Whatever your winter holiday celebrations, I hope they are joyful, healthy, and delightful!
This blog is taking a break until January.
See you in the New Year!
Where excellent writing meets good business for outstanding results
Whatever your winter holiday celebrations, I hope they are joyful, healthy, and delightful!
This blog is taking a break until January.
See you in the New Year!
Hopefully, everyone who celebrates Memorial Day Weekend had a lovely one, and there are bank holiday weekends for everyone else either just passed or quickly coming up!
That brings up the question of “summer hours.”
When I worked in theatre, there was no such thing, unless I was working on a particular summer season, where the work intensified, rather than rolled back.
When I worked for a publishing company, most people took off by 12 or 1 PM on Fridays (many took the Hampton Jitney out). Support staff/admin people usually stayed until 3 or so, and there were early happy hours all over the city.
As a freelancer, I spent far too many years overworking. And summer hours weren’t an option.
I intend to change that.
In the Women Write Change group, the concept of “summer hours” came up. Some are taking Fridays off. Others take Mondays off from client work to do other writing projects. When I worked in theatre, Monday was usually the dark day, so Mondays feel more natural to me, but my inbox is usually quite stuffed from not looking at email over the weekend.
I’ve found my brain naturally checking out by about noon on Fridays since mid-winter.
I live on the second floor of a restored historic house in a small city in the Berkshires. There’s no air conditioning in the building, and it can get HOT in the summer. The ceiling fans and other fans help, but it gets hot.
Something I started doing last summer was taking longer mid-day breaks, which has evolved into the whole Taking Longer Lunch Breaks that I talked about on this site a few weeks back. I made like a European and took a big chunk of the afternoon off, and then, when it cooled down, worked in the evenings.
This summer, I’m going to try a mix of things. I plan to work longer hours, taking the Midday Heat Break as necessary, from Mondays through Thursdays, so that I can stop client work by noon on most Fridays. There’s flexibility in this, because if I take a day off midweek for whatever reason, I may have to work through Friday and into the weekend.
That’s one of the things I love about the freelance life – as long as I meet my deadline, I choose which hours to work on which projects.
There’s a lovely lake about ¾ of a mile from the house, and I intend to spend a good portion of sunny days there. Chances are I won’t drag the laptop up there, but I may take the Kindle or the tablet up and do some work lakeside. Writing in longhand is also an option, as is editing on hard copy.
That is the plan. However, we all know the best plans going awry, and all that.
I will let you know how it goes. Are you making adjustments for your summer schedule? What are they? How do you decide your summer hours?
Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely holiday season, and let’s hope that 2022 is a year where we make progress on the grander social scale.
My vision for this blog is that is runs every other week, instead of every week. While there’s plenty to say, there are also plenty of content sources (some of whom I will link to), and I hope you read a wide range of material.
Today, I’m talking about the flurry of mail, both virtual and tangible, that happens around the holiday season, and what I find works for me as a freelancer.
I am a big cards-and-letters-by-post person, especially around the winter holidays. To me, it’s important to let people know that they are thought of with good wishes during this time.
I send cards to clients and editors. I send cards to former clients for three years after we’ve stopped working together, provided we parted on positive terms, and they are someone with whom I’d like to work again. The cards are just that – holiday cards with good wishes. No pitch. No “if you need me in the new year” type of thing.
Simple good wishes.
No strings attached. No expectations.
And yes, a certain percentage either respond with a card of their own and say, “contact me in the new year about work” or email with pretty much the same message. But the purpose of the holiday card is NOT to pitch to them. It’s to send good wishes and acknowledge them as fellow humans on the journey.
Come January, I prep for the first of the quarterly post cards. Again, this is done via snail mail, because I generally have a 25% response rate on snail mail (and it’s much lower if it’s only sent via email).
I design a post card in a seasonal color with a quick reminder about the top services offered and the website address. I encourage getting in touch. I either print it on my laser printer (which does everything except cut my food up for me) or send it out to a place like Vistaprint for a quick turnaround. I usually send out cards in January, April, July, and October. I did not send them in 2020 and 2021, a combination of dealing with my own illness and the pandemic in 2020 and moving during a pandemic in 2021. This year, I may do January, May, and September, to see how that works (especially since I want to lighten my workload for August).
Who goes on the list?
–Companies with whom I’ve done business, to remind them I’m still interested in working with them.
–Companies to whom I’ve either pitched or sent an LOI and with whom I’ve had a positive exchange, even if I haven’t yet worked for them.
–Companies I’ve researched, but haven’t pitched or sent an LOI.
–People with whom I’ve interacted at networking events, and with whom I want to stay in touch.
Because it’s been two years since I sent out the postcards, I’m building quite a bit of a new list. So much has changed, including my location, and that I am fully remote, instead of a mix of remote an onsite work. Also, because I’m focusing my attention on different aspects of the work these next few months, that affects the list.
To whom do I send the cards (as individuals, not companies)?
–In the companies with whom I’ve done previous business, to my contact, or whomever has taken over in that role;
–In companies where I’ve pitched or sent and LOI and had a pleasant exchange, to the person with whom I interacted;
–In companies I want to pitch in the future, the person most likely to make the hiring decisions. Sometimes that’s a marketing director, sometimes a creative director, sometimes the head of the company. That’s where the research comes in.
–When it comes to networking, obviously it’s the person with whom I’ve networked, unless that individual suggested someone else in their company as a contact.
I don’t follow up a postcard the way I would a traditional pitch or LOI because the next postcard is the follow up. Some marketing people will be horrified by this; however, I find it works. The person to whom I send the mail does not feel badgered. A postcard is easy to keep handy, or to come across unexpectedly, just when you’re looking to hire someone. The follow up card, a few months later, is a gentle nudge without being aggressive.
In the next post, I’ll talk about pitches and LOIs, and what I consider the differences between them.
What are your favorite outreach tools?
It’s early in the month. I keep promising myself, every year, that I will be done with my deadlines by December 12 or 15, and then take a break. It rarely happens.
I had some new deadlines pile on in the past few weeks, for good things. I’m going to dig in and do them. I’m going to finish my assessment of my year and decide how I’m going to structure next year. I have some big changes coming up, including a move.
I’m going to use the questions on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site to help me get there.
I have surgery this coming Friday – unless it’s postponed due to rising virus numbers, which is always possible.
Whether I have it or not, I’m going to take some time to rest in the upcoming weeks. I want to finish decorating the house, because I want a cheerful, joyful holiday environment around me for the next few weeks.
I want to finish the baking and plan the holiday meals.
I want to rest.
It’s been a hell of a year, and we need rest. Even as we fight to survive every day, because we live in a time where corporate profits are put above people, we need to carve out the time to rest in order to survive.
Part of that rest is not blogging here again until January 6, 2021, aka Twelfth Night. The start of Carnival season seems like a good time to gear back up again, doesn’t it? The night the holiday decorations come down and we dig in for the winter.
Have a wonderful, wonderful holiday season. Take pleasure in being home. Be honest with yourself about pain and challenges. Most importantly, survive, so that we can build back a better world in 2021.
Peace and joy, friends. Peace and joy.
It’s that time of year again, where we look back and evaluate the year.
The whole pandemic has been a time of daily re-evaluation and re-assessment. But now, it’s time to sit down, with pen and paper, and be honest with yourself.
–What worked? What didn’t?
–Where did you feel you had no choices?
–What can you do to open options?
–What do you need to get rid of?
–What do you want and need moving forward?
In addition to all this practicality, you need to take some time to dream. This year taught us we can make all the strategic plans, all the three-year/five-year/ten-year plans the “experts” tell us we need – and then we have to throw them out when the unexpected comes our way.
I’m going to use the questions on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site to help me plan.
We need to be versatile, flexible, resourceful, creative.
All those are positive skills.
Now that we’ve discovered we’re far more capable than we realized, we need to decide how we’re going to use these skills moving forward that best serve OUR vision for our lives.
Yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and, even with smaller celebrations at home, most of us are rushing around, trying to get other people’s work finished today so we can take a breath tomorrow (and maybe even over the weekend, if we haven’t begun the decorating frenzy).
Breathe today. Take what pleasures you can in staying home tomorrow, and construct the day so it pleases you. Let the day sustain you, instead of running around trying to make it fit an outdated social construct of what it should be.
This year is about survival, good health, and small pleasures.
I wish you peace, joy, and a lovely meal of whatever food you wish!
Those of you who know me — or have read one or another of my blogs over the years — know that holiday cards are a Big Deal for me. I am a big believer in writing them; I love receiving them.
One of the joys of living on Cape Cod is that holiday cards are still a big deal here. The year we moved here, there was an article in one of the local papers how the Cape is one of the places where the most holiday cards are sent from in the country. It’s still an important tradition (although not as important now as it was when I moved here a decade ago).
There are plenty of people with whom the only contact I have is the annual holiday card. Some sniffy person on Twitter had contempt for this saying something along the lines of why would I want to talk to someone at the holidays I don’t talk to for the rest of the year? In toxic situations, of course that’s valid.
But I find that sitting down and writing those personal, once-a-year catch-ups give me a great sense of joy. I love to reconnect with those people.
The sadness comes when I double-check an address and come up with the obituary. The person died during the year, and nobody bothered to let me know. I’ve come across three of those so far, and I’m not finished writing cards yet.
I write cards to my clients — current, and for the past three years ones from the one-off jobs. After three years of no contact, I often move on, be it personal or professional.
But that’s all the card is — a card wishing the person/company well for the holiday season.
It is NOT a pitch for more work.
I was so excited the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The mail came, and it was obvious there was a holiday card in it. Our second holiday card! Our first comes around Halloween, from a friend in NYC who is always working a tough schedule over the holidays, so she sends out her cards at the end of October.
Well, it was a card. From a business that wrote a pitch about why we need to replace our windows, and the holiday season is the perfect time so to do. How he wanted to come by and give us a quote.
Not only was I disappointed, I was ANGRY.
Basically, this rep has stalked us for the last few years. First of all, we are the tenants here. The OWNER makes the decision on the windows. I said this repeatedly, when I also told this guy to LEAVE US ALONE. He shows up at the house, unannounced, and pounds on our door. More than once, it’s been at an inappropriate time and scared the bejesus out of us. On top of that, I have a sign on the door clearly stating “No Solicitation.” On TOP of that, I have complained to his company about his behavior. They assured me he wouldn’t come by again. But he does, and now he’s sending us a sales pitch wrapped in a holiday card telling us he’s coming by during the holidays?
He shows up, I call the cops.
This is NOT the way to use holiday cards to expand business.
Send the card as just a greeting.
What I do then, in January, with former clients, is send a postcard, asking if they need any help with their year’s marketing/content/writing/planning, and suggesting a consultation.
My name has just been in front of them with the holiday card — that asked nothing from them. Now it comes before them again, with a suggestion.
That’s the way I prefer to receive communications, and that’s what I’ve found to get positive results when I do it.
So have a good holiday. And, if you send cards or good wishes, please, please, let that be ALL it says!
I hope everyone who celebrates American Thanksgiving had a good one, and those who don’t celebrate had a good week.
We are getting into our holiday madness, now. Not only is it important to remember to stop and take a breath, use “no” when necessary to keep your boundaries/sanity, it’s time to look at your freelance contract and update your rates.
A typical cost-of-living increase is between 2-3%. I don’t know about prices where you live, but my expenses for 2020 have already gone up a lot more than that. My rent went up 9.5%. The cost of food has gone up 35% over the course of the year. I have no idea how much my insurance and utilities will go up. I know that there are more expensive car repairs in my future.
My current rates are not sustainable.
Now, I’m not going to raise everything 45%. That, too, is unsustainable.
But I figured how much I need to make next year at minimum in order to get done the big transitions that need to happen, and what I’d LIKE to make (which is higher) to give me a cushion. Break that down by 52 weeks, and I know how much I need to make every week. Break that down into a day rate (always good to have a day rate for certain gigs), and I have my numbers.
Now, I match that against the time/work ratio of individual projects, and I know how I need to adjust for that.
I don’t post most rates on the website, because there are so many variables for a project that it hurts both the client and me to have fixed rates for MOST projects. There are always exceptions, and those will be addressed/updated.
I’m also going to post my initial first consultation rate. This is controversial, because so many people offer a free first consult. I’ve done that in the past; not doing it any more. Too often, the potential client wants information in order to go and do it in-house. Great. But one of the things I am is a marketing CONSULTANT, which means I am paid for that consulting time that gives the client the ideas/itinerary that is then put into use in-house.
My mantra for 2020 is “No more free labor as part of the hiring process.” That includes ideas and the constant question “How would you handle x?” which pretends to be a question to test skill level, but is, in actuality, a way to gather free advice from a variety of sources without paying anybody.
I am aiming my LOIs at a slightly different market, too. My focus is still hunting down companies whose work excites me and convincing them they can’t live without me. Some of them need a multi-year courting process. It’s worth it.
I’m moving away from LOIs to companies just because they’re local. I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses, but I, too, am a local business, and when the attitude is that my skills aren’t worth paying for because writing “isn’t real work.” then I’m pitching to the wrong market.
I plan to expand my corporate workshops, where I come in and train the staff in unusual marketing/writing techniques they can apply to business. One of the things I’m doing this month is crunching the numbers to set a good price. I’d started expanding this before I moved from NY to the Cape, and abandoned it when I was here. I enjoy it, I’m good at it, the people in the workshops have a great time, and the company who hires me benefits in the long run.
I’m freshening my contract, and I’m clarifying a few points that need adjustment, mostly to keep up with changing technology. I am also adding the caveat that I do not go on camera. None of my client work is about ME. I’m happy to write scripts and set up productions/social media systems for on-camera representatives, but I am not that individual. Not an actor, don’t want to be a spokesperson, I am strictly behind-the scenes.
These are some of the changes I’m making to my freelance work for 2020. What changes are you looking at ? How do you plan to implement them?
If you need some general goal-setting questions, hop on over to my Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site where I have specific questions to help you achieve what you seek.