The solo entrepreneur’s royal problem – how many is one?

How-many-is-one

Trawling the depths of the Twitter ocean (there are whales, aren’t there?) you can’t help noticing that the major part of your catch consists of individual fish. Especially if you’re following marketing people or a creative profession. True, there are companies around, but solo professionals are extremely well represented.

I’ve noticed this sometimes leads to something of an identity problem. If you’re working through your own company, are you “I” or “we”? Continue reading

What to look for in a content writer

In his post What to Look for in Freelance Writers, the “content marketing evangelist” (his words) Joe Pulizzi advises content marketers and digital publishers on finding the right type of content writer for their specific need.

Joe comes from the US. I’m European. So there might be a cultural disconnect of sorts here, but having read the article linked to above, I felt compelled to add my two cents. Continue reading

The one thing you have to understand if you don’t want your business to tank

If you’re thinking about starting a business of your own based on the skills you’re now using for someone else, this guest post by Karol K on Neil Patel’s blog QuickSprout is a definitive must-read.

The main point: you won’t be a copywriter, web designer, programmer any longer. You will be a marketer. Considering that 95% of new businesses tank, you will want to be in the 5% who make it, won’t you?

 

I don’t know about you, but my writing is worth more than this

Bottom-feeder

On one of the better-known job posting sites, I came across the job ad in the picture. In short, the client wants 200 articles, 400 words each at a total lump-sum price of $150. This works out at $0.001875 per word, or $0.75 per article. Anyone willing to take on this one? Exclude me.

Offshoring your copywriting—good or bad?

Even though the original post is from 2008, Freelancing Doesn’t Mean Free by Rebecca Stigall was published on Creative Freelancing just recently. The site doesn’t allow comments, so I am commenting here.

I understand the need for freelancers to protect their livelihood. Yet, I found several claims in the above article that require a closer look. Continue reading

Let’s not call moonlighters freelancers

A few days ago, I read two blog posts on the same day about how “freelancing” can help you overcome your temporary money problems.

It seems many people are confusing freelancing with moonlighting.

If you work extra beside your regular job, that’s moonlighting. You’re trying to earn something in addition to your usual income.

If you’re freelancing, on the other hand, you’re an entrepreneur—a solo professional—selling your services on a commercial basis to clients. Believe me, it’s a totally different story from doing the occasional job on the side. You’re trying to put food on your and your family’s table. Continue reading

Offshoring your copywriting—good or bad?

Even though the original post is from 2008, Freelancing Doesn't Mean Free by Rebecca Stigall was published on Creative Freelancing just yesterday. The site doesn't allow comments, so I am commenting here.

I understand the need for freelancers to protect their livelihood. Yet, I found several claims in the above article that require a closer look.

The writer complains that the low copywriting fees you can get by offshoring are not enough to sustain an American copywriter. That's true, of course. From the client's viewpoint, however, the question is: If I can get the same quality at a lower price, why should I want to pay more just to help keep up someone's lifestyle? Isn't this just the reason why companies are outsourcing production, for example?

The article attempts to justify non-offshoring by saying "even if a buyer's financial needs are met through outsourcing, their project needs rarely are". It would be interesting to know what kind of research is behind "rarely". If companies as a rule did not get the benefits they expect from offshoring, it would be really strange that offshoring is as popular as it is today.

Even stranger is the claim that "ya [sic] just can't write effectively to an American audience if your first language isn't English".

It's not a question of English being your first, second or umpteenth language. It's a question of having a good command of the language.

True, if you're writing B2C copy, colloquial expressions and a grassroots-level knowledge of American culture and sub-cultures may be important. In contrast, if you're writing about industrial gears, automation systems, banking solutions, wastewater treatment or power supply systems, cultural differences are less important.

If the copy achieves the Most Wanted Response determined for the marketing piece and is grammatically correct, why would it be important whether it is "made in America" or elsewhere? Besides, a professional from the outside may have a fresher look and new ideas.

If you're a business looking to lower the cost of producing your marketing materials, you might want to take a look at a couple of blog posts touching on this topic: How to find the ideal freelance business-to-business copywriter and How to handle your advertising in-house without the downside.

Business is global. So are business services. Widen your perspective—you may get surprising benefits.

Marketing communication fast, good and cheap?

Fast-Good-Cheap: pick twoSometimes clients will demand their job done fast, good and cheap. This is especially true when they work with freelancers.

In reality, you can only have two of these at the same time.

If you want good and fast, there is no way it can be cheap. To get your job done, your freelancer must reschedule all other jobs, work long hours and spend at worst two or three days juggling with the backlog your job created. Priority always has a price.

If you want good and cheap, it cannot be fast. Jobs with fixed production deadlines and jobs that are more profitable will take priority. Your freelancer will be able to attend to this type of jobs only when there is nothing more urgent in the works.

If you want fast and cheap, it won’t be good. Even if your freelancer is willing to accept a job like this (his or her own reputation will be on line), there won’t be time to do any background research, plan the work in much detail or polish it to the usual standards. Quality will always suffer from being rushed.

This is why you should always plan for enough time and have a reasonable budget when ordering marketing copy, visual design, software development or any other creative job.

Freelancing, a dance on roses (but they have thorns)

I just read a guest post on Creative Freelancing touting the benefits of becoming a freelancer. Although much of what is said in the post is true, there’s a flip side to most of those things. To save aspiring new freelancers from disappointment, I thought a reality check might be in order.

1. Freelance freedom– The writer gives independence as one of the biggest benefits of freelancing. True, you do get rid of office politics, unnecessary meetings and so on, but the point about setting your schedules yourself simply isn’t true. Although you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, you have your clients breathing down your neck. Unlike your boss, the clients have the decisive vote on whether they will give you money or not. So, once you’ve agreed on what to deliver by when, you’d better stick to it. Failure to do so will have a lot graver consequences than your boss telling you off.

2. Liberty of choice and timings– Yes, you can decide which projects to accept and devote as much time to them as you like. Providing you have enough projects to do any choosing and clients who are willing to accept your schedules. The writer’s point about “enabling a professional to work anytime, anywhere” can easily turn into “forcing a professional to work anytime, anywhere”. Also, “full” control over projects, timelines and price is only a dream, in practice you play by your clients’ rules.

3. Cost effectiveness– It is absolutely true that because freelancers usually work from home, their daily expenses are lower. No commuting, no gas, no suits, no restaurant lunches. But, and it is a big but, working solo entails a number of costs a salaried employee has never had to worry about. Unless you want to learn accounting yourself, you need to hire an accountant. You need to get the necessary equipment to do your job (space, furniture, computer, software, office supplies). You need to build an online presence (website, at the very minimum), which takes either money or time. Before taking the jump, do some hard math.

4. Opportunities to make more money– The writer’s vision of putting your skills to worldwide use is, well, wishful thinking. Of course, you might hit pay dirt, but I would caution an aspiring freelancer against setting his or her hopes too high. Cultural differences are an efficient hindrance, unless you’re quick to grasp what moves your foreign audience—who probably doesn’t speak English. Social networking, given as a way of helping to earn “great profits”, take months, if not years, to cultivate before any financial benefit transpires. The online project forums he mentions are notorious for their rock-bottom fees.

5. Less pressure and work stress –The level of frustration and resultant stress is relatively very low in freelancing? Come on. If you don’t get assignments, you don’t get money. Let me assure you, an annoying boss is a minuscule problem in comparison with $200 on your bank account, your personal and business bills to pay, a family to feed and not a single job in sight for weeks.

6. No job risks –While the economic slowdown has indeed provided opportunities for freelancers, you’d be naïve to think there’s no job risk. Being employed, you may be fired, but you’ll probably have a safety net of unemployment benefits. Being independent, the moment you don’t earn, you don’t eat. Calculate the risk.

At the end of the post, the writer lists things a freelancer must pay attention to in order to succeed: stay up to date with latest technologies, trends, demands and the market, and invest in continuous learning. True. And you guessed it, all this takes more time and money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from becoming a freelancer. There are many great aspects in being your own boss and carving out your own niche in business—but you need to consider whether you have the personal qualities to do it and how much uncertainty you’re prepared to handle. And you have your family to think of.