Ask Me Anything: Finding Time, Following Up On Leads and Networking

Kathryn Lang asks,

I want to know how you end up with eight hours for writing. I have yet to be able to make that happen around my home. 😀 Maybe I should just run away.

Some freelance writers struggle to schedule around day jobs. Some struggle to schedule around kids. There are plenty of other problems that can creep into a schedule — and sometimes they show up in combination. All of that means that setting a writing schedule can seem entirely impossible.

Because I know what can happen if I’m not careful, I’m very protective of my time. No matter who asks me for a favor or who I need to schedule an appointment with, I’m willing to say no if it doesn’t fit into my schedule. I do set aside a couple of day-time hours for errands and appointments and such, knowing that if I schedule time in, it’s easier to recover from the disruption of time away from the computer. To make up for that time, I may spend a couple of extra hours at the computer after dinner or on the weekend.

Just because I work for eight hours a day, though, doesn’t mean that you have to. I’m lucky to have a pretty flexible schedule (no kids yet, full-time freelancer), but my schedule would change in a heartbeat if I had another priority above work.

Kathleen asks,

When someone emails you interested in your services, what do you say?

It can be hard to decide how to approach a prospective client. If you start with your rates, he might get scared off. If you start with trying to educate a client about why you charge a certain way, he might get bored.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a good starting point is to ask the client about himself and his project first. In general, most people don’t include enough information about their projects for me to offer a fair quote, so I list out the details I need. Because so many clients start out by asking rates, I do have a boiler plate paragraph explaining that I charge per project and why.

I also make a point of asking about the client’s goals with a project. More times than I can count, a client has come to me with a project, hoping to reach a specific end — but I can tell from my experience that the project will need to be tweaked or altered in order to achieve that goal. If I can mention that up front, I can often save both myself and the client a lot of worry.

Matt Willard is looking for tips to find opportunities to connect with the people relevant to the writing work he wants to find — and he’s a humor writer.

Connecting with potential clients and editors before you actually try to get them to put money can make it much easier to convince them of the value of your writing when the time comes. The problem is, for some niches, it’s hard to find those people. Humor writers like Matt may actually have the hardest time of it: assuming that you don’t want to get into scriptwriting or other related projects, your main opportunities for selling your work will be to humor magazines and humor websites.

That means that you’ve got to build strong connections with humor editors. You need to at least make yourself known to them. The best starting point is likely to be the publications that these editors work for. Commenting on articles can be a way to build up a presence among what the editors think of as their community. Do it often enough and they may even recognize your name when you send in a submission. Those comments do have to be meaningful and well-thought out to really get the attention of editors, though.

It’s also worthwhile to get involved in some of the forums and groups on various social networking sites that share jokes and humorous links. Just looking on Facebook, there are hundreds of groups dedicated to jokes. Get involved and start sharing (among other things) links to your own writing). I’d suggest not limiting yourself to your own work — you’ll be better able to become a part of the overall community if they don’t see you as only promoting your own work.

This sort of approach works for more than just humor writers, of course. It’s just a matter of creatively connecting with the folks in your field.

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Have a question about the business of freelance writing? Ask it in the comments and I’ll answer it next Saturday!

7 Comments

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  4. Matt Willard   â€¢  

    So, spending time in niche groups and forums is more of a authority-building activity, right? I usually avoid them, because in my niche (video games, comics, cartoons and other geek stuff) I don’t really see a lot of opportunity for finding clients.

  5. thursday   â€¢     Author

    @Matt, Forums and niche groups can be a good opportunity to build authority for your own projects, but they can also be a way to create a presence with potential clients. It’s important to remember that just as there are places online that video game players gather, there are sites where the editors of publications dealing with video games also spend time. They’re not always different, either: many editors spend a good chunk of time in the sites related to their niches in order to stay connected.

  6. Matt Willard   â€¢  

    Sounds good. Thanks for the help – I’ll re-orient my strategy as needed.

  7. Sara   â€¢  

    I have a question about finding contact information for websites. I suppose I never really gave much thought to who contributes the content to websites, but now I realize that writing for sites can be some nice extra income. The problem I’m running into is finding contact information for submissions. I’ve tried using the generic “Info” button or “info@…” email address, but I haven’t had much luck. How do I track down this hard-to-find info? I might be missing out on some additional opportunities–help! :)

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