5 reasons to keep your writer’s resume shiny and handy

Hire this writer for she (or he) is awesome.I’m a stickler when it comes to my writer’s resume. Even though I’m happy where I am, I’m still putting it through some regular maintenance. As I research new ideas and trends, I’m noticing that some people think writers don’t need a resume.

Main reasons being no one reads them anymore, they’re boring and that your online portfolio more effectively shows you at your best. The strongest case I’ve come across for not having a resume is made by freelance B2B copywriter, Daisy McCarty, in her blog post Why You Should Burn Your Freelance Resume. To sum up her standpoint, by presenting a resume, you present yourself as a job seeker and put yourself in a weaker negotiating position.

All valid points.

I still think every copywriter — freelance and cube dwelling — should have a resume.

Now, not all writers market the same way. If you’re a blogger who networks online or a magazine writer who pitches ideas, a traditional resume may not be the best use of your time. My point of view is that of a professional copywriter who targets businesses.

I’ve freelanced and cube-dwelled. And in both cases, the benefits of having one outweighed my reasons for not.

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Why I failed as a freelance writer

judgemental-cat-isjudging-lolcatI recently closed my state-recognized, report-my-taxes-or-burn freelance copywriting business. I’m now a bona fide cube dweller with a sweet gig and a steady paycheck. This works for me, and I’m quite happy. Still, I felt a pang of sadness when I closed my business license account and filed the last of my business taxes. It was admitting defeat. When you first go freelance, you read a lot about how this writer made it by doing this and how that blogger found the secret and how “you can do it, too.” But I didn’t “do it, too.” I failed. Here’s why…

Started freelancing for the wrong reason

I became a freelance copywriter when the ‘permanent’ copywriting position I’d been promised was eliminated thanks to budget cuts. (Irony, noted.) Anger gives me the energy to get things done in the short term, but it cramps my business-critical decision-making skills. Redecorate my office with inspirational quotes? It shall be glorious! Network, cold call or put together a business plan? I-don’t-wanna-k-thx-bye. Your takeaway If you’re going to freelance, do it because you want to and because you’re willing to run a business.

No contracts

LOLcat - contract for soulContracts are what help you get paid on time and help protect you from getting screwed. Despite all of my research that stressed the importance of having my own contract, I didn’t know anything about them and therefore kept putting it off. I got lucky that the few clients I did get didn’t take me for a ride. Your takeaway Get your contract ready. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to cover your butt. You can update it over time, but get it in order. If you need one now, one place to start is the Freelance Union’s Contract Creator.

No company branding

I was just me. Job-hunting, please-pick-me, little ole me. For many clients, that’s fine. But they’ll take you more seriously if you build and own your professional brand. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield wrote:

Sometimes, as Joe Blow himself, I’m too mild-mannered to go out and sell. But as Joe Blow, Inc., I can pimp the hell out of myself.

That means more money, more opportunity and a better chance to succeed as what you are—a walking, talking business. Your takeaway Freelancers aren’t people, they’re businesses. Be a business. Build your brand. Pimp yourself.

No business plan

LOLcat - Evil Plans I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going or how I was going to get anywhere. And just like with my contracts, I didn’t know where to go to fix this problem. I was a clueless minnow treading water in a big empty sea. See how well that worked out? Your takeaway Writing your business plan makes you look at your business as a whole and draw its map. It can even force you to define your own vision of success. You can start by combing the sample business plans at BPlans for sections and business ideas. I don’t know anything about BPlans’s paid services. Can’t share any pros or cons. But their sample business plans are a starting point. At the very least, you’ll get an idea of what you need to look at and figure out.

No marketing plan

I had no idea how I was going to drive business or where to find clients. I depended on previous employers and creative agencies. It was a Build-It-And-They-Will-Come approach. Only ‘they’ never showed up. Your takeaway Businesses that market themselves stand a better chance of success. Even Apple markets itself. It’s just common sense. So market yourself. And be smart about it. I’d love to point you in a direction, but I still have no idea.

Sucky website

My first website was a red, black and white GoDaddy site with fonts that wouldn’t match. Think of a plain, white tissue box with some boogers on it but with half the glamour; that was my site. I’d include a screen capture but I was more than happy to delete it and let obscurity do its thing. Your takeaway Don’t wait until you need a website. Just put one together now. Plan it out and take your time with it. And I do not recommend using GoDaddy.

Sucky boss

LOcat doing job If I was an employee, I’d have thought I was the nicest boss ever. I slept in. Took long lunches. Cut out early when it was sunny. I was my own boss, right? I could do whatever I wanted. Problem was that I wasn’t an employee. I was CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, CMO and every other C(_)O necessary to run a small business. And I sucked at it. Your takeaway Being your own boss means demanding more of yourself. Set boundaries with friends, family and pets. But most importantly, set boundaries with yourself. Because no one is there to do the work but you.

It wasn’t a total loss

Yes, I did a lot of things wrong. But even though I failed, also got a lot out of it. I learned a lot. And I’ll cover that in my next post.

10 crackerjack proofreading tips, and then some

DIRECTV_RobLowe

Image courtesy of DIRECTV and the super-hunky Robe Lowe.

“I’m a professional writer.”
“And I’m a professional writer who doesn’t proofread very well.”

Typos make professional writers look like hacks.

And we’ve all had those awkward moments when someone points out our errors even though we could have sworn we went through that document at least a dozen times.

So, here’s some tips (and some bonus links) to help you up your accuracy and reduce those awkward moments. Because no one wants to be that writer.

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Truths revealed by walking in a prospect’s shoes

stay-calm-and-assemble-the-minionsAssemble the minions!
— Gru,
Despicable Me (2010, Universal Pictures)

 

Most of us know what it’s like to be the freelancer trying to get the gig. But how often do we get to see what it’s like on the flip side of the coin? To be the one hiring creative talent?

I’m not talking about hiring other writers or designers to help with your own clients. I’m talking about inbound prospects who only know that they have a problem, that you might be a solution and not much else.

A lot of freelancers give these prospects the brush off because “time is money” and “I only want to work with people who already know my value” and all that. Instead, these prospects could be opportunity knocking.

It just takes a little empathy.
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How this Little Ducky Went Freelance: Part 3

Azkaban

But now I have a better view

When I was kicked out of Azkaban almost a year ago, I decided to put my career in my own hands and go freelance.

A year can make a big difference, good, bad and unconventionally pretty.

I’ve made major mistakes, especially in my marketing strategies and freelance rates. Result being? I’m back in a cubicle and freelancing on the side.

But I’ve also made some pretty good progress. And I’ve learned a lot.

So let’s wrap up the trilogy by taking a look at where things stand, what I need to fix and what you can learn from my mistakes.

Chapter 3: Now What?

My Freelance Writer’s Website
When I started freelancing, I had to put my freelance writer’s website together pretty quickly.

It was a hurried, uneducated, rush job and I don’t like anything about my website HayesCopywriting.com (now offline and updated/moved to Hayes-Writing.com). I don’t like how it looks, how it reads, how it doesn’t land me clients — pick something, I don’t like it.

I specialize in online content and my own website is more embarrassing than showing up to class naked.

It’s also hosted on GoDaddy. While I could do an entire post on why I don’t like GoDaddy, for now I’ll just call it cumbersome to modify, difficult to navigate and more focused on up-selling than serving its customers.

I’ve found another solution and set my GoDaddy account to close at the end of my subscription.

Dear GoDaddy, it’s not me, it’s you.
I’ve found someone else. And I’m moving on.

Construction on my new website is now underway on WordPress. It won’t be as polished I want, but it’s already better than my GoDaddy site and I can work on it more easily.

Plus, I’ll get more the insight into my web traffic and wiggle room in my budget.

  • Your Takeaway
    You need an online presence that sticks to the ribs. If your website isn’t doing the job, try something else. Evaluate what’s working, what isn’t and problem solve so that any changes you make are strategic. There are solutions out there – just know what you want and find it.

My Marketing Efforts
Ever loaded a blender and pressed the High Speed button without putting the lid on? That’s what my marketing efforts have been like — all over the place.

The problem is that I didn’t put much thought into my business identity, my target audience and how to reach them.

Timidity + no direction = ineffective freelancing

Yes, it’s that simple.

But instead of beating myself up and calling myself a failure — which never gets anyone anywhere — I’m going to:

  1. Define my freelance brand
    – to be done in my business plan
  2. Profile my ideal client
    – done
  3. Build a marketing plan using The Easy Fifteen Minute Marketing Plan from All Freelance Writing
    – a project I’m looking forward to

In creating this marketing plan, I will define where my target audience hangs out and how I can best reach them.

  • Your Takeaway
    Taking the time to plan your marketing before you hit the High Speed button will save you countless hours (and tears) of cleanup later. Know yourself, know your audience and figure out how you’re going to connect the two.

My Business Plan
In researching business plans for freelancers, I found that (as usual) there are two camps: those who don’t think freelancers need a business plan and those who do.

I’m not going speak for all freelancers. But I need to define my business model, what success looks like and how I’m going to reach my goals. A business plan will help.

These are the resources I’m going to use:

I’m going to pull the best from all of the above and sit my tail down to write my business plan.

I can have a cookie when I’m done.

  • Your Takeaway
    Your business plan doesn’t have to be formal, but you do need a roadmap. And you need to answer some hard questions. So even if your business plan isn’t so beautiful it makes Donald Trump weep with envy, you should probably whip one up anyway. Just so you know what you want and where you’re going.

My Freelance Future
I started freelancing with no leads, no clue and no clients. But even though my marketing efforts were less effective than trying to build an Egyptian pyramid out of soggy bread loaves, I eventually caught on and got some clients.

Now that I have a full time, 40-hour onsite contract gig and have started planning my wedding, I’m cutting back on side clients.

There are only so many hours in the day and if I tried to do it all, something would have to give. And that something would be my sanity.

But I’m still building my freelance writing business.

I’m putting together my new freelance writer website, maintaining Rubber Ducky Copywriter, engaging in social media, writing my business plan, formulating marketing strategies and staying active within this wonderful writer’s community I’m lucky enough to have met.

And I still take smaller side assignments here and there. Right now, I’m working on product labels for a local chili startup.

My first freelance efforts were a false start, a rumble strip on the road of life. It happens. I’m not the first freelancer to make a false start and I won’t be the last.

I can tell you this, however: I’m not quitting.

My goal is the same. My drive is the same. My freelancing smarts have leveled up. That counts for a lot.

  • Your Takeaway
    If you aren’t where you want to be, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It only means that you need to reevaluate what you’re doing and maybe make some changes. Do what you have to do to keep the lights on, but a false start does not mean the end.

I’m not where I planned when I started, but the next time I’m released back into the wild, I’ll hit the freelance ground running.

What about you? Are you where you want to be and if not, what can you do to get there? Share your story in the comments.