’s very similar to FourSquare.)
- Another fun one is Formspring, which connects users through the process of asking and answering questions. It’s direct, focused interaction with your readers made easy. On the downside, there aren’t a ton of users on Formspring yet, so it’s a bit lonely.
- For branding purposes, I strongly recommend getting yourself listed as an entry on Wikipedia (here’s mine), putting your profile on Google (this is me), and if you have anything in print, putting together an Author Profile on Amazon (me again) is a must.
- Resumes/CVs are a necessary (if boring) part of the freelancing process. For online resumes, Ceevee, Raveal, and Magntize offer some of the best-looking and most robust services out there.
- If you want to connect to your readers through what you’re currently reading, the leaders of the pack are Shelfari and GoodReads.
With tools like these, you can join the ranks of the savviest modern writers who understand the value of turning fans into friends.
And if I missed any good social networks, please share your favorites in the comments!
Why are you screwing around commenting on some joker’s blog while the fine folks at Discover are perfecting ways to stab you in the chest with an interest rate ice pick that barely avoids running afoul of the new CARD Act provisions.
You’re going to get old and when you do, you’re going to be staring at a pantry that contains little more than canned tuna and store brand mac and cheese if you don’t get your you-know-what together. So, why are you answering some question to help someone else on LinkedIn?
What’s with taking ten minutes out of your Thursday to IM back and forth with someone you’ll probably never meet face-to-face when you have deadlines and paying clients?
Why are you wasting midnight oil and adding to your sleep deficit just to write a guest post for someone?
Blah, blah, blah. Etc.
We talk about community in this amorphous Web 2.0 sense. We talk about the “freelance writing community”. All of that community comes with a price tag. Hours. Precious, precious hours, minutes and seconds. And time is money. Every moment spent being friendly and contributing is real life cash money you’re not making.
You could make the argument that having big virtual arms that hug the population of Writersville is good for business in the way it increases your recognition and credibility. You’d probably be at least a little right, too. But I think most of us could find more efficient ways of achieving those ends if we decided to pull the plug on making friends and participating.
So, why don’t we retreat into our individual cocoons and devise improved client-facing marketing strategies instead of setting aside time to share our thoughts about writing with other writers. Why are we bothering reaching out to newbies in the field to offer our perspectives? Why do we opt to be part of a community?
Ego? Maybe for some. Not for me. I’ve been just as full of myself while sleeping on a buddy’s sun porch on a fast-leaking air mattress without a dollar to my name as I am when I’m dispensing gems of wisdom from an online platform. I may have an ego, but I’ve had it since I was wee and history has proven that it’s unrelated to anything I actually do.
Companionship? Maybe that’s a big motivator for people. It’s not really my thing, though. I’m not a misanthrope, but I’m close enough. I could handle solitary confinement for a year or two if it wasn’t for the fact I have two adorable tiny tots and a bad-ass wife. I’m not the kind who needs a large number of amigos to survive.
A Genuine Desire to Help Others? This one does apply to me–at least a little. I like the idea that some of my participation could actually benefit someone. I try to be helpful. I really do. However, I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to find a way to better the lives of all freelance writers in a meaningful way. Some people do. Not me.
Somehow, though, all of those reasons and some that I didn’t mention sort of combine to create this pull toward being meaningful and at least somewhat actively involved. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to put my finger on why I feel that way, though.
Last week, I really figured it out.
A series of wacky events, unforeseen expenses and a history of spending like I am a Rockefeller and my wife is a DuPont mixed with my traditionally poor approach to cash flow management. Of course, these bits of nastiness hit right as our planned vacation date with the non-refundable airline tickets approached. In other words, I needed some dough until a chunk of my A/R paid up. Fast.
Shaking the usual trees landed me a few great projects–alas, none will pay until next month. Even the oft-dreaded content mills weren’t going to get the cash turned around fast enough.
I decided to send out a few emails to a handful of special clients with good connections and to a few of those writers who comprise part of the “community”. I didn’t pull punches. I explained my temporary predicament with those folks because I trusted them and because I wanted them to appreciate just how serious I was about making something work. The results were fantastic.
One of my virtual amigos was kind enough to send out a series of emails to people in his social circle who might be able to take advantage of specific things I do that he does not. That worked.
Another writer–someone I’d paid for work in the past–was just as cool sitting on the other side of the table as she was when I was writing her a check. She kicked a nice gig in my direction and paid me in a hurry.
Another writer who’s part of the “community” helped me out, landing a rush project for me.
You get the idea. Thanks again, folks.
When I needed something, other members of the “community” made sure it was there for me.
It was almost like–gulp–having friends.
And really, that’s why we should be doing all of this stuff.
The social media and social marketing worlds are rapidly becoming a numbers game for many people. People are trying to build these “connections” that consist of little more than one automated tool agreeing to befriend another automated tool. Bob’s mannequin is agreeing to be “friends” with Sheila’s robot. It’s a drag. And, to tell you the truth, it’s pretty damned stupid.
The whole idea of networking, communicating, collaborating and sharing really only works when it’s a sincere person-to-person thing.
I have a few thousand Twitter followers. I could’ve broadcast an SOS to that list every hour on the hour for three days. Do you know what would’ve happened? The same handful of people I emailed would’ve probably been the only ones to respond.
I guess I’m extending an invitation with this post. It’s an invitation to operate on a more sincere level than others might sometimes use. It’s an invitation to provide something of value to others–to really make human contact. That’s not just because you’ll have someone to hit up when you confront an issue. It’s also because you’ll be able to help other people when they need it.
In the end, that’s how we all get by, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s a Lennon/McCartney Beatles song, but I think Joe did it better than anyone…
In a previous post I said I wasn’t too on board with the whole making a separate Facebook page for your blog (or pages for your many blogs as the case may be). However, after Facebook introduced “Like” vs. “Fan” I felt better about pages in general and finally created my very own blog page. Yikes.
Why the change of heart?
One was because of the “Like” issue – something about the term fan rubbed me the wrong way. Secondly, I thought it was time for a page because my blog’s page views have shot up and I’m writing there more often (i.e. I have way more links now). Plus, I wanted to secure my blog’s name before someone else did.
Mostly though, I created a dedicated Facebook page so I could separate myself from my topic. I write about environmental topics – which is my dream job. Back when I first started blogging I wanted to write about green issues all the time but often, in order to make a living, I didn’t have that kind of choice. I’d write about anything – computers, architecture, budgeting, bullies and more and that was fine, but really I would have rather been writing about green issues.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve managed to carve out a niche for myself by working hard and becoming much more well known in my topic field. Now all my gigs (minus two) are related to the environment and oddly sometimes I get sooooooooo tired of thinking about green issues. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE eco-issues and I know that I’m hyper lucky because I do get to write about a topic I adore day in and day out but honestly, I need a freaking break. Some days I don’t want to have to care about organics and water conservation and energy and greenwashing. I don’t really want to see my personal Facebook page peppered with green links – you know?
Making a page for my eco-links works out better for me in terms of sanity. I get a green break when I visit my own profile page.
Still there are cons though…
- Deb’s post on driving community away from your blog is something you should seriously consider before making a Facebook page.
- Creating a good Facebook page is a little time consuming IMO. I know not everyone agrees, but after managing Facebook pages for clients, I still think managing a page is work. Especially when you run into lame little glitches such as, how to “Like” another page as your page, not as your profile (frustrating). PS I figured that out with some help.
- It’s somewhat difficult to track if a Facebook page is successful. Yeah, you might have 20,000 fans but how does that translate to better traffic, sales, or other perks at your actual blog. I’m sure for some bigger companies the perks are obvious, but for a blog I think it’s harder to track those perks.
Being the hyper anal list-maker that I am, I researched making a successful page before I made mine. You should too. There are many helpful guides out there to help you create a kick-ass vs. mediocre Facebook page. Keep in mind though that your page doesn’t have to start out awesome, it will evolve over time and you should still be yourself. Following are some helpful links.
- How to set up a winning Facebook page
- 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Brand’s Facebook Presence – great help if you’re looking for info about how to size your Facebook page profile image
- How To Develop A Facebook Page That Attracts Millions of Fans – such a loaded lame title IMO, but this post does offer some excellent tips
- The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Facebook
Beyond reading some tip guides I checked out all my favorite pages looking for pros and cons. This is a great tactic when planning your own page because you already know which pages you visit and why. You shouldn’t copy other people’s pages, but gathering ideas is smart. Here are five pages I really like…
Freelance Writing Jobs – NO I was not bribed by Deb. Deb’s page is not flashy and there are no images (something I like in a page) but this is honestly the page at Facebook I visit the most. Why? Because Deb draws me in with fun questions and casual conversation. It’s always a fun page and offers me an awesome break in my day.
The Thrifty Mommy – money saving is a pet topic of mine so I already know a lot. That said I don’t visit this page for tips much BUT if you were a mom looking to learn some money saving tips you’d be all over this page. Karen not only updates frequently, but has a killer profile image that’s cute and attractive and also adds little perks for the community like coupons and recipe images.
Village Free School – this is the page for my son’s school and not a popular page at all. However, what it does well is build a sense of community among members who do have kids at the school and gives a nice sneak peak at what it would be like if your child did attend. There are frequently updated pictures and events and if you’ve got a small local business this is a good page to mimic. One thing I’d suggest – if you have a page like this I’d amp up the conversation; post little questions, like Deb does.
Tremendous News – I LOVE the Tremendous News blog and the Facebook page for said blog is equally as fun. Many of the questions offered up here make little to no sense and sometimes the owner of this blog is hands down rude but he’s always hilarious. This page makes me laugh and this guy gets pages of comments so he must be doing something right.
Local Harvest – this Facebook page isn’t all that interesting in terms of funny content or bling apps but what it does well is delivers what the community wants day in and day out. There’s no going off topic here. If you’re looking for up-to-date info on food news and safety, organics, local food programs and so on, you’re guaranteed to find it here. This is something to keep in mind. You want to offer what your specific community wants. Going off topic often is a little sketchy in terms of a news-minded site.
Of course you can also check out some really popular pages:
Now, will having a Facebook help me out or just give me more to do? Who knows. I know it’ll get those green links off my personal page. I’ll let it fly for a month or so then I’ll come back here and write an update to let you know how it’s going and if I’ve run into any issues.
PS of course, if you’re into green living you can join my page.
Tell me how your Facebook page is doing – OR are you considering starting one? Why?
I miss the pre-social media world sometimes, back then ignorance was bliss.
Communicating Back Then
Growing up in the 70’s meant no cell phones or Netbooks. We sent all our correspondences via snail mail and any phone calls came to the house or office. Most of us had one phone in our homes, but some of the more well off families had extensions upstairs, and even separate phones for the kids. No one ever called during dinner hours or after 9:00.
We received our news from newspapers, magazines or one of a half dozen television stations and always had to wait for the designated hours for updates. If there was an emergency, the news would break into our regularly scheduled programming but that was extremely rare. We weren’t always connected and didn’t feel the need to be. In 1977, I was 13 years old. If you had offered me a phone to take everywhere with me, I would have thought you were crazy. Why on earth would I need to call people that much? Yet now, at least where I live, most 13 year olds are connected via cell phone and email.
We had penpals. We wrote to them now and again, usually when our parents reminded us. We sent handwritten “thank you” cards and Christmas cards and everyone marveled at our good manners. We didn’t need to know what all our friends and relatives where doing all day, every day, and that suited us just fine, thank you very much. Today, we know which of our friends are at the airport, what our cousins are having for dinner and who is checking in at the supermarket. Though I’m very proud of being the Mayor of both Stop N’ Shop and Saladworks, I couldn’t give you one good reason why you even need to know I’ve been there.
When I asked my husband for a smart phone for Christmas I thought it would be kind of convenient to have for occasionally checking email or the odd Twitter update. Who knew it would be come a total extension of me? If you see me and I’m not checking Facebook or Gmail, there’s a good chance I’m about to. I went to a family reunion last fall and everyone under 50 sat in silence for about an hour as we checked our phones for updates. We finally interacted as we began befriending each other on Facebook.
You want to know the funniest thing about all this connectivity? All the social media people (including me) are insisting it’s all about the conversation. Yet we go to conferences and meet ups and sit at tables talking to people online instead of each other. We attend speaking engagements and tweet updates instead of concentrating on what is being said at the podium. In the real world talking while someone else is talking is considered rude. In the social media world, we’re updating people and building trust via conversation.
It’s not a secret that I love my Facebook and Twitter, and couldn’t live without blogging. I wonder though, are we going too far? Do you care that my dog chewed the couch or that my son hit a home run? How does it help my business for you to know we’re barbecuing over the weekend? There was a time we would never let anyone know where we lived or what we do when we’re offline, for fear of our safety. Now, there are whole social networks designed to track our every move.
I know we all use the various social networks and social media tools differently, and we’re all in charge of how much information we put out there. However, in our fun I hope we’re also being careful. Communication is cool and all, but there’s such a thing as too much information. It’s why you’ll never see me mention my husband or son’s name, and why the only places I check into on FourSquare aren’t located near my home.
I love my social media, but there’s something to be said about not be connected to every network. No one needs to know that much about someone else.
What do you think? Are we too connected?
Image via Brandon Eley
Just a quick heads up. Today, Facebook decided that “Like” is a better wording choice than “Become a Fan.” Interesting news because we JUST discussed this here; with me and others noting that, “The wording, “Fan” is off-putting.” In fact this wording is one major reason I haven’t felt compelled to create a separate page for any of my sites. Currently I only have a me page.
What Facebook says…
“Introducing the Like button – Starting today people will be able to connect with your Page by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.” We hope this action will feel much more lightweight, and that it will increase the number of connections made across the site.”
Facebook also noted that they hope this will improve user experience and promote consistency across the site, plus they believe this change offers a more standard way to connect with people, things and topics in which you are interested.
In any case this is good news if the prior wording was annoying you. I know I like the change. What do you think?
Darren had an interesting post up last month at Problogger; maybe you caught it – Dear FaceBook Friends, I’m De-Friending Most of You [It’s Not You, It’s Me]. The post was his public rational as to why soon he’d be deleting all his work contacts from his Facebook account. Darren’s not the only one doing this either. Lately I’ve seen many folks creating their own Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and other work-personalized social network accounts that allow them to specifically network with work pals and contacts vs. personal real-life friends and family.
Here’s an example; say your name is Bob and you have a blog called Fantasy Cakes. You might set up a Facebook page for Bob where you only friend actual brick and mortar pals and family. You’d set up another Facebook page for Fantasy Cakes where people can friend (or fan) you. You could do the same for Twitter, ThisNext, or any number of social networking sites. You keep your real-life pals on your name account and all work pals, PR contacts and other bloggers on the Fantasy Cake accounts.
Is this a good idea?
Personally, I think it’s the new hip idea, but as for it being a good one, well, that depends on many different factors – who you are, how well you’re know (or hope to be known), and how much free time you’ve got.
The pros of keeping your real-life separate from your work life:
- Your offline friends and family don’t get bushwhacked with a million work links that you’ve posted.
- Your online work pals and editors aren’t subjected to your offline friend’s off color or bizarre comments – you know we all have that one pal offline who can’t seem to figure out that they shouldn’t give away your weird secrets online.
- As Darren pointed out in his post, Facebook friend accounts have a limit. If you’re a popular online identity your work pals and contacts can quickly overrun your actual offline pals. It’s lame to not friend your dad because you’ve got too many work friends.
- It can look more professional if you have networking set up to reflect your work.
- It can help you brand your work. Fantasy Cakes can be it’s own brand vs. the Bob brand.
The cons of keeping your real-life separate from your work life:
- It’s time intensive – this is one of the major reasons why I don’t have many Jennifer accounts vs. work accounts. I don’t have the time. I already run a ton of Twitter, Facebook and other social network accounts for clients, along with my own. If I had to update loads of other accounts for my personal blogs I’d be 100% spent time wise. Sure you can set up instant feeds to save time, but know that it’s not enough to build a following. For example, you could Twitter feed all your personal blogs, but you won’t get as many follows if you’re not on there interacting at least some of the time.
- It seems sort of presumptuous and a little annoying. Lately because everyone I know is setting up new work related accounts I get a ton of emails saying, “You should become a fan of Bob’s Fantasy Cakes!” Frankly, it’s not that important to me to fan everyone. Maybe it’s the wording, “Fan” that’s off-putting or maybe it’s because I don’t have fan pages of my own so all these accounts end up on my Jennifer page or maybe it’s that I don’t want to wade through more links right now. In any case, I’m just not into fanning people’s sites unless I REALLY like them.
- It’s confusing to offline friends. While social networking is old hat if you’re a blogger, your family and even some co-workers who aren’t as online savvy may not get it. You’ve got your Bob page, your Fantasy Cakes page, and if you launch another blog, that page. It can get confusing for people. Which page do they leave comments on, where’s your contact info for work vs. real-life, and aren’t you the same person?
- It’s a lot of work. Creating a popular Facebook fan page, or brand page is much more work than just placing or feeding links. Building a fan page or setting up a blog on Twitter does not mean people will simply come in hordes. Promotion of this sort is practically a job in itself which brings us back to the time issue.
Who should set up separate accounts…
I don’t think everyone should. If you’re extremely popular, can hire social networking help (like a CM), or are very private with your personal life then yeah, it’s likely a good idea to keep accounts separate. If you’re just doing it to gain quick traffic (um, no) or because you read some post that says it’s a great idea, I’d think carefully about it, because it’ll require a lot of time and effort. If you don’t put that time and effort in, you’ve just created one more mess of an area that people have to wade through online.
One more thing to consider is how many of your real-life pals are actually on social networking. I have offline friends and family who are on Facebook, but not enough to make me want separate pages for my work related stuff. My offline pals just don’t use Facebook as much as my work friends. I have ZERO offline family members on Twitter. My family, and actually many of my offline friends are just not into social networking – most (read 99%) don’t even read my blogs. We hang in person or talk on the phone, but they’re just not online often so making separate pages to make them more comfortable seems excessive.
If you do keep your accounts merged…
Keep it clean. Be extra diligent about deleting comments or photos that might make you look bad. I have one real life pal who will post that lame picture of you when you had one too many at the Halloween party or flipped someone off – you DO NOT want co-workers seeing this stuff.
What, in your opinion, are the pros and cons of setting up separate social networking accounts for family vs. work?
Freelance writing clients are smart cookies. Most of them know when they’re being conned or lied to. In today’s public and open world of freelancing, you can’t call in sick and head to the beach. You can’t claim an aunt died when you really just want a few days off. If you’re going to lie to your clients, keep in mind that in most cases they’ll find out.
Don’t Invite Clients to View Your Personal Details if You’re Going to Be Dishonest
As freelance writers we work hard, but we still maintain flexible schedules. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to take time off any time we like. Still, sometimes opportunities present themselves or we find ourselves not wanting or not able to work while still being on deadline. Instead of planning ahead or rearranging their schedules, some freelancers will make up little fibs about not delivering to clients as promised. Back in the day, clients would be none the wiser unless they ran into their writers in an elevator or something. Nowadays, it’s easy to catch on.
If a writer claims to be too sick to work yet talks often on Twitter and Facebook about having lunch with the girls or going to a party that night, the client will find out if he or she is a follower in said networks. If you’re photographed being in one place while begging out of another place, and said image appears on a popular blog or website, your client is sure to find out about it. If you publicly do or say something and others talk about it, your clients could find out.
Today’s freelance writers are living very public lives, even if they don’t want to be public people. Now, there are steps you can take to prevent private details from becoming public, but when it comes to your business honesty is always the best policy. Also, if writers don’t want their clients to find out what they’re doing during their down time, it’s best to either create a separate business account on the social networks, or don’t allow or invite clients to participate in private Facebook discussions.
How to Freelance Writers Can Be Flexible and Honest at the Same Time
So you’re working, and a friend calls and asks if you want to take a day off and go shopping. You’re on deadline and really can’t go, but the idea of going is so appealing and distracting you want to blow off the deadline anyway. Now you’ll have to make some excuses to your client.
Or how about this one:
You have several clients. Some are more lucrative than others. As a result the “big” clients get all your attention while the smaller clients get the shaft. You often tell the people you work for your child is sick or you’re having school emergencies but discuss online how busy you are with other client projects. Eventually the shafted clients come to realize this and end the relationship.
And what about:
You’re busy. You’re so busy you can’t possible keep up with all the work. You don’t want to give up your clients because you need the money, but you’re increasingly less reliable. You have constant excuses and your client is getting frustrated.
What’s a better way to handle these scenarios?
- Don’t leave deadlines to the last minute: Being busy is cool and all, but when you’re so swamped each bit of writing is turned in at the very last minute, you’re never going to have any time for fun. Assess your client situation and your schedule to see how you can work it so that your projects are all ahead of your deadlines. This will allow for better flexibility and if you want to blow off work for a day you’re not going to lose your client.
- Don’t go shopping: Seriously. Flexibility rocks and all, but if you’re going to keep blowing off clients in favor of fun things to do, you have no business freelancing anyway.
- Be flexible with your flexibility: Blowing off work in favor of a fun day is cool and all, but who says you have to blow anything off? Instead of dropping everything and running off with your BFFs, ask if you can meet in a few hours after you complete deadlines. Or leave early. Attend whatever it is you want to attend but leave yourself enough time to come back and complete the work in time to save the gig. No one says you have to miss deadlines in order to do fun things anyway.
- Plan ahead: Spontaneity is fun and all, but sometimes you have to plan your fun. Suggest to your friend, “I really do want to take a day to go shopping but I’m on deadline today, can we do it Friday?” You can also set aside a specific time each week to do a non-writing related activity and plan your schedule accordingly.
- Don’t talk about what you’re doing if you’re gong to lie to people: A day at the beach is fun and all, but if you’re going to screw off on a project and make a lame excuse, don’t post photos to your Facebook if your client has access to your account. Don’t Tweet. Don’t Foursquare. Don’t do it.
- Don’t deliver what you can’t promise: Having lots of clients is lucrative and all, but blowing off one client in favor of another is only going to mean you’re going to lose a client. If you can’t do the work be honest with your clients. Let them hire someone who is more into their projects and truly has their best interests at heart.
What to Do if Your Client Catches You in a Lie
So…you decide to blow off work in favor of a day at the beach but you have a project that absolutely must go to a client TODAY. You jot a brief note explaining some vague family emergency, send it off to your client and rush off. You check in at the beach using FourSquare and Tweet about a sandcastle contest. You even post images and updates on Facebook. Your client sees some of your activity and calls you on it. What do you do?
That’s it. No explanation necessary. Apologize. Let your freelance writing client know you were unprofessional. You might also offer a discount or freebie for blowing the deadline, but you have no choice but to say your sorry. Don’t lie again or make up lame excuses to cover for your original lame excuses, because now you breached the trust factor. If your client doesn’t dump you might, try offering some sort of reparation. Chances are though, that the damage is already done.
Apologize and use as a lesson learned.
Sometimes writers take advantage of “nice” clients because they don’t complain or they’re very understanding when deadlines are missed. After the first few times this happens it becomes apparent the writer has more important or interesting priorities and the freelance writing client gets a bit frustrated. Choose your clients wisely. If you find yourself lying to them or making constant excuses, it’s probably time for one of you to move on.
Have you ever lied to a client? What the circumstances? Were you ever caught in a lie?
Perhaps the most daunting aspect of freelance writing is in finding interview subjects. Many writers are shy or have no idea how to find folks to interview. The thing is, it’s a lot easier than they think. Everyone has something to sell or promote and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says “no.” Still, unless you have a specific person in mind you might be a little overwhelmed or unsure of the possibilities. Again, finding interview subjects is easy….if you know where to look.
Who to Interview?
Unless you have a specific person in mind, you might be unsure of who to interview. However, it’s as simple as researching your topic. Who are the experts and authorities in this field? Who is at the top of the search engines and best seller lists? Whose personal philosophy matches your own or who can provide an opposing point of view to a controversial topic?
You might also consider who has the most to promote. For example, authors with new releases or actors on press junkets are required to give interviews and help promote.. Bloggers who release new products and ebooks will want to talk about them. Anyone who releases products and services have to promote in order to make sales. Find these people and interview them.
Finding Interview Subjects in Your Favorite Places
I’m guessing that you want to interview prominent people in your chosen niche or that you’re under assignment to interview an expert for an article you’re writing. The more defined the niche, the easier interview subjects are so easy to find. For example, do you notice how the names of so many freelance writers sound familiar even though you may not have read anything they wrote? That’s because they all congregate at the freelance writing forums, job boards and various freelance writing blogs. Basically, it’s a matter of finding their favorite watering holes and pulling up a barstool.
Find your interview subject’s favorite haunts and reach out. Chat and build a relationship. Ask questions. When you’re comfortable with each other, ask if he would like to take part in an interview. Very few people say no.
Read Any good books lately?
My first couple of interview subjects were authors. I was writing on personal finance topics at the time and searched Amazon looking for people who authored books on my topics. Once I found an author I searched for contact information. If I could find an email address or website, I wrote to the author directly. If I couldn’t find the contact info I contacted the publishing house. Most publishing companies have information on their websites regarding interview requests, all you have to do is fill out a form and wait. The problem is, sometimes it takes months to hear back. I always prefer contacting the potential interview subject directly. Now, Twitter wasn’t around back then, but nowadays many authors have Twitter accounts. If so, try to reach out to them that way.
Here’s an anecdote for you, when I worked for BlogTalkRadio, one of our hosts landed an interview with Jimmy Fallon after talking with him on Twitter, so you never know.
H.A.R.O and ProfNet
Help a Reporter Out and ProfNet are two awesome tools for finding interview subjects. Both are similar in that you submit a request for interviews and if it’s approved, your request will be blasted to publicists, experts, bloggers and more. H.A.R.O sends thrice daily updates listing interview requests which means it reaches more people. ProfNet requires a fee of a couple of thousand dollars for professionals to subscribe to its service. Only those who pay for ProfNet will receive interview requests. Still, it doesn’t hurt to put your request for interviews on both channels.
More places to find interview subjects
- Search the Internet or your phone directory to find local experts such as accountants or attorneys and arrange for a phone interview or to meet face to face over coffee.
- Find experts at the blogs and social networks relating to your topic.
- Ask friends and neighbors.
- Join local networking groups.
- Attend conferences.
What to Say to a Potential Interview Subject
If you want to interview someone for a blog post or article, simply ask. Send a nice note explaining who you are and what you are writing. Tell the potential interview subject you’d really love to tap her brain and ask if you can ask a few questions. It’s very rare that you’ll get a “no.”
Shy writers like the email interview but phone interviews or face to face interviews allow for a more in depth piece. Offer your subjects the option. Picking up the phone may take your out of your comfort zone, but it can also make for a better interview. If it’s your subject’s preference, take a deep breath and make the call.
In our next post in this series, we’ll discuss questions to ask your interview subjects.
What’s in it For Them?
When requesting an interview, make sure you also outline what is in it for your subject. Let him know you’ll give him some time to plug his book or website and that you’ll offer links. Most interviews are used as marketing tools and your subject will be happy to talk in exchange for for the publicity. You might have to spill a few details about the place the interview will run. If it’s a household name magazine, you won’t have to do much selling. For blogs and websites you may have to recite stats and community demographic details.
Keeping it Real
You’ll find most potential interview subjects are very approachable. Be youself, be honest and be willing and the rest will fall into place.
Where do you find interview subjects?