Friday, February 28, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Your "Professional Liability" Into A Marketable Credential (Part 2)

In my previous article, I have talked about how aspiring freelancers can deal with time constraints. Here's the next professional liability that may hinder the growth of a freelancer's career:

Professional Liability Number Two: Not having any specialty

If you've heard of the term "one-stop shop," where you can buy practically any item, that's probably the closest description I have for a freelancer who hasn't taken time to hone his skills and specialize. 

To illustrate, as an aspiring freelance writer, you may have submitted a few manuscripts and got published in a corporate or community newsletter. And then there were also your guest blogging gigs. You may have also accepted a few requests to ghostwrite speeches.

So my point is, if you keep scattering your efforts and running in different directions, you may have accumulated a year's worth, or even two years of experience, but boil down to not having any specialty at all.

And being a "one-stop shop" does not just apply to aspiring freelance writers, but nearly every other skill as well. An artist can work in graphic or web design, create company logos, or render illustrations for books and magazines.

Here's another one: If you're an editor or proofreader, you can edit book-length manuscripts, company manuals, corporate resumes, and academic papers. That certainly is quite a diverse selection of projects.

Now, how does being a one-stop shop, or generalist, work against you?

First, spreading yourself too thinly will result in a feeling of accomplishing less in spite of having a lot of work done. You have every right to be rewarded for your efforts, so it's better to direct your efforts to honing just a few skills.

Second, in the field of freelancing, it's better to be an inch wide yet a mile deep, which translates to having no more than three specialized skills for a faster turn-over rate and the right to command a higher fee compared to other freelancers.

Third, having just a few specialties can prove to be more cost-effective in the long run, particularly when it comes to creating marketing materials. If you plan to have a three-fold brochure designed to serve as a "teaser" for your freelancing services, you can simply state your full name and under that, your specialty, like "Advertising/SEO Copywriter" or "Resume Writer." You can also be more creative with your business card. 

If you were able to figure it out, there's no need to come up with another brochure to present another set of skills you may have but has nothing to do with writing. Potential clients won't end up confused, and they'll have you in mind as soon as the need for your services comes up.

Now, having mentioned the disadvantages of being a generalist, how do you get more specific with developing your skills? I'll talk about this in my next article.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Your "Professional Liability" into a Marketable Credential

You may have been freelancing for a year or two, or even more, and you want to keep going. But it's also a fact that the majority of people who aspired to freelance went back to being employees after merely a year or two of trying to make it. 

There may be less stress in freelancing, but it's still a business, and you have to keep your business up and running, especially if there are bills that need to be paid.

And more than a lack of experience, marketable skills or credentials, there remains to be only one thing that is far more limiting than any other reason. And what is that one thing?

It's a negative attitude.

Time and again, a negative attitude has proven to be the only recurring hindrance, not just in freelancing, but in any worthy endeavor or field.

Now, let's look into five of the most common "professional liabilities" perceived by most aspiring freelancers as hindrances to their career growth.

Professional Liability Number One: Time constraints

You waited for several months before quitting your job in order to save up for a year's worth of living expenses, and then you started working on a few projects on the side while you were still employed to build a network of clients. But as soon as you left your job and plunged full-time into freelancing, you realized it takes more work and effort than you originally expected.

In addition to that, your spouse may still be working, and with a reduction in the family income, you would need to assume some of the household responsibilities in order to cut back on expenses incurred for hired help. You also need to make sure that your kids get more attention from you now.

So how can you juggle it all?

  • Plan your calendar in advance, or according to what you'd like to achieve every month, quarter, semi-annually, or annually (e.g. make 20 percent more from magazine writing by emailing queries twice instead of once a week, bid for web development jobs that pay USD500-USD1,000 per project, etc.).
  • Create a weekly schedule on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Set aside large blocks of time for your projects and assignments.
  • Shoot two birds with one stone by having one day every week for laundry, and then draft your cover letters, proposals, or marketing strategies afterwards. You may be washing less items of clothing now, because you don't need to get up and put on corporate attire everyday.
  • Turn off the TV, or drastically reduce the time you spend in front of the boob tube by being selective about the programs you watch.
  • Have enough discipline not to turn to social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, unless you use them as a form of marketing strategy.
  • Keep yourself healthy by spending two to three afternoons a week exercising. Or, get a good workout by sweeping and mopping floors or pulling weeds from your backyard.
  • Cook food in bulk and freeze them in your refrigerator. And then, when meal time comes, heat just enough to serve the entire family.

Monday, February 24, 2014

For Copywriters: Should You Allow Free Rewrites?

Writing advertising copy for flyers, catalogs, brochures, websites or blogs can be one of the most lucrative and rewarding field in freelancing. If you "write in order to sell," so to speak, or review new products or existing brands, you may be aware of freebies being offered. And of course, nothing can gauge the pleasure of being able to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

And yet, I always aim to balance the good and bad side of any aspect of freelancing. Be forewarned that there are -- and there will always be -- unscrupulous clients out there who will not think twice about banking in on your talent and taking advantage of you.

You may be thinking, if a client isn't satisfied with the final draft of the copy that you wrote for him, should you provide him with free rewrites?

The answer is yes, you should. But this is a tricky area that needs skillful negotiating, because as I've mentioned, some clients can easily claim dissatisfaction only to get you working on the project again without additional charges.

So the solution is, you should provide free rewrites only within reasonable parameters. Consider the following:

  • In your collection email, state that your client is allowed free rewrites only if he gets in touch with you within, say, 48 to 72 hours after the finished draft has been dispatched to him. This is proof that your client checked on the quality of the finished draft immediately. 
  • Decide on the maximum number of free rewrites. I recommend not more than two.
  • If the client emailed you and 72 hours have already passed and yet would like you to make revisions, state that you are charging additional fees. 

I hope you will think carefully about how dealing with dissatisfied clients could take a toll on your schedule, and possibly, your productivity. Two weeks is more than enough for you to take care of a "problem project." Always remember that for every single day spent stalling, that's also a day lost that could have been spent looking for new assignments or projects, or negotiating with other clients who would like to hire you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Review: What Makes These Five Blogs So Effective? (Part 5)

This will be my final article about making money through blogging. By now, I hope you were able to acquire a basic understanding regarding how blogs work and what makes some bloggers stand out from the rest. 

Today I will talk about Fit For Wealth (click here to view blog), the last among the five blogs which, in my opinion, have gained a following because they appeal so well among their target audience.

Fit For Wealth was published by Jake Lingan, who graduated from De La Salle University with a degree in Information Technology but found that his purpose lies in investment and personal finance management.

What struck me most about Lingan's blog is he writes with the aim of simplifying and breaking everything down into terms that the typical layman can understand.

Celine Roque's Frugal Pinoy and Fit For Wealth are similar in terms of pinning down the number of habits that are deeply rooted among Filipinos -- habits that have proven to be setbacks and disadvantages to financial progress.

Both Roque and Lingan are quick to warn their readers about being lured into get-rich-quick schemes, which have drained the pockets of numerous Filipinos in recent years.

But there the similarities end. While Roque is adept at providing practical steps that can be applied immediately, Lingan, with his years of experience as a Financial Adviser and Certified Investment Solicitor and Financial Planner, goes into greater depth by shedding insights to the world of mutual funds and stock trading, areas from which most Filipinos dare not thread due to limited information or the wrong mindset.

I highly recommend Fit For Wealth to any Filipino, regardless of his career or current financial status, who doesn't want to leave anything to fate or chance when it comes to planning his finances. While the adage still rings true that money cannot buy happiness, money allows certain freedoms, like having more than enough for altruistic acts or projects of philanthropy. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Review: What Makes These Five Blogs So Effective? (Part 4)

After citing three blogs, let me now talk about one that is hosted by Kevin Sanders, a Caucasian Christian missionary who lived here in the Philippines for nine years.

With the tag line Be Pure, Be Blessed, Be Wise, Kevin Sanders (click here to view blog) prefers to be addressed as Kuya Kevin. He came to Manila to preach and reach out to as many teenagers and young adults as possible.

He had one passion burning in his heart: that the youth may choose to be sexually pure in mind and body and save themselves for marriage.

Kuya Kevin has utilized blogging as a powerful tool to spread his message to his online readers, and he admitted assuming the role of a "cyber pastor."

While he is consistent and has never compromised the importance of being rooted to Christian values, Kuya Kevin is also fully aware that the current culture ensnares many teens and young adults into a lifestyle that is far from what God intended for them. 

And having lived as a single man before meeting and marrying his wife Mare Cris, a Filipina, he has been through some of the struggles that are common to single men his age.

Kuya Kevin is upfront and writes in a no-nonsense style, but the youth will be impressed and find his tone refreshing because he never comes across as a minister delivering a sermon in the pulpit.

What's even more engaging than his style of writing is that he provides constructive and practical steps that will surely inspire and encourage young adults to pursue excellence even in their romantic relationships.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Review: What Makes These Five Blogs So Effective? (Part 3)

After talking about what makes Greeting Card Designer and Frugal Pinoy click, here's the third blog that's gaining quite a following in the blogosphere:

Hoop Nut (click here to view blog)

Published by Enzo Flojo, a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University situated in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines, and good friend Rolly Mendoza, also from the same university, Hoop Nut has lived up to its tag line: "Basketball never stops; we don't either."

Written in a style that is a lot less formal than those by sports columnists that come out in daily broadsheets, Flojo and Mendoza are just as credible as they are engaging. The site is filled not just with the latest news about the NBA, PBA, UAAP, and other well-known basketball leagues, but also detailed analyses and insights that can only flow from the pen (or in this case, keyboard) of two hoop fanatics. 

It is evident from every article that Flojo and Mendoza know their audience really well, which is the majority of Filipinos who possess not just a fascination or casual interest, but obsession, with the game of basketball.

And just like the two previous blogs that I have mentioned, photos in Hoop Nut are used sparingly and ads are strategically placed, therefore enhancing the overall layout.

Aside from allowing easy navigation, the site is also interactive and welcomes comments from online readers. Flojo and Mendoza moderate comments in order to keep them in line with Hoop Nut's style and theme. 

Hoop Nut can serve as the less expensive alternative to all those glossy basketball magazines published locally and overseas. I highly recommend this blog to the more mobile audience who'd like to keep tab of basketball news while being on the go.

Hoop Nut is also a good read and can be a terrific stress reliever for dads (and even sports-minded moms) who are busy working and raising their families, and may have little time to spare for recreational activities.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Review: What Makes These Five Blogs So Effective? (Part 2)

In my previous article, I talked about what made Greeting Card Designer, published by Kate Harper, thrive in the blogosphere. Now allow me to mention and talk about the strengths of another blog, this time hosted by a fellow Filipina:

Frugal Pinoy (click here to view blog)

This site is built on the premise of taking a proactive approach to managing one's finances. Blogger Celine Roque writes with the hope of inspiring Filipinos to spend less and save more as a way to get them started on the road towards financial stability.

The most remarkable thing about Ms. Roque is her not being in favor of get-rich-quick schemes. And unlike other blogs that merely focus on making money, Ms. Roque deals with the underlying causes of erratic spending habits that are particularly unique to Filipinos.

She doesn't attempt to sugar coat or soft pedal any habits that have proven to be a major setback to a Filipino's financial progress. Instead, she provides concrete steps that are feasible, and most of which can be immediately implemented.

Since Ms. Roque is also freelance writer, her many years of experience has taught her valuable lessons that she was more than willing to share. Her articles are peppered with uncommon wisdom, and again, photos are used sparingly, therefore enhancing the blog's layout. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Review: What Makes These Five Blogs So Effective?

You have probably noticed that I like using samples and illustrations to drive home important points and concepts to my readers. I will now mention five different types of blogs that are thriving in the blogosphere and review each one of them.

Let's take a look at the first one:

Greeting Card Designer (click here to view blog)

I am partial to this particular blog because I have a home-based greeting card business just like Kate Harper, the site's publisher and editor. Ms. Harper's blog has amassed a huge following since its birth in 2007.

This blog is focused primarily on starting a card business from scratch. The articles are overflowing with sound advice about making your own line of greeting cards a stand-out among other home-based businesses.

Judging from the blog's lay-out -- clean, clear, and crisp -- Ms. Harper favors a minimalist style. Her cards and products reflect her no-fuss and subdued approach to marketing. They're simple and hardly over-the-top, but they pack a punch and the messages never fail to deliver.

Photos are used sparingly. There are also a lot of information about submitting text and artwork to greeting card companies.

The site is easy to navigate and so far, I haven't encountered any dead links. Most of the ads promote books that give detailed information about different aspects of card making.

Ms. Harper's advice is practical for the layman and can be easily implemented. I would recommend this blog to anyone who aspires to get into freelance writing or illustrating for greeting cards, or those who would like to put up a business selling cards, but may not want to deal with highly technical or specialized "business speak." 

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Write More Authoritatively When Blogging

Think about motivational speakers, or any person who gives a talk to a select group of audience about a topic with which he has a certain level of expertise.

In the same way that speakers inspire their listeners, online readers look up to the most effective and well-known bloggers as people with worthwhile opinions to share. When it comes to blogging, two things can make you write with authority:
  • You're highly enthusiastic about the topic of your blog, and over the years you have made it your specialty by reading books and articles about it, taking classes so you can meet like-minded people, attending conventions, etc.
  • You've had tons of experience to which the average reader can easily relate. The result can only be catching their interest and, if you truly appeal to them, sustaining their interest.
So the key ingredient to blogging is really quite simple: if you increase your knowledge, you'll find yourself with a goldmine of ideas to turn into posts.

As an example, before I even thought about publishing this blog, I had the equivalent of nearly nine years of experience in the field of freelancing. I had to present my thoughts and ideas as facts, because it really is possible to make a nice income from freelancing, whether you do it full-time or on the side.

I also read plenty of books, web sites, and other blogs about the subject, and found out that I shared the many joys and triumphs, as well as concerns, of other professional freelancers.

Now let's get down to creating blog articles. Consider any of the following:
  • Make a list, like The Top Five Things You Have to Consider When Buying a Pet, or Five Effortless Ways to Reduce Your Grocery Bill.
  • Think about the last good article you have read from a newspaper or magazine, or even online, that is related to your blog's topic. How can you incorporate the main points of the article into a blog post and "slant" it towards your readers?
  • Do your research among the blogosphere and look out for "gaps." Are there any aspects about your topic that can be cultivated and discussed further? Then come up with a series of posts where you can offer your points of view.