copywriting, digital copywriting, editing, freelancing, invoicing, Uncategorized

Billing when freelancing – overcoming the awkwardness

The decision to become a freelance writer was one of the best I’ve made (along with agreeing to marry my husband and making my most excellent child). It’s provided me with freedom, independence, autonomy and most importantly the power to choose with whom I work. Gone are the days of fighting for recognition, negotiating workplace bullies and pandering to other people’s expectations of what a workday looks like. The added bonus? I get to hang out with my kid a couple of days a week, something I feel extraordinarily lucky to do.

For the past four years, I have been lucky (and maybe a little talented) enough to build a comfortable part time business and worked with some pretty fantastic people to boot. While my business grows, and I consider how to elevate it to the next level I have been reflecting on some of the challenges I faced. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love what I do, there have been challenges. The most salient of which continues to cast a shadow over me. A shadow I fight instincts to overcome.

What is this shadow, you ask? Getting paid. Yup! I have always found the whole process overwhelming and I wish I had someone to give me some tips.

money-in-purse-1237221

First things first – what do I charge?

As I have come to understand, there are countless reasons a contractor might amend their rate card. Whether it be industry, not-for-profit status, offering a package or even throwing in the occasional ‘mate’s rates’, the factors are plenty. As a consequence, not many contractors and freelancers will publish their rates.

As a newbie to freelancing, or even just freelancing to a particular industry, attempting to navigate your way to the perfect hourly rate can be tough. If you aim too high, you’ll get undercut. If you aim too low, people may assume you don’t have a quality product. Locating that Goldilocks rate can be a minefield.

My advice? Do your research before you start quoting. Make a few cursory calls, ask others in your industry, find out what the agents pay. Beyond everything, be confident that your product is worth it.

Stick to your guns – don’t second guess yourself

You’ve finally locked down your rate and even managed to bag a client. Congratulations! Now, stop negotiating. People will always try and get a deal, and if they think they can scrimp another dollar from you, they will. I’ve had clients come to me, halfway through a job, attempting to slide that rate just ‘ever so slightly’ lower. It’s a damn slippery slope. As much as the Pollyanna inside me wants to believe that no one would try and cheat a humble sole trading freelancer, my experience sadly tells me another story.

You are talented. You have the skills. More importantly, you’ve agreed on a rate. As hard as it is, keep that foot firmly on the ground and do not waver. Interesting side note, after I rejected the further discount, the client never brought it up again. Clients worth their weight will respect you more.

Undercharging – it doesn’t pay off the way you think

As with sticking to your rate, charging a client for the right amount of hours is also a tricky one. I always knew that overcharging was a bad move. Not only can it breed bad blood, but it’s just not the right thing to do. What I didn’t learn until I was on the job was the risk of undercharging.

You think to yourself, “Oh I’ll just absorb this cost because it’s a one off”, or “If I undercharge them, they’re more likely to give me more work”. I wish it were that simple.

You under charge, you set a very sketchy precedent. Expectations will be that you deliver at the lower rate every time. While that may make you feel good about yourself, it doesn’t really put food on the table. By all means offer discounts and packages; they can often be your bread and butter. Just don’t put yourself in a position that you can’t then bill your client what you are owed.

Invoicing and following up

Yikes! What a minefield! Asking people for money is awkward as heck.

Do you ever get that totally unjustified wave of guilt when you walk through a metal detector at the airport? I sometimes get that same weird guilt about invoicing people, especially when we’ve developed a rapport. For those who find it as awkward as I do, you’ve got to remember your service/product is valuable. You’ve earned those dollars. Your clients know it, and shock horror, expect it. Invoice and invoice regularly.

If your clients are dragging their feet on paying, remember that’s awkward for them not you. Don’t feel bad about following up.

content marketing, freelancing, storytelling, writing tips

Training your brain – how I found more hours in the day

A friend and I have conducted a little experiment over the last few months. The results were pretty eye-opening. I wrote the first draft of a novel. Yep, an entire novel. She has found time in her days to focus on her creative writing in a way she hasn’t done for years.

It may not be new to all, but for two young mothers, of boisterous and energetic toddlers, we are pretty proud of ourselves. The cool thing is we have realised it doesn’t have to be confined to writing. I want to give you just a teaser of the program we mapped out for ourselves that changed our perspective, our time management and our motivation.

Lamenting the time away

It is so very easy to stubbornly declare that there is no time. How could I possibly fit that in when I have a child, a job, a relationship? Yet somehow we all still manage to keep abreast of our favourite TV show. Why? Because they exist in 30-40 minute increments.

We went through this exact process. Wildly jealous and awed by the friends we have writing books, composing symphonies and running businesses on the side, we were caught up in our own lives and the excuses we created every day. How do they do it? They must never sleep. They must never see their children. They mustn’t have jobs.

We couldn’t possibly fit anything else in we lamented.

And then it dawned on me

While engrossed in the latest episode of Once Upon a Time (yes, I genuinely enjoy it), my thoughts were racing. My protagonist has that trait. Ooh, my bad guy could have a similar back story. My plot would be different for these reasons. If only I had the time to explore them. Then my rambunctious two-year-old would bound into the room, ready for some drawing and train track building. Yet, I claimed to be a writer? A creative?

Naturally, I had to complain to my equally time-poor mummy writer pal about this. All the while, logging into the ultimate time vacuum that is the social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the socials. I think their value in business and communication as whole is extraordinary. In fact, I will be addressing some of those values in an upcoming blog. But it certainly takes up a LOT of time.

It was amidst these laments that it occurred to me. A realisation that many successful people before me have come to. I don’t really need more time.

One episode at a time

In a world designed to appease the desperate impatience we’ve come to embrace, binge-watching, 24-hour news and instant gratification have become the norm. No longer can we wait week on week for the latest episode of our favourite show. Somewhere along the way, we lost the excitement of anticipation. We lost delicious seduction of a teaser, in favour of an immediate climax.

We’ve come to need that satisfaction now and in full. If we can’t have it all right now, then we don’t want it. This hugely short-sighted attitude is what led me, my friend and many of you to the inaccurate conclusion that we just don’t have time.

As Australian network TV finally catches up and fast tracks a handful of key shows, I have learned, once again the value of patience. I don’t have to write a novel in a day. I don’t need to quit my job and wait for my son to go to school.

An attitude shift

My mummy friend and I realised, that all we needed was 30 minutes. 30 minutes and a little bit of accountability.

The result was unexpected. Naturally, I thought I might achieve a little more if I approached my projects in a different way. What I didn’t expect was such a profound shift in my approach to everything.

About a quarter way through our first experiment, we started to see things we’d never seen before. Time was no longer our master, but rather we channelled the powers of the Doctor and realised we were our own time lords.

I know it hurts but I promise it helps

In a bid to encourage you, dear reader, to change the way you see time and consumption, I am not going to give away everything at once. As much as I would love to minimise the competition, if you’ve got a book, a symphony, a creation of any kind inside, this may just help you pull it out. If you, like us, are impatiently claiming that it is time that steals your great creation, tune in for Part II.

content marketing, content production, copywriting, digital copywriting, storytelling, writing tips

Create better content with these top tips

Create Great Content
Create Great Content

Australia has thrown itself into the pit of confusion with its latest election. The AEC are slowly determining who’s going to take charge of this fine country, while we all sit helplessly, twiddling our thumbs. Many Australians are disenfranchised, uninspired and unsure where to look to for great leadership. Don’t let your brand fall the way of our major parties. Understand your brand and communicate it with clarity and leadership. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better writer and communicator overall.

Know your message

We can all get caught up in what everyone else is saying and confuse our own message as a result. Much like some of the campaigns rolling around our screens and radios, marketers are seduced by the idea of pulling others down in order to big themselves up. This just pulls everyone into the gutter. It doesn’t matter what the other guy is doing. What do you have to offer? How is it unique or valuable? What do you want your clients, audience or readers to know about you? Answer these questions and you are off to a much stronger start.

Know your style

If your organisation has a communications and/or marketing team, you will likely already have a style guide. If you do not, I urge you to work with your team to create one. A style guide will inform your tone, your approach and your word choices. It can help even the most nervous of writers find the right path. If you don’t have a team to help design a style guide, I recommend you consider working with a consultant, such as Make it Peachy to design one for you.

Design a strategy ahead of time

As we know, there are so many different channels you can communicate through these days and it can be incredibly overwhelming. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the newest trends that you miss the chance to promote your service and product in the most effective way. Understand how the different platforms work, and design a communications strategy that is easy to follow. The Hub created a fantastic infographic outlining 25 great content marketing platforms for your brand. Don’t waste your time throwing your content in every direction, hoping for something to stick. Identify the platforms that best reach your audience and create a content adhesive that sticks every time.

Do your research

What is engaging your industry right now? What are they talking about? What are they debating? Do your research and understand where your industry stands. Where do your audience and clients stand? What are they interested in? How can you show that you offer this? If there is something newsworthy you want to comment on, make absolutely certain you have done your research. Making the time to do your research will keep you abreast of any developments in your industry and help you illustrate your knowledge to your clients.

Strip away the industry jargon

Whether you are designing a presentation, writing an email or creating original marketing content, remember to get rid of that jargon. I wrote a stand-alone blog on stripping away your jargon. As you know, you are the expert in your field, no one else is. The best way to engage people is to make your content as easy to consume as possible. Get rid of your technical lingo and shorten those sentences. Using jargon only serves to alienate people. You can show your expertise with far greater ease when you can explain your point using Plain English.

Don’t forget about your copy

Images and videos are fantastic ways to engage and seduce your readers. People love great videos, emotive pictures, and informative infographics. Make sure you use them where you can. They are a great way to grab your audience. In fact, while researching for this blog, I came across this amusing little video of a professor’s explanation of marketing.

However, ensure you back that up with some quality copy. Your choice of words explains your message and demonstrates your knowledge. Don’t flood your content with images and videos if you can’t back them up with engaging copy.

Educate yourself and your team

You may be the expert. You may have an extraordinary team and some socially progressive, financially sensible policies. The trouble is, if you don’t know how to get that across, you could end up with a hung parliament, or worse, not enough of the market share to actually affect change. If you don’t have the writing or presentation skills you need, don’t wing it – learn. There are thousands of courses around the country that offer up to date advice, tips and tools for you to become a better communicator. If you are looking for writing training, Make it Peachy offers a range  of courses and I can even design a personalised course for your team.

If in doubt, ask for help

If you aren’t confident that you can create engaging content, don’t do it. Talk to your communications and/or marketing team. If you don’t have one, engage a consultant. The only thing worse than not creating any content is creating terrible content. Don’t assume your clients will know you’re passionate and inspiring. Show them that you are.

content production, copywriting, digital copywriting, editing

5 awesome benefits of creating your own content

The web is awash with articles, blogs and links from the newest expert on any given topic. It can be wildly overwhelming as both a consumer of content and a content marketer to actually decipher what is useful.

This can often scare people from getting out there and creating their own original content. Don’t let it scare you and your business. Invest in unique content.

Here are just 5 great reasons why.

  1. Credibility

You are the expert in your field. You know your business and you know your product better than anyone. Creating original and unique content illustrates your authority.

When clients, partners and potential clients can see that you know your stuff, they will more likely have more confidence and trust in you and your service.

Heighten your brand authority by authoring useful information.

  1. Time and Proximity

Events, legislative changes, news or even simply the weather could affect your industry or service. Show the world you know exactly what is changing and how your service or product can accommodate that change.

Your response to real world changes shows your audience or client base that your business is mindful of the world around us. It is also the only way that you can show them how your service or product is useful as a result.

  1. Push people back to your website

If you want to drive traffic back to your website, this is a really great and genuine way to do that. Instead of trying every trick to manipulate people back, why not create engaging content that people actually genuinely need or want? The more engaging content you create, the more people will willingly subscribe to your channels.

As your audience gets to know you as a producer of great content, they will start to both recognise your brand and website as valuable.

  1. Increase your search rankings

This is another important benefit. There are many ways to pay your way to the top of the search rank. If you want those pesky search spiders to crawl all over your page, give them something to find. Creating smart and sensible content on a regular basis will remind the spider that you are here. By updating your content and using useful and relevant copy, your rankings will increase by default.

  1. Remind people who you are

Producing content that exemplifies your service or product is a really great exemplar of what you can provide. Give people a taste of the kind of work you can do for them by producing unique content about you and your industry.

Instead of just claiming you know your stuff, show people. Show people where your brand fits into the industry and why they should remember you.

Don’t forget that there is already some fantastic content out there. Read and follow groups you respect and even compete with. Get a feel for who is creating great content and by all means curate existing content, join the conversation and engage with your industry.

By creating interesting and unique content and connecting with other great content producers, you’d ensure you and your brand remain ahead of the game.