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International Freelancers Day: 7 Inspiring Lessons I Learned

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This past weekend, I attended the International Freelancers Day Online Conference! I can’t say I have ever seen anything quite like it!

Featuring 25 influential speakers, the free conference brought together over 1700 freelancers from all over the world! There is no way to summarize the plethora of wisdom that was so freely shared.

However, what I would love to share with you are the key nuggets that inspired me and renewed my energy for the freelance lifestyle:

  • Have patience (David Garland, Risetothetop.com) – Anything that’s worth the effort takes time – your brand, your blog and your business. Don’t give up too quickly. Work relentlessly but give yourself time to try new things, make mistakes, learn from them, and become better!
  • Serving is the new selling (Ann Handley,  MarketingProfs) – Go out of your way for people by freely sharing your knowledge, skills and resources without expecting anything in return. They won’t forget. A time will come when they will reciprocate – and you never know how!
  • Become an indispensable resource to others (Ed Gandia, The Wealthy Freelancer) – If your client needs you to perform a specific task, go above and beyond and do something extra and unexpected for them. It’s an investment. You will quickly become their ‘go-to’ resource because you make life easier for them. What’s more, they will happily refer you to their friends and your good reputation will grow!
  • Do something unexpected/different (Ann Handley) – Try something different to promote your brand! It might mean getting out of your comfort zone and doing something totally brand new (such as WebTV – at least for me). That ‘different’ thing that you  try might be the best thing that ever happened to your brand!
  • Be committed, be consistent (Ann Handley) – As time passes, what was once fresh and exciting becomes a chore. That’s when it is critical to show up, every day, every time, without fail. If you blog, blog consistently and your audience will see that you’re reliable and trustworthy. Your readership,  subscriptions and eventually your paying clients will increase, simply because of your perseverance!
  • Say “Thank You” (Jason Womack, Youtube.com/JasonWomack) – It really is as simple as it sounds. A hand-written thank you card is a lost art. And what it does, is that it tells someone, “I am thinking about you, and I appreciate you.” This simple act of gratitude will refresh your relationships with others and eventually lead to loyal, happy customers!
  • Know Your Vision (Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert) – Know where you’re going with your brand, blog or business. Is your blog a vehicle to make money, raise brand awareness or establish thought leadership in your niche? Is your business targeting a local market or a national/international market? Knowing the answers to these questions will determine how you promote yourself and the kind of connections that you make.

Unfortunately, I missed a lot of sessions and will have to wait for their re-runs. Did you attend the conference? What were some of the most profound lessons that you learned?

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freelance

How to Get Writing Gigs On Twitter

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Whether you’re a part-time freelancer, full time web content writer or professional blogger, you’re always looking for new writing opportunities. As a writer, you’re a part of a large community of organizations, fellow curators and social media enthusiasts that need your talents.

There are a number of ways to find writing gigs via Twitter, whether for freelance or staffed employment, and I’m willing to bet that you haven’t been using them to their full extent:

Gig-seeking via Twitter

This social media platform, while known for quick interactions and short-worded engagement, is perfect for the gig-seeking writer.

“There is a lot of latent value in Twitter as a business network. You’ve just got to know how to approach connections and build engagement in your followers.” – Mediabistro.com

About Me Blurb

The first place to start optimizing on Twitter is your own profile. Every account has a space at the top that I’m calling your “About me blurb.” This is the one opportunity you have to market yourself, your talents, etc. Make sure that this space is enticing and includes key-words.

  • What you do: Are you a freelance writer, professional blogger, or full-time web content curator?
  • Your title: Are you the founder, owner, author, or CEO of anything? This gives you instant credibility.
  • What you want: If you are looking for freelance work, say it. Looking to be a full-time writer, well give it a go.
  • Call to action: How can someone get in touch with you? Twitter, email? Make sure you state that clearly.

Follow the Right People

They key to making this work is being connected to the right people. There is a certain amount of effort that will initially go into this. However, it is an on-going project to follow, engage and connect with new people that can become a great networking asset.

  • Your reach connections: What are some organizations that you could only dream of writing for? Get connected right away. You never know who handles their Twitter account or what might spark their interest.
  • Search it out: If you’re connected to any groups on LinkedIn, follow several blogs, or are heavily involved in social media, then you know that almost everyone has a Twitter account. So be sure to follow people that you think have something to offer – whether it’s advice, jobs, whatever.
  • Who you’ve worked with: Always follow and engage with editors or professionals that you have worked with in the past. Following them is just another way to get back in touch or re-connect for more opportunities down the line.

Get Out There and Ask

In an ideal world, you would always be approached with writing opportunities. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. Sometimes it takes being proactive and advocating for yourself to get something in the writing funnel. Make time to engage.

  • Simply stated: Just go ahead and say it, what are you looking for?
  • Direct message: Another option is to direct message a business/company/person you’d like to work or write for.
  • Mention (@): You can publicly reach out for opportunities. Keep it casual, friendly, and to the point. This can be seen by other writing connections which could lead to another opportunity you weren’t planning to have.
  • Lists: Twitter has a great tool called, “lists.” Here you can create a list of all the writing connections you’ve made on Twitter, and simply send writing specific tweets in bulk.

Key Takeaway

Using Twitter as a networking tool is a great opportunity for any a writer. Even as a full-time employee, you’re always looking for new opportunities and more writing experience. Start engaging and take initiative. You never know where that road might lead!

Over to you: Have you used Twitter to find any gigs – writing or otherwise? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

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book/product review

Book Review: The Wealthy Freelancer

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Wealthy‘ and ‘freelancer‘ are not words that I would use together in the same sentence. There’s  an incredulous and audacious element about them that makes you want to dismiss a book with such a title.

But it is precisely the audacity of the title that stirred my curiosity. And so after an internal struggle that lasted about a month, I picked up the book in October and didn’t put it down until I read the last page.

The book is written by three successful freelancers and marketing experts. They are Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia. While the authors are copy writers by trade, the strategies that they illustrate in the book are highly relevant and applicable to practically all consulting practices and freelance professionals.

Here is a comprehensive review of The Wealthy Freelancer:

Authors’ purpose:

The purpose of this book is to help freelancers or those considering freelancing to build a successful business based on the ‘secrets’ that the authors have personally tried, tested and proved.

Given the economic realities of our time, the authors believe that the concept of ‘work’ is changing dramatically. They believe that as organizations struggle financially, job insecurity is mounting, people are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs, and the freelancing model is emerging as a serious alternative for both employers and employees.

What to expect:

The book begins with a comprehensive definition of what it means to be a ‘wealthy freelancer’. What follows thereafter are 12 chapters that give away the secrets of creating a successful freelance business. Here’s a summary of my favorite chapters.

Secret 1: Master the Mental Game

Freelancers are cautioned that they will encounter huge challenges in their new freelance business. The chapter shows them how to adapt the right mental attitude when this happens, and how to set strong goals that will help keep them focused when things get tough.

Secret 2: Simplify the Process of Getting Clients

The authors introduce a strategy that helps freelancers to obtain more and better clients. In doing so, they also clear up commonly confused terms such as prospect, lead and opportunity. Towards the end of the chapter, this strategy is also repackaged as a trouble-shooting guide that shows you what to do when things go wrong.

Secret 3: Creating Your Amazing Buzz Piece

Definitely my favorite chapter – the authors explain the idea behind a buzz piece and how fundamental it is to shaping the perception that others have of your business. I like that they include a real-life example of what a buzz piece should look like. The greatest value  in this chapter is that it illustrates exactly how to use the buzz piece once you have created it. And I think the simplicity of this concept is probably what makes it so powerful in the first place.

Secret 4: Employ High-Impact Prospecting Tactics

I found this chapter to be particularly useful because it demonstrates how to tap into your existing network (both off and on-line) to extract the highest quality prospects for your business. The funny thing is, most of us already employ some of these tactics but the authors skillfully show how to refine your efforts and go deeper into the prospecting exercise.

Secret 6: Nurture Prospects Perpetually

If I were starting over I would probably read this chapter first, and I’ll tell you why. So many of us have made the costly mistake of giving up too soon on prospects who did not appear to be interested at the time. I love that this chapter wisely instructs freelancers to be patient and to prepare a plan of action. The authors illustrate how to skillfully nurture the ‘not today’ group of prospects and thereby increase the chances that they will one day become strong leads. I believe this chapter is a powerful resource not just for freelancers but for every business owner in any industry.

Secret 11: Create Alternative Streams of Income

The whole idea of freelancing is liberating but limiting at the same time. That’s because when you’re not working on your freelance business, you’re not getting paid. This chapter is resourceful in that it teaches freelance entrepreneurs how to exploit other income sources and thereby earn money even when they’re not actively working. An even more liberating concept.

Personal Impression

The book is very logical and well organized. Each chapter is complete enough to stand alone as its own comprehensive resource. Yet the flow of ideas and the development of each strategy is smooth and coherent and allows the reader to get involved and drink deeply from the wells of wisdom.

I like that the introduction of the book provides an interactive activity sheet through which readers partake in the brainstorming process. I would have liked to see more of that in subsequent chapters.

Nevertheless even without that level of activity, the book is very powerful in that it helped me to abandon previously held mistaken ideas. For example, the pricing strategy in chapter 7 was an eye-opener that helped me to realize that I’ve been short-changing myself by charging hourly rates instead of project rates.

Another important thing that the book did for me was to reinforce the idea that freelancing was the right choice for me. When I started out as a freelancer, I made some really big mistakes without even realizing that they were mistakes! At times I second guessed myself. After reading this book, I realized that even the authors made mistakes, and they learned from them. And that’s why they’re experts today.

For that reason, I believe the book has achieved its goal which is to guide freelancers in building strategies that will help them become more successful in their work.

Having said all that, I would hope that anyone who wants to take their consulting or freelance business seriously would pick up a copy of this book at Amazon. I would also hope that anyone who has already read this book would vote for it at the 3rd Annual Reader’s Choice ‘Small Business Book Awards for 2010’ that ends on December 15th.

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freelance

How To Market Your Value Not Your Skills

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Skills are a dime a dozen. Clients want value. They want to know what benefits you bring to the table when they hire you.

Unfortunately some professionals (especially writers) tend to be rather subtle in the way they market themselves. They do not proactively demonstrate value to clients. They suppose that their expertise will magically translate into multiple offers of exciting income-generating projects.

Nothing is further from the truth. It is highly presumptuous to expect that work will find you based on your skills, or because you dabble with social media, a little networking, and some article marketing.

There are powerful ways to market your value without diminishing your more diplomatic side (if indeed diplomacy is the issue). Here are some suggestions:

  • Offer a more complete package of solutions: By researching a client’s website and marketing material, asking the right questions and listening to their concerns, writers will discover that a client has more needs than they initially let on. This presents an opportunity to offer more value in terms of meeting all those needs and demonstrates to clients that you are a ‘one-stop-shop’ solution provider.
  • Offer complementary services: Closely tied to the first point is being able to offer services that are tied to your solution but not specifically your specialty. Perhaps a client needs a brochure for a new product launch. You can offer to bring in a designer who will work with you to create a compelling and visually appealing marketing communication piece. This strategy also gives you the opportunity to mark up your price for the added value that you’re bringing to the table.
  • Offer training services: Some clients want you to teach them stuff, and they’ll ask. Others may not ask you directly but again, by doing a little research you might discover that they need training in a subject- area for which you happen to be an expert. Write a proposal and present it to the Marketing Manager. A lot of organizations have training budgets which are relatively under-used. This is not only an extra source of income for you but it establishes your value as a subject matter expert and thought-leader in your niche.
  • Sell information: This is not the easiest, but is probably the most effective way to demonstrate value to clients. When you write and publish a book (or e-book), a special report, or a ‘How To’ tutorial, you immediately earn the title ‘author’. And the funny thing is, whether or not your clients have read the book, there’s an immediate transfer of ‘status’ and respect that comes with the territory.
  • Outsource mundane tasks: By getting rid of repetitive and mundane tasks, you will have more time to devote to highly skilled and creative projects that bring in more money and provide more value to your clients. Tasks such as book-keeping, proof-reading and administrative work may be outsourced to those who can perform them faster and cheaper.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and there are dozens of other ways to demonstrate value in your services. What methods have worked for you?

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