13 Questions Freelance Writers Need to ask New Clients

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I love working as a freelancer. My job is varied and I get to work with lots of different people from a range of industries. I’ve worked with property developers, plumbers, beauticians, marketing agencies and most recently a groundwater company. I inevitably end up learning quite a bit about the most random things.

I sometimes get asked how I can write about so many different types of industries when I don’t specialise in any of them (with the exception of marketing).

Research

I’m naturally inquisitive (OK nosey) and this helps me. Before I even attempt to write copy for a client, I do a lot of research. I immerse myself in the subject and find out as much as I can.

I also ask a lot of questions. In order to write copy that really helps to sell and market a business, I always try to find out the answers to these vital questions:

Background Info. This information helps me to really get to grips with what the business does on a day to day basis and essentially, understand the main points of difference from competitors.

1. How old is the business?

2. Who formed the company and why?

3.  How many people work for you?

4.  Do you have other offices / sites? Where?

5.  In plain English – What does your company actually do?

6.  Who are your major competitors and how are you different?

7.  What are your Unique Selling Points?

Customers and Target Audience. The main job of a marketing copywriter is to appeal to customers and get them to take action. So it is essential to understand who the customers are and how to appeal to them. This will help me understand the tone I should be using in the copy too.

8. Who exactly are your customers? What are their demographics? Are there different markets e.g. business and end user? Contractors and commercial?

9.What would you say are the biggest problems facing your audience?

10. How does your company help your customers’ problems I.E What benefit does your company bring them?

11. What are your core values that you want me to convey about your business? E.G. Professional? Friendly? Quirky?

Goals for The Project

12. What action do you want your customer to take? I.E. Do you want them to buy? Sign up to an email?

13. What are your core metrics for measuring a success of a project? E.G. Increase in sales? Increase in visitors to a website? Increase in customer interaction?

I could go on! There are more questions that I could add that freelancers need to ask that relate to payment and working conditions but ultimately these 13 questions all really help me to get under the skin of the client and help me to understand and ultimately write for their customers better.

Are you a copywriter? Are there any other vital questions that I’ve missed from my list?

When Hero-Worship Turns Sinister

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Can hero-worship ever be healthy?

We all have people in the public eye that we admire and damn it, perhaps even want to BE. Over the years the objects of my admiration have ranged from Wonder Woman to Kate Bush to more recently authors Maggie O’Farrell and Kate Atkinson. But what happens when the object of our admiration turns into something a bit darker? Something verging on obsession?

Other Freelancers

As a freelance copywriter, I turned to Twitter about a year ago to find some other like-minded people. It has been good to find so many women in similar situations that are mums like me trying to juggle parenting with work. I was immediately entranced by one of these ladies. She had a range of high profile clients, an inspiring and well-written blog and in short seemed to be successful at everything she turned her hand to. I started following her on all forms of social media and got a unique insight into her life. I thought about her a lot. I was happy for her success and ever so slightly envious. I wanted what she had and, yes, I suppose at times, I even wanted to be her.

I asked her some questions about her business and was delighted when she replied. It wasn’t quite like receiving a reply from Kate Bush, but it wasn’t too far from it. When I found myself commenting on a post that she’d shared about her lunch, I realised that things had gone a bit too far. I was turning into a stalker and I needed to get my own life back. I unfollowed her on a few social media streams and took a step back.

I still keep an eye on her and what she’s up to (a new book deal beckons!) but my hero-worship is more in check now.

Not So Bad Being Me

I’ve learnt that no matter what you do in terms of work or personal life, there will always be people who are better. Whilst it’s healthy to have ambition and aspire to them, it’s important to not lose focus on who you are and what you are doing. We are all unique and we need to do whatever it is we do in our own individual style.

Whilst I know it’s natural to assume that the grass is always greener, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing a job I love that fits in very well around my family life and it’s growing. Maybe one day I’ll get to the giddy heights of similar successes to my girl crush, but in the meantime, it’s not so bad being me. Any success I have now will be all the sweeter for doing it my way.

I’d love to know if you admire or hero-worship anybody and if it’s a healthy admiration or bordering on obsession?

Never Knowingly Undersold

Don't undervalue yourself as a freelancer

About a week ago, I lost out on a fair sized freelancing job because I undersold myself.  I was talking to a prospective client on the phone and when the subject of my costs came up, I gave an approximate figure. There was a silence from the other end. This I’ve come to learn is the first rule of valuing yourself: Hold firm! Don’t fill the silence! But as the seconds ticked on, I felt the need to impress and show my efficiency so I uttered the fateful words “Of course, I may even be able to do the work in less time and therefore my price would be X.”

Stupidly, I’d gone lower when the client was in fact expecting a higher price! The client in this case was fortunately completely honest and told me the price he would usually look to pay. It’s perhaps no coincidence that I didn’t win that work. By undervaluing myself I probably didn’t install much confidence that I could do the job to a decent standard. Luckily for me, he has taken me on for another project.

Turning Work Down

On a similar note, I was recently offered two regular freelancing jobs. Both blog writing for two very different clients. I thought long and hard about them before turning them both down. Why? Because it would have been a fair amount of work, commitment and in one of the cases – research into a subject matter that I didn’t know about, for not very much pay. If it was a one off job, I probably would have done it, but I didn’t want to be tied into work that takes up a lot of time for when other projects hopefully start to come in.

It’s all about getting the balance right and this is yet another tricky element of the freelancing world; weighing up whether you can afford to take on the work or afford to turn it down. There’s a risk of not knowing what’s around the next corner, but I believe you’ve got to give yourself a certain value. You’ve got to place a value on yourself and your time.

A Life Lesson

Surely the principle of valuing yourself isn’t just a rule for freelancing, but life in general too? Whether you’re thinking about finding a new full-time job, or even when meeting a new friend, a new partner or buying a new house. The notion still applies even if we aren’t fully aware of it. How much do we want this? How much time and effort are we prepared to put in with it? What will you get from it in the long term? How much do you value yourself?

The Moral of The Story

There are several lessons and I’m still getting to grips with them:

  • Know your self-worth. In terms of freelancing this means having a clear understanding in your head of your rate of pay. Whether it’s an hourly, daily or project rate.
  • There is probably more to a project than meets the eye. A brief chat with a client on the phone will only convey so much. Once you get going with a task there is likely to be more work to do such as research, admin and meetings. You need to think about these extra tasks before committing yourself and a price to a client.
  •  Think about the long term and what you want. A regular freelancing gig may initially seem great, but if it’s not paying well it may later become a burden and a cross to bear.

What do you think? Freelancers do you agree with me? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly World of Freelancing

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I knew when I started freelance writing that there would be some good and bad points. Some of these have become clearer to me over the past few months and let’s just say I was completely unprepared for the ugly!

The Good

  • I couldn’t contemplate going back to my full-time job along with a heavy commute after the birth of my first daughter, so flexibility for me is the main “good” point about freelancing. I can work my hours completely around my children. I can (and often do) work many evenings just so that I can enjoy the benefits of looking after my children whilst working too.
  •  There is no commuting for me anymore. I can work at whatever time I choose and wherever I like (usually my kitchen table).
  • I love the fact that I work for myself. Whatever I put in, I get out. All the money I earn is completely down to me. I’m no longer lining the pockets for a boss because I am the boss!

The Bad

  • The biggest ‘bad’ of freelancing has to be not knowing what the next project will be and where the next payment is coming from. It can be rewarding working for yourself, but it also takes hard work and dedication in finding the next project. I had no idea when I started out about the amount of time I would need to spend on promoting myself. As well as setting up a website and pushing myself on social media, I generally need to be persistent and get into people’s faces. If I’m not working, I’m knocking on doors and quite often getting turned away. Finding work is in itself hard work.
  •  As a freelancer, you never switch off. If I had a full or even part-time job I would work my set hours, come home and cook dinner for my family. Now I find that if I’m not actually working, then I’m thinking about working. And if I’m not thinking about working, I’m thinking about how I can promote myself more in order to get more work.

The Ugly

  • Lo and behold there have been some occasions when the work and the children cross paths. And it isn’t pretty. This usually happens when I have to speak on the phone. I was once talking to a new client when my eldest daughter decided this was the moment to have a melt-down about needing to “do a poo right now!” The client calmly said “I can tell this isn’t a good time, shall I call back?” Which he luckily did but not before I’d beaten myself up about appearing unprofessional and losing a potential client.

Then there was the time when my youngest daughter woke up unusually early from her nap whilst I was on a scheduled conference call and proceeded to scream the house down until I’d brought her downstairs… You just don’t get this kind of thing in the office.

For me, the ‘good’ of freelancing still outweighs the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. What do you think? If you’re a freelancer have you encountered any more good, bad or ugly factors that I haven’t mentioned? If you’re a working parent does freelancing have any appeal or would you rather stick to a regular paid job with regular hours? I’d love to hear from you.

Why Self Promotion is Critical

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I have a confession to make. I’ve been freelancing for over two years now and I’ve been lucky enough to have been very busy with a constant flow of work. But in the midst of all that hard work writing copy and marketing other businesses, I’ve managed to neglect the promotion of my own business.

It’s such a ridiculous and cardinal sin of a marketer – to disregard your own promotion. I’ve talked to many clients about the importance of having a regularly updated blog and written their blogs for them, but yet I’ve not taken the time to write my own. I suppose my only excuse is that I naively felt that I didn’t need to do it as I was so busy.

A lesson that I’ve quickly had to learn in the world of freelancing is that nothing remains constant. There are times when it can be incredibly busy and you wonder how you’re going to cope. Then it will suddenly change and you’re left scratching around for work. This is probably true of many small business owners, but one thing that I’ve learnt is that to remain competitive, you have to spend a huge percentage of your time promoting yourself.

The Art of Self Promotion

As an owner of a small business, there’s no room for shyness or being self-effacing. If you don’t promote yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. It’s essential to keep reminding others what you do and why or risk losing out to the competition. You know your business best and therefore you’re the most able person to promote yourself, but if you simply don’t have time to keep on top of it, let others help you.

Social Media

Consumers expect to be able to see you and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s also essential. Twitter is a great way to network to find new clients or prospects who might be interested in your product or services. It’s also a great way to find like-minded people to learn from. If your business is creative and lends itself to products which are more visual – make use of the other social media tools like Instagram and Pinterest.

Blogs

Blogs let others know what you’re doing. They can be more personal and let customers know more about your personality and your thoughts on a subject. They not only promote you and your business, but they act as a retention method to keep your customers coming back to find out more. They also drive traffic to your website – if somebody stumbles upon a blog post on a Google search and they like what they read they will be more likely to click through to your website and will be a step closer to making a sale or enquiry. Finally, regularly updated blogs are loved by the search engines such as Google which means your website will gradually rank higher.

PR

Nothing beats a bit of self-promotion like an article in a magazine or newspaper, an interview on radio or some favourable write up online. The key to PR is finding a hook which will interest the different media and their respective followers / readers. So perhaps you’re launching a new product that is completely different to anything else in the market. Or maybe your business is approaching a landmark anniversary. There are plenty of things that can act as a good hook, it just needs some thought and some dedication to contact the relevant media.

So what have I learnt? Never assume that work will remain constant or that business will continue to boom. You need to spend a large percentage of your time promoting yourself. In doing so you’ll be seen as a key player and remain competitive. Self-promotion takes time and dedication and sometimes it can be a chore, but in this cut-throat world of business, it’s absolutely vital.

Perhaps you’re struggling with the art of self-promotion or you don’t trust your writing skills to maintain a blog? Maybe you’re running out of things to say on social media or you’re unsure about contacting the press. Get in touch and I’ll gladly give you some pointers.