In last week’s post, we heard from Cold Calling Carol. She asked a ton of questions, so I broke my responses into two parts since they were unrelated. This is the second part. She wrote:
Question from an SEO Copywriter
On other news, have you ever struggled with being a freelancer or owning a firm? I am so not an organized person — I hate structure, rules, guidelines, systems, etc.
Some days, I am like wow, I like being a freelancer. I can take a day or two before I start a project. And other days, I love outsourcing so I can have time to work on my business, market, and even sneak in day to spend with my loved ones. Part of me loves the idea of having a team and part of me loves the idea of it just being me. Any suggestions on how to overcome this battle of the mind?
What this freelancer is really talking about is business growth. Right now, in my opinion, she’s kind of winging it – taking on projects as they come in, marketing when things get slow and taking time off to hang with friends and family when there’s “nothing going on.”
This is not the way to run a BUSINESS – and that’s what you are as a freelance writer; you’re a small business owner.
Let me tell you how I beat this “battle of the mind,” as Carol so astutely put it.
One of the Biggest Keys to My Success as a Freelance Business Owner
As you know if you’re a regular reader of my sites and ebooks, I’ve been a freelancer since 1993. However, I didn’t start to experience real success until I got a business mentor. I think this was around 1998. He pointed out the importance of setting measureable goals, doing a business plan, sticking to a marketing schedule etc.
How/why did I get a mentor?
At the time, I was living in New York City and owned an editorial staffing firm. I’d applied to a non-profit that gave small business loans to women/minority-owned businesses. In order to get a loan from there though, you had to work with a business mentor.
You see, my firm was primed for growth, but I needed expansion funds. So that’s how I wound up finding this non-profit and getting hooked up with my mentor. And, even though I didn’t want (or need, so I thought) a mentor, it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally.
Many of the lessons he taught me are directly attributable to my success today; I’ll impart the most important one in just a bit. But now, I want to address this freelancer’s questions directly.
On other news, have you ever struggled with being a freelancer or owning a firm? Yes, I have – on so many levels.
For example, when I owned my staffing firm in New York, there were times when I’d go a couple of months without getting paid. There simply wasn’t enough money left over after I’d paid my temps, so I went without. Thank goodness I was married at the time, so it wasn’t a financial strain (my ex was a pretty successful architect).
One of the first things my business mentor told me to do was to put MYSELF on payroll, just like I did with my temps. I said, “But I can’t afford to.” He said, “You can’t afford NOT to because if you can’t pay yourself, what the hell are you in business for!”
And you know what, I managed to pay myself every week going forward (we paid weekly at my staffing agency). The reason I was able to make payroll, including paying myself, is because I took his advice on other levels, eg, create and stick to a marketing schedule.
One of his favorite sayings was, “Sales is just a numbers game; you make enough touches, you’re going to get a sale.” So, that’s what I started doing. I had a big old board in my office attached to the wall that charted how many touches I made on a given day (eg, calls, faxes, postcard mailings (email wasn’t that big back then)).
As for “Some days, I am like wow, I like being a freelancer. I can take a day or two before I start a project. And other days, I love outsourcing . . . blah, blah, blah . . .”
Another thing my business mentor told me is to treat every day like a work day. Yeah, I showed up at the office every day, but if there was no job order on my desk, many days I’d goof off, eg, go get my nails done, meet my husband for lunch, go shopping with my sister (Macy’s was literally 6 blocks from my office); etc.
I had to stop this.
Just because there’s no project to be completed does not mean there’s no work to be done. If you treat your freelance business like a business, then you’ll find that there’s always (always!) something to do, eg:
Update your website;
Pull together that industry report to distribute to clients (and make a free download from your site);
Learn that new software so you can create better graphics for your site/reports;
Add more writing samples to your portfolio;
Add more contacts to your marketing database;
Study search engine guidelines so you can write more effective copy for clients;
Research more successful sites to see what they’re doing that you can emulate in your business;
Interview other freelancers to outsource projects too when you get too busy;
Start writing that ebook to get an additional income stream going;
The bottom line is – when you own a business – there’s no such thing as free time (at least not for the first few years). And as for not liking organization, rules, guidelines, etc. – get over it. Just because you work for yourself does not mean you don’t have to deal with organization, rules and guidelines.
In fact, it’s more critical than ever – if you want to grow your business to the point where you can work on it, instead of in it.
Outsourcing: The Road to Financial Freedom as a Freelancer
Outsourcing is the key to building a six-figure writing business; one where you work less, but can earn significantly more. July was the last time I touched a client project. But, I started planning for this (eg, moving into a strictly managerial role at New Media Words) about a year and a half ago.
Right now, I’m working on my latest ebook. It’s a “freelance outsource package;” ie, it includes everything you need to know to successfully start outsourcing work, eg:
What to do before you outsource;
How to hire freelancers (what to look for in good ones);
How to determine what to pay freelancers;
A non-compete and independent contractor’s agreement (all rolled into one);
How to calculate what you need to earn to cover your monthly bills;
Info on freelance taxes (how to calculate; how to save); and
A whole lot more.
I’m putting this together because many SEO writers are growing their businesses to the point where they are now outsourcing work to others.
Update: Ebook Finished — Get the freelance writer’s outsource package.
And, this is when you start to make real money in this business. And if you want to have a business where you’re not the one slaving over every article order that comes in, then you must buckle down and adhere to guidelines, rules and regulations.
Post Continued Below . . .
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My Work Day as a Freelance Writer
I get up and “go to work” almost every day (I do have days where I play hooky, but they are few). My hours are basically 8 am to 6 pm. And let me tell you – I work! If I slacked off, I wouldn’t have accomplished even a third of what I’ve done over these past couple of years. I can honestly say, I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
But as my business mentor said to me once, “If you want a business that will one day sustain you, instead of you sustaining it, that’s what it takes.”
And, this is why he made me do a business plan – not some Ivy-league school, 30-page document, but he made me think about and flesh out where I wanted my business to be in a year, three years and five years.
Once you start thinking like this, then break down what you need to do on a monthly (then weekly and daily basis), you start to see, “Man, if I don’t get up and go to work every day, I’m not going to accomplish my dreams; I’ll always be working in my business, instead of on it.”
And, this is the importance of following rules, regulations and guidelines – especially as a freelance business owner. Just because you can ostensibly write SEO content well into old age, it doesn’t mean you’re going to want to. I know I don’t.
I’m shooting for the option of retirement (at least semi-retirement at 50; and full retirement at 55). I’m 45 now – time flies! And as my mother used to say, “Time is gonna pass; it’s up to you what you do with it.”
SEO Copywriters: The Most Important Piece of Advice I Ever Got from My Business Mentor
“Pay attention to your numbers, they will never lead you wrong.” That’s what my business mentor used to say. I hate numbers – absolutely hate’em. But, I learned to respect them – and track them – for they tell you exactly what you’re doing right and wrong at all times.
Not only do I track income, I track marketing contacts made, how many articles per month I write to promote my own business, how many newsletters I send out, etc. You know why? Because a freelance business is one where income can vary widely from month to month. But, once I started tracking my marketing efforts, I noticed direct correlations with my income.
$3,000/Month in Ebook Sales; $4,200/Month in Ebook Sales — What Accounts for the Difference?
For example, if I earn $3,000 one month in ebook sales, and $4,200 the next month, usually, I can look back and say, “Well, I distributed 3 articles last month and 7 this month – that’s the difference. So, I must keep up with my article marketing.”
And, why am I able to do this? Because my business mentor forced me years ago to get – and stay – organized. It’s all part of running a successful business.
Ok, class over. I hope this insight helps all who struggle with this “battle of the mind.”
P.S.: Learn how to create multiple freelance income streams. Get Living the Freelance Life! How I Live Internationally and Have Earned a Living Completely Online Since 2007 & You Can Too, a free ebook. SeoWritingJobs.com is an InkwellEditorial.com property.
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