Quick Fix Clinic #1

QuickFixClinic

Every Tuesday at 11am, I run a Quick Fix Clinic over on my Facebook page, where freelancers, newbies and wannabes (nothing wrong with a wannabe!) can get personalised advice on the challenges they’re facing.

In QFC-1, we looked at how to deal with Imposter Syndrome, how to start sub-contracting work out to other freelancers, and some Getting Into Freelance Writing 101 – where to start and what to do.

How to deal with imposter syndrome…

The first query is about how to deal with Imposter Syndrome – that feeling that many of us get that everyone else knows what they’re talking about, while we’re just blagging it and pretending that we know what we’re doing.

First off: Imposter Syndrome is particularly common among women – we’re frequently conditioned to be modest and to play down our skills, achievements and abilities. So unless you’re going to go along with the idea that women are just naturally a bit rubbish, it’s worth bearing that in mind. You’re not alone in feeling clueless, even if you feel like everyone else is doing a better job of hiding it than you are.

Second: there are things you can do to address the issue. While uncomfortable, Imposter Syndrome has its uses – no matter how good you are, no matter what area of business you work in, continuing training and developing is vital if you want to deliver consistently excellent products or services.

Keeping track of the training you undertake – just in a .doc somewhere – is not only great for your portfolio; it also gives you tangible evidence of the work you’ve done to improve your skills. And as you look back on the courses you’ve taken (loads of free and low-cost ones online; don’t go thinking you need a diploma or a degree worth thousands), you’ll have evidence that contradicts that little voice in your head that’s saying you’re useless.

Third: speaking as someone who’s been self-employed for a long time – and who’s subcontracted out a lot of work – it’s very easy to set up in business. And a lot of people do – with no skills, and no intention of delivering excellence. In freelance writing, the content monkeys are there (yes, it’s harsh; no, I’m not sorry), churning out articles for $3 a pop, and that’s what some clients are going to want. But how many people can invest in training, development and the like for $3 an article?

You can only trust me on this, but if you are actually trying to be good at what you do, and you care what your clients / target market think of your products and services, you’re already way ahead of a lot of the competition.

Find other people in your industry – or industries that share characteristics with yours – and talk to them. Take pride in your work. Give yourself permission to celebrate achievements. Ask yourself if you’d cheer on someone else who’d achieved what you have. You’ll often find you’re being harder on yourself than you would be on others.

I’d love to know how other freelancers and creatives tackle Imposter Syndrome. Are there any lucky folks out there who don’t get it at all? Has anyone beaten it for good?

How to start subcontracting work out to other freelancers…

The second query this week follows on quite nicely from the first, actually – and that’s how to get into sub-contracting. The person writes:

“What I wonder is how to initiate conversations into subcontracting for other writers. Is this best done at networking events? LinkedIn? I must have missed something. How do you find your writers that you have outsourced to?”

Now, this is from someone who’s not made the switch into full-time freelancing yet, so my advice does bear that in mind.

What I lean towards saying is that you should look carefully at why you want to subcontract.

There’s a lot of pressure on us as sole trader / self-employed types to BUILD something big, bigger, better, best, because a lot of the time, we feel like we’re not offering enough. “I’m a copywriter” can seem inadequate compared to “I run a copywriting business”, and there’s this idea that you should constantly be looking to move your venture on.

It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that that’s one of the things that changes when you move from salaried employment to self-employment: there isn’t that same career progression that you might well have expected in your salaried role. There’s no HR; no one’s going to take you in for an annual review and increase your salary, give you a nice new job title.

If you’re a copywriter when you start out, you’re not going to be Grand Chief Senior Copywriter, Lord of the Internet, Destroyer of Content Mills by the time you retire – you’re still going to be a copywriter, just a better one. That’s not a lack of achievement, and you shouldn’t look into sub-contracting simply as a means of ‘advancing’ your business if you don’t have another good reason for doing it.

Secondly, sub-contracting can be a royal pain in the arse. And I mean a *massive* one. In terms of finding people to sub-contract to, you’ve not only got to locate likely, interested candidates; you’ve got to make sure they can actually do the work. Do you test them? Are you going to pay them for the test piece (clue: yes, you are)? Have they got the right style for your clients? Do your clients *mind* you subcontracting? Have you figured in time for proof-reading, editing, or otherwise checking and amending their work? Training them? Briefing them? And – importantly – are you making enough money out of the margin?

Sub-contracting can be a distraction technique when your own fees aren’t high enough. You think, “Hmm, OK, I don’t want to lose this client, but they’re not paying me enough. I can get a less experienced writer to do this work, I’ll take a cut, and everyone’s happy. The newbie writer gets work and money, I get a cut, the client gets the work for the price they want.”

But actually, what you might well be better off doing is filtering out your lower paying clients and finding ones who pay better.

Unless you love the people management side of things, I’d actually warn copywriters against sub-contracting most of the time. It’s a great thing for occasional use – say, when you’ve just got too much on at the time – in which case, your social media networks are a great place to find potential suppliers. I got a lot of my contacts via Twitter and LinkedIn – writers contacted me, and I put a system in place where I asked for credentials – a covering letter and a CV at the very least. That filtered out a lot of the less suitable candidates (~70% of the candidates as a whole) and at least gave me a good starting place.

Has anyone else tried subcontracting on here? What were your experiences? Did it work for you?

Newbie questions: where to start, how to attract clients, training…

Hey Lorrie! My questions are pretty newbie ones like, where do you start, how do you attract people to your freelancing services, websites you’d suggest, experience or courses… basic start up questions really. You’ve probably been asked many of these and I think you’ve answered one already but thought I’d ask again just incase. Thanks a lot! X

Morning, lovely! Thanks for the questions – they might be newbie, but there are a lot of newbies and not-so-newbies who will need answers to them.

Where to start: decide on the services you want to, and are able to, offer. It might just be blog-posts at first – in which case, make a list of the skills you’re going to need. Do you understand the basics of SEO? Can you offer long-form? Do you know the differences between B2B writing and B2C writing? It’s often better to start off in a narrow field and broaden the services you offer as you gain new skills.

Work out the fees you want to charge. Good way is to have a look at established writers and see what they’re charging (try not to under-charge – another woman-specific issue!). Another worthwhile exercise is to see what you need to earn from this new venture, and how long you have to devote to it, and use that to calculate a minimum fee. You need to be realistic, of course – if you’ve only got 12 hours a week to spend, you’re not likely to earn thousands – so, as I say, do have a look what your contemporaries are charging as well.

MARKETING. If I had a pound for every time I asked a writer why they weren’t marketing themselves properly, I wouldn’t need to work any more. Work out which social media platforms will be most useful to you. Facebook? Great for B2C, pretty much useless for B2B. LinkedIn? The opposite. Twitter? Quite good for both, I’ve found. Populate the profiles you can manage (you don’t want to start off on 10 different platforms and end up with ghost profiles) with keyword-rich content (“B2B copywriter”, “freelance academic proof-reader” – whatever is relevant to your target audience) and make sure you keep them updated. Build relationships. Say hello to people!

Website: you can actually be pretty basic. As long as people can find your details – services, contact deets – you’re basically OK. No need for bells and whistles at the start. WordPress is always a good tool for beginners; I taught myself quite easily, and I’m not techy at all.

Courses: it’s great – GREAT, in fact – that you’re looking at improving your skills; you’d be very surprised at how many people think they don’t need to. Google is basically your friend, although I happen to know that my colleague Philippa Willitts has a jolly handy post full of free writing courses right here: http://freelanceconfidence.com/50-free-online-writing-courses/

Attracting clients: the first ones are always the hardest, I think. One thing I did to build my portfolio was to connect with content and full-service marketing agencies on Twitter – smaller ones, initially. I’d spend a while building a relationship, then I’d ask whether I could send my CV over for them, in case they were ever looking for a writer. It paid off a good few times, and once I had some clients under my belt via them, I felt more confident in going looking for my own.

If you’re looking to work in one specific industry, you can also look for things like expos being held in your local area, online groups, plus the usual social media stuff. Building a list of people you want to target is time-consuming but it can work – cold-calling’s also worth a shot if you’re brave on the phone!

Hope that’s all been helpful! Join us next week, Tuesday at 11am over at www.facebook.com/creativecontentcoach for answers to your own big questions!

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