Dr. Freelance https://doctorfreelance.com Helping creative freelancers create healthier businesses Tue, 03 Sep 2019 13:46:52 +0000 en hourly 1 Personality tests may be BS, but they’re still useful for client relationships https://doctorfreelance.com/personality-tests-bs/ https://doctorfreelance.com/personality-tests-bs/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2019 15:41:30 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3916 For some weird reason, I’ve had several conversations about personality tests with clients and potential clients during the past few weeks. Reading that, I’ll bet that your brain immediately took one of two paths: Option #1 is that you immediately thought about your own personality test results, whether Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DiSC profile, Enneagram, or whatever. Option #2 is […]

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personality testsFor some weird reason, I’ve had several conversations about personality tests with clients and potential clients during the past few weeks. Reading that, I’ll bet that your brain immediately took one of two paths: Option #1 is that you immediately thought about your own personality test results, whether Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DiSC profile, Enneagram, or whatever. Option #2 is that you think they’re mostly or completely unscientific BS, no more valid than astrology or reading goat entrails.

Either way, we’re cool. My goal isn’t to defend or destroy personality assessment instruments. My experience is that they can serve as a business tool—most specifically, helping you understand and communicate better with your clients.

How Personality Tests Can Improve Your Client Relationships

An example: I met with the team at a relatively new client, and they mentioned that they’d recently taken Predictive Index (PI) Personality Assessments as a team. I wasn’t familiar with this particular instrument, but they went around the table and revealed their types—Maverick, Specialist, etc.—and gave a quick description of the traits. Naturally, I went online later that day, took the test, and the result was Individualist: “march to the beat of their own drum…always up for a challenge…hungry to solve problems.”


Even if you think the science is dubious, personality tests can help you communicate w/ #freelance clients
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I shared my results with them, and we’ve now got a running joke about our PI profiles. If the CEO starts to soar into big-picture fluff when we need details, I can say, “OK, Maverick, let’s land the plane.” Understanding that the Specialist-type director of client services values details and fine print, I’m as diligent as possible about providing those for her, even though that’s not one of my strengths.

One of the big arguments against such instruments is that they use self-reported data and therefore aren’t accurate or can change over time. Well, to me, a client’s self-assessment is more helpful (and far easier to get) than some scientifically comprehensive assessment by a third-party psychologist. I don’t want to pigeonhole or make huge assumptions about anyone—I’m just looking for a basic understanding of what makes you tick, what makes you happy, what you hate.

People colloquially describe themselves as introverts or extroverts. Honestly, I don’t care about the psychological definition of “-verts” or even if your self-description is empirically accurate or not: You have told me how you like to be treated and I can act accordingly. Think about it this way: If you have a friend who deeply believes in astrology and proudly proclaims they’re an Aries, do you really want to fight them about it? Good luck with that.


Can personality assessments like #MBTI can help you understand how #freelance clients want to be treated?
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I would never outright ask a client or prospect what their personality profile is, but I’m surprised how many willingly volunteer the information if the topic comes up. (Once you’re familiar with the different profile types, it’s not difficult to guess.) I also don’t think they should override common sense. In addition, if you discover that someone believes personality tests are BS, that’s a useful piece of information too.

The Time I Quit a Job Because of a Personality Assessment

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, albeit with a hint of truth. At my final corporate job, we’d done an offsite teambuilding day that included taking the MBTI. When I got the results, they were in line with what I expected. (ENTP, if you’re curious.) When we started talking about interpersonal relationships with our workshop leader, though, my gears started turning. I’d instinctively known I wasn’t a good fit with my manager. Then, there it was, in stark relief: We were almost exactly opposite types.

Sure, I was already unhappy and had been planning to start my own freelance writing and editing business for months. But I’ve always thought it serendipitous that such a piece of self-knowledge was revealed at the moment it was.

Did an MBTI really change the trajectory of my career? I dunno. I’ll have been freelancing for 20 years as of next month. You tell me.

Share your thoughts in the comments: Are personality tests accurate, BS, or something in between? Do you ever use them to help understand a client’s behaviors or change how you communicate with them?

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay.

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What three business problems are keeping you up at night? https://doctorfreelance.com/three-business-problems/ https://doctorfreelance.com/three-business-problems/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2019 16:06:10 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3871 I belong to a forum of business owners that meets for a few hours once a month to share stories, solve problems, and keep each other accountable. During last week’s session, the forum leader asked: What three business problems are keeping you up at night? Your task today is to take 2 minutes to ask yourself that question. […]

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business problemsI belong to a forum of business owners that meets for a few hours once a month to share stories, solve problems, and keep each other accountable. During last week’s session, the forum leader asked: What three business problems are keeping you up at night?

Your task today is to take 2 minutes to ask yourself that question. Grab a pen and paper, and scratch out your three answers. Go ahead, I’ll still be here.

Now, I’m going to take a guess: The first two came relatively easily, but the third required a bit deeper thinking, right? That’s what happened to me, and to everyone else in the group.

As the forum leader pointed out, that third sleep-stopper is likely the most important problem to solve for your business. Whereas the first two are ever-present in your mind and on your to-do list, #3 often lurks in the background. It may be that you don’t want to acknowledge that it’s an issue, or maybe it’s a more difficult, complex, or long-term problem that can’t be addressed easily or quickly.

Sales Tip: Ask Your Clients “What 3 Business Problems Keep You Up at Night?”

In addition to using this question as a reality check on your own freelance business, it makes a fantastic exercise to incorporate in your discussions with clients and prospective clients. For the former, it provides insights on the business problems they’re having that you might be able to help with. For the latter, that’s applicable too—but more important, you’ve probably made them think about something that they hadn’t considered. In fact, that’s my favorite comment I ever hear in a client meeting: “Huh. I haven’t thought about that before.” There’s no tool more powerful than that when it comes to selling your expertise and services.


Favorite comment in a 1st meeting w/ a #freelance client: “Huh. I haven’t thought about that before.”
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Photo courtesy of Pexels.

In the comments: Did I guess correctly that the third item was more difficult to generate—and probably the most important one to solve for your freelance business?

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A simple trick to get past freelance estimate anxiety https://doctorfreelance.com/estimate-anxiety/ https://doctorfreelance.com/estimate-anxiety/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2019 15:22:58 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3853 You know the feeling when you estimate projects for new clients: You run the numbers, and then run them again and maybe once or twice more. And yet your cursor still hovers over the “send” button on the email. I’ve been at the freelance game long enough to know there aren’t many constants, but estimate anxiety is surely one of […]

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estimate anxietyYou know the feeling when you estimate projects for new clients: You run the numbers, and then run them again and maybe once or twice more. And yet your cursor still hovers over the “send” button on the email. I’ve been at the freelance game long enough to know there aren’t many constants, but estimate anxiety is surely one of them. When your mousing finger freezes up, it’s time for a reality check: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Your instant response might be “I don’t get the job” or “They want a discount” or “I get ghosted.” Sure, those are a bummer. But they’re not the worst.

The worst is that you get the job at a price that makes it a bad deal. Not enough compensation for the workload or the deadline constraints or—let’s face it—the handholding required for a given client. That makes you unhappy, and it’s also an opportunity cost. And that makes it harder, maybe impossible, to deliver an excellent product for your customer. That makes it a bad deal for them, too.


There aren’t many constants in #freelancing, but estimate anxiety is one of them
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Obviously, you can always raise your rates for the next project with that client. That comes with its own challenges, though, because it’s darn difficult to un-anchor a price expectation.

Reducing Estimate Anxiety: It’s a Mindset

Sometimes you need to trick yourself into action. It’s not cost effective to spend hours tweaking the price by a few bucks up or down, and it makes even less sense to waste a lot of emotional energy in the process. Asking What’s the worst that could happen? functions as a final reality check to verify you trust the numbers you’ve crunched. Given the facts you know and the gut feelings you have, do you believe you’ll be happy if the client responds “Yes, let’s get started”?

An example: I recently received an inquiry from a potential freelance client to work on speeches and compile books in a topic that’s a significant professional and personal interest of mine. In a few back-and-forth emails, we had terrific rapport. As a rule, I don’t get too excited about projects or clients until a deal is signed, but I’ll confess this one had me buzzing.


Ask yourself: Will I be happy if a #freelance client responds “Yes, let’s get started”?
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My first estimate wasn’t accepted, partly due to weakness in the currency of the client’s home country. Bummer. So we negotiated a bit on price and the list of services. Still no, as it was after one more round of negotiations. I’d reached the point where it just wasn’t going to work, no matter how I penciled it out nor how cool the projects were going to be. I told them thanks and to keep me in mind when they had the budget, or even when their currency firmed up. (It hasn’t.)

The feeling of hovering your cursor over the “send” button when you estimate projects is part of the business. But from a productivity perspective, you need to create a system that gives you the confidence to get past estimate anxiety—and let the chips fall where they may.

Hello, Providence! I’ll be heading to ACES 2019 next week, presenting on a few of my favorite topics: how to identify and deal with red-flag clients, and a joint presentation with Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing on the freelance feedback loop—a.k.a., how to use pricing and other data to improve your business. Hope to see you there.

NAIWE News: I’m honored to have been named “The Freelance Expert” on the Board of Experts at the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE). Check out the NAIWE site for lots of great training opportunities and how-to articles on everything from the fine points of writing and editing to building your business and career.

Share your thoughts in the comments: Do you agree or disagree that the worst that could happen is getting the job at the wrong price? What’s your favorite trick to overcome estimate anxiety?

 

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7 ways to get more freelance referrals for your business https://doctorfreelance.com/freelance-referrals-business/ https://doctorfreelance.com/freelance-referrals-business/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2018 22:39:57 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3818 Word-of-mouth business is the closest thing we’ve got to perpetual motion in the freelance world. Not only are freelance referrals easier to get to sign on the dotted line—because your business has a third-party endorsement—they’re also far more likely to be easy to work with. With rare exceptions, a good client won’t send you a bad […]

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freelance referralsWord-of-mouth business is the closest thing we’ve got to perpetual motion in the freelance world. Not only are freelance referrals easier to get to sign on the dotted line—because your business has a third-party endorsement—they’re also far more likely to be easy to work with. With rare exceptions, a good client won’t send you a bad client. First, because a good client wants you to succeed. Second, because their own reputation is on the line. (Obligatory note of caution: Be wary of word-of-mouth business from not-so-hot clients, who have a penchant for passing along their equally challenging pals.)


The power of referrals: With rare exceptions, a good #freelance client won’t send you a bad client
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The Basics of Boosting Your Freelance Referrals

If you’re not getting as many freelance referrals as you used to, or as many as it seems like your peers get or you believe your skills and results warrant, you may need to develop a system. Here’s where I recommend starting:

  1. Do you ever actually *ask* for referrals? In an ideal world, referrals would simply flow in without effort. In reality, gracefully asking (or casually mentioning that you’re “a referral-based business”) is something you need to work into your process, starting with the first phone call or contact.
  2. When you do ask, how do you position it? While I’m using the word referrals as shorthand for word-of-mouth business, it can take the pressure off if you ask for an introduction: “Do you have any colleagues who might need (editing for their book, web content writing, brochure design, etc.)?”
  3. How well diversified are you? If you only have a few clients, you’re instantly limiting your potential for freelance referrals. Same is true for the diversification of your service offerings and the types of media you work in.
  4. Is your website professional looking and functional? I’ve read stats that 80- or 90-something percent of people look at a website before buying services. Hogwash. I guarantee it’s 100%. And yes, the prospective client will judge you on the look and usability as well as the content. Same principles apply, to a lesser extent, for LinkedIn and even your social media presence.
  5. Do you always provide exceptional work? Yeah, this one speaks for itself. No laurel-resting allowed.
  6. Do clients find you easy to work with? The client experience—your communications, responsiveness, amiability, grace under pressure, and so on—is every bit as important as the quality of your creative output.
  7. Without fail, do you send a note to thank the clients who refer you? Clients who willingly provide you with business opportunities are the coolest cats in the business world. Express your sincere gratitude, each and every time, even if the referral doesn’t work out.

In the comments, what are some of the tips and tricks you use to keep freelance referrals flowing?

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Notes from the past to my future freelance self https://doctorfreelance.com/future-freelance-self/ https://doctorfreelance.com/future-freelance-self/#comments Fri, 31 Aug 2018 19:08:08 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3797 It was August 1999 when I bolted my corporate job and launched Boomvang Creative Group as a full-time freelance writer and editor. If I could step back to day 1 of 19 years of self-employment, here are some notes I would have provided to my future freelance self: Clients work with freelancers they like and respect, and the […]

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freelance selfIt was August 1999 when I bolted my corporate job and launched Boomvang Creative Group as a full-time freelance writer and editor. If I could step back to day 1 of 19 years of self-employment, here are some notes I would have provided to my future freelance self:

  1. Clients work with freelancers they like and respect, and the reverse is true, too: Tepid or one-sided relationships absorb too much mental and physical energy, no matter what they pay.
  2. You can’t go wrong by making the client look good.
  3. Empathy is paramount when you’re dealing with someone else’s ideas and aspirations.
  4. As long as the client is pleased with the final product, you need to find a way to be happy, too. (Even if you’re not thrilled with the results and don’t want to include the project in your portfolio.)
  5. The biggest sign of trouble with a client is when you see a name on call waiting or in your inbox and think, “Ugh.” Extra points for an audible groan.
  6. It’s way more fun to get two checks on one random day than a regular paycheck every two weeks.
  7. Freelancing is a better education on a wider array of topics than your business degree.
  8. Feast or famine only bothers you if you let it. (And if you don’t plan for it.)
  9. No number of clients in the bush is worth as much as one in the hand.
  10. Referrals and warm leads are even more valuable than you realize. (Far better than anything that comes over the transom.)
  11. Having a diverse array of clients, industries, and media types is your best insurance policy. Because…
  12. You will lose clients through no fault of your own and without warning. (Prepare accordingly.)
  13. The smartest thing you can do is embrace the business side of freelancing. In fact, that may turn out to be even more enjoyable than the creative part.
  14. You don’t have to love every project, but you need to find something to help you push through. (It’s OK if that something is money.)
  15. Stop feeling guilty about mistakes you made, things you didn’t do, clients who didn’t work out, etc.
  16. There is no “right way” to freelance. Experiment. Incorporate and refine what works; stop doing what doesn’t get results or anything that irritates you.
  17. Running a one-person show (see Paul Jarvis re: minimalist business) is a perfectly noble enterprise. Partnering with skilled, expert freelancers has plenty of advantages over managing employees.
  18. When you wake up eager to start the day, pretty much every day, that’s a darn good sign you’ve made a smart choice.
  19. Nineteen years from now, Future Freelance Self, you will not be where you thought you’d be. (That’s not an excuse to not make plans—it’s an argument for creating systems, not just goals. h/t Scott Adams for introducing me to that concept.)

I’ve done previous anniversary posts before—business lessons at 18 and also here at 14—if you care to take a click down memory lane. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading, and have a great (long, for those in the U.S.) weekend!

Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash.

In the comments: How long have you been freelancing? If you could go back in time to the day you started, what’s the one thing you would tell your future freelance self?

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How do I charge for meetings with a new freelance client? https://doctorfreelance.com/charge-for-meetings-new-freelance-client/ https://doctorfreelance.com/charge-for-meetings-new-freelance-client/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2018 14:35:07 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3780 A reader asks…Dr. Freelance: Yesterday I had an extended (almost 2-hour) meeting with a potential new client. The good news is that they have a project for me, assuming the estimate is acceptable, and they said there would be more in the future. The bad news is that the project is small enough that I can’t […]

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charge for meetingsA reader asks…Dr. Freelance: Yesterday I had an extended (almost 2-hour) meeting with a potential new client. The good news is that they have a project for me, assuming the estimate is acceptable, and they said there would be more in the future. The bad news is that the project is small enough that I can’t possibly recoup the costs for my time, because it would basically double the estimate. I know you believe you should charge for meetings, but how do I do that in this circumstance? I don’t want to price myself out of a freelance job!—Time Is Money (i.e., you can call me “Tim”)

This is always a tough one, Tim, and it’s safe to say every freelancer will experience this situation at some point. You’re right to hesitate about simply doubling the client’s cost. So let’s discuss for a moment why your intuition is spot on—not just from a financial perspective, but a business one.

The Businesslike Way to Charge for Meetings

While you’re correct that it’s smart business practice to charge for meetings, a first conversation with a client can be a different animal. Whether in person or on the phone, it’s an investment in a relationship. If it’s brief, I’m more interested in the goodwill than the money. A longer call, as you’ve described, requires some deeper consideration:

  • An initial meeting probably isn’t 100% about a specific project. Both parties are getting value. The prospect is informing you about their business, needs, challenges, etc. You’re answering questions, talking about your business, processes, etc. You’re likely playing the name game or chatting about hobbies and outside interests to build rapport.
  • If you never sign a contract or do a project, you can’t bill for the time. This is reason #1 why you should be cautious about about solving someone’s problem too soon. Hint at your brilliance, but leave ’em wanting more.
  • Whatever portion of the meeting is actually about project specifics is billable. In a circumstance like you’ve described, I might amortize the business portion of a long meeting over the first few projects, not just lump it into the first. This assumes, of course, that future projects materialize, which brings me to my next point…

There are two red flags in your situation:

  • First, the promise of future work. This can be legitimate or it can be a ruse, and there’s no way to be certain. The more specific a prospect is about exactly what those projects are, the more comfortable I am accepting that it’s legit.
  • Second, meeting duration. In sales, the longer you talk or otherwise connect with a client, the better. It’s an indicator of rapport. Still, you need to be wary of conversations that last a long time without a guaranteed outcome. Early on, you need be qualifying the prospect on items such as whether they even have the budget to afford you.

Long first meeting w/ #freelance client? Amortize it over the first few projects #biztips
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What About Future Meetings?

When you charge for meetings in the future with an active client, the math changes. Time for meetings—and travel time to get to them, when applicable—needs to be incorporated into your estimates. Once you’ve established a relationship, the fluff and chitchat should become a much smaller percentage of the conversation. (Should!)

But (and this is a big but) I personally do not break out meeting fees as a separate line item. In my experience, there’s no benefit to calling attention to that as a specific cost. Within the estimate and final invoice, I’ll build time into the project fee and list “meetings and communications” alongside research, writing, editing, revisions, etc., as the services performed.

If a client happened to be ultra meeting-happy and I wanted to curtail wasted time, I might consider noting a cost. Or, if I wanted to make it clear that there wasn’t a charge for a particular consultation, I’d list it on the invoice with an “N/C.” Otherwise, meeting time is something that I prefer to integrate as part of the creative process, not separate from it. As with all freelance business practices, there’s no single right answer…except for what works for you and your client.

Update 8-1-18: My friend Elizabeth d’Anjou made a comment on Twitter that’s also worth throwing into the strategic mix: “When working for government/large organizations, building it in as a line-item cost *in the quote* can help reduce the number of unnecessary meetings I’m required to attend.” Excellent point—thanks!


IMHO there’s no benefit to meeting time as a line-item cost on a #freelance project. Build it into your fee
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Good luck with the project, and I hope that there’s a stream of others ahead for you!—Dr. Freelance

Have a question on how to charge for meetings or any other freelance business topic? Drop me a note in the comments, or through the Ask the Doc icon in the right sidebar. And if you’re interested in making your freelance business more profitable, grab a copy of The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid.

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Are you a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or both? https://doctorfreelance.com/freelancer-entrepreneur/ https://doctorfreelance.com/freelancer-entrepreneur/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2018 18:52:46 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3766 On Father’s Day, I riffed on whether entrepreneurship has a genetic component. In the wake of that post, I found it interesting that more than a few freelancers didn’t really consider themselves entrepreneurs. I decided to do some unscientific polling on Twitter and Facebook, asking the question “If you’re a freelancer, do you consider yourself an […]

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freelancer entrepreneurOn Father’s Day, I riffed on whether entrepreneurship has a genetic component. In the wake of that post, I found it interesting that more than a few freelancers didn’t really consider themselves entrepreneurs. I decided to do some unscientific polling on Twitter and Facebook, asking the question “If you’re a freelancer, do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?” With about 120 total respondents, the results lean 55% no on Facebook, while about two-thirds on Twitter say yes.

At least part of the issue comes down to differing definitions of entrepreneur. Investopedia cites it as “an individual who founds and runs a small business and assumes all the risk and reward of the venture.” Broadly, that fits freelancing—going into business for yourself is a risk, even if your capital investments are as modest as a computer, smartphone, and internet connection. But does the concept of entrepreneurship imply something beyond self-employment, sole proprietorship, small business, etc.? Do you need to have employees, shareholders, and venture funding—or some sort of innovative product or service? I’m afraid you’ll have to ask the business-lingo police.

The second element is the type of creative freelancing business that you operate and the aspirations you have for it. Mine includes a mix of copywriting, editing, webinars and seminars, coaching/mentoring, publishing my own books, and book shepherding for aspiring authors. (Wasn’t how I originally set out to do things, but evolution has its sway.) It definitely feels more entrepreneurial than not.


#Freelancing means taking risks—but does that qualify you as an entrepreneur?
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Harnessing the Entrepreneur Mindset

Stepping back from definitions, I simply find it useful from a business perspective to think of myself as an entrepreneur. Is it how I would introduce myself at a cocktail party? Not likely. Still, I don’t care that I’m not creating the next Silicon Valley unicorn; I can still harness the mindset! Leaning again on Investopedia, consider how much or little you resemble the “10 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs”:

  1. Passion and Motivation
  2. Not Afraid to Take Risks
  3. Self-belief, Hard Work and Disciplined Dedication
  4. Adaptable and Flexible
  5. Product and Market Knowledge
  6. Strong Money Management
  7. Effective Planning (Not Over-Planning) Skills
  8. The Right Connections
  9. Exit Preparedness
  10. Ability to Question Themselves (But Not Too Much)

With the exception of #9—since I have no desire to quit and I’m not in danger of failing—I’d say that’s a darn good list to work from if you want a successful freelance business. So I’m owning entrepreneur and channeling my inner Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

In the comments: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur? Why or why not?

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Is entrepreneurship genetic? https://doctorfreelance.com/entrepreneurship-genetic/ https://doctorfreelance.com/entrepreneurship-genetic/#comments Fri, 15 Jun 2018 19:49:52 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3756 My dad was a self-employed salesman through much of his career—and I’ve now flown solo for two-thirds of mine—so the idea that working for yourself could somehow be coded into your DNA has always piqued my interest. So…is entrepreneurship genetic, environmental, or a little of both? As it turns out, there’s science that supports the concept that personality traits such as independence, leadership, […]

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entrepreneurship genetic
Hometown club championship, sometime in the mid-’80s. I’m confident it bugged my dad that I had the golf bag slung backwards!

My dad was a self-employed salesman through much of his career—and I’ve now flown solo for two-thirds of mine—so the idea that working for yourself could somehow be coded into your DNA has always piqued my interest. So…is entrepreneurship genetic, environmental, or a little of both?

As it turns out, there’s science that supports the concept that personality traits such as independence, leadership, risk tolerance, and the ability to recognize opportunity are all affected by your genes.

The most notable study to date analyzing the relationship between heredity and entrepreneurship was performed by Tim Spector and Lynn Cherkas of the the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College (London) and Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University and author of Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Work Life. You can read additional details on the conclusions here—“How Entrepreneurship Might Be Genetic”—but the top-line finding was that 37 to 48 percent of the tendency to be an entrepreneur is genetic. An important part of that, as you might guess, is the genetic influence on the type of personality you develop.

Of course, no one would argue that you can’t work for yourself if it doesn’t run in the family, or that two entrepreneurial parents plus four self-employed grandparents would magically equal a solopreneur superstar. If you don’t have the desire or drive, your genes ain’t gonna be enough to succeed.

Is Entrepreneurship Genetic? Sure, But It’s Not All that Matters

Heaven knows I inherited plenty of my dad’s other traits, good and bad, though I didn’t get his golf swing and never managed to beat him. Genes aside, I think the more important aspect was observing him in action. Some examples :

  • Living below your means. I’m pretty sure my dad was the only person in history to click 300,000 miles on the odometer of a Ford Escort. (He replaced the engine somewhere in the high 100s, and when the driver’s side seat wore out, he swapped it with the passenger seat.) As frugal as I am, he was a cut above—but the principle still applies. Being prudent about spending and saving (including having a go-to-hell fund) enables me to make smarter decisions, without having to worry about when the next job or check comes in.
  • Clients buy from people they like. We all have pride in our creative talents, but it’s the client experience that people have with you during the process that makes the difference. When I was a young teen, I occasionally tagged along with my dad on sales calls. As gruff as he could be at times, man, could he turn on the charm when he had a prospect in front of him. Even his answering machine message was exuberant.
  • Patience. Dad wasn’t famous for being patient, but he had it when he needed it. Many of his customers were hospitals up and down the East Coast; most of them took 180 days to pay, and some were closer to 270. The key is, he knew they were good for it, even if they were slow. No amount of complaining would make the accounting gears turn faster, so he simply planned his finances—including carrying inventory costs—knowing it was going to take a while. This is why I don’t get too upset if a client is slow-paying but reliable.
  • If you’re going to work for yourself, enjoy the perks. Here, Dad excelled. He’d often be on road trips for days at a time, and then would take random weekdays off to play golf or do DIY stuff around the house. I never saw an inkling of guilt. He worked hard enough to make it work, no harder.

My dad died unexpectedly a couple of weeks before Father’s Day 2000. (Sadly, five months shy of his 60th trip around the sun.) I’d only been running my own business for a few months by then, but I could tell he knew I would make it. I still miss him terribly, but his genes and the lessons he taught me are with me every day. Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

In the comments: Is entrepreneurship genetic in a significant respect, or do you believe environment is more important? Also: What’s the most important business lesson you learned from your dad?

 

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What Yanny and Laurel teach us about client communications https://doctorfreelance.com/yanny-laurel-teach-client-communications/ https://doctorfreelance.com/yanny-laurel-teach-client-communications/#comments Thu, 17 May 2018 17:52:22 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3736 I reckon we’re about 10 minutes into the 15-minute fame run of the Yanny vs. Laurel dust-up. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can give it a whirl here.) I was firmly in the Yanny camp until late in the day yesterday, when I watched a video that explained the effect—after which I only […]

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client communicationsI reckon we’re about 10 minutes into the 15-minute fame run of the Yanny vs. Laurel dust-up. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can give it a whirl here.) I was firmly in the Yanny camp until late in the day yesterday, when I watched a video that explained the effect—after which I only heard “Laurel,” and couldn’t switch back. Weird how the brain works! In any case, I think the Yanny vs. Laurel divide offers a nifty jumping-off point to discuss client communications and the importance of perception in business.

When Client Perceptions and Client Communications Collide

  • Our clients don’t always hear what we mean, and we don’t always hear what our clients mean. It’s the human condition. Particularly for writers and editors, we pride ourselves on communications skills—and very much on our written client communications. The challenge is, no matter how well crafted you believe your email is, there’s room for miscomprehension—especially when you’re working with a new or inexperienced freelance client. To me, it’s the best argument in favor of communicating complicated (or contentious) information over the phone or in person whenever possible. In an email, I have no way of reading a client’s reaction, whether it’s negative or positive. When a client has fully formulated their objection without my input, it’s a lot more work to set the situation right.
  • This dynamic also illustrates why it’s so key to be as detailed as possible within your scope of work: “This is what I’m going to do, here’s how I’m going to do it, and here’s what it’s going to cost.” You need to be able to state the client’s understanding of the project back to them in their own terms, in a way that they agree with. If there’s any ambiguity at all, there’s room for a communication error.
  • Pricing is another great example of where this type of miscommunication comes into play. We all have our preferred policies: “I charge by the hour,” “I charge by the word,” “I charge by project price,” and so on. Frankly, if your chosen method works for you 100% of the time, that’s great. But put yourself in your client’s shoes: The same end cost, relayed in three different ways, could be perceived very differently. If someone is unfamiliar with the publishing industry, for example, $1 a word for writing will sound expensive. (Many years ago, I had a prospect ask, “Does that cost include short words like ‘a’ and ‘the’?”) As readers of this blog or my books know, I believe an estimated range is the most persuasive way to convey pricing. But if a client insists that I work on an hourly basis, that’s their call, not mine…assuming I want the project.

#Freelance clients don’t always hear what we mean, and we don’t always hear what our clients mean #yanny
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You need to be able to state a #freelance client’s understanding of a project back to them in their own terms
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The final point is that this underscores the importance of cultivating your relationships in general, and over the long term. Time and pressure will reveal a client who has a tendency to hear “Laurel” when you most certainly said “Yanny.” Once you understand how they’re perceiving what you’re trying to say, you have much better odds of getting it right. And when you connect with a client who’s simpatico, treat ’em like a rockstar.

In the comments: Sure, let me know whether you heard “Yanny” or “Laurel.” But more important: What are your strategies to prevent or overcome problematic client communications?

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Freelance networking introductions done right https://doctorfreelance.com/networking-introductions-done-right/ Wed, 02 May 2018 17:53:32 +0000 https://doctorfreelance.com/?p=3427 I’ve got a longtime client—more important, a mentor and friend—who does the most amazing, thoughtful networking introductions. You can’t help but feel like a rock star, whether she’s introducing you in person or via email. Not surprisingly, she’s also one of those people who seems to know everyone in town, in any industry you can name. As […]

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freelance networking introductionsI’ve got a longtime client—more important, a mentor and friend—who does the most amazing, thoughtful networking introductions. You can’t help but feel like a rock star, whether she’s introducing you in person or via email. Not surprisingly, she’s also one of those people who seems to know everyone in town, in any industry you can name.

As freelancers, we can’t exist in a vacuum, because success goes beyond raw creative talent. The market needs to view you as a person who’s connected to other people who can help them accomplish their goals—even if you’re not directly involved in a given project. (See also: complementary freelance creatives.) That takes effort and it can’t happen if you only network with people in your own specialty. It’s an investment in your business.

Here are a few examples of recent networking introductions I’ve made to show the approach I take:

Example #1

Andi, as I mentioned briefly at the (networking meeting), Beth and I have worked together on tons of client projects over the past 15 years. You can check out her graphic design portfolio at (web link). She’s super talented and I can always count on her to hit the mark with new company logos and branding. I think she’d be perfect for the project you were describing.

Beth, as we discussed on our call, Andi is a savvy businessperson and serial entrepreneur whose high-end clientele warrants communications that are up to the task. You can see some examples of the businesses she and her co-owner have worked with at (web link).

So, here’s to hoping two of my longtime colleagues can partner on some projects together!

—JP

Example #2

Chuck, as we talked about yesterday, Devon has been the director of PR at (Company X) since last year, and is doing a bang-up job for the company. (Company X) is the biggest player in the (X) retail biz, operates nearly 1,500 stores in the US and Canada, and just announced (a really huge milestone). She’s one of the hardest-working people I know, as can be seen in the media coverage she’s driven. 

Devon, Chuck is the (Publication X) editor that I mentioned the other night. Prior to landing here in Phoenix, he’s been an accomplished reporter globetrotting for (Publication X) in the US, South America, and, most recently, Europe. I gave him the basics of your media campaign, but you can fill him in on the details of other ways (Company X) could be a resource for broader topics in your market. He suggested you give him a call in the evening on his cell, 602-123-4567.

—JP

Example #3

Ed, Frank is the marketing expert I mentioned to you last week who’d like to talk with you further about the possibility of creating a direct-response campaign on your website, helping you secure speaking engagements, etc. He’s got a sterling reputation in the business for helping authors get the word out with his marketing strategies.

Frank, Ed is a longtime client of mine and a nationally known legal expert (specializing in X) who’s worked on a wide range of high-profile cases, such as (example A, B, and C), and is a frequent guest on the major networks for his insights. Despite the often-dark topics he works on, he’s a fun, funny guy.

With that, I’ll leave you both to connect and arrange a call to discuss the potential of working together. If you want me to jump on the call, you know where to find me.

—JP


Success in #freelancing goes beyond raw creative talent—we can’t exist in a vacuum.
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A Few Caveats about Networking Introductions

As with referrals, networking comes with great responsibility. I only connect people I know, like, and have worked with in some professional capacity—random contacts need not apply. In addition to the success of the two people I’m connecting, my reputation is on the line. Because of that…

  • I always check with each of the individuals first to see if they’re open to connecting.
  • I set expectations about business needs and personality—I don’t want anyone caught by surprise. If either of the parties has quirks (laid back, fast talker, busy schedule, tight deadlines, more talented at a specific type of creative, etc.), I will disclose that discreetly in a phone call, not via email.
  • I never discuss another freelancer’s rates or a client’s budget. That’s their responsibility to negotiate, unless they’ve given me explicit instructions to say something in advance.

The always-insightful Peter Shankman has some additional thoughts on this topic that are worth a read: How To Make the Perfect Email Introduction.

In the comments: Those are my ground rules and approach for networking introductions. What are yours? 

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