An Easy Way to Exceed Expectations

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 at 8:06 AM | Category: Customer Service, Meryl's Notes Blog 3 comments

This fall is my family’s 14th and final year at the elementary school where all three of my kiddos attended for at least five years of their lives. It’s going to be tough to leave because many staff members are like family. Volunteering at the middle and high schools aren’t the same as at the elementary school. So I’ve been making an extra effort to be more involved because it’s my last chance as a parent.

A moment of insanity … volunteering to do the newsletter

I went a little crazy and volunteered to do the PTA’s newsletter. I knew I could do the newsletter, but the time commitment was a concern. (I know how to say no. Yes, really, I do!) It took a lot of time to do the just-released first issue, but it’ll go faster next time now that I have a template for it. (I hope!)

To my surprise, the raves started pouring in. I couldn’t imagine why because previous editors did a nice job with theirs. Folks said they appreciated the extra effort with the interactive features, such as linking to parts of the PTA website and adding bookmarks that you can click and it takes you to the related page. They also liked the editorial calendar with due dates, list of articles in past issues month-by-month and easy online access to the calendar.

One issue down. Eight more to go. I hope I can keep this up.

Lagniappe: Do more for others

Lagniappe [lan-yap] n. 1. Small gift given to customer with a purchase. 2. An unexpected bonus.

Employers and clients hire folks to do a job, provide a service or create a product. They also gain our expertise and experience even if it comes from an unrelated field. That’s part of providing good customer service. Part of our job is to speak up when a manager leans toward a decision that may not be the best one for the company. Sometimes you have to be proactive and say, “I don’t recommend this route because of XYZ. The better route would be LMN because … .”

You inform. You offer solutions. You explain why. You respect the final decision. That’s all you can do.

You can also look for ways to help improve the business. For example, one client’s website had a bug and his staff couldn’t fix it. I went in, played with it, harumphed a few times and finally fixed the little bugger. (Ha! I’m reading “Ender’s Game.”) What I do for the client? I’m an editor and writer. He didn’t hire me for web design or website management. (I got my start as a writer by writing about web design.) It’s a skill I happen to have that turned into a lagniappe.

It’s not just for surprising and delighting clients and employers. You can apply it to all parts of your life.

What’s your lagniappe? What are some ways to do a little something extra for clients?

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Be Selective with New Clients

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 at 11:18 AM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 5 comments

As my family prepared to move in our first home, like most people — we had lots to do in the house. To do it all would mean taking shortcuts and buying low-priced items. The result would be less than flattering. The job called for prioritizing to ensure we bought decent quality items. First up: windows. We needed blinds, lots of blinds or else I would go blind with the too many windows we had. (Seriously, the eyes are sensitive to sunlight.)

Remote control

Image from sxc.hu user ColinBroug

Next, bedroom furniture. Previously, we lived in military housing and chose to focus on the downstairs rooms rather than upstairs including our bedroom. The rest we added when we could or when we saw something that worked.

Good thing we didn’t do it all. It turned out those first few items we bought were my least favorites. The toddler-abused blinds need replacing. The bedroom furniture … I love its function, but not its color. I thought the wood would be a white wash wood. Instead, it was painted a bothersome faint white. We could paint it, but the colors wouldn’t work well in the dark-colored bedroom. Natural wood color works best.

This situation can happen when work slows down and it’s time to bring in new business. It’s tempting to take on every opportunity that comes along. It’s like a reverse of firing bad clients except you’re proactive. Instead of finding yourself working with a less than ideal client, feeling miserable and having to figure out how to get out of it — you skip all that.

I happened to be working on finding another client to serve when several opportunities came in. For one of them, warning signs alerted me to do serious due diligence. In the other, the prospect asked if I could write articles on X, Y, Z topics. I turned it down because I know those topics would require a lot of energy and most of it not good. I’d rather spend the energy looking for a client I can better serve doing work I enjoy.

Turning Down Opportunities

These signs give you the clues you need that a potential assignment or client may not work for you. Be careful when it comes to an assignment that scares you because you’re afraid to fail, not because something is iffy about the client. It may be an opportunity to grow.

  • Boring. Think about your least favorite industry. Do you want to spend hours living and breathing that industry? When you work on things you despise, it takes longer and drains more out of you.
  • Suspicious. You find little information about the company or person contacting you. The person may use a common email address, provides terse responses to your questions and reveal little else.
  • Budgeted. I saved time for a prospect whose message implied she was focused on price. I gently responded if she was looking for a low-priced writer that I was not a fit for her.  I don’t turn down all budgeted assignments. For example, I liked an owner and his business, so I came up with a way to quote a lower price that worked for both of us.

Digging Deeper

Sometimes the first or second contact isn’t enough to decide yea or nay. This is the time to dig deeper. Someone contacted me about writing a bunch of blog posts. First warning sign. The email address came from a yahoo.com address. Second warning sign. The “From” address only had a first name, but she signed her last name in the first message. Half a warning sign.

I searched her name, email address and company name (I had to ask for the company name as she didn’t mention it in the first email — another sign) and found nothing. At this point, I decided this wouldn’t work out. Rather than turning it down, I replied with more questions. Never heard back. Hmm …

When you’re not sure about an assignment, these actions help:

  • Research. Look up the client, company, email address and whatever info you have. Don’t stop with the client’s website. Go to social networks like Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.
  • Ask. It feels awkward to ask some of the questions you need to ask, but how will you feel if you take the job and hate it? Request links to related sites. For example, I received an assignment to write for sites on generic topics. Ask for links to those sites.
  • Probe. Make sure you get a full picture of the assignment. At first glance, one assignment sounds like writing X articles. Read between the lines, and it could easily be more than double the work because of other tasks involved.
  • Check. Your network may know about the person or company. If you find out who has hired your prospect, contact them.
  • Follow up. Don’t feel pressured to stop asking questions after the first contact. Ask more questions especially if the answers reveal little new info. (This could be a warning sign, or simply someone who is rushed and wants to reply quickly.)

What types of assignments or clients have you turned down? What do you watch for when a prospect contacts you?

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Having Multiple Streams of Income Is Key for the Self-employed Individual

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 at 8:42 AM | Category: Books, Business, Meryl's Notes Blog 11 comments

No LimitsWelcome to meryl’s notes blog (this here place you’re lookin’ at) in Plano, Texas (OK, the blog doesn’t live on a server in my house — but that’s where you’ll find me… in Plano, not in the server). We’re happy to be a stop in Sara Morgan’s WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour. Here’s a bit about fellow work from anywhere’r Sara… (Stay tuned in this long post if ya wanna win this book!)

About Sara Morgan

Sara Morgan knows just what it is like to have a good job that is just not the “right” job. As a software developer, she has worked for large and small companies spanning multiple industries. None of these jobs ever provided Sara with the fulfilling life she was searching for and in 2005 she made the jump to self-employment with the start-up of her own consulting company, Custom Solutions, LLC. Sara Morgan is the author of No Limits: How I escaped the clutches of Corporate America to live the Self-employed life of my dreams. For more information about Sara and her book, check out www.nolimitsthebook.com.

Sara MorganHaving Multiple Streams of Income Is Key for the Self-employed Individual by Sara Morgan

Four years ago, I quit my high-paying corporate job as a web developer and started my own software consulting business. I was one of the lucky ones, because I had a high-paying and high-in-demand skill set that allowed me to make a good income, despite the inevitable challenges of self-employment.

I realize though that most people seeking self-employment will not be this fortunate. For these people, I strongly suggest having multiple streams of income. By doing so, you can ensure that you are always able to pay the bills, even when one thing you are doing fails to generate the income you need. It is just the simple concept of not putting all your eggs in one basket. This is very old, yet still appropriate advice that applies aptly to the self-employed individual.

For myself, since I am promoting my latest book No Limits full time and have not been doing any software work for over six months, money has just been going out and not coming in. I was lucky enough to have built a small nest egg, which has allowed me to get away with this for a while. However, that can only last so long, so I recently started a third business as an independent garden consultant for The Happy Gardener.

The Happy Gardener is a great company that I only found out about when I interviewed the owner, Annette Pelliccio for my latest book. The company makes and distributes earth-friendly lawn and garden products that are chemical free and actually good for the environment. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know how important it is for all of us to be environmentally conscious, so I am really excited about being able to get behind a company like this.

If you are considering making a jump to self-employment, I would suggest that you have at least three alternative sources of income. This will help you to weather the inevitable “life” storms that affect us all. Other than that, always remember to Work, Live and Have fun!

Your Turn

Leave a 50+ word comment in this post by 11:59pm on October 21. That’s all ya gotta do to be entered to win this book. Tell us about your dream career or whatever strikes ya. The unbiased and robotic Random.org will pick the winner.

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Mommy, Where Do Clients Come From?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 7:49 PM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 10 comments

Clients and MomWell, my dear, they come from many places. If you go to the library known as Freelance Folder, you’ll see people sharing how they find their clients.

When a freelancer and a client meet, they check out each other to ensure they are a fit. It may take some bio and web site reading to get familiar with each other. After making it pass the test phase, they come together and a product or service is born. No storks involved.

But how do freelancers and clients meet in the first place? Believe it or not, Mommy never relies on cold calling. Isn’t she lucky? Imagine how many bad phone calls I’ve had trying to contact strangers through the relay service. Blind dates just don’t work well here.

All of the following ways work because Mommy met at least one client each way.

  • Referrals: Mom has clients from everywhere. Only one client has an office in Dallas. Yet, Mom found him through a colleague based out of Seattle. I helped teach a thesis related course for a few years plus created the bibliography guidelines for the school. Professors refer students to me for editing help. I love thesis editing because I learn new things like the impact of gentrification on cities.
  • Social network profile: Just last week, someone who found me on LinkedIn sent me a query to do web content for his business.
  • Existing clients: It’s important to keep current clients happy. It’s easier and cheaper to keep clients than to find new ones. A current client emailed me a project for another client.
  • Plain ol’ reply to ads: A lot of people think this doesn’t work anymore, sweetie. With many people out of jobs, we all think every opening receives hundreds of applications. I replied to a call for writers and landed the gig.
  • Twitter: I don’t think Mom has gotten any gigs directly from twitter. But it keeps her name out there as she tries to help others solve problems and link them to valuable and fun resources.
  • Networking: Another client got to know me through his site’s forums and a couple of email exchanges. Networking involves many places including twitter, blogs, Facebook.
  • Web site: A web site with all of its contents add to a person’s credibility. Well, if it’s done right. Too many business sites have no About page, photos, bios or anything to put a friendly face behind the company. Add a newsletter along with an email subscription box and you start building relationships.
  • Existing work: A client liked several articles your mom wrote and contacted her. Another client and I worked for the same web site.
  • Interviewees, editors and resources: I can think of at least three people I interviewed for an article or book chapter who eventually hired me.
  • Volunteer work: I encourage new freelancers to build their portfolio through volunteer work. Besides that, you do something good. People will notice your work and refer you or hire you.
  • Former students: I suppose this could count as existing work. I assisted many professors in NYU’s online graduate program. The students got to know me through online classes.

I’ve bought ads for directories with local non-profit organizations. I knew it was more for helping out the organization than advertising. As you know, I have only one local client and he found me through an online search.

So there you have it, darling. That’s where Mommy’s clients come from. And in not one instance did I rely on protection in the form of advertising or blind dates from cold calling.

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Capturing the Freelance Life in Pajama Diaries

Monday, September 15th, 2008 at 11:30 AM | Category: Business, Leftovers, Meryl's Notes Blog 3 comments

I love Terri Libenson’s The Pajama Diaries. My mom saves them for me since my local newspaper doesn’t carry the comic strip (I submitted a request for it). The strip revolves around freelancer Jill Kaplan, a mother and Jewish woman. That’s me. AND my maiden name is Kaplan. The following strip captures a day in the life of a freelancer except add PTA and volunteer work in there.

Pajama Diaries

Click to view larger

Jill is an graphic designer, but most of the time the strip focuses on the fact she’s a freelancer working in an home office. Here you can see more examples. I would love to see the series come out in book form like Baby Blues, which I also love. I relate to the Pajama Diaries more from a career and balance work and home-life perspective. Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott do a lovely job capturing parenthood and children in Baby Blues.

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Six Easy Ways to Keep Your Clients Happy

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 9:38 AM | Category: Business, Customer Service, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 5 comments

You’ve probably read or heard many experts say that keeping your clients costs less than obtaining new ones. A Bain and Company study reports that boosting customer loyalty by 5 percent improves your profits by 25 percent at the very least and can go up to 95 percent. You can’t ask for better numbers than that.

I’ve been fortunate that 99 percent of my clients use my services a second time. While maintaining strong customer relationships helps keep clients, remember that marketing should always be a part of your job as a freelancer. Overbooked or not, I must keep on marketing as projects end, clients move projects in-house, or a business closes.

Here are six easy ways to hold on to your clients:

  1. Listen. Sounds obvious, but freelancers might not understand the client’s request and start working on the project without understanding what the client said. It’s OK to ask for clarification. Better to ask and get it right the first time than produce something off target and have to do it again.
  2. Ask for feedback. After working for a client for a reasonable time, I ask for feedback letting the client know it can be short or long — whatever works for the client as I don’t want to take up the client’s time. I ask one yes/no question and one open-ended question: “Are you happy with the work you’re getting from me?” and “What can I do to better serve you?”
  3. Ask what the client wants. When starting with a new client, I ask for samples of what he/she likes so I can incorporate that into the content. A client couldn’t provide samples (they were in a language I didn’t know), so I asked for details such as word count, formatting requirements (headers, bullets, etc. acceptable?), quotes allowed, and so on. Something worked because he was pleased with the article.
  4. Handle mistakes with grace. You and I are human not machines. We make mistakes. I believe how a person handles those mistakes can make a big difference between success and screw up. You could not charge a client extra for the added time to fix something, provide a discount on the next invoice, or simply apologize and move on.
  5. Think of your clients. If I see a PR opportunity that fits my client, a comic strip pertaining to the client’s interest, or some other valuable resource — I pass it on to my clients. I want them to be successful and have all the knowledge they need.
  6. Thank your clients. Every year I send a handwritten note to every client. Yes, it means serious carpal tunnel for my southpaw, but we don’t see enough handwriting anymore. My handwriting isn’t special, but it’s more personal than typewriting.

Ready to see your profits to soar over 25 percent? Listen well and watch out for opportunities such as customers asking for a new service or a product that your business should and could handle — get on it! How do you keep ’em happy?

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Freelance vs. Full Time Writing

Monday, July 14th, 2008 at 8:43 AM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 2 comments

Deb Ng no longer works as a freelance writer and has a full-time gig. However, she still works from a home office and doesn’t sit in meetings or watch presentations that bore. The differences between full-time work from home and freelance work from home …

  • Hours: Freelancers have more flexibility in the hours, but they also might work in the evenings and on weekends depending on projects and schedules. Full-timers work set hours like most in the corporate world. But then in the corporate world, people rarely work the standard 8am to 5pm anymore (at least in the U.S.). I attend PTA meetings, play tennis, volunteer, and take my kids to their appointments. Would full-time work allow for this? Not so sure.
  • Employer: Full-timers only work for one client, don’t have to worry about quoting rates, bookkeeping, and marketing. Freelancers have to make all of this part of their jobs. Freelancers must manage multiple clients. However, if freelancers lose a client — they already (should) have other clients to keep things going. A full-timer losing a job has no other income (this doesn’t count those who might have a couple gigs on the side).
  • Benefits: Full-timers usually have benefits and freelancers don’t. Full-timers can go on paid vacation with little guilt. Freelancers can go on vacation, but don’t get paid for it — which can lead to feeling guilty (some are great about it and others like me aren’t).
  • Illness: Full-timers get sick days. Company sick days vary widely, but freelancers don’t get money when they don’t work unless they’ve built up passive income. When I don’t feel well, I use my laptop and rest on the sofa or on my comfy bed. How much I work depends on deadlines — just a matter of finding a compromise. But when I feel awful (flu), I’m out and I won’t force anything.

One thing about going freelance is that it has given me a more well-rounded life than before when I worked in the corporate world. Before, it was work and family. Now, it’s volunteer (much more and sitting on the boards, too), tennis, more family involvement, and work (more variety and people).

I just need to add travel (other than Austin!) to the mix. At least, it’s a greater mix than when I worked in the corporate world. I didn’t exactly take real vacations while in the corporate world, but did sneak in a couple (one in 1998 and one in 2002).

Which type of career would you prefer? Why?

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Telling the Hard Truths of the Writing Life

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 at 8:06 AM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 15 comments

The winner of one full copy of Spinword PC game from Joyboost from the How to Become a Freelance Writer entry is Karen Swim! Congratulations again, Karen. It’s possible to win more than once in the blog entry prizes.

This entry’s prizes are a book by Tara Calishain and AWAI’s Accelerated Six Figure Copywriting program (excellent — I have it… but never had time to finish it). Just leave a 30-word comment on this post by June 21 to get an entry for a drawing.

I was going to call this “Telling the Violent Truths of the Writing Life,” but Freelance Folder already has dibs on “violent.” Just joking — that’s the name of guest blogger Bob Younce’s excellent series over there.

I met Bob through Poewar. Obviously, John Hewitt of Poewar connected me with a lot of new writer friends. Thank you, John. It only took me a second to consider him a friend. His articles on writing and freelancing — whether on his site or elsewhere — provide a lot of value.

Telling the Hard Truths of the Writing Life

It’s easy, if you listen to one element of the Internet writing community, to think that freelance writing consists entirely of days on the beach sipping margaritas and writing for half an hour on your laptop. For anyone who’s been writing for more than a few weeks, though, you know it just isn’t true. Anyone who tells you that it’s possible to make a living in minutes a day is selling something.

Not that selling is bad, mind you; in fact, writers have to do it in order to be successful. But these folks are selling a false idea. In this life, you reap what you sow, plain and simple.

These folks prey on unsuspecting new moms, for example, that want to work from home. They prey on guys tired of their cubicle careers who are looking for a way out. They look for a felt need and offer a fake solution.

At the same time, there are folks on the opposite end of the spectrum. There’s me, for example. If you’ve read much of my writing at all, you know I constantly promote the idea of hard work and, sometimes, long hours. I have probably turned more people away from a writing career than I have recruited, in my time.

I like to think that the realist approach is a good thing, and that it helps folks considering the writing life to count the cost before they get into something they’re not willing to follow through on.

Maybe I’m just trying to keep away the competition. I don’t think that’s it, though.

Here’s the danger that I constantly find myself in, though. I want to be able to encourage writers. I want to cheer them on. I want them to see the same kind of success I’ve had, and the same kind of success Meryl has had right here.

So, those of us honest folk in the Internet writing community wind up saying something like this:

“Freelance writing is hard work. You can make an honest living doing it, and there’s no better life. But you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to have your wits about you.”

On occasion, I think it’s worth talking about all of the good things in the writing life. I think it’s worth celebrating a success or two, both our own and others’ successes.

Like Meryl, here. She’s been plugging away at this site for the better part of a decade. My goofy little blog has been on the map since February; Meryl’s been here for 8 Februarys.

That says something, folks. It says something about character. It says something about tenacity. It says something about dedication. It’s these characteristics that you’ve got to have to make it as a writer.

So, I celebrate with Meryl. I thank her for her inspiring example. I take a moment away from telling the hard truths of the writing life to tell a pleasant one:

Writing success is possible. Look at Meryl, and at others who have done it. Dream your dream, and dream it big. You can get there, no matter what challenges you face. Stick with it. Be dedicated. And remember: you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.

Thanks, Meryl. Enjoy your vacation, and come back soon.

About the author: Bob Younce is a full-time Internet writer and writing mentor living in Linwood, Michigan. He is dedicated to helping Internet writers to achieve their dreams. Visit Bob at The Writing Journey or follow him on Twitter.

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10 Tips to Balance Freelance and Personal Lives

Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 10:44 AM | Category: Business, Customer Service, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 6 comments

Karen Putz asks how I do it — balance full-time writing and being a parent to three kids. I should be asking her how she does it — she interviews Marlee Matlin!

As I mentioned in my how I became a writer story, the whole thing started as a part-time venture while managing a part-time corporate job (for most of it) and three kids. I believe writing on the side while holding down a corporate job is a better route than chucking it all for the freelance life.

Yes, life is about risks, but you’re more likely to succeed by building up instead of starting with zip. Had I chucked it all back in 2000, I would’ve had less than a part-time amount of work and no health benefits. My spouse got laid off in 2003, right before #3 came along. We would’ve been in deep trouble had I chucked, which would’ve been more of an upchuck (holds back from the woodchuck routine).

I also volunteer and sit on several PTA boards. My mom was a full-time volunteer for the second half of my childhood. I wanted to be like her. Living a balanced life is important to me. My kids will grow up, so I need to enjoy them NOW.

Prefer to be all about your career? You might want to read Wake Up, Damn It! If your career makes you happy, then go for it and ignore everything here.

So how do I manage all of this? Not without a little insanity and stress at times, but these tips help make it easier:

  1. Enroll younger kids in pre-school. Keeping them at home isn’t doable (unless you have a nanny). My youngest has learned amazing stuff he would never have learned had he stayed home. He enters kindergarten in the fall (sob).
  2. Rely on a personal information manager complete with contacts, calendar, and to do lists. The Palm desktop has been my trusty sidekick since 1995. Use Outlook. Use any of the many online web-based applications.
  3. Balance your schedule for the week. Non-work appointments take too many of my slots this week. I’ve rescheduled two. I try to spread out appointments, but that doesn’t always work and find a week becomes overloaded. So when I realize it, I start moving things around where I can. I review the week ahead sometime between Friday and Monday to ensure balance or to do something about it.
  4. Accept working off hours. While I work a standard work week, appointments and kid events can cut into my work time. So I make it up in the evening or on weekends, but never at the sacrifice of sleep bring us to the next point…
  5. Get sleep. Everyone requires a different amount of sleep to function well. If I stay up late working on something, I’m hurting more than helping my clients and business. While I might get something done late at night, I’m useless the next day and lose an entire day. So better to sleep and finish in the morning.
  6. Avoid waiting until last minute to do work to make deadline. To avoid late nights, I make sure I have room to meet the deadline. This prevents racing the clock or sacrificing quality to make a deadline.
  7. Make “No” part of your vocabulary. Or else, get stuck with deadlines close to each other, overload your schedule, and turn yourself into a stress machine (which affects your health). I believe, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So parents, it may feel selfish to say, “No,” but your family benefits.
  8. Drop stressful clients. I’ve dropped a client or two because I didn’t enjoy the work and dreaded working on their projects. Add these together spells energy drain. Worried about replacing them? Writers should always include marketing a part of their job.
  9. Balance your kids’ activities. Who says they need to take music lessons, play sports, dance, and do scouts all at once? Kids need a break, too. Try to limit younger ones’ — who are trying things to find what they like — current activities to one or two. When one ends, you can try something else. After all, fewer activities means fewer chauffeuring jobs for parents.
  10. Use your “I can’t write now” time wisely. When we find ourselves unable to write or work, we can easily fall into the trap of needlessly surfing the Web or doing other wasteful activities. When I’m in a stupor, I fold laundry, exercise, play games (that I need to review) — Things that benefit me.

How do you balance your writing life with your personal life?

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How I Became a Full-time Freelance Writer

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 at 9:02 AM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 5 comments

I generally don’t talk about myself as I accept that people don’t come here for my personality. Instead, people like you come for the information I provide that I hope helps you in your life.

From reading other blogs, it looks like many love to hear how writers and freelancers went full-time. So here’s the full story.

In the beginning…

After kid #2 arrived, I started New York University’s online program in Internet Technology while on maternity leave. Initially, I planned to go into web design. After a few Web design projects, I discovered web design was more frustrating than enjoyable.

Around this time, an email newsletter came in. It had a contest where readers could submit an article related to web design. The winners received high quality software like Photoshop, so I gave it a shot. Readers loved the article, so I wrote a few more.

The series built my writing portfolio and helped me land my first paid professional writing gig with a web design magazine. Slowly, I picked up more paid writing assignments discovering I loved working as a writer.

However, I was apprehensive about pursuing a career as a writer. Many people talk about how they wanted to be a writer. I honestly didn’t think I offered anything special to stand out. It also didn’t help that many talented bloggers and web site writers hit the writing circuit. Regardless, I kept my eyes open for gigs and considered writing a sideline since I still had my corporate job.

Furthermore, I never dreamed of having my own business. I feared the sales aspect — getting more clients — because I had to use a relay service to make the calls. As if cold calling wasn’t hard enough. It was worse with a relay. Then there was finances, bookkeeping, the usual business stuff.

Returning to the Dilbertesque world

I returned to work a couple of weeks early from maternity leave on a part-time basis in hopes to convince management that I could do the job part-time. Management wasn’t receptive to the idea.

I wrote a memo with various options supported by data. Eventually, the company let me work part-time because there was another part-time employee who joined the team. However, we didn’t job share. Together, we made up one full-time employee.

Eventually, she went with the wireless part of the business and I stayed with long distance retaining my part-time status. This let me build the writing business.

Dot com blah

I lost several clients when dot com went kaput. This was a turning point. I could either scramble to get more clients or resign myself to a corporate career.

I wrote an email. A pit in my stomach formed. It took time to work up the nerve to hit send. The email went out to people in my network including those I had interviewed for articles. I landed two new clients, one of which I met in person for the first time after working with him for six years.

I worked part-time until March 2005 when my company required me to return full-time. By then, I had plenty of business writing experience and a healthy portfolio.

The benefits… the benefits…

I couldn’t quit my job yet because my husband didn’t have health benefits. We had three kids, so we needed mine. By June 2005, my husband landed a job with benefits. A month later, I retired from corporate America for full-time freelancing.

Just found this article on health insurance for freelancers for those who don’t have the luxury of relying on someone else for benefits.

Other becoming a writer stories…

Mary E. Lyons

Bob Younce

Many at how we became writers

Delaune Michel

Philip McCord

Catherine Shaffer

Catherine Leigh

Geoffrey Zimmerman (video)

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