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What I learned in 2010: my first half-year in business

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The last six months have been a whirlwind! I knew very little about running my own business when I was thrust into “accidental entrepreneurship,” but I have certainly achieved more than I expected — and I’m STILL learning.

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered some things the hard way:

“Friends” who are clients should have the same requirements as “stranger” clients. If that makes any sense. I tend to give too much leeway, reduce my worth or not be as assertive in these situations, and it grew more frustrating as the year progressed.

Some clients need to be reminded about invoices and overdue payments. I never really thought that these people are ALSO running their own businesses, and emails and paperwork can be misplaced or overlooked. A friendly email typically took care of that financial stressor.

Always, always, always get a deposit before beginning a project. End of story.

Contracts! Doing work with a signed contract in place BEFORE beginning a project — especially with first-time clients — wards off a lot of evils when it comes time for payment or publication.

Not all subcontractors work as you do. Duly noted. Also? There are a LOT of scammers out there in the freelancer world.

Never compromise quality for impossible deadlines. Rushing through projects only makes me incredibly stressed, provoking me to not be pleased with a final product. Also: rushed deadlines means added fees on invoice. Good thing to learn that MANY freelancers adopt this as standard practice.

9-5 is not a productive work day for me. 8a-12p, 2-4p and 6-8p is much more conducive to my wit and creativity — and my sanity. Not to say that I don’t work a full 12-hour day from time-to-time, but I’d rather not. Ah, the highlight of being my own boss!

Get out of the house. Since my work is mostly Web focused, I have even grown tired of networking for myself online. Meeting for lunches, happy hours and conferences restores some of my social skills… even if I have the tendency to “meow” at everyone. What? I work around my cat ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!

Place deadlines on projects. I can’t believe how many clients contact me with an “I need this done ASAP! (!!!)” and then disappear for 30-60 days. And then expect me to be readily available for rewrites or changes at a moment’s notice.

While shocking, I am not a mind reader. I thought I developed a great questionnaire to help me learn about my clients and the potential work. Oftentimes, more than half of it remains blank when it is returned to me. Then, of course, the final product is “not what I wanted.” I need to stop “guessing” and ask more questions.

Most importantly, I have learned what I am worth — and what my writing is worth. So, that means no more low-pay or freebie projects for “exposure.” *eyeroll*

What have you learned in 2010? How will you change your freelancing ways in 2011?

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FAIL

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So, it’s obvious that I totally failed on my NaBloWriMo for this month. *sigh*

But listen here: I am totally OK with it, as I have SUCH good news (ahem, published piece in January). And a couple new clients gained this week (*cough* more to come later). I’ve worked my little patooshie off (is that a word?).

The ultimate goal of writing every day for 30 days was exactly that — to WRITE every. single. day for the month of November. Which I have done… and then some. Deadlines met, articles completed, websites submitted for reviews. Oh, I am so happy at this week’s accomplishments (ever have one of those “rain-it-pours” type of weeks?).

I have some additional potential work coming up as well for which I am crossing fingers, toes and tattoos. *readers wishing me luck, I can just feel it*

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A short breath for the true beginning of fall…

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What a whirlwind October! I find it nice, opening up to a Monday computer, on the first of the month, with no seriously impending deadlines. Relaxing. And containing more than one cup of hot chocolate.

Also, that this month brings a lot of new opportunities ahead for me:

Two magazine assignments — from two different publications
A new client requiring new/revamped copy for their website
Continuation of my “fashionista” contribution to All Women Stalk
New blogging opportunity for a current social media client
And I’ll be helping edit my sister’s first book (more than one great writer in this family!)

Oh, I’m sure I’ll end up squeezing another two or ten projects into this…

Keeping pace with this soon-to-be hectic month, I am committed to blogging here once a day for 30 days — even if to link you to some useful copywriting, “about me” or current/completed project info — as part of NaBloWriMo.

What goals — writing or otherwise — do you have for November?

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International Freelancers Day

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What sessions will you be logging into? SEO Copywriting with Brian Clark is right up my alley, and I think I’ll sign in with Dan Poytner’s “So You Want to Write a Book” (because that’s only been on my lifelong bucket list for oh, the last decade).

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Settled & Back to Work

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Boxes are unpacked, Rudy is back to his regular eating-and-sleeping habits, and we are well into our first week in our new home: Pittsburgh.

It was certainly nice to take a week off before the move. Today, I’m fully back to working on a couple new Web copywriting projects and editing drafts for existing content, as well starting on a new social media account with fashion blogging in the mix. Bulk content articles are also on the horizon, as is another round of product descriptions for an online company.

In this one short week, I also received a request to contribute my writing talents — which makes me all “SQUEE!” inside. This city has a LOT of publishing opportunities with local magazines and quarterlies, which is exciting — with great potential for my much-wanted byline.

I’ll keep you updated as those come to fruition. My next big goal was to get published this year, so I’ve got a leg up on 2011. In the meantime, of to write the Web copy…

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Goals are Goals are Goals. And meeting those is awesome.

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Shortly after beginning the process to start my own writing business, I decided to finally take the leap and start training for roller derby. I considered it a few times over the last few years, but my social anxiety and time constraints with my prior career prevented that from happening.

It’s an amazing thing, watching success unfold in more than one aspect of my life — what rewards you reap from hard work and passion. Today, after nearly six months of training and skating with a local recreation league, I joined the professional league. Now, I still have three months to prove I am worthy enough to the league, but I am better, stronger and more passionate with every practice.

Much the same with PURSUIT, my writing business.

I keep learning every day on the job. My writing skills and voice have both strengthened. With every new client and each completed project, I am more passionate. I love what I do. I enjoy making a flexible schedule that allows me the opportunity to explore additional passions. I’m even making a decent living. I have the work/play balance that I desire, and I feel I can finally be myself.

Bruises and all.

What is your passion? How are you creating the life you want — in either work or your free time?

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