Sunday, January 25, 2009

Keeping Clients

During these difficult economic times, many companies are not using freelancers anymore and are keeping work in-house. As a new year begins, it's a good idea to contact and reconnect with your clients.

If you didn't send them a holiday card, send them an e-mail to wish them a successful year and to let them know you're there to help in any way.

Sometimes a company tightens its budget and doesn't use many freelancers. Now's the time to let your client know that even though you do editing for them, for example, let them know you are also willing to do proofreading or writing projects. If you have a good working relationship with them, you can be assured that they know you're a professional and are quite capable of performing a multitude of tasks for them.

We all need to be proactive in keeping our current clients. We also need to look for opportunities to find new clients.

How do you keep your clients?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Year...A New Beginning

I can't believe it's been so many months since I last posted something. I need to make a resolution to post more regularly. But life always seems to get in the way. For example, I haven't felt well since September. I've been going to various doctors to find out what's wrong. It's been very frustrating. It seems it's not just one thing that I can take a magic pill for and then it'll be over with. Oh situation has to be complicated: problems with my blood clotting too much and being "mildly positive" (never heard of such a thing) for lupus, an autoimmune disorder.

I've decided to sort of be in denial about my medical condition. I can't let it get me down. I have goals. I have to get on with my life. The doctor agreed with this philosophy too. Imagine that!

Each New Year's day, I reflect on my resolutions for the year before to see what I achieved, and to see if it's still appropriate to have as a goal for the new year. I set three kinds of goals: personal, business, and financial. Do you set goals (resolutions)? Do they work for you?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Interruptions While Freelancing

Everyone has experienced the rush and pressure of an impending deadline. You're concentrating and are on a roll. All of a sudden, the phone rings and you automatically pick it up. It's your mom. You ask, "What are you doing calling me on my business line?"

She replies, "Well I need to reach you right away and I knew you'd be sitting at your computer e-mailing."

"Mom, I'm not e-mailing. I'm working, and I'm on a deadline!"

"Yeah, but you have all day." She then proceeds to tell you all about so-and-so and what her new theory is about the cause of her marital problems. Next thing you know, you're calling your sister to tell her of the latest theory. By the time you look at your clock, a whole hour has passed. By that time, you have to check your e-mails to see if the potential client wrote back, then you get side-tracked reading other e-mails. Does this scenario sound familiar?

Here are some ideas to stay focused on your work:

* Have voicemail pick up your calls. Return calls later. Schedule a time for it.

* Make sure your children are occupied while you work. Tell them no interruptions, unless it's an emergency. Give them guidelines of what an emergency is. Set a time when it's ok to talk with you.

* If you have young children, or a baby, work around their nap time. Or hire a babysitter to watch over them while you work. You can also swap babysitting duties with a friend or neighbor.

* Tell your spouse, significant other, or any adults in your household not to disturb you. Give them a time when you'll be available.

* Don't make any calls when pressed for a deadline. Before you know it, you'll stay on too long chatting and precious time will be wasted.

* Don't check your e-mails when you want uninterrupted time. You'll get distracted and start reading other e-mails, then you'll start answering them all.

* If you have pets, make sure they're entertained (playing with toys), chewing on a rawhide bone (for your dog), or napping. When pets want your attention, they let you know. Cats can jump on your desk and sit on your papers. Dogs can pull and tug on you when they want your attention or want to go for a walk. Remember to plan around them too.

We all have distractions. The important thing is not to give into them (at least not for long!).

How do you handle interruptions?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Different Types of Grief

My dad died in 2003 at the age of 76, and my younger sister Becky died last year at the age of 49. I realized something: The experience of grief is different for each of them, just as the grief I'm experiencing for my dog, Toby, who also died last year, is unique from some of my other pets who have died. You wouldn't know this until you experience it.

I'm not ready yet to tell how my dad and sister died. I've blogged about how Toby died (see entry of June 15).

With my dad, I felt sadness at his loss, but I also felt relief because he had suffered so much from the complications of diabetes. I felt guilt, which will be clear when I write another time about him, and it took grief counseling to help me work through it and put it behind me. I didn't cry as much as I thought I would, and I found it easy to get back to my life. I thought of him often, but he didn't consume my thoughts. I know he had a long life, lived to see his grandchildren born, and enjoyed many years of happiness and sometimes heartache. He didn't talk about his regrets too much, especially about his four kids. Maybe he had them, but found it difficult to articulate them. I felt he had lived a relatively long time and it was his time to go. As time passed, it didn't hurt as much. Some days I don't even think of him. Sometimes I think of things he would say, like "I paid darn good money for that" or "Don't push it!" I have fond memories of him, but some are bad.

My sister's death, on the other hand, has been very difficult for me. It's not just because she just died last year. I do find that things get easier, but I think of her everyday. There is a big void in my life with her loss. We spoke everyday and had long conversations. She was my best friend.

Even though we were very different and didn't always agree, we were very close. When we were growing up, we had a lot of sibling rivalry (she's younger by three years), but we were always together. She always wanted to be with me. I tried to do things without her, but she always ended up tagging along.

As adults, we were much closer, became roommates, worked at the same place, and went dancing together. Eventually, we went our separate ways with very separate lives, but still stayed close.

Now every morning when I drive to work, something triggers thoughts of Becky, especially a favorite song of hers. Then I start recalling how much she loved to dance. My thoughts then drift off to a scene at the dance club we used to frequent and Becky putting on a show with her moves. Every time I think of these things, I get a big lump in my throat and try real hard not to cry, but mostly I do.

Sometimes so many things are going through my head on the way to work--problems and trying to find solutions to them, funny things that happened to me (which I always want to tell Becky right away, and it's painful when it hits me that she's gone), or planning my day. No matter what it is, my thoughts drift to Becky, and I cry. I usually get control of my emotions once I pull in the parking garage at work. Ofentimes, my coworkers don't realize I've been crying--that is, until I talk about it.

Anything can trigger my grief for Becky--talking to her daughters, being in her house with all her things around, see photos of her (I still can't display any photos of her yet), wanting to discuss something wit her, wanting her opinion, etc. I'm not sure when, or if, my grief for Becky will end. It's easier, but it's with me everyday. It feels like her loss will always be part of my life.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Contacts Can Come in Handy

When you're a freelancer, over the years, you get to know other people in your field. I've been pretty lucky because I've been in the publishing business for a long time.

I work full time as a senior editor in the health care field. I've made lots of contacts with other editors, proofreaders, and writers who work full time and/or freelance. I've worked in many fields: legal, financial, engineering, education, computer, and medical.

My rolodex and e-mail address book are full of contacts from various areas of expertise. Whenever you can't take a job, offer to recommend someone else. Before you do, though, make sure that the person is reliable and right for that assignment. Have the freelancer you recommend let you know if that assignment worked out. Follow up with the client to find out if someone (doesn't have to be the contact you recommended) was chosen for the assignment. If not, offer to recommend someone else.

Contacts also come in handy when you're working on a project and are striving to finish it in time, but you hit a snag. Even though I haven't tried this personally, some freelancers hire someone else to work on a portion of the job. This is risky. You should be familiar with that person's work. Even if you are, you should review the work, because overall you're responsible for that project.

Other times if you're editing a book, for example, the client might ask you if you can do the index. Be honest if you don't have the expertise for indexing. But offer to recommend someone who will do a good job on it.

Besides getting contacts from your previous jobs, conferences and professional associations are also good sources. Associations like the Editorial Freelancers Association, Media Bistro, and LinkedIn are invaluable. So start networking and compile your contact list. It'll come in handy one day.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Most Dogs Fear Fireworks

I've only had a few dogs who weren't afraid of fireworks on the Fourth of July.

My dog Toby, who passed away last June, was afraid of fireworks. He would stick close to me. When the real loud ones came, he would hide in the bedroom in the corner of the room. And I found out a few weeks ago that my little dog Desi is also afraid of them. I thought, "Oh no! Here we go again."

I live around several schools, and after a high school graduation ceremony, the fireworks displays were set off. They were not only beautiful but they were also very loud. They sounded like explosions. Desi was outside at the time and I was watching TV. He walked in fast. I spoke to him calmly, but he ignored me and walked straight to the bedroom and went underneath the bed! He's small--only about 10 pounds. I tried to coax him out, but he stayed there for almost an hour. When he came out, he jumped on my lap and cuddled. After a few minutes, he walked to the door and looked out, but he was afraid to go outside. I went outside and he eagerly followed me, staying real close. He was finally satisfied everything was ok.

Then yesterday, someone set off fireworks around 9:30 p.m. Desi was asleep on the bed. I talked to him soothingly and petted him. When I walked out of the room, he jumped down and went under the bed. Even after I went to bed, he waited another half hour more before he jumped on the bed to cuddle and sleep.

The animal shelters are always full this time of year because of dogs who bolt and keep running. My neighbor's dog Sasha is terrified of fireworks too. She's a rottweiler, but she'll jump in the tub. When she comes out, she's trembling.

I remember when my dad was in the hospital and I was taking care of his dog Princess. She was terrified of fireworks and he always had to bring her in before the fireworks started because she would jump at the windows and tear the screens. In my dad's neighborhood, the kids start setting fireworks during the day. I went over and brought her in the house. Once she was inside, she was fine. I stayed with her most of the day, but I had to return home in the evening to be with my dog Toby. I left her in the house. I came again early the next morning (the 5th) and she was happy to see me. I let her out and checked the house thoroughly, but there was no sign of mess or damage. Whew! I stayed with her a few hours, then went to see my dad in the hospital.

I had made arrangements to have my dad's step-daughter Isabel check on Princess and to feed her dinner. Around 5 I got a call that the gate was found wide open and Princess was gone! We searched everywhere to no avail. We put up signs and kept driving up and down the blocks for days. We even searched the local pound. We were beginning to think the worst. We wondered what to tell my dad. When my dad would ask how Princess was or how she did on the 4th, we lied and said she did fine. I felt terrible. Finally, after a week, someone called. The man said he had a female dog that matched Princess' description!

Isabel picked her up and brought her home. She was in good condition. It turns out she went for miles down a main street and hid in the back of a business (so they would lock her up at night and fed and cared for her during the day). Princess was extremely lucky. I was so grateful. I gave the guy a gift card to a restaurant in appreciation.

I worry how Desi will be tonight. People told me to tranquilize him, but I don't like the idea of drugging him. I'll see how he does this year. If need be, I'll tranquilize him next year.

Some surrounding cities ban fireworks. I wish mine would. I'll stay home the entire weekend to be with Desi and my cat Kelley (who doesn't appreciate fireworks either, but she stays put). How do you keep your dog calm?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ways to Market Your Services

I always find it difficult to find new clients. I'm not an assertive person, so it's always challenging for me to market my services. But the opportunity presented itself at a writer's conference I attended on May 28 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

I was really looking forward to hearing Jacquelyn Mitchard (author of The Deep End of the Ocean) give the keynote address. She did not disappoint. She was down to earth, comical, gave good writing advice, and spoke of her challenges in writing.

The three breakout sessions I attended were extremely helpful to me. The first one, on personal essays given by Victoria Zackheim, was informative. She spoke about getting to the "heart" (emotion) of your essay and read a few examples from her new book, The Other Woman. Some of the questions raised were about how to prevent getting sued when listing someone's name (her advice was to change the name or let the person know what you're writing about so there are no surprises later) and how to find an editor (I turned around to see who asked that question so that I could talk to her later. I did manage to talk to her after the session. I gave her some leads and gave her my business card.).

The second breakout session I attended was called Fictional Seeds. It was given by Lisa Lenard-Cook. She defined fictional seeds as fleeting thoughts and impressions. She suggested writing your thoughts or ideas in a journal, on a piece of paper and place it in a bowl later, or in a computer file. She suggested that when you start writing, keep saying (or thinking), "and then...." She discourages outlining for fiction and stated that contests are a good idea. She announced that she has a new book called The Mind of Your Story that discusses some of her suggestions. Of course I bought it!

The third session was "Ask the Literary Agents." Four agents answered questions from the audience. Following are some Do's and Don'ts that they discussed.


* Be passionate about your work when making a pitch.
* Send query letters to agents you have thoroughly researched.
* Go to an agent's Web site for guidelines.
* Make sure you're a good fit with your agent.
* Love your material. Ask yourself, "Would I pay $25 for my book?"
* Keep queries short (what is your book about and why is it important or relevant to you as a writer).
* Ask your agent questions. There is no licensing board for agents. Do your homework. Shop around.


* Get bogged down in detail for your pitch.
* Be nervous when making a pitch.
* Be too specific in your query letter.
* Call it literary.
* Mention that everyone in your family read it and loved it.
* Send a query letter as an attachment.

The agents said to pitch a memoir, write a book proposal, do a competitive analysis on memoirs that are similar yet different from yours, and send an outline and a sample chapter. Memoirs need to be different. Ask yourself, "Is my story that compelling?"

They stated you can have more than one agent for different genres, but you should focus on one you're good at. An agent also stated that when agents take on a new client, they usually do a five-year plan.

I came away with so much information, and many of the sessions confirmed what I already know: keep writing, give it your best, and put your heart into it.

I was able to make several contacts from talking to people throughout the conference. I handed out my business cards, gave advice on editing, gave people leads if I wasn't able to help them, promised to review a book proposal (free of charge), talked about editing to those who didn't understand the editorial process or know why a book has to be edited (yes, there are some who believe that!), and gave a recommendation to send their work out for critique. It felt good. I felt empowered and confident that I can market my services! And all with little effort or anxiety on my part.