Archived entries for in practice

Accepting Rush Jobs

One of the reasons I was able to go freelance was because even before I resigned I was fairly confident I’d be able to get regular work through my boss. And, upon talking to him as I was leaving, he assigned me a regular column. Currently, the work I’m doing for him is my most regular work; in addition to the column, he gives me other pieces as often as he is able.

He knows he can count on me to deliver the quality he needs and to understand the publication’s audience and tone. So it just makes sense to him to give me the work, rather than assigning it to another freelancer. As my most regular client by far at this point, when he emailed me recently asking me if I had time to take on an emergency assignment, it was really hard to say no.

Why I Accepted the Assignment

First of all, the piece would mean another $250 added to my bank account; and since I’m still new enough that the future feels uncertain, that made for serious temptation. Second, I didn’t want to tell him no, because it might mean he wouldn’t come to me with similar pieces in the future. Third, it didn’t seem like a time consuming assignment; it was just a company profile, so it only required doing one interview and writing the piece up based on that information.

What I didn’t count on was how difficult it would be to reach someone at the company who could set me up with someone to interview on such short notice; I only had 3 days to turn around the assignment.

Where Things Went Wrong

The piece might only require one interview, but I had a lot of difficulty getting someone at the company on the phone to do that interview. They were all at an industry event, and weren’t available. I kept the editor in the loop, and he pushed back my deadline from Friday to first thing Monday. Finally, after trying since Tuesday, I got someone on the phone on Friday evening.

That was the same weekend that I spent 4 hours at the vet while on deadline for another assignment. So I didn’t get to do anything with that interview until Sunday. On Sunday I worked all day on the piece; I transcribed the interview and pieced it together any additional information I needed from their website and a special anniversary site they had created for their 50th anniversary last year.

I finally finished the profile just in time for the extended deadline, and sent it out at 2:21 AM Monday morning. In the end, it was an extra $250. And once I got the interview, the piece didn’t take that long to put together. But not being able to get ahold of someone at the company almost made me miss the deadline (if I didn’t know the editor so well, it might have been a huge issue—fortunately, by communicating what was going on, I managed to get an extension instead) and an unexpected emergency threw things even more out of order. While I would probably still accept the assignment if placed in the same situation today, I’d definitely have more to think about…

What about you? Ever not thought out accepting an assignment? Had something crazy go wrong? Or maybe just bit off more than you could chew…? Tell me about it. 

P.S. Check out my guest post from last week over at Diary of a Mad Freelancer. I share some secrets I learned while working behind the scenes as a business to business magazine editor. 

[Photo Credit: Klynslis]

Sh!t Happens

I’ve been staying with my grandmother in North Carolina while beginning to hunt for an apartment in South Carolina; this past weekend my grandmother went on a retreat with her church and left me to watch the house and her dogs.

She has a large fenced backyard where she puts the dogs out during the day. Saturday night I let the dogs in, and one of them had a large gash down his side; he was bleeding all over the place. You could see the muscle underneath. It was terrible.

I called my uncle, who lives down the street, and we hauled the dog down to the emergency vet clinic half an hour away. We were there for four hours.

And, as if all that isn’t bad enough—I was on deadline for a client project. Ut oh.  Continue reading…

Requesting References

The most difficult times in a writer’s career are those first few seconds after she hits ‘send’ on an assignment. At that moment you’ve already put your best work down; you’ve gone over it again and again to catch any typos or grammar mistakes and you’ve reworked it at least twice. You’ve leveraged every bit of knowledge about your client (whether a magazine editor or a small business) into that copy, making sure it appeals to the right audience and reads true to the client’s tone.

No matter how many times I comb through a piece, I always feel in those first few seconds after hitting send that I should have gone through it one more time. Checked again to ensure each comma was properly in place and each their, they’re and there were used correctly.

So it was really rewarding recently when I sent out requests to a number of clients I’ve worked with previously to ask if they’d be willing to provide references on occasion, should I need them.

Not a single client said no.

Here’s the email I sent out (feel free to use it):

Hi NAME,

I’m looking for a few prior clients who would be willing to provide an
occasional reference when the occasion arises. Would you be
comfortable doing this?

I’d greatly appreciate it and in return would be happy to offer you
15% off a future project, for you or a friend.

Thanks,
Melissa

I figured the offer of a discount on their next project would provide some incentive–for them to agree to give a reference, but also incentive to come to me with their next project, or to recommend a friend come to me. I don’t offer discounts often… but when I’m asking for a favor, it’s always nice to sweeten the pot a bit.

Is there anything you’ve done to bring back old customers? How do you get references or testimonials?

[Image Credit: Jo@Net]

Let’s Look at Ledes

According to Wikipedia the spelling lede is no longer classified as journalism jargon in major US dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster and American Heritage; this, I’m afraid, ruins its purpose.

Intentionally misspelled so it would stand out during typesetting (as were hed and dek) its declassification makes it irrelevant for its original purpose.

Still, whether you spell it lede or lead, the first paragraph of any written piece has one purpose: to give the reader the information they need to decide if they want to continue reading.

In academic essays a lede is often the first paragraph, which summarizes the outline of the argument and conclusion to follow in the main body of the piece. In news stories the lede must answer who, what, where, why and when. But in magazine articles writers have a little more freedom, leading to many different types of ledes. Continue reading…

As Journalists, Are We Also Experts?

I was discussing the idea of experts–and journalists as experts–with a fellow writer earlier this week. She shared that at her previous job, as a business to business journalist, she and her co-worker were frequently asked for advice from readers.

As magazine writers they naturally were in a position to receive up-to-date industry news and to interview various industry experts on subject matters relevant to their audience. This is true, I think, of almost any journalism job. But did that mean they were qualified to hand out advice?

We’ve Got The Beat

We, as writers, develop a beat–be it a neighborhood or a subject matter–that we tend to write about most frequently. Magazine staff are often assigned a beat, but even many freelancers choose a niche and write the majority of their work for that niche. As such, we grow networks within that field that we can rely on to provide us with quotes and information for our pieces; facts to slide into our writing… data from which we can draw ideas and write our stories. Continue reading…

Playing (Freelance) Match Maker

Ever wonder why all your freelance friends seem to be getting referrals for new work and you’re not?

I mentioned Monday that I was in a position recently to recommend several of the other writers within my network to my editor in chief at Pet Business. He happened to be looking for a few new writers and since I happened to know several writers who were looking for new work, I happily made the introductions.

I do things like that all the time. If I know someone looking for a service and I know someone offering that service, I’ll try to match the two up. I also keep my ear to the ground about jobs–if I know someone looking for a job and I know someone hiring, I’ll gladly introduce them.

But there are several people within my network right now who I’d happily endorse–if I knew what they did and who they want to be doing it for. In each case I know the person is reliable and would feel good recommending them. But I can’t make a connection if I don’t understand what they’re looking for. Continue reading…

Guest Post: Work Less, Earn More & Get a Life

I’m honored to share a guest post with you today from the wonderful Jennifer Mattern on how to work less, earn more, and get a life beyond freelancing. Today’s post covers phases one: the workaholic and phase two: exhaustion. Check out the first part of this post for Phase one: Workaholic and Phase two: Exhuastion –today’s post is on Phase three: Taking control.

Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer and professional blogger who writes about freelance writing, social media, indie publishing, and small business. She also publishes e-books for freelance writers and is scheduled to publish her first nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, next year. Jennifer Mattern is behind All Freelance Writing, ProBusiness Writer, and Social Implications. Check out her sites — the lady knows her stuff.

How to Work Less, Earn More and Get a Life Beyond Freelancing – Phase Three: Taking Control

Once I resolved to make changes, I was able to identify my underlying problem. I was stuck in the “work more” mentality rather than the “work smarter” one. To get more done I didn’t have to work more hours. I just had to learn to use the time I did devote to work more efficiently.

One of the biggest changes I made was to my working hours. No more did I get out of bed when I felt like waking up, telling myself I could work as late as I needed to. I knew that I was completely unproductive in the afternoons. I chained myself to my desk but still didn’t get much done during those hours. I started setting my alarm for 4:00am. Continue reading…

Lessons From Retail

I spent the last week at a trade show for my day job. In some ways, I love trade shows–they are an opportunity to get out of the office and really talk to people about what’s going on in my industry. In other ways, they’re difficult–you have to be “on” all the time.

However, while there I intentionally didn’t work on anything not related to the show. I gave my brain the week off. And what resulted was a plethora of ideas for posts here and over at my freelance writing website.

Today’s inspiration came from a Retailer Idea Exchange Seminar I attended, hosted by Two Hat Marketing’s Steve Miller. One of the things Steve talked about was the fond farewell. Now, keep in mind that this particular seminar was for retail stores — mostly brick & mortar retail stores.

See, there are two times during your interaction with your customer that are particularly important: their first impression and their last impression. Continue reading…

Why (and how) I Redesigned My Freelance Website

Okay, so the title of this post is a tad bit misleading–it uses the past tense, implying I’m finished redoing the site. Really, it’s still a work in progress. And the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever be “done” working on the site. I constantly apply tweaks, and as of right now, there are at least 5-6 more things I want to change.

But when I decided to refocus on my freelancing work, I took a good look at my existing site. Was it really on target? Did it portray everything it needed to? A lot of the copy was okay, but the site was very basic and didn’t really go into as much detail as I wanted it to. I began poking around, looking at free wordpress themes and found one I really liked. It was cleaner than my previous design and much easier for a novice like me to play with on the back end. I understand just enough web design to be dangerous.

I’d also decided this site wasn’t very client focused. As much as I love sharing my journey, posts about how to price freelancing services aren’t going to help me sell said services to a new client. So I wanted to create a resource on that site with pieces that clients could look through that *might* help them decide to purchase my services. So I’ve launched a new blog on www.melissabreau.com for that purpose exclusively. I brought over some of the more targeted pieces from the Jargon Writer archives, but mostly it’s new content. Continue reading…

A Freelancer Divided


One of the reasons freelancing has so much appeal for me is because I am passionate about so many things – and as a freelancer, I’d be better able to pursue those things. Right now, one of this things I struggle with most is balance – not a work-life balance (I take regular time off from freelancing) – but work/work/work balance.

Continue reading…



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