Info

Advanced Freelancing

Learn more about freelancing and owning your business and your time from six-figure freelancer Laura Pennington.
RSS Feed
Advanced Freelancing
2020
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
December
November
October
September
August
July


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December


Categories

All Episodes
Archives
Categories
Now displaying: July, 2019
Jul 29, 2019

Hello again!  Welcome to this episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast.  Today I’m deviating a little bit from my “traditional” podcast episodes to discuss some information about my book!  If you haven’t heard, my first book published with Entrepreneur Press officially came out on July 16th, 2019.

I want to share some “behind the scenes” info with you! 

I want to tell you why I chose to write this book.  I also want to share why I think writing this book will not only benefit my coaching and consulting business, but also my freelance writing business as well.

“I believe that everybody has at least one book inside of them.” -Laura Briggs

Now, there are a lot of reasons why we put off writing these said books. But I want to encourage you, especially if you think that writing a book would be great for your personal development or your business!


Writing a book for freelance writers is kind of a no brainer.  It was an excellent vehicle for me to be able to show off my writing abilities.  It doesn’t matter if you choose to self publish or publish through a company.  Being able to produce an actual book shows people that you have the stamina it takes to outline, create, edit, and publish a book.  This is a great thing for your credibility as a freelance writer.

For me as a freelance writer, having a book about freelance writing will directly help my freelance business.  When I’m pitching to a client, there is a certain amount of credibility and validity from having a book published.  I have wanted to write a book for a long time. 

A little back story…

Originally when I was toying with the idea of writing a book I had the idea of starting with fiction first.  So I went to a writing conference. I had kind of a bad experience with a fiction agent.  One of the most important things I learned at the conference was that I would feel much more confident if I went the route of non-fiction first.

Fiction books sell on the basis of completed projects.  So for new writers, this means you have to have a manuscript that has already gone through at least one round of general editing done before you can even pitch it to an agent or decide to self publish. 

Non- fiction books sell on spec.  This means they sell on proposal.  My proposal was about 55 pages and I made sure to get it right!  Your proposal is essentially your pitch to agents and publishers about what it is you think you want to do.

Non- fiction books have their own unique set of challenges.  Not only do they sell on proposal, but they also sell on platform.  This means that in order for a publisher to pick up your traditional non fiction book for regular publishing you have to be able to show that you already have an established audience who are ready and willing to buy that book.  This can be done in many different ways with social media and mailing lists.

However, the reality is that not a lot of people have developed that kind of audience especially when they are writing their first book.  It’s the number one thing we heard from publishers when I was submitting my book was that I didn’t have a big enough platform.  This is why when you see books they are typically from someone who is some kind of advanced executive.  It’s people that have a massive following.

About my book...

I spent about 4 months creating my proposal!  I knew I wanted to write about freelancing.  Funnily enough, the book we sold is NOT the book we pitched.  So I am self publishing the book that we originally pitched.  I didn’t really need the full 4 months for the proposal, but I was questioning a lot of things.  I was slower because this was a foriegn concept to me.

I finished my proposal in January 2018.  So now it was time for me to shift focus to evaluating agents.  There are a lot of places to find potential literary agents.  Different ways to find an agent include:

●       Attend a conference and pitch it live.  You want to make sure you only pitch to agents who take the type of book you are creating.  Example- an agent who only takes children's books certainly would not be a fit for someone pitching a nonfiction book.  I personally was looking for a versatile agent who sold not only business books, but had a crossover into other genres. 

●       Using a paid tool. I found 33 potential agents by using a paid tool called Publisher’s Marketplace.  I paid $25 a month and you can see different deals and books that agent has represented.

●       Writers Market.  This is a huge volume that has everything from magazines that you can pitch to writing competitions.  Every year they do a volume of agents and break it down by what that agent accepts as far as types of work.  You want to double check what you find here with Publisher’s Marketplace.

So now once that you have your list of agents…

You start to submit to agents.  You start to have conversations with agents about your book.  Once you find an agent you like, you will sign an agreement with that agent to start shopping your book to publishers.  Agents take a standard 15% cut of what you do.  Sometimes the contract would be for that one project.  There are also instances where the contract will be for a specific amount of time in which that agent would be entitled to 15% of whatever you sell during that time period.  SO MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS READ YOUR CONTRACTS VERY CAREFULLY WITH BOTH AN AGENT AND A PUBLISHER! GET AN ATTORNEY FOR THIS!

It can be a long process to publish a book traditionally.  A traditional timeline for publishing a book is about 2 years. That’s from the time the idea is accepted to the time there is a physical book in hand.  Self publishing is a lot quicker.  It can even be as quick as a few months for self publishing. 

I knew I was getting an offer in the summer of 2018.  Which was quick because I only signed with an agent in May.  We pitched to a lot of big publishers.  We got a lot of feedback that my platform was too small

Publishers tend to sometimes be behind the trends.  So if you are pitching something that is cutting edge, you need to know this can sometimes be a hard sell depending on who you are pitching to.  I want to note that for me and this book I was pitching, I don’t think the publishing houses knew the power of and how many freelancers there are.  Not just in the US but also around the world. 

We got an offer and it was time to get to work...

We finally got a response from a publishing house that was interested in my book.  But then we got a response from Entrepreneur.  They said that they were not interested in taking on the project of the bigger book at that point in time, but had an opening to refresh an old book about an introduction to freelance writing.

After many conversations with several people, I decided that this was a good opportunity for me.  Even though my business is shifting to help more intermediate/advanced freelancers, being able to offer something at the introductory level was a great opportunity. 

My contract was signed in mid August and my first draft was due on December 1st.  So I had to write roughly 65,000 words in a very quick amount of time in the publishing world.  I knew I could do it. So I stuck with the schedule and met the deadline.  It went through one round of edits that I had to complete around Christmas time. 

Then the first two weeks of January I had to complete copy edits.  These were things like punctuation, grammar, etc.  There were more than 5000 changes that I had to manually accept and edit or decline and explain why I declined. 

I really loved with Entrepreneur Press because even though they had certain styles and things they wanted me to cover, they were really leaning on my expertise.  It was the perfect blend of structure and creativity for me.

The book went into production very quickly after a few more edits.  It was on pre-sale from March to when it went live on July 16th!  So the process of writing a book is amazing!  I had really psyched myself out thinking it was going to be really difficult.  There are a few things that made it a great process including:

●       A great agent who was advocating for me.

●       I worked with a great publishing house that was very easy to work with.

●       There were very clear expectations about the marketing that was going to be done.

Remember when I said the book being sold isn’t the book I proposed?

The original outline that I proposed to the publisher changed dramatically as I was writing this book. I wrote it chapter by chapter, but as I was writing there were things I thought needed to be changed.  So I had the idea of 12 chapters at roughly 5,000 words each.  So I used a spreadsheet to track my words, places that need more work, and chapters that I felt were done.

I wrote a lot of this book on planes because my husband was traveling all over the country for job interviews.  I wrote in coffee shops and libraries.  This really motivated me and helped me stay focused and on track.

Here is my final piece of advice to you for this episode.  If you are thinking about writing a book, even if you hear this and think traditional publishing isn’t for me, that’s okay.  I still encourage you to set a deadline, keep it, and write your book.  Why?  Because this is a good process that pushes you to the next level!

So you may be wondering why I wrote this particular book?  Well, when I first started out as a freelancer, this is the book that I wish I had! When I started in 2012, most sources out there was so outdated!  So the framework for this book is online freelance writing!  I focused on this because it’s my area of expertise.  I wrote about what I knew about!  I wanted a newbie to be able to pick up this book and decide if freelance writing was right for them by looking a real day of my life as a freelance writer.

If you are interested in purchasing this book it’s available at all major retailers.  It’s not overly “thick” book so it’s easy to flip through.  I’d love to hear your questions and comments about my book.  Please send those to info@betterbizacademy.com.

Related topics: freelance writing, traditional publishing, writing a book, finding a literary agent[1] 

Jul 22, 2019

Today I’m talking about one of the topics that I am most passionate about...toxic clients.  Why am I so passionate about this topic? This really matters because not only have I worked with toxic clients personally, but I have also privately coached other freelancers who have dealt with toxic clients. That become a key component of what we work on together.  I have helped them to even identify the underlying patterns that can cause you to end up with toxic clients again and again.

A toxic client is someone who drains all the energy and life force out of you.  They are overbearing, overwhelming, and have lots of extra requests from you usually without more pay.  They tend to produce emotional responses in the freelancers that they work with.  This means they produce emotions like frustration and anger. They can even cause you to feel burnout because toxic clients bring out the worst in you.

If you work with clients that you generally love working for it will be easy to spot toxic clients because of how they make you feel.  If you have only worked with toxic clients it may take you longer to realize that client is indeed toxic because you don’t know what patterns to look for.  Recognizing the toxic client is the first step.  A few questions to ask to identify a toxic client are:

●       Does this person treat you poorly?

●       Does this person not pay you well?

●       Does this person always ask for discounts or reduction in price?

●       Does this person make you feel like you don’t quite deserve to work with them even though you are giving it your all?

Anyone in the freelance world can be subject to working with toxic clients.  But I find the freelancers that most often deal with toxic clients are writers and virtual assistants.  Virtual assistant especially tend to get taken advantage of by clients because the clients essentially wants to dump everything on this one person.  They want them to become the go to in their business.

Usually a VA isn’t paid as much as other freelancers and are paid by the hour.  A toxic client might act like you could have done the work so much faster but you didn’t.  They don’t understand why you can’t just get it with their instructions even though it’s probably that their instructions aren’t good instructions.

A lot of time a toxic client will set up an agreement with a VA and put them on a retainer and then ask for WAY MORE of the VA than what is in that agreement.  The tasks they are asking of the VA are more than they are willing or capable of doing.  If you are hiring as a VA to work 10 hours a week and the client keeps dumping more and more on you and making you log 15-20 hours a week and you aren’t being compensated for it then that is a toxic client.

So let’s talk about what you can do to try to flag these types of clients before you begin working with them. It’s important to know that you can’t always identify a toxic client.  Some of these people can sneak up on you.  They can put forward a good face and you have no idea they are toxic.  Or it might be that there have been changes and the person you are reporting too has changed and THEY are the toxic person, not the person you were working with before.  It’s important to know ways to identify a toxic client.  But don’t beat yourself up if one slips throung the cracks because they may not become or show their toxic client side until a few weeks after you start working together. 

Let’s go over some tips to identify a toxic client.  Red flags include:

●       How do they talk about their past freelancers?  For example, they tell you they have worked with 15 other graphic designers and they were all horrible and they had to fire them all.  The odds of ALL 15 of them being awful and unprofessional are very low.  This means it’s actually something wrong with the client and not the freelancers.  A few bad freelancers is okay, but large numbers of freelancers being considered awful is a red flag you are dealing with a toxic client.  You can ask them to tell you about their experience with working with freelancers in the past.  If their answer is that they have yet to work with a freelancer before this could be your chance to shape them in how they should act, work with, and communicate with a freelancer.  What you are looking for with their response is how they talk about freelancers from their past. 

●       Look at their expectations.  Are they pushing you to be available 24/7?  These might be communication issues that brush up against your boundaries.  A lot of times toxic clients will bring this up themselves and say it’s important for you to be available 24/7.

●       Proving your worth.  A toxic client might be pushing you to prove your worth even on the initial phone call.  They might constantly be talking about ROI.  They may not be willing to sign a contract for more than a month because they just don’t trust you.  They might pay you 10% upfront and then the rest when they are satisfied with the completed product.  This is a red flag.

●       Communication preferences.  This is a huge issue.  It’s important to set forth what are your preferred communication is.  As a freelancer, you have to set boundaries with clients on how you can/will communicate with you.  With toxic clients, always get everything in writing possible.  Communication choices for this include email, documents in an email, in your communication software, etc. 

So let’s talk about when you think someone might be toxic.  How do you address it before you decide to fire them?  I try to give people the benefit of the doubt before firing them.  Here are a few tips:

●       Call the situation out early on when it happens.  For example, you do a call with some so they have your number and the client starts texting you at 10 pm,  First, you ignore the text.  Next, you wait until business hours and you send them an email letting them know you business phone is turned off and you will not respond to texts because it’s too difficult to keep track of.  Encourage them to reply to the email with any concerns.  Even with emails, wait and don’t respond until you are in your business hours. 

●       If the client speaks to you unprofessionally, call it out in the moment as nicely as possible.  A great example is working with people who grew up in NY or NJ.  Sometimes their tone and accent can come across as snippy or rude even if they aren’t intentionally being that way.  So you can call it out and say, “I don’t know if you mean for this to be coming across this way, but…”.  Sometimes when the client didn’t mean it they will say they didn’t mean it that way.  Sometimes this is when you have to make a judgement call.  If someone is openly rude or cussing at you, don’t even engage any further with this person.

●       If you are in a relationship with a toxic client, I don’t care how much money it is, you can’t afford to keep working with them.  First of all, if you calculate the actual amount of time you are working for them you probably aren’t getting what you are worth.  Plus if you add in the emotional, mental and physical toll they are causing you, IT’S NOT WORTH IT!  They will push you to burnout.  They will make you question your capabilities and so much more.  One really negative aspect of working with a toxic client is that not only is it affecting the work you are doing with them, but it could bleed over into your other clients.  It’s just not worth it.  Navigating out of this type of relationship is tricky.  First try to let them correct their behavior.  If they can’t do that, then keep it professional and let it go. 

Have you ever had to work with a toxic client before?  If you have I’d love to hear how you navigated out of it.  Send me an email at info@betterbizacademy.com.

Jul 15, 2019

Welcome to the 3rd episode in the reboot of this podcast.  The focus of this podcast is now Advanced Freelancing.  If you haven’t gotten caught up on this change then jump back two episodes and find out why I rebranded this podcast and what you can expect from it.  Now let’s get into today’s episode.

Today’s episode is all about the freelancer’s guide to working with startups.  There are so many businesses that start up daily.  There are lots of businesses that also close within the first year of starting up.  And even business that make it 2-3 years in business still aren’t guaranteed to stand the test of time.  There of millions of startups that are out there and some are successful but a lot of them aren’t.  So...as a freelancer should you work with startups?

As a freelance writer, I have been contracted and contacted by LOTS of startups.  I always go in a little bit cynical. Why is that? Because sometimes the excitement of the startup fades over time which ultimately leads to the end of the business.

“The problem with startups is that they haven’t fully tested whether or not their company is going to be successful.”-Laura Briggs

Let’s go through some things that I have learned through the process of working with startups and some things to keep in mind when you are contacted by a startup OR if you are thinking about pitching to one.

  • Startups are more likely to post on job boards like Indeed. This is particularly true if they have a lot of funding and are trying to bring on employees quickly.  In order to scale quickly they have to bring on a lot of employees quickly.  Here’s the thing...THEY PROBABLY DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY A FULL TIME PERSON.  A lot of people are wary of working with startups because of the possibility of the doors closing in 6 months.  So this might put you, the freelancer, in a good position to pitch yourself as a freelancer because they might have challenges attracting traditional employees.
  • There is a big difference between revenue and funding. When you are working with people who have secured funding from venture capitalists or even put their own money into the startup you do have the possibility of getting paid.  When you start talking about venture capital it’s easy to get excited because you start seeing all these big numbers.  BUT… that isn’t revenue.  That is money put up by people who believe this company can make it.  That doesn’t mean that this startup will actually be able to generate revenue or better yet profit.   Never equate the startup funding as revenue.  Never count on these types of projects as a sure thing.
  • Management in startups. Some startups are completely mismanaged.  They may start with great funding but if it’s mismanaged the company could close up shop in 6 months.  I have seen this happen more than once.  If they don’t have enough funding to make it work will almost certainly try to get more bang for their buck.  Occasionally, you can convince them that your work is worth more than they are willing to pay, but it’s not likely.
  • Ask for a piece of the company. This is absolutely worthless if the company never goes anywhere. If it’s something you really believe in, this is a good way to get additional money from a client who doesn’t have the money to pay you upfront. Negotiations are always an option when dealing with a startup.
  • Hustle mentality present with startups. People who are starting up a business often have the mindset of it’s all hands on deck.  That mentality might not be the best thing to step into as a freelancer.  Be mindful of how this could easily take over your business.  Be mindful of being treated as a contractor vs. employee.  If they are treating you like an employee then it opens up certain protections under federal law.
  • Energy and excitement with the founders. Most times the founders are in various levels of distress.  Knowing how to interact with them can help you be more effective as a freelancer.  Be upfront about how you run your business.  Set boundaries and expectations are really crucial to communicating with someone who has a lot of responsibility on their plate.
  • As a freelancer, YOU ARE AN ENTREPRENEUR. Even if you don’t “own” that title, you are an entrepreneur because you have started your own business.  If you have your own way of doing things, it can sometimes be hard to step into an environment where the startup might or might not have their own way of doing things.  They might be so entrenched in something that the founders are bringing over from their previous life in business and it might not be something that jives with your personal mindset.  This is something you need to pay attention to.  It’s a good idea to have a call with the founders and find out why they created this business, what is their vision for the future, and how they see you as a freelancer fitting in to that.
  • Sometimes they like to hire people who are a jack of all trades. They might hire you to do content writing but in that all hands on deck mentality they might expect you do jump in and do something else.  As a freelancer, you have to speak up and tell them when something isn’t working.

These are just a few of the many things you will need to take into consideration before you decide to start working with a startup.  You need to make sure that your 10 hours a week doesn’t quickly become 40 hours a week and drowning out your other clients.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a startup so be wise in the decisions you make regarding your freelancing business.

If you have worked with startups before, I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Email me at info@betterbizacademy.com and I might feature you on a future show.

Jul 8, 2019

I’m now seven years into my freelance journey, and the last six of those have been as a full-time freelancer. I’ve been through the beginning stages, the ups, the downs, the struggles, and the successes.

In this episode, I’m reflecting back on what it was like when I was just starting my business and what I’ve learned since then.

Is there something you wish you had known when you started your freelancing business? Share with me on LinkedIn. Let me know you are listening and enjoying this podcast by writing a review on Apple Podcasts!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • the 5 different things I wish I had known when I started freelancing.
  • what I would tell 2012 Laura as she started her business.
  • the most important thing I’ve learned that is important for every freelancer no matter what stage of business they are in.

Resources mentioned:

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Pre-order my book - Freelancing 101

Jul 1, 2019

Hello, and welcome… again! I’m relaunching my podcast, and if you were a listener a few years ago, you’ll notice this podcast has a completely new name and approach.

This relaunched podcast is geared specifically towards intermediate and advanced freelancers who are on the cusp of scaling their business in a big way… in their OWN big way!

The techniques, strategies, and resources I’ll be talking about are geared towards freelancers who are well past those beginning stages of starting a business.

If you are tired of hearing about the recipe that you MUST follow to be successful, the steps you HAVE to follow to get more clients, the niche you MUST be in to grow your business, then you’ll want to tune in to this podcast each week. Make sure you subscribe so you get notified when a new episode is released!

Have a topic you’d like me to talk about? Send your idea to: info@betterbizacademy.com

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • what has changed for me since I first launched a podcast over two and a half years ago.
  • why I’m coming back to podcasting.
  • and what you can expect in these podcasts going forward.

Resources mentioned:

Pre-order my new book - Freelancing 101

TEDx Talk - The Future is Freelancing

Overcast

1