Freelance Business Systems: Getting Your Business GED on with Governance, Executive Functions, and (Strategic) Direction Transcript

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Today, we are wrapping up our Freelance Business Systems webinar series with “Getting Your Business GED on with Governance, Executive Functions and (Strategic) Direction.” So this last webinar is interesting in a lot of ways because as we’ve gone through the series, we have looked at some different areas of your business in different departments, if you will, and how to manage them. And yet here we are at the very, very end talking about strategic direction and management in a lot of ways in terms of the executive functions.

And what always strikes me as kind of interesting about that and when I was thinking about how to put this webinars series together is that if I were to just start at the beginning with setting strategic direction and managing your business and all of that, you would have a very different view of it than if we had not already talked about all of these different departments that go into your business, all these different facets of your business that you may or may not be working on right now, but that are important functions, crucial functions, you know, un-ignorable functions, even if we often try, to running a successful functioning business.

And so as we talk about this idea of governance, executive function, strategic direction, we’re gonna look at a couple of different things. So I kind of named this webinar or the GED to be the acronym for those three things, but also for another reasons. We’re gonna talk about this idea of what is an MBA today really and what do people with an MBA have that other people who are running a business don’t, and does it matter? And then we’re gonna look at what do we mean by these three different terms and also why I’ve grouped them all together.

And then another thing I wanna look at is rather than as we’ve done in the past webinars taking a lot of examples about different aspects of your business that you might wanna look at or apply to. You know, I know in the technology one and the IT one, we talked about some different apps that might be useful. We talked about some different areas, looked at apps. In accounting, we looked at some different categories that you should be measuring, things like that.

So rather than doing that, I wanna give you today some kind of more framework type, high level approaches to these different things, executive function, strategic direction, and management. And I wanna do that because you can apply them however you see fit, but there are things that for, in the case of couple of them, more than 50 or 60 years have been used by all people running all companies and everyone going through an MBA and they are some frameworks or systems, if you will, of looking at these different things that are very, very simple, not simplified but very, very simple. So they’re very easy to implement.

And I want or I’d love at the end of this webinar for you to kind of go out having an idea not just about what these things, strategic direction and governance and executive functions, mean in a business or in a business like yours, but also from the perspective of how you implement it without me having to, you know, look specifically at each of your goals and without you having to feel like the system doesn’t work if your goal changes. Because for a lot of things around small business, I find that they get really into goals, like they get really into goal-setting and how to make sure your goals happen and all these things. But I find that there’s not always a real-world appropriate amount of what to do if things happen to not make those goals happen.

And I have a lot of conversations where I see a lot of emails go by with people who are like, “Oh, you know, I was planning to get my book out this year. Oh, I was planning to pitch my first article pitch this year. Oh, I was gonna leave my job to travel write full time this year. I was gonna take this trip this year. I was gonna do that. I was going to that.” And then, there’s always the “and then,” you know, a personal thing, a personal thing with my family, a health thing, like a physical accident, something financial, something, you know, financial involving a loved one, etc. and so on and so forth. And so there’s a lot of things that come up.

And what I really like about the idea of these frameworks, particularly in this vein of what your executive function should be to bring to bear the strategic direction for your business and how you can “govern,” and we’ll talk about what that means, to make sure that that happens and that you’re honoring your mission and strategic direction. I wanna give you these frameworks because I want these things to feel resilient. I want everything that we’re talking about in this webinar series really to feel resilient.

Even though some are the departments that we’ve looked at may feel more like they are a long list of tasks that you need to add to your plate, we’ve always talked about how to handle those and how to scope that down at the end of all the webinars like this. This webinar that we’re gonna do right now is something that should be with you every day, both managing yourself and staying on track with the strategic direction of your business and being accountable for that are simply the most fundamental drivers of having a business that feels successful to you, to whatever your measure of success is.

So before we get into talking about our GED topics for the day, I want you to just take a second to look at how we got here. So like I said in the intro, we are covering sort of the top of your business now, the “executive,” you know, the CEO, the top chair, top seat, what have you. But we went through a lot of other things to get here. We went through finance, accounting, purchasing, all those money-oriented things. We looked at how the work gets done, we looked at operations and quality control. So for all of those perfectionists out there, quality control is when you should check out to see how that actually gets sent in a business where they have to make that tradeoff between perfection and the bottom line, right?

We looked at sort of those more internal things, HR, legal and IT. We looked at how you communicate with your customers, whether that’s customers you already have or future customers with sales, marketing, PR and customer service. And now we’re looking sort of at a different side and the operations level with admin, research, development and governance and strategy. These are the things that help your business not only get the work done but also move forward.

So in the last webinar on research and development, we looked a lot about this thing of thinking about where your business might go next and running some feasibility looks around that. For us as travel writers, it might mean learning a new skill, like maybe you’re a writer and you don’t shoot photos and now a lot of the magazines want photos as well. And is that something that you’re gonna take the time to learn? What’s the physical investment? What kind of time investment is at? Is this something that interests you? That would go in that R&D category, right?

So as we go this week into governance and strategy, we’ve looked at all of these areas of your business, which whether you think about it or not, you’re doing, right. HR is whenever you think about doing something self-care to help you to get your work done, right, whether that’s getting a coffee machine for your home office or even setting up a home office, right? I’ve talked to a number of folks during our coaching summer camp in the last week about their home office that they already have or that they’re planning to set up and what that’s gonna look like to enable their business.

So as we look at governance and strategy, it’s really important to remember that we have to touch on all these things because when we’re just one person, and we’re a solopreneur, especially for a solo service provider like a writer who might not have a lot of other external admin support like bookkeepers or admins or like bloggers might have somebody who do their Pinterest. But if you’re more of a freelance writer, you might not have so much support. So when there’s just the one of you, it can be very easy to feel like you’re just doing whatever you’re doing that day. You’re doing whatever’s on the list and not that you’re actually these 15-plus people that we see here. Because that’s one of the things that we covered in the very beginning of this series is that when you took on this company that you have as a freelancer now, you signed the job descriptions for all of these different roles.

So today, as we look at this idea of the GED, Governance, Executive Function, and Strategic Direction, I just wanted to frame it in terms of what we’ve covered and how this sets you up as a business owner going forward. There’s things that I covered that are gonna speak to you differently at different points in terms of where you are with your freelance career. It’s definitely the kind of series where you gonna watch it a year or two years from now and see a whole other side to some of the webinars which are really geared towards a different level than where you are now.

But if you’ve just gone through these, and particularly this one we’re gonna do today, you have what I like to call sort of jokingly that many people call jokingly who have them, a “good enough diploma,” right? So I know somebody who is a theoretical computer scientist who got his PhD from Berkeley and now teaches at Georgia Tech and all this stuff. And even he has a good enough diploma that he got before he went to college because he was doing other things when he was in high school. So a good enough diploma can take you very, very far. Okay.

And what we’re gonna talk about in terms of these GED things, particularly with management and strategic direction, these are foundational things that they will teach in business schools all around the country. They will teach in companies where many people rise into leadership positions and didn’t go to business school. But I wanted to look at this idea of managing your company, whether it’s sort of from that executive strategic level or more that management level.

Because when we think about an MBA, a master’s in business administration, in a lot of sectors of the job market, it’s kind of taken for granted. You have to have an MBA to do X, you have to have an MBA to do Y. But if you haven’t done one, it’s very not clear what exactly you learn about in an MBA. It is a lot of numbers. It’s a lot of what we’re looking at in this series and it’s also a lot of case studies.

The Harvard Business School is very famous for case studies where it looks at real-world things that have happened to real-world companies and talks about them, talks about what people would do in those situations. It’s a lot of learning by like “fake” doing if you ask me. So the thing that makes an MBA different, in most cases people will tell you, it’s not what they learned because they could learn a lot of those things out in the job market, but it’s often that people they meet in doing those case studies. So what I really like about these frameworks that we’re gonna look at today are that there are frameworks that you can put on a lot of different situations that you find yourself in and you can create your own case studies to work through. You can create your own situations that have or haven’t come up and think about them yourself.

Because one of the things about an MBA today is also people are getting it later. And then also in a lot of situations people who would otherwise get them aren’t because they work in digital marketing or social media management or some area where the landscape changes so fast that if they went to get an MBA in order to further their career and become a director of marketing or vice president of marketing or whatever, they would be out of the landscape of what’s happening for so long that they would fall behind.

So for us as freelance writers, you know, you can kind of say jokingly, “Well, I’m a writer, why would I ever need an MBA?” But you do, to run your business, need at least a good enough diploma in freelancing, which is what we’ve been working through in this series. And even people who usually would get MBAs aren’t getting them today, so don’t feel bad, not that you would. Now as we get into talking about this concept of strategic direction and management and everything, I couldn’t help but think of this “Alice in Wonderland” quote.

Now, there’s a lot of variations about this. There’s one that’s kind of ship sailing-related that I really like and I can never find when we do webinars. But there’s this idea of if you don’t know where you’re gonna go, will you end up anywhere? Does it matter if you get there or is it just that you’re wandering around through life? Right? So in the “Alice in Wonderland” quote, Alice says, “Would you tell me, please, which way I have to go from here?” And the Cheshire cat says, “Well that depends a good deal on where you want to go.” And Alice says, “I don’t care much.” Then the Cheshire cat says, “hen it doesn’t matter which way you go.” But Alice finishes, “So long as I get somewhere.” And then the Cheshire cat says, “Oh, well, you’re sure to do that if only you walk long enough.”

And I think that the bottom part of this quote is often left out. I think this is really important for us as freelancers because I think that that bottom bit, “You’re sure to get somewhere if you only walk long enough,” is what happens to a lot of people. All right? But I have this conversation way back at the top Cheshire cat line here that, “It depends a good deal on where you want to go,” which way you want to go with a lot of people. And something that seems so unbelievable, and we’re gonna look at it in some of the upcoming slides in the series, but something that seems so unbelievable is that the businesses that really excel, whether we’re talking here about freelancers or larger businesses or corporations or what have you tend to be the ones that are excruciatingly focused on what they’re gonna do.

And I know as individual service providers that can feel really boring, like we don’t wanna write about the same thing every day. We don’t wanna write for the same clients every day. We don’t wanna do the same kind of work. But that’s fine because that’s not your goal, right? But it’s about figuring out what your goal is. And I mean that in a larger way. I don’t just mean one goal, but where you wanna go rather, and heading in that direction, checking in when you get off course from that direction, and taking active steps to course correct.

When we think about this idea of the governing body of our organization, and we try to think about it as something larger than us, who do you speak to about what’s going on with your business? I know a lot of people have mentioned to me lately that they have either their best friend or their partner or their mother or some other family member who they talk to regularly that they kind of hash out when there’s something that’s bopping around in their head that they wanna make a decision about, right? So if governing body is a weird term for you, it can be useful to think of it instead as a board of advisors. Who are the people that you go to when you need some more information about something, when you need somebody to hear you out, when you’re looking for a bit of perspective on something?

Now, in a more formal, governance also includes the mechanisms where it’s required to balance the powers of the members with the associated accountability and their primary duty of enhancing the prosperity and the viability of the organization. Now this sounds way more formal, right? So when we think of this idea of governance, this typically applies to something like a board of directors. And in a board of directors meeting, I’ve been on several, depending on how much the board is involved in sort of the day-to-day operations of things, there’s going to be a lot of this monitoring when they come in. So there’s some boards, especially for corporations, where the board members are intentionally people who have grown a different business to a certain size and then they’re invited to be on the board of this corporation of a business which produces something.

And so at the board meetings or before the board meetings, they spend a lot of time looking over the numbers of how the company is doing and asking very pointed questions about, “Well, why is this happening? Why is that happening? Like, I see that this was spent on this, did we actually get anything from it?” And it can be quite sort of grueling and intimidating, but that’s the job of the board. And so when you think about this for yourself as a freelance writer, I’m sure for most people, the first reflex is like, whoa. Like, you know, I work for myself to not have that. But I will tell you that if it sounds kind of like vomity at this moment, it’s something that I just want you to keep in mind because there’s a lot of times where you can feel with your business that it’s off track in some way, shape, or form.

And if you could only speak to somebody who could look at it with a similar or even more advanced knowledge-base than you from a place that was separate and slightly elevated, like they had a bird’s eye view of something, than where you’re looking at it, the answer might be very clearly there in the facts. So I know a number, for instance, of online business owners who have different content-driven businesses who have spouses who do not work for their company, but at some point during the year, they sit down with their spouse and they go through the different numbers of what’s going on for their company and have that spouse do that sort of balance of power, accountability, continuous monitoring thing over the financials of the business. So this is like not for somebody who has a lot of employees or a CFO, but somebody who’s, you know, their own one-author band or something.

I know people who have parents or other family members who are very business-minded that they might do it with those people. But the idea is that there will come a point for you with your business where the need to identify those areas that are holding you back will outweigh any sort of potential icky feeling that you may have around sharing that information in a very transparent and blunt way with another individual who’s gonna give you feedback that might be strong, but it’s gonna have your best interest at heart. So I’m not gonna talk too much more on this call about the idea of governance because I feel like it’s something that A, a lot of folks aren’t necessarily ready to introduce into their freelance business for a lot of reasons. And some of it might be that you don’t have the data or that your freelance business is new. But I wanted to introduce that idea and make sure that we covered it because it is a really fundamental part of most businesses.

So what do we mean by executive functions? So this is like a very dictionary, blatant removed from the business school or general business setting definition that I have contrasted with one from somebody named Peter Drucker who we’re gonna look at some sort of maxims of his later on in this webinar as well. But I wanted to contrast these two definitions because I feel like they’re both very fundamental in terms of describing what an executive is, but some might speak more to one person than another. And, of course, the idea here is that I want you all to feel that you are an executive if you don’t feel it yet.

So says an executive is a person or group of persons having administrative or supervisory authority in an organization. So of course, we are not gonna feel like, as solopreneurs, we are an organization and yet, your organization puts things out, you know, messaging on the website, you put out products to the people who pay you for your words. So you are in fact and organized entity and hence an organization. So administrative or supervisory authority, we talked a lot in one of the other webinars, but this idea of administration and why it’s very sticky and people have a lot of associations with it. But I feel like this idea of supervisory can be just as difficult.

So I find that it’s difficult to talk in a freelance solopreneur setting about this idea of supervisor because one thing that happens is that when people leave their jobs, they can feel like they’ve basically just replaced their old boss with their clients and their clients are kind of supervising them and telling them what to do in that way. But in your freelance business, the only person supervising you, unless you have like a nanny cam for your spouse or something, the only person supervising you is you. You’re the only one who knows what you’re spending your time on, if it’s being spent effectively, who decides what your time is gonna be spent on, who directs your activities. You are the supervisor, but you’re supervising yourself, which makes it very difficult, right?

But Peter Drucker has this really cool sort of lengthy…I actually took a paragraph out of the middle, but this cool way of looking at executives I feel like might resonate in a more modern sense. And it’s interesting because he talks about this idea of knowledge workers, which we think of as a very sort of computer-era word. But this book was written in 1967 actually. And he’s really attributed with growing a lot of the capabilities of modern businesses, in fact, through a lot of his research and terminology and things like that. So here’s what he has to say, and there’s a typo here and I apologize for that but, “I have called executives, those knowledge workers, managers or individual professionals who are expected by virtue of their position or their knowledge to make decisions in the normal course of their work that have an impact on the performance and the results of the whole. The most subordinate, we now know, may do the same kind of work as the president of the company or the administrator of the government agency that is plan, organize, integrate, motivate, and measure. His compass may be quite limited, but within his sphere, he is an executive.”

So what I really love about this definition, aside from Peter Drucker who has a cool way of looking at the world, is this idea that if you make a decision that has an impact on the performance and results of the whole. And I actually feel like we looked in the very, very, very first webinar in this series about these three different types of entrepreneur, right? We looked at the technician and the manager and the visionary, and I know they have a different word for visionary, but the technician is the one that’s doing the work, the manager is the one that likes to keep things organized, and the visionary is the big picture person, right?

And a lot of folks spend a lot of time in one area or the other, but the technician, I find to be often the culprit because if you spend too much time managing or too much time in the visionary way, you’re never gonna get any words out and you’re never getting paid for your words, and you’re never gonna be able to be a full time freelancer in the first place. But when you quit your job and become a full-time freelancer, then you get into this mode of, “I have to write the words to earn the money.” Like, you have to write the words to earn the money.

This is like, every morning, I know people who it’s the best time of day for them, but what they do first and foremost in the morning is the work that they hate. Like content marketing work that they pick up on super random topics that might not even be related to travel, they do that first thing in the morning because they wanna get it done. They wanna know that they earned their money for the day before they can move on to do other things. And that’s this technician, right?

But when you’re doing that work, you can often get kind of divorced from this concept of making decisions in the normal course of work that have an impact on the performance and the results of the whole. So I like this way of looking at it because I feel like those moments when you’re being more of a writer, more of a technician, having this mindset of what an executive is can help remind you that you are steering the ship as well as currently being the one…I’m gonna make a sailing analogy that’s like, you know, swabbing the deck or, you know, running up the main sail or whatever that is.

Okay. So let’s take a quick look at strategic direction before we dive into some of these exercises. So I picked, again, two definitions here, one which is more simplistic and one which is larger. So strategic direction is a course of action that leads to the achievement of the goals of an organization’s strategy, right? So we wanna piece this out. So a strategy is like the path you’re on, you know, where are you going, something like that. And the goals are the milestones, okay. So if you’re driving down 95, you know the goal might be that you’re trying to drive from Maine to Florida, okay? And there might be like sort of sub-goals, which are different places that you need to drive through on the way. But the strategy is that you are exploring America through road trips, okay? Or that you’re trying to see America at the ground up from the communities that make it up, okay?

So I’ll give some more examples later on, but I wanna make sure that we keep these things separate because it can be really easy, like I said earlier, to get goal-oriented in a way that neglects what your strategy is, what your approach to moving in the direction you want to be and to moving through the world is, okay? So here’s another crack at this, which is a little more lengthy. Strategic direction refers to the actions taken to achieve the goals of an organized relational strategy. Some companies use a vision statement or a mission statement to define where the organization wants to be, but in short, the statement is a way for the organization to set the direction that the organization wants to go and define what it wants to be in the future. Strategic direction includes the plans and actions that need to be put in place to work toward the vision of the future of the organization.

When defining a strategic direction that includes a 360 corporate vision, every single area of the organization must be analyzed, including all processes in order to gain the maximum value. So I like this a lot because of how it weaves in at the end the idea that your strategic direction needs to be cohesive and coherent and, to use the business term, synergistic with what you’re doing in all parts of your business, right? So if one of your goals, if a driving principle for you is independence and freedom and you have a client who, you know, requires you to invoice in this super specific way on this super specific schedule that you often can’t do because you don’t even have internet at the time and so on and so forth, that’s not gonna be in line with your vision and your values and the direction that you wanna be going in, which is creating freedom for yourself and your life through your company, right?

So that accounting practice is something that, if not appropriately visited, is gonna become this thorn in the side of where your company is going, okay? And I think it’s also interesting in this definition, how they talked about the action taken to achieve the goals is also the strategic direction. Because the same way that when we talk about writing magazine articles, you know that there’s a lot of details out there in the world and the ones that you choose to include are gonna be the ones that specifically fit the angle that you’re going for in this piece or the why of this piece. It’s the same thing that the steps that you take to achieve the goals themselves should also be, you know, of the strategic direction.

So I wanted to look at three different frameworks before we close out today of this idea of strategic direction, executive function, and particularly management because self-management in many, many ways is much more difficult than managing others. And Peter Drucker, who I mentioned earlier, also has a whole book on managing oneself, which is not very long. I think it’s like 76 pages or something, but it is very much not what you think and very interesting. It’s really focused around your strengths and that’s one of the things that gave rise to all these strength finders and all these different personality assessments and everything we have today.

But I wanted to start with this idea of Patrick Lencioni’s “Four Obsessions of the Extraordinary Executive.” So this book I really recommend and it really doesn’t take that long to read and it’s relatively engrossing. That sounds weird for a business book, right? Patrick Lencioni writes business fables. Okay. So they are entirely narrative works that seek to outline something that is going on in a business setting, okay?

So these entirely narrative works basically take a fictional setting and one of the other ones we’re gonna look at and does this as well, but I think Patrick Lencioni is kind of the master of it a lot of ways. So in this setting in which he introduces the four obsessions of the extraordinary executive, he talks about this guy, I think his name is Greene, how Greene is really jealous of his rival company. His rival company always seems to do better than him. He hires all these consultants to figure out why. He can’t figure out what it is, okay?

Then his rival, and he went to the same business school, but Greene really stood out when he was there, and his rival really didn’t make a big impression. They both left and they both started these consulting firms and his rival was just working a thousand hours and never seeing his family, he was missing baseball games, and he sat down and he took this yellow legal pad sheet and he asked himself, what are the things that I have to do? What are the things that I do that really matter to the firm? It’s a consulting firm, okay?

And he wrote that those four things and he taped it to his desk and he changed his whole schedule to do only those four things. And his company thrived. It was a darling of the media. All their customers love them even when something went wrong. And Greene was just always obsessed with figuring out what was it that they did. And it turned out that there was a new hire that went into the company who the CEO had finally taken a vacation and he did not interview this person personally, which was part of the things that are on his yellow sheet, and he did not do company orientation with this person and this person was not a fit for the company in terms of the sort of soft culture personality things and he ended up…

This new hire, he was in an HR role. He ended up torpedoing the whole company by making the culture uncomfortable, by introducing some feedback in the executive team meeting that made it look like the CEO was skeptical and not trusting everyone else on his team to the point where the CEO of this successful company lost his head of marketing and his company was just starting to go down the tube because of all of these changes that this bad hire introduced. And so he let go of the bad hire, then got back on track, and the bad hire went back to Greene who was jealous of this other company and said, “Well, this is what he does. This is what the other guy does. I mean it works. It clearly works. It wasn’t a fit for me.” And Greene’s company, he let it go down the tube and he started a new company using this framework that then itself was successful and his rival was a great mentor of his going forward. So it’s very fable-y, okay?

And the things that you see here on the screen, these are the different disciplines that he has on his yellow sheet. So build and maintain a cohesive leadership team. It’s an interesting thing to introduce into this concept where we’re talking about us as, you know, solopreneurs and freelance writers to think about this idea of a leadership team, but it means that in all of the crucial leadership roles in your business, so some of that is gonna be finance. I hate to say it, taxes, my God, such a thing, right? So finance, for sure marketing, for sure sales.

What are the other most crucial things in your business? You need to have like a portion of your day, week, life personality that is a very trustworthy leader in that role. And when you’re trying to bat out a decision and balance that against different values or different goals or different outcomes, you need to be able to trust that all of these different areas have your best interest at heart. So let’s say, for instance, that your financial arm is not very strong. Let’s say that your personal sort of voice in your head when you think about financial stuff is always coming from this place of scarcity of, you know, are we gonna have enough, of not running the reports and not planning ahead and sort of getting stuck when the numbers don’t add up. Okay? That voice, that stance is not gonna help you when you need to make a strong decision.

So the second point is create organizational clarity. This is around values and mission and strategy and then over-communicate clarity. So this means having on your desk, having a thing in the morning where you walk yourself through your goals and what you’re gonna do to get there. And then reinforcing clarity through human systems. So in the book, for instance, and it’s something where they have the annual meeting and they decide on what is gonna happen for the year ahead. And then each of the departments heads talks about how they’re gonna bring that information back to their team and how they’re gonna communicate it, okay? So that’s reinforcing it through human systems.

In your life, it might be much more granular, right? It might be that you have something that you do in the morning to reinforce clarity to yourself. It might be that you have ways that you reinforce with your family or other people who you cohabitate with about what you value in your work time, okay? So I really, really recommend this book, but like I said, if you just have these four things on your desk, even though there’s just one of you, it will really get you to think if you can focus on these things, okay? So like what is organizational clarity?

It could we only be working on the stuff that makes you a lot of money. It could be only working on the stuff that is going to get you into magazines. It could be creating a brand that means X, whatever that clarity is for you. And then how do you make sure that you over-communicate that clarity to your clients, to yourself, to other stakeholders in your life? And then how do you reinforce that clarity through human systems? They’re very simple, but these things will align and streamline into creating a very effective business for yourself.

So Peter Drucker, we talked about earlier, so these are his seven principles for being an effective executive. Effectiveness can be learnt, okay, this is really important because a lot of people feel like they’re missing something that they can’t A because of B, okay? And he has a whole thing about strengths, okay? But it’s important to think about effectiveness is a way of being rather than kind of what you already are. It’s the way that you pursue what you’re working on.

The next one is know thy time. Now, this is something that I know I really harp on, and I have a section on it in a book, and I work on it with a lot of people, and I track my time every single moment. In fact, of course I just realized that the time tracker is not running for this webinar, but it’s okay because I know how long the webinar was. So know thy time, this is something where you can’t make good decisions until you really have a great understanding of both how you are inclined to spend your time, how you’re already spending your time, and how long different things take you. What can I contribute? This goes into the next one about making your strengths productive, but what is it that you are most equipped to do? And then how do you make that strength into something that’s productive?

Now, the next one that Peter Drucker has, I really like this idea of first things first. So this comes actually from Dale Carnegie who went to like the Rockefeller or Vanderbilt or something like this. Dale Carnegie, we now know for “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” or something like that. But he went to one of these people, like a Vanderbilt, and said like, “If you pay me whatever you want, after six months, I will do something that will so transform your business and you can just decide how much you wanna pay me, how much it’s worth to you.” And it was just this first things first. It was just this idea of the MITs. or most important tasks, of having every single manager and every single person in the company pick the three most important things they were going to do that day and do those three before anything else. So that’s why Peter Drucker had this in here, it came around a similar time.

Now, he also talks about the elements of decision making. And the idea is that, I know I talk to so many of you who really work on your decisions a lot, even very, very, very small decisions. And if you can systematize what you really need to know to make a decision, what really matters to you, what information you really need to gather, then that will help you to make effective decisions. So being an executive is gonna be one part of the many different hats that you wear in your company, right? And so to do that effectively, you need to remember that effectiveness can be learned, that you are the one who manages your time, that you need to focus on what you can actually contribute and how to do that in a productive way, right? We all have things that we love that we spend way too much time on. You need to put the first things first. You need to be clear with yourself about the elements of your decision making and then use that to make effective decisions.

Now, just before I leave you, I have this really cool framework about management. It’s called the one-minute manager. So of course it has three parts, so it’s three minutes, but I’m gonna go through them quickly. The idea is that in the one-minute manager is that as you are managing, in this case, yourself but really anybody that being very to the point…right? That’s the point of like this whole webinar, everything’s about being to the point, right? That being very to the point with your goals, with your reinforcement, whether positive or negative, will be the most effective thing to create feedback loops that allow you to go brilliantly into the world.

So this idea of the one-minute goals is to plan your goals, together here means with your manager hat on and your technician hat on and your visionary hat on, and describe them briefly and clearly, have them written out on a page with due dates. Shouldn’t be more than 250 words. Review your most important goals each day, which takes only a few minutes, especially if they’re all on a single page. Take a look at the goals in relation to what you’re doing and see if that behavior matches the goals. I swear if everybody that I coached did this every single day, we would have like the most explosively productive people, but it’s very difficult to actually do this. So have your goals and then see if it actually matches what you’re doing and then if it doesn’t, rethink what you’re doing so you can realize your goals sooner.

Now, actually I’m just gonna skip ahead one side. So if something is happening that is not in line with the goals and the values, you should redirect as fast as possible. This is an issue that I see people running into is that they have something that’s not working and they continue down that path. This can be with a client, this can be with yourself, this can be with a contractor working for you, but it often comes up with clients. Confirm the fact first and review the mistake that had been made together, being specific. Express how you feel about the mistake and its impact on results. If you’re doing this for yourself, you could say, you know, like, “I blew this deadline because I did not get started on the research early enough. And by the time I started looking into it, I needed to do some additional interviews, which I couldn’t get scheduled. And I feel really disappointed with myself that this happened, that I disappointed my editor in this way,” okay?

And then you pause, you pause to kind of sit with that. Okay. Then you let them or, you know, in this case you know that they’re better than their mistake and you think well of them as a person. So this is a really great thing to do to yourself to say, you know, “That happened, but I’m better than that. That’s not me. That’s not a permanent thing. And like, I’m still a good writer. I’m still a good freelancer.” Okay? And then remind them/yourself that you have competence and trust and support their success and realize that when it’s over, it’s over. So I really liked this redirect idea as a way to move forward when something has gone poorly for you because it’s very easy to get stuck on that for a very long time, especially in the guise of pulling something useful from it.

So then there’s this idea of praising, which I wanted to wrap up with because praising are great. So praise people will as soon as possible, even if something’s just getting started, okay? So let’s say that you just started pitching and you spent 15 minutes on it today. Tell yourself, “Oh my God, I’m so excited. I spent 15 minutes on pitching today. I actually did it. I spent 15 minutes.” Let someone know what they did right and be specific. So in this case, who knows what the pitch looks like, right? It hasn’t gotten accepted yet. So the idea is that I spent 15 minutes. That’s the specific, right? Tell people how good you feel about what they did and how it helps. So you would say to yourself like, “I’m so glad I did this because I’ve been telling myself I would do this for a really long time. And it feels really refreshing, empowering to start doing it. And it’s an important step towards my future of working with magazines.” Okay?

Again, pause, allow that to sink in. Encourage them/yourself to do more of the same. “That was so great. I’m really looking forward to doing another 15 minutes tomorrow,” or Thursday or whenever you have it scheduled. Make it clear that you have confidence in them and support their success. You know, and this is something you do in your journal, right? Like I’m confident that I’m going to be able to keep this habit up and do what it takes to succeed in what I’ve set out to do, right? So these are some really great guidelines, these Ken Blanchard one-minute things in terms of how you can bring self-management into your life in a way that’s in line with remembering that you are the executive of your own business.

So as we talked about this today, particularly the management bit, but also in the executive part and the four obsessions of the extraordinary executive, I hope it’s kind of made you revisit some of the things that you think about and the other departments that we’ve explored in this series. And that’s great. So let’s not forget how this all started in this webinar series that we have on “Freelance Business Systems” with you signing that job role, that contract for all of the different roles that you’ve taken on to run your business. So now that you are equipped with the tools to make sure that they are in line with your strategic direction and to manage them, get on that. How can you streamline the different job descriptions that you have for yourself to be in line with the strategic direction that you wanna set?

So thank you guys so much for joining me today. It was such a pleasure to wrap up the series with you, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have while I know that there’s a lot of finance going on. So I will leave you with that and I will see you on another webinar very soon. Cheers.

Freelance Business Systems: The Fun Stuff on Your List (Research & Development) R&D Transcript

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This time we’re going to be continuing our “Freelance Business System” series with our second to last webinar in the series. We’re going way up in the ladder of what goes into your business. We’ve looked at all of these more whether you wanna call it process, or day-to-day operations or sort of activity level things. We’ve looked at finance, we’ve looked at marketing, we’ve looked at sales, we’ve looked at HR, we’ve looked at technology.

And now we’re getting into those more, at least, particularly for freelancers nice to have certain things. We’re gonna talk about research and development which is future looking. We’re gonna talk about management, which also can feel silly when there’s just one of you, but it’s very, very crucial.

So we’re getting into these things that talk about what is the real overarching direction of your freelance business? Want are your goals? What is it that you’re actually accomplishing, that you’re actually doing in the world? It’s interesting because I was just talking with somebody I guess earlier today or yesterday on a coaching call kind of about this idea of the work that she’s doing and how it impacts the world, and thinking about her own motivation related through that lens. And I think this is something that for a lot of people can translate into what we’re talking about today, which is this research and development bit.

You often find that the work that you’re doing perhaps just because it’s a factor of the clients that you’ve picked up is not what you set out to do. You might be writing about something that you never thought that you’d be writing about that you maybe didn’t feel that you had a particular interest in, or you might just be doing the type of writing that’s not the type of writing that you set out to be doing, or your work schedule is not what you set out to be doing. Whatever that is and the way to get out of that is what we’re talking about today.

So, particularly we’re gonna look at what do I mean when I talk about research and development for travel writers and tie that into what research and development means generally in a corporate context. And we’re gonna look at what are sort of the “divisions” of research and development for travel writers. And I want you to look at that…I have a list that includes sort of some larger buckets, there might be some other one that you find for yourselves. But there’s three main buckets going on, and I often talk about how I attend a lot of different conferences to stay up on what’s going on in these different buckets in terms of, you know, the industry itself, writing and the larger world, you know, of marketing and digital marketing and writing a business and what’s going on there.

But I want you guys also to look at these not as we usually do in these calls in the “Freelance Business System” series of sort of a grab bag of some things to think about doing and picking from there. Because as you’ll see as we go on, I’m sure you are all already doing research and development, in fact, I’m sure you’re spending a significant amount of time on it.

So I want you to look at that list from the vein not of, “Oh, this is a nice thing to add because we’re also addicted to learning.” That’s where we became writers to get paid about the things we are learning about. I want you to look at it about being intentional about what you will and won’t do. And so then I’ve also included sort of a little exercise that you can follow at the end to get some clarity on what you are already doing in terms of research and development, and how to be more intentional about that time.

So getting into what we’re talking about today, I wanted to start by defining when I talk about research and development for travel writers what does that mean? If you think about research and development, it’s funny. Because my husband works in research in the tech world, but I usually think of pharmaceuticals. I don’t know if that’s the image that pops for you guys.

I’m sure that research and development has wildly different sort of visualizations for many people, for instance, there’s a distillery that we go to. Where the distillery has its research and development arm, where they put out interesting seasonal beverages and their kind of one-shot deals, they make as many bottles as they make, and then they’re gone. So research and development can certainly mean a lot of things.

I like the distillery example because it relates to a number of the things that we’re gonna talk about in this call, which is that this is something that they do and it’s seasonal and sort of limited-term, and it’s something interesting and fun that they do. But at the same time, they only do it when they have time. They only do it when there’s enough space in the production calendar that they’re putting out the whiskey that they owe to all of their different distributors and providers.

And so for instance, they’ve not put out new research and development liquors for a long time, because they’ve been very popular and I think that is a very important part of where research and development fits into things. But on the flip side, you can see also, like I mentioned something fun, it’s something new that the distillers get to develop. And if you don’t have that fun, if you’re not looking at some different things on the horizon, then you’re missing out on A, fostering creativity, but B, also on things that might make great products that might be selling better down the line than what you’re already selling now.

So for travel writers, research and development fills those buckets, it’s the things that you do and that might be building a new skill, right? They might be working with, you know, in the case of this distillery, they’re working with some new ingredients, they’re a research and development line. They make them with summer berries, they have one that they make with chocolate. They have one that they make with oranges and different spices which is like a Triple sec.

So in that case, it’s a distillery that typically makes unflavored alcohols. They make whiskey, which is aged in barrels but not flavored. They do make some gin which is flavored, but they make a lot of vodka, which is not flavored. And their research and development line allows them to make alcohol, so which is what…their base thing that they do. But to do sort of use a new skill which is infusing from different flavors, into that alcohol and also to not have to meet the limitations of what their customers are already expecting for them.

So in this case, they’re building on what they already do to develop a new but slightly related skill and to use some ingredients that inspire them that are maybe not something that they use every day. So how does that look for travel writers? It means that let’s say you are looking at a different type of writing that you’re not doing now, right? Now, in this case that I gave you, the research and development liquors are things that they still sell in their store. So they’ve developed something that’s still close enough to what they’re doing that their market will buy it. And this is a pretty common denominator in research and development, okay, is something that’s close enough that your market will buy it.

So let’s say that you are writing blog posts for a company on a regular basis. And you see that their social media is crap, and you offer to them some suggestions on how their social media could be in order to move over to get paid to learn to do social media. So this is something in a research development area where you might be looking at but what are some best practices? What would you recommend to them if they were gonna allow you to do this for them, but it’s related in terms of obviously it’s still writing, but it’s a client that you’re working for that has a need, and you’re gonna use that to learn about an area.

Let’s say you’re somebody who does more freelance work where you’re doing sort of one-off articles for different clients, so you don’t have that opportunity to say, “Hey, my client has this need with something else that I can research and develop as a potential product to offer them.” Let’s say you say, “Okay, right now I’m doing a lot of roundups, I would really love to be doing some more sort of narrative type pieces. Maybe I can move into doing some more narrative type pieces that are similar to the roundups that I’m doing, what would that look like?” Okay? So this is how you can kind of as a writer shimmy over and start to develop those skills and research and develop how you would offer those products to the market.

Some other things that could be research development that I see happen a lot are people who are, say, writing their own personal blog, and they want to start writing for new markets. What often happens is that then they sort of, you know, give themselves an MFA in writing for magazines, learning about all of those new things. But that’s going to take a really long time to take to market, right?

So something that could be more kind of in the research development arm is, “Hey, I’m already writing these kind of pieces from my blog, what our markets for some similar pieces, what are some ideas for blog post that I had coming up that I can set save, and write up and send around to some essays to some different markets, or that I can pitch to some different magazines to write for them rather than putting it on my blog.”

So you notice that there is a lot of different things and I’m gonna mention these later on, and I mentioned them a little bit earlier, there are a lot of different things that can fall under research and development. It can be developing a new skill in digital marketing. It can be developing a new skill in terms of how you do your business, whether that’s in terms of a type of writing or something like that. It can be learning about a different place where you can be selling your work and how it works or operate in that market. But the things that I’ve described for you are all very close to the work that you’re already doing now.

Now, this is something that we looked at in a sort of traveling series of workshops I did a few years ago, we call it the client replacement plan. But this client replacement plan is something that I work with people on, often who are in a place where they wanna take their income from one spot to a different spot.

And we do that by looking at, you’ll see that there’s…I hope you can see my mouse moving. Yeah, you can, okay, great. You’ll see that there’s 10 lines here, there’s three in the reach, there’s four in the match, and three in the safety. And this is a way that I recommend people delineate their income.

So you think of each line as being 10% of your income or your time, okay? And you want to make sure that, you know, you can break this up, so some clients might take up two or three or even four lines. Some lines you might split up, you might have things that are only 5% of your income. And this you can do by month or you can do it by year.

But the idea is that this is kind of, you know, the way people apply to college, for instance, is the safety match reach approach, but it’s a well-balanced approach to planning out your portfolio of work that you have some clients that you know are gonna give you work. It’s on contract or something to that effect, you know that work is gonna come all the time. It’s okay for the rate to be a little bit last in your ideal to trade for that consistency, but you know that it’s absolutely going to come no matter what.

Then your match clients are clients on the type of work that you would like to be doing, work that you’re happy doing, work that you’re satisfied doing. It might not be something that I’m on contract, that you’re on contract for, it might be a magazine where they give you an article every month, but it’s not necessarily guaranteed, but it always happens. And it’s in the line of your ideal rate, and it’s the type of work that you’d like to be doing. And then I have this section up here called reach clients, which are maybe higher pay, but less reliability. Something else that you can put in reach is kind of like bylines that you’d really like to get or even if that’s an internal, but something that’s high exposure.

And if you’re plotting out your income, I recommend people kind of set it up in this 30-40-30 way. And that also has a lot to do with being able to get marketing done while not spending all of your time marketing. If you don’t have some base clients that are giving you some reliable work then you’re gonna be scrambling for work and you’re gonna be stressed out, you’re gonna feel like you need to spend a lot of time marketing, and then your other work will suffer.

If you don’t have these match kind of clients, where you feel happy about the work you’re doing then you’re gonna feel an energy drain of doing work for clients where you feel like you’re writing about stuff that you really don’t care about. But to the point of this whole R&D webinar, if you don’t have this reach work, you’re also gonna get bored, okay?

So this way of looking at it and thinking about the R&D as your reach work works when your R&D is very close to things that can be put out in the world to clients. So you see in this setting, I’ve got 30% of your income can come from this kind of R&D clients. But like I said, that 30% only translates to how you spend your time, if that stuff is really close to where you’re actually gonna be able to sell things from the market.

So like I mentioned, I have a slide later on where we’re gonna look at some different buckets of R&D really specifically, and what all those things can be for you. But I wanted to kind of show you a few examples of what R&D can be, how that can fit into your income portfolio as well as time. And did you notice something else here? That I talk about this part here at the top being the R&D.

Now, depending on where you are in terms of client work and landing recurring gigs and things like that, for you, this might be the R&D right now, the safety, you might right now not have recurring clients. You might only have some people who give you assignments sometimes that are maybe high level, but if you want to build up a business for yourself, you need to sort of fill in this whole grid. And so if for you right now, the place that’s not full is lower down than up here, wherever that is, is your R&D, and so this is really interesting how this translates.

So for instance, let’s say you are a person who like I said, doesn’t have recurring work, maybe you have some sporadic work, you don’t have recurring work, and it’s stressing you out. Then what your R&D time should be spent on is familiarizing yourself with the industries that are gonna give you that recurring work, familiarizing yourself with whatever skills you need to build to do that recurring work, okay?

So I hope that…I know this is kind of like a larger framework for how to run sort of your business and your pipeline for clients and things like that. But I just wanna show how depending on where you’re at, and what you’re missing, and what parts of your income need to be filled in, where you might want to think about focusing your research and development work.

And I’m gonna get in now to how some larger companies use this. And I wanted to give that framework for how it looks in travel writing first. Because in order to kind of appropriately understand how larger companies are using this R&D time and also money, you need to kind of look at it from this lens of companies that are investing in R&D to fill in things that will help them to be a better company, aka earn more money down the line. For some companies, that’s gonna be fixing the means of production, for some companies that’s gonna mean creating a super cool new product, okay?

So for instance, when I was talking about, let’s say that your pipeline here is all full, okay, I don’t know how to fill things here, but to show you but, you know, let’s say that you’ve got all these sections and you’ve got some bit, like let’s say you’re working primarily with magazines and websites, okay? So your safety clients are gonna be some websites that you write for regularly, you know, you always have that work.

Your match clients are gonna be some magazines you write for every month or something like every other month, and you’re pretty familiar with them, you know, you’re gonna get the work from them, you enjoy the writing, it’s a good rate. Your reach clients might be one or two magazines that you really wanna break into and, you know, you’re getting a piece out, and at least one of them or maybe two of them every month, okay? And you’ve got maybe a hit list of 20 that you keep pounding away at and every so often one of those comes in.

So in your case, you being this mythical example I just gave, you would have this kind of full slate of work and what you would be looking for is what’s next, what’s your new “product.” It might be to be moving those, you know, hit list, high prestige, high-pay magazines into the match section. And so what you are working on is the relationship-building aspect. You’re familiarizing yourself really deeply with those magazines so you can become a regular writer for those places.

But let’s say your next step or your new product is actually gonna be something different, maybe, it’s gonna be a book. Then for you, your research development time goes into learning about longer narratives, learning about senior work, learning about structure, and learning about how to put together a book proposal, what sort of book ideas are going right now and how to get a book into the marketplace.

So that’s how that looks if you’re developing sort of the product side. If you’re developing the production or the process side, that goes back to what I was talking about for people, for instance, who don’t yet have a handle on how to have recurring work, and who it is that they’re gonna have recurring work for. So that might be the research and development that you’re doing.

So for most companies, this is a very small subset of companies here, okay, and they’re largely in the tech side. But I found this great, great information out there about in 2016, the proportion of total budget that went towards research and development for certain companies. And so I wanted to show you this, because obviously, this is budget rather than time, and so you would have to kind of think about that for these companies, know the staff that they’re paying for that, might be higher-paid staff in other areas, but maybe those staffs need more materials.

So it kind of how it shakes out in terms of the number of hours like just man-hours the company is spending is a little hard to say, without having much, much more information about their books. But I found this great report where somebody had gone through the public filings of some different companies and just looked at how the money was spent.

So let’s pretend that this information about the percentage of money being spent also relates to time, obviously, that we can’t make that exact correlation. But let’s just think about that for ourselves. So I think some of these companies you might not know, but a few of these like Intel, Nvidia, AMD, these are places that produce chips.

So what I mean by that is they’re doing like visual processing chips or processors for your computer. So this is an area in which they are producing physical hardware, okay? So it’s important for them to be doing research because they are creating the thing. They’re looking at ways to create it better, they’re looking at ways to create it faster, and they’re also looking at creating new products so that they can stay ahead of their competition.

So all these four companies here, where they spend on research development, in let’s say both time and money, is more than 20% is because if they do not innovate in their space, if they do not learn to make smaller chips that can go in smaller phones with bigger cameras or whatever that is, or faster chips or chips that can take better photos, even though they’re smaller in space or that they can run higher-powered video games on your tiny computer or your tablet, whatever that is, they are gonna fail in their marketplace. So these companies that are spending 20+ percentage of their time and money on research and development are doing so because they will fail as companies if they fail to innovate.

So I have to ask you, because I just know from looking at time tracking and talking to some writers, if you are honest with yourself about your time and how your time is being spent, are you spending more than 20% of time learning about something whether it’s new market or a new skill or a new something like this. Because, like I said, if you are in this bucket, and I’ve looked at a lot of things around this is really new companies who are doing new things we’re trying to change and disrupt the marketplace. If you are spending that much time on learning about whatever and you are not trying to do something groundbreaking, I have to ask you, what percent of your time is going into producing things that you are able to sell? Okay.

So then you’ll see a huge dramatic drop here, okay? Microsoft is less than 15%. Now Microsoft does a lot of different things. They tried to do phones that didn’t seem to go very well. They also don’t really produce hardware, right? The computers that Microsoft runs on are usually from other people, but they have web browsers, they have phone operating systems, they have desktop or laptop operating systems.

I’m forgetting many, many other things they do. They have Microsoft Word, Office, you know, PowerPoint. They have OneDrive, they have a web service, you know, like a cloud sort of based thing. I’m sure Microsoft produces some other things that I’m forgetting about. So they have a very wide slate of products that they do.

So they are often looking at how to improve their existing products to serve customers better, but also potentially how to create something new to bring into the marketplace, like when they brought in their mobile operating system, right? So you’ll find that they’re sort of between some different things here. They’re not all the way up there in the, we have to innovate constantly to stay afloat, but they’re not down here in that we pretty much know what we’re doing and we do the same thing, we just need to do some tweaks for our customers.

But I think what you’ll also find really interesting here is Tesla. If we think about Tesla, and their, you know, high flying owner Elon Musk, if you think about Tesla and what they do and especially what you hear about Elon Musk doing, it seems like they are just doing research constantly, right? It seems like they’re just always trying to do something new, hit some new goal, hit some crazy schedule, right? But in reality, it’s just above 10% of their time and money is going to this. Because when you get down to it, even though they’re new and fancy, Tesla is a car company and they need to build cars, and they need to get those cars into the hands of customers. So, a lot of their time and money spend is going into production of what they’re already selling, and the storefronts and various means of distribution for those products.

Now, when we get down to this 5% of times on research and development section, we’re looking at IBM, which even though they do make some physical things is primarily a services company these days, they do business services, they do a lot of sort of strategy in cloud computing and things like this for companies. And then Apple and HP which we kind of know for printers these days and things like that, but Apple is less than 5% of their budget on research and development, okay? And that’s kind of shocking to me. That’s like one of the biggest shockers in here even Tesla I feel like is low when we think about it.

Because when we think of Apple, we really think about them as doing something new, you know, even if it’s a product that we already know that they’re making some big leaps from one iPhone to the next or from the weight of one Air laptop to the next. So we have to ask ourselves if Apple is only spending less than 5% of its budget on research and development, and we think of them as one of the most innovative companies out there.

Because remember, for Apple, research and development is also all the time they spend on Apple Music before they launch it, right, trying to figure out if that’s feasible or not or Apple TV or whatever new thing that they might be bringing to the market next. Where’s their budget going? I mentioned this a little bit with Tesla, it’s going to producing products and serving customers. Okay?

Now, it would be my most fervent wish that more of you would spend less than 5% of your time on research and development. I say this because I talk to people so often who are literally, who maybe are doing this full-time like they do not have another job that they spend their day on. They have another thing that earns them some money, but this is kind of their full-time occupation. And 95% of their time is on research and development for more than a month or two. And it’s just not going to build you a company, because you need to create things that people will pay you for, and put them into the hands of those people. That is the prime function of a business of most businesses.

And so I know I warned you about this in the beginning that “This is the webinar on research and development and I am gonna talk about research and development for travel writers.” But more of this webinar is about talking to you about getting really honest with yourself, about how much time you’re currently spending on that and what it looks like for a normal business versus for most writers. Because according to the IRS, most writers are not businesses, they are hobbies. And, of course, IRS is the Internal Revenue Service here in the States. You’re going to have a different name in whatever country that you’re in, but the government is quite strict with what they allow you to classify as a business.

And I know a lot of writers who were like, “Oh, you know, it’s fine, I don’t need to write off my expenses on this.” And they choose to not take the financial benefits of being a business, because they are, “I don’t wanna say too lazy or unmotivated.” But because they see the ability to “freely control” what their time is being spent on as an appropriate exchange for not doing the accounting and actually saving on their taxes for the things that they are doing for their writing. And it doesn’t have to be that way. You just need to be more cognizant about what being in business is and how research and developing new things, new areas of potential writing, new areas of potential client work, new skills that you could be building how that fits into a business.

And so for those of you who are full time freelance and/or have been for some time, I also caution you as we’re going through this webinar to make sure that you’re really upfront with yourself about how much of the research that you’re doing is translating directly into products, In case, you do get asked those questions by the government or otherwise. So I wanted to share an interesting example for you of a company that’s much smaller than, you know, the IBMs or the Apples of the world where we can actually kind of visualize into the people who work for this company, and how its money is spent on research and development.

So the company that I want to tell you about it has a very weird product. So they are a company that does primarily mussels, okay, also a little bit of clams and oysters but primarily mussels. So this company is based in Washington State in the Sound and they grow, so they have farms, they have a mussel farm. They don’t do so much while harvesting. They primarily get these mussels sort of bugs, these baby mussels and sort of plant them in these farms and then they grow and they harvest them. And they’ve created this incredibly innovative business model that allows them to do a huge, huge volume of income off of a mussel farm because they don’t harvest mussels and then figure out where to sell them.

They’ve created this chain, which in and of itself was an innovation and they did research and development on. They created this chain of selling in which in the morning their salespeople get on the phone, and they call stores and restaurants all around, you know, the Seattle, Washington area, but also the country and the globe. They have tons of restaurants in New York that they serve. They sell quite a lot to Japan actually.

And so every morning, their salespeople hop on the phone until around 11:00, and they take all the orders that are going to be processed that day. And then at 11:00 the people who work on the boats go out, and they harvest everything that’s gonna be shipped out that day. So that literally a restaurant in New York can have a mussel on it’s plate that was picked 24 hours beforehand, okay?

And, like I said, they do this because they’ve innovated in their way that they run their business in terms of having these salespeople take all the orders until 11:00, the boats got out at 11:00 but then also what they’ve done is they own the distribution part. So they have all their own trucks and their own truck drivers, who are taking all these mussels to all the different places they need to go. Whether it’s to the airport, directly to different restaurants, different stores, different things like that.

So they have done a lot of innovation in terms of how their business physically operates and interact with its customers in order to be able to fulfill this promise of having the freshest mussels even though they’re just this tiny company, they’ve got about 20, maybe 40 employees, okay?

But what I found super interesting about this was it’s not just that they’ve done this research and development, innovation, and how they run their business but also in their line of production. So I went on a tour to check out this place as part of a farm trip that I was on, as part of a conference that I was on. And when we went out to see the mussel bands and the mussel farm and their boat came around and they were harvesting the mussels, they explained that they’ve also created this proprietary way of cleaning the mussels and cleaning the barnacles and things off of the mussels.

So they’ve built this entire sort of floating production facility that goes around which is kind of flat, it looks a bit like a barge. And the guys pick the mussels and they have something that runs through the mussels that someone on their team has engineered and created to clean off the mussels, to separate the mussels, to do all these things that need to be done to the mussels right there on the water.

So, right there on the water, they don’t need to keep going back and forth with the boat, because they’re getting everything done and into boxes on this little barge, and then that gets loaded on to another boat that’s running back and forth to the delivery trucks in their main facility.

And then they took us back to their main facility later, and they took us into their shop room where they do all of their machinery production, where they upkeep their trucks, where they upkeep their boats. And they showed us the most random things that they had gotten patents for, all sorts of strange things that they had developed both for farming the mussels, there were so many things they had developed, cleaning the mussels like I talked about, how their boats run, all sorts of different things.

So what I love about this company is that it’s not a huge company, okay? You can count really discreetly, they have two people in that shop, they have about six people on a boat, they run two boats. And their salespeople are by far and large one of the biggest sections that they have. So again on the previous slide, we were seeing these proportions, right, of about 5%, and that’s about right. The people in this company who are working on direct innovation, it’s about one or two people who are working on that, and the rest are running the system that they have already developed.

So I wanted to give you guys this example to sort of position what R&D looks like in a company that’s smaller than Apple but not as small as ours. But in terms of as we talk through this Freelance Business System series, about this idea of the different hats that you wear, and the different job descriptions that you have signed, you know, and accepted by creating this company that you run that this is how much realistically in this company you have time for R&D as an up and running business, okay?

Now, as a business that’s getting started, it feels like it might be a little bit different, okay, like it could be more it should be more and we’ll talk about that in a second. But once your business is up and running, once you have a product that you are able to produce and you can sell, it should be around 5% for you most likely, okay?

So let’s take a higher-level step here and look for a second and what is the real purpose of a research and development department sort of in a, you know, a high-level definition sort of setting in different companies? So, one definition here is research and development is a part of the company’s operation that seeks knowledge, right? I talked a lot about how we can kind of take learning all the time you’re spending learning and dump all of that into research and development, right? That seeks knowledge to develop, design, and enhance its products, services, technologies, or processes along with creating new products and adding features to old ones, right, we talked about this with Microsoft.

Investing in research development connects various parts of the company’s strategy and business plan such as marketing and cost reduction. So we looked at that a bit with this example of the mussel company that I gave you, right, about how research and development can also look at ways to move whatever it is that you as the writer are selling to marketing more quickly. So this could be creating a new procedure for yourself about how you get pitches out whether that’s creating a new schedule for how you run your day to ensure that you’re getting pitches out or creating a new way that you organize your pitch ideas that it’s easier to get pitches out, or that you organize your market information to get pitches out for instance.

And then that for us relates to cost reduction, right, because for us, the biggest cost is our time, right? And if we can save our time then that’s gonna help us in terms of cost so we can allocate other time to other places. Another definition here it’s the research and development function that provides a platform for creativity and innovation to flourish in an organization. Innovative breakthroughs have happened only because of painstaking efforts of the research and development function. Perseverant efforts are needed when one is in pursuit of research. Every fail in a research and development effort increases the pressure to perform.

Research and development helps a business to have a competitive edge over its competitors. It is a research and development function that develops plans much ahead of other functions. The research and development function needs to have a clear foresight about future problems that need solutions. And research and development in its development role can act as a catalyst for speeding up the growth of the organization by introducing breakthrough products in the market.

So there was two things here that I wanted to look at. One is perseverant efforts are needed when one is in pursuit of research, and every failure increases the pressure to reform. I think this is something that’s really present when you’re working for other people. And you’re researching a product or a project or how to do something that you need to at some point produce something from that research that you have done, right? Whereas when we work for ourselves, I see a lot of time spent on research.

And for some people, there’s gonna be a big pressure on that, which can result in a sunk cost issue where you feel like you’ve spent so much time on something that you have to figure out something to do with it, whether it’s a trip that you’re planning on taking, or a conference that you’re planning on going to, or more commonly, a pitch that you’ve been thinking about developing into a story idea that you’re really struggling with finding a market for is a very common one.

But on the flip side, I also see a lot of instances in which it’s the reverse. Instances in which you are spending a lot of time researching something, whether that’s a potential market, a potential story idea, potential type of writing that you want to be doing. And because you don’t have external pressure of somebody saying, “Well, I’m paying you for this time, what am I getting from it?” You know, one out of 25 of those things might go to resolution or fewer. And so I encourage you with, like I said, learning just think about research development as synonymous with learning, if you’re sort of struggling to place it, in how you spend your time.

So this can be learning about a specific magazine you might pitch, it can be learning more deeply about a specific article idea that you’re thinking about pitching, it can be learning more deeply about a destination in preparation for a trip, it can be learning more deeply about a specific type of marketing that you’re looking at doing for your business. It can be looking at a type of marketing you’re looking at offering to different clients or something like that.

But give yourself a threshold, as the person who pays the bills for this company, what to you is the moment at which something needs to have come out of it or you need to pull the plug? What’s that threshold for you if, you know, these many hours have gone into something or if this is the potential income that can come from that thing, and this percentage of that income has gone into it. That’s another good way to look at it. You know, what is the balance of if one out of, you know, let me make it a round number. If one out of five article ideas that you try and develop into a pitch, don’t work out, you don’t find a home for them, you realize it’s not a good article idea something like that.

So one out of five, okay, so that, you know, would be whatever it is 12.5, I think I’m flaking on my math here, 60 divided by 5, whatever that number is. Okay, so 12, so that’s like, you know, in an hour you would be spending 12 minutes on that if you in one hour, look at five ideas and you tend to come up with one that’s actually worthwhile. Okay, that’s a pretty common number that I hear from people, okay?

So, if you know then that each pitch that you send has maybe a 10% chance of landing, and you’re primarily pitching things that could be paid $400, okay? So that means that each pitch, we talked about this with lead scoring in an earlier webinar, right, each pitch is worth about $40. It’s worth 1/10 because you have a 1 in 10th success rate and you’re pitching things that are worth $400. So each pitch is worth $40, $40 for one pitch.

If you’re currently spending an hour to come up with one pitch it that’s viable, out of five that you look at, okay, and then we’re not yet talking about writing the piece and writing the pitch and all those things. So, right now you’re doing an hour towards maybe a future potential of $40. If you think about it that way, and you think about you’re spending 12 minutes on each pitch that doesn’t work out.

So you’re spending 48 minutes of that hour on pitches that don’t work out. Do you wanna spend less time on that if you think about how precious pitching time is for you or how precious your R&D time is trying to figure out new ideas and figure out new markets? Do you wanna create a threshold for yourself? If in four minutes this idea isn’t working out yet, I’m gonna put it on a maybe later, let’s move on.

Okay, that’s just the kind of thing that you can start to sort of put, like I said, this pressure to perform in pursuit of research. I’m not saying this is the thing for everybody, some people already have too much of this. But if you’re somebody who spends a lot of time on learning and feels like you don’t have enough pressure to get outputs, you can put some arbitrary rules on yourself in this regard. One last definition of research and development here, so oh, sorry, I know I said there were two things on here. So in this definition, there were two things that I wanna look at because the second one here was about introducing breakthrough products to the market.

So this is a weird sounding thing for us as writers, but I just wanna look at what that can mean in reality. So a breakthrough product to the market can be something where you are reporting or becoming a specialist in, for instance, a destination that’s under-reported. So I use the example of Montenegro a lot just because I feel like it must be great and I really want to go there and learn about it.

But let’s say you are putting a lot of time into learning about finding stories about, for instance, a place that is on the cusp of blowing up as a tourism market. That’s a breakthrough product in the market as a travel writer. Becoming somebody who can offer stories about a destination that’s an up and coming tourism, you know, attraction or just a place for people to go that’s a breakthrough product.

The story about this place that is an up and coming market that not a lot of other writers specialize in, okay, so that’s one way to think about what can be a breakthrough product for you. It can also be specializing in a type of writing that other people aren’t doing yet.

So for instance, you know, I don’t think that it’s really taken off as much as people thought it did. But people really thought that sort of these Amazon Alexa, I don’t know the right term for them, but there’s things that Alexa has that are like apps with every…you can program an Alexa every morning for her to share with you. The weather, the news headlines and like an affirmation from your favorite yoga guru or something like this.

And so, people for a while were really crazy about developing this Alexa content. So that’s something that could be a breakthrough product, you could learn to specialize in this very niche, a new area that not a lot of people know about and offer that to clients and offer along with that the strategic work of helping them translate how whatever their company does would play on Alexa. So let’s say it’s a tour company and this tour company is gonna have an Alexa app that helps you kind of, you know, plan for your camping trip or get your family excited for your camping trip or something like that. So that’s something else that can be a breakthrough product for you.

Okay, one last definition here. Research and development refers to innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in developing new services or products, or improving existing services or products, right? We saw this earlier in the other definition and we talked about this with Microsoft. Research and development constitutes the first stage on development of a potential new service or the production process. R&D activities differ from institution to institution with two primary models of an R&D development, either staffed by engineers and tasked with directly developing new products or staffed with industrial scientists and tasked with applied research and scientific or technological fields, which may facilitate future product development.

R&D differs from the vast majority of corporate activities and it is not intended to yield immediate profit, and generally carries greater risk and uncertain return on investment. However, R&D is crucial for acquiring larger shares of the market through the marketization of new products. So a couple of things that really stand out here, right, is that R&D can have two models. It can either have people who are directly developing new products or people who are applying sort of more esoteric or vaguer or pure research to maybe development of future products, okay?

Then you’ll see two things here that I really want to point out, which is this may facilitate future products and also not intended to yield immediate profit. But what is key here is that a corporation or government doesn’t invest in any of these things unless there is a relatively confident chance that something will come out of it eventually, okay? And so this is something that I wanted really to pull you guys into here. When I was talking earlier about some examples of how research and development ties into travel writers, I was really trying to stick with those things that can come into a type of work that you can be paid for in the relatively near future.

And as you’ll see here that’s really a core of the definition of what research and development work does, okay? And so if you find, and I’ve given a couple of different examples, right, we talked a lot about an article pitch side or developing some new types of writing that you could monetize or something like that. But if you find that you’re learning about something quite a bit and the monetization path is not super clear, there’s a couple of things to ask yourself here. Are you learning about this for fun or as a hobby? In which case, please do it outside of your designated work hours if you have them, not everyone does, okay? And don’t tell yourself that you’re “working” during that time or that you’re working on marketing or something like that.

But if it doesn’t have a clear monetization path and you’re really passionate about it, is one of the important steps to make sure you figure out what the path to market is as part of that research and development to make sure that you’re not spending a lot of time developing something either that can’t go to market that you think one day will be able to or to make sure that you’re investing your business time on the steps that will most closely lead to market as opposed to more general research.

So I’ve got this big list for you, and I’ve touched on some of these things here. But I wanted to kind of show the three main areas here of where R&D comes in for a writer. So I’ve broken them out into travel, skill-building, and industry knowledge. Now in skill-building, you know, we could also add developing new digital marketing skills or whatnot, but that can also go in writing craft. So the two things that I’ve got here, I’ve got travel, skill-building, and industry knowledge. And with travel what I mean in terms of that, we could also maybe call this destination or specific cultural knowledge, okay?

So we can almost think of this is where we do research on the things that will fill our pages, that will be the basis of our words, that will also be the basis of our trips, right? Because some of this research is, how exactly do I get to this place, and what am I gonna do when I’m there? And this kind of falls into three different buckets, there’s destinations you’re considering going to in the future, destinations that you have scheduled where you really need to be specifically looking into what stories can you do about that place, and then destinations that you have visited that you’re mining for story ideas to get out to the market.

And, you know, another interesting and important thing here is that I find a lot of people do a lot of sort of research about things that could be story ideas, that doesn’t come into anything, okay? And this is definitely something where when I was talking about those ratios before, you know, of how much time are you spending, researching idea, and how many ideas to get out of that if you’re sitting there. And keeping track of, you know, that you may be are researching 15 different things in an hour and only one comes out.

It’s really important to get a sense of that, because if you don’t, if you don’t track that, if you don’t see kind of what is the payoff of your R&D time, it can be really easy to not hone the skills of how you are doing your destination research in a way that provides you better results. And thus feel like you’re spending a lot of time spinning your wheels when you are trying to be pitching, and then feel like pitching isn’t worth your time, feel like it’s not getting you anywhere. But it’s not getting you anywhere, because you’re not tracking where you’ve been, you’re not looking at that, and you’re not looking at how to do it better.

For instance, you know, of course, if you ride a bicycle that just has one speed, right, it’s gonna take you forever. But when you first start learning to ride a bike, you don’t sit there with the thing that gives you all the different speeds, you just learn how to ride the bike. When you’re first thinking about pitching, when you’re first thinking about matching magazine ideas, you just learn how to ride that bike. But then once you know how to ride the bike, how to stay upright, how to turn and not fall over all these things, then it gets boring. You need different gears so that you’re not just sitting there working, you know, your butt and your hands and your quads off cycling all the time, adjust that single-gear speed, okay?

So when I talked about research and development way back in the beginning, I was saying also that research and development can be improving the processes around how you do these things. And that doesn’t just extend to your writing time, it can extend to how you run your business, but it can also particularly extend to how you do the research of a destination. How do you capture that research? What works for you? What have you tried? Have you tried more than one thing? Have you only done it the way that you’ve always done because you’ve never considered that there might be other options? Play with that, okay? But a lot of the time of our research load I find goes into researching destinations, things in the destination, and what may or may not be good story idea.

So be cognizant of that, be cognizant of that time. I know a lot of times we do it on our phones and so we’re not capturing it. I encourage you, especially if you’re somebody who does a lot of articles about different places or different topics in a month to be looking at how are you taking that research and how are you organizing it? Are you using everything that you’re finding? Is there a commonality to the things that you use or don’t use? How can you streamline that system?

So then on the skill-building side, this is also something else that tends to be a big, I don’t want to say a big time suck because obviously, this is if you’re building a skill, there’s some clear benefit in it. But I see a lot of people doing a lot of time learning without applying, so like reading without applying. And if you were in an actual research and development setting, if you were in a lab, if you were in a pharmaceutical lab, the core of what they do is they run experiments, guys. They don’t just learn something and sit on it and hold on to it, they learn it and they put it into practice right away. They try to see how it applies to their settings.

I’ve been in a lot of wineries, for instance, that have these chemical labs where they’re mixing, you know, different little bits of this barrel on that barrel, and how do these things taste if they’re together? How do they taste if they’ve been aged in this kind of barrel and that kind of barrel, if they’ve been aged in stainless steel instead of a barrel, that’s how they figure out what works, okay?

So if you are spending a lot of time doing research and development on the craft of writing or the craft of doing a particular new type of digital marketing like these Alexa skills or whatever, and you are not putting that into practice, it’s not real research and development, okay, because scientific research inevitably involves this experimentation, this testing of hypotheses, okay? So want, if that’s something that you’re doing a lot of learning that’s just intake, to also look at how to actually, I called it skill-building here for a reason, how to actually physically build those skills, build those muscle memory, do more whether it’s writing prompts or just practice of some kind that you do for yourself to solidify the skills.

Now, the next part of research and development for travel writers is what’s going on generally to understand how you fit in the landscape. Now, this is stuff that’s a little bit harder to say like, “Oh, you know, I did this research and then I was able to do something to practice it and internalize it, this is something that’s naturally gonna be a little bit more reading.” But it is something that you can also be kind of flipping around to monetize a little bit more.

So for instance, you know, let’s say that you are very interested in a particular sector of the industry, and you’re reading about that bone up on it. Can you also be writing for trade magazines that cover that sector of the industry, so you’re not only getting paid to interview sort of, you know, ranking members of that sector of the industry and to get their insights, but that you’re also applying that knowledge by thinking about how to put it together into a feature article.

I always recommend for people that having at least one trade magazine that you’re writing for in your portfolio is great because they’re gonna give you assignments without having you pitch them. But it also gives you a way to constantly each month be interviewing people in different parts of the industry, and that’s gonna give you more ideas.

So as you leave today, I want you think about the question is not what new shiny research and development can I get started on? It’s really what is this use of the time to support my future business, and how much time can I really afford to devote here? For some of you, it could be more if you’re feeling really stagnant in what you’re working on, it couldn’t be that you need to spend a little more time on this. I feel like for a number of you, I tend to attract very academic types who love to learn things. So for a number of you, that’s not the case, it should probably be less, but here’s a good way to find out.

So as you leave this webinar, I recommend sometime in the next month, I know it’s back to school time and people have got Labor Day vacations and all sorts of things. So sometime in the next month, take 30 to 60 minutes, be brutally honest with yourself, if you use a time tracker use that, to list all of the research and development work, all of the learning work that you’ve done in the last week.

If you can, try to do it for the entire month and make sure this is the kicker. Remember, I talked about travel, we spend so much time researching that, that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it, right? Make sure that you’re not only listening kind of general learning like familiarizing yourself with magazines or trying to figure out what idea to pitch by reading some more about that destination, but also maybe places that you’re thinking about going.

Have you been looking for airfare, have you been figuring out what’s the best time to go there? Or what places you might go when you are there? Have you been reading magazines at the library, whatever that is, okay? Then take your list, highlight the parts that belong to a different “department” that we’ve looked at in this series, right? So it could be that you were trying to figure out how to use a new app to do your taxes. It could be that you were familiarizing yourself with another magazine in order to send a LOI to that market so became applied because you’re actually doing the sales work.

And it couldn’t be some things that you went to that were for, you know, a professional app when your business fell in, right? You went to a conference where you went there with the aim of doing some speed dating, for instance, or something like that. But what other sessions did you go to at that conference, and how many of them were for, “Hey, maybe I’ll get into doing Instagram stories someday even I’m not doing them now, right?

Now, how many things are left on that last after you’ve highlighted these things that belong to another department? Does that feel like too many or enough, give yourself a gut check. Do you see a hole? Is there something that you know that you keep saying that you wanna be doing, that you wanna be working on that’s not in there? Or is there a goal that you know you wanna be working on and you see a lot of things in there, but you’ve not taken the next steps to actually build that muscle memory and get things out in the market.

Those things need to, you know, be products that are moving into that market? What does it look like for you? So this kind of R&D audit is the next step that I really recommend taking. Because like I said, this is unusual in the webinars that we’ve done in this Freelance Business System series, and that I know you’re all doing this research and development already in one, if not all three of those areas. So the real question is how does it align with your bigger business goals? And we’re gonna look at that in a lot more detail next week.

And I look forward to seeing all of you guys next week.

Freelance Business Systems: Your Technical Support Squad Transcript

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Today, we are gonna continue our Freelance Business Systems series that we’re working on. And we are moving into some various areas that you might consider adminy. I have a webinar coming up a little bit later in the series that’s specifically on admin and what we think of as admin. But we’re gonna look at this week at technical support, we’re gonna look coming up soon at customer service. And the idea with these is that all of the webinars in our Freelance Business Systems series that we’ve done so far, we’ve done seven, are designed to look specifically at a certain business area or department, if you will, of your business. And so we’ve looked in the past at finance, accounting. We’re gonna look soon at sales, and marketing, and promotion.

And this week, we’re looking at this concept of the IT department. But I didn’t want to use the term IT because I feel like particularly for writers, we’re like, “Oh, gosh, IT, that’s something that I’ve never wanted to do in my life and hope to never have to do even for my own business.” So I like to think about it for the purposes of our webinar today a little bit differently, a more in this vein of tech is something that supports you. We looked previously at this idea of human resources, and how your business can and should be supporting you as a human, and how, since you are the only human and your business, apart from your family who may be dragged into your business sometimes whether they like it or not, you have to also be doing that double duty of looking after yourself as a human.

This week, we’re also gonna look at how technology is an intrinsic part of your business, whether you like it or not, and how to make sure that you are stewarding that area of your business appropriately. And I really struggled a lot with this idea of, like, I’ve called at your tech support squad in terms of, like, our personal name that we’re going to use for this IT-type department and our Freelance Business System series for freelance travel writers, right? But as I was looking around for the seminar, I found a lot of people using this term IT. And I really struggled with it, because IT really at its core means Information Technology, so the Department of Information Technology.

But if you think about us as writers, and everything these days being digital or being at least written on the computer, so it’s digital even if it ends up in a print magazine in the end, everything we do is actually information cross with technology, really like our whole businesses, right? So I didn’t love this idea of information technology as a way for us to kinda rally around today’s webinar. So I called a tech support. But you’ll see as we get into it, I’m going to begin the webinar today by looking at this idea of what an IT department really does, as we’ve done in our past webinars.

And we’re gonna pull out some specific sort of focal points for you to think about because as I mentioned, you know, this whole idea of an IT department, I don’t know what you think about when you think about it, because today I know shows like Silicon Valley and Big Bang Theory have made kind of being a science-y person more, you know, trendy or attractive. There was a whole GQ article about, like, the allure of the geeky man today or something like this. But I don’t know what you think about it. But I don’t think it’s something that you think about as kind of aligning with your business, or you wouldn’t be focusing your business on being a freelance writer, right?

So I want to give you guys some rallying points to think about in terms of this stuff is really the core of my business. My whole business is information that is transmitted through technology. And these are the points that I need to think about in order for that technology to support my business in the best way. And so one of the things that we’re gonna look at, we’re going to explore, we’ll just do like a sort of small exercise.

But I’m gonna do a couple exercises to kind of think about…or re-frame, rather, how you think about the role that technology can and should play in your business and how we need to be stewarding that technology. Because it is not only an important resource in and of itself for a business, but the way that it interacts with our most important resource which is us and our time, because there are only of you, and your freelance businesses is very important in how we use technology to expand our time. And then we’ll wrap up the webinar today with that last slide I’ve been doing the last few webinars which is some food for thought, some important issues kind of to take with you at the end. These might be some action items that you wanna take out of this webinar. If you’re someone who…I know not all of you do, but someone who at this moment has time in your schedule to introduce some new things into your workflow.

Now, this Freelance Business Systems webinar that we’re doing, not just this one, but the whole series rather, is really special because I just did a blog post about this actually earlier this week. But all of these stuff that we’re talking about, about how to run your business, this is, like, the core of all the things. All of the things I talk to people about all the time. There’s literally nothing that I coach people on that doesn’t, in some way, shape, or form, come back to some of the things that we’re covering in these Freelance Business Systems webinars.

And people just don’t go into freelancing thinking I need to get an MBA in this stuff. They go into it thinking, “Wow, I’d really love to not have to work for my super horrible boss,” or, “I really get a lot of compliments from people about the writing that I’m doing or the photos that I’m sharing, and everyone keeps telling me that I can get paid to do this. And Gabi says there’s ways to get paid to do this and I’m gonna make this happen.” We don’t go into it thinking that we need to learn how to run a business, but at some point, it will catch up to you. It’s usually around the two-year mark, but it will certainly help you to do it earlier, but it will catch up to you if you don’t understand these principles.

So with this webinar and the rest of the ones that we’re doing in this series, I just wanna reiterate that what we’re talking about here is the foundation. That’s the foundation of how to run our business, which is the foundation for how to run a finance business, particularly travel business, in terms of all of the things that you need to think about. And this is something that at Dream of Travel Writing is really important to us, to look sustainably and holistically, I don’t love that word, so I usually just use sustainably. But sustainably and sort of in a 360 way, your business and what could be ailing you. And so we have a lot of other services and things that we offer that expand on different things that we’re talking about in this webinar. But I just wanted to thank you guys who are here listening to it for taking this time to invest, not just your time or your money if you purchase a webinar, in our resources, but in yourself and in giving yourself this foundation.

So these business focus webinars that we’re doing, I kind of mentioned a little bit just now about what is the utility for you in terms of learning how to do these things. There’s that looming in the distant future that there’s something can go wrong, and there’s a way that we can fix it if we just learn how to do it the right way. It might be that you don’t wanna end up in a situation where you’re out of money and you have no clients. It might be that you don’t wanna run into legal issues. It might be that you don’t wanna run into, you know, getting audited by Uncle Sam and owing them a lot of money. It might be that you don’t wanna get behind on your invoices, and then find that you’re owed $25,000 by your clients, and you can’t pay your bills. All of these different things are sort of logistical in a way, right?

But there are also things that are kind of potential things that could happen in the future. However, one of the real benefits of this whole concept of business systems that we’re talking about is the systems aspect. And I feel like I try to make sure that in the webinars when I’m talking about different things that you can introduce or different things that different businesses do, I try to mention this important systems aspect, but I’m just not sure if I’m getting that system, the regularity, having a process for things and doing it the same way every time the exact best way that you’ve honed over time, I’m not sure if I’ve made that part clear enough since the first webinar, which were now several months after. I believe we started doing the series either in March or April.

And so just kind of to put that out there, I just wanted to say there’s somebody who is a blogger. She has built a big business for herself. I’m not even sure what she sells these days, but I know, like, quite a while back, she was selling a course that had something to do with being a six-figure blogger. So she had clearly been a six-figure blogger sometime before that and figured it out and built up a staff for herself. And I remember seeing her speak somewhere last year, it was actually Q&A. And this topic of procedures came up. And she said that she thinks that they have like at least a thousand different procedures, or systems, or processes, whatever you wanna call it, written out for how to do different things.

Now, I tell you this because it’s not a fluke. I tell you this because everyone, whether they have it written out or not for other people or what-not, who succeeds in earning money as a freelance writer, freelance travel writer over time is able to do so because they have honed how to do their work. They’ve honed it in a way where they are doing, like I said, the best way all of the time the same way. They have systems for how their time is used. They have systems for how frequently they check in on different things, like their cash flow. They have systems for knowing, you know, when their marketing engine needs to kick back in because they’re gonna run out of work. They have a marketing engine in the first place.

So as we look into this whole IT tech support bit today, I just wanted to reiterate for a second the systems thing. Because one of the wonderful things today is that there’s technology that you as a small business owner can literally afford that is AI from IBM, that will analyze all of the information on a marketing company’s website, and literally spit back at you things that you can say at them. You can literally pay for this. You can pay for this business insights tool from IBM which will literally analyze an entire website you would like to pitch for you and spit back important insights. Like, that’s how far along we’ve come. But that technology not only exist, but it’s affordable for an individual business owner. So there is just so much out there that the next issue that we get into is deciding what to do.

So before we get into, like, exactly what I teach and everything, I just wanna address this issue of overwhelm. I’ve seen some people do slides on this before. I’ve not, like, read an article about it, so I didn’t have, like, handy for myself in a very easy to use sort of bookmark format, unfortunately, a chart for you for this. But basically, if you can imagine the usual hockey puck style graph, there’s this whole thing going on right now about how technology changed. The rate of technology change has happened so much faster that you can look at, you know, that 10 years ago, there were things that didn’t exist that are commonplace now. Even two years ago, there might be something that didn’t exist that’s completely commonplace and it has to have name now.

I was just watching, like, a talk show the other day, where somebody was talking about how they didn’t understand that emojis could mean something else, like, have a coded language or symbolic language, besides just the picture of the thing that they represented. Obviously, the example being discussed was the eggplant, hilarity ensued. But just this idea that, you know, somebody could be so behind on something that’s so culturally accepted. This wasn’t the case 50 years ago. It certainly wasn’t the case 200 years ago, when electricity and running water and all these things was not pervasive.

And it was certainly not the case 2000 years ago, and humanity has been on this planet for a lot longer than that. So the pace of technological changes has increased to the point where if you don’t have some sort of system for keeping up with what you need to for your business, that bit of overwhelm, apart from whatever is going on in your personal life, how you manage your day with your client work, the research that you’re doing from an individual article, whatever, just that technological overwhelm these days has been documented can cause psychological issues, okay?

So we hear all the time about how Silicon Valley parents are now taking cell phones away from their kids, and even having their nannies sign a contract that they won’t use cell phones in the house because of the addictive power of this technology. And we’ve talked a lot when I talk to people either in a coaching capacity or even just generally about this whole thing of being distracted by all the different things that you can click on, and all the information out there, and everything, but it’s also on the tool side. It’s also on the software side. And that’s a little bit of what we’re gonna dig in today.

So I mentioned tools, software. Let me get into a little bit here. I have fewer definitions than usual. Hopefully the words are a little bigger, maybe you can read them. But let’s get into a little bit of the definition of what is this department that handles the technology in a normal company? What are they kinda defined by? What do they do? What are their boundaries? What is their purpose? So that we can then understand and distill out what we, as freelance business owners, need to focus on. Because like I just said, it’s overwhelming.

So this first one here from Wikipedia, hence, the links, “IT management is the discipline whereby all of the information technology resources of a firm are managed in accordance with its needs and priorities. These resources may include tangible investments like computer hardware, software, data, networks and data center facilities, as well as the staff who are hired to maintain them. Managing this responsibility within a company entails many of the basic management functions, like budgeting, staffing, change management, and organizing and controlling, along with other aspects that are unique to technology, like software design, network planning, tech support, etc.”

So there’s a couple of things in here I’m gonna explain on another slide, but I just wanna take a second for this idea of software design, right? Like, none of us were thinking that we’re gonna be designing software. I mean, I design websites, but not kind of, like, as a byproduct of what I do. Some of you might also if you have blogs and different things. But something about software design is really, really important for people who work in it. I have a lot of friends who work in the space. It’s user interaction, user experience.

Now, there might be a software out there that a lot of other freelancers use. And they tell you, “Oh, you have to use…” There used to be this app I use that was for tracking your pitches. Sadly, it’s no more. But like, “Oh, you have to use this pitch tracking app. It’s, like, only available in the Apple Store. You can get it on your laptop and it allows you to log all your pitches that reminds you automatically when to fall off on them. You can put the response from the editor,” all these things, okay? “You can even attach your invoices, you can even attach your expenses.” This app really existed. Sadly, it doesn’t anymore. We kinda use it, right.

So let’s say somebody says that to you, though. And you open this app, and it just looks very, to you, not your style. Either it’s got too many fields, and you just don’t like have to do data entry of that much information, that does not excite you, or just the way that it looks just feels drudgery-like to you. It just feels like, “Oh, my God, this is just not work that I wanna do.” You’re not gonna use that app. That app is not the right app for you. And it’s because of the design, it’s not because of functionality. So I just wanted to introduce in this definition that the design, the way that a person moves through software, even just the look of software, the feeling that it gives you, these things are actually important.

And they’re important in, particularly our small business where we have absolute complete choice over the apps that we use, but also in our small business because of the potential for our workflow to be derailed by things we don’t wanna do, because there’s already so many things that we have to do that we’re not necessarily the biggest fans of. And we do them or we don’t do them because we have to, right? So I wanna introduce to you that for everything out there, there’s always gonna be another technological way to do it, okay? So if something does not float your boat for your preferred user experience, drop it and find something else, find another way, Marie Kondo it, it should bring you joy.

So next definition here. An IT organization or information technology organization is the department within a company that is charged with establishing, monitoring, and maintaining information technology systems, there’s my favorite word again, and services, okay? So establishing, monitoring, and maintaining, okay? I bet most of us are, like, maybe doing half of the last one, when we close all the tabs on our computer and reboot it, you know, approximately once every four months when it’s so slow and glacial that we can no longer do work, right, but establishing and monitoring information technology systems.

Unless you’re like a big app junkie, I know some people who just, like, try every single new thing and to find something new, and that’s its own sort of occupation/hobby in and of itself, but unless that’s you, I doubt that a lot of you out there are including time into your day to establish or monitor the tech systems that you use, okay? I am constantly monitoring the storage space available on my computer. Like, it’s one of the things that I monitor, like, once a day, basically. I don’t know that everybody else does that. I know that I certainly don’t monitor other important stats on my computer. Like, if there are other parts that maybe need to replace, or, like, I don’t know, if it’s running fast enough, or things like this.

So there is a lot of parts of this that if you had a person who was dedicated to these things, they would be monitoring, okay, that we don’t, and we deal with the things when they’re broken, which obviously we all know is not the best. But we don’t have the deep background to be doing this monitoring. And that’s why I like this idea of systems because you can put into place, like, maybe when you do your annual review, okay, you just run a couple, like, check online, what should you check on your computer to see if it needs to be replaced or something. And then you look at those things. And you see, like, how problematic is your computer right now, okay? It’s something that you can create a system for, you can create a template for yourself based on something you find online, and you don’t need to recreate the wheel every time, and it doesn’t need to be hard.

And in terms of establishing, this is also something I don’t see. I see people maybe be in a conference talk and hear a software and app something mentioned, and say, “Oh, that sounds cool.” And maybe they look at it or maybe they install it. But there’s not this concept of establishing. We’re gonna get into this a little more in a different slide, but what it means to really implement or onboard a software or an app for your business, okay? Last definition here and then we’ll move on. Responsibilities may include overseeing the infrastructure of technical operations, managing a team of IT employees, obviously, that’s not gonna apply to us, tracking technology in order to achieve business goals, eliminating security risks, increasing user satisfaction, and maintaining operations and systems.

Now, a couple of these here, maybe more than a couple, I’m gonna address on another slide. But I just wanna take a second to look at this idea of increasing user satisfaction. Probably not something that you think about in your freelance business as being something that you would necessarily do with technology. But let me tell you, I have seen some really janky things going on, both with freelance writers who work primarily for companies and freelance writers who work primarily for editorial in terms of the way that photos or files are sent, in terms of the way that information is passed back and forth between a client for whom you do work, like where you might be ghost writing posts for them or might have other types of, like, blog posts ideas that you need to transmit back and forth, okay?

Trello is not the best thing on the block. I wanna put that out there. I know some people like it. Trello was, like, post-it that’s on the internet. It’s, like, so analog. It’s just people who are trying to replace not being in the office together. I wanna put that out there, Trello is not the best thing, okay? So I see a lot of people though who either they just say, “Oh, let’s use Google Docs because it shareable,” or their client uses Trello, so they say, “Oh, use Trello.” And then they get into issues down the line where both users, yourself, the freelancer, and the client as well are not happy with various things in the way that the relationship is going that trace back to a software technology issue, okay?

I’m gonna say this again, I keep seeing with freelancers that there are issues with the satisfaction of their client because of the tools that are being used. And sometimes they’re ones that you suggest, and sometimes the ones that the client suggests that you just accept, okay? So this can go in all sorts of things. It can be invoicing. I’ve seen people who invoice. I actually don’t have a site specifically on invoicing software, but this is a huge thing. I have people who invoice their clients in some way where it’s onerous and annoying for the client, and then the client delays doing the invoice because it’s painful for them. I had somebody send me an invoice once for a conference that I was giving them thousands of dollars to sponsor that required me to setup a login and save my financial information on some super, super random janky-looking website that they use. And I wasn’t comfortable with it. And I asked him how else I could pay, okay?

So there’s a lot of different areas where we might not be thinking about technology as something that’s worth splurging on where that means paying for a subscription, or taking the time to research where it can really, really improve your client relationships, okay? There’s this tool called…well, we call it Client Portal actually, that’s just what we call it. Let me see what it’s actually called. But we use this tool which allows you to set up…yes, sorry, it is called Client Portal, which allows you to setup a really lovely dashboard for your clients. It just looks great. It’s designed by someone who’s both a web developer and an expert in user experience, user interface. And you can store all your files for the client there, how they get in touch with you, so you don’t have to worry about them losing that email. It also has information, like you can show them what phase of the project you’re in by like sort of making something active and something’s not active.

So, like, let’s say you are working with a client on blog posts, you can have the files for, like, all of the old months of blog post calendars up there and mark them as the active so they see which one you need their attention on right now, which one needs to be approved, and then it’s just one place where they log in and use that. So this is the kind of thing I’m talking about, that technology can make our lives easier in ways that we might not necessarily be thinking about we’re struggling with, that technology would be the answer. And like I said, there’s a number of client-related situations where I can come up, but also, of course, in our own operations.

So I’m gonna look at how IT people segment out all of these different things they do. I also have on a later slide, hold on, like a big, long list of different things that they do that we’ll circle back to in a minute. But I wanna just take a second and look at this more overarching stuff, or categories if you will, or divisions, because this helps you to understand maybe the ways that managing your own information technology, tech support software, whatever you wanna call it, or the things that you are doing in your business currently, whether you intend to or not, and how you might want to be more diligent and intentional about that.

Okay. So number one, number one key important thing here is how does your business and your IT align? So I was just talking to somebody else about this, about her resume. And we were talking about this idea of how the font she was using was killing me. I have a background in graphic design, so I know what the meaning of a font does. Like, if I look at something and I feel a certain way, I can look at the fonts and see what’s wrong with it and know what kind of fonts to suggest. Most people don’t, they will just look at whatever you have sent them, and they will feel a certain way. And they have no idea that it’s not the words or something else about you. It’s completely subconscious and psychological. And they will just feel that negative feeling, okay?

So this is the kinda thing where business-IT alignment, okay? Let’s say you are using an invoicing software that is difficult, or onerous, or something like that, that is the impression then that you are creating for the client, okay? Well, let’s say when you start an engagement with a client, you send them, you know, a contract that includes like a how-I-work document, and also maybe like a helpful template with monthly deadlines so that they know when you need different things from them in a glance. That gives an immediate impression that you are on top of things, that you are organized, that you not only will meet their expectations, but you have that expectations of them as well. And that this is more of a partnership like in a handshake kind of way of two businesses working together, okay? And this is something that you can do with an app called Dubsado. It spelled kinda weird.

Let me write the name of the previous app I talked about, Client Portal. This is the one for storing…I feel bad saying storing client files but storing client files and work information. And Dubsado is, I don’t even know how to describe it. It does invoices, contracts, a lot of other client information as well. So if you use Dubsado, it’s gonna align with your ethos that you are somebody who picks up all the pieces for your client and puts them together in a way that makes sense, that is simple, that has flow, that is organized, okay? So that is when business and IT align, okay? That’s when the apps that you use, particularly on the client facing side, but even internally, are in alignment with your goals or your words for your business. If you’ve ever done the annual review series that we run, or perhaps the one from Chris Guillebeau upon which it’s loosely-based, I believe he does it as well. But I have this whole thing of choosing three words for the year that I’ve used and I’ve kind of taught or coached around for, gosh, I don’t know, I think at least five or six years now.

And a lot of times, people will have words that might be, you know, they might be momentum. I’m just trying to think back to a call that I had earlier today. So let’s say it’s, like, momentum, security, and diversification okay? Let’s say those are three goals that people have. So if security is one of your goals and you’re really thinking about it in the term of financial security, then it doesn’t make sense if your sort of finances for how you interact with your clients or should go out or whack. You’re gonna have a conflict with your goals there. And anytime you have a misalignment between your business and what you’re doing, it’s gonna start to create, like, all sorts of different ripple effects, I think maybe anxiety whether you realize it or not. So business and IT alignment are the really the top area here. There’s so many benefits. We’re gonna have another slide where we’re gonna look at this as well.

Now IT governance. What this means is someone, in this case, obviously, it’s you because you’re the only person, is responsible for the unification where they wanna call it standardization, like, thinking as a unit, thinking in a high-level way, thinking in a forward-looking future looking way about what is going on with your information technology, your software, your tech support, okay? So we’re gonna look at some different ways to be involved in that. But also, we have a whole webinar at the end on governance. And you’ll see that also this idea of governance also has a lot of ethical implications as well. And so we’ll look at how your data is being stored, how you are storing client data, and different things like that in another side.

But I encourage you to also start to have, as we’ve mentioned in other parts of the series, sort of some guidelines for yourself. You know, like, I have a whole thing that, like, I won’t do certain things with client information in terms of how it’s stored. Like, I take a lot of really detailed notes on my coaching call for instance. And, you know, like, I have certain just guidelines that I put in place for myself for the security of that information. And I don’t record coaching calls, or I won’t take coaching calls near an Alexa that could potentially record them or something like that. So, like, those are some different governance things that I’ve kinda decided a top-down, policy-type way.

Financial management. Now, obviously, this is the IT side of financial management. I’ve spoken a little bit about this in terms of invoices. But also, you know, there are so many different accounting softwares out there. It’s interesting because I know we looked at this a little bit in the finance webinar. I think I had a whole slide devoted to this actually. And the thing is, like, I still don’t think most people use them in terms of freelance writers. I think the majority of freelance writers still seem to be on a spreadsheet model. And honestly, I don’t find that to be a huge problem, because the needs of our businesses don’t fit super well in the travel lifestyle space with something like QuickBooks self-employed which doesn’t offer you the ability to categorize things, and there’s no way that we would need to.

But in terms of financial management, there’s a lot of other things to think about. There’s apps that you can use that will help you forecast your income for you so that you don’t need to be either trying to do those calculations yourself or skipping doing them because you don’t wanna do those calculations yourself. And then there’s also this whole data security thing that we were talking about. I mean, I expect that if you are accepting money from clients in some sort of capacity where they are paying you online, you’re going through some sort of third-party system that you might also be thinking about how these ties in with the governance, right? Like, let’s say there’s a system that was purchased by Facebook, for instance. Are you comfortable with having your financial data and your client’s financial data attached to that, for instance? I know they’re just coming out with a new currency, so I’m curious to see where that goes.

Now, IT Service Management. If you think about it, like in an office setting, it’s like IT people who go around and fix your computer when it doesn’t turn on and stuff like this. But IT Service Management for us as freelancers, I find to be actually even more important than an office setting. And I’m gonna get into that in another slide. Sourcing is this idea of what technology you’re choosing to use and making sure that you choose the right one in the first place. And then configuration management is this idea of getting it setup, getting it setup in a way that has the most beneficial user experience for you. So we’ve got that IT alignment, the governance big picture, the financial management, the service management, sourcing and configuration management.

Now, I find those all the kind of mouthy words, if you ask me, they’re kind of big. And so I found another way to look at it, which kind of makes it even more simplistic, which might fit you guys better. So this is just three sections, and it’s governance, which like I said, is that like ethics, that kind of high-level stuff, infrastructure, which is having things setup to support operations of different areas of your business, and functionality, making sure it works. So you can see from the last slide kind of how those go together.

So sourcing and financial management go into infrastructure, business alignment, governance go into governance, and service management and configuration management go in functionality. So if you prefer, I kind of like these. And they make gif, which is, like, also a name for type of image. So I thought that kinda work. So governance, infrastructure, functionality. These are the three things about IT that you need to keep top of mind. So what does that really look like then? The very first thing you’ll notice that they all mentioned, right, is this idea of this alignment between your business, your business goals, your business identity, and your technology.

So I’ll take a little water break in the middle there and refresh my voice. But I just want to give you, like, 20 seconds or something to think about this topic of…you can either think about it like in an attractor way, you can think how is my current technology setup not aligning with my goals for my business. Here’s a great example, people who think of themselves as being super location-dependent, like, they don’t even have a home base, but they have a laptop upon which the battery doesn’t work in such a way that they must work with a power outlet at all times. So that doesn’t correlate with your location dependent goal, or mindset, or what-not, okay? So this is, like, a super basic one, okay?

Likewise, you know, to continue on the location of anything, but let’s take a different way. Somebody who thinks of themselves as specializing in covering out of the way destinations, but they wanna be a well-learning writer, but they don’t figure out ways for them to have internet and still do their work in those out of the way destinations. So this is like an IT hardware issue, okay, that there’s things that you can buy now to have internet really, really quite everywhere, okay? So take about 20 seconds and think either in that detraction way, how are you not aligning with your goals, or if you have your sort of business goals, business identity very top of mind, think of a couple of things that can help you with technology to align with your goals better. And I’ll give you a little bit of time. And then we’ll move into some more food for thought, things and specific things you might wanna look into.

Okay, great. So I went ahead, and I took on the first slide where we looked at the definitions of all the different…or the three different definitions of what information technology departments did. I went through there also a couple other different pages, and I pulled out sort of the most important functions like tasks, more on the task level, than an IT department does. And I just wanted to look at these from the viewpoint of what we’re doing in our writing businesses, because some of these are ones that, like I said, you might not have time for now, if there’s thinking about, they might be something you can incorporate into some systems that you have for yourself, whether it’s a weekly or monthly planning meeting, or your annual review, or something like that.

But there’s some of these that you’re probably already doing without realizing that you’re doing. And since you’re already doing them, I just want you to be a little bit more intentional about how that’s happening, okay? So after this, we’re going to look at some different specific names of apps. And then we’re gonna look at the takeaways of some sort of things that you can do to get started right now. So budgeting, this is really big, actually. So like, I can tell you that I…I haven’t looked recently, but I can tell you some of these things we pay for, like, once a year in six-months things, a couple we’ve changed recently, but I think that our spend on technology.

So not any virtual assistants or, like, humans doing task, is probably somewhere in the 800 a month or something like that. But we, of course, as a website have to buy different licenses, a couple of different licenses for different websites as well. We don’t use managed hosting at this moment, it’s something that we’re looking into. This is covering things like email, a lot of other different apps that you’re gonna see me show you in a little bit. But I made that decision because I know how much it would cost me. And this is something that you guys don’t always know in terms of your own time. But I know how much it would cost me to have a VA do these things, because I’ve tried over the years, have virtual assistants do different things, okay? Or like location dependent assistants, whatever you wanna call them. People do lots of different things for me.

And I know what it’s gonna cost me in man-hours and I know what kinda results that I’m gonna get, versus if I use some sort of technological tool. So I know that I’m actually saving money for all of the different things that these things are doing me to pay that much. Now, you have to decide for yourself, and it depends what you have available. But you have to decide for yourself the line between this budget of time and money, because I promise you, there’s a lot of tools out there that you could pay for, that would save you infinitely more money than they are worth just like in terms of the time that they save you, all right?

Now, a big thing here in terms of investments is tangible investments. I talk to a lot of people who have a computer that is keeping them from doing their work. Whenever I find myself, like, I’ve been doing this for several years, so I think I’ve gone through, this is maybe my third or fourth computer since being a freelance writer. I think that’s not counting a desktop. This might be all laptops. So when I think about finding myself in a situation where I realized that I’m having trouble now doing my work because of some problem with my machine, I have to say to myself, “This is, like, literally my workspace.

This is the most important part of getting my job done. If this isn’t working, if I’m spending, you know, five out of every six seconds waiting for something to load, or, like, worse than that, then I need to be reevaluating if I need to be setting aside the potential to invest in something better, and I need to look at what else I can do in the short-term to fix this problem in terms of a time investment for myself,” okay?

Because I hear far too frequently from you, guys, that something is happening whether it’s a phone, or a computer, also on the camera side. I mean, I’m not even delving into, like, too much about the sourcing and everything about cameras. But for us, you know, this is what I was saying about technology, it’s not just information technology for us, cameras, video cameras, whether they are cell phone cameras, or a DSLRs, or whatever, this is also part of our technology kit, having portable internet devices, having portable chargers as part of our technology kit.

I mean, I basically don’t go anywhere without my laptop, period, but I always, at all times, have a hopefully fully charged backup battery in my bag because I might just be somewhere out for a walk or something, and I might sit down, and I might write a great essay or write something that I need to write, and I need my phone not to die, okay? So this idea of investments in hardware, is not just things that are more computing devices, like, your phone, I mean, computer, okay? It’s also the support items as well, backup hard drives, we’re gonna get into that in a second.

So data storage and network planning. Now, I bet most of you who don’t have blogs don’t know too much about GDPR, I don’t wanna get too much into it, but I do want to say if you also run a website in addition to doing other sorts of freelance writing, you need to be thinking about where your data is stored, because you might actually be violating GDPR just by having things on a server in a certain location. Likewise, your data, as in everything you ever write in your email, we’ll get to that in another bit in this webinar, your data, you need to think about where it’s being stored for yourself for redundancy purposes, okay?

Redundancy of technology is the number one thing that I wish more people would think about. I’m quite anal about this. I used to travel with, like, different hard drives, and different bags, and things on my computer, and all sorts of different stuff, because I’m was on the road and places with slow internet so much that I couldn’t sink my computer and just back up everything on the cloud all the time.

Now, I have things on the cloud and multiple clouds, like in lots of different places. And if I, like, delete a file, or if I change something in a file, I have the ability to go back 30 days and see any earlier versions of that file, or if anyone else accidentally deleted some file, I still have hard drives for a lot of things. I keep all photos in like three or four different places. I keep them online, I keep them on two different drives, okay? So this idea of data storage and network planning, network being what servers your data is on is, like, a very crucial part of IT for us travel writers

Because data, I was talking about photos, right? Your research data, okay? All of the notes that you have taken on your trips, those are priceless, okay? They are priceless because they capture the ideas that you had at the time when they were fresh in your mind. They’re priceless because they capture details, they capture names of businesses that maybe you don’t have photos of and that are online and away for you to find. They capture quotes from your tour guide. That is incredibly priceless. And I see he will put these on notebooks, then who knows where the notebooks end up, and they can’t find them. But one of the notebooks are gone, okay?

So I am also really stringent with all of my tour notes. I actually take them an email so that’ll also be on my email server. And I send them to myself so that they’re gonna be in both my received and my sent file, you know, in case of anything happening. And then I also have them stored locally on my computer, as well as on the server, as well as locally on my phones. And I keep all of my own phone so that even if I have the SIM card out, I can always go back through all the local files there. And they should also be on the server as well. Okay. So to me, like those notes and ideas are also a very critical part of our data storage plan.

Now, strategic planning capacity or capacity planning, this is like an interesting one. So, like, if you feel like you have big trip coming up, this is making those decisions to plan to have more hard drives or a better situation in terms of Dropbox or other online backup, or whatever that is strategically in advance in a way where you can build it into your budget, you can build out time to purchase it, you can build out times to buy the right things. And data security, we talked a little bit about this. And I mentioned this a little bit in terms of how I keep my client files. But I hope that you guys are being intentional with where you store your client data.

For instance, I never, ever, ever wanna store any client data on Google Drive. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I don’t feel comfortable that a free app that a company provides in order to be able to track our usage that I’m putting my client data there, for instance, okay? So, like, there’s different things like this that are decisions for you to make for yourself. But data security, I have last pass on all of our different websites, like, I have all sorts of different layers like this for instance. Software, we talked a little bit about design before. Maintenance is an interesting one. I know a lot of websites are just automatically updating if you use a web app or something like that.

But if you have physical apps, you know, this is something that you have to think about a little bit. But you also have to think about maintenance in terms of how you change your workflows. Now, sourcing and implementation, we’re gonna look at the apps that I use, for instance, about the sourcing topic.

But I just wanna take a second to talk about this idea of implementation that you need to also, when you get a new fancy software toy, or web app toy, or phone app toy, or whatever, in a traditional IT tech support setting, there’s someone whose job it is not only to pick that thing out, but to read the whole manual, make sure they understand it so they can support people on it, make sure it’s installed on everyone’s machines, and make sure that people are trained properly on how to use it. I was able to take so many free classes on how to use different things like Adobe software products for, you know, InDesign, Photoshop, stuff like that, at MIT, because it was really important for them to train us in how to use these expensive and very useful tools.

Two other things here. Change management, we’ve talked about this a little bit. But what I mean about change management here isn’t necessarily like in the long-term view of change in terms of the world, but more in this idea of change management in terms of when you need to make a shift in the technology that you’re using, that’s a big shift in your business. And in most companies, they actually bring in external consultants for this, to manage, like, a huge software shift.

And it’s something that they prepare for months, and that they have focused time for days. And that’s the kind of thing that we need to be thinking about, that you’re changing to a new laptop, or a new phone, or to a new way to track all of your pitches, or to a new file system, because now, you’re gonna be backing everything up and you need to move all that around, or you need to reorganize your photo backups or something like that. This is something that you need to sort of set aside time and act like you’re an external consultant.

Now, tech support. I’m gonna talk about this in a second, but with tech support, I want you to think more about not just being your own tech support but what is the redundancy? What is the backup that you have for yourself? What are your resources for this? Is it just Googling? Do you have something affordable for your budget? Do you have something that is supportive to help you with your tech needs, even if it’s like a teenage cousin or, you know? I caution against using your own children because then you’re gonna have to like trade them for something and the quality can be subpar. But see if you can get someone else’s children, those worthwhile.

Now, a question to think about here is homework before we get into specifics sort of takeaways is where you spending your most valuable resource, which is time, in a way that you can and should deploy software for. I know we’re just about at the end of our time, but let’s pop over and take a quick look at some of the software systems that I use, and what I use them for, and why. Let me find this app for you. There we go. So this itself is an app. This is called Basecamp. I use this to store information that I need to share with other people, but in a very specific way. I use this internally, not for my clients.

So here’s some different tools that we use. I’m just going to scroll through. So for instance for analytics, we use Barometrics because we do subscriptions. So it’s not gonna make sense for most of you guys. We use Google Analytics. I think I don’t say on here that I use Stripe for credit card transactions and SamCart for shopping carts. Google Analytics, obviously, everybody use this for their web data. We use ConvertKit for our email. We use Edgar foremost for social posts. We use Planoly for Instagram because you can see them in the grid format. Google Forms as well.

Email management, this is a huge one. So Contactually something which is a place where you can store a lot of different customer information. It’s more like a CRM, if you’re familiar with what that is. We use and schedule our coaching calls. We also use Zendesk, which is kind of, like, an online knowledge base for our internal sort of Dream Buffet and coaching program people. Oh, I do have this thing I’m purchasing. So Amazon, we use for a lot of things.

PayPal, I know a lot of folks use that as their primary invoicing software for their clients. I don’t recommend it for a lot of reasons. We only use it as a payment mechanism for the database. We use a lot of different video tools. We use Amazon S3 is, like, yet another server backup space. We use Speechpad as the transcription service that we use. WebinarJam and EverWebinar are things that we use for our webinar broadcasts. But then we use Wistia because it looks better. I like it better for hosting our videos. They load really nicely. They look great. And WebinarJam is just a huge pain that way. And then we use Zapier to connect a lot of different apps.

So that, like I said, is not even all of the apps that I use for all of the things. And some of the ones that I use aren’t gonna make sense for a lot of you guys. I know some people also do other types of, you know, online content creation. So hopefully for some of you guys, that might be useful. Some things to think about though now that will be huge…make a difference for you guys, is any sort of operations-related time fix that is simple, using the Google pre-written email template tools, I don’t use Google email, so I don’t know what it’s called, or text expander. Setting up backups. Seriously, please, don’t have all of your hard drives traveling with you if you’re a nomad. Set in your schedule, like, one day a month where you go somewhere with really great internet, so you can upload everything, okay?

Other financial assets. Points, how secure are your airline points? This is an asset of yours, okay? Client data, research information, business cards. Are you having your business card scanned or photograph or something? So that if you don’t have them anymore, somehow, you’re able to get in contact with the marketing director of that huge company that you met. What is your redundancy plan for tangible and digital asset failures? I always travel, well, not always, but typically travel with a second cell phone.

If I’m gonna be gone for a certain amount of time in a period where I think it would be hard for me to get a new phone in a timely fashion either because of the location or because I’m busy, I pack a second cell phone. Same thing with laptops, I sometimes travel with a backup laptop. If I feel like my laptop is having issues, because I don’t wanna get caught out. I’ve had times where I dropped my laptop. And I didn’t have Dropbox setup yet. And I lost all my interview files for articles that I was working on. All this stuff, it happens, it can happen, it’s happened to me, I don’t wanna keep it from happening to you.

Quick note here. If you are only using a web-based email on a server that you don’t own, like Google, Yahoo, anything like that, I talked about redundancies, right? Emails, client emails, you can get into he said, she said things with clients, even just about a particular blog post idea. I like to have all the emails in multiple places for this reason. Likewise, please don’t forget, even if you are using Google, for instance, my customer service person, she has Google email, we cannot figure out why my husband works at Google and move it on spam. We cannot figure this out. Her email is going to my spam. I don’t know why. We spent a ton of time. We use our own server and we spent a ton of time making sure that our emails are not on any of the blacklist for any spam lists anywhere, or this is something we spent a lot of time into as part of our sort of overall tech plan, okay?

So that’s what I’ve got for you today. A couple takeaways at the end with the bigger picture things, right? It’s GIF, governance, infrastructure, functionality. Focus on that, and you will be good.

And I look forward to catching you on the next call. If you have any questions, you can reach us at Thanks so much. Bye.

Freelance Business Systems: Just Make it Legal Transcript

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So today in the continuation of our “Freelance Business Systems Series,” we are covering the legal department. Now, I know that this is something that we all prefer not to think about until we have to, in a way, right? It’s one of those things that’s really easy to sort of feel like is a next level problem, as in, “Once I have time, I’ll make sure I’m doing this correctly,” or, “I’ve never done an article for a magazine before, so I don’t wanna argue with them too much about the contract and lose this assignment.” I have heard this happen with a lot of people.

In fact, I’ve seen people say, “Well, the editor assigned me this article, and I asked her for the contract, and it hasn’t come, and the deadline for the article’s coming up. I don’t wanna miss my chance to work on the article with this editor, so I’m gonna complete the draft even though I don’t have a contract yet.” So, these are all issues that I’ve heard from you, guys. And there’s many, many other things that can come up that I don’t wanna say that I don’t hear from you guys or something like that. But there are things that I think not so many freelancers think about. However, there are issues that can definitely come back to bite you later on, or if not, perhaps they can, you know, not…and I don’t mean in a way where you’re going to court or something.

I mean, maybe the company that you’re doing content for has been doing something weird with its images, and then they have to change them all. And they expect that you’ll just do it for free because you did the work in the first place, and now they need to change the work that you’ve already done. And so they expect that you’ll just do it. And I don’t necessarily mean like that the issue here is that, you know, they’re not paying you, or that there’s a scope creep or something like this. I mean that this issue with how their images are being sourced and what the rights are, things like that, is inherently legal issue, and it’s something that could have been foreseen. And we shouldn’t just rely on the companies that we’re working for to be responsible for these things. And that relates to something called indemnity that we’ll get into.

Now, today is gonna be one of those webinars like other ones that we’ve had in this series that I know are a bit heavier, okay? So I made super sure that we had the slides loaded because there’s a lot of slides with very, very tiny print. And I’m gonna read it and highlight it for you guys so that we can talk about it. But before we get into that, this is my first attempt ever in putting a GIF into webinar jams, and I think it’s not working. Let me see. No, our poor GIF isn’t working.

So, the title of today’s webinar, “Make it Legal,” comes from the movie “The Proposal.” I’m not sure how many of you guys have seen this, but there’s this scene where, at the beginning of the movie, Sandra Bullock’s character is about to be deported because she forgot about some paperwork, and then she went to the Frankfurt Book Fair because they were gonna lose some important author to another publishing company, and then that screwed up her application for her green card. And then she, on the spur of the moment, decides to say that she and her assistant, played by Ryan Reynolds, are, in fact, desperately in love and have been engaged, and they’re gonna get married, and that’s gonna help her immigration issue because now she’ll just apply as a wife.

Now, her boss, who you see sitting here at the table, takes this message, you know, kind of with a grain of salt. It seems like he believes in the power of love, and he points at his finger, as you can’t see because the GIF isn’t playing, and he says, “Just make it legal. Mmm?” Now, it’s interesting because, like I said, I don’t use GIFs. In fact, I make quite a point in all of our webinars of trying to only use images that are completely royalty-free. And as I was finding this GIF, I found it really interesting because I looked at the scene, and then I found some website that had made a clip of the video itself. And then they had a little button you could click on and then it turned into this GIF.

And I’ve seen so many sorts of theoretically major, if you will, websites, news sites, things like that, that have articles composed almost entirely of GIFs. Now, I don’t know where they source them from, but I bet that the legal teams of these companies have to be involved because they’re sourcing like this, primarily scenes from movies and things like that.

So, as we get into talking about the legality of the GIF sourcing and all sorts of other things, because this was a webinar about legal issues, I feel it is entirely important to say that I am not a lawyer or any similarly qualified professional, and all legal advice or words that can be construed as legal advice in this talk are not intended to be taken as professional legal advice. Consult your own legal professional for all legal matters.

Now, that that’s out of the way, the main things that I wanna talk to you about today are to continue this discussion of business systems and the core functions of different areas of your business that you need to have, like it or not, with a dive into the most important functions of legal department, how it really works and what they really do. Because, when I looked into it, I thought, actually, that this was gonna be kind of the most complex one in many ways, in terms of all of the different sort of broadly spread things that a department does, and it ended up being much more simple than I thought it was.

And I’m hoping that even though there’s a lot of different things that you should probably be thinking about, I’m hoping that this mechanism that I’ve come up with into breaking down into the three main legal roles will help you to at least kind of solidify for yourself what you need to be on top of, what you need to be thinking of periodically, and what you should keep front of mine every time you have a piece of work come up.

Then we’re gonna go into what I know is kind of the big bone to pick for many, many freelancers. And that is this idea of contract language to watch out for. And then I’m gonna give you some food for thought. I have some different sort of…I don’t know if you wanna call them considerations I had put in the slide at the end.

But I kind of think of them as just a list that you can almost keep for yourself per se of different things that you should just keep an eye on, maybe you wanna set Google Alerts for them, maybe when you’re doing your own review, whether that’s monthly or weekly, or whatever that is, you wanna incorporate these onto the agenda of what you’re talking about. So these are just kind of some ideas of things that are issues of note, let’s call it, for us freelancers, from the legal perspective to keep an eye on.

Now, this webinar that we’re working on today is one of those ones where, because everyone does very different types of writing, everyone has different priorities. This is perhaps the webinar in our “Freelance Business System Series” where the broadness of you all as writers with different interests, with different geographic locations that you currently live in, or that you use as your home base, or that you work from, this is something I don’t actually have a slide on, but it’s really important also in terms of legality to think not only about your business and your rights as a business and how you present yourself as a business, but also whether you count as a business traveler in the country that you’re traveling to when you’re working there on your laptop.

I heard a really interesting talk about this at a conference for nomads, where for some countries, if you are there conducting work, if you’re there doing phone calls, if you’re writing articles, even maybe if you’re doing research for a story, you are technically, in fact, there as a business traveler, and that can carry all sorts of different visa implications, okay? But as I was saying in this particular webinar, on the legal side of business systems, it came most to me about how broad you all are in terms of your interest and the type of work you do and how that translates as we dive into legal issues.

So, I’m gonna get into the bulk of the talk today. But I just wanted to kind of point out, if you find that I’m saying something in this webinar, whether, you know, it’s may be very specific to a certain type of business, or geographically specific, or something like that, I wanna invite you to think about how this is something that can either translate into the work that you’re doing, or that might touch on a related issue in the area that you’re in.

For instance, I have a lot of quotes from particular types of magazines and also that have been pulled from some articles about photography rights. But if you don’t plan to sell your photographs, or if you don’t plan to write for those kinds of magazines, that doesn’t mean that these issues aren’t germane to other work contracts that you’ll have, whether you’re selling your photography to a tourism board instead of to a magazine, or if you’re writing just for a website that pays $20 a story rather than a magazine that pays $2,000 a story, because I can’t, in this one-hour, address every different legal situation that might come up for all of you guys because it’s all of you, so it’s just too broad. So, please bear with me as I try to pick up on some different threads.

But like I said, I want to specifically focus on a couple key areas of what a legal department does in order to help you see how this applies to your business no matter what you do. So, we do this in the beginning of each of our “Freelance Business System” calls. I just wanna take a second to revisit why we’re doing these “Freelance Business Systems” webinars.

So, something that I ran into when I first started this company, transferring from being a freelance writer myself into helping other freelance writers, is that the big gap that I saw between the freelance writers who are making it, whether that meant earning six figures, or it just meant being able to quit their job and spend their time as they wished and still have the money to support their family, or whether it meant being able to live in whatever destination or country they chose and have work that they could do to support that endeavor.

The big thing that separated those people who are actually doing whatever their own personal dream of travel writing was, from the people who spent years and years saying they were doing it but not really ever seeming to get there no matter how many steps they were taking, was this idea of systems, and particularly business systems.

And I was fortunate to ghostwrite for some time for a college business professor who had a business background but not a freelance background, and so I ghostwrote her website on freelancing for her. And it really helped me to see how a lot of the things that one learns in Business School with a little tweaking in the right examples can translate really well into a freelance context, and much more importantly, solve a lot of the issues that I know that people get really stymied by. Okay?

I just got an email from somebody that I saw at a conference about this the other day. She said she’s kind of doing X, Y, and Z, and it’s still not working with her. And she had a call with some of the writing coach, and she’s just not getting what she wanted. And this is the thing, is that there’s a lot of people out there who are self-taught, whether it’s about writing or freelancing or whatever it is, but there are business schools for a reason.

There’s curriculum out there that are taught across the country, across the world that work in any context. And it’s really delightful, I feel, to kind of have the answers to some questions that’s stymie you on the one hand, but also to do something and just do it once or just throw all of your energy into it and have it work. And I know that’s something that a lot of people don’t run into with their freelancing and for a lot of different reasons. And we have a lot of different ways to address that.

But in terms of how you set up your business, how you approach your time, how you create processes and procedures to do different things, there are best practices here that are very well honed over time. And that’s really what we look to do with these “Business Systems” calls.

Now, in particular, today on this legal department call, as I mentioned, there are so many different situations out there. And so what I wanna do with this call, like I said, is rather than go too deep into kind of like a laundry list of different situations to watch out for, I wanna focus on that system side, what are the systems that you can set up, that will help keep you out of legal issues. Because as we’ll see on the next slide, that’s really the point of a legal department.

So, I just have a couple different definitions here of the role of legal department that I wanna share with you because they all highlight something different. So, the first one here, “Legal departments within a business work to maintain and prevent any legal issues that could arise.” They play critical roles in reviewing and drafting contracts, employee policies, and handling court cases.”

Now, any editors out there will notice that there’s a grammatical issue in that last sentence there. They should probably have another verb before employer policies. But besides that, this I hone in on as really one of my favorite definitions because it keeps it really simple. Okay?

So your job when you have your legal hat on, as we talked about in the first webinar in this series on “Business Systems,” was this idea that you should have a job description for every aspect of your business that you have to fulfill and sign it and acknowledge that you are taking on this responsibility in having your business.

So, the things that you need to do with your legal department hat on, and we’ll dive into each of these individually in a bit, is reviewing and drafting contracts, I assume reviewing and drafting is the verb here, employee policies, and handling court cases. Okay? This is really the crux of all of it, and we’re gonna drill down into this. And you do these three things, these are the three core tasks here, in order to maintain and prevent any legal issues that could arise.

So that’s what I was talking about earlier way in the beginning of this call kind of when I was diving into the title of the call, is this idea that we need to incorporate this idea of a legal department into our business because it’s really about preventing. Okay? And there’s a lot that we can do there that only requires a little knowledge.

You get really a lot of leverage out of familiarizing yourself with not just what’s going on with contracts, but also what’s going on with some of these other things that we’re looking at in terms of rights, whether that’s for photography or text, as well as a lot of things that are going on on social media.

The next one I have on here is, “A legal department is essential in ensuing that a company or establishment properly discharges its business affairs. Its members vigorously strive to safeguard its interest in relation to all parties, whether within or outside the company.”

Now, I bolded a couple things here. So, I like that…and I noticed this in several things that I was reading online. I like this idea of really tying in because sometimes it feels like legal departments are at odds with the company. But I like this idea of tying in that the legal department is really looking for best way for the company to do what it’s trying to do. It’s not antagonistic, okay?

And I think that’s one of the things that keep some of us from wanting to get involved in this because we feel like handling our legal stuff can only kind of come out badly for us. And I definitely agree that when you have a magazine or an editorial outlet or a company that is kind of pushing you about a contract, whether they have their own contract that they’re pushing on you, or if they’re pushing back on a contract that you’ve sent, I definitely agree that there can be some antagonistic feeling.

But once you see…if you’re not already familiar with, once you see the different sort of rights abuses, if you will, but things that people can ask of you, I hope that you’ll take an active interest in this because you’ll feel that you’re very much safeguarding things that are important to you when you go into this.

Now, the next thing that I have in here, it’s funny, I just use the word safeguard, it’s probably because I saw it, is this idea that, “The legal department is vigorously safeguarding the interest not only of the parties within the company but also outside the company.”

So this relates back to what I was talking about how it’s not your job to be the legal counsel for companies that you’re working with. There are small companies that don’t think about this stuff. But it is certainly in your interest and it’s certainly something that would happen if you had a legal department.

Now, the next one I have in here is kind of long, but I like this because it really goes into detail about what a legal department does, “A legal department is a specialized sector working jointly with the rest of departments in order to achieve the company’s objectives, like we talked about, and ensure that the company’s activities are in consultation…oh, sorry, in conformity with all laws and regulations. The legal department provides legal consultation and advice as well as reviewing the rules, contracts, and agreements generated by other departments.” Like I said on the top, this is one of the big three. Okay?

“Duties of the legal department include drafting resolutions, letters, memos, and participating in balanced administrative decision-making. The importance of a legal department does not stem from being the department responsible for the implementation of rules and regulations or providing legal advice. Instead, it lies in spreading awareness of the importance of respecting law.” So I really like this. I think this is really cool.

And one of the other things that I wanted to highlight in this section is this idea of participating in drafting letters and memos, and in balanced administrative decision-making. Imagine if when you are writing back to an editor negotiating things, you sort of dispassionately put your legal department hat on. Okay?

It’s really something that I really recommend that you do because I find too many folks are in a very…I don’t know if I wanna say it’s an agitated state or in a state of being very close sort of personally to the issue when writing back to editors about a lot of things, whereas you really should let your legal department have a look at such “letters or memos” before they go out the door.

The last one here, “A legal advice is only one part of the operation of a legal department in a business enterprise.” You’ll see this kind of conflicts with the one above that was saying legal advice is not the thing. And I find it really interesting that a number of these definitions do, in fact, conflict. “Other important aspects are the legal costs, organizational questions and coordination problems within the department, as well as the relation of the company’s legal department with the other departments in the enterprise, and last but not least, some relationship between house counsel and outside counsel.”

So this is one important thing, is that a lot of companies have something called in-house counsel and also outside counsel. And like in a corporate setting, this is often gonna be that there’s somebody perhaps in-house to keep the costs down, quite honestly, who does the day-to-day reviewing of contracts.

And then if something arises where there’s actual court case or something like that, they’ll hire someone to take care of that. So you should also think about how is this gonna work for you. What aspects of the legal responsibilities for your freelance enterprise are you gonna handle and what are gonna be handled by other people, and how are you going to figure out the costs for that, okay?

Are you going to use an online website like LegalZoom or, I saw another one just now, Docuity, Doc-something, or are you gonna make use of some free resources where you live? Do you have somebody that you know, a family member, or somebody else that you can pay, you know, a certain amount for their time? What is gonna be your relationship in terms of cost between internal and outside counsel, and what does that look like for you? All right.

Now, I guess I didn’t mention this. I should just say this quickly on inside or outside counsel. Anybody who’s licensed, whether it’s an architect or a lawyer or a doctor, they tend to only be licensed in a certain geographic area, which in the U.S. is limited to a state.

So, for instance, if you have a family member who is a lawyer in another state, it can be iffy about whether they can actually give you legal advice about things that are happening in your state. So, there’s one other elephant in the room here in this legal webinar that I just wanna talk about, is that legality and ethics aren’t always on the same side, as I know we all think about when we think about corporate, politics, and things like that.

Now, of course, you will want to have both. Okay. I want to make very clear that throughout this webinar, I’m just gonna be talking very narrowly about legal issues and things to think about, and not really giving recommendations about what you should do, but more bringing things to your attention sort of in the frame of what it was talking about in the last slide about awareness, right? But this idea of ethics and decision making does, in fact, come over under a different “department,” and that’s governance, and we will get to that down the line.

Now, in addition to looking at what legal departments said for this webinar, I also wanted to look at the role of somebody who’s like the lead lawyer, which you typically call the general counsel in a company setting. Now, it’s interesting because one of the things that I saw is that this person is often the most highly compensated person in an entire company. Okay? I just wanna let that sink in. The role of the legal counsel and the legal department is so important, even in the biggest companies, that they are the single most highly compensated person in the company. All right?

So, again, if this is something that you’ve been neglecting, this is how important this is. All right. And I really wanted to make sure to kind of make this clear because there’s so many aspects of being a small business, when we are freelancer, that we can sort of…I’m sure just kind of forget about or say that we’ll do when we have time, particularly looking at cash forecast and all sorts of different things.

You’ll feel though, is okay, you’ll feel when you don’t have enough money coming in because you haven’t been doing your sales or marketing or looking at your cash forecast or making sure you have cash on hand to pay your bills or something like this. But this is one that you’re not gonna necessarily get in automatic regular kick in the pants on your own to do. You don’t want the kick in the pants. It happens when you don’t do this, okay? And this is why it’s so, so important that these people are the most highly compensated in a company.

So the role of the general counsel, like I was saying, it reports the CEO, but the general counsel is often paid more highly than the CEO.

And when you look at the things that the general counsel does…so on the one hand, I know this was mentioned in several of the previous page definitions, and it can be a little difficult to think about how this relates to us when we don’t have departments. I’m talking about this idea of handling duties related to departments and their interrelation.

So, if we are, throughout this webinar series, talking about this kind of made-up departments, what does that mean? It relates to this idea that the legal department sees how these different departments fit together. So, on the one hand, it’s making sure that you’re aware of different legal obligations that you have, and we’re gonna get to some ideas for this, and making sure that you implement them in all of the areas that you work in.

So, when we talk about social media and appropriate hashtags when doing things that would be considered advertising, this is something where when you are in sales mode and you’re talking to clients, the right thing to do is to make sure that they are aware of that legal issue, and if they have a plan to address that and they’re comfortable with how you’re planning to address that. Okay? So it goes into the sales. Then it goes into operations in terms of making sure that that’s streamlined and making sure that the client has approved the way that that’s gonna be used.

Then it goes into the actual work that you’re doing, the actual writing work in terms of making sure that you do that every day in terms of having a procedure, having a system, okay? So that’s more on the quality control side that you never leave those things out becomes one of the quality control pieces. What system are you using to make sure that every time you do a tweet that includes blah, blah, blah, words or that’s written in blah, blah, blah vein, you’re including the appropriate advertising hashtag. Okay. So, that’s kind of how this idea of interrelation works for us as freelancers.

So, I like to kind of think of it though is this idea that once you’re aware of it, you don’t allow yourself to be unaware of it, right, because we, as the freelance, are on all the departments here. Now, some of these make relatively obvious sense. Okay? They’re involved in crisis management and risk management. They’re responsible for compliance. So compliance is what I just described in terms of, for instance, these advertising standards, each with the added hashtag.

Compliance is when it’s known that there is a law, or there’s something that needs to be done in a certain way, that someone is responsible for making sure that happens. And this particular aspect of the legal department is one of these things that I find a lot of us sort of slacking on, that we might kind of know about it and there might be a little bit of a, “Oh, not now,” or, “Oh, this doesn’t matter in this context,” or, “Oh, I’ll figure that out later. Like maybe I’ll do like a back…you know, like I’ll do a short hack for now, and then I’ll come back to it,” okay?

But anytime you have something like that come up, it’s worth figuring out, “What are all the things I need to be compliant on?” Do you need to have a cheat sheet for yourself about, “Here are all the different things I need to consider when I’m doing an email newsletter for a client, when I am posting socials for a client, when I am reviewing a contract on a magazine, whatever that means,” okay?

Now, this one is one that doesn’t come up for us quite so much, but I thought it was really interesting, and I wanted to put it here, “Handles public policy advocacy for legislative reform.” This is something that the general counsel of the company is responsible for. And it’s actually really interesting how many small business owners, not exactly freelance writers, but other small business owners I’ve seen talking about this lately.

So, for instance, here in New York City, we have several laws that protects freelancers, like freelance isn’t free, which allows you to like have really easy ways to legally go after people who haven’t paid you or some other things like that. And somebody somewhere at some point, some freelance got involved in advocating for this law to change. So there is also the opportunity for advocacy for legal change in terms of different things that frustrate you as a freelancer, but it’s not necessarily one’s cup of tea.

Now, another really interesting thing, and we’ll get into this more with governance, is this idea of reporting things to management. And I don’t wanna dwell too much on reporting because we’ll get into that, and it’s not so much apropos to this webinar. But this idea of it’s the legal counsel’s job in certain ways to review certain things that are happening to see issues that may or may not be coming up with how the company is operating and how they might be running into certain laws.

So, one of the reasons that it’s so important to have access to an actual lawyer as opposed to just doing all of this yourself, even if that’s just that you follow the newsletter of a lawyer, is there are so many changes happening all the time that we need to be aware of, especially in the online content space.

So like my husband, for instance, one time got a speeding ticket like in this random town somewhere, and it would be really painful to go up there and actually go to the court hearing for his speeding ticket. And so he found a lawyer in that area. It happens that this area gives a lot of speeding tickets because people are going through, they’re on their way to vacations, and the cops are very overactive. So this lawyer has specialized in this, and he actually puts out a newsletter that lets people know about different things related to his very narrow area that he lawyers in about this.

So, for instance, we will get on summer holiday weekends an email from this lawyer letting us know like that he’s seen a lot of, you know, police activity and duh, duh, duh and to be careful so that you don’t get speeding tickets and things like this. So there’s lawyers out there who are small practice lawyers who have created ways like this for you to stay on top of different things that are going on so that you don’t have to do it yourself.

And that’s one of the reasons that you need to think about the relationship between this in-house, outside counsel because you can do this right now. You can take 10 minutes, you can take an hour, and you can find some websites that cover legal issues that relate to freelancers and just get on a couple newsletters, you know, and then you’ve ticked some of that box in terms of the responsibilities that you have for your own legal department for your own self and delegated them to outside counsel, okay?

So, intellectual property, this is really a lot of what we’re gonna get into with the contract side, so I don’t wanna delve too much into that, and tax as we already talked about. So, as I mentioned when we looked at the definitions of what the legal department does, there’s really big three. And I put that first definition up there first because I feel like these are the big three areas. So drafting contracts, we’re gonna get really deep into. I have a lot of tiny types, I apologize in advance, of some different contract language, as, usually, the legal folks call it, that we’re gonna look into.

But the two other things that they talked about, employee policy and handling court cases. So, with employee policy, this is something wherein companies that are not solopreneurs, okay, so like we’re all solopreneurs because we have only one actual employee, right, myself included. I only have contractors. And I know several of the folks on this call have contractors for different purposes, whether they’re more administrative or people that they farm other work out to, it’s actually relatively common for writers to do that.

So, what a typical employee policy more in the vein of a corporate setting would be to protect them from a lot of different labor laws that are going on, okay, things that have to do with benefits, things that have to do with paid time off, whether that’s for a maternity leave or whatnot.

Sorry, I got another mosquito bite. Oh my god, you know, summer has arrived when your apartment is invaded with mosquitoes, anyway. So, we are not in the position necessarily where we all need to legally be covering our butts in terms of those labor law issues.

However, you should probably think about these things for yourself, okay? You should probably think about sort of what is your policy from a code of conduct level perhaps, or what is your sort of policy that you wanna have for your own business, whether you have an LLC or not, in terms of vacation or whatnot. What are your policy was what do you consider to be business versus non? How do you wanna delegate that, okay? And I have another side on how that relates to dealing with finances in a second that we’ll get to.

Now, with court cases, obviously, this something that none of us wanna have come up. I will say that if you have gotten yourself involved in something that appears in small claims court, whether that’s you sort of filing because of somebody not paying you or whatever that is, typically, in small claims court, at least here in the U.S., That’s something where it is not either recommended it or expected for a lawyer to show up. It’s really supposed to be between the two parties.

So, if you are in a situation like that, then it is something that you could potentially handle yourself if you feel so inclined to them. But it’s worth thinking or at least having a number or at least having the research done, maybe building a little bit of a relationship with somebody so that if something like this happens to you, you know who to call, you know how quickly they can react, and all those sorts of things.

Now, like I said earlier, there’s a lot of different situations because of so many different countries, backgrounds, types of writing, all sorts of things that we have going on among this audience. So I’m not gonna dive into a lot of super specific nitty-gritty issues here.

But I also wanted to say that one of the other reasons that I chose that route is that I have a lot of material that I pulled together from conferences for the last while that I was thinking of including in this webinar, whether it’s…you know, like particular specific types of photography rights that you need to be thinking about who owns them, and making sure that they’re included in your contract. And I had a lot of really nitty-gritty stuff that I was looking at.

And I ultimately decided that the more specific things that I gave you to worry about in this webinar, the more you’re gonna kind of feel the big, bad legal wolf sort of looming over your shoulder. When I encourage you earlier to maybe get on some newsletters or things like that, it’s because I want you to sort of be hopefully inspired rather than uninspired to take some time to learn about the things that actually do apply to you, rather than having me spell out so many that it just feels overwhelming and scary and like you just wanna brush it under the rug a little more.

So, I mentioned that I would get to this in a second, a very pro tip that I learned recently, but I don’t want you to say pro tip in a This is like an awesome thing to do that will make things easier” way but in a “I’m surprised I never ever have read this before, and it’s a very important way,” is that if you are registered as an LLC in the U.S., and you commingle your personal and professional finances at all, you have lost the protection of your limited liability of your LLC.

Now, one of the things that I had prepared some materials for, but I decided was like just gonna be too much for the scope of this webinar was this idea of liability limiting and liability insurance. Now, this is different in every country. In the UK, there’s actually some really nice sort of full-service website things where you can set up your limited liability operation through this website. It will also handle your banking for you, and an address, and they can review contracts and different things like this. I don’t know unfortunately equivalent in the U.S.

I know there’s a lot of websites that can do different things like this, but I don’t know when this is integrated where it also does your finances and stuff like this. But I want to say that in some places and in some cases that’s simply being a flow-through organization rather than having a limited liability might just make sense for you. For instance, if it’s sort of too difficult or doesn’t make sense to not co-mingle your personal and professional finances.

But if you feel that you want to have liability protection without having a limited liabilities type LLC or something like that, I wanted to just quickly also mention that there are insurances out there. There’s something called MMR, but in the U.S. at least. But there’s insurances for things like keeping you protected if somebody takes issue with something that you wrote, that’s something that has been published somewhere, and wants to pursue legal action about that. You can pay for an insurance that will sort of cover you from any claims of that variety. Okay?

So, whatever way that you wanna limit your liability, I recommend that you at least educate yourself on what the, like, potential benefits of doing something and the adverse risk of not doing something, and they will all be germane to your particular geographic area. But as we get into the contracts, you’ll also see that within your contracts, there’s ways to limit your liability as well. So, that’s kind of the segue to talk about the other elephant in the room, which is contracts.

So let me just pop over for a second. I actually have one that I opened up for you guys, is kind of like a full contract. This is not one of mine. They’re on another hard drive, and I just thought this was easier to use, a more current one because the clauses will be more up-to-date. But I just wanted to show you. This is something I got offline.

I did a quick google search. I was trying to see if there was a good resource to send you guys to in terms of a place where there’s freelance writer contract is available. I ultimately decided I didn’t find any of them to be super, super reliable. But there’s certainly many that you can copy if you like, and I’ll show you those in a second.

So I just wanted to give you a sense for those of you who have never had one of these, the different things that might be included in your freelance writer contract. So this stuff at the top here about parties is pretty basic, it’s who’s involved. This relationship one is also pretty basic. It typically says whether you are or not an employee of the company. And like I said, that’s something that…it’s pretty common for it to be in there.Now, the issue is whether it’s accurate, and we’ll get into that on a later slide.

So, after that, you’ll see there’s some that can be very different. Okay? So, services to be provided by the writer changes to materials submitted by the writer. This is interesting about how…I’ve not seen a contract before that has this, which is one of the reasons I wanted to show you this one. This is interesting in terms of how it talks about edits. This idea of representations and warranties of the writer is really, really important for you to think about, particularly if you’re writing online. Okay?

And if you’re writing for some third party content shop, where you are employed by somebody to produce content that ends up on someone else’s website, I really, really hope that you have a contract with them for things like this. Okay? So this says that like you not only warrant that it’s your original work, it’s not in the public domain, duh, duh, but you’re warranting that it’s accurate and truthful. Okay? Now, this is the kind of thing that you don’t want to find some fact or something online, and put that in your piece and then have somebody come back to you, like the client of your client because it’s not truthful and they got in trouble. Okay?

Now, that leads into this whole idea of indemnification. I’ll show you another one of these in a bit, and we’ll talk about indemnification in more detail with that one because that one…the other one I wanna show you is a little bit broader. Okay. So, this one also includes compensation here on the contract. Sometimes that’s something that sort of sounds separately. I really like to make sure that in the compensation section, if it’s not already there, that I negotiate also for the payment timeline. I will always want that to be in the contract, not on an email and not assumed. Okay?

Now, this website also seems to have some revenue sharing bonus, which is a whole other crazy thing. Now, “This independent contractor writer shall report for taxes,” is another thing that, like I said, this might be in there, then you should be really careful. Because, if you are in a work situation where you’re not really being treated as an independent contractor, but you’ve signed this, you may or may not have cut off your legal opportunities.

So something else that’s typically in here is contract period and termination, and then this idea of intellectual property. We’re gonna talk about this quite a bit. Something else to look out for is this idea of governing law. So, often, they will be in the contract, something that says that, “The provisions of the contract or any arbitration or court case that must arrive from it will be dealt with in the state of the original person’s choosing.” This is always something that I check on to see if it’s something really crazy. Okay?

So, this is just a simple one that I pulled out for you. Like I said, I did a little google search, and I found…let me go to the other page for you. I found quite a few folks that have these online that I was just gonna point them out. There’s not necessarily one in particular that I wanted to sort of send your way.

I personally like to have one that I create from scratch where I’m really familiar with all the terms in it. So you can definitely take like a conglomerate. So this was one on medium. Okay? There’s several other writers who have them. You know, if you’re getting one from another writer, it’s really important to make sure that they’ve had it legally vetted because some of the language might just be something that they’ve come up with, right?

So, here’s one from Docracy. Like I said, I’m not familiar with this website, but you’ll see that it’s got a lot of these very similar situations, almost at the point where it looks like they practically ripped it off of that thing that I just showed you, right? So, also CreativeLive, which is a pretty big company. They have some that they recommend here about putting the other freelance contract, but wherever you live, whatever country you live in because it really is gonna depend on the country in a lot of ways. You’ll notice the ones here are largely sort of people who might be from the U.S. It’s unclear whether or not they’re still in the U.S. But these ones that I was showing you…this one’s not coming up. It was someone’s Google Doc.

But these ones that I was showing you, like I said, we are based in the U.S., and you wanna have one that will be applicable to not just where you are, but also wherever you would like to have…as mentioned in another one, wherever you’d like to have contract being enforced. So, this is something that I’ll bring up on the last slide as well.

But it’s really important to think about these country lines in terms of these laws as well and what counts as, you know, the correct language in one place versus another, what words mean what, and things like that. So, whatever your local business administration is, your small business administration is often the word, whether it’s in your city or at a state or regional level or at a country level, check out your government because they will have guidelines on this as well. They will have some sort of basic contract phrases and things like that as part of their business services unit. Okay?

So, one thing that we can’t talk about legal issues without… particularly not about contracts, without looking at this whole issue of Condé Nast and some of the things that they have run over the years and the issues that people have with it. So I just wanna take a second. I’m gonna take a drink of water before I do it. But I wanna take a second to look at this issue with you.

Now, the crux of the Condé Nast craziness, I will have to kind of translate for you after I read the legalese here. But I want to read the legalese so that you can kind of get an understanding of some of the words folks use. “It’s agreed that the work shall be work made for hire within the meaning of the U.S. Copyright Act, and Company shall own all rights, including copyright, therein throughout the world.” Okay. You’re gonna see this. Some of the other ones I picked out, people are going throughout the world now. Okay.

“In the event any of the works are determined not to be work for hire made for any reason, contributor hereby transfers and assigns the entire copyright for the full term of copyright throughout the world in any and all media and forms of publication, reproduction, transmission, distribution, performance, adaptation, enhancement, and display.” Display means putting it on your website, folks. This is a clip. I just wanna make sure that’s understood. “Now in existence or hereafter developed in each work to the company. Company may also use the work and/or contributors name and/or likeness in publishing, promoting, advertising, and publicizing anything in which a work appears and authorize others to do so.” So you are giving them also the right to your likeness.

Now, one of the big, big things that is kind of the flow-through of this particular contract bit is, if you write an article, and the article gets developed into a book or movie, even if you are writing the book, okay, this is a crazy part, Condé Nast owns all rights to it. You don’t own the right to negotiate for your pay on a book that comes out of the article that you have written. You also don’t own the right to get a cut of the film rights should that book become a film. This has become an issue for several people.

So, these are all of the magazines that this applies to. Some of the ones that I just wanna highlight for you guys are “Architectural Digest,” “Bon Appetit,” “Bride’s,” “Condé Nast Traveler,” “Golf Digest,” “Golf World.” Gourmet is gone, oh, I must have lifted this from an old place, “The New Yorker,” “Vanity Fair,” “Vogue,” “W,” and “Wired.” Okay?

Now, the Condé Nast craziness doesn’t stop there. Okay. They also get exclusive first rights to publish every image made during an assignment, even outtakes. This means that unpublished photos from an assignment are tied up indefinitely. If you shoot an assignment under this contract, you cannot use your…market any image from that assignment, unless or until that image has been published or Condé Nast decides not to. And even then, they are not under any duty to publish the image or let you know that they’re not gonna use it. Okay.

Now, freelancers will not allow any of the photographs to be used at any time for any commercial or advertising purpose, which, again, goes back to this thing. So let’s say they have exclusive first rights to an image and they’ve used it. Again, if they don’t use it, you’re hosed, but they’ve used it. And then you wanna put it up on a stock website. No, you can’t. It cannot be used for any commercial or advertising purposes. So all of your potential income from that is down the drain.

Now, this next one is particularly interesting. “Freelancers cannot allow anyone outside of Condé Nast, including but not limited to the subjects of the photos and the subject’s representative to view the photos or portions thereof before photography.” Okay? So that means that if you were say shooting something and had an assistant, even the assistant that you’re shooting with couldn’t see the images. Okay? What are they supposed to do? Like, not look through the camera lens? Now, this is actually pulled from Vice. It’s very similar, okay, but it actually uses some sort of crazier words that I find to be almost like someone made this up, but it comes from Vice. So they clearly have a legal department.

“Photographer grants, transfers, and assigns to Vice, its agents, licensees and successors, in perpetuity for the entire world.” All of the photographers right, title, and interest in, and to the photographs, including any copyright in the photographs, and without limitation, the perpetual right to make a reproduction of the photographs in any form or media now known or hereinafter created, forever and throughout the world. Photographer also acknowledges that Vice is and will be the sole owner of all rights to the photographs and any reproductions thereof.

Now, I sat down with somebody who had been doing social media for company for several years and who had also sold his blog to the company before he became their social media manager. So, basically, it was like this tour company came in to a geographic area, and rather than create a bunch of content and domain authority from scratch, they bought a website that already existed there, and its domain authority and its content, and basically just gave the blogger, you know, not a full-time, full-time job with benefits, but a more or less full-time job on contract doing their social media going forward.

But what he didn’t do at the beginning was to read the contract really closely. And so this whole time that he’s working for this company he thinks that as he is doing social media for them taking photographs and everything, he can then use the photographs that he doesn’t put on their social media for his own stuff, for his own articles, for his own social, for his own whatever.

And then as he is sort of winding down this engagement and wants to get out of this contract, we sit there and we’re reading through it together. And I realized that he’s signed something very similar to this from the Condé Nast one where he has sold all of the rights to all the photos that he’s taken, whether he uses them or not, of the area, geographic area, that is, in consideration during the tenure of his contract to the company. So he really realistically not only can’t use them, but also really is supposed to turn them over to the company. Now, that’s more on the IP side.

I promised we would talk about indemnification because it’s a scary thing that you need to understand. “Photographer hereby expressly releases and indemnifies Vice, its agents, assigns, employees, licensees, and successors from and against any and all claims, liabilities, demands, actions, causes of actions, cost, and expenses,” okay, guys, there, that’s important, “whether at law or in equity, which a third party may have or may in the future have for invasion of privacy, commercial exploitation, false light, copyright or trademark infringement, libel, defamation, or any other cause of action arising from the exploitation of the photographs or any part thereof, or by reasons that the photographer’s breach of any representations, warranties, or agreements hereby contained. Photographer acknowledges that Vice is relying upon the rights granted to it hereunder and entering this agreement.” Okay?

So what indemnification means is that, particularly in the case with Vice, right, you’re giving them all rights to do whatever on earth they want with those photos for now and forever in any form of publication that exists or will be created at any time in the future, including all successive owners of this company in content. Okay. So, they’ll do whatever it is with the photo.

If anybody ever has any issue with it, whatsoever, you have to bear the costs legally or in terms of paying somebody back for what they purport to be making money off of their image, whatever. You, the freelancer, has to bear the cost of that. That’s what indemnification is. And sometimes that cost means someone coming after you legally. Now, I just wanna take one second to talk about why companies have this. Okay? We’re sitting here talking about legal departments and processes and operations and risk management and quality control.

Can you imagine that any company needs to have a way to minimize their potential legal exposure, right? That’s what we’re talking about today for us, right? And they want to have a process for doing it. They want it to happen regularly. They want to make sure that it happens every time and in all situations. So what do they do? They create the process that this is the contract that they give to people in order to limit any potential for them to have any legal issues down the line. Okay. Now, especially who knows what, you know, some people might get up to when they’re on assignment?

Maybe someone has taken a photo of somebody who was under the influence of something or someone who was, you know, perhaps being taken advantage of like they were in a state of slavery or something like this, I don’t know. Okay? Now, a major company doesn’t want, 100 years from now, okay, to have somebody claiming $60 million of back damages for exploitation or something like that. So what do they do? They create a contract like this.

Now, the really important thing to think about for us as freelancers, okay, is that just because someone doesn’t give you a contract that looks like this does not mean you’re safe. Okay. This is the really weird thing. The legal sort of burden, and this actually varies quite a bit from Commonwealth to Commonwealth or country to country, okay? So this is something you definitely wanna check on.

But the legal burden typically to my understanding in the U.S. is something along what was the reasonable expectation at the time of the person. Okay? So if, for instance, an editor or publishing company has some sort of reason, not from you particularly, but from writers to expect that when they work with a writer, the indemnity is on the writer, they have rights of all photographs, something like this, you’re not protected just because it’s not in writing, okay? So, it’s really important.

If you don’t have a contract with somebody, or if the contract doesn’t include some of these clauses, you have to put them in there or tell them, you know, like, “I need to make some tweaks to this contract, like, could you like give me the Word doc so I can add some things? And we can go back and forth with your legal team, whatever.” But don’t assume that just because a client or potential client doesn’t bring them up means that you are safe from some of these more draconian type things. Okay?

Now, these are kind of some swath outs that I offer for really catastrophic things. So if somebody wants work for hire, which Condé Nast does, which is really sort of extreme, you can try offering some extreme version of worldwide exclusive rights. Okay?

Now, Condé Nast actually does, if you say no to that contract, have one that they give you instead that’s like for one year worldwide rights on a cover photo and something a bit less for other photos and text. So, they actually swap it out for one year. So you can also try to swap out for one year. If somebody asks for exclusive rights in all formats that currently exist or will be invented, again, just swap exclusive for some time period followed by non-exclusive rights after that.

Now, work for hire, as you saw with the photo thing, is worse than just exclusive because work for hire means like your time and everything you did on that contract belongs to them, and you have no right to it, whatsoever, whereas if you’re just assigning the right to either the finished words or the edited photographs that you give them to use, then that right is reverting back to you. Okay?

Now, exclusive web rights, this is an interesting thing, it used to be that web rights you get paid additionally on top of something being printed. It doesn’t happen anymore. Now, it’s sort of a given that people will also want web rights. But I really push on this. If somebody has a contract and it doesn’t say web rights, okay, it only says print rights, but you see that they also put the article on their website, A, tell them that they need to have that covered in the contract, and B, receiving more money for it. Okay?

Now, I just have a couple of things before we wrap up. So this is something from that same…I’ve been quoting this photography series, and sadly, the article doesn’t seem to be online anymore, where it comes from. So I tried a bunch of different things. I can’t get it to come up. There’s a lot of 404 errors, but I have found some quotes that I’ve included for you here.

But here’s one that I wanted to say, which comes from a real lawyer. Okay? She says that, “By signing indemnity clauses like this, the photographer must pay for the loss the company incurs either directly or through reimbursement.” And she added that, “Publishing companies rarely come off to the photographers for the legal cost, but nevertheless, photographers should only accept these terms when they’re willing to accept the consequences.” Okay?

Now, I think I mentioned this earlier in passing, but that lawyer that I just mentioned who was quoted in the piece, there’s a lot of lawyers who, in various ways, shapes, and form do, like some pro bono work here and there for freelancers associations and different things. So see what resource is available to you to have someone review your contract, whether that’s for free through a local business association or through your government or something that you pay for online. Okay?

So here’s my list of legal issues for us to stay on top of. What is the difference between employee and contractor where you live and where your company you’re working for is based, okay? Because I see this violated all the time, absolutely all the time, and like I am personally really strict about it because I also don’t wanna be reachable at all hours a day. I don’t want people expecting things from me at all hours a day, even though people who work for me.

So, I try to kind of really set the line that everybody works whenever they work, duh, duh, duh. But this idea of contractor versus employee, the sort of basic, basic thing that you can drill down to is if you’re expected to work certain hours. So people typically say, at least here in the States, and particularly in more protectionist states here in the U.S., that it’s when an employer controls your time, place, and method of working. So, any client that is requiring you to come somewhere for something and work out of their office, that’s a big thing right there. You’re probably not really a contractor. Okay? And then if they are insisting that you work certain hours, that’s also a big red flag.

Now, the method of working is a really, really tricky one, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to go over this with people. So I don’t wanna spend too much time telling you now because I’ve seen that it’s kind of something hard to get across. I recommend that you either look it up, or just look for what is the employee versus contractor relationship where you are. Now, I hope this was clear in the last couple slides, but I want you to also be on top of what you’re giving up when you just sign a contract somebody gives you rather than really familiarizing yourself with these terms and having your own that you give them, okay?

Now, photo rights and usages, I hope you got the idea, is really one of the big ones. And if you’ve signed an indemnity contract, and the website that you’re working with is sourcing photos from somewhere that aren’t stock, that can come back to you, okay? So, this is something that you need to be on top of no matter what. And it’s interesting because this also applies, like I mentioned, with that Condé Nast thing about display.

You can’t even display your own photos on your website if you sell all rights to them, and you definitely can’t display your clips of places that you’ve written on your website. Okay? Now, indemnity is something that we all just really need to stay on top of, something that’s like a whole webinar in and of itself is what you can say on social and other advertising when working for a company. So there are ad tags that ought to be used, and those vary depending on the country and when you can use them.

The UK Advertising Standards Commission has a really nice sort of PDF flow chart that they put together. And something else that I’m surprised how much I don’t see this come up, and I think I just know about it because I have a close friend and kind of advisor who works in corporate level social media and has since the dawn of social media platforms and blogging. So, I see this with her work. There’s this whole idea that if you are a company, or if you’re writing on behalf of a company, as the case may be, you cannot mention other brands or trademarks in the tweets that you’re doing. And let me explain tweets, Instagrams, whatever. Let me explain how that comes out in ways that you might not have considered.

Let’s say that this isn’t really something that we would necessarily do, but let’s say that you are doing something that ties into the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is trademarked. So, you as a company cannot infringe on that trademark in your own advertising. So what that means is that you would need to say, “The big game or Sunday.” You would need to say all sorts of stuff, but you, in the tweets, you’re writing for this company that you’re working for, that’s for some reason mentioning the Super Bowl, would not be ever able to say the words Super Bowl. Okay?

So, the next thing that I know anybody in any way involved in blogging is super aware of is this whole thing about GDPR and privacy. And something else that I had mentioned was this idea of how the laws vary from country to country. So, just before I pop off, I just pulled up this thing from the UK Advertising Standards Commission. I just wanna show it to you because it’s really interesting. So, this is about if I put an ad… Sorry, if you’ve posted something on social, if it is qualified by them as an ad, and if you need to label it. So…whoops.

So this is what it looks like. And like I said, you can find it and download it online. It’s worth reading through because I was actually really surprised by how many things, if you’re based in the UK, should probably be an ad. And I’m still not clear on if you have readers in the UK if that means that you need to be doing this all the time or what exactly the standard is. So, I highly recommend you download that, and that’s the last thing that I’ve got for you.

So, in the next webinar in this series, we’re gonna talk about “Your Tech Support Squad.” We’re gonna talk about all sorts of great ways that you can save yourself time and also ways that you can keep yourself safe using different apps and things like that. Thanks so much for joining us. If you have any other questions, you can reach us at Cheers.

Freelance Business Systems: You, The Resource, Supported as a Human Transcript

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Today, we are continuing our Freelance Business Systems series with the human resource portion. And in the past, during this series, we’ve gone back through and shown all the different parts of the series that we’re gonna go through, and I’ll talk a little bit more again about what the series is about. I just want to take a second to talk about the title of today’s webinar because this idea of human resources, as we’ll get into in the definition, is something a bit weird because it has two definitions. It has the definition of, you, as a human resource or human capital, as people sometimes call it, as well as this idea of the department of human resources, the people who work in human resources, which sounds kind of weird. It’s the people who work and people who are resources, right?

But I want to kind of take all of that to focus on this idea that you are your business’s most important resource, bar none right, because you do all of the work. Maybe I know, like, some of you are starting to do some outsourcing maybe for research or for some parts of some jobs that you do on top of your travel writing, or perhaps…I know some people who have bookkeepers or things like that. But pretty much it’s just you, and more importantly you’re also the only one who knows all the things. You are the only one who can do all the writing. You’re the only one who can maintain all of your clients. So, keeping you in top working form, which, of course, we talked about what top working form is and how to discover that and how to improve that in the operations segment that we did.

But this idea of keeping you in top working form and whose job that is, is something that I think is so important that actually, this webinar today of the human resources section in the series, was the first one that I conceived when I was thinking about doing this Freelance Business System series. Because it’s one of the…that along with time management, that is human resources along with time management, which comes under operations that we talked about a lot the other day, are probably some of the things that I spend the most time talking with people about on coaching calls, that they don’t expect to actually be part of their business. And by that, I mean things like, you know, health issues or needing to get out of the house, go for walks, do other things like that to keep them happy, improving their workspace, different things like these that we’ll talk about in terms of what falls under human resources.

But this is one of the things that most surprises people, that they need to be taken care of because it’s really affecting their work and it’s very important. And as I was doing the research for the webinar today, I found a lot of places that actually said explicitly this, that the human resources is really one of, if not the most important, you know, sections, if you will, of the company. And I think in a lot of larger companies, that comes down to this idea that human resource is in charge of recruiting and hiring. And like I said, we’ll get into…as we get into the webinar, we’ll get into more about exactly what human resources is.

But I think that it’s not just because human resources does the recruiting and the hiring, and figures out who’s gonna work for the company, I think it’s because the cost for any given company of turnover, of medical leave, of all sort of these things, is so high because it’s not productive time. And in your freelance business, you probably know, or you probably have had a time that you can remember, where you were really sick or where you had a personal family issue or medical issue or somebody that wasn’t you or something else like that, and what a toll that that took on your business.

And what I want us to look at today is how… Obviously, there’s emergency things that come up that we can’t necessarily safeguard against, but how, as a whole, we can create processes, procedures, sort of, you know, things that you do regularly to help support as much as you can, to keep those things from happening. So, particularly, what we’re gonna talk about today is…I’ve got a couple of slides where we’ll look at what human resources is exactly in terms of the definition, as well as kind of what are all the different things the human resources do.

And I’m gonna explore that in two parts. We’re gonna look at it in terms of how that applies to companies, and then I’m gonna go…and we’re gonna use a couple of companies as cases…as examples, and talk about how some of those things work there in more, you know, anecdotal form rather than just a list of different job functions that people do. But then we’re gonna bring it back, and we’re gonna look back at that list of the different things that HR people do, where they come under HR, and we’re gonna look at how that translates for us as freelancers.

And then, I have pulled together kind of a cool…I don’t know if you want to call it cool, but I mean, I’m sure HR people call it cool, but an interesting survey to help how you think about not reviewing your performance as a technician, as a person who’s doing the work, but how you think about interacting with yourself as your own manager, as the person who’s deciding what work you’re gonna do and things like that. So, that’s what we’re gonna look at today.

This week we are continuing, as I said, this series on business systems for freelance writers. And I’ve mentioned in the past why we are focusing on these sort of core business tenets, whether it’s finance, which we’ve already looked at in operations and quality control. Or we’re going to start to get into sales and marketing and management soon as well. In this month, we’re looking at legal issues. We’ve also got one coming up on technical support and things like that. And the whole sort of conception of these webinars is, as I mentioned at the top of the call today, that these are things that are really important to any business, even just a freelance service provider business where you have, you know, like, one to five clients that you work with regularly.

If you don’t think about these things, all of these things that we’re looking at, that I’ve narrowed down this list…even though it doesn’t seem that narrow because there’s, like, 16 webinars. But all of these things that we’re looking at are things that, if you don’t consider them, will either just sink you or they’ll come back to bite you in some way. And so, what I noticed when I started freelancing myself is that there was really not so much information out there about how to have a business as a freelancer.

There’s, you know, tons of articles around for, like, small business owners and things like that, that don’t really seem like they’re for us because they talk about things like getting set up as a storefront or, like, hiring employees or liability insurance and all sorts of different things. But there’s not so much around what you need to think about to be a successful business.

And what I’ve found is that people who have really stable, long-term freelance businesses are constantly taking time out of their schedule to do these other business functions that we’ve been looking at. Whether it’s finance and doing that forecasting of your cash flow, which is so, so, so important, as well as forecasting your income or the management things that we’re gonna skip to looking at, or even just these technical things like different apps that you can use to improve your time. If you’re not sort of carving out that time, as they say, to work on your business rather than in your business, then it’s gonna run into problems for you at some point.

But the particular thing about this webinar series is that we’re really looking at how to do these things systematically. So, in each webinar, I’m introducing kind of the concepts of what is important in this particular area of business. But then we’re also looking at some really actionable ways. And I give a lot of different ideas so that wherever you are, it’s kind of, like, a menu and you can just pick one and start to integrate that, that you can start to think more about this area of your business.

So, as we get into talking about HR today… and I’m actually gonna read this from my PowerPoint slide because I know that they are a little bit small on the slide, and you can get all the slides later so you can read these a little better. But what I’ve pulled today for the definitions of what HR is, explore kind of this dichotomy that we talked about before, which is that idea that human resources is used to describe both the people who work for a company or organization and the department responsible for managing resources related to employees.

And I like this idea of resources related to employees rather than managing human resources in a certain way. And I know in the title of the webinar I say, you, the resource, supported as a human, because we have to also think about that, as our own individual companies, we have some resources that are disposable, primarily time and depending on where you are with your business, also money. And there’s different ways that we can use those resources to best support our employee of our company, you know, which is you, right?

So, the next definition is, human resource management is a contemporary umbrella term used to describe the management and development of employees in an organization. Also called personnel or talent management, although these terms are a bit antiquated. And I underlined the talent management here because I thought that was really interesting. I’m not sure how many of you guys have ever heard this term used in, like, a broadcast setting before.

So, for instance, like guests on Jimmy Fallon or something like that are called the talent. Or, like, people who come on the morning news and do, like, a little cooking show segment, they’re called the talent. And I think that’s really cool, like, an interesting way for us to think about it as freelancers, because to the companies that we freelance for, we are the talent that comes in. We are the subject matter expert. And so, I like that kind of flip of definition.

Even though as it said in this thing that I was reading that that idea of talent management is a bit antiquated, but I think for us it’s really cool to think about that, that, you know, we are the talent who shows up somewhere and does our thing with our, you know, writing talents, wordsmithing talents, whatever it is, descriptive talents, whatever you call it. And the idea that the management of the talent is around… A, the management part but also the development of employees in organization.

I mentioned also, you know, the conferences earlier because that does tie into what we’re gonna talk about today. We’re gonna talk about professional development. And professional development, I think, is something that, you know, obviously, anybody who’s here listening to these webinars or following what we do is interested in. But I think that there’s several different aspects of our professional development as a freelance business owning writer that we need to keep in mind at once. And that ties back into why I go to so many different conferences because they all have different purposes, and we’ll get to that in terms of this development bit in a minute.

So, the next one a human-resources department of an organization performs human resource management, overseeing various aspects of employment, such as compliance with labor law and employment standards, administration of employee benefits, and some aspects of recruitment. Now, this is really interesting. I’m gonna get into, in a minute, exactly kind of the functions, if you will, of HR. But this is actually the definition from Wikipedia, and I found a lot of other places reference this.

And I found this definition kind of interesting because A, it’s really dry, as I was kind of saying as I was reading it. But it also really kind of boils into the more legal administrative things that people in HR do in terms of, you know, filling out forms, being compliant with labor law, figuring out employee benefits, things like that. And like, those are not the sexy parts of HR, and we’re not gonna talk about them so much today, but it’s worth remembering that back when…or if you still do have, but back when you had, like, another job, that there was somebody whose job it was to make sure that you have the right health plan, whose job it was to make sure that you were taking breaks or only working the number of hours that you were being paid to work and things like that. Because I know those are some areas where we tend to slack on managing our personal human resources as freelancers.

Next one is Human Resources are also responsible for the business’s most important asset, the employees. Department or section managers have a responsibility for their direct subordinates. However, HR are responsible for all employees wellbeing and concerns. And I like this definition because…it was interesting I was reading something about an HR person talking about what HR people do all day. And I’ve actually become unwittingly very familiar with this because when I got my coaching certification, a lot of people were, and still are, in the same place that I got certified, are internal coaches.

And so what that means is that they work in HR at all sorts of different companies, typically large ones. And they are becoming certified as coaches in order to coach people in their organization and create a culture where coaching and things like that. And so, I end up on a lot of phone calls with people who work in HR, and their concerns are often how to help people through very personal situations that they are showing up in the office of the HR person to talk about. It could be something that does have sort of, like, an HR connection such as like a family member’s health issue that they’re trying to figure out how to navigate and they need to know how the benefits work for that. But they’re also often things that are quite personal like divorces and even just, you know, sort of, issues of the more relationship variety and things like that.

So, I also think it’s interesting for us to know that there are in this, you know, umbrella, as I said, of the HR environment, there’s also space for somebody who’s your sounding board, who talks to you or who listens to you more often is the case, about all sorts of issues that are going on. And that’s one other thing that I see a lot or rather hear on coaching calls and things like that, a lot of people missing.

A lot of people are feeling very alone with their writing and alone with their business in a way where, you know, when something comes up, whether it’s a client issue…and that’s a lot easier to, like, go bitch about on Facebook, or something that’s more personal. You don’t have your, like, work wife or husband-type person that you can turn to and talk to about it. You also don’t have somebody you can go to if you really feel like you don’t have anyone to talk about it. And so, you end up kind of stuck in this little bubble. So, I think that’s one other area of human resources that those people are, you know, trained for and tending to be there for, that we often don’t consider having somebody in that role.

It was interesting, just in the week before I came here for this Traverse conference that I’m here for, I had lunch with another business owner, and it was, like, the worst day. Like, I had zero minutes to do anything. I was walking and writing three emails…just like, well, walking a block down the street just, you know, because I had to do so many different things at once. And I had lunch with this person, and it was so important because we talked about all of these random little kind of things, like business owner things, how do you do that? Why do you do that? Like, does that work for you? Like, what’s going on with you right now? What are you frustrated about? All these kinds of things.

And it was so useful to have that conversation. And, obviously, you know, finding somebody who’s in a similar level as you, that you don’t dislike chatting with, that, you know, you can get together in the same place. All of those things can present different difficulties. But I’ve heard from some other people who are location-independent, and not writers, but have a different job that they do location-independent, that they do these wine or coffee dates with people where they’ll have, like, a video Skype date with somebody just so that they can kind of be together. And they’ll both have a drink of something depending on their time zone. And they basically do the same thing. So, just because there’s not somebody in your area that you can coordinate schedules with to do this doesn’t mean that you can’t find somebody for that sort of function.

So, the last definition on here is Human Resources is in charge of dealing with all issues related to the people within your organization. This includes recruiting…sorry, it’s very small, I know, recruiting and hiring people, as well as onboarding employees. But it also involves tasks related to retain employees long-term. For instance, HR might develop wellness initiatives, provide guidance regarding disciplinary actions, or promote career development or training programs to strengthen employee satisfaction. Additionally, HR handles compensation and benefits.

Now, I have this definition last because it is my…I don’t want to say, like, it’s my most favorite, I don’t think you can play favorite with definitions, that’s kind of weird. But it’s the one that encapsulates not just a lot of what we’re gonna talk about today and what I want to talk about today, but I really like how it encapsulates the purpose of HR. Obviously, they’ve got this thing that we’ve seen in a lot of these definitions about issues relating to the people within your organization, but then it talks about retaining people, and particularly thinking about that in a long-term way, as well as this idea of onboarding. So, it’s interesting because I never think about calling it this when I’m working with people in a coaching setting, but this idea of onboarding yourself to your freelance life, or to a new client, or to a new physical location, if you’re nomadic, or just traveling for a bit.

I hear a lot of people also run into issues with reentry, so, like, re-onboarding themselves to work after their vacation. These are all things that if you were in a corporate setting, you would be… Let’s say you were somebody who traveled like we do and you were traveling a lot for work, there would be an HR person who you could come to them and say, “Gosh, you know, like…” I ran into somebody actually who does recruiting for an MFA program, for instance, and she and I talked a lot about this.

And she’s on the road, like, 40 plus weeks a year for work. And we talked about all these different things that she does. And, you know, she could go in and say to her HR person, “Gosh, you know, I feel like every time I get to a new place or every time I step back into the office or whatever, I’m just having such a hard time getting going again. What should I do? How can I, you know, like, get back on the boat? Are there some resources that I’m not using? Is there something we can do with my travel schedule to make it better?”

And that human resource person would, like, help her figure this out, right? You know, as I say it like that, it almost makes me feel like the work equivalent of your school counselor, right, in terms of talking to you about relationships and things like this. But it’s important to think about it that way, that in your overall conception of your company that you’re building, there needs to be a place for the hat that you wear to be that person, okay, to be that person for yourself. And that might mean that you and your weekly meeting, that you have with yourself, to look at your finances and your to-do lists and different things like that, you set aside some time to ask yourself these questions. And I have some questions that we’ll look at later that are some sample ones that we can ask.

But also, like, these are some important ones, like, what are you struggling with right now that we can make easier, right? But something that I wanted you to also notice is that most of the definitions that we looked at were lists of things that HR people do. And that is for a very important reason, because HR is, of all of the things that we’re gonna talk about, literally, including sales, marketing, everything, of all of the things that we’re gonna talk about in this series, HR is the one that is probably the most different, from company to company, in terms of what people do on a daily basis. And I don’t mean, like, the people who are doing benefits and paperwork and just looking at resumes or coming in and stuff like that, I mean, kind of the slightly higher level HR people. This is probably one of the areas where there’s the most divergence from company to company that I’ve seen about what people do on a daily basis. And that’s because of this idea of company culture, okay.

And so, I heard a really cool analogy about this earlier today that was on a webinar. It was about business, generally. It was about scaling your business and stuff like that. But he had a really cool way of describing what culture was. So he said, imagine a fish tank that’s clear, and you see that some of the fish are sort of struggling and moving slowly and they seem to not be doing well. Do you take out one fish, and then another fish, another fish, and test them to see what’s wrong with them? No. You test the water first. You test the water and see if there’s something going on in the water. And he said your culture is that water.

So, you can think about that in a corporate setting, and that makes sense. But how that applies to us, as freelance businesses, I know can often be a lot harder to imagine, because we don’t think of ourselves as having a company culture. But I so promise you that you do. I could just go through, like, people that I know, like freelancers that I’ve worked with, and I could tell you what their company cultures are. They always have hallmarks. You know, some of them are perfectionist places where nothing but, like, working the most hours, like, really stringing yourself out, pouring your entire self into your work will be accepted.

And we can think about other, you know, company cultures that look like that, right? There’s a lot of them, right? We could think about, you know, this doesn’t happen so much with freelancers, but I actually do know a couple like this. You know, there’s some where it’s, like, all about the numbers. Like, it’s all about sending out the most pitches, landing the highest value assignments, getting the work done quickly and moving onto the next thing in a very kind of Wall Street deals kind of way. Like, those type of freelance cultures exist. I know some people like that.

Then there’s some people who are…a culture that, you know, I almost think about it like the room with the fireplace in the corner and like the very huggy kind of blanket. Like, their culture is almost like a dream library or something, where everything is very quiet, and very calm, and has a pace, and it’s very comfortable and very taken care of, right? So, different freelancers all have these different cultures, whether they have intentionally created them for themselves, which is certainly the case with some people, or whether they are just holdovers of the way that they used to work in a different setting, right?

Some people have a culture that’s very about self-care, for instance. I know some folks like this, where it’s very much about, like, you will absolutely do your walk or your exercise or going out or eating very healthy food or whatever. Like, where that is such a top priority, and the work certainly comes next to that, but, of course, benefits from all these things. So, culture is something that is central to what HR people do, but because it’s like this invisible glue, it doesn’t exactly show up anywhere. So, it’s kind of interesting because all of these things that I’ll go through right now, that make up, sort of, on paper, what HR is or what HR does or what have you that are these different things, they all come together to form culture. And culture is interesting because, like I said, it’s something that’s kind of hard to pin your nose on.

I was just describing some, but people tend to have a hard time kind of describing their own corporate culture, I find, even, like, in larger companies. But it’s something that has a lot of moving parts to make it happen. And we’ll talk… Like I said, I’ll go through these functions right now, about what they are. But on this same other webinar that I was watching earlier from somebody else, and he had a really great quote, which was from another kind of big name and business book publishing that you guys would know, but anyway, I don’t remember which one he said. But it was that, culture changes when leaders change.

So, the culture comes directly from leaders’ behavior. So, we’re gonna talk, at the very end of this webinar series, about you as the big boss, as the big manager of all of these different facets of your company, and how you are leading yourself, how you’re leading your company into its future. But it’s important to remember that these culture changes…like if you feel like your company is very hectic and very perfectionist or whatever, if you feel like that’s how you’re working, yeah, you have clients who might have certain expectations from you, but those are also things that you are allowing to be said, you’re allowing to be working with those clients and all of those things.

So, your culture, no matter what it looks like, if it’s not what you want, I just want to make sure that you know that you, as the leader of the company of you, are the one who can change that. So, like, whatever about your culture that you might not like, we can do something about it. Not necessarily we together, but, you know, we, like, the community. There are always things here that you can change.

So, let’s look at the different things that run into that. Okay. So this came up in a couple of definitions about HR that we looked at, recruitment and selection. And even when I was looking at kind of how the average HR person spends their day, a lot of it does tend to be in recruitment, especially at companies. We’re going to look at Google as a case study in a little bit, and I’ll tell you why. But at Google, for instance, they have a policy of doing an average of four interviews with every candidate, and they’re kind of obnoxious the way they do them. They also have random people who will never work with this person, who are in a totally different team, interview them for a couple of different reasons.

And so, like, interviewing and coordinating interviews and looking at resumes and all that, is, like, a really big part of what HR people do. And I have that on here, both because it’s something that HR people do, and so it’s kind of important to think about, but also because I want you to think about how you are putting yourself up for roles. As in, like, when you are applying either just by sending a cold kind of a marketing letter or pitching an editor or actually applying to a job listing online.

I just want you to also keep in mind that you are kind of deciding, with your HR hat on, to put the technician, the writer part of you, up internally for this position. And working with people on their resumes, and helping them move around internally is totally something that HR people do. But they are, obviously, looking for the absolute best fit. And I think that a lot of times when I see folks telling me that they’ve applied for X, Y and Z thing that was on the internet, there’s, like, two different types of replies.

One is, “Oh, you know, I spent, I don’t know, 15 hours this last week, like, applying to things I saw listed online. I haven’t heard anything yet.” And the other side is, “Oh, yes, sometimes I apply to the jobs listed, and I always find great jobs that way.” And the difference between those two camps in terms of, you know… Obviously, there’s efficiency difference there, right, so one person is getting results the other is not. But tends to come down to people who are only looking at the things that they’re really qualified for. So, I just wanted you to think about that when you’re sort of, you know, putting yourself up for a position, okay?

So, in terms of this training and development, this is obviously a big part of what HR people do as well. It’s gonna be something that’s really relevant to us, and so when I come back to this slide and talk all about, like, sort of tips and tactics and strategies you can pursue for here, I’ll come back, and I’ll talk quite a bit about this. But training and development in terms of creating onboarding procedures for employees, creating internal opportunities for development, you know, sort of coordinating external opportunities for development training, even, obviously, like sexual harassment training, diversity training, things like that, all of that comes under HR.

But I specifically broke out four different things here, new employee orientation we already talked about, continuing orientation, I mentioned a little bit, and we’ll get into that. But also this idea of career planning is big, okay. And I know that, obviously, we have an annual review series in our webinar library and we always talk about this towards the end of the year, but it’s something I’ll also be thinking about kind of all the time as well. And managing your manager is something that we will get into because you all have managers and they are all you, they’re not your clients, and you need to think about how you’re managing yourself and your workflow.

So, compensation and benefits is, obviously, something that we feel like we don’t have a lot of control over as freelancers, right? You get the clients that you have, you know, like, you can negotiate a certain amount about what they pay you, but benefits is definitely something we do have some leeway around in terms of what benefits you choose to give yourself. And I know, you know, being able to pop out in the middle of the day and do something or traveling, these all feel like great benefits, but those are also just functions of your job.

So, there’s also, like, real tangible benefits that you need to think about for yourself because it’s an important part. This idea of rewards, it’s an important part of work, getting work done, feeling valued for your work as well. So, we’ll talk more about that. And this idea of policy formulation. This is actually something that I hear a ton about from the HR people that I know, is writing policies is really, like, a big part of what they do. And it’s something that, throughout this series we’re talking about, right, is how… Way back, in the very first webinar in this series, we looked at what are the job descriptions for yourself, for all of these different areas, right? And that, in and of itself, is kind of a way of writing policies.

But there’s also this idea that policies for how you work, for what’s acceptable, for what you will or won’t put up with, you know, all these different things, that if you’re still in a full-time position, not as a freelancer, or that if you once were, that you might remember are posted, like, on message boards around and different things like that. This is also a core part of the HR function that I think a lot of us miss out on.

Now, employee and labor relations is a little bit lesser. So this is more for things like when there’s unions involved and different things like that. But also what comes under this is this idea of, like, whistle blowing. So, I had an experience of this when I was in corporate America very briefly, before moving over into academia, which was that somebody that I worked with who was, like, not my boss but in a sort of managing a group that I did marketing for and stuff, did something super, super unethical and very problematic. And I had to go tell somebody about it and then he was really nasty about it.

And so, that’s something, obviously, that we think about when we think about HR. It’s like, “Oh, somebody told HR on somebody…” “Oh, you have to go to HR with this,” or something like that. And that’s one thing that is for sure lacking for you, as a freelance business owner, is having that person where if you’ve done something for yourself or your business that’s not good, you know, whether it’s you didn’t negotiate something in a contract with somebody, and now it’s causing problems or something like that, there is no third party to go to. There’s no whistle blower, all these things. But it’s important to think about how that situation would be handled if you were not your boss and there was an HR person around. And I think it’s, like, a very interesting question that I see…these kinds of things come up a lot, and people handle them in very, very different ways.

Now, the last… Oh, there’s two more. On risk management here. This is one that…risk management from a legal perspective, we’re going to talk about in the next webinar. But this is more in the way of making sure… One place that I saw mention, like, making sure in hospitals that hazardous waste is disposed off properly, so it doesn’t create issues for employees and things like that. Also, risk management in terms of who’s hired, like drug testing and background tests. These are all things that don’t really come up for us quite so much.

But this idea of strategic management, I just wanted to look at, for this idea of human resource planning, okay? Because, I mean, I can’t really think of any one single freelance writer that I’ve ever talked to who has some idea about how they are stewarding themselves as a human resource past the current calendar year. Whether that’s, you know, setting an idea to grow the number of vacation days available or to add more benefits in the future or something like that. I really can’t think of anyone I’ve ever talked to who has some ideas for that planning of stewarding themselves as a human resource to go more than a year out from the present time.

So, like, sometimes people have goals that are very loose like, “Oh, I’d like to spend more time with my family,” or, “I’d like to do this,” or, “I’d like to do that.” But this idea of strategic human resource planning, I really don’t see. And that’s something that’s very, very core actually to what human resource managers do today. And, in fact, I know people who work in what are called HR Innovation Centers, in fact, who work a lot on these different things.

So, we’ve looked at these different areas of HR. I want to just step back for a second and put you in the shoes of an HR person in a company of any size. Now, obviously, this statistic is gonna be really different depending on where you are, particularly for people who are, you know, perhaps living abroad in a country where they’re not from originally because it’s less expensive or because it’s interesting or something like that. So, these statistics change, you know, quite a bit from here to there, but this is the reality right now, guys. I looked at a lot of different places, and I couldn’t quite find one statistic that I found all-encompassing enough to include. But the situation is basically that globally, generally, right now, and this has gone back for, like, I think until about 2014. I saw 70% to 80% of people are looking for a new job. What does that mean?

I mean, does it mean that, like, the job sucked? No. Like, you’ve probably heard the unemployment rate, at least in America, is really low right now. It’s really a seller’s market in terms of people who are looking for jobs, have a lot of control. Which means that for people in HR functions, literally, like, their most important thing to do right now, the thing that makes their paycheck make sense is for them to keep butts in seats, for them to keep employees super happy and engaged and staying in their job and producing. Because finding a new employee and onboarding a new employee is a really expensive process.

When I worked at MIT, I remember hearing that it costs about a million dollars, I’m not kidding you, to get a new professor in. Okay. So, let me break that down because even I talked to my husband who had been in academia for a bit and has a lot of friends in academia and he disagreed with me, and then we talked about this, and now he agrees. So, a million dollars to get a new professor in, okay? And I don’t mean, like, their pay for life. So, obviously, there’s having professors coming to visit, there’s like some staff time of reviewing different applications, different things like that. But it also breaks down into these other things that you don’t think about, which is that when a professor goes somewhere, especially if they’re a science professor, they need all sorts of equipment and different things like that. But then, it also matters to them who their grad students are that they’re gonna do research with and other assistants and things like that.

So, the total package for a professor is not just their own salary, it’s also gonna be other rewards and benefits or whatever you wanna call them, which are gonna be, you know, like, a fancy new machine or money to bring in new students through scholarship or something like that. And then, there’s also relocation fees, which are not just moving the professor and their family from wherever they currently are, but they also might include temporary housing. And professors often get money towards having a house in an area, particularly if it’s expensive. Somebody that I know at Princeton had an experience with this recently, but also really kind of…

Largely in the news, there was a whole scandal of some kind that I don’t quite remember exactly what it is. I’m sure you can look it up if you want because it was a very big scandal. But there was some scandal involving some dean at Stanford and their significant other who was also a professor. And I think it was that they were getting divorced and one professor who was part of this relationship was getting fired and there was, like, a wrongful termination suit or something. So, that should be enough for you to look it up. But part of what was going into the suit was that they had been given a very substantial bit of money towards buying a house in the area because it’s so unaffordable.

So, companies when they, right now, are looking at talent retainment or talent recruitment or something like that, a lot of this goes into benefits, and how do you make something really appealing for somebody. Now, I know so many people who have not left their jobs yet, who have, like, horrible bosses and all sorts of things and just crave being out, crave having the freelance life, freedom over their time, you know, the ability to just go walk their dog in the middle of the day, all of these things. But that’s shouldn’t be the full package because it can’t be, it’s really not enough. When your job or your freelance writing gets difficult, that’s not enough to retain you. That’s not gonna be enough just being able to control your own time or walk your dog or, like, go meet a friend in the middle of the day or work from somewhere else that’s not, you know, your previous corner of the world. That’s not enough to retain you. You need more. And you need to be because no one else is. You’re your own HR person, right? You need to be thinking about, what do you need to retain you?

And it’s twofold…I mean, it’s many fold we looked at, but it’s not just about benefits and rewards and stuff. It’s also about how to make you happy with the work that you’re doing and engaged with it, okay? And so, employee engagement is just an absolute major bet of what people are looking at right now, people who work in HR, that is. Okay.

Now, what does employee engagement mean? Okay. I’m gonna use an interesting example because it both has gotten a lot of press and sort of a lot of, you know, gossip, if you will. There’s even a movie that’s kind of, sort of, about this, but it’s like a thriller, so it’s scary. But I want to take a second and talk about the culture of these big tech companies, okay? Now, I don’t wanna talk about things that are getting a lot of attention right now, which is, like, this whole Silicon Valley “bro culture” because I’ve been away from Silicon Valley too long to comment on that appropriately, so I’m not getting into that. But I wanna look at some of these things that we have heard a lot about, which is, like… Apple, I think, was really the first place where you would bring your dogs to work, for instance, right? There’s a lot of things like that.

And I wanna look at these cool tech companies, not because they do a lot of these cool work-life balance things that sort of make you feel like you don’t work at a company even though you definitely do. But I wanna talk about them because they’re actually very similar situations to what a lot of writers are in. Because, like, secretly, people who work in tech, one of the reasons that, you know, they have food at the office and they bring in movies, and all these different things is not just to keep them there all the time, but it’s because they would stay there all the time anyway. Okay.

People who write code for a living are like writers and that once they are in their project, they’re just sitting there usually, and they’re just jamming away on this thing, and they are just totally focused, and nothing exists outside of their computer screen, okay? And what does that sound like? It sounds like all of us when we’re working, you know, on a deadline or way in advance of our deadline and not in that procrastination zone, right?

So, there’s that idea of, we are very similarly people who just sit and do our things on the screen. We’re not in a lot of meetings. We’re not traveling around doing sales, you know, we’re not teaching. There’s so many other types of jobs that we have very little in common with, but we have interestingly a lot in common with these computer engineers, okay? And so, it’s also that we get into, like, this deep flow state where we’re working on our things. But besides that, there’s this other thing which is that the people in these companies tend to be very highly educated, highly intelligent, and also, like, quite independent…I don’t want to say exactly, like, free spirity, but they tend to be people who quite…like, people who are drawn to the freelance lifestyle, like, kind of just want to do their own thing their own way and they don’t really see why they need to do it this way, just because the company has told them to.

And it’s interesting because I grew up in Silicon Valley, so I’ve seen how this idea of, like, the cubicle farms and the people who work in coding and all of these things have changed over time. And I’ve watched how the Google offices have gotten, you know, like, really interesting and all of that, and how it’s swung back and forth a little bit. But the reason that I wanna use these tech examples is not just because they’re cool and sexy and in the news, but because they have a lot to do with how people who are similar to freelance writers, in terms of their work needs, are catered to by HR Innovation Centers that spend tons and tons and tons of money, and do tons and tons of experimentation about how best to support their employees, okay?

And this is a list, and this is like a very…I didn’t even have to think this hard about this list. There’s probably way cooler things that I’m not thinking about, but this is just a small list of things that, like, actually today Google provides for its employees. And I think that everything on here…everything on here is free. Okay. There are some things that they do give Google employees discounts on and things like this, but everything on this list is provided to Google employees for free.

So, for instance, you know when a big movie is coming out, they’ll book out the whole theater, and they’ll say what time do you wanna go on the opening day. In the California campus, they have…in the main campus…they have a couple of different campuses now, but on the main campus they literally just have, like, a vegetable garden, a very well-tended, nice organic vegetable garden where you can just go pick the tomatoes and bring them home to make dinner. I’m not kidding. It’s ridiculous. They have…this is kind of, like… It seems to me, like, one of the lamer things that Google does, but I think it’s important from this HR perspective, they have nap pods, okay? Like, how many times, if you’re still in an office or you previously were in an office, have you been at your desk and you’re just, like, “I can’t do it anymore?” Like, “I can’t…I’m just sitting here. I’m like practically sleeping.” Google is like, “Great. Stop. Go take a nap. Here’s a nap pod. Go put yourself in it and take a nap for a while.”

They have not just coffee and not just great coffee. You can also go to, for instance, like, a cafe place and get coffee for free where somebody is gonna make you an espresso drink. But they also have, on every single floor of the New York Office, for instance, places where you can make your own fancy espresso machine. Because it’s not just enough to give you free coffee, you should be able to have your coffee however you want it. If you really like to make the coffee, they want you to be able to make the coffee. And they want you to be able to make it with the best espresso beans and in an AeroPress or whatever.

But then the things that Google does, that I think not as many people know about, are that they also have so many events going on, whether they’re, like, frisbee games or concerts or, you know, some many great things with employees, but they also have talks by people. So, like, they’ve brought in the cast of “Hamilton” and “The Lion King” and all sorts of stuff like that. And then, they have groups for people who want to do, you know, whatever they’re interested in. I mentioned frisbee earlier in the New York office, they have a whole room of board games, and they have board game nights, okay.

So, these things all seem really fun, right? They all seem like ways that the corporate culture is fun or that the corporate culture cares about whatever you’re interested in or all these things, right? And I mentioned how these are also to kind of…on the one hand, you know, to keep the employees in the office, keep them working, give them everything that they need at the office, whether it’s medical attention or a massage or whatever. But also, like, those more shades of things where you have literally…in the New York Google office, for instance, they’re across the street from this really great food market that has really wonderful food from really cool brands and everything. And the Googlers never go there because the food in their office is so good, they don’t need to go across the street.

So they also are trying to provide things at the level, that the type of people with the disposable income who work at Google, what they would want to have anyway. They also cater to your artistic interests, like I said, people from “Hamilton” and all of that.

So, they’re really all-encompassing in terms of what would interest you, what would you like? We want to make that available to you, to support you, to show both that we care and also to make it easier for you to get your work done, right? Because you’re a happy person and you’re connected to the company. So, we can feel, like, that is like the Google culture, right? And we can think about how, oh, well, yeah, I could totally have my own, like, high-end coffee equipment in my apartment, like, won’t that be great and that’ll make my life easier. But do I really wanna spend $300 on an espresso machine? I don’t know if my company’s gonna make that investment. So, these aren’t examples like I’m saying exactly I want you to go and do that thing. But I kind of want to show you, like, the full gambit of things that people who work in HR at Google are thinking about providing for their employees.

Because for us, as freelancers, sometimes some of these things can make a really huge difference, like even… Like I said, an espresso machine might be one, right? Like, I used to not have good coffee anywhere in my neighborhood and so I’d have to walk like minimum… When I first moved here, it was, like, minimum of 40 minutes to get a good espresso drink or something. But, like, it didn’t occur to me, when I didn’t have a lot of clients, oh, I could just buy myself an espresso machine, right? Like, that didn’t occur to me, but it could have been a really big quality of life improvement for me.

But some of these are other ones that could be smaller, right? I’ve heard people talk about, like, I should just set up a regular tennis date or I should just go to a movie in the middle of the day because I can, or something like that. So, some of these are much smaller things, like taking a nap, right? Like, give yourself permission to take a nap. So, these are meant to inspire you, but not necessarily to be like, “Here are all the things that you should do because Google does.”

I wanted more to show you this idea of how Google’s culture is really enveloping, okay? Because like I said, they’re thinking about everything that might make the employee happy, keep them productive, keep them attached to coming out of these things, but it extends past that. Okay. So, if you go to the bathroom in a Google office, there are these printed sheets on the walls, in all of the Google bathrooms, that are tips for coding, for writing clean code. And sometimes they have these little case studies of, like, if you run into this issue, like, here’s a way to fix it, and all these things like that.

So, the Google culture is not just encompassing in terms of providing benefits, it’s also encompassing in thinking of tiny touch points where they can contribute to their employees doing their best work. Okay. Right. Like, I wanted to offer up this Google example as this idea of what are some touch points where you can reduce some friction in your work life in a way that will make you generally happier, smoother, more engaged, you know, healthier is also a big thing. One of the things that I also read about… There’s a whole book…besides my own personal connection to Google, there’s a whole book about how their HR works called Work Rules, Insights from Google.

And they did this whole experiment where they have tons of free food at Google, they have restaurants, they have different things, but they also have these little snacks sections everywhere. And this is pretty common to all of the tech companies. WeWork now has these things like this, where you just walk around, and there’s a little section where you can get your coffee, and they also have snacks. And so they did some experiments with healthy snacks versus candy, okay? And, generally, one of the things that Google does with their snacks is that they have, like, quite cool brands, like, they have like the pure or whatever it’s called, ice tea or things like that. I often find that I find something somewhere that I really like, like a new type of bar or something and my husband’s like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve had those at Google for, like, six months.” So, what they do though is that they want people to eat healthier food so that they are…obviously, have more brain power so that they’re healthier in the long-term, all sorts of things.

For them, it is an investment in their employees to have their employees eat healthier food, but they can’t be overly parental about it. So, what they did is that they put all of the healthy snacks in glass containers, and they put them on higher shelves, and they displayed them really nicely. And then they put all the candy in colored containers. You can’t see what’s in there, and they put them lower down and harder to get to. And sure enough, they have stats on this, on the number of calories that were decreased by making these small changes in how the snacks are displayed. And I don’t have the exact stat, but I think it was, like, 3.1 million calories fewer were consumed by the employees, just at the New York office over seven weeks running of this experiment, okay?

So, there’s things that you can do for yourself at different touch points, from this HR sort of mindset. And they can be things like that, like I said, like keeping the healthy snacks out on the counter instead of chocolate. So that when you’re working, and you’re tired, and you don’t have time, you have to stop for lunch, there is a healthy snack right in front of you. That might be something that you need to go share it with your spouse, but if you have a work area, you can also keep them on your desk. Or you just keep a little jar of healthy snacks next to your desk, as long as they don’t have so many calories that constantly snacking on them is gonna make you sick, because that’s not the goal of this HR healthy food thing, right?

So, thinking about what are some touch points for yourself, or you can start to integrate some of these types of things. They can be really small. Like, if you work by yourself or, sorry, live by yourself, put something interesting on the bathroom wall like they do at Google, I don’t know. But think about what are just some little ways that you can show, with your HR hat on, you can show your employee self that the company you cares about you. I know there’s a lot of split personalities there right now. But this, like I said, is so crucial. Employee retention engagement is the number one concern of every HR person right now. And what we do as freelancers, wearing all of these different crazy schizophrenic hats, weathering all these client things, is really tough, okay? And somebody needs to be looking out for us, and it can’t always be our friends, partners, spouses, families, whatever. So, whenever you do your next personal review, or after this call, or something like that, I want you to think of a couple of touches.

Now, the next step though is how to make sure those touches are right for you and your company, okay? I talked a lot about company culture earlier, which is this whole idea of the fish swimming in the water, right? So, I’ve talked about a few different freelance company cultures. I’ve also talked, like I said, about Google culture and these different things that they do and how that presents in terms of what their culture is. But I just want you to take…I’m just gonna give you, like, 10 to 15 seconds just off of the top of your head, three words that encapsulate what you want your company culture to feel like. Just three, and how you want it to feel.

I mentioned a couple of different ones earlier. I mentioned the ones that are more, like, sort of cozy, calm. I mentioned some that are more, like, about the numbers and accomplishment and, like, success. I mentioned some…not necessarily in the most positive light, but that are about, you know, perfectionism and really wringing out like the last drop of everything. But what is your ideal company culture for yourself? I bet a lot of you went into freelancing…whether you’re still in your day job or not, but I bet a lot of you went into freelancing having an idea of what it was, and then probably realizing at some point that it didn’t look like that. So, what was that ideal? Okay, great. You’ve got three, I hope.

Okay. So the next question becomes, how do we go about creating that and then also doing this split personality work of making sure that somebody is there, thinking about that? So, let’s just look again at these main HR functions. So, I talked a little bit about recruitment and how to think about that. But also you can think about that, like I said, when you’re applying for gigs or when you’re looking at prospective clients, does this prospective client fit into my company culture? Does the language they use fit into the way that I want my company to be interacting or the environment that I want to put myself in, right?

But like I said, I want to take time to talk about this training and development. So, new employee orientation, I mentioned how it’s something that, you know, I don’t see so many people quite thinking about. Some people do, but you might also want to think in terms of, from this cultural standpoint, about new client orientation and not just for your clients, but for you. What is your sort of internal HR way that you get set up to work with a new client? Okay. I also talked about sort of an interesting subset of this, which is onboarding yourself after a trip. And it can also be onboarding yourself for a trip, you know, like to be working in a new place or off boarding yourself from being at home. So, there’s a lot of sort of subsets of that orientation-type thing.

And this idea of continuing education is really big. And I wanted to take a second to talk about this. So, this comes up periodically where people will ask me why I go to so many conferences or what I’m doing at different conferences. And I explain that I actually have to be really judicious every year, even though it seems like I go to a lot because I’m trying to cover a lot of different bases and travel actually, at least in terms of spending the whole day at conferences, as little as I can. But the problem is that I wanna be learning and developing and having information to share with all of you guys on how to run a business, how to do, you know, digital marketing and sales, and all these things for our small businesses.

Then, what’s going on in digital content, period, but particularly in the travel space. Then, what’s going on with particularly travel writing and travel writers and how is that changing, as opposed to just digital content in the travel space but us as travel content business owners, specifically. And then, there’s the whole field of magazine writing and what’s going on with magazines, what’s going on with editors, what’s changing for people who are writing for those magazines. Then, likewise, with content marketing writing for companies and tourism boards. And then likewise, writing for books and in the book publishing industry. So, I’m trying to touch a lot of different bases, but then I also think about them in a couple of different ways.

So, there’s conferences that I go to almost strictly to learn things. Like, it’s typically when I’m going to a conference for something that I know zero about. Like, I don’t know, if there’s, like, a new type of technology or, you know, video or some new social or something like that, I might go to a conference to just try to, like, learn, soak things up, talk to people, get answers to my questions. So, there’s ones that are more informational. Then there’s conferences that I go to that are for business development. So, it means that maybe I’m sponsoring or maybe not, but I’m going there with the intention of picking up new business.

Now, I mention this a lot, that if you are a freelance writer for business development, you should go to the conferences where your ideal clients are hanging out, which means you should go to the conferences for them, not to the conferences for freelance writers. You’re not going to freelance writer conference to pick up clients, okay?

But then the third sort of function of conferences is to network with your peers or people that are similar level or a little just past you. Now, that’s what you might be going to conferences with freelance writers for. And that’s why I come to…you know, this conference, Traverse, there’s more learning. But for instance, like, I might go there to talk to other people who’ve had, you know, online companies in the travel space for a long time that I’ve known for a while, and see what’s going on and what’s changed and have kind of some of these big discussions about where the industry is going and things like that.

So, those are three different sort of functions. So, there was learning, business development and networking, okay, were the three different functions of that. But besides that, that’s continuing education of going to conferences, right? But then there’s also continuing education that you’re doing online. Obviously, there’s webinars like mine, there’s books that you can read. There’s so many business books. I often mention these in the webinars in our business series, but there’s a lot that are really foundational, that can be really eye-opening that I would really love to see more of you guys, if not reading, at least like reading some cliff notes on Medium or something like that.

So, there’s a lot of different continuing education, and like I said, I usually think of that as falling into a few different buckets. So, there’s continuing education on being in business. There’s continuing education on the craft of writing, right? So, those are, like, the two polar opposites. Then there’s continuing education on what’s going on in an industry. And that industry might be digital marketing, that industry might be book publishing, that industry might be online travel content, that industry might be, you know, tourism boards, different things. So, like I said, there’s the industry updates, then there’s the running of the business, and then there’s the writing craft. So, those are the three different types of sort of areas of continuing education that I recommend you think about tending to.

Now, like I said, under this training and development, there’s also career planning and managing your manager. We’re gonna look at managing your manager on another slide, but this idea of career planning is something that, like I said, I wanna recommend that you think about besides just the annual review. If you have a weekly check-in that you do with yourself, that’s really more looking at your numbers, and you know how many pitches you need to be doing this week, what income do you have coming in, different things like that. When I say career planning here, I mean being strategic about what clients you’re going after, how you balance your portfolio of clients, different things like that.

Now, compensation, benefits, and rewards. Remember, this is something that I said, like, it seems like we don’t have a lot of control over, but you really do. And so, some of this is goal setting, right? You know, we’re gonna talk about sales, I think, towards the end of this month. And so, some of this is like, as a company, setting a goal about what income is gonna come in so that you can pay yourself a certain amount. But I also find that, and we looked at this a little bit, but not in like huge depth, the separation between church and state of finances and what finances go for what, is usually like a very murky swamp that we’re all swimming in, right?

So, there’s also this idea that your compensation to yourself, of what is separate from your business income, is also something that you can think about as sacred, even with whatever your numbers are right now. And so, there’s a certain amount that you can think about, this is my… Like, this is my salary. Like, this is part that I just get, like, when I used to have a job, and I don’t think about this as something that is also covering, you know, my travel expenses and my this, and my that, and my other thing. This is something that just comes to me and this is something where I can feel like, oh, you know, if I want to buy something for myself personally, like, it comes out of this. This is my money. This is not, like, the larger business budget or something. So, you can definitely think about compensation in that way.

But then also this idea of benefits and rewards, right. So, like, there’s a company that I like to look at as a model for a lot of location-dependent thing, called Basecamp. And they actually have their entire employee handbook online.

So, they actually provide a certain amount every month for their employees for things like yoga classes or gym memberships or whatever. But they also provide a certain amount for a CSA and some different things like that. See? So, it’s totally legit on your taxes and everything, okay, for you to give yourself some of these benefits through your company. And like I mentioned the coffee machine example before, that’s actually an office expense, okay? That’s not something that you’re like, “Oh, should I think about this?” It’s an office expense. Okay? Period. You write it off in your taxes as an office expense.

So, some of these benefits that might make a huge difference for you in terms of happiness and engagement, like feeling valued, feeling that your work is giving you things, things like this, are potentially relatively small things to think about. So, this goes back to those touch points like I was talking about. And, like, I don’t love the idea of perks, of thinking about it as perks, like it says in the Basecamp thing that I just put in here. Benefits is one. Rewards is, again, kind of another way of looking at it. But like I said, I like to think about it more as culture. Is your culture of your company around maintaining you as a human resource in a very healthy fashion? Like, is that a priority, healthy humans? Like, is that one of your three, you know…I guess it would be two words, but is that one of your three things that you want to use to define your corporate culture?

Now, I mentioned this a little bit when we looked at this slide before, but this idea of policy formulation is definitely something that I recommend kind of putting on your to-do list, generally. Because it might make a lot of decisions much easier for you to have some policies that you write out, from an HR perspective, around different things. And those could be really simple. For instance, they could be like, I do not walk the dog or do house chores during business hours. That could be, like, a freelance HR policy, okay? Or it could be something about, you know, running errands for other people or meeting other people during the day. Like, that could be one, whatever it is for you. I’m just thinking of a couple of things that I’ve heard people mention recently.

But these policies can also be around, you know, what clients you do want to work with, or what words are…You know, if somebody says this to you that, like, require you to revisit the relationship, all sorts of different things. Okay. So, like, the HR policy segment is something that you can really read a lot more about online. It’s quite dry, but in case it’s a road that you wanna go down, I find that kind of thinking about these things conceptually and putting them on paper can be really freeing for a lot of folks. I’ve worked with some people on this, in terms of how they say yes and no to things and what permissions that they give themselves in their business.

So, if that’s something that you find is difficult for you, that might be a place to invest a little bit of time. Now, I mentioned that these other ones are not so apropos to our area. And strategic management, I mentioned a little bit earlier, is this thing where I really would love to have some more people telling me that they have some, you know, HR goals or HR plans for their selves, whether it’s a vacation or, you know, including a CSA as a benefit for yourself or whatever that is, whatever idea that you might get in this webinar today or have afterwards.

So, one last thing that I want to leave you with, and we’re gonna get to management later in this series, is this idea of a big part of what HR does is, you know, sort of manage…I don’t know if you want to say managing or overseeing really, but being involved in the interaction between employees and their managers. This is a big part of it, okay? And you’ll notice that I didn’t talk about performance reviews because I feel like A, nobody likes this, but B, we kind of talked quite a bit about the various things that go into those in operations. And to be honest, I think that in some corporate settings, a performance review is just like the only time of the year that employees hear how they’re doing, or it’s the only time of the year that people really get to bitch about their bosses.

So, I wanna look…rather than talking about this idea of performance reviews, which we all think of as a very HR-ry function, I wanna take a second to talk about the idea of a manager review. So, this next slide, if it ever manages to move forward, is from the book that I mentioned called Work Rules, which is the book about Google’s HR culture and different experiments that they’ve run. And this list of questions for the survey is something that they actually do twice a year. And it was really interesting the stats that they had about how this improved, not just perception of manager performance, but also overall employee engagement, because people felt like their managers were more looking out for them.

And I can tell you, because I talk to so many folks, even, like, right now I’m at a conference and just, you know, over lunch we were chatting about this stuff, that a lot of the expectations that we set for ourselves, as freelancers, are way beyond what we would ever have in an office setting from our boss. I mean, if you had a really crazy stressful job like working in finance or something like that before, maybe this isn’t true, but I bet that they are. And so, one of the hats that we must wear, in our HR capacity, is as the go-between, between our manager-selves and our worker-selves to control the, you know, I don’t know if you wanna call it severity, but the intensity of those expectations that we put on ourselves.

But this is a really cool survey that they do twice a year at Google that I just wanna…I typed it all out for you. I didn’t have the typed version. I had to type it out from the book, just because I find it really interesting to think about how we’re managing ourselves. Because that’s really one of the most important functions of employee engagement. Something crazy like 90% of people, I saw the statistic, leave their jobs because of their relationship with their boss.

And I think…there’s also this axiom out there that people stay in bad companies because they have good bosses, and people leave good companies because they have bad bosses, right? So, how you “boss yourself,” but how you are interacting with yourself, as your own manager, is a really important part of this human resource discussion, okay. So, the questions on here are…you’re supposed to just kind of rate them yes or no. I think they might also have a numeric system, but you can really decide… I didn’t wanna put too much on here, you can decide how you want to administer this, okay?

But the points are, my manager gives me actionable feedback that helps me improve my performance. Is that something that you’re doing? Because this is something that I see a lot of people skipping and it can be really wonderful to give yourself the permission to just debrief, in an actionable way, about something that’s happened without bringing, you know, whether you want to call it emotions or whatnot. But to look at things that you’ve gone through as a company and just debrief them with yourself as if you’re a manager giving actual feedback, okay.

My manager does not micromanage. I get involved in details that should be handled at other levels. My manager shows consideration for me as a person. My manager keeps the team focused on our priority results and deliverables. Are you doing that for yourself as your own manager? Are you kind of checking in with yourself to stay focused on results and deliverables? My manager regularly shares relevant information from his or her manager and senior leadership. This is an interesting one because, for us, that kind of ties into this idea like I was talking, about the continuing education, right? So, it’s like bringing in information from what’s going on in the industry would kind of be a similar one here.

My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about my career development in the past six months. Right. This is what we were talking about before. Career planning isn’t something that you should just do at that annual level. My manager communicates clear goals for our team. That’s another one that I know is something that we can be wishy-washy on. My manager has the technical expertise required to effectively manage me. This is a really interesting one because I see this a lot, especially with people in the blogging space, but even with writing, people who are a little worried about their craft side of their writing.

Do you have the technical expertise required to know if you have done a good job or not? We talked about doing a good job last week in quality control and what that really looks like and what that means. But, I think this idea of having the technical expertise to manage your own work and your own projects, if you don’t have it, like, go back to the continuing education section and beef up on that, okay? Now, next one I find can be really kind of like earth-shattering, you would recommend your manager to others, right? So, how would you compare yourself to other managers that you have had in your career in the past? Okay.

So, I wanna leave you guys with that. The next webinar in this series, we’re going to go into legal issues. I had some really interesting chats with people today about that, from a social media perspective that I’m interested in sharing with you. And then we’re gonna talk about the technical support aspects. And I have pulled together already some cool things for you guys on this as, well, people are always asking me for my app recommendation. So, we’ll go through that, and I might show you some of the ones that I have in my login and show you. We’ll see how that works out for time.

And then we’re gonna get into sales, marketing, all these things that I know that we usually spend so much time talking about.

So thank you so much for joining me today, and I hope that I inspired you with some different ideas, and didn’t make you too jealous of people who work at Google. And maybe you’re gonna go get yourself an espresso machine after this, or at least a movie ticket, right? So, I will talk to you guys next week.

Freelance Business Systems: Promotion, Promotion, Promotion Transcript

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Today, we are continuing our Freelance Business System series with Promotion, Promotion, Promotion. So, as we’ve gone through this series, we’re now several, several months in, we have looked at different functions of your average business, whether accounting, or legal, or operations, and how those relate to the freelance travel writer and, particularly, to the freelance travel writer of today. So, in today’s webinar, in particular, we’re kind of completing a trifecta of sales, marketing, and promotion under the umbrella of communications. We’re also gonna look at customer communications and how those work in large businesses, and what you can take from that for your own freelance business in the next webinar in this series.

But today, as we get into Promotion, Promotion, Promotion, I just wanna take a second to kind of re-establish because we’ve been at this series for so long, you know, what we’re doing with this is really in the vein of taking things that people, who are solopreneurs, whether that means they have a freelance business, or they have a blog based business, some might sell products, or they have more of a service business where they do more, you know, strategic communications, consulting, whatever that is, and taking a lot of the things that I see people struggle with, that have solutions in more traditional business practices and shining a light on those.

So, you know, for instance, promotion has kind of become a pervasive issue recently is a lot of overwhelm, in terms of, “There’s so many different things to do. There’s so many priorities. I have these business goals. I have these clients. You know, what should I do right now? What should I focus on? How can I make all of these things happen in the hours I have in the day?”

And that’s something, for instance, that we’re gonna look at in our webinar on management, which is really largely about that, about setting a strategic direction for your own enterprise, or organization, or whatever it is that you wanna call yourself and your business. So, today, as we go into Promotion, Promotion, Promotion, we are gonna look, obviously, at this age old thing of what do PR people really do anyway? You know, this is something that I think, particularly, for us, as travel writers, is always a question.

You know, we perhaps interact with PR people significantly more than your average human, I would say. It’s a pretty accurate assessment, in terms of PR people who need to give us things for stories, PR people who are soliciting writers to attend a trip, PR people who are planning trips or perhaps even accompanying us on a trip, PR people who are writing press releases that we use for stories, and so on and so forth. But I wanna start with kind of looking at what is the core priority of PR people? What are they really charged to do? Because I think, particularly, for us as writers, what we get involved in is a very specific subset of their work in a lot of ways.

And it’s a subset that can be misleading in terms of how PR works for us, you know, in terms of our own businesses, and what we need to be focusing on there. So, we’re gonna start by talking about what PR really is and what PR people do within a company. And I have some kind of examples of different tasks that they do, but we’re also gonna look at a couple of different definitions. And then I’ve kind of distilled down something that is kind of a jazzy buzzword today, influence, and looking at what that really means, and how that is the purview of PR folks.

And then I wanna take a minute to recap kind of something that we’ve talked about in a couple of webinars, which is this division between the marketing, sales and PR function, and particularly, how some of the things that you might be currently doing, and calling marketing or calling it your marketing time, might actually come under PR. And that’ll be really helpful when we get on to the end of the series, where we look at the management webinars, to have a really solid idea of what these different things are.

So, that as you’re thinking now, having learned about all these different functions of your business, what priorities you wanna have, you know, kind of what you wanna set aside for yourself, in terms of time spend, and things like that. So, to really be able to look back and be like, “I see. Actually, that time that I’m on social media, maybe that’s PR and what am I really doing PR of this type for anyway?” So, we’ll get into that a little bit. And then we’ll look at some specific takeaways, in terms of what does PR mean for you, with whatever type of business you have. If you’re a writer, who is primarily freelancing for magazines, or perhaps other different companies, versus if you have a blog of your own, that you’re trying to promote, and different things like that.

So, PR like I said, is something that, for travel writers, there’s often a lot of conceptions about it. I don’t for, you know, the sake of this webinar being a constructive place, but also, for the sake of PR people who I know who have a bunch of interesting quotes kind of bashing PR people, of which there are many floating around, but I just wanna take a second kind of look at this. Like, why is it, you know, that we have a lot of bad feelings about PR things as travel writers?

On the one hand, it’s because many of us have either directly had bad experiences or, you know, heard about them from our friends or read about them in a Facebook group, right? And part of that, I’ve touched on this in some other webinars, particularly, the one we have about getting yourself set up on an individual or a group press trip, but part of that stems from the fact that there are PR people out there who are very junior, it’s sort of the technical term, who are very fresh out of school or whatnot, and they are not as nuanced in how they apply things, perhaps they are not as experienced, perhaps they’re just not gonna have a future in PR, whatever the case may be.

And that often creates these kind of negative or friction-filled experiences that people can have in PR, and that can certainly happen in any field. But as we get into the definition of PR and what it can and should look like, I hope that you’ll see that PR is something also that doesn’t have to have the negative term or the negative sort of cloak that we travel writers can put on it, but also not just the negative cloak of, well, PR is spin, PR is taking something that’s not interesting or something, maybe, that’s negative, and trying to make it look good, trying to dress it up and put lipstick on that pig. I find pigs really cute. I don’t know about pig with lipstick, though. But you know, I think in the larger popular setting, there’s a conception that PR people are kind of doing something in some way fishy or underhanded, or something like that, to change what people should think about it.

There’s a certain form of influence in the negative term, in where it goes into the realm of manipulation. Now, obviously, there are people out there who owe their businesses and their livelihoods to the work of great PR people. There’s companies doing great things that perhaps wouldn’t have been known without PR. And over the course of this webinar, I want to encourage you guys to think about how your business might be among them, how your business might be something that can benefit from the right kind of PR. And again, I talk about this, whether your business is a blog or whether you are a freelance writer looking to make a name for yourself, either in terms of covering certain types of things, or the quality of your work, or whatever. Okay?

And so, as we go through this webinar, you know, I have some quotes up here to share with you, but I wanna really remind you that there’s so many things that become easier for you as a writer when you have a foothold. And sometimes that foothold comes from having a regular relationship with a particular magazine or outlet, or something like that, but often that foothold is just something that gives you confidence that you’re actually doing this as a job. And it’s really interesting to see how often that foothold comes in the form of recognition and often recognition from people who know you in normal life.

So, I frequently find writers who almost are kind of closeted, in terms of their freelance writing. Like, they don’t really talk to people about it or if they do, they kind of talk about it in a way where it’s almost like they feel like they kind of have to hide it. And part of that is maybe because they’re working really hard, but they haven’t gotten as many assignments as they want yet or something like that. And so, the way that you talk about it to people that you know is not, I don’t wanna say PR speak, but is not in the way that somebody who was paid to represent you and talk about your business would do it, okay?

And so, often, in those cases, when you are kind of looking for something to grab on to, to tell somebody who you’ve met or somebody that you already know, what you do, having something, you know, whether it’s a piece you’ve written has appeared somewhere or you have been interviewed, and that has appeared somewhere, or you have perhaps been, you know, a judge of something because of the fact that you are a writer, that you can, “Oh, well, like, you know, I do different types of freelance writing for different clients, you know, because of that, I’ve been able to…” and then I’m gonna tell you a cool story about this judging thing, so that it’ll make sense later, but there’s a lot of different things that fall into the toolkit of PR, that people would do to get the businesses they promote out there, that can create a sense for yourself of confidence, that you are really doing this thing, that you really have a business, that when you mention to other people what you do, you have something to say that you feel proud of, and that makes sense.

So, in terms of, like, these ideas that people have out there of what PR is, I wanted to start with kind of some…some of these may be more negative conceptions, but then show you what some really important people who have had businesses that have really grown, you know, in part because of PR, how they look at it. So, you know, on the one hand, there’s this idea that, well, no news is good news, but it’s like, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? But there’s this quote that I really like, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” So, that’s kind of a funny one because the idea is, obviously, at that point, you know, the publicity is that you’re no longer available for business.

But this is actually an interesting one because, at the same time, you know, how often has, for instance, the author of “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” The Girl in the Hornets’ Nest, I’m blanking on the exact names, but the movies with Noomi Rapace, you know, how often has somebody died and their business kind of blew up, right? So, it’s interesting to kind of look at this, of this idea of, like, “There’s no bad publicity except your own obituary,” even that can be wrong. So, in so many ways, kind of everything that you think about, about what publicity is or could be, there’s always another side to it. And I don’t have a definitions page in this webinar. There’s this term, news cycle.

So the news cycle, you’ve probably seen this word floating around more and more, and more, but the news cycle is kind of the pace at which the things that people are talking about change. So, the idea of the news cycle comes from that it used to be that newspapers went out primarily daily in the morning, sometimes there was evening papers as well, but that the news cycle was that everything would run that morning, and the next day would be a new news cycle. There’ll be new things that would be news. And obviously, social media, and even just email, and all sorts of differences in how communication happens, have drastically changed the news cycle because news can travel much, much faster, whether it’s news from major news outlet or just news of a more person to person transmission method.

So, this one from Richard Branson I really like, and Richard Branson, obviously, is somebody who has built a brand for himself, that really stands for a lot of things. He has a very interesting life. He runs a lot of different brands. But he also, of course, has his island that he owns in the Caribbean, where he regularly entertains other celebrities, and he gets up and goes surfing in the morning, I believe.

And he has an interesting life, right? And so, he looks at it as, “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.” And this is something that we’re gonna dig into more in this webinar, but I wanted to put that in there. Because I think we all kind of know in this age of, not just social media, but of, you know, peer reviewing or whatever is the technical term for that these days, I’m sure there’s many now that it’s grown, but of, like, the Yelp and, like, TripAdvisor generation, you know, there’s a lot more stock in this social currency in what a relatively, you know, un-expert, uninformed, but known to the reader person, thinks about something, can often travel a lot farther than even what an expert says about something, right?

You know, if you’re going somewhere, how likely are you to look at Lonely Planet for restaurant recommendations, unless you really can’t find something else, for instance, right? So, the next one we’ve got on here is from J. D. Rockefeller, who obviously, I’m sure, unless you have never ever been to the U.S., and even in that case, you probably are still familiar with this name, he says, “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” And this goes back to what I was talking about, about the role of PR in our own lives as freelance writers.

There’s a lot of times when people are working really hard and doing all sorts of great stuff, but the way that they frame that narrative to other people that they need to communicate about their work with, whether that’s family, or friends, or prospective people who might work with you, whatever that is, often gets a bit skewed because even though you might be doing the right thing, you might be doubting whether you’re doing the right thing, and then that comes across when you communicate to people. So, we’re gonna look at how to manage that in some of the upcoming slides as well.

And this is a pretty famous quote here from Warren Buffett, obviously, again, a very big business person. He says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Now, I almost didn’t include this quote because I feel like it’s one of those things that causes extreme anxiety in already anxiety-prone writers, who are constantly worried that every single thing they do might blow up in their face, if they send an editor a bad idea or if the email has a typo in it, or something like that. But again, right here, we’re talking about in under the auspices of PR, and you’re gonna see more about reputation management, and what that means on a couple of slides, but I think that the thing to really take away from this quote is to remember that everything that you do with your PR, unless for this moment, substitute that with the idea of the image of your brand, everything that you do that relates to the image of your brand is a continual process. It’s a continual process of dips and it’s a continual process of the highs as well.

I mean, we can, of course, think about people like Martha Stewart who went to jail, right? But she’s still out there rocking. She’s doing a show with Snoop Dogg. You know, her business, I haven’t looked at the financials, but from what I can tell, it’s absolutely thriving, and she’s doing all sorts of different things. So, just because something has happened, that you might feel or it might seem from what’s going on could perhaps have ruined your reputation, there’s always more years, there’s always more time to come back from that as well. And again, we’ll look at how you manage that.

But this one, Peter Drucker, I’m not sure if you guys are familiar with. He’s a very sort of foundational person in management circles. He says, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And I really like the juxtaposition of this with the quote from Warren Buffett. Because I often find that when people have done something that’s, you know, created a blip in their reputation, which is known more widely, it’s something that they did to create that as well, right? But you can look at it, again, as he says, in both ways. So, if you wanna have a future, in which you are a respected novelist who contributes to “The Atlantic,” and “Granta,” and these other lovely publications, that’s a future that you can create, and you can create it strategically. And a lot of that comes down to different work that you’re doing and things like that as well.

But PR is an actually a very important function of it. So, this last one here, ties into storytelling. And we’ll get into this as well because it’s a really core function of PR. But if your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling, it’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger. So, when we look at what PR people really do, what does PR really mean? I know, it’s like, oh, my God, I have another slide with a huge block of text. But I wanted to just kind of take that quote from Jay Baer into what we’re talking about today, permission to make the story bigger. So, if you ask any good, experienced, tenured PR person, or a person who has done PR for their own company, or product, or brand successfully, they will always tell you, it’s about finding the story, finding the hook, finding what is interesting to the readership.

Now, this, as freelance writers, is something that we are all, I hope, very familiar with, both the importance of it, as well as the difficulty of it and the nuances of it. But it’s really interesting because I often speak with writers who are very adept or who are, you know, in the process of working on getting there with finding the stories for other things, who struggle when the topic of the story is themselves, and how to figure out that hook, and how to present that. And one just kind of note on that from somebody who I’m gonna mention, again, in a few slides, is somebody who began as a blogger, vlogger, and now is an Emmy award-winning television host, and has her show on Amazon as well. She says that the person that she promotes is Host Michaela.

It is like the version of her that is on air. So, for you as a writer, when you’re writing a first-person piece, you also are separating. There’s a version of you that’s on that paper that’s an incomplete you because you don’t exist in 500 words, right? And so, as she puts it, that’s a separate her. So, that’s somebody that she can promote. She’s comfortable promoting that person, but it’s because it’s not entirely her. It’s a section of her. So, as we look at what PR does, if you’re feeling like, “Well, I don’t really know how I would ever promote myself. That doesn’t even make sense,” I just wanna just stick that sort of sentiment in there to kind of help you think about, well, what parts of you need to be promoted? What parts of you, either, are you comfortable promoting or do you need to get comfortable with promoting? Because if you wanna be big at X, if you wanna have a big blog, if you wanna have a big book, out in the world, if you want to write articles for big outlets, somebody’s gotta promote that, right? And it’s only gonna be you.

So, what facets can you become comfortable with? Can you become comfortable with yourself as an expert on a specific geographic area because you’ve done enough things there that you feel, like, comfortable, saying unequivocally that you’re an expert on that? What can you get comfortable with promoting? What kind of divisions can you make between yourself, the business, or yourself, the blogger, yourself, the writer, whatever that is, which is a public image, and yourself, the person because they do need to be separate, right? So, what’s the role of public relations teams? “Public relations,” this is according to Wikipedia, “is the practice of deliberately managing the spread of information between an individual or organizations such as a business, governmental agency, or nonprofit, and the public.” Okay.

So you’re gonna see this come up a lot. This is the way that information passes between an organization and the public. And public, obviously, can be a big word, and it can include lots of different publics depending on what the message is or what the situation is. “Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.” So, this is different than advertising. “This differentiates it from a form of advertising as a form of marketing communications. Public relations is the idea of creating coverage for clients for free.”

So, this I found really interesting because, you know, these days, obviously, PR people tend to be working also with influencers, right, and that’s not necessarily for free. And this gets into this whole line of when you’re talking to somebody, yourself, as a writer who wants to go on something, you can also think about, “Am I talking to the PR person because their job is really to get things for free? Should I instead go and be talking to the marketing person because their job is to spend money on creating content?”

This is also something to keep in mind if you are on that side of the equation, in terms of looking at how to work with PR people, okay? Advertising can also be part of PR activities today. This one, like I said, I both agree and disagree with it, it kind of depends. A good example of good public relations will be generating an article featuring a client, rather than paying for the client to be advertised next to the article. So, this, I think we can kind of all understand theoretically that, you know, when we’re invited on a press trip, the idea is that they want an article to come out of it, and we can see how that fits into PR.

We can see that the job of the PR person is to get coverage for their destination, and so that means having articles written about them. But at the same time, as we know, as writers, it’s not a deliverable oriented quid pro quo, right? We are not explicitly paid to write an article about the place where we have stayed because of this trip.

That’s the difference between influencers and writers or editorial outlets, right? And so, you can start to kind of understand, if you think about that, how PR gets tricky and how PR is difficult because it’s the stance of hoping that you will get something in exchange for something without really being sure, and also hoping that you’ll get something positive without really being sure. Okay. So, the next one here, this is from Forbes. “PR is the Persuasion Business. You’re trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, or outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your project, support your position or recognize your accomplishments,” right? So, that gets back to what I was talking about earlier about us, as freelance writers. “PR people are storytellers. They create narratives to advance their agenda.”

I really like this idea of creating narratives to advance your agenda. Now, I wanna make sure to say, though, that when it says, “create narratives” here, it doesn’t mean create information, it means create sort of connecting the dots of facts that exist to make them into an interesting story that has a narrative arc, okay? “A good PR practitioner will analyze the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive stories.” So, again, if you talk to PR people who are good, who are experienced, who have been around for a long time, this is where they will start.

So, like, a really bulldog type PR person, will go and sit down with the head of a company or whoever is it is that they’re able to talk to when they first start and say like, “You know, tell me what you really do or who do we help? How do we help them? Why are we special? What are you really doing here? Why does anybody care?” They will ask these kinds of really tough questions, and they will go around internally with an organization, and they will speak to people and find out the answers to these things because without that research, just like we as journalists are doing, it’s not possible for them to do their job.

It’s not possible for them to get people to write about a company in a positive light or to speak about a company in a positive light if they can’t find those things that are positive to be highlighted, right? So, this is another way of kind of thinking about, how do you do PR for yourself? Well, if you were to sit down and ask yourself those questions, what would you unearth? What would you find that you are doing, either that’s unique or that’s interesting to other people? It’s always interesting to me because when we do our application form for our coaching program, we have a question here that says, you know, “What makes you unique, you know, compared to your competition or other writers?”

And it’s always interesting for me to see what people say because, on the one hand, you know, you could say it’s sort of a test on how well people can promote themselves or on how self-aware they are, and how they kind of view themselves in relation to the marketplace. But it’s also really interesting to see that, in terms of how that applies to stories they come up with. Because I tend to find that people who are able to recognize kind of what’s the hook or the interesting thing about something, can do it in many different places.

So, if you find that you’re having trouble figuring out what’s the hook about yourself, and again, we’re gonna talk about different specific tactics of how you promote yourself later on, but if you feel like you’re having trouble figuring out that hook, it might also be something that’s affecting your writing and your pitching of it as well. So, it’s also a good test if you feel like you’re, you know, kind of not getting the traction that you want and pitching article ideas about other people. Like, describe to somebody that you know what you do, and see how interesting that sounds to them because it’s typically sort of, you know, half dozen of one, six of the other, where it’s a skill that transcends. So, that’s one of the cool things about doing PR for yourself.

And like I said, we’ll get into exactly what the tactics are about that, is that it can be another way for you to sharpen those skills, in addition to all the other benefits that you get from it. So, this next definition here is actually the definition from the PR association of America, PRSA. And it’s, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public.” So, I was reading kind of a bit about how this definition came about.

So, essentially, you know, as we’ve talked about PR is kind of fraught…people have a lot of different ideas of what that is. And when this definition was trying to figure out what they were gonna publish, is their definition of what PR is. They were accepting submissions from different people, and thousands and thousands came in, and this was what went out. So I find this really important because it’s, you know, really chosen by PR people who are at the top of their game and at the top of the field to represent what they really do. So, it’s a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships. So, you know, you can totally think about that in terms of, okay, like, what if you are a PR person who’s trying to get your destination covered?

A mutually beneficial relationship would be a writer or editor who needs something to write about, and you provide them with a great story idea that makes sense for them to write about, and then you get coverage of your destination. That makes sense. Now, I mentioned this example earlier, and this seems like a good time to go into it, so, I heard a really cool PR story recently, so, there’s these folks that have a very, very niche blog. It is about front porches, okay? Now, the PR that they have done for themselves is just outstanding. Okay. So, this is a very, very niche blog, all right, obviously. So, they kind of have pictures of front porches. You know, they also talk about kind of maintenance, decor, different things like that, super niche, but they have found a lot of stuff to write about. And then they have really positioned themselves in this fascinating way with their niche blog. So, in New York, we have this place called Mohonk House, which is a historic hotel. It used to be kind of the grand home of a wealthy family, and they would invite their friends in the summer, and then got bigger and bigger and bigger.

And now, this place is this all-inclusive resort, but in a very chill, sort of New York mountains kind of way, where it’s all-inclusive in the sense that you take all your meals there. You can do any activities, like you take a boat out for free, and all these kind of things. But it cost like 700 bucks a night for these very kind of chill, you know, like, historic rooms in this big building. And one of the things that they do for one of the American holidays over the summer is, on the back of the house, which faces onto a lake, they have this enormous porch, where usually there’s rocking chairs, and lots of people gather there, you know, having tea and cookies, which are included, because it’s an all-inclusive, and all this stuff, and once a year, on one of these holidays, they allow people to jump off of this second-story porch, and into the water of the lake below.

And it’s quite dangerous, and so they only have it once a year with, like, a lot of supervision and paramedics around, and all these things. But they have sort of a competition, I guess, of who can do the most, you know, artistic dive off of the porch and into the lake. And so, these front porch bloggers got themselves set up as the judges of this competition. There’s some other things that they’ve done, such as there are towns, where, for certain holidays, you know, within the town, within the people who live there, they have a competition to see, you know, who can dress up their stoop or their front porch, or whatever it is, in the most holiday fashion. And these front porch bloggers have not only gotten themselves set up to be the judges of this competition, but they even have the voting of the competition run through their website. So, they have people, just hundreds and thousands of people coming to their website, in order to participate in the voting on the different front porches in this competition.

So, they go around and they take photos of all the different front porches and they run the competition, and they announce their results, and all this stuff. So, I like this as an example. It’s not strictly within travel, but they’ve done some interesting travel things, in terms of how they promoted it, but because of the very sideways examples of the type of PR that these folks have done with themselves. So, I’ll talk in a bit how this can work, as well, for people who are straight freelance writers who don’t have a blog of their own. If you have a blog, you can kind of, I hope, start to see how some different things can lend themselves here.

But I’ll talk more about how this works for straight writers as well. I mean, straight writers as in journalists, rather than bloggers. So, another one we’ve got in here. “The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders, and ultimately persuade them to maintain a positive or favorable view about the organization, its leadership, products, or political decisions.” So, what I really like about this definition, and I’m sorry I don’t remember where it came from, is that it says that the aim of public relations is to inform and ultimately persuade, because I really feel like that’s something that we miss out on, that we sometimes feel like PR is, you know, I used the word manipulative earlier, but that PR is very transactional, for lack of a better word.

Whereas, something that I wanna kind of get across is this idea that PR is really about providing information to help people to make informed decisions on their own. And I hope that that sentence kind of, you know, providing information to help people make informed decisions on their own, can kind of help reshape, not just how you think about PR that you might do for yourself as a writer or working with PR people down the line, but how you think about the messaging and how you think about messaging around yourself, right?

So, PR people are going into an organization, they’re digging up stories, they’re looking for different things to highlight, where is there already an interesting thing that happened? What narrative can we place around that? Because as you are doing your own social media, unless, you know, promoting yourself, the stories that you’ve written, projects that you’re working on, maybe residencies that you’ve landed, whatever that is, this is how you wanna think about it. It’s putting information out there that helps people make a decision because if you think too much about trying to create an impression in the reader with what you’re trying to write, sometimes you can sabotage yourself because it can look too overt.

And that’s the kind of bad PR writing that we’ve all seen. So, this is one thing that I found kind of at the end, and this is why the text on the slide is so very small. I found this cool quote from somebody who was kind of the originator in the early 1900s of the whole concept of public relations. And you’ll have noticed in some of the other slides that we talked about, there’s a lot of things that seemed to have originated in the early 1900s, that have to do with how businesses are run. But obviously, business has been around for thousands and thousands of years. We talked about this in the accounting webinar.

So, it’s really interesting how some facets of business that make things easier or more efficacious or, you know, just like better, for lack of a better word, seemed to be newer. And the fact that there’s a definition for PR, that’s kind of one of the earliest that comes from the 1900s is particularly interesting because it’s clearly something that has happened for ages, right? You know, newspapers have been writing about things or, you know, the predecessor of newspapers, which would have been bards going around from town to town, or just people talking amongst themselves about their impressions of a certain thing or a certain business, this has all been happening for a really long time. But this definition from Ivy Lee, I think, shows what the shift is.

So he said, “A management function, PR is a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organization, followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.” And I think what this kind of shows what the shift here is that there was a change to the idea that you can manage this idea that is created in the mind of the public, to a certain extent, but that that begins with knowing where your public, whatever is the public that you wanna have receive your information, knowing where they’re at, to begin with. So, let’s say, for instance, that you’re a writer, and you would like to have a book… I spoke to somebody about this the other day, you know, not to use another blogging example, but she is a blogger, who has a very, very large blog.

But the things on her blog, on their own, don’t necessarily lend themselves very obviously, to a book. They’re not very voicey. They’re very much written for SEO. And so, for her to position herself to have a book, I mean, she needs to start with the audience. What is the public, in this case, which would be literary agents, what attitudes do the public have about her? That’s where she needs to start, right? So, perhaps they have an attitude that, you know, bloggers are fly by night or that what bloggers write is not really great storytelling, especially when it comes to food, and it doesn’t lend itself well to cookbooks because the people who are used to reading their blog are using things for free, and why would they pay for books, and dah, dah, dah. So, the message that she needs to create, needs to take those attitudes of her public in mind, if she wants to successfully, you know, campaign or pitch, or whatever you wanna call it, to get a literary agent to be interested in her project.

Okay. And so, this is the kind of thing where we talked about this earlier in the “You Plus Marketing Equals Money” webinar, that a lot of people skip when they embark, whether it’s on a campaign of marketing, or public relations or whatnot, is to begin by tabulating those public attitudes, which also stems from knowing what public it is that you’re talking about. So, the Tools of the PR Trade, which we’re all quite familiar with, more or less, break into this great list that I found on “Forbes.” They have it in a couple of different articles.

They might have actually borrowed it from the PR association, but they didn’t attribute it. So, writing press releases, we’ll talk about that a little bit. Speech writing, writing pitches to send them to journalists, you know, creating special events, conducting market research, expanding business contacts with networking, writing or blogging, crisis, public relations strategies, and social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online. Now, I know a lot of these things here don’t necessarily fall into the category of things that you think that you might be doing. So, speech writing, obviously, would be one, that you probably wouldn’t think about how that would go into your own sort of toolbox in promoting your freelance business.

But obviously, you know, speaking at conferences, is a really great way to get more recognition, get more sort of name brand appeal for yourself as a writer. And that’s just something that, you know, I’ve done a lot of over the years, and I know a lot of other people who do a lot of it as well. I’m kind of backing off from it myself, just from the time commitment. But this is something that can be really transformational for people I’ve seen, in terms of both feeling for themselves like they have some sort of establishment, and also sort of having some on paper, credibility.

And the cool thing about speaking, is that, again, as long as you’re really nailing your pitch, in terms of what they’re looking for, what you can provide, how it’s gonna benefit the audience and all of that, it doesn’t really matter what background you have before, as long as you can provide something valuable to the reader for a lot of conferences out there that are for, you know, whether it’s freelance writers, or bloggers or whatever that is. So, that can be one tool of the PR trade, which can come very quickly and easily for a lot of us freelance writers that I think is often overlooked, in part, because a lot of public appearance type PR is something that a lot of folks aren’t super excited about. One of the other things that wasn’t on this list here from “Forbes” that’s very much a tool of the PR trade is sort of placing people in broadcast appearances.

So, a PR person that I know really well, one of her main jobs at TripAdvisor used to be that… TripAdvisor has them, Lonely Planet has them, really everybody has them, but there are certain people on staff at these big companies, or sometimes not even on staff, they’re kind of people who are freelancers in this capacity, are responsible for going on the radio, whenever something interesting is happening in the world, and commenting on it as a representative of TripAdvisor, likewise, with going on television, right? So, we all think about these talking heads that are out there, you know, just commenting, just giving their opinion on something that’s happening, but doing it on behalf of a brand. So, this is something that I’ve actually seen a lot of freelancers do very interestingly. So, there’s a couple of folks that I either know or I’ve heard some case studies of recently, who have books out on various aspects of travel, who are just all about this sort of broadcast circuit.

So, even Dev and Dave, who are big travel bloggers did this originally, I believe, Oneika Raymond, who also is now kind of known as a very big travel blogger and does a lot of PR for herself as well did this. There’s another guy, Russell, I’m blanking on his last name, he’s in Canada, I believe, and he kind of writes about traveling on a budget and things like that. But you can pitch yourself to the local radio or television station, to do segments on all sorts of things involving travel. So, let’s say, for instance, that you are based in the Hudson Valley, as I know a lot of folks are, and a lot of people travel up there, right? So, you can pitch yourself to “Taxi TV,” you can pitch yourself to all sorts of stations in New York, to do a monthly segment on, you know, where to go for a weekend in the Hudson Valley, that you can kind of develop either as you talking to the screen, or it can be something where you don’t need to be seen.

And you’ve just gone around and shot some different imagery of some different places that people can go to, and string that together with a voiceover. Now, I know this is the kind of thing that makes a lot of people sort of cringe and hide, but getting those TV spots… I can tell you, the people that I’ve seen that have done this, it’s amazing how big their careers as writers, like, purely as writers, have been able to become, by virtue of them making these TV appearances. It’s one of those things that kind of never gets old, in terms of kind of creating some star power in people’s eyes. So, one of the other things mentioned on here that I’ll get to, you know, a case in a little bit is also creating and designing special events. This kind of can seem like a weird thing for a writer, especially, like, if you don’t have a book out yet. But I got an invitation from somebody the other day. It was so weird.

I don’t know how they got my email. I think I had actually maybe written to offer them a free trial of the magazine database when we started out three years ago or something like that. And this person wrote to invite me to this evening that they were having in New York, where they had gone on a trip and very classic. Like, they were gonna show, like, a slideshow. They were gonna show images from their trip and talk about their trip. And it was just an evening that they had put together. And especially, if you don’t live somewhere where event space is so crazy, and apartments are so small as New York, this is a really easy thing to put together.

So, you know, in your community, where you live, you can invite friends to invite friends of their friends, and have an evening where you talk about some interesting place that you went to. So, like, let’s say you went to Alaska, that’s kind of a very talked about destination these days. You could put together you know, an evening of, you know, a writers’ insights on a road trip through blah, blah, blah, blah, Alaska, and invite people, and invite if any other people have come from Alaska, and they’d like to talk about their experience as well, to open that up. And I’ve seen these kind of events just go really well, in terms of both offering an opportunity for people to speak and highlight themselves, but also from the other PR perspective of just that networking and relationship building.

And any time you can be the host of something, you’re always gonna get more sort of kudos, more cred, than if you go to something organized by something else. There’s always just kind of the networking oomph of being a host, I have to tell you, is always definitely a thing. So, if you don’t live in a big city where it would be really hard to do such a thing and you’re comfortable having people over, or you know someone else that has, like, a yard or a great space, like, in their house, where you can host this, look at doing something like this.

Events are a very cool and easy, and I find rewarding, type of PR to do, in terms of bringing people together, helping them have a great time, and getting some great, positive blowback on you for that. So, that’s a little bit of the Tools of the PR Trade. But I just wanted to also take a second and say, you would be shocked what PR people get paid related to what they deliver. Okay? So, for a PR person who would be on retainer for like $1,000 a month or less, for them to maybe get one placement every 3 months for their client, would seem normal. Okay?

So, I have a friend who has a new company that’s kind of in the tech space, it’s kind of, not exactly like Airbnb, but it’s related to housing and online markets, and things like that. And he was telling me, he worked so hard to find a PR person, who did not cost an arm and a leg, he’s paying $3,500 a month. And as a result, he’s gotten two or three media placements, maybe four or five, like, in a very splashy launch month, from this PR person. Think about that. Think about that, for us as writers, how much we get paid for a piece versus how much these PR people are getting paid for the amount that they are placing people.

So, that might have just inspired you to start doing some PR work, I don’t know. But what I wanna get across here is that the people who do this, like salespeople, pay very highly for what they do, even if it seems like they’re not delivering a lot because of its importance. All right? And it’s kind of sad if you think about how much writers get paid in relation to PR people who are doing these things, but let’s leave that aside for now. So, if we really kind of dive down… I know I talked earlier about that PRSA, the PR association definition and how it’s about relationships, right? But if we really dig down into it, PR is the delicate art of influencing people, whether that’s, you know, a writer of a magazine, whatever, to influence other people.

So, there’s this whole idea, you know, of creating a positive impression. The idea of creating a positive impression is that that positive impression is passed on to other people. So, PR people, you know, wanna be like a positive virus. They wanna get out there and infect people to infect other people and infect other people, but change all of those with some positive words, right? So, what is influence? Okay. So, if we really dig down into this, there is, of course, a negative definition of influence that we can get into, which is on here as B, this is from Merriam Webster, “Corrupt influence without authority for personal gain.”

So, that’s when we see PR start to go awry, right? But the basic act of influence is causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways, or the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command, right? So, this is really when we get into what PR people are doing. They’re trying to make it look elegant and like nothing has happened, but you just magically have this positive impression of something. And that’s why storytelling is such a big part of it in passing information and allowing people to make decision for themselves, right? So influence is a verb. It can mean to affect or alter by indirect or intangible means. For instance, she attempted to influence his decision, I was greatly influenced by my parents, or to have an effect on the condition or development of something.

Now, that goes back to that quote that I had earlier from Peter Drucker, right? That, you know, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And this is what I really want us to think about, in terms of the PR that you can do for yourself and also the PR that you might already, without realizing it, be doing for your company, right?

So, there was that Warren Buffett, again, with this idea of, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” And that’s that whole idea of there’s all these different things that you are doing all the time, that are factoring into your public image for yourself, as a writer, as a brand, as a blog, as an author, whatever it is, that you define yourself as, right? And there’s a number of things that you are already doing that contribute to that.

So, for instance, anytime you attend the conference, even if you’re not speaking, you are doing networking with your peers and potentially people who might hire you, and all sorts of other things, that are influencing and creating a public perception of what you are as your personal brand. If you notice, PR people, tend to have the, like their makeup, very sad, and you know, their hair is right done, and they have great outfits. Why? Because these intangible things, like appearance, influence perception of brand, right? So, everything that you are currently doing, that is not explicitly a marketing activity, that you are doing to create an impression of your brand, is PR.

So, when people tell me that they wanna spend a ton of time on their website and do all sorts of stuff, and I say, “Well, is that really getting you closer to what you wanna do?” If they are not already ranking on SEO or if they’re not gonna rank on SEO in any sort of short time frame, and someone is sitting there dithering about what their website is gonna look like, it really is PR. It’s really perception work, okay? It’s really branding, okay? Now, let’s just take a second to look, again, at what is the division between PR, marketing and sales because I’ve given you a lot of kind of looks at what PR people do, and some examples, and some sort of small case studies, but I wanna just kind of take a second to recap some slides that we looked at in some of the other webinars here.

So, when we looked at marketing and sales, marketing is the stuff that comes before someone is officially a lead. And a lead means someone who is qualified as in you know, for a fact, that they are prepared to spend money on this thing, and it’s a function of convincing them, right? Sales then is the art of taking a lead, somebody who is interested and has the money to spend on your thing and turning that into an actual transaction. Now, we looked in the webinar about “You Plus Marketing Equals Money,” at this same slide here, about earned versus owned versus paid media. And I told you that we were gonna talk about earned media this week because earned media is really the purview of PR people.

So, the difference between earned, owned, and paid is that paid is advertising, and these days that comes typically under the auspices of the marketing people. They have “media buyers” who are specialized in purchasing different ads. And then owned media is all of the things that you are writing and putting out there, whether it’s blogs, social media, anything like that, that you’re writing. That’s owned media. It’s something on your own platform you have complete control over. Whereas earned media is anytime people talk about you in a way that you have not paid them to do because then that would be under paid media. Okay? So, if we think about earned media for ourselves as freelance writers, what is that earned media? It’s not always necessarily going to be media in the sense of being online, it can also be word of mouth. It can be your editors talking to other editors in their office about you. It can also be editors talking to other editors at networking events about you. It can even be, you know, that you are connected to somebody on LinkedIn, and that allows you to be found in search by somebody else, right?

That’s kind of a sideways example of social media. But if you think about it, just the social media mentioned reviews, right, how many of us use that, I’m blanking on the name of it right now, but the section in LinkedIn where people can write like a referral or a reference about you, how many of us use that appropriately? How many of us harness, as freelance writers, the ability for other people to speak in a public setting well about us in a way where other people can see that, and then either refer us to or hire us themselves for work? Okay?

Now, in terms of traditional media, I talked about radio and being on broadcast TV, and different things like that, that you can do to position yourself as an expert, as a writer. In terms of print, you can also be writing, for instance, in magazines for writers, or magazines for tourism boards, different things like that, as a columnist, or as some other sort of person writing in an expert capacity on the industry. That’s a way where, even though it’s not earned, as in, like, you’ve actually written it yourself, it’s earned because it’s not on your own platform, and that’s positioning yourself as an expert. So, let’s dig a little bit more into kind of what the functions of PR for freelance bloggers, content creators, whatever, can look like.

So, I think they really dive into kind of these two things. So, one is visibility, sort of being out there, being somewhere where you can be seen, right? That quote that we looked at where, like, you know, “Next to doing a good thing, the best thing is, is talking about it or having somebody talk about it for you.” And then the other thing is establishing expertise. So, we talked about broadcast, I just mentioned this idea of columns and industry outlets.

Obviously, this idea of broadcast, you can also take that on to YouTube and make your own videos. But that’s less in this category of earned media, where you’re appearing somewhere, you’re appearing on someone else’s platform and network, to reach those people and to affect that public than owned media, where if you’re creating videos on YouTube, for instance, you know, talking about an area that you know well, that’s content that, well, it is on YouTube, and it does have that discoverability angle as any social media outlet would, but you have created it yourself. So, it’s produced by you, and it doesn’t have that sort of social star, that plus sign, that sheen of having been approved by somebody else in the same way that earned media would.

So, in terms of visibility, I know sometimes, not sometimes, but with some regularity, I have people asking me about writing for free. And my position on that is always, does the writing for free on this platform get you enough juice, get you enough whatever it is that you want out of it that’s worth your time? And I think that when people talk about writing for free, they often think about it as something, in terms of, almost like an internship. Like, you are doing something for free to gain experience that you can then leverage into a higher position in this industry as being a freelance writer. But I invite you instead to think about places that you might be considering writing for free as PR for yourself, and to think about how that might change your approach to doing them, whether with regularity or without regularity, depending on where you are. Now, in terms of visibility, in terms of community involvement, I talked about some ways, you know, that the front porch bloggers had done that really interestingly.

There’s also some ways, of course, that you can do that in the writing community, whether that’s speaking at conferences, also, even volunteering at conferences, can be an interesting way to do that as well. But there’s also there’s the community of people who are in your industry and then there’s the physical community that you operate in, right? So I spoke about this a bit earlier, in terms of how you can use PR to kind of help yourself with those tricky conversations that you might have with people that you already know, who don’t quite understand what it is exactly that you do, right? And one of the ways that I’ve seen people really effectively use very small scale PR, to start to step up to bigger things, is in these hyper-local settings.

So, let’s say that you are from a small town somewhere, and you have written an article that appeared in some magazine or maybe you took a trip somewhere interesting, and then you wrote three articles that appeared in different places, maybe not all big places, you can pitch your very, very local tiny newspaper… The one where I grew up is called the “Town-Crier.” Like, I’m amazed that they even put this thing out in my tiny, tiny town. But you can pitch to your very, very local newspaper, as a PR person would, but on your behalf and say, “Hey, I wanted to let you know, like, I grew up in this area. And I actually went on and became a travel writer, and I’ve just been on this really unique trip to this area. And I had pieces published about it in these different places. Would you be interested in doing a story on me becoming a travel writer in this trip that I took, and all that stuff?” That is an excellent point…place, that, s, to get started with getting PR for yourself as a writer. The kind of hook of, you know, somebody who’s from a place and has gone on to do X, Y, Z, often, can work really well from the very small hyper-local publications.

So, let’s say though, that the place that you’re from is kind of large, like, maybe you’re from Brooklyn, that might not work quite as well. But there’s still often these neighborhood publications, even in larger places, that you can tap into. Other things that can happen in communities are also libraries. Libraries, I am always intrigued to see how writers work with libraries to put on very cool events. Most libraries are very, very open. Often, like, you don’t have to book the space, like, there’s no fee, there’s just kind of like a reservation that you have to do in advance for you to do any number of events there. So, you know, see the earlier part of the webinar today, when I was talking about different events that you can do, in terms of hosting them in your house or someone else’s house related to a trip.

You can do things like that related to a trip. You can have a round table of talking about, you know, an interesting destination that you’ve been to that’s in the news, and invite people to come for an evening, you know, of conversation and insights about that. There’s all sorts of things that you can do partnering with the local library. And then, being in the library, having that network gives you all sorts of other benefits, right, who knows who the librarians know, in terms of other authors that you can be connected to, who have been there either regularly in passing or from that town. Libraries also tend to have magazines that they stock. There can be things that the librarians clue you into that might be good outlets for you that you never would have known if not for that connection. Okay? So, I just wanna take a second to talk about this case study of somebody who I mentioned earlier. Michaela, who was a blogger, vlogger, and now has an Emmy award-winning PBS show that’s also aired on Amazon.

So, she has done really a lot for herself in terms of PR. She’s done a number of these tactics that I shared with you today, whether it’s that, you know, person from the hometown story. But she’s also, over time, really built up kind of a base of journalists that she reaches out to whenever she does something interesting. So, I’ve spoken with her a lot before about this and I’ve seen her do talks on this, but what she did was, you know, when she started her YouTube channel related to her blog, she had a party, just because she started a YouTube channel, right? And so, basically, she was like, “Well, you know, having a YouTube channel kind of in and of itself isn’t necessarily that newsworthy, so if I wanna have people cover this, I need to make it into something.”

So, she created a party, and her website is about dancing, it’s about dancing all over the world. And so, of course, the party needs to have music and dancing. So, she had music, she had dancing. She worked with, you know, a tourism board or a food provider to provide food that was kind of in line with some of the videos that she was gonna be putting up on her YouTube channel. And she had an exclusive sort of preview of some of the videos that she was gonna put up. So, this is one of those instances of creating news, right? If there’s something going on, like starting a YouTube channel, which maybe isn’t like the coolest, sexiest thing that should have, like, a newspaper article written about it, what do you do? Figure out how to add some other things on top to make it so that it is newsworthy, whether that’s an event or some other features you can build on or something like that. And then she invited some journalists that she knew to the party.

She invited some friends that took photos, to take photos, and then after-party as well. She was able to use those photos. She was able to say, X, Y, and, Z people were here, and that was something else that she could pitch out, as well. And so, something that she’s done, and I think is also really interesting that we can draw on as writers, is that when she goes somewhere to do a segment about it, a show about it, she’s going to a destination, and she also reaches out to people in that destination. So this is something, I think as writers, that we don’t necessarily think about unless you’ve been on a tour, where you’ve confronted this, is that I have often been on trips, where there are local journalists there to cover the fact that we writers are there. So, for instance, I was at Traverse Conference in Rotterdam a couple of years ago, where I was just sitting in this, like, coffee tasting, sort of barista training tour type event that we were on.

And there was this journalist who was just kind of quietly hanging out, asking people for quotes. So, if you are taking an individual trip somewhere, for instance, let’s say you are gonna do your real trip, and you’re gonna go to, you know, 12 different countries in 12 days, send little pips to the local papers and say, you know, “Hi, I’m a journalist, I’m doing this cool thing. You know, would you like to interview me while you’re in town or while I’m in town, rather?” So, there’s all sorts of interesting things that you can do around this, and a lot of it just comes back to being creative. And, you know, I did some blog examples earlier, so I don’t wanna do too many more blog examples now, but what I do wanna do is take a second to say, I just mentioned, you know, writing to another journalist, and I think we can kind of imagine how that might unfold. But let’s say, for instance, you’re doing something interesting, you are doing, you know, a very cool trip that you’ve created.

You know, I know people who have taken a book that they self-published, and taking themselves on a tour, where they’re gonna do a stop in every single one of the 50 U.S. states and every Canadian province, or they are bicycling the eastern coast of Africa or something like that. So, let’s say you have something interesting that you’re doing, either as a writer or, you know, on your blog. It can be something new, that you’re launching, like, I was talking about Michaela with her YouTube channel, something like that, you can send out a press release about it. And I just wanna take a second to kind of look at press releases because I think we’re all accustomed to seeing them, but maybe we’re accustomed to seeing bad ones, and we don’t really like them.

So, I wanna talk about what should really be in there, just for a second, before I let you go, so that you have a sense of how to put those together. And again, if you get adept at this, this is always something that you can offer as a service to others as well. But the header is, as you would think about with any sort of headline, you wanna use good headline techniques that should be interesting, but it should also be very clear about what it is exactly that you’re promoting in this press release. The subheader is the opportunity to give more information. I’m gonna show you two examples of this in a minute. And then you wanna start in a very sort of inverted pyramid, traditional journalist fashion with the who, what, where, when, how, and why. That needs to be your first paragraph. And then you elaborate. So, I like to think about press releases often as being a very standard sort of news brief style with some expansive quotes. Okay. So when you elaborate, you’re typically elaborating on a couple of interesting details from the who, what, where, when, how, and why. Now, Michaela gave me an interesting tip about this quote the other day.

So, you wanna include quotes. This is very important because when you send out a press release, it can often be pulled verbatim, by different news outlets for use. And it’s important with the quotes, A, to include kind of an interesting quote, but also to have the best quote that you can get. So, let’s say you are doing this thing that I totally just made up, which is that you’re cycling down the eastern coast of Africa, I don’t know somebody who’s done this, this is very made up. And what kind of quote would you include?

You’ll probably wanna have a quote from yourself, right, of course, because you’re the person doing it. But you might also reach out to maybe a guide book author who’s written a Lonely Planet guide book on Africa to talk about, you know, what an interesting and crazy thing this is that you’re doing. You might reach out to somebody from the tourism board to get this quote. And again, think about it, as you’re reaching out to people to get the quote for this press release, that in and of itself, is doing promotion for the fact that you’re doing this trip. So, it’s a nice, little cyclical thing there. Then you’re gonna have the highlights, and the highlights tend to be bullet points that are very easy to steal. So you would think about it in terms of the bullet points that might be on a trip itinerary. They should be short, but sort of impactful, in terms of being interesting, maybe having some journalistic detail. And then the highlights is another thing that… Oh, sorry, I was just talking about the highlights.

The wrap-up information is gonna be very service-oriented. It’s gonna have the dates. It’s gonna have a website where more information can be found and things like that. You also wanna have available when you send a press release images that can be used, whether that’s just an image of you. In this case, it could be an image of you on your bike. You know, you could have asked the tourism board if there’s some images of the destinations that you’re going to that can be included with your press release.

And then have the contact information and then the abouts. The abouts are when you say, you know, for instance, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, and then there’s this little blurb about the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. And then below that, it might be, you know, the Razzle and Dazzle Hotel, which is opening, and that’s what the press releases is about. And there’ll be a blurb about the Razzle and Dazzle Hotel. So, the abouts are these very sort of prescribed paragraphs that have sort of overall description of the things being discussed. So, if it’s just about you, as a writer, you’ll have one about you. You might see if you can also get one about the places that you’re visiting. In that case, you’ll need to coordinate with them and make sure that you aren’t writing the about just on your own, that the about is something that’s been approved by the other people that have been included.

So, here’s an example of kind of what a press release looks like. You’ll see that it usually opens with the city name and the date. And then it’s got a very sort of concise sentence talking about what is going on here. Okay. And so, this is the who, what, where, when, why, and how. Now, the next one here is both elaborating and a quote, all in one. They’ve also here included some statistics to show why this is important. And you’ll see here, we get into those bullet points that I was talking about. And there’s several.

So, I mentioned here how the bullet points can be the highlights. They’ve got here some that are… There’s three groups, and then they also talk about key insights. Okay? And the idea with these bullet points is that you are giving people not only just more information, but you’re also giving them things that they might just find that are interesting to develop into stories on their own. So, another example that I found here… Gosh, this one is really small on the screen for you guys, I apologize. I hope it’ll come out better in the PDF of the slides that you get in the webinar libraries.

But this kind of goes through sentence by sentence, what you wanna have in here. And you’ll notice, in this case, they’ve written, “This is your first paragraph, it should talk about this, and not exceed 25 words. This is a standalone paragraph. You know, within this paragraph, we should look at this.” So, unlike this one, where you’re actually seeing what a live press release looks like on the page, this is more kind of walking through what each segment should go to. And so, if you’re interested in writing a press release for something that you’re doing, like I said, this information will be in the slides and you can grab it there.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you guys today. I hope I’ve opened up some ideas for you, as we look to do in all of these Freelance Business Systems webinars, about some different ways that you can do promotion for your own freelance business, your blog, your books, whatever you’ve got going on, that you might not have considered before. In the next webinar in this series next week, we’re going to look at how to approach communications with your clients, your customers in a more systematized way as a large company would.

So, thank you all so much for joining us today, and I look forward to seeing you on the next webinar.

Freelance Business Systems: You Plus Market Equals Money Transcript

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Today’s webinar is the latest in our freelance business system series. And today’s webinar is “You plus market equals money.” Now, today is the “marketing department section” of our journey through all of the different core functions or department, whatever you want to call them, that make up every single business. And the reason that I chose the title for today is because I think we forget often the market part of the marketing agenda here, because people get really into all these activities that can be part of marketing, whether that’s social media or pitching or familiarizing yourself with magazines, whatever that is, but we forget this idea the of the marketplace, or the market in which you operate.

And that the first step of any person doing any kind of marketing in any capacity in any company, including your own freelance business, is to understand what that market is. So for instance, if we look kind of at this idea of marketing the term, this is that very, very classic, it goes back, you know, really to the dawn of time. Every ancient city that I visited has a plaza just like any Renaissance city, any Medieval city that you ever visit, there’s a plaza, and there were once upon a time market days, where the farmers would come in, different shopkeepers would set up whatever it is, but the tables of some kind, or carts as the case may be, would be set up in that square and people would display their wares. And so marketing is the act of going to the marketplace with your best products and setting them up in a way where hopefully someone will purchase them.

Part of going to the market is also thinking about how your display is going to be presented, what you’re going to say to people to get them to stop at your table, right? But I find this idea of thinking, particularly in the digital age of yourself in this kind of physical marketplace where there is another cart right next to you, hopefully not selling the same thing can really help people to drill down on what they need to be focusing on in their marketing, what they’re leaving out in their marketing. And a lot of the factors that we’re going to talk about today, whether that’s thinking about the competition, doing research, and so on and so forth. So the closest equivalent I can really think of today in terms of that traditional market setup, which of course, you’ll see if you go to, you know, any sort of craft fair or farmers market. So there’s examples of that. Some of you may have found yourself in some of those, but one that I think a lot of you guys probably have seen more recently, is where the sponsor set up in a conference, right?

So some conferences actually even go so far as calling that like the exhibitor marketplace or something to that extent. So whenever I go to one of those, I am there earlier, I’m looking at floor plans, or whatever the case may be to figure out what are the entrance and exit points in this market. Where are people going to be having the heaviest traffic of walking by? Where’s the food and drink? It might be useful to set up next to the food and drink, but people might also be distracted, people might leave cups and things like that on your table. So even just the physical location in a type of market like that is just as important as how you have your table set up, what you’re saying when people walk by, and so on, and so forth. So thinking about this in these concrete terms to start with is going to really help as we go into this more higher level different things.

And in particular, today, I’m going to talk about what is the big marketing picture? We have a lot of different content on different specific types of marketing, whether that’s how to do letters of introduction for jobs you find in line, or for travel, trade magazines and things like that. And I’m going to talk, I’m going to kind of just give a little brief kind of disclaimer about what we’re looking at today and how that’s different from some of the other marketing content that we have. And then we’re going to go into this idea of how there’s certain parts of marketing for kind of every single company except freelance writers that we tend to leave out, and how those things can work for us, how you can use them to your advantage, and particularly how you can maybe find some places that people might be marketing to in a more classic setting of a company that freelance writers aren’t really looking out for, and how you can take advantage of that.

Okay, then we’re going to look at sort of what are the core functions of the typical marketing team? How does that really work? And how does it work for freelance writers? And then we’re going to wrap up because nothing in marketing would be complete without a marketing plan, right? We’re going to wrap up with a really basic sort of guided walkthrough of how to set up a basic marketing plan for yourself. And I say basic not because I mean that this is like the starting point. And you should add more. I mean, because one of the things I talk to people about a lot, I just had a call about this actually kind of too, if you think about it, is this idea that things happen to all of us. Sometimes very large things happen such as death in the family. But also sometimes you’re just on a trip and, you know, you don’t have internet unexpectedly, you get a really horrible cold, whatever that is.

And having this more core basic marketing plan at your disposal, as opposed to something with a lot of bells and whistles, is going to help you to get back on track when those things happen. And so that’s what I want to give you today rather than as we have in some of the other webinars. And just a lot of ideas of different things you can do to kind of pick and choose. I know there’s already a lot of marketing activities that you can do for anybody for any business today, there’s just an insane number of marketing activities. So I’m going to give you a plan that’s going to be resilient no matter what you choose.

In some of these webinars, like the one on legal systems or finance and accounting or human resources, I gave a lot of very specific tangible ideas, tactics, strategies, concepts, you know, like pick and choose menu of here’s, some different places to start, pick whichever one appeals to you. But as I mentioned kind of earlier on already in the intro for this webinar, we’re all drowning in potential marketing we could do, right? Should I be spending an hour a day following editors on Twitter and reading the articles that they’ve written recently and commenting back about how much I love their writing or whatever, right? Like there’s like so many different things that we could do. People often fall down a rabbit hole of reading magazines, right, because you need to get to know the markets that you’re pitching.

And so they might, you know, spend several hours a day or a week at the library at home reading magazines, but no pitches are going out. So one of the things that I’m going to do in this webinar, which is a little bit different than the other webinars that we’ve done in this series, that I kind of alluded to earlier on is I’m going to focus on this really essential core of what marketing is because they want, not I want, but I would love for people who feel like they could be doing more with their marketing, or like they’re struggling with their marketing, whether that’s on the side of getting it done or getting results to feel like they have a touchstone to go back to like you know what you really shouldn’t be doing if you get off-track, whether it’s procrastination, or something going on in your life, or maybe, you know, you had an unexpected assignment come off or something.

I want you to be able to like re-center as soon as you have time set aside for marketing, and know exactly right away what to pick off and start working on. So in that vein, let’s look at what exactly a marketing department does. Okay, what is the role, what is the overall function I have? We’re actually going to spend a little bit more time on this sort of definition segment, if you will, and we’re going to flush out, then we usually do in some of the other webinars. And that’s because, like I said, to me, I think that the way to kind of machete through all of the options that are in front of you and I’ve seen this work, not just, you know, in travel writing, but with other business owners that I know that have had an online business, it’s really successful, but also with travel writers who are doing anything from whether they’re specifically focusing on writing for big magazines or they know that they want to be an influencer, whatever it is.

I see in every different way that you can earn money, that having these things clear is really what makes a huge difference. And part of it is because of all the information that we’re drowning in today. I was thinking of doing a little slide on all of the different content-related buzzwords or not content but marketing-related buzzwords that are out there right now of which there are a crap ton. And one of the ones that I came up with, or that came up on this list that I was looking at, was the concept of content shock. And this is the overwhelm that people feel from the amount of content out there, the amount of content marketing.

And I know that as writers, particularly if you’re working with companies, or even if you work in editorial setting and sometimes you sponsor content. Content marketing. So we’ve done a couple webinars on this, where I really dive into what content marketing is. So I don’t want to spend too much on this. But content marketing is a form of marketing, which is done through the dissemination of content, whether that’s the written word, videos, photos, it could even sometimes be experiential content, like events, different things like that. But I know that content marketing is a big part of what a lot of us do. And I want you to kind of set aside any buzzwords or preconceived notions of the activities of marketing just for today, just for this hour. You can start thinking more about them kind of at the end as we get into tactics and your plan.

But just for now, set aside all the buzzwords, all the trends, all the advertisement, advertorial, whatever, set all that aside for a second. So here’s what marketing really is, here’s what marketing really does, here’s what marketing really ought to be doing. I always aim to put these definitions in a specific order for a specific reason. And the one on top here, I really started with, because I’m hoping that this will kind of shake up a little bit what you think of when you think of marketing. So we’ve got on here, marketing is the study, important here, we’re gonna come back to this a lot, and management, okay, so not just doing things and hoping for results, of exchange relationships. I really like this. This is actually from Wikipedia, Wikipedia with the win for my favorite definition today. So study and management of exchange relationships.

Now, what does study mean, it could be looking at past ones, it could be studying how your own efforts are going. There’s a lot of different things that come under study. And we’ll see those throughout the webinar today. Management. Again, this is planning, making tweaks as you go, following the plan, evaluating the plan management, okay? Active involvement in the organization and results of exchange relationships. I love this, study and management of exchange relationships. So you can literally just take these six words. And when you tell yourself, “Oh, I’m doing marketing right now, or I’m not working on, you know, this article, or my content marketing, or my novel or spending time with my child or my significant other or my dog, am I currently involved in the study or management of an exchange relationship?”

We talked a lot last week or in the last webinar in the series, rather, on sales about this idea of a really harkening back to when you need new business, that means you are involved in working in sales. That means you need to be converting and closing and looking at what is going to convert close being assignment, put money in your bank account quickly. And I want to, again, take what we’re talking about with marketing today, and really focus it back to this idea of the exchange relationships. It’s not exposure. We’re going to talk about exposure next week when we talk about promotion or in the next webinar. This definition continues, marketing is the business process of creating relationships with and satisfying customers.

The business process. Again, this whole series is about processes, right? I know, it just keeps coming back to that. But then, again, the business process of customers. So, I have another side where we’re going to look at how sometimes marketing can involve other people. But I want to remember this, it’s the process of creating relationship with customers.

So as we get further on in the webinar today, I’m hoping we’ll kind of see it through some of the slides that we’re looking at that it might be that some of the people that you have been spending some marketing time on in one way, shape, or another, are not necessarily people that you’re super interested in having as customers. And so what I find sometimes if people are sort of lollygagging on or just, you know, keep trying to find other things to do besides doing their marketing, it’s often because the people that they’re going after are not really the people that they want to have with their customers, they’re people that they feel like they should be pitching for X, Y, Z reason, because they went on this trip and they need to place that story and these magazines look like places that will take that story.

But they’re not necessarily the customers that you are interested in creating a relationship with. All right? So this next definition here I have is less about the whole department as a whole, so much as what a marketing director does because each of you is your own marketing director, right? So a marketing director oversees marketing campaigns and branding techniques for company organization, from brainstorming ideas to implementing large scale plans. They conduct research and analyze trends in the product or service offered by the company to develop marketing strategies. Now, again, remember I talked about the study of exchange relationships. So trends in both what you’re offering, which would be article ideas, or magazine ideas, or blog posts, or social media posts, whatever that is. And the marketplace as well are really important part of that study. And we’re going to talk about that more today.

Now, the other thing in this definition that I found really important for us to look at is this idea of a marketing campaign. Anybody who is in coaching knows that I typically, if possible, depending on like where you’re at with your available time and whatnot, trying to organize whatever we’re doing into something that could kind of conceivably call it a campaign.

So if you are pitching to trade magazines, you’re sending letters of introduction, I encourage you to send a certain number of those all out at the same time and see what hit rate you got, what is the percentage of people who respond to you? What is the percentage of people who respond maybe, versus yes, versus no. Because as soon as we have that data point, that allows us to plan in the next, you know, siege, barrage, whatever you want to call it, campaign better because we know how many now as a baseline LOI, letters of introduction, we need to send in order to achieve a certain number of yeses, at least theoretically, from the first batch that you sent with that set of letters in that set of customers.

So the same thing for pitching articles from a trip. So let’s say you go on a trip and you have 10 pretty solid lines of inquiry you’re going to do for article ideas. I encourage you if some of those are going to be front of book ideas that could work for a lot of different publications, ditto with feature ideas, as we saw in the idea to pitch webinar, those ones tend to be the most flexible for utilization across different marketplaces, send all of the magazines that you’re pitching that same idea to at the same time. See what happens. Because then it’s going to allow you, first and foremost, to best use the fact that you’re familiar with this article idea right now and shaping the pitch for all these different publications. But it allows you to run a campaign. It allows you to see how on you are with those matches, with the quality of your pitch writing, and so on and so forth.

People who say that they pitched magazines and didn’t go very well, and then they kind of stopped and did something else, it tends to be that they’re sending out a pitch here and there, not usually the same people, they’re writing pitches at different times in different head spaces, the pitches have very, very different quality, and very different issues going on with them. And it’s really hard for me or them or anybody, for that matter, to draw any conclusions for them about what to do next. So the beauty of running a more organized campaign, again, the management of exchange relationships. So the beauty of running a more organized campaign is that it allows you to figure out what to do next based on how it goes. If it goes well, great, do more of that. If it doesn’t go well, great. Now we know what not to do. And maybe we have some ideas what to tweak. And we’ll talk more about that at the end of this call.

So next one here, the marketing department is a company’s…oh, in a company is generally responsible for identifying, attracting, and retaining customers. They manage these responsibilities through a combination of duties in the areas of research, promotion, and customer service. Now, this is interesting because obviously we have another webinar that’s on sort of PR for yourself as a writer, which I know sounds like a weird thing, and we’ll get into it. But PR tends to stand for public relations. But I’ve actually titled that webinar promotion, promotion, promotion. And you’ll see the promotion comes up sometimes in today’s marketing webinar. And it’s interesting because we’ll get more into this in the promotion, promotion, promotion webinar.

But the idea is that there’s a difference between promoting your business and promoting your products and services to people who are potentially going to buy them. So that’s kind of the line to think about there. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that today. So this idea, though, of identifying, attracting, and retaining customers, this is one of those things that you could, again, like studying and management of exchange relationships right on your wall, am I currently identifying, attracting, or retaining customers? Because this is what it all boils down to.

And if you’re doing something like reading magazines and you’ve already identified that this magazine is a potential customer, but it seems like a quality of writing you can achieve, it seems like an outlet that you could have ideas for, if you’ve already identified that, what are you doing now? How is more reading helping you in this setting? Is it helping you to attract that magazine as a potential customer for yourself as something that would potentially assign your article ideas? If not, then why are you still reading?

So this is the kind of thing that I’d love for you guys to kind of keep in mind. Identify, attract, and retain. And I have several slides to dive more into this that we’ll look at. Now this last one is the only definition I have up here that really talks so much about the specific activities of a marketing department. And I hope that you will notice that this might not be the specific activities that you think about when you’re thinking about marketing. Marketing departments perform the research companies use to identify target markets and how to promote items to them. Market-centered research includes the use of tools such as surveys, focus groups, and questionnaires to become familiar with the needs, preferences, and motives. I really should have bolded that. Needs, preferences, and motives of primary target markets.

This research is also used to develop or enhance company offerings. The marketing department also conducts competitive analysis to compare the company solutions to those of other providers. Along with market research, competitive analysis helps to form the basis of the company’s benefits messages. We’re going to get more into this. Remember this later. Competitive analysis to compare solutions to those of others, and to form the basis of your benefits messages. So you’ll notice in here, there were a couple specific tools mentioned. Surveys, focus groups, questionnaires. Now, I don’t think that most of us have the ability to send out surveys, focus groups, and questionnaires to our potential editors or tour companies we’d like to do blog post for, or whatever that is.

So obviously, for us, the identification of target markets and how to promote to them is going to happen differently. But thankfully, for you, the people that you guys are all trying to reach often there are several other different types of companies in different markets that are trying to reach them as well, whether they are providers, you know, if we’re looking on the side of you’re looking to write content for companies, and there’s a lot of people who trying to reach out to them. And there’s a lot of data out there about how they’re working, what they’re looking for, what they’re spending on? And HubSpot, we talked about this a lot in our content marketing webinars.

But HubSpot, that’s spelled H-U-B-S-P-O-T, HubSpot may have an inordinate amount of resources on what content marketers today are looking at, spending money on, spending time on, what their priorities are? On the editorial side, you might think lesser, but no, no, because press people are trying to get in front of editors in order to get the editors for their in-house written sections to write about those places. So the websites or for instance, the associations for PR people, different PR agencies, lots of other places are also covering what editors need, how to get in front of them and trends in that vein.

So there’s a lot of sort of sideways ways that you can take advantage of this research being done by other people to help fuel yourself. There’s associations that are kind of dedicated to magazine publishing, there’s associations, like I mentioned, for PR people, there’s associations for magazine editors, or freelance editors as well, where they’ll talk about trends in the marketplace and different things like this. So there’s a lot of ways. Again, you can also go to a conference and meet editors and have a chat with them, of course, but, you know, there’s a lot of ways at home where you can kind of do a more sort of like indirect way of the surveys, focus groups, questionnaires, to be familiar with the needs, preferences, and motives of your target market. Whether that’s on the side of magazine editors, companies that could use content marketing, even tourism boards, right?

Tourism boards also have a lot of people trying to pitch them different things. They themselves are also in associations which are providing them with educational content about whatever their biggest needs are right now. So for any of these target marketers, guys, you have so many different ways to be learning about them. Okay. And as you’ll note from these definitions up here, right, you haven’t really seen much about that the marketing department’s job is to do social media, blog, websites, and that. And it’s not because I cherry-picked.

These are like the top definitions that come up because this is really the job of the marketers. And I was reading something that said, “The job of the marketing department is to manage change, because things change so quickly.” And what they really meant was because the way that prospective customers receive information, want to receive information, their preferences, their needs, and their motives repurchasing change a lot. So the single best, most important thing that you can do to make your marketing of your freelance business most effective is to keep up on what’s going on.

I’m going to just kind of say that as like a side thing, we’ll talk about a lot of other stuff, but I hope that you’re getting that from this definition. Now, additionally, we’re going to talk more about research and what that looks like. But I just want to make sure that we understand that you are not doing marketing, that marketing doesn’t exist. If you are not pointing whatever you’re doing at a certain type of potential customer for a certain reason, like they actually are a potential customer, like they could make a sale, in a way that they are likely to receive that information, with the information that will help them make a purchasing decision.

So in the case of editors, like we go back to that perennial example of the, “Hey, do you want a story in Macau?” And I’m pretty sure that particular pitch was delivered over the phone, right? So that may or may not be something that that editor even has a place for. Is that a place that…this was Hemisphere, so United Airways, right? Does United Airlines fly to Macau? I think so, probably maybe in a partner airline, right? But then what kind of story would that be? Is that something that he would accept from freelancers? What kind of information does he need to make that decision?

So if you think about this, it helps all of your marketing activities, whether it’s specifically a pitch to a magazine, or content marketing pitch, or a letter of introduction to a trade magazine, or a letter of introduction to a job man, it helps you know exactly what to put in there, right? And you need to be clear on who you’re writing this to, and what they need before you sit down to write because otherwise, wanna know a thing you’re writing, you don’t know like even who this person, right? So if it’s a company, for instance, that you’re applying to a job as you saw online, go check them out. Go see what are they actually doing currently?

It’ll dramatically change whatever you’re going to write in your letter of introduction, okay? And why are you reaching out to them? Is it because they, in this case, that I just said, they put an ad up, right? But let’s go deeper than that. They put an ad up because they realize that they just can’t do this in-house and all the stuff they’re putting up is kind of crappy, or they’re just not getting enough, or whatever that case may be. And then what information do they need to make the decision about you. What information could you provide them, so they don’t have any other questions?

So it’s super, super clear to them that the next step is to start working with you. And how do they want to receive that? It’s really funny because like whenever we put ads up for writers, we put very specific things in there about what information we need to have in order to even consider them. It’s amazing how many people leave it out. Like I have some statistics. It’s like I didn’t pull them up for this. But I’m pretty sure it’s something like only 23% of people even sent us all of the things that we asked for to consider them. And this is something where we took the time to write it out.

So if somebody isn’t listening, here are the six things that you must do to be considered for working us. Imagine how much smaller that percentage is, right? So this is how you get to stand out in your marketing. But let’s keep digging into what marketing is, okay? The activities of marketing. So a lot of people forget this in a freelance writing business, because you think of yourself like as a solopreneur that just has, you know, relationships with a couple customers here and there. But part of a larger marketing setting includes advertising.

In fact, let me just double check. Many marketing departments have something called a media buyer. Now, I know this is like kind of it’s a little bit hard to read on the screen here. You’ll be able to get it in the slides and zoom in, but it just wasn’t a super huge image and I already blew up a little bit. Here is like the very prototypical structure of what needs to happen in the marketing department today. So if you look on the far, I’m tapping my screen now if that helps you guys. If you look on the far right hand side, do you see there’s somebody called a media planner? It’s in the third row down on the far right.

A media planner is the person, and is also called a media buyer, this is the person who’s responsible for the ad spend of a company, Tourism Board, whatever. So, as I was saying on the previous slide, advertising as part of this, we’re going to look at a little bit more about how this works for you guys in a second. But let me just go through this chart quickly to show you kind of how marketing plays out today in terms of the different hats people wear. Because as we did in the very first webinar in this freelance business system series, was we talked about this idea of how you even if you’re a solopreneur, you’re still wearing 25 or so different hats, of all of these different roles that you have to perform because you’re the only one.

And the marketing department tends to be one of the areas that has more hats than others. So let me just look through for a second what these different hats are. So the CMO, the Chief Marketing Officer’s at the top, of course, sometimes in a smaller company, this might be a different word, but we’ll just go with Chief Marketing Officer for now. Now underneath them, and you’ll see three things. So there’s a brand director, a comms or communication director, and a digital director. Now, here’s where it starts to get kind of hinky. There’s a lot of different stuff going on here. So let’s start with this brand director.

So the brand director is responsible for the brand image. We’re going to get to more about this in a second. So part of that is people who are responsible for consumer insights. So is that research part that we were talking about. And that goes into the brand director directly. And the brand director disseminates directives based on that to some people who are ad buyers, right, media planners, to some people who are in charge of retail marketing, what does that mean? These are the people actually setting up the customer experience.

So the display in a store, if it’s a physical store, also the things that are said to customers in the physical store, same thing in that sort of conference setting that I was talking about. Now, for you guys, what that looks like is if you are going to be in a place where you’re meeting customers, what are you wearing? What is the greeting that you use? What is the very quick one line that you say about yourself when people ask you what you do? Okay, that’s what retail. Retail means like very much in-person relations. That’s what that looks like. And the brand managers.

These are people who are maintaining the style guides for how that brand is presented in all of its marketing. So this might be what font do we use? What words do we never use? What tone do we go for in our writing to convey our brand? And I’ve been talking to some of you guys about this in terms of how you come across with your writing, whether in pitches or on your website, or on your social, or whatever. But the brand manager in a larger company is the one who’s responsible for setting that tonality, it’s often visual guidelines in terms of colors, again, like I said, sometimes fonts, but for sending that out through the organization.

And this is a really cool, quick thing that can help you with a lot of decisions down the line. If you think about how you want to kind of come across, whether that’s in terms of what sentence structure do you want to use. You know, if you’re going to pick like three adjectives that you would say define the sense that you want to create for your potential customers, again, whether magazine editors or otherwise. Now you’ll see underneath this comms, it goes straight to PR managers. And again, we’re going to talk about PR and promotion down the line.

Now, on the bottom, I just want to explain because this looks a little weird. There’s this kind of bar that says agencies and then there’s these little things on top. These little boxes that are floating above the floating agency panel here, these are all different agencies that a company could hire out to manage these different functions. So that has the brand managers and PR people we were just talking about. And then some of these other things on the digital side. So on the digital side, in-house, a company might have producers. So these are people who produce marketing content.

Search, these are a whole department of people who are responsible for search optimization, right? And then, again, media planner. So this is on the buying side. But also, you know, this is also going to be people who are planning media campaigns. So below that on the agencies, you see people might have an agency for social, they might have an agency just for analytics, which is actually super common. By the way, analytics is just becoming a huge area of marketing, but a lot of times people can’t get a full-time well-trained analytics person in-house, so they pay an inordinate amount of money for outside analytics companies.

And likewise, maybe people who specialize in email marketing. So those are some of the different activities and people that might be in a marketing department. But here’s really like if we’re thinking about what is the marketing in terms of deliverables that any given organization is trying to create? This Venn diagram is crucial. Now, just let me know in the chat box, those of you who are on today, how many of you guys have heard about owned, earned, or paid media in the past? These are terms that are very, very, very commonly used by people on more of the company or Tourism Board side.

And I’m always struck by how infrequently writers are familiar with these terms. So owned, earned, and paid media. And people who are often just kind of, say, like owned and earned and paid and they won’t even say media. But these are words that are kind of thrown around a lot in marketing circles. And it’s interesting because I looked at a number of different images of the Venn diagrams to kind of find one to include for you guys today. And they all kind of had different focuses in terms of what they included. I picked this one even though I don’t like the graphic, but because I feel like in the words they kind of touched on more things.

Now, earned media. This one talks about traditional media, which would be print, TV, radio, outdoor thing by that. I’m not really sure, actually, I was thinking about billboards, but now I’m not really sure because that’s advertising. So social media then is going to be mentioned shares, repost reviews. So earned media, the idea of earned media is anything that’s said about you that you are not involved in the creation of. Obviously, we as magazine writers, we know that typically someone is at some point involved in that article, whether it’s an interview, or perhaps, you know, as part of the trip that allow that article happen, whatever.

But for the sake of argument, these things where you haven’t explicitly paid for the content to appear, or people have the ability to say whatever they want, this is really important thing is earned media. Now, paid media is any form of advertising. So this could be paid per click, this could be display ads, this could be social media ads, and also paid influencers. So we had a really interesting chat during my first press trip event last week about what is the difference between somebody who has a website on which they review restaurants, and they don’t get paid for it, but maybe the restaurant is comping the meal, okay? Versus somebody who’s doing a campaign where they’re getting paid for their expenses, but also their time, and their deliverables. And you’ll see how it’s switched from being reviews are in earned media to paid influencers are in paid media.

So it’s effectively a form of advertising. Owned media is everything that you’ve produced, websites, blogs, social media, which can be any of these channels, and so on and so forth, email. So this begs a question, and this is how marketing works, generally. A lot of this stuff seems like it’s totally not transferable to a freelance business. So let’s have a look again at this in that Venn. Obviously, when we think about owned media on the left side here, that’s pretty clear. You are writing on your blog, on your social media channels, or in an email marketing that you may be doing as a freelance business, which I know a lot of people aren’t doing things that should theoretically be in line with the marketing that you want to be doing.

So what about earned media? There are some ish places where people could be reviewing writers, typically that would be like in a network like Contently or something, but it seems a little weird how would earned media work? But don’t worry because next week in the promotion, promotion, promotion time, we’re going to talk all about earned media, because really, that’s what earned media is. It is promotion, it is PR, it is stuff that has appeared independently of you. But what about this other piece of the pie here on the right side, paid media? I know that most people don’t consider this. If people think about paying for anything to do with marketing, it’s usually paying to have somebody do like their social, or their blog, or something for them, which happens less in a freelance business where your service based like a writer because you’re not trying to have as many customers come in.

But I will tell you that with the way that search works today, to pay for some, whether it’s like more through Google pay per click ads so that you show up for certain search results can be very powerful. So I want you guys to keep in mind that not only, I’m just going to go back a couple slides, not only is advertising a big part of marketing in companies such that they have media planners as you’ll see on both sides of this chart. But for us, as freelance writers, it’s still part of the pie. And it’s a part of the pie that a lot of people don’t think about. It’s a part of the pie that you can use very creatively as well.

So I just want to put that out there and I want to talk about too many different tactics and whatnot that you can use for that. But I just want to remind you, advertising is part of marketing. And if you think about it in terms of the amount of time that you’re putting into various things versus throwing a little money at a Google ad, you might feel like it’s worth playing with rather than throwing a bunch of time into something that you feel like it’s getting you less results. Particularly, if you’re doing content marketing work, like you’re trying to reach out to tour companies and things like that for writers.

Now, this is one definition of the marketing department that I didn’t put it on that main slide because I wanted to come back to it later. It is the marketing department’s job to reach out. Remember, we talked about inbound and outbound last time, right? So this is all kind of this idea of reaching out, okay? To reach out to prospects, customers, investors and/or the community, while creating an overarching image that reflects your company in the positive light. So let’s look at that list of different constituents that they listed there, prospects, customers, investors, and community in that order. So prospects are people who are not yet doing business with you but have the potential to.

So, again, here’s the question, are the people that your marketing efforts are currently reaching out to, people who actually do have the potential to do business with you or not? And I don’t just mean in terms of them spending money on people for writing, but with you specifically and at this moment in time. Customers, people don’t always think about marketing to their existing customers. And this includes, unfortunately, I know I always harp on you guys with this, re-pitching places that you’ve already done an article for. Now, this is another really interesting one that I just like wanted to dive into for a second. We talked about this a lot more in the finance side of things, but who are the investors in your business? This can be in terms of time, this can be in terms of taking away the time that you would otherwise spend with them. This can mean a lot of different things.

And so when we talk about marketing as communicating with these different constituents, keep in mind that that includes people who facilitate your work getting done in one way, shape or form. This is something that I often have to remind not only myself, but sometimes I’ll be talking with people about, you know, getting their work done. And there’s some sort of thing, well, “Oh, you know, I can’t because…” And it’s something like, “I would really like to do it while we’re traveling in XYZ place, but people don’t understand. They just think that I’m ignoring them.” I’ve heard this one come up a lot. And marketing, aka, communicating, and maintaining a relationship is how you…I don’t want to say fix this because I want to say like it’s broken. But it is the answer to having it all in terms of being able to maintain those relationships in a way that is not only healthy for the time spent with the relationship, but in terms of the understanding as well.

Now, community, this is the last one listed there. But I want you to also think about that. When you are doing… They didn’t call it exactly marketing. When you are reaching out to the community, what is that community? And what is the goal of that work? And so let’s look at this idea about goals. Let’s get into this idea of creating this marketing plan. So the very first step is to decide in what light exactly do you look best? Is it reaching out in a way that portrays your organization in a positive light?

In what light do you look best? What are the ways that you are different from other writers out there? This is actually a question that we have in our coaching application form. Because, A, I want to know. I want to know what this person’s position in the marketplace is. But I also kind of want to know how aware they are of it and how they express it because that’s a really core part of any type of marketing that you are doing for your freelance business. It is knowing what your strength is and then knowing what your strength is related to other people in the industry.

So for some people, their strength is that they previously worked in a different area that is not travel writing, like perhaps being a lawyer or something like this. And because of that they are completely accustomed to incredibly tight deadlines doing very, very, very deep research and writing things that have to be impeccable factually. That’s a particular type of advantage, competitive advantage that comes from your background. Now, for some people, your best light is highlighting that you are part, for instance, of, you know, a jet-setting luxury travel subset.

And you know what expectations those people have. And you know how they like to travel. And you know what they look for when they’re on the road. In some cases, it might be that you live in a certain area where not a lot of other people who speak English or whatever language you’re going to write in live. I actually had somebody who was a writer from Europe who was living in the U.S. And this was her advantage in reverse, was that she was able to report on things that were happening here but in her own language rather than in English. And there wasn’t so much content of that variety going out.

Now, once you know what is your best light, what you have going on and then you also have to think about highlighting that. How do you infuse that into your marketing? So remember when I talked about this kind of marketplace design, whether it’s a conference table or a stand in a farmers’ market or whatnot, there’s this idea of how do you put your best foot forward? How do you shine the light on what it is that you want to be known for in a way that’s simple and not distracting? So let’s say that you live somewhere in Central America. And that’s like a core competitive advantage for you and something that you want to be known for.

Then the backsplash on your writer’s page should be a gorgeous photo of this place, okay? The clips that you list don’t need to be all of your clips, but they should be the clips that relate back to this thing, okay? Just for a couple ideas. Now, I mentioned during the sales webinar last one in the series that we were going to talk about how that ties into marketing and how it ties into promotion. We’ve talked a lot about how things tie into promotion. But I want to tie back to a couple things that we talked about in the webinar last week. I’ve used the same slides. I’m going to kind of add some information and build it into marketing.

So at the end of the webinar on sales, we talked about these three things, that if you do nothing else, you should focus on conversions, business growth, and customer retention. Now, for the sake of this discussion, we mean conversions as closing prospects. So having, you know, discussions with editors that actually turn into assignments rather than email threads that kind of die on the vine. And perfecting your pitch craft so that you increase the rate at which your pitches results into assignments, for instance, business growth meaning increasing your overall revenue numbers. It can also mean an increase in diversification, for instance, of different sources from what you’re writing income is coming.

And then customer retention is keeping your existing clients because that’s less costly in terms of marketing acquisition costs and sales closing cost than getting new clients, but also getting more business from your existing clients. So what does that look like in a sales setting? Remember, we talked before about this identify…sorry. In a marketing setting, we talked before about this idea of identify, attract, and retain. So identify, this becomes research, right? We’ve already looked at how important this research study section is, right? Communication is how we do that attraction. And then, of course, customer retention activities are how we retain.

So with the research, this can be researching who is your ideal customer, both that you actually want to work for and also what is that person or that subset of people actually like. Then looking who is your competition. If you put in the keywords for the type of writer you want to be known for who’s coming up now? Where are they writing? What is their writing like? And what advantages do you have over them? How can you position yourself differently? Then we’ve looked already, in this call, this idea of trends.

What are the trends in your space, whether that is in terms of how the writing is being done? How the hiring people, whether that’s editors or marketing directors and companies, if you’re doing content marketing like to be communicated with? What technology can you use to make your marketing easier? What is the most cost effective type of marketing for you? What metrics do you have from previous work of this capacity that you’ve done from previous campaigns even who didn’t think of them like that?

Then for the communication, this is working on the writing or visual craft or what you’re sending out. The copywriting techniques and the psychology, the planning of your overall campaigns and the measurement of the results of those campaigns. On the retention side, this is communication that touches your customers throughout the relationship that grows or continues the relationship. It’s interesting because communicating with customers, we have a whole webinar dedicated to this coming up in the series, I believe this month it is. And this didn’t use to be considered part of marketing. And it’s interesting how that’s become part of marketing. And part of it is because customer attention has become some different in the digital age, for instance.

So what part this list of things are you not focusing such an equivalent…? There were like three things, right? So you could think 33% of your marketing time on. I bet, you’re not spending so much time on the research bit, whether that’s researching about the industry or the competition or about your ideal customers, okay? I bet we’re all spending a good bit of time on the communication bit, but maybe not necessarily in terms of really sharpening your axe type things in terms of the current copywriting techniques, or maybe in terms of measuring the results of your campaigns, okay? I know some of you guys are really good about that and maybe not so much on the research side. But then there might be some of you who don’t have a plan, a process for touch points with your customer.

So I’ve worked with people before who are doing content marketing gigs that they, you know, have set up in a monthly retainer model, for instance, on creating, “What is our plan for what emails that we always send to companies throughout this process?” And I have actually something that I’ll be adding hopefully soon to the webinar library that’s going to help with that as well. So what is this plan that I talked about? It breaks down into these steps, okay? So what do you want to be known for? And make sure it’s special enough and it’s competitive enough. Who are the potential customers that you want to reach out to, that you’d be happy working for? Who’s already serving them? Who’s the competition? How are they serving them? At what price? And what features of benefits do those people have rather than you, or rather than others who’ve been trying to hit those editors, or hit those companies?

Someone just told me on a call the other day that they wanted to do content marketing to a specific subset, and they realized that the same freelancer was already doing the content marketing for all of the customers that she was interested in. This is really cool. Figure out what that person is doing, all right? What message do you need to tell these potential customers? And how do you actually do it? How do you get in front of those potential customers in a reasonable amount of time for you in a way that’s a campaign that you can measure? That right there is going to slough off half of the content marketing work or other type of marketing work that you’re considering, okay? How can you do it in a reasonable amount of time in a way that you can measure in a campaign? And what worked and what didn’t? And how are you going to do it differently next time?

So we talked about this last time in the sale setting, that you need to have clear priorities, you need to have clear outcomes and clear guidelines and clear goals. So what is the actual goal of your marketing? Are you trying to land a new client? A specific type of new work? Do you need to earn more money? Do you want to be known? By who? How can you do that in a way that’s so clear what the result is that you will know if you have it? A lot of times I get very squishy goals for people. And then how can we make a plan? Because if we don’t really know what the outcome looks like, we can’t figure out how to get there. And then once you know that it’ll be very evident what needs to be done to make it happen. And when I say what needs to be done, I mean, things that you can actually put on your to-do list and that something that gets done. Pitching is a series of tasks, it’s not just one task.

So these things that you need to do to make your marketing happen should be very, very discreet. You need to be doing social media posts of X type with Y regularity, okay? So keep this idea in mind as well as we head out of marketing. And next week we’re going to go into this promotion, promotion, promotion. Marketers are like the pinnacle of this idea of “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Who else out there, whether it’s your direct competition, somebody in a different space or someone in a similar space is already doing the type of work that you want to do. Figure out what they’re doing. What are they doing on social? What are they doing on their website? Copy it. Don’t try and figure out what to do. Look at what’s already working well for others and do that same thing.

Okay. So next week, we’ll be talking promotion, promotion, promotion. And then we’ll be closing up this more communications side with, like I mentioned, the customer service communication portion. And I will talk to the rest of you either very soon or on our next webinar. Thanks, guys.

Freelance Business Systems: Sell Smart Transcripts

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So today we’re going to be talking about sales in the continuation of our “Freelance Business Systems” webinar. Now, in the series on “Freelance Business Systems,” we’re over the hump now in terms of how many different departments we’re covering, but also in terms of the stuff that I know that you guys are a little like less interested both in hearing about and actually doing, and into the stuff that…I don’t want to say matters exactly but that you love to hear about or at least you know is really going to be what moves the needle on your business. And so we talked about it a lot. So particularly today, we’re going to talk about sales. We’re then going to talk about marketing and also promotion or PR is another word for it.

And one of the things I’m going to talk a little bit today is the different overlapping areas of those three things, marketing, PR, and sales. But not too much because we’re going to spend a lot of time diving into each of them in their own webinar. So in particular today, one of the things that I want to talk about is this idea of sales as something with not just a strategy exactly but this idea that we’re doing in our whole “Freelance Business Systems” series of sales as a department, sales as something with objectives that it needs to meet, sales how it looks not in our businesses, but in something more like a company with employees who go to offices and wear button-down shirts from, you know, Brooks Brothers and ties and whatnot. Okay?

And as we go into that, first I want to talk about, as we do in every one of these business systems webinars, what are the main functions or roles or purposes of a sales department. Then we’re going to look at a couple different things. We’re going to look at this idea of the sales pipeline, and both how it looks for other companies and also how it can look for you. I’m going to give you a number of different images to look at in terms of how other people have done their sales pipelines. But for other industries to inspire you because I don’t obviously…on the internet, it’s hard to find these things in the first place, writers talking about their sales and their strategies and things like that. But particularly for somebody to provide a screenshot of their actual sales pipeline is basically non-existent.

So because I don’t use a lot of the software tools that are out there, I have picked some screenshots from a couple different ones to show you what it looks like to help you imagine what it would look like for yourself. So after we talk about sales pipelines, there’s going to be some sort of keywords that I talk about throughout and we’re going to have a couple little buzzword breaks as I call them throughout the webinar today. Because there’s a lot of things that you may or may not have heard thrown around online, such as inbound marketing or inbound sales that we’re gonna talk about. And I want to talk about what they mean more specifically in our context because they can really be words that are so frequently used that they cease to have meaning.

And as we do that, I’m also going to look at this idea of, as I mentioned, what is the difference between sales and marketing? Where do you draw that line? And why it’s important to draw that line? Because we so often get focused on the marketing side, right? How often do I hear people telling me, “Oh, Gabi, I need to finish my website before I do any pitches.” Or, “Can you please look at my LinkedIn profile.” And the thing is that marketing needs to be separate from sales and there’s different activities of each. It’s not just that marketing needs to be separate from sales because sales is when you’re actually closing the deals and getting the money and marketing is just the stuff that you do before that happens, but also because there are separate functions that you can do concurrently.

And so that’s really the big thing that we’re going to look at today is this idea of what constitutes sales that you need to be thinking of in a day-to-day way. And we’ll wrap up with some simpler sort of takeaways for food for thought for what to get going on that.

In this webinar, I just want to warn you, in case, this is what you’re here for, I’m not going to be talking about specific sales plans for yourself with your pitching for a couple different reasons. So on the one hand, what exact strategy every single one of you should do is going to be related to your larger goals. Because this is more of a teaching webinar rather than a coaching conversation, anything I say in this webinar is going to be like I said, “Something that is this basis, this foundation upon which you build in relation to your personal situation.”

So I wouldn’t be able to say this is a sales strategy that all travel writers should use because we’re not all the same. We don’t have the same goals in terms of what we want our income number to be. We don’t have the same goals in terms of how much time we want to put in. And we certainly don’t all have the same goals in terms of what published writing we want to be putting out into the world, whether that’s in terms of what the actual content is, or what the format is, vis-a-vis whether it’s online, in books, in magazines, on company or tourism board websites, versus on editorial websites. So what I’m going to go through in this webinar is, in many ways, much more important than any of that.

Because as you’re going to see, the thing with sales strategy and sales goals, is that if you just go out there, and I see this happen really, really a lot with people who want to be freelance writers, if you just go out there and start pitching X, whatever X is, right, maybe it’s letters of introduction for trade magazines, maybe it’s custom content letters for companies, maybe it’s just applying to gigs that you’ve seen online, or maybe it’s sending pitch letters to magazines, if you just go out there in X without being sure that the way you’re doing X is the most productive or that X is really the thing that’s going to get you your goals, then what’s going to happen is you’re going to end up somewhere, which is not what you expected.

That somewhere might be that you don’t get any responses to your pitches. That can absolutely happen, whatever type of pitches they are. And I often see that that happens either because there wasn’t enough time spent honing that process of what’s the best way to target these potential customers of yours, but it can also be because your heart simply wasn’t really there because it’s not really the thing that you want to do. It’s kind of something that you heard you should do, that maybe somebody told you you should do, that you read about and you thought that’s how travel writing work, something like that.

But the other way you can end up somewhere, which isn’t really how you planned is that if you aren’t really operating on what your options are, in terms of the different marketplaces and marketplaces might be, again, something in terms of writing for companies versus writing for tourism boards websites, versus writing for editorial websites versus writing for magazines. And there’s types of magazines that can be trade magazines versus very high-end consumer magazines, versus regional or topically specific magazines, right? So if you’re not familiar with these different markets, and their advantages and disadvantages, then you might end up with some work. But it’s going to be work that doesn’t fit the life you wanted to have for yourself, your sales goals, the types of writing you want to be doing and all those things.

So one of the things that I’m going to talk about today that I think is so important that even, honestly, I have to say I think I don’t even talk about this enough and I’ve been talking with somebody in our full coaching program quite a bit, is this idea of what are the potential costs of the different types of marketing you’re doing? Not just what is it going to get you? Because every time we choose to go after a specific type of work, we might be, like I said, pitching, you know, jobs on job boards, for instance. But that’s time that we could be spending, not just pitching other people but also that’s time that we could be spending learning about other things to see if that’s what we want to do, or in order to pitch better, or something like that.

So today, as we talk about sales and sales strategy, you’re going to see through some of the different images and I’m going to show you. I’ve pulled a bunch of different charts. I mentioned sales pipelines earlier, but I have a lot of different things to show you. You’re going to see this idea really of the cost, whether it’s in terms of dollars or in terms of time, that pursuing different types of sales is going to incur for you as a business.

And we talked about this a lot in several other webinars in this series, but especially the human resource one. In a solopreneur freelance business, you are the only worker, I mean, you might be outsourcing some different types of people for different types of thing, whether it’s bookkeeping or research or whatever. But you are the only one who’s going to do the actual production work, the actual writing work. And so your time is literally the most valuable resource your business has. I think about this every single day. Every time I’m about to do something, I think about what are all the other things that need to get done, like and maybe be doing with this time? Is this really the thing that I should be doing in this moment? Is there something else that should be taking priority right now?

And we think with sales, often, you know, whether you’re, again, pitching magazines, or applying online jobs, or whatever that type of sale you are seeking, we’re going to talk more about what sales is, we often think, “Oh, well, I’m doing something that could lead to more work. So this is a good use of my time.” But what I want to dig into today is how to really decide, how to really determine, how to look at a lot of different things what sales are worth you pursuing, how to pursue them, and what are the aspects really of making a sale that we need to think about?

Because I think that, you know, maybe some people kind of know this in the back of their mind, but salespeople get paid, like a crap ton of money. I mean, again, I’m sure we all kind of kind of know this. And, you know, the figures in terms of what salespeople get paid are going to vary from industry to industry. But by way of example, I was just talking with someone about this a couple days ago, when I was in Portland for the world domination summit. I don’t know how many of you guys are familiar with something called incentive travel. That’s actually really interesting part of the travel industry. It’s basically tours-ish. They’re not always like guided tours exactly but trips, let’s call it, amazing, amazing trips that are sometimes a week, sometimes a week long, sometimes longer, but just the best, most luxury, most high end, most interesting options, most curated type of thing that are organized for the top salespeople in different organizations.

So these are the kind of things where literally, a company is going to have set up the most ostentatious amazing out-of-a-movie Safari in Africa, where every time you get back to the tent, at the end of the day, somebody is like standing there with a silver tray for you with, you know, a glass of ice tea and a perfect little bonbon. These type of trips, there’s a whole industry around planning these trips, they’re called incentives, if you want to look it up, just for top-earning salespeople. That’s how important these top salespeople are. It’s not just that they get paid a lot. There’s also people within a company whose job is to plan these ridiculous trips for these top-earning salespeople. That’s how important the salespeople are.

So I know that sales is kind of like this icky, gross, dirty word in freelancing generally, but particularly for writers. And we often fall back on this trope of like the introverted writer who doesn’t like to talk to people. But if you want to have a business, and when I say if you want to have a business, I mean, if you want to be compensated in a way that you are able to do this as your full-time profession, that’s what I mean there. If you say, “I don’t have a business, I just want a freelancer,” that’s what I mean, when I say if you don’t have a business. Somebody, and it’s going to have to be you, is going to have to be that like much, you know, feather-fanned Egyptian god-like salesperson and do the work to get there. Even if it’s not that you want to earn a lot of money, right? Even if your biggest goal for yourself is just to be able to like F-off to the coast of Croatia and just do your work in the most unbothered way, in a lovely little Airbnb rental by the water and not have to talk to anybody ever, you’re going to have to set up specific writing gigs that allow you to do that.

So we’re going to talk about how one of the most important things in sales is that it supports the goals of the company. But I just want to make sure that that’s clear upfront, that sales is what gets you whatever you want on your business. If you want to work fewer hours, if you want to not have to interface with annoying people, if you want to just have clients who are like the most easygoing, chill people who you just send them, whatever, and they pay you for it, if you want to have relationships with editors who give you really important feedback on your work and help move your writing along, if you want to ghostwrite books, whatever it is that you want for your writing business, sales is the real thing that gets you there. Okay?

Now, as I say that, I’m going to give you a little rundown and I know I say a little bit, it’s actually kind of long, of what are sort of the baseline definitions of a sales team. We’ve done a big slide like this. I know it’s super wordy. I’m going to read it to you in each of our webinars in this series. And I’m going to do it this time, but this one is a little different. So usually in our “Freelance Business Systems” series, what we’ve looked at is, you know, what does the legal department really do? What does the human resource department really do? But the thing is I think we all kind of get at a basic level sales and what it is.

So what I did when I put together this particular slide today was I actually looked up a couple different things. And it was more along the line of what is the role of a sales team or of their manager in order to get this information to share with you. So you’ll notice that it’s a little different, it’s a little less definition-y than we’ve been doing on this slide and the other parts of the series. If you haven’t caught the other parts in this series, I will say I know that sales and hitting, you know, getting sales to come and easier and all those things are really like probably the sexiest part of this entire business systems MBA style webinar that we’re doing. But I’m going to talk a lot about goals. And goals are really hard, particularly numerical goals to have a firm grasp on if you haven’t followed our finance and accounting webinars that we’ve already looked at.

Some of the stuff we’re going to talk about is going to tie into the tech stuff that we talked about last week. Also a little bit of human resources but then we’re also going to do a management sort of executive-level webinar at the end that’s really going to tie into this as well. So those are some other ones that will help you understand this if you feel like some of the things I’m saying in this webinar you need some more background for.

So the first one I’ve got up here is about a sales manager. And I put this one first because I really like the very plain way that this is stated at the beginning. A sales manager is responsible for meeting the sales targets of the organization through effective planning and budgeting. Now, interesting things here. So I think we can kind of imagine that the person who runs the sales team is in charge of making sure that their team meets the targets that have been set by somebody, right? But I like this part about they’re responsible for doing it through effective planning and budgeting. Because I think a lot of us when we go out there and we’re thinking about pitching magazines or, you know, pitching the companies or whatever, we focus so much on the pitches, right? Or maybe if it’s in the case of magazine, we focus so much on making sure the idea is a good match.

But why are we pitching that idea? Why are we pitching that magazine? Why are we pitching the company? What is that 1X or 5X or 25X supposed to get us in the long run? Are we pitching those things because they’re low-hanging fruit or the easy target? Are we pitching those things because they’re going to take us to the next level? Are we pitching those things simply to check a box that we’ve got a place an article from a story that we went on? What is the actual plan behind that particular bit of sales pitching that you’re doing?

The other part here is budgeting. Now, as I mentioned on the last slide, when we talk about budgeting, and this sales talk today, I’m going to be really more talking about time in a lot of cases. And particularly when we’re looking at budgeting your sales time, you know, that’s time that is going to come out of a lot of other things, your time as a writer, some of it has to be producing, right, that’s doing the actual writing work. Some of it has to be on things like, you know, sending invoices, or keeping up on emails from editors, or doing edits on assignments that already came in. And then there’s going to be fraction, which is left for sales.

So we also have to budget of that fraction of the time that’s left for us what is going to be spent on what. What proportion of the time is going to go to what type of sales as in like what type of business you want to close, whether that’s magazines or websites or whatever. And also what part of that time is going to go to what part of the sales process, and we’re going to get into the parts of that in a little bit. So a sales manager devices strategies and techniques, we’re going to look at those as well, necessary for achieving the sales targets. So part of being your own ULLCs sales manager is to plan and budget and find the strategies and techniques that fit into that that allow you to meet your targets.

Now, I like these next couple ones because they talk about the idea of the sales manager, and what you do when you have people under you, but I feel like it’s really useful for us as freelancers actually to think in this out of the body sort of schizophrenic way about the different hats. So in the first webinar in this series, which I know was months and months ago now, right, we looked at this idea of that when you decide to start a business, and again, by that I mean something that earns money to pay for your livelihood, when you decide to start a business, you are tacitly or intentionally agreeing to take on, to sign a job contract for all of these different roles. And until somebody else fills those roles, you were doing all of them.

So even if it’s just you, you are still both the sales manager and the salesperson. You are schizophrenically, or whatever you want to call it, wearing both of those hats. So it’s important to think about both sides of this because we have to think about how we are supervising our own actions, right? And we’ll get into more of this in the management webinar. But this idea that we’re not just the one doing the work, we also have to fill that role with the person doing the strategy, checking what’s working. So it says, “The sales manager’s duty is to map potential clients and generate leads for the organization.” We’ll talk a lot more about this and pipelines.

It’s a sales manager’s duty to ensure his team is delivering desired results. Supervision is essential. Track their performances. Make sure each one is living up to the expectations of the organization. Ask them to submit a report what they’ve done throughout the week or the month. So I talked a lot, a lot about tracking time, we talked a lot about this in the operations webinar, which is a really important one if you haven’t caught that. And tracking, not just time, but also performance for sales is key. Because I have so many people come and tell me, “I did blah, blah, blah, and it didn’t work.” And I ask them what they really did. And, you know, maybe they did three pitches and they knew all of those pitches weren’t their best pitches, but they didn’t do any more pitches based on that knowledge of what they could do better next time.

So tracking, and we’ll see this more as we get into the specific job functions of the salespeople, but tracking performance and having that record of what has been done specifically for your sales work, for your pitching is absolutely crucial to making any sort of difference between where you’re at now and where you want to be. If we don’t know what we did that didn’t work as much as we wanted, we have absolutely no way to change it.

Next one here. At the practical granular level, a sales strategy is anything that can get a company more sales. The reason companies use multiple sales strategies that work…use multiple…something missing here. But that’s the reason most companies use multiple sales strategies to work at different stages of their customers buying journey. We’re gonna talk a little bit about customer buying, but that’s more the purview, in many ways, of marketing. So we’re going to get to that next week.

But I really liked this definition because it highlights an important division between sales and marketing here. A sales strategy is something that gets the company more sales. At a basic level, a sale is when money is exchanged. How much of your time that you think that you’re spending on sales or getting more business or whatever is actually being spent on things that will never result in an exchange of money directly, whether that’s LinkedIn, or, you know, some form of pitching, where it’s not yet resulting in an actual email, or whatever that is scanning job boards, but not actually picking something out and not actually hitting send on that email.

We have to really differentiate, again, between sales and marketing. I have a slide just on this, but you have to do both. If you’re not actually doing those bits, where you are somehow asking for money, you aren’t doing sales, you’re not going to have money coming in, and you’re not going to grow your business. So the number one thing that I see happen with people who get into travel writing, tell me that they’re spending a lot of time on their travel writing, I’ve seen this for years and years. One of the reasons that I started this whole company is that the time that they’re saying that they’re spending on their travel writing is entirely spent on things that have no potential to result in an exchange of money.

So that might be that they are spending a lot of time reading magazines whenever pitching them. It might be that they’re spending a lot of time on their blog that their blog is not set up in a way that it could bring them some income at some point in the future. It might be that they’re spending a lot of time on social media following editors, but they’re not pitching editors’ ideas. It might be that they’re spending a lot of time sprucing up their website, but sprucing up your website is not going to directly lead to money. It might lead to someone coming to you asking about working with you, at which point they would go into the sales process, but at the time, it’s just marketing.

So I’ve really like this…it’s kind of long. And again, it’s not exactly definition. But I really like this concept here in point number three. So sales operations, roles, and functions have evolved since they’re introduced in the 1970s. Now that right there is mind-blowing. When I saw this, I was like, “Wait a second, sales has only been around since the 1970s? That’s not possible.” But this idea of how sales teams work today has. Now this is really interesting because if you think about, if you think about the 1970s, particularly in America, this has been called by many people kind of the rise of the corporation.

Now, obviously, there were industrialists from the mechanical era that were around before that in the late 1800s, early 1900s, Henry Ford and the Model T and things like that. But this idea of the corporation, as opposed to like the manufacturing industry, that is much newer. And so this concept of the sales team as we think of it today itself is much newer. So what that means is that for millennia and millennia before that, sales was all done in a different way than it’s done today. Now, that’s interesting for a couple different reasons. A, because it means you don’t have to do all this stuff, right? It means there’s a different way to do this. It means that you can hang a shingle, wait for people to walk by, and come in and eventually sell stuff.

It means also, though, that this huge rise of technology, wealth, all these things that have happened in the more modern post-corporation era have happened because of this. So that’s how powerful this sort of sales team-oriented approach is. So you can look at it two ways. You can look at it like, “Oh, well, I can be a cobbler, you know, in a city or a village and hang my shingle and people walk by when their shoes are broken or not. And sometimes I get work.” Or you can harness the idea that now we have the internet. And now we have the ability to work in a different way. So that’s one of the things I like about this.

So since introduction in the 1970s, Neil Rackham, author of “SPIN Selling,” which is a very important sales strategy book. It’s not spin as in spin as in PR, but spin is an acronym here. So he first came upon the concept of Xerox, when a new group was created to manage sales planning, compensation, forecasting, and territory design. Group Leader Jay Patrick Kelly described their duties as all the nasty things that you don’t want to do but need to do to make a great sales force…sorry, all the nasty numbers things, according to Rackham and his forward to the power of sales analytics.

Now, this is really interesting. So this means that the shift in this corporation area era in the 1970s, from the previous type of very door-to-door salesman, very intensive, very relationship-building sales, to a more scalable model in terms of how few people you need to do a lot of work for us as freelancers is really important comes down to doing all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do that you need to do. So that’s one of the things that we’re going to look at today is what are those nasty number things? What do they mean for us as freelance writers?

The last one here, the broader purpose of sales ops is to enhance sales effectiveness and productivity. To do that, sales ops smooths out processes, right? That’s the whole point of these “Freelance Business Systems” webinars, it’s all about processes, right? Makes better use of numbers and research, give sales reps what they need to make pitches. That’s an interesting one. We’ll look at that more later, and performs a variety of other functions. Now, on this topic of a variety of other functions, I’ve got, I’m just going to skip for a second, a whole big slide here, that I’m not going to read you everything on here, if it gets there, but I put this in here so that you can see it later. If you purchase the webinar on the webinar library, you’ll have all the slides. If you’re in the coaching program or Dream Buffet program, you’ll have all the slides available through the button at the bottom of your resource library.

But first, I’m going to take a second to talk more about these numbers. What kind of numbers are we talking about here? Now I know even for me on my screen, looking at in the webinar window, this looks a little small and hard to read. Let me see if I get it bigger. I think it might also be a little fuzzy. I’m just going to look at my PowerPoint slide for a second to read this to you. This is just one option. There’s a lot of different numbers that you can look at. And I’m going to give you some sort of ideas and inspiration for this. But I really want you guys to look yourself at what numbers make the most sense for you to track in terms of what you physically can do, what you’re interested in doing, and what is going to move the needle for you in terms of motivation. But this is just kind of an example of some of the type of numbers that salespeople might look at.

So this is closed-won versus closed-lost opportunity ratio. And so what that means is of all of the opportunities that came in, so for us, that might mean if you’re at a conference and you have a long chat with somebody who was sitting next to you during a talk after the talk about their business and what they’re looking for, and it seems like that might lead to work down the line, that’s going to be an opportunity. Or if you go, again, in a conference, for instance, to someone’s table, either for speed networking or just generally somebody in the sponsor area, and you talk to that tourism board about what they’re doing with their website and they say actually, “They do use writers for their website and feel free to send them some pitches,” that’s an opportunity. All right? So those are the kinds of things that count is opportunities here.

So what this very sort of interesting and colorful chart is looking at is the percentage of opportunities in each of these different category that were closed and won versus the ones that were closed as and they kind of got to the end of the line, there was no ability to win that deal, that were lost. And what they’ve said is that events, lead lists, so that’s like buying lists from another source, or partner, so like recommendations from other people, were actually the sources of potential deals, potential opportunities that were most likely to not pan out. Now I put this slide in here both to talk about, you know, what kind of numbers you can look at and show you how powerful something like that might be to track. But also because I find a lot of this can be relatively transferable to other industries.

I also find that sounds like for freelance writers are relatively appropriate percentage of how much actually closes from conference events or from referrals from other people. Okay, other things that you’ll see on here, as it gets bigger, are marketing and advertising for 21.8%, trade shows for 29%, paid search so that’s like Google search ads, okay, 29%, webinars, 32%, email campaigns, 43%, general sales generated, 57%, through the website, 61%. That one I actually probably disagree with for writers. Other, I really want to know what that other is for 67%, Facebook, Twitter and other social, 68%. Also, probably not so much the same for writers. And employee and customer referral, 68%. Also, probably something that’s not quite going to be the same for writers.

But do you see how cool this is that you can look at, at the end of the year when you do your annual review or quarterly if you want to do it quarterly sales or monthly sales review, you can look at all of the different opportunities that have come to you, you can just list them all and then tag them by their source. And then you can look at each of the opportunities in there, and what was the percentage that you actually won from each of those sources. And then you can think about how to budget that most important resource your time on these different sources going forward. So that you focus on the sources that are bringing you most, not just leads, not just opportunities, but most closed work. But you don’t know that if you don’t track it, if you don’t look at it, most particularly, if you don’t compare it kind of internally to different sources.

So this, as I mentioned, you’ll get the slides later, but I just wanted to have a list here of the different types of things, whether it’s strategies or tactics or actions or whatever you want to call it, the sales teams do because I thought this might be effective for people who are like, “Okay, I get it, sales is something I have to do, is very important. But what kind of sales can I do besides pitching?” So these are all of the different things that sales teams are responsible for. Some of them involve data, right, managing sales data, we just talked about reporting sales and campaign results.

So for us, a campaign would be like you have decided that you went on this trip, and you’re going to put together all of the different pitches from this trip. And you’re going to send them all out this month. And then at the end, you see, was there a particular type of story idea that went better in terms of actually landing assignments? Was there a particular type of magazine, like maybe more of a tier-three versus a tier-two, or magazine that was focused on topics versus regions, where you had more success. So that’s how you could analyze your own type of sales campaign. But of course, like we looked at with a sales manager, you had to plan that campaign first to be able to measure it later. All right?

Now, something that we saw on one of the earlier slides was this idea of maintaining sales collateral, I’m going to get to this in another slide, too, sales forecasting for goal setting. So this ties into a lot of what we talked about in the finance webinar about forecasting, but you can’t forecast unless you know your sales history. So let’s say that in the last 6 months, you’ve sent 15 pitches, not a ton, but we can work with this. You’ve sent 15 pitches and you know that 5 of them didn’t get responses, 2 of them ended up with an assignment, and the remaining 8 had nos, but then you can, maybe with 4 of them, you’ve continued on and had more conversations with that editor that either have already led to or are going to lead to an assignment going forward, right?

So now we have some benchmarks. We know that, you know, 5 out of 15, so that was like one-third of our emails, we should just maybe not expect anything to happen. Okay, 2 out of 15, so that’s like about a seventh, eighth, like 15%, or something like that, are going to result in some work right away. And then let’s say another 4 out of those 15, so nearly a third will result in work, but maybe not necessarily from that article that you sent. It might be some more work down the line. So if you know that those are your percentages and you know that in a given month, you want to close a certain number of article assignments, you want to have those like in the bag, under your belt, on your laptop to be writing spending your time on, then you know how many pitches now you need to send to make that happen.

Now something else on here that’s really interesting that I just want to highlight is this idea of defining sales territories. This is really big for salespeople in kind of like a team Salesforce kind of setting. They’ll split up for a company that’s like national, for instance, they might take a country and divide it into geographic regions or maybe into sort of different subgroups based on some other demographics. But for us, we can think of sales territories in a more online setting, in terms of different demographics, like what type of writing. So your “territory” is, I’m making air quotes here, might be things like editorial websites, tourism boards, trade magazines, or more granular.

So let’s say that you are focusing on doing content marketing pitches exclusively for companies, not tourism boards, and your territories might be tour companies, they might be a mix of day tours, food tours, overnight sort of multi-day tours, you might have a separate one for family tours. And if you think about each of these “territories,” again, air quotes on territories here, differently, then you can do a couple different things. A, you can do that, you know, out-of-body schizophrenic thing, and you can compete against yourself, right? You can say, “Okay, like, which of these territories is going to do best? Like, how many can I get for this territory? Oh, I got this many in this other territory, can I get more for this, you know, territory that’s got less?” So that’s one way to kind of gamify yourself is to break it up into these, again, “territories.”

So we also talked before, and I said I’m going to come back to this, but this idea of training staff, go-to-market models, you’ll see there’s a lot of emphases here on setting something up once that you’re going to use again and again. It’s not also just about setting something up once but as you can see down here, I’ve also bolded this idea of a center of excellence. So this is something where you are really thinking and doing research, whether that’s online and, you know, best practices in writing or psychology or persuasive writing or whatever. But you’re really thinking about how to make sure that the things you are using for your sales, which in our arena are really going to be primarily email pitches, if you’re in person, maybe some personal pitches, or you know, if you’re doing content marketing things, you might be on the phone as well. But primarily email pitches, okay?

So this is really making sure a lot of these steps, like I said, are really making sure what you’re doing at each juncture is the absolute best thing it can be so that each potential sale, each opportunity, each potential client has the best chance of turning into something for you. So part of that comes down to this idea of the pitch for us, like I said. Now, just to go back for one second, some of the words that they use over here on this other slide, sales collateral and go-to-market models, you know, training, center of excellence. So some of these words are quite jargon-y, okay? So what they really mean for us, though, is that you both have the wording of the actual pitch. Or if we’re talking about writing for magazines, it’s the template or the process of filling in the pitch, whatever that is, that you have honed, you have honed it, so it takes less time. But you’ve also honed it so that it’s maximally effective.

And then something interesting that sales teams will do is that the sales management particularly, you know, if it is going to be a larger company where they have lots of different salespeople working in a lot of different settings, they spend a lot of money on sales trainings. They will bring people in from all over the country or the world and have these big launch events for several days in cool cities, where they introduce the new products the company is going to be selling, they talk about them, and they educate the salespeople on the products that they know the products really well, they know the different types of questions that customers might ask, they also know the “go-to-market model.” We saw that on the last slide. That means the best way for this particular product to be presented to the market.

So in our case, that might mean, I’m actually talking to some people about this recently, that when you’re presenting yourself and your experience in an LOI, it’s going to be different than the way that you present yourself in your experience in a pitch to a consumer magazine. So it’s going to be different for consumer versus trade and different from how you present yourself to a job ad and different from how you would present yourself in a cold pitch to a company to do their content marketing. So this idea of the go-to-market model is what is the way, what is the sort of proven if you can, if you’ve done it before and you know what works, but otherwise, what is the streamlined process way that you are going to present yourself in each of these scenarios? And how can you then practice that and make sure that it becomes easy and second nature?

Now, I just want to back up for one second. And like I said, look at this idea of sales versus marketing. I hope that from the last few slides, you’re getting this sense that sales, like I said, is the things that involve money. It’s the things that come right before money. It’s having a conversation with somebody about the benefits of working with you, by phone, or over email, is specifically presenting your expertise or your background and how you’re uniquely qualified for this thing. And it leads to sales. Now, things that are not directly leading to sales, but they lead to sales, eventually, they fall into marketing, are getting the, whether it’s, you know, words or images, whatever, having something out there that allows sales to trickle into you. See, it’s kind of like a trickle-down funnel here.

So that might mean things that happen on a website, it might mean people who see you listed in some sort of directory somewhere, it might mean people who’ve seen an article that you’ve written somewhere, it might mean people who are looking for writers on LinkedIn and come across you. And those people only become actual leads that matter to a salesperson once they’re ready to pay you.

This is a really important differentiation to think of also in terms of how you spend your time. Because if you spend a lot of time on people who are just kind of talking to you in a marketing way, like they’re just looking for information, and they’re never going to lead to a sale, but you tell yourself, “Oh, like this is going to be a…like, I’m going to work on this, I’m going to keep talking this person,” then you can really kind of delude yourself about where your time is going and also miss out on the opportunity to focus on things that could be sales. So we’re going to talk more about this next time.

But you can see that there’s also a loop here. So once a lead becomes qualified, is ready to spend money, it goes down here into sales. But once somebody has purchased or maybe if they said that, you know, “Really, it’s not going to be right now,” then they go back up here, they go back into marketing. And we’re going to talk about nurturing next webinar. So, in terms of sales strategies, there’s really three different things that happen.

So when I say sales strategies here, I’m talking right now about different buckets. So sales strategies kind of go into these three buckets of, is this work that is coming from someone who has never purchased you before? Is this work that is coming from someone who has purchased something from you what you want to try to sell them something else? Or is this something that you are doing to help to get more work from people who are currently leads but aren’t yet closed?

So let’s talk about what that looks like for freelance writers. So new sales for new clients. This would be the very, very simple one to think of is new pitches to new magazines, magazines you have never ever, ever pitched before. I’m going to use magazine example for this because it’s really easy to look at this from the magazine perspective. But we can also look at it from a different way after but let me just do all three as magazines.

So new pitches for new article ideas to brand new magazine. So this is something that’s going to get you in with a new client. Now, what happens if you get a yes, and you do an article idea for that editor into an assignment and you’ve turned it in, and then you send her new article idea? Then now you’re working on getting new sales from existing clients, because this person has already paid you money in the past and other an existing client, apparently the past client. The next thing here, those strategies to improve the conversion rate of existing leads. So let’s say you have pitched a magazine editor, and they have, you know, politely declined and given you some reason and said, “You know, we’re covering this an upcoming show already. Thank you so much for your pitch, like please pitch us again anytime,” what would be a strategy to improve the conversion rate of existing leads?

In this case, if you’re getting a lot of those emails, that’s a little tough, right? Because how can we possibly know what the editor is going to publish, right, that’s not listed anywhere, obviously, because then their competitors would steal it. So a strategy to improve the conversion rate of an existing lead like that might be that you want to have your next pitch for every editor ready by the time you send the current pitch, so that if they get back to you with a really nice no like that, you can, literally in minutes, send them a polished pitch about a new article idea, because then that’s going to wow them and then they’re going to have just written you, they’re going to remember you, they’re gonna remember that they liked your article idea. And that can improve your conversion rate, rather than sending them a new pitch in a couple days or a couple weeks when that good feeling that they had about you isn’t so fresh in their mind.

So this can work also, of course, for more content marketing type clients, so obviously sending new things to new clients, that’s going to be when you’re just sending cold pitches. If you have a company that you’re working with, say you’re doing blog posts for them, getting new sales from them might be asking if you can do their social media or do their newsletter, or if you can do a new different type of series of blog posts. So you can also look at if there’s people that you’ve talked to in the past and the deal didn’t go through, what can you change? What kind of tactics or strategies can you implement to maybe go back to those people and take that across the finish line?

Is there maybe some different way you can call them and say, “Hey, you know, I just found out these really interesting new tactics about how content marketing can directly lead to, you know, new ROI using this thing that HubSpot has published. Can I just chat with you about it on the phone? You know, if it’s not going to work for you right now, no problem, but I just I had thought of you when I heard about it and I’d love to share it with you and have a chat and see what’s going on with your business.” Now, these six things that I have here, I wanted to give you as the actual actions or strategies that you can do for sales because, again, I want to be really clear about what’s the difference between sales and marketing here. And I think it’s really easy to feel like when we are working on our website, when we’re working on our LinkedIn profile, or social media, or all of these things, that we are, in fact, working on sales, but these are the things, it’s only in variations of these, these are the things that are actually sales actions.

Researching and qualifying prospects, again, these are together. So researching means not just reading magazines, but reading a magazine and actively deciding of this is a magazine that you’re going to pitch and why and gathering information about it that will lead to a pitch. Cold calling or emailing, pitching. Now, the reason these two are different here is that people when they say pitching, they mean that you are sort of physically interacting with someone and giving them your pitch. So it might be that you have sent, you know, an introduction email, whether it’s for content marketing or for trade magazines, or something like that would fall under cold calling or emailing, whereas pitching is where you actually have a product, which in our case, would be an article idea that you’re pitching them. That’s the difference between those two.

Giving a sales presentation or demonstration, this would be the kind of thing like I just mentioned, where you might find a previous content marketing prospect didn’t work out and say, “Hey, I’ve discovered this cool new thing that can help you. Can I call you and talk about it?” Closing techniques, this is a sales strategy in and of itself. I know I talked to you guys a lot about how to end your emails and in our email pitches, and we’re actually closing there in the email. But a closing technique can also be a separate email. So like what if you have a magazine editor, for instance, that you’ve been going back and forth with about an article idea and they’re just not saying, “Here, can you have it to me by, you know, July 25th at 2,000 words at 200…you know, that’s too little money, but at $800.”

So a closing technique would be a very firm way to say, “Hi, Sarah, I know, we’ve been going back and forth with this article idea for the last couple weeks. You know, I have some trips coming up and some other work in my schedule, can we please get a deadline and a contract going for this article idea by Friday?” That would be a closing technique. It’s very firm. It’s a closed question.

Account management policies. I was really excited to see that when I was looking up these different stages. So account management policy. This means policy means something that you decide in advance that’s continuous that applies at all times to all things, right? So, you know, we talked about having human resource policies or legal policies or accounting policies. But an account management policy means the way that you maintain the relationship with your client on an ongoing basis. So this is going to be something with existing clients and how you maintain it on an ongoing basis.

So you might have a policy that you write for yourself, that with every client, at the three-month mark, you evaluate whether this rate makes sense for you, if you want to continue with them, da, da, da. At the six-month mark, that’s when you will always ask them for more work, whether it’s more of the same type of work, or more of a different type of work. At the nine-month mark, that’s when you’re going to ask them for a raise in rates. That might be one type of account management policy that you have from a sales perspective.

Now, quick buzzword break here. I know we’re getting to the end of our time. I’m going to get into the sales pipelines that I was talking about showing you and then close out with a couple quick tips. So inbound sales versus outbound sales. I want to make this differentiation. We’re going to look at it more in the marketing webinar. But inbound sales is when people have found you and come to you and said, “I would like this, can we talk about how I can pay you for it?” So this is when someone has found you on LinkedIn, or whatever. And then they write you and they come to you. And they say, “Can you do this for me?” Outbound sales is when you write to someone, whether that’s an editor or company you want to do content marketing for or whatever, and say, “Here’s what I do, can I do it for you and when you pay me money?” So that’s the difference between those two things. Inbound is when someone comes to you. Outbound is when you somehow get yourself in front of a particular person that you would like to work with.

Now, one of the big things as we looked at sales strategies, right, is this idea that you have to be collecting data, you should be looking at the data in different stages, and usually making the decisions based on that data. And for salespeople, that typically takes the form of something called a sales pipeline. So sales pipeline is kind of a visualization, if you will, so that you can see what clients are at different phases, so that you can see that you have enough clients at different phases to hit your sales goals, so that you can see where you’re losing different clients, so that you can see where clients are getting stuck and not moving forward in your sales process, and if there’s potentially a way to change your sales process.

So let’s look at a couple of pictures here. This one’s really detailed. Again, like I said, you can see all these later on the slides. But this one is really detailed. And I wanted to put it in here for a couple different reasons. One, I want you to maybe think about all of these different things and how they apply to you. But also, I wanted to give you this so that you can use it as a baseline to create your own. You’re going to see some different sales pipelines coming up. They’re all for different industries. But I really want you to have your own one that works for you. So I spent a lot of time talking to people about how to do this with magazines, for instance. So it might be that you have magazines that you’re interested in. But you haven’t pitched yet. You’re working in coming up with an article idea for them.

Then there might be magazines that you’ve pitched and you’re waiting to hear back. There might magazines that you pitch once and you got some sort of response and you’re pitching them again. There might be magazines where you’re in discussion with the editor about whether the article idea is going to come through. There’s a lot of different stages that it can be, and you might be in production. So you might have closed the sale and you’re currently doing production. And then after that, then they’re going to loop back up because now there’s somebody that you can make a new sale to.

So here, we’ve got discovery. This is when you first find the prospect. Pre-qualification, this is when you’re deciding if you’re even going to work on qualifying this person or not. So like if you pick up a magazine, for instance, you’re like, “Oh, this is interesting.” And you make that kind of split-second decision of, “Is this worth my time to read this magazine and see if it’s a fit for me or not?” All right?

Qualification, this is when you’re actually going to read the magazine and decide, or you’re going to check on the magazine database and see if they have enough opportunities for freelancers. Solution design, in the magazine setting, this is going to be when you’re deciding what ideas you want to send to this magazine. Evaluation, does this potential solution, do these magazine ideas fit? Decision, this is when you’re going to be presenting your article ideas to the editor for them to decide. Negotiation, important step here, don’t miss it. This is when we dally with them about what they’re going to pay us. Closed, this is when we sign the contract.

So here’s a couple different ways to look at this. Again, these are all from different places. I’m showing you them because they all have different attributes. This one, what I like here is the numbers. It’s showing that if you have 200 sales come in that are qualified. Again, so qualified means they’ve already jumped down to just about phase three here on this original one we looked at. So qualified leads, we start out with 200. Then when we look at what can work with them, we get to 140. Then, in terms of actual pitches, we’ve gotten down to 100. Then the ones who’ve gotten back to us, we’ve gotten 50. And then we’ve closed 20.

So I like this presentation in terms of looking at it numerically how many move from one stage to the next, as well as this idea of how many convert at the end, which is salmon top, and then the average length of the sales cycle. I also found that quite cool. A couple other ones to show you here. I know this was super difficult to read. But this is one that’s kind of showcases what you can do. And some of the apps that are available today. There’s quite a lot. I think this particular picture is from pipe drive. So here he has listed a suspect. So that’s somebody that they’re in the middle of qualifying prospect.

I’m not sure what that says. It looks like it says champion, but that sounds weird. Let me look at my slides. Then the next one is opportunity and then proposal. So it does say champion. Oh, this is the person who’s attached to this offer, I think. So you’ll see here that they’ve got different companies listed that they’re in the middle of qualifying, and they have some that they’re going to make a proposal to. And then this is the particular specific thing. So in our case, this might be particularly the magazine article that we’re working on for them.

Now, this next one here, hopefully, you can see better, not quite so much. But what I like about this next one, obviously, the titles are a little clearer. Initial contact, qualification, meeting, proposal, close. But also what they do on here that’s really neat is they also talk a little bit about what the project is. So it’s a two-month project or it’s going to take 25 hours or something like that. This is another way that you can think about it that helps you, with your sales hat on, decide where to spend your time. This is another way to look at it. So this one I really like and I hope will kind of inspire some of you. So in the pipeline here, we start obviously with…actually, I can’t tell what this one is. But we’ve got sales qualified. I think this must be the total deals in the pipeline here.

Sales qualified, sales and negotiation, sales won. So this is the composite of the sales qualified, negotiated, and excluding the ones that are won over here. So if you were to have a sheet, where you were, you know, perhaps in Excel, where you can add it all up, all the pitches that you’re working on, you didn’t just say, “Here’s the pitches I had in progress,” but you also put a dollar amount to them. If you also said, “This could potentially be a $200 article, this could be a $500 article, this can be a $2,000 article,” and you had that in an Excel sheet, so that you could also make decisions about which pitches you’re going to spend your time on based on how much they might pay.

How would that change how you do your pitching? And then what if you added something called a lead score, we’re going to get to this in a second, where you said, “Okay, this will lead, based on my past experience with either the same magazine or magazines of the same type.” Let’s say, you know, it’s a big newsstand magazine. This particular pitch has, you know, a 75%, a 5% chance of going through, and then you multiply that potential income, so that $500 or that $300 or $2,000 by that lead score. So that percentage, whether it’s 5% or 75%, and then you sorted all of the pitches that you could be working on based on that new number, the potential income times the lead score, the percentage likelihood of closing, how would that change how you spend your time pitching? And how would that change how much money you have in your bank account each month? Guys, this is like a very…you can just do an Excel sheet. I presented kind of some fancy ways to do pipeline here. But that’s a really simple way to do it.

Now, I just talked about lead scoring. But there’s also this idea of lead cost which, you know, “proper sales team” would consider. This is how much time is it going to take you to potentially make this happen? Again, this is something that you can only know once you know how much time you spend on your pitching. It’s like it’s back to time tracking. But if you’re getting leads at conferences and you’re telling yourself, “Oh, I’m going to this conference because I think it’s going to result in X,” how many leads have you gotten from conferences in the past that have turned into actual opportunities? And how much are you paying to be at that conference? And how much of what you’re paying do you really feel like you’re paying just to get these opportunities versus to get the learning? So that’s how you calculate lead cost.

So let’s say, for instance, that a certain magazine is going to take you, you know, an hour overall to put this article idea together, to familiarize yourself with the magazine, make sure they haven’t covered the place before, right, the pitch, so on and so forth. So that’s an hour. If you know what your average hourly rate is, you can even put a numeric cost. You can say like, “That cost me $80,” or something like that. So you can say, “Okay, this might cost me $80 to put this together to reach out to this lead. The percentage chance of success here, let’s say, is 15%, based on my past experiences with similar articles, and the pay that I would get if this article lands is $1,000. So I’ve got a 15% chance. So from my, you know, lead score times pay, that’s going to be $150. And my lead cost is $80.” You subtract $80 from $150 and you’re still positive. That means it’s worth moving ahead with that lead.

So the reason I did it this way, the reason I did this $150 thing, and then you subtract your lead cost is because I took this average here. Because if you are doing a lot of pitches and your pitch craft is good, so your sales technique is good, your sales process is good, you’ve got a good go-to-market “process,” and then overall composite, you should be ending up with that 150 plus $150 plus 100 because you’ll earn one out of those, all of the ones that you pitch that are 15%. So I know I said there’s gonna be a lot of math for this webinar. You don’t have to care about the math that I just told you but that calculation I just gave you. So the lead score, which is a percentage chance that this is going to close, which you need to know how much of your pitches are actually closing for you to know the answer to that, times the potential income you can get from this.

And then you subtract your lead cost, which we can do as the amount of time you’re going to put into it times your hourly rate. If that is positive, then this is a good thing for you to spend your time on. It’s a very simple way. If you just want to get into evaluating your sales without going too bonkers, that’s a very simple way to get into it. Now, if sales is all about closing deals, like we talked about, and those deals need to support the goals of the company, I want, after this webinar, if you just take a little bit of time and think about what, from the way that you pursue closing deals right now, what is currently missing from that strategy for you? Is it something about how those deals play into your goals? Is it something that closing deals? Is it something else? What’s currently missing?

Just before I let you go, a little food for thought, again, you can grab these off the slides later. But…oops, sorry, this one got cut off somehow. These are the elements of a sales strategy. If you want to in your annual review or at some other time, sit down and make up a wholesale strategy for yourself, these are the elements, the goals, the budget, which is going to be time for us, right, the ideal customer profile. That’s some information about the people you’re going to target whether that’s, you know, magazine editors that are very busy, they’re usually putting out this many articles per month for freelancers, that typically work with this many regular writers who they have, you know, in the same issue every time, a customer journey map. What is the way that you work with this prospect? We’re going to look more at this in the marketing one as well. Competitive advantage, what do you have to offer that other people don’t? What is your strategy for marketing to them? We’ll look at that next webinar, and then an action plan.

So this is just the elements if you really want to sit down, take some time to put together. But these are the three simple things to focus on, conversions, growth, customer retention. If you remember nothing else from this webinar, again, lead scoring, complicated, I know, just remember that when you set aside time for sales, think about conversion, business growth, and customer retention, okay, CBC. It’s like B2B but CBC.

Now, this is a very, very simple sort of outline of things that everyone needs for their sales to work. Clear priorities that everyone understands, clear outcomes that everyone can measure, clear guidelines everyone can follow, and clear goals to work towards. So if you have set priorities that aren’t so crystal clear that you could explain them to my three-year-old nephew, set something clear. If you have outcomes that you want to meet that you don’t have a system or you can’t create a system for how to measure them, how can we make those more simple? Same thing with guidelines and goals, okay?

I have this little graphic that I found that I thought you guys would enjoy. People with no goals, which is about 83% of people, versus people with goals in their heads, 14% of people, people with goals in their heads are 10 times more likely to succeed than people with no goals. But people with written goals, which is only 3% of people, are 30 times more likely to succeed.

So take yourself to the park at summer guys. Take yourself to a cafe with outdoor seating. Just spend a little, little time thinking about what your goals are because then once you know what they are, anytime you tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to work on pitching,” you can think about these three things, right? How do I focus on conversions to reach that goal? How do I focus on making sure these pitches grow my business? How do I focus on customers that I can retain so that I can spend less time on sales in the future?

The most important thing about sales is not to get stuck in, like, the nitty-gritty of techniques of what you can do. You figure that out after you know what path you want to be on. That’s what I’ve got for you for today. Thanks, guys, and I’ll see you again soon.

Freelance Business Systems: The Surprising Secrets of Servicing Customers as a Freelancer Transcript

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Today we’re continuing our Freelance Business Systems series and talking about customer service. Now, I feel kind of like a broken record. I feel like I say this every week. But I really have found doing the research and putting together the slides for this webinar that I think this is a big missing piece for a lot of freelance writers, particularly in terms of, on the one hand, things that take up a lot of time.

As we go through this Freelance Business Systems series, we’ve been talking, of course, about systems, and how to create ways for yourself to not spend more time than necessary. And what that means is going to be a little bit different for everyone, of course, but how does not spending more time than necessary, which really could be a very small fraction of the time that you’re currently spending depending on what the activity is, on something because you have a system for it, because you have discovered what is the most efficacious way for that thing to be done and you do the same every time, and there’s a way for it to be done without not only reinventing the wheel, but emotions coming in, trying to figure out what you’re doing every time. All of these things.

So we’re really looking with all of these systems, webinars, and how to create a time savings, but also how the systems can grow your business. And I feel like the area of interacting with clients is something that I speak to people a lot about on coaching calls, but it’s something that I don’t strictly hear people asking overt questions about having issues with. So let me explain. People, typically, when it comes to client interaction issues or customer service, depending what you want to call it, I think people often think of it as more client interaction and customer service.

But when it comes to those types of issues, more frequently, I see people acting as if the things that they run into, they’re always telling me this whole situation with all sorts of background and things like this, and people act as if that is a situational thing. But I can tell you, because I’ve coached people and watched quite a few freelancers go from not having the client, creating the marketing system to get the client, getting the first interaction with the client over email and getting that phone call, signing the deal after back and forth emails and proposals, and then getting that client engagement going. I’ve seen throughout the whole process what happens at each step of the way. And then when these client interaction issues come up, your clients doing something deleterious to the relationship, not providing something they’re supposed to or anything like this, I can see how it traces back to something, a customer service issue, a client interaction issue, whatever you want to call it, that happened earlier on in the relationship that could have been fixed with a system.

So with a lot of people that I coach who are more, if you want to call it further along, or advanced, or experienced, or what have you, with doing their own sort of custom build, they cold pitch a client, or maybe they get somebody off a job billboard, and then they build out their relationship pass what was listed as the original job ad. But the people that I work with who are in those sort of settings who do this type of client work, again and again, tend to get by somewhere in the range of like the third or fifth client that they’ve gotten themselves, if not earlier, the sense that they need to have systems for these things.

Because there are aspects of the client relationship that go, whether it’s absolutely sour, just a little bit off the tracks, or whatever, further down the line that they see could have been nipped in the bud if some sort of groundwork was laid earlier on. And this is where we get into customer service as a freelancer. So it sounds like a very, not only unsexy, everybody hates customer service, right, or whatever that is, but it sounds like a very unsexy thing, customer service. But it is literally the lifeblood of your business as a freelance writer, particularly because, as we’ll see of what really the heart of customer service is.

So today we’re going to look at…we just talked now kind of a little bit about what customer service looks like for freelancers kind of just in a conceptual way. But we’re going to look at how this idea of a customer service department fits into your bigger picture in terms of what you do as a freelancer.

And we’re going to look at kind of I’ve named it here the missing link between classical customer service. And what I mean by that is what happens in companies, particularly sort of companies that have a built out a customer service department, you know, in particular customer service managers who have things that they look at to ensure and customer service, rather than something haphazard, that just kind of happens as customers have questions. But we’re going to look at kind of the missing link between that “classic customer service” and what’s typically happening for freelance writers.

And then I usually do this earlier on in these Freelance Business Systems webinar. But I’ve got a slide kind of looking at some very sort of idealistic, I don’t know if I want to say idealistic, but, you know, very conceptual, smoothed over definitions of what customer service is that have some very enlightening things, I believe, to show in terms of the relationship, again, between customer service and what freelancers are currently doing in that perspective. And then I’ve got quite a couple slides here on some low-hanging fruit to get started with to invigorate this area of your business.

There’s always been a lot out there about how to write, you know, how to write about travel.

But how to run a business as a travel writer was something that I didn’t see so often. And so in this Freelance Business Systems series, we’re really laying the groundwork for what that means. I’ve jokingly kind of called it an MBA in travel writing. But we’re going through department by department of what a “real business” would be set up, I mean, sort of a corporation, and looking at what aspects of that you do need to have in your freelance business, and, particularly, how attending to some of those things in a more sort of classic setting, if you will, can actually answer a lot of the problems that you face with your freelance writing.

And so as I was mentioning, in one-on-one coaching, I often find myself talking with people about specific situations that they found themselves in and what to do to get themselves out of them. And a lot of them often do have to do with freelance writing, sometimes they have to do with marketing or something like that. But often they do have to do with their freelance writing clients. And it’s always interesting because people that I’ve coached for a long time who not only are sort of used to the way that I would ask them questions or how we would work with a problem, but also are kind of used to working through their own business problems.

Once they asked me about some sticky client situation that they find themselves in, we started talking about it, the answer often becomes really apparent to them. And part of it is because, as I mentioned, in our one-on-one coaching, there’s a lot of learning, or not learning, but, you know, learning through doing of solving your business problem so that you can also do it when you’re not on the phone with me, of course. Like it doesn’t have to only have while I’m there.

But something that I see, particularly with these client situations, like I mentioned earlier, is that there’s certain ones that will come up again and again. And there’s certain ones that are just entirely new. Sometimes something really, really haywire happens. And we’re also talking in this webinar today how to deal with something like that where something is really off the tracks. And it’s not something kind of logical where, you know, there’s a missing piece of information that’s led to the situation.

But what I want to talk through today is how to set yourself up as a freelance writer, whether you work with companies, whether you work with magazines, whether you work with a mix of both, whether you find your clients yourself, whether you respond to ads or call for pitches, whatever that is, I want to talk about how to lay the groundwork to have the best interactions with your clients both in a regular setting, as well as in those sort of over the top, unusual, you know, the shit has hit the fan sort of situations.

So as we go in today’s webinar, before we start talking about customer service, specifically, I just want to take a second to look again at this Freelance Business Systems series that we’re doing, why we’re doing it and sort of position what we’re going to talk about today very narrowly within that for a reason.

So when we first started the series, which I was just looking through my own slides, was all the way back in March or April, actually and now we’re all the way in August. This is, like I said, me and travel writing, right? We talked about this idea of looking at these different departments that we’re talking about, whether it’s sales, marketing, human resources, legal, customer service, what have you, and thinking about this idea that whether you intended to or not, when you started being a freelance writing service provider, as in, you create a product, which is your written words, that you then sell to a company or you offer sort of, whether you intend to or not, strategy in terms of helping the client figure out what exactly it is that they need to be covering. And then delivering that strategy through written words to the client, you elected to fill a number of roles that you might not have been aware that you signed on the dotted line a job contract for.

And so, in the first webinar in this series, one of the things that we talked about was this idea of as we go through each department, writing down the things that you think that you really need to be doing for each of those things, and sort of creating a job description for yourself of each of these roles that you fill.

And in today’s webinar, you’ll see this is what we’ve covered so far in order, we’ve gone from finance, accounting, purchasing, so really starting with the number side of things, through more of the how things work, operations, quality control, human resources, and legal, and IT, and now we’re this communications bed. And I’ve got customer service at the end of communications, which we’ve started with sales and we’ve moved through marketing and PR for a reason, because, really, communicating with customers is something that happens after you have customers, of course, right?

And within that, we have to also look at this idea that as much as this comes sort of at the end of that timeline of getting customers of setting things up, it also feeds back into a number of these other things, right? So you know how well you handle your customers is going to affect your bottom line in terms of retaining the customers, which is going to affect your finance, right, it’s going to affect your cash projections. How well you set the stage for your customers to pay their bill on time and is going to affect your accounting, whether you have cash in the bank is going to affect your purchasing, how smoothly things go with your customers is going to affect your operations, how well you have managed to unearth your clients expectations and fulfill them and make it clear that you’re fulfilling them is going to affect quality control, and so on and so forth.

And so, throughout this series, while each thing has really built on itself in a lot of ways, customer service is something that really touches these other areas in a very different way than some of the other things that we’ve been talking about. And I just kind of wanted to start by introducing that today. Because we, in a way, forget customer service kind of feels like something that you do when you’re young and you’re a clerk, you know, in an ice cream store or something like that. But customer service is really the heart of what you’re doing as a freelance writer. I know it feels like the writing is the heart of what you’re doing. But if you don’t have clients, then it’s not, right? And it can often feel like, “Well, then that means marketing must be the heart of what I’m doing.”

But there’s often other ways to find clients, right? You can find clients incidentally and whatnot. But the way that you service them, I know that’s a little inappropriate, but, you know, this is kind of what people say. But the way that you service those clients is what allows all of these other parts of your business to happen, okay? So I just want to also point out that if you don’t yet have freelance clients, I know a number of people who follow us are looking to transition out of a career doing something else in the freelance writing, or perhaps they’re doing a little bit of freelance writing, but mostly doing something else. Maybe you’re doing a different type of freelance thing. And so this will also be apropos in that setting.

But if you don’t have freelance clients at all, this webinar might feel a bit theoretical compared to some of the other ones we had, where you can kind of imagine these things a bit more because you haven’t yet had conversation with your clients, you don’t know what sort of issues your clients have that you’re answering questions about. So I just want to say, if that is your case, I want to emphasize that there are a number of things that even people who have freelance clients already run into in terms of not really understanding where their clients are coming from, what will make their client happy, what their clients are looking for, what their clients mean when they say something in particular, all sorts of things like that, that you can certainly start thinking about at this point.

And in fact, it’s really great for you to start thinking about that at this point because it will help you a lot down the line. However, of course, if you haven’t even interacted at all with potential clients that you want to write for magazines, and all you know about how editors think is, I don’t know, this webinar or whatever, then this is going to be more difficult.

But it’s really useful to lay this groundwork and start out thinking about your dealings with customers this way, because it will, like I said, save you a lot of headaches down the line if you begin like this. I do just want to say, however, I know a lot of you have, I don’t want to call it a tendency, but a certain enjoyment from setting up sort of administrative internal, not client-facing projects for yourself, that you need to do before you get clients, whether that’s that your website needs to be going, whatever…that’s usually the most common one I see.

But whatever it is, okay, that you need to have your portfolio all fancied up, your resume, something like that. So I just want to be really clear that everything I’m talking about today, in terms of systems you can set up for your client interactions, customer service, whatever that is, these are not meant to be things that you must do before you ever have a client. They will be enriched by client interactions, you will learn over time to do the feedback loop.

So do not feel like this is one more thing you have to do before you do your marketing. I also want to say that, all right? So, if we were to distill everything I’ve looked at for this call tonight, other sort of reading that I’ve done in the past, I would say that great customer service, according to most people, comes down to two things. And I’ve also sort of filtered this for the type of customer service or client interaction, whatever you wanna call it, that you guys will be doing.

On the one hand is training. And again, not what you want to hear more work to put on your plate but we’ll talk about this in a second. And this is also stuff, this stuff meaning this training, is the kind of thing that you can do in the background and kind of a small type of work that you do during times when your brain is otherwise sort of non-functional, okay, and all of this training listed here, these are all things that will help you not only in other areas, such as sales and marketing, things like that, but also in your whole life. So it’s kind of a good type of thing to be looking into. Okay?

So training, whether it’s communication best practices, training about your product. So for instance, you know, this is a kind of thing where I sometimes run into people who want to write an article, maybe have even been assigned an article, maybe I’m thinking of a particular case here, have even been writing a column or some columns or some regular articles for an outlet for quite some time.

And they really do not have a good idea of how to put together an article, or how to approach writing an article, every time they do it, it’s as if they’re doing it completely from scratch, it’s incredibly painful, it takes them dozens of hours tracing for which they get paid a couple hundred dollars, and it’s just very, very painful. So training about your product is also being trained in what you are providing, how that is supposed to work, and also what the expectations for client are about that product.

So, for instance, how do editors work with freelancers more generally? What are their expectations in terms of the work that a writer is putting into this? You know, that kind of thing. Conflict resolution, psychology, and behavioral dynamics. These are, again, sort of, you know, mouthful words or phrases in this case, as well. And they sound kind of like big things that you might research if you’re doing a master’s in international diplomacy or something like that.

But I can tell you and I know I talked about these things in webinars a lot, all these kind of little psychological things are just mind-blowing in terms of tiny tweaks you can learn that will just give you not only a totally different outlook on some interactions that you’re having and sort of how to handle them. But also, I find a lot of people come to me with client interaction situations, where they just don’t understand why a client is doing something. This is a really interesting sort of case. And if it hasn’t happened to you, you might not know exactly what I’m talking about.

But, you know, it’s always fascinating to me, when people come to me with a situation, and more than having a solution for whatever is going on, they’re more concerned with understanding why this thing has happened. Okay? So if you’re that kind of person, if you feel like when you are dealing with client issues, you just get really stuck on what’s happening, and you just feel like you can’t deal with it until you understand how a client would possibly do such a thing, then this can be really helpful.

And one book by somebody who I’ve met who is a good friend of a good friend of mine that’s really great about this, called “Captivate.” And it’s by Vanessa van Edwards. And she just went absolutely over the top with packing everything you would need. I think she’s got exercises, she’s got takeaways at the end of chapters. It’s really well organized, whether you’re skimming or you’re reading the whole thing. The anecdotes are super enlightening. It’s based on tons of studies.

And she is a person who is just obsessed with being fascinating. Of course, the title of her book is “Captivate.” But it’s really a lot about behavioral dynamics and how to captivate people. And so, that’s definitely some reading that I recommend if you want to get started learning more about this. Obviously, there’s tons that you can read about any of these topics.

And so the one caveat that I would say here is to make sure that if you’re going to go down the rabbit hole learning here or training that you are focusing on that, something that has exercises, something that has takeaways, and preferably something that is quite researched and well regarded so that your time isn’t kind of spent in two hours of, you know, first odd pages of Google results that are blog posts that say four things as bullet points and none of them are particularly useful, or anything you didn’t know before.

Now, the second thing here is really something that I want you guys to kind of take home, okay? Because a lot of times right up there next to “I don’t understand why this person is doing this thing so I can’t do anything going forward because I’m just stuck in a spiral here” is this idea of feeling like any complaint or issue, less complaint, but even issue, that a customer has is somehow a reflection on your quality of work overall or your quality of being a human being, okay?

Now, this was something that I read…I’ve sort of paraphrased it here. But this idea that customer service is not defending a company from complaints, it’s helping people with their problems. And the thing that I want you to kind of internalize when, you know, whether your editor is asking for you for something that just seems absolutely impossible and that has something to do with, you know, your piece doesn’t this and they want it to this and you know that there’s just no way to do that. Rather than look at it as a failing that you didn’t do X, Y, Z, that you didn’t include it, that you didn’t do that research, that you didn’t think that was necessary, whatever that is, get to the heart of what the editor needs. Why is the editor asking that? Do they really just need a source? Do they really just need a character?

And the one that they’re asking you to elaborate on that’s impossible to get ahold of or that’s really not that interesting, or that has some crazy problems or really doesn’t make sense to focus on that person, is that just one they’ve picked because it seems interesting? What other character can you develop for them? What other person maybe isn’t even included in the piece that you met along the way that you could develop out for them that they don’t even know is way better than the person that they’re asking you to write more about, for instance, okay?

You know, another one on sort of the delivery side, there was somebody that I’m working with currently, but we were talking about how she was working on a guidebook and ran into this thing where… I mean, writing a guidebook from scratch for an entire country, particularly a large country, is an enormous endeavor.

She’s been working on this thing for more than a year. And finally, the entire draft, and, you know, all 13, 14, 15 chapters of the book is ready, it’s in with her editor, she has a deadline for when the final, final version of the book is supposed to be finished, and she’s not received any chapter at it from her editor.

They’re obviously going to come but she’s now gotten to the point or she had now gotten to the point when we were talking about this, where the number of weeks remaining between her deadline and the time we were discussing this was fewer than the number of chapters that she needed to work on. And she had done one chapter’s worth of edits. So she knew approximately how much this was. And it was basically going to need to be the only thing she did for a certain week. And she had trips coming up and she had other work to do.

And so we had to sort of sit there and, you know, create this whole email for this editor, laying out for the editor that, you know, what the editor wants is great copy, right? But she’s not going to be able to deliver that if she doesn’t start getting version soon. And in this case, it’s kind of the reverse, right, where she’s actually complaining to her editor that she hasn’t gotten the edits yet, right? But the way that we needed to approach it, because obviously the editor is her client, is a way where we are helping the editor with what the editor needs, okay?

So in this case, the editor needs to have the book ready on time, she wants to have the best book possible. So this writer was like, “How can I educate this editor about what I need in order to make that happen for her? How can I make sure the editor knows that I’m prioritizing what she needs, which is this great book, rather than have this just blow up in my face like 10 weeks from now, where I’m just frantically trying to get this book done and I don’t have enough time, I can’t fulfill my other commitments and it’s not what the editor wants, and we all get upset?”

So what I was just describing with this book example is proactive customer service. And this is something I see happen a lot actually, is there’s a situation going on with a writer’s client and there’s going to be a train wreck. It can be seen in the future or it can be seen that there’s a place where the tracks branch, and it could go either way, and these proactive steps are not taken. So this is also something that is an integral part of your customer service as a freelance writer, is seeing these things that may happen and helping to steer the client around this important fence in the road.

So I know that this is like the kind of webinar that a lot of you don’t even want to tune in on because you’re like, “Oh, my God, clients stress me up so much, like I don’t even want to talk about this.” But we can fix that, we can fix that. We can make it easy for you. All right? But it starts with this. First a deep breath and then really thinking.

It often can help if you visualize an individual human, whether you know them or not, you can create a fake individual human as your client, whether this is a magazine editor, somebody who works in-house at a company, whatever that is, you picture them, you picture what their job is, you think of all of the things that are involved in your job.

And then you think about how you overlap with them, how what you do overlaps with their job and what you can do to make that job easier for them in terms of problems that they have, that you can help solve. So this can sometimes be an opportunity to upsell your client. Like, let’s say, you see, I use this example a lot, let’s say that you’re doing blog posts for company and you see that their social media is atrocious, that they’re just posting, like, check out the new post on our blog, :URL.

You can say, “Hey, I know that you’d like to get more traffic to this blog post. Could I also, you know, for this extra fee, provide you with some tweets that you can load that will drive people to this post?” Things like that. That is going to get you more money, but it’s because it’s centered on helping your client with a problem that they really have. Now, there’s a lot of problems that your client can really have. And some of them have to do with your deliverable in a way that you don’t realize. So I often have people give me something in a file format that I’m not going to use.

And what I mean by that is when I’m online, I have a lot of things that I need to do, they can only be done online. And there’s things that I prefer to do offline, particularly editing, or all sorts of things like that. And I have people give me things that are going to require me to really have a deep thing, can preferably have the internet off, to work on, and they give it to me as a Google Doc.

Now, if anybody ever asked me, “How should I submit this to you where a Google Doc?” whatever, I will tell them, “If at all possible, please send it to me in the body of an email,” because I can look at it anywhere, anytime, and it’ll be done on my phone. But so many people don’t ask that. They just assume, they assume that the client works like them. They assume that however they provided to the client, it won’t be a problem because the client can figure out. There’s so many assumptions that go on.

And I really frequently see, like I mentioned, a lot of client relationships go off the deep end because of this. This can even come down to, for instance, is your client really busy? For instance, a magazine editor, but it can also be somebody who does, you know, communications for a company. Is your client so busy that their email is back to, or typically all lowercase and lacking in a final period at the end because they’re just trying to get this email out the door?

If you send them an email that’s 12 paragraphs long and each paragraph has 12 lines, are you helping your client or you’re just creating a new problem for them? So there’s a lot of different ways that we can think about this. Now, this slide is super, super small. I’m in WebinarJam myself, I can actually read it. I hope you guys can as well.

Because I gave a couple different examples now, actually more than a couple, of customer service and sort of potential customer service sticking points for freelance writers.

But now I want to take a step back for a second and really drill at the heart of what we want to do with customer service here. So this definition I have here at the top is my favorite. That’s why it’s at the top, it’s also super concise. So this one says customer service is timely, empathetic, help, it keeps the customers’ needs at the forefront of every interaction. One sentence, right? You could just write it on the wall.

So that every time you get an email from editor, even if it’s a rejection, even if it’s, you know, we just ran a piece just like this, you can say, “Okay, well, what is my customer need here?” You know, you can say, if you’re empathetic, “Oh, that’s so great. I’m so glad to hear you’ll be covering this thing,” and, you know, that you that you’ve already got that on the schedule, right? That’s empathetic. Because the person has got this thing checked off their list. That’s great for them. Something I never see writers seem to say.

And then there’s a question you can ask, of course, you know, “Are there other sections that you’re looking to fill?” But you can also just say, “Are there other sections that you’re looking to fill? Here’s another pitch for your blah, blah, blah, section.” And scratch both edges. So you’re bold.

If the client has something that they’re thinking about right now, the magazine editor in this case, that they do need some help with, then they can tell you. But at the same time, if they don’t, you’re also helping them have more ideas, right? So you’re thinking of, what is my client? What is this magazine editor going to need? They’re going to need a different story. Obviously, they have other sections to fill. This is done. They’ve got this.

What have they not got, you know, pardon my language, but you know what I mean there. Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. Often customer service takes place while performing a transaction for the customer, such as making a sale or returning an item.

Customer service can take the form of an in-person interaction, a phone call, self-service systems, or by other means. Ideally, customer service should be a one-stop endeavor for the customer. For example, if a customer calls a helpline regarding a problem with a product, the customer service representative should follow through with the customer until the issue is fully resolved. So there’s a lot in this particular definition here that I want to unpack.

So customer service can take place and, often does, while performing a transaction for the customer. So for us as writers that can take a long time. If you’re working with an editor, or if you’re working with a company to produce content for them, the period in which you’re performing that transaction is quite long.

And that’s why client interaction, customer service, whatever you want to call it, is such a huge and crucial part of our business. Now, it can take the form of an in person interaction, a phone call, self-service systems or by other means. This is a really interesting thing. I don’t see too many freelance writers, I don’t want to say zero, but I don’t see too many freelance writers using self-service systems for that many things that they could. For instance, invoicing.

Now, obviously, some places are going to have requirements for their invoicing, and please follow them if they do. But there are some great systems out there that cannot only invoice your clients, they can do it automatically every month, or every period, or whatever, and also do the follow up for you so that you don’t have to worry about that, that you don’t have to feel about it.

But also so that you can write a script once for what you want them to say and have the same thing very nicely sent out to the customer every month. Now, this next thing on here in this definition that I really like is this idea that it should be a one-stop endeavor that you should follow through until the issue is fully resolved. This is also a thing where I see people kind of, whether they’re feeling like they’re dropping the ball or whether it kind of happens incidentally, that there’s something that comes up in the editor.

And this is like those ticking time bombs that I’ve seen, where whether senate or a company or an editor externally, you know, in a magazine, there’s this idea that something is happening, right?

So it could be that as you’ve been researching an article, you’ve run into something that was in the pitch that is clearly not gonna work out and you’re not including, and rather than discuss that with the editor, you kind of submit the piece and wait to see. So that’s like a pretty obvious ticking time bomb. But what would be the kind of thing where an editor, particularly of a magazine, can come to you with a problem?

So let’s say that an editor has come to you because they need some sort of edit. Let’s say they need new photographs for something. Now, you could then go back into your cave, so to say, look through all your images again, find some new photographs and submit them. Or you could have a very open communication about what those need to be, send them a sample, say, “Is this more what you’re looking for?” before you send them 20. If they don’t like that, send them something else.

You know, ask them sort of what exactly is it that they’re looking for that’s not in the images that you already submitted. Gosh, that’s a scary question. What did I do wrong? Like, nobody wants to hear that. But that is keeping the customers’ needs at heart. And following up afterwards and making sure to say, rather than just hear more photos, you know, “Did those work out for you?” This kind of thing. All right? Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during, and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees who can adjust themselves to the personalities of the guest.

From the point of view of an overall sales process engineering effort, customer service plays an important role in an organization’s ability to generate income and revenue. From that perspective, customer service should be included as part of an overall approach to systemic improvement. So this is obviously why we’re talking about customer service today and why we’re talking about it in this vein because it is really crucial to repeat business from your customers, right? All editors on all panels at conferences where writers are listening to editors talk about what they’re looking for, the number one most repeated thing and also the thing that editors will always agree on, whereas they don’t agree on a lot of other things, is that they just want someone who’s easy to work with. Literally, this is the number one thing that editors say.

And it’s important to think about this before, during, and after purchase, because there’s also some writers who act differently to editors depending on where they are in this cycle. And I don’t necessarily mean it in a malicious way. But sometimes it’s just kind of like anxiety that can come out, particularly, you know, if you’re following up at an invoice. I knew people who are new to the magazine, a magazine that’s going to pay on publication, they will sit on their hands and wait for the first check to come. And they will not speak to their editor about anything until that first check comes because they’re kind of so suspicious about that. Well, I absolutely get that. And there are magazines out there that can’t pay people or that don’t pay people rather not they can’t pay people. There are some magazines that can’t be people. But I’m talking more about the ones that just don’t and they should.

There’s a lot of other things to do in that situation, rather than go on absolute silence to your editor until the check comes and then be like, “Oh, yes, maybe now I should send this person a new pitch, even though I haven’t communicated with them for eight months. And I’m thinking about them because I just got the check but they really have no reason to be thinking about me.” Oh, there’s a word missing here.

I think customer support is a range of customer services to assist customers in being cost effective and correct use of a product. It includes assistance in planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product. So I really like this definition for a couple of different reasons. Because it talks about this idea of assisting customers and making cost effective and correct use of a product.

So if you, for instance, are working with a company, who doesn’t have a great content strategy, or who has somebody not super experienced running things, or who maybe just has like a total wacko way that they manage their content, like the keywords that they’re giving you to use, whatever that is, educating them about what content you’re going to provide them, how best to use it, how to onboard that, how to communicate the value to other people in the team is part of your customer service.

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during, and after the purchase of a product. We said this earlier. Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the experience of the customers. The sole purpose of customer service is to meet the expectations of customers, they are satisfied with the outcome.

I love thinking about this in the case of freelance writers. How often are you thinking about really specifically what are my clients’ expectations for this particular deliverable right now, right here? And how can I check back with them to make sure I’ve satisfied this outcome? I was just interviewing a writer the other day and she asked me this very literally.

She said, “What are your success measures for…” And she asked me about something very, very specific. And I have never, ever, ever, when hiring anybody, been asked that question before and quite that way. And it was great. Because then she, you know, was saying how, basically, you know, like how she always wants to know that and to work around that. And that’s great. Because that literally is what… I mean, obviously, it’s what I teach when we talk about content marketing, figure out what exactly their problem is and what is going to look right for them and make them look great to their boss and to their customers.

But how often do we think about doing that with a magazine editor, right? Saying, “Great. Thank you so much for giving me this assignment. What would make this stand out to you as one of the best submissions you received?” Or something like that. Such a simple, simple question. You know, maybe they think it’s weird, maybe they don’t respond, who knows, but they could and then you could knock it out of the park because now you know it’s important to that editor. Last one here.

Customer service is a more complex department that doesn’t only provide support to the customers but also contributes towards the strategic goals of the company. The customer service department, which provides day-to-day guidance to customers, may be part of a larger customer service department that makes those activities part of the organization’s mission.

The customer service department gets beyond helping the customer solve a particular issue. They exchange ideas and help the user to get more value out of the product or service they purchased. This idea again of getting more value, I can’t tell you how often the people who stay with editors and move up, whether that’s longer articles or tomorrow work or whatever that is, it’s because they look at this, “How can they help the person that they are working for get more value?”

So I have two slides here that I’m just going to go through really quickly that are kind of expanding on kind of what classical customer service people deal with. And I wanted to have this in here. And then we’ll talk more again about how this works specifically for freelance writers, not just because in this series, we’re kind of looking at how things work in the classical case, and then translating them.

But also because, after everything we’ve talked about, I want to kind of say these challenges in customer service and these metrics that customer service people are judged on to you and have you kind of think about them in your own space. Anything that lights up for you, great, but I’m just going to kind of go through them. So some common challenges in customer service include customers having to re-explain their issues, for instance, after being passed from one agent to another.

So this is the kind of thing that I hear freelance writers complain about more about, but I can definitely tell you, as a person who hires people that I see on the other side as well, where you might find that the person that you’re working with is having to tell you the same thing more than once, but you don’t necessarily realize that they’re telling it to you more than once maybe because they’re saying it two different ways, because whatever they said the previous time you didn’t get it.

So this is definitely something to look out for. If somebody that is a client of yours is telling you the same thing more than once, that’s a sign that they’re getting frustrated, and that it’s becoming a customer service issue, and you need to do something about it. Callers asking questions which agents cannot answer. This is another one. I’ve seen, you know, whether as a test or not, but editors coming back to freelance pitches with quite a lot of questions about the article topic and how it would be executed.

And often people are like, “Oh, my God, I don’t know how to answer this.” Or they pitched an editor and then…at a trade magazine, for instance, with the letter of introduction rather than a pitch. And then the trade magazine editor says, “Great, can you send me some pitches based on the editorial calendar for my November issue?” And then the writer just goes deer in headlights eyes and doesn’t know what to do for weeks, and then decides it’s too late and gives up.

Customer calls being placed on hold. People generally hate being placed on hold while waiting to connect to an agent. This is this whole hurry up and wait, right? Where, like, obviously we send editors emails, and then we have to wait for, you know, eight months for them to get back to our pitch. And then they write to us and expect a response in five minutes because they’re currently thinking about this thing.

Customers require to have spend too much effort in order to resolve an issue. I’ve seen some things like this where, interestingly, like writers go in Facebook groups and complain about how an editor completely rewrote their piece that they submitted and how they hate the edits, and they’re wrong, or they’re factually inaccurate, or something like this, and the writer is complaining about it. But the editor is probably not very happy that they had to go rewrite this whole piece as well. And there’s probably a reason that they rewrote it. And it usually goes back to what we’re talking about on the last slide. What is their success measure? What do they need to see there that you didn’t provide?

Agents not accurately understanding customer issues. Customers are not always able to clearly convey the technical details of their issues, leading to repetition, confusion, frustration. So, like, how does this play out with editors? This is something that we talk about really a lot here at Dream of Travel Writing, particularly in terms of journalistic detail.

This is a term that I just absolutely made up because I always see editors asking for the same thing in words that writers totally don’t construe in the same way that the editors mean them. So this is another thing. An editor might be asking you for something, particularly if they’ve sent something back for edits more than once. They’re clearly asking for something that they can’t convey in the same words that you use. So how can you figure out what it is that they’re looking for?

And then their customer service challenges, angry and demanding customers. Pacifying and pleasing angry customers can be particularly challenging. So angry and demanding customers. I see a lot of people construe an editor maybe as being angry or frustrated when they might just be short on time.

But there’s also times when they might be angry or demanding for some reason or another. We’re going to talk in another slide about how to deal with that. Another challenge is recognizing and understanding customer expectations, right? We just talked about this in the last slide. Service agents need to be highly aware of what customers expect from their purchased products or services, along with what they expect from customer service. So this is an interesting one that I kind of went back to on this idea of somebody sending like a 12-paragraph email in response to somebody who writes 1 sentence with no period emails.

Expectations can be varied. They might be not just in the quality of the piece that you would submit or the structure, the amount of research provided. It might be in the format of your email or how the attachments are sent or not sent, maybe they need to be uploaded to an FTP site. It might be in terms of how you word your email. There’s a lot of different various or nuanced expectations that can go on.

So I just wanted you guys to see, these are the types of things that customer service people are being, for lack of a better word, judged on. This is what their internal goals for themselves are based around. So you’ll see a lot of duplicates here between the team level agent, which means like an individual provider, and case, which means one sort of instance, level metrics here.

So you’ve got average time to first response, average number of interactions for resolution, customers satisfaction score, average call handling time, customer request volume, overall resolution rate. And some of the metrics that are tracked are this customer satisfaction score, something regarding customer happiness, how much effort is required from customers, that’s an interesting one, how long it took before customers received initial responses, the percentage of issues resolved within the first contact, the average amount of time taken to resolve a customer issue, and simply the number of issues that are solved, period.

So I think it’s really interesting to look at this and kind of think about it for yourself, you know, like, “How often does…? Is there an issue with my editor, whoever I’m writing for, that can be resolved in one email? How can I change what I’m doing so it can be resolved in one email? Or how can I change the amount of time that I am putting into resolving this issue?”

So you can see that the priorities here really kind of focus on this time spent and this like added accuracy, satisfaction, whatever you want to call it, closure situation. So what does that mean for us as freelance writers? How can we pull that into what we’re doing? So I want to start kind of talking about how these things play out more specifically for us.

And I have this diagram here. It’s kind of an inverted pyramid, which looks at…we talked about the same sort of inverted pyramid things in terms of how marketing flows into sales, and lead generation, all that. But this is kind of what you do in order to generate customer happiness. So some of it is going to be documentation. Some of that can be documentation for yourself, some of it can be documentation that you provide clients. Some of it is going to be how conversations are happening. Some of it is going to be how long it takes you to manage these situations. Some of it is going to be the training side. And some of it is just going to mean how happy are people right now with what we’re doing? What else can we do?

So like I said, I’ve got a huge grab bag of different things you guys can do. And I just want to go through them quickly. Some people are going to be like, “Oh, my gosh, yes. That’s the thing that I can do. It would take me like 20 minutes. I’m going to do it tomorrow.” And some people are gonna be like, “Oh, my gosh, that doesn’t compute for me how that works.”

So depending on where you are, particularly in terms of having had numerous client interactions or deep in terms of length of time client interactions, whatever that is, these things are going to strike you differently. So I’m just going to go through these suggestions. And then I have some sort of larger, more conceptual points that will work for anybody no matter where you’re at, not just in customer interaction or client interaction, customer service.

So we talked earlier about this idea of what does your customer need? You can create an FAQ or frequently asked questions on your website for people to see before engagements, interactions begin. This is also a good thing. If you have a lot of people, perhaps that you see a lot of these, and it would kind of change how my website comes up in search for this, I’ve just got a lot of people just sending me the super random copywriting, which I didn’t do a lot of type jobs, were like, “Can you please write 60 travel guides to Africa where I have no specialties whatsoever? For us, the rate is this. Like this is how it works.”

And I’ve never been somebody who’s super happy to work on jobs that have kind of been built out like that, because there’s always going to be something missing, whether the rate is lower probably than it should be, because they’ve already decided what they think is gonna be for, or there’s some amount of work that they’re expecting the writer to do, which is kind of unreasonable, or whatever that is.

And so, you know, I could have an FAQ and say, like, you know, “If you are interested in reaching out to me with a job, you know, here are some things to keep in mind.” And then I can talk about, you know, how I put together a package, what I look at in terms of pricing, how far out, you know, I might be booking new clients. All sorts of different things like this.

And then if somebody sends me that sort of email, I can say…I don’t even have to respond. This is like a great tip that I got from Jesse Festa who is a blogger who does really, really lot of work with a very small…she has a couple different assistants for different things. But it’s just amazing the amount of stuff that she gets out the door, her own in terms of blogging, doing lots of different deliverables, doing lots of different trips, things like that. And she uses these Google sort of email templates for everything.

So if somebody invites her in a press trip, immediately, like, basically, without her even looking at it, they get an email back with all sorts of great information from her for the person to look at and then email her again, basically. So that’s the kind of thing that you can have with this FAQ.

It could be something that when somebody reaches out to you, you’re like, “Thanks so much. Have a look at these and see if you still think it makes sense for us to work together.” Obviously, that sounds like a kind of first world problem. Freelance writer has a lot of people reaching out to them. But it can also be for, if you are getting started, for instance, with pitching custom client work to companies, and somebody writes back to you and they’re, like, “Kind of interested. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to hop on a phone call. Can you tell me more about how this really works?”

And you can say, “Absolutely. I have this FAQ that goes through all sorts of details here. But I really find that everyone’s situation is different. And so I’d love to talk to you more specifically about how this applies to you on a phone call. Here’s a link to my calendar, please choose anytime that works for you. And I look forward to speaking soon.”

Great automating things to make it easy for them, fewer steps, one-stop shopping, right? Another thing, you can just write all standard emails to close a deal in advance, in templates, and check them for tones and any potential psychological pitfalls. Now this works whether you’re talking about content marketing clients or magazine clients, right? So you could have a series of templates. Like, let’s say somebody gets back to you on an assignment and it’s missing a rate. Let’s say somebody gets back to you and it’s missing a contract. Let’s say someone gets back to you on an assignment and it’s missing a due date.

You could have pre-written emails for yourself, again, saved in Google templates, or whatever, if you use that, where you’re like, “Thanks so much. I’m so looking forward to working on this assignment with you. You know, here is my standard… I noticed you didn’t provide a contract, here is my standard contract. Please let me know if you have any changes. And I look forward to getting this assignment confirmed.” Something like that.

You can have these all set up so that whenever these things come in, you don’t have to go, “I don’t want to respond. Why didn’t this person put a contract? Are they going to have problem with my…?” All these things. You just hit template, go, done. Now, something else that we talked about a lot in operations are these different sorts of automation.

There’s self-automations, there’s template automations, there’s workflows. So as you’re writing these standard emails, you may have to think about what is your workflow for these things? What about fulfilling and fulfilling on overdue bills? What if a client has asked you the same question 12 times already? How do you handle that? And another thing that you can create standardized customer service for is feedback loops for current customers or for customers you just finished up with.

This can help you get testimonials, this can also help you get more work. This is the kind of thing where, you know, if you do some sort of customer service, where it’s going through an app, often the apps these days will automatically send you something… I get these surveys from Delta all the time, for instance, but they’ll automatically send you something like, “Please let us know, you know, how our agent, you know, handled your call the other day,” or something like that.

Or you might call and they say, “Please remain on the line after your call for a survey,” right? All customer service operations have these built in because that’s how they get those customer satisfaction numbers that we were looking at before. And that’s going to be really important for you because it’s very difficult when you don’t have a boss that you actually see, that you can kind of see how they’re feeling or, you know, are they talking to less today or something like that, how they feel about your work.

It’s very difficult when you work with editors you never see, who you maybe don’t work with again, and you’re not sure why, to know how you’re doing and what you can improve. So this is creating sort of automatic feedback things you just do every time no matter what is a great way to do that. So for instance, let’s say you’re working with a magazine editor, you know, you could say, “Thank you so much,” again, as you’re…you know, you’ve turned in an article.

So like this is the final draft, they say, “Great, send me an invoice.” You say, “Thank you so much. It was an absolute pleasure to work with you. I’d love to do so again in the future. Please let me know if you have any feedback that can help me in our next interaction. And here’s another pitch for you to consider,” for instance.

Here’s a good example, by the way, of a standardized kind of template. And this is actually kind of point…not the bottom point here about feedback loops but the workflow. So this is one where I actually see people kind of get into weird things when I’m on coaching calls, where people are kind of like, “Oh, gosh.” I’ve had people say, like, “What should I say when I’m invoicing my client? Oh, gosh, I have to invoice this client every week. And I hate doing it because I don’t know what to say to them.”

I get this exact same email every Monday from somebody who works for me. It says the exact same thing every time, literally the exact same thing every single time. It’s this simple, you just have a big sheet of templates that looks like that. So another thing that you can do in terms of low-hanging customer service fruit is to create communication guidelines for yourself. What timeline do you want to have to get back to customer responses? Does it need to be the second it comes in? Should it be 24 hours? Should it be 12 hours? Does it depend what type of client it is in terms of like if it’s a, you know, sort of like a content marketing agency that you’re working for that you do a lot of work for versus a magazine editor? What should be included in every message, whether conceptually or in terms of a specific communication best practice?

So this could be, you know, sort of something where in the beginning, maybe you’re saying something more human interactive? Or in the beginning, you’re saying, “No, thank you so much for that question.” Or, like, “I’m really enjoying working with you,” or something like that. And what about dealing with conflicts? What is your guideline for yourself to make sure that you are dealing with conflicts with clients, whether large or small, or whatever, in the way that best reflects your values for yourself as a company and as a human?

I see a lot of times where these, whatever is going on, if there’s like a client where it’s really kind of like falling off, and this thing needs to close, maybe they haven’t been paying you or they haven’t been giving you things that you need to get the work done, and now they’re saying that you’re not delivering and so they don’t…whatever.

But think in advance about what your guidelines are for yourself in terms of how you want to deal with the situation when they arise. Because then when they do, you will simply follow the plan that you’ve laid out for yourself. When you were most saying you weren’t feeling a scarcity mindset, you weren’t feeling backed into a corner, and you really thought in depth about how do you want to come across in a situation.

In a larger way, you can also create customer service vision and goals for yourself. These can be really simple. Are your goals for the customer service work that you want to do in terms of laying out templates and things to make things less stressful for yourself? Great. To deepen a familiarity with the needs of your customers, maybe to get more feedback, to decrease the time that you spend into the press? What is your goal for your customers service going to be right now?

Maybe you can even meet a training on some different skills. So think about one thing. I said a lot of different things here, there’s a lot of derivations thereof as well. But think about one thing that you dread that has to do with client interaction. It could even be on the marketing side, it could be following up on invoices, and a lot of different things. But think about one thing that you dread, and how you can use any of these tools that we talked about to take the emotion out of it.

Now one way that I really, really love that I’m going to share with you is this yes-no-yes formula. So I’ve done it just a little bit on some of these little mini templates that I gave you over the course of the call. But the idea of the yes-no-yes formula is that anytime you need to say something that might be negative in some way, shape, or form, you soften it with this yes-no-yes.

So what that means is, “Thank you so much for reaching out to me with this, you know, copywriting project of yours right now. I’m currently working through February in terms of being booked for the client projects, so won’t be able to accept this for you to complete it in the timeline that you’ve laid out. I wish you the best of luck in finding another writer for this.”

All right, what about something, you know, again, that’s like this first world, too much work writer problem. What about an editor asking you for like totally insane edits on something? So let’s say you… This is a real situation. Let’s say you did photography for an article, and the editor, you know, at some point theoretically knew that you don’t live in that place and you travel to do the story. And now the editor wants reshoots on something.

“Thank you so much for looking over the photos. And, again, I’m so excited to be working on this piece with you. Because I don’t live in that location, it won’t be possible for me to do reshoots, unless you’d like to approve X amount of dollars for me to travel back out there again. I look forward to working with you to figure out how we can redo the art for this piece in some other method to make sure that it meets your standards.” So yes-no-yes is a positive thing, the negative thing, and a positive thing.

So I’ve queued up some scripts that are used by Michael Hyatt, who also is the guy that produces the productivity program that we have in our Dream Buffet coaching program libraries. And he’s the person I learned this from and he really has just a great way of doing this. It’s really interesting because the particular ones I’m going to show you today, I find, are like really strong.

And usually I find that when I do yes-no-yes and particularly when I work with people to create a yes-no-yes that we maybe are a little bit softer in like the no. So this might be stronger than you would be doing, but I just want to show them to you regardless. So here’s some yes-no-yeses.

“Can I meet with you for coffee or meal?” “Thank you so much for your kind words about my blogger business.” “Thanks also for your interest in meeting with me. Unfortunately, will not be possible for the foreseeable future.” This is what I mean about a little strong.

“In order to honor my existing commitments, I must decline many worthy invitations like yours. However, this is one of the main reasons that I blog, speak, podcast, whatever. It allows me to connect in some way with people I would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Kind regards, name.” There’s no lack of clarity here.

And this is something that I see a lot of people struggle with when they are looking to sort of say a no to somebody. So a great example is, let’s say… There’s not a good one here. But actually, this is a good… I’ll tweak this for you and kind of show this how this would work. Like, I’ll give you two examples here. So this one, can I pick your brain?

This is a great example for somebody who wants to do like free consulting for them. So somebody who’s a company and maybe they’re interested in having you right, but they really want to like meet with you or something like this and have you basically tell them what they should be doing for free. “So thank you for your interest in meeting with me about blah. I get this request a lot. As a result, I have three options available. The first one is free. My blog, I have numerous articles, blah, blah, blah. Consulting, I do a limited amount of consulting. My minimum is a one-hour consultation, not including travel time for X rate. The why I’m expensive, I do provide a discount on half day and full day rate. So you can learn more about this and book a session on my consulting page.”

Speaking, or you could say training, maybe if somebody wants to know about social media, you can say come into training. “I also speak about this conference. I have a one-hour speech called ‘Title of Speech.'” So obviously, this sounds like very first world here. But like, let’s say you have a client who wants to meet with you in their office and you’re already on a contract, and that is not something that is included in the contract. So here’s one that’s a good example of this. “So thanks so much in your interest in having me speak at your event. Unfortunately, due to my existing commitments, I’m unable to take on any additional speaking engagements of this time. Best of luck in finding the perfect speaker for your event.” So how would we tweak this?

“Thank you so much for offering to meet in person at your office. I really appreciate the opportunity to come in and see you and discuss this. Unfortunately, due to the fact that our contract does not include in person or phone meetings, only the deliverables outlined, I’m unable to come to travel to your location to meet with you due to my existing commitments. I look forward to continuing to produce the rest of deliverables outlined in our contract, and can absolutely answer any other questions that you have over email. Kind regards, you.”

So what I really love about these, I’ll go back to the slides now, is this idea of the very clear line of no that’s created by yes-no-yes. So I recently, during one of my first press trip events, we did a bunch of these together. We kind of talked through some situations that people had. And I gave some examples for some of the ones I had, and then we workshopped how to come up with your own examples.

And it was really interesting how much people struggled with like just saying no, but how this yes-no-yes really made them feel empowered to do it. So if you have clients that are really just scope creeping about different things, I really recommend yes-no-yes. Now here’s one other thing that I read, that I wanted to pass on to you guys because I think it’s so important in dealing with these kind of sticky client things that we feel not awesome about, like saying no to people.

Yes-no-yes is a great formula, but it works because of this. This is a quote, “Focus on making the customer service department a happy place. Use whatever means at your disposal. And plants and flowers to the decor. Add fish tanks. Add windows or more natural looking light. Buy better coffee. Buy a better coffee machine. Invest in fun, comfortable furniture. Make the space open and welcoming. Create neutral zones where customer service reps can go to relax for 10 minutes after X amount of calls. In essence, create an environment that makes people happy to be there.”

What can you do for yourself to make yourself happy, to have the sort of interactions with your clients? Because I know most of you aren’t. And that results in interactions that are not furthering your business. So another couple of things that I read here that I just want to leave you with. Make sure your customer service department is an independent body within your company.

If you can’t, put it under the tutelage of the marketing department instead of sales. So this means rather than thinking of interacting with your customers, as something that you do as part of your deliverables or part of your work time, you need to think of it as something separate, something that you do in a separate mind space, that you kind of like, you know, look at some flowers, look at some fish, sitting on comfortable furniture, whatever that is, and then you do your customer service.

And if anything, you should do it with your marketing time, with your marketing activities rather than other sales or part of deliverable things. Next thing here, if the support team isn’t 100% better than the product you’re trying to market, support suffers. So this is an interesting thing. And I talked about it way back in the beginning of the call. If there’s things that you feel like you keep supporting clients or interacting with clients, writing emails to clients about, how can you embed solutions to those, better service, better documentation, whatever that is, higher up in the process?

How do the interactions that you’re currently having with your customers need to inform the rest of your work? Does this mean that you’re having magazine editors, who you’re having to do 20 emails back and forth, to solidify with the article ideas? How can you change the emails you send them earlier on? How can you standardize this?

And if they are still not giving the assignment after X emails, does that mean that you just burn it, you just kill it? And you say, you know, “Thank you so much for emailing me this week about this article idea. I was really looking forward to working on this assignment with you. Unfortunately, I can see it’s really taking us time to reach a decision about this. I have a number of other clients that I need to service right now. So I wish you best of luck in finding another writer for the survey or for the story. And I look forward to the opportunity to potentially work with you on another article idea down the line.”

Done, yes-no-yes email, get them off your plate. So I will leave you with that. And coming up the end of our Freelance Business Systems series, we’ve got one on admin. I know everyone thinks all of the other things we’ve been talking about in the last, you know, five months of webinars are admin, but they’re not. We’ll talk about what the admin really is. And we’re going talk about the fun stuff, and then we’re going to talk about strategic direction to cap it all off.

Thank you so much, and I will see you next week.

Freelance Business Systems: Control That Quality Transcript

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Today, we are continuing our Freelance Business System series speaking about quality control. And this is actually, I know I keep saying this in the Freelance Systems series that I’m so excited and that this is something that I am very passionate about and I’m really excited to talk to you about. But I feel like, in this case, it is even more true than usual. And I wasn’t quite thinking about how important this topic is for you guys, I guess, until I started working on the slides. I mean, obviously I had it in the series. But as I was working on the slides, I really realized just how much I get asked by people, is this good enough. How do I know if it’s good enough? I don’t want to send my pitches until I’m sure that they’re good enough. Is that the right thing to do or not? There’s just so many questions that I get around this topic of good, good enough, what does that mean?

And so I’m really excited to dive into this today for you guys, because there are ways to do this. Companies everywhere release products that they have worked on that have never been purchased by customers in the past with, you know, millions if not billions dollars worth of marketing campaign, because they have some sort of belief that the product is in fact good. So there are ways, there are processes, there are, you know, various strategies that we can use to ensure that our work is of a certain level of quality or the needed level of quality or whatever that is. And so that’s what we’re gonna talk about today.

So specifically, I’m going to go through what quality control is kind of more on a general, you know, business, in terms of all businesses level, and then talk about how that translates for writers. And as I was just talking about this idea of knowing if your work is good enough is so important. It occupies a lot of people’s minds for a lot of time. And, you know, if you’re looking at writing the next breakout novel, that’s not like anything that’s ever been done before, then we’re talking about a very different can of worms here. But most of the writing that we’re all doing day-to-day is something that does exist out in the world, albeit in a slightly different form, or the same form but about a slightly different topic. We’re writing an article for a magazine that’s new to us, but the magazine has existed. They’ve been publishing features like the ones that we’re writing in the past. So there are always ways for us to be able to know if we have hit that quality benchmark to the best of our abilities, okay? This is important. Because there’s always gonna be things you don’t know. And we’ll talk about that. And we’ll talk about risk as well. But there are ways to know that.

And so we’ll look at how you begin with that. There’s some different facets that quality control breaks out into. And we’re gonna talk about conceptually how you can start to integrate that into your business. And then we’re gonna look at…This is kind of different than why I’m doing this today. I have some things that came up in terms of quality control, best practices. And because they’re kind of strategies and best practices, they’re not exactly, like, some of them are things you can do, but they’re more sort of thought points. I’ve put a bunch of them together on one slide.

And I wanna kind of introduce them to you not because I want you to feel like you have to do all of it. So that’s like the bonus or the future or the advanced level slide, if you will. But because there might be something there that really catches your eye and is like, oh, I get that. I resonate with that. I connect with that. I understand how that works for me. That’s the thing that I wanna rally around. But then I’m also gonna look at some very specific tactics that are, you know, whether it’s an app or maybe something that you already have, you know, installed on your computer that you’re not using this way or thinking about in this way, or something that you can create very quickly, looking at some tactics that you can start to get going with, you know, very much tomorrow.

I’ve talked with quite a few folks about the sustainability idea lately. I think because as we’re heading into the summer, when a lot of people are traveling, for folks in the U.S., there’s a holiday weekend this weekend, in fact, starting tomorrow. And this idea of being able to do the writing and do deep work always feel so much easier in the winter, right, when, you know, there’s not the call for us to go outside. There’s no places that we wanna go. Our family isn’t also on vacation. They wanna hang out with us. And this idea of what is the business that’s sustainable for you is often something that people don’t think about until they’re burnt out.

So this is something that I really like to explore with people, this idea of sustainability, early on and crafting what their freelance writing is. And what we talked about in this same webinar series last week, last iteration in the series, if you’re catching on the replay, this idea of controlling your operations. It’s really how, at the core, to make the best of the time that you have to achieve the goals that you wanna do and make sure that those two things fit together.

And what we’re going to look at this week in this webinar is also a really important part of the sustainability. Because I know a lot of people spend far too much time in terms of the amount of time they have available in relationship to the goals that they have. So far too much time for wherever they personally are on things because they wanna make them perfect, or they’re not sure that they’re good enough, or whatever that is.

So what we’re gonna talk about in this webinar today really dives into this idea of how do you start to create for yourself that professional outlook towards the quality of your work, which is very different than someone who has all the time in the world to work on an essay that they wanna see in “The New Yorker” someday or a book that they want to see published by a major publisher someday, where that’s kind of a lifetime goal or a reach goal or an achievement goal. So I’m really excited to talk to you guys about this today.

So before we dive into this webinar, I’ve said this on the past webinars, for anybody who’s jumping into this series kind of midway that these Freelance Business Systems webinars that we’re doing are really important for a variety of reasons. I just touched on the sustainability aspect. But also there is kind of this bigger picture idea that I’ve mentioned in the last couple webinars because I’m getting audited by the state of New York right now, which is that most folks, I have to say, and I say most because I’m counting the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people out there who are doing some form of something that they’re calling travel writing, okay?

So the vast majority of people out there are not pursuing their travel writing or their freelance writing or whatever it is as a business, okay? This includes even people who are, you know, full-time editors at magazines or some other full-time job and doing some freelance writing on the side. It’s something that is like a hobby, like going to dance class or going to train for a marathon or something like that. There might be, as with a marathon, an end point in mind, but it’s not being pursued as a business.

And for those of you that either are currently full-time or have designs on being so, particularly if you’re in the U.S. where the tax code has changed recently and they’re much more stringent about this, it’s really important to be pursuing what you’re doing as a business in terms of the way that you operate, the way that you run your accounting, the way that you track your financial goals, other things that we’re gonna do later in the series such as the way that you set goals and achieve them for sales, the way that you conduct your marketing, and different things like that.

And the flip side of that, which is interesting, is that I know a lot of people shove all they’re kind of “business stuff” on something that’s often called an admin day or something like that that they do once a week or once a month, maybe a half day week, something like that. And it’s kind of seen with derision as this thing that you get done because you have to. And what I find unfortunate about that is that the writers who have built really fantastic businesses for themselves that achieve not only their goals for themselves professionally but also for their families, whether it’s, you know, to acquire a home or a vacation home for themselves or something, take a vacation or whatever it is, they’re always the ones that are systematic and strategic about the business side of their writing.

I was just chatting with somebody earlier today, who was telling me, you know, almost in a very offhanded way about the clips that she’s been getting lately and talking about how she feels like, you know, but there’s other things that she wants to do or she’s frustrated that she’s not getting there fast enough. And she’s very on point about tracking what she’s doing, how long it takes her, the time it takes to get there. And the interesting thing is, you know, while she might feel frustrated with the amount of time it’s taking her to get somewhere, I see a lot of other people that are doing, like, one-sixth of what she’s done and, you know, two times the time, and they aren’t frustrated, because they don’t know what they’re not achieving, or they don’t have goals for themselves, and they’re kind of getting there by accident.

And so my wish for all of you, whether this is something that you’re doing full-time now or something that you are currently trying to ramp up to do full-time, is that you have the wherewithal to bring to bear, you know, centuries-old best practices on how to make a business work to make your business work. Because there’s way too many people out there reinventing the wheel with their writing businesses and their online businesses when you really don’t have to. All of these things that have worked for ages and ages for other types of businesses, whether it’s, you know, banks…Well, maybe not the banks of today, but, like, Renaissance banks in Italy or something. Banks or manufacturing firms or retail stores or whatever, all of these same principles still work for us. So that’s what we’re doing in this series. I’m trying to kind of distill, you know, if you wanna call it a business school education or an apprenticeship in business or whatever, I’m trying to distill that and put it in to the freelance writing context so that you guys can reap the benefits of those lessons.

So last week we talked about, or last webinar, for those of you who are catching this in the replay, we talked about this idea of your operations. And we looked at this idea from Andy Grove, who was the CEO of Intel, this idea of your production as kind of this box, and what goes in and what comes out and how to control what happens in there and make sure that you’re cutting windows into the box to see what happens and check that the right things are happening.

So the logical next step from us, talking about operations and gathering data on your operations to make good decisions, is to optimize those operations in a way that ensures quality. We touch on this a little bit last week, but this week, I’m gonna really dive into how exactly we that. How is it that we optimize things to ensure quality?

So when I say quality, it could be work quality. You could even just think of quality in terms of craftsmanship of stuff you buy, if you like. But I want you to just take a second and think for yourself, like when you think something is a thing of quality, what does that mean? I think about this a lot of things that we go through quite frequently, like shoes or jeans that even though they might last six months, they always seem to end up with holes or variously tattered from wear at the end. So, like, maybe it could be something that you find that you have to buy relatively frequently and that you’ve intentionally chosen to go with a certain brand, because you know that that brand works over time. It could be what you expect from yourself in terms of quality. It could be if you’ve been in or you’re currently in a management position, you know, in some other job or the job that you have now that’s not travel writing, what you expect from your employees.

So whatever that definition of quality is, I want you to think about it for a second. Because, like I said, I was using the jeans example just because my husband is down to, like, a pair of jeans that I allow him to wear in public, because they have, you know, not too many holes. And so, like, whatever that thing is that you think about, you know, there’s traits that go into it. It might be that it lasts a long time. It might be that, for instance, you know, to continue the clothes example, it might be that it has a very specific fit, that it has a kind of tailoring that’s not for the masses, that it’s something, you know, that’s really snug and that you can tell that some thought has gone into it. That’s something that I often see people talk about when I think about quality workmanship. It could be, for instance, if you’re thinking about people that you supervise, whether now or that you’ve supervised in the past, it could be that you want a complete solution. That’s often something that people say.

So whatever that is that quality means for you, I want you to just keep that in your head for a second before we talking to about what quality means in a business setting and controlling that quality. So obviously, there’s as many definitions for quality out there in the world as there are people and circumstances to be honest, right? You might have one definition of quality for one thing and a different definition of quality for your breakfast sandwich that you get, you know.

But this is one that I found in the course of researching this webinar that I wanted to share with you. Quality in business means that something does what it is supposed to do, and it’s suitable for its intended purpose. Now I think this is really interesting, because I often when we think of quality or talk about high quality, we think of something being fine. Like, you know, it’s like a fine, like, source material. Like, you know, a quality tomato might have a great taste. It might also have a nice look to it. You know, maybe when you slice it, it has a certain texture, right? I think we often think of quality is having some innate traits. But the reason that I wanted to share this with you is I wanted to introduce this idea that quality is not always something that is innate, that quality is or can be something that is relative to the situation and the person who is evaluating its quality. Now I say this because when you are the person evaluating the quality of a piece of work that you have done, you tend to not be the intended recipient of that piece of writing, okay? The intended recipient is a reader, an editor, there’s not a lot of other people that can be the intended recipient, right?

So it’s very interesting, because so many of us get really caught up on assessing the quality of our work without getting caught up on assessing the intended audience, I harp on this a lot when we’re talking about magazines, but the intended audience and the intended purpose of the work, okay? And if you think about it that way, you are essentially incapable of judging the quality of your work. I say judging here, not assessing. But you are essentially incapable of judging the quality of your writing work. Because its intended purpose is not for you. In fact, its intended purpose can’t be accomplished with you reading it, because it’s intended to accomplish something with a reader who doesn’t already know all of the things that you know about the topic or about what has gone into writing the work. So you are essentially categorically incapable of assessing the quality of your writing particularly.

Now in some other things, this might not be true. Like, if we’d go back to this example of jeans, like, a person who makes jeans can look at them and evaluate so many of these different things that, you know, a wearer of jeans might evaluate. Because they could also be a person that wears those jeans. But we’re not a person who reads our writing in the same way that a reader who didn’t write it would read it. So we have to start from that departure point, that as writers, there are many ways in which we are not capable of really judging the quality of what we’re doing and go from there, okay?

So if we look at some definitions that are more from the industry of what quality control is, I’ve pulled out three of them for you, I know I had a lot of definitions last week, but we’ll go through these kind of quickly. I’ve highlighted a couple things in each of these that I really like in terms of what they say about the concept of quality control.

So one is that the aim of the quality assurance process, and we’ll talk about the difference between quality control and assurance and everything a little bit, but for now let’s just imagine they’re the same, okay? So the aim of the quality assurance process is to provide assurance to senior management and other stakeholders that the processes and activities used throughout the development of your software are designed to maintain the high quality of the end product.

Now before I point out some of the things in here, I just wanna say that some of the examples that I’ve pulled here come from software, because that’s, like, really big…software and manufacturing are two really big areas of quality control. Obviously, it happens in food, right? We have the FDA for that. And, you know, there’s the tobacco and alcohol commission. There’s a lot of, whether government agencies, out there or not, there’s a lot of things that we encounter here about day-to-day that ensure quality in different things that touch us. But I think software is one of the things that touches most of us in many ways, whether we, you know, like it or not, that we’re attached to our phones or computers or the internet.

And the software quality assurance process is a really interesting one, because they have a product that’s out there all the time being used, and they’re constantly making fixes to it. And so they have, like, they call it a continuous iteration there. So a lot of things in quality assurance, if you decide after this webinar to go look it up, tend to come from a software setting. So that’s why that’s there.

Now as the owners of our businesses, I like this idea that quality control provides assurance to management. Because that’s something that I really want for more of you. I want more of you to have assurance that what you’re creating in your writing work for clients, you know, what you’re creating for yourself in an exploratory way, like if you’re doing an essay workshop or something like that, that’s totally different. But what you’re creating for clients is terms of work that you’re gonna put in, it’s great to have assurance as the worker in that setting that you’re creating the thing that the person who’s paying you wants to see. And there’s a lot of feeling that as writers, that’s, like, very difficult/impossible, but writers who do a lot of work tend to have a pretty high degree of whether you wanna call it certainty or assurance or whatever around this. So I can tell you it’s definitely possible, and we’ll get to some different ways to do that in a little bit.

So quality control is the consistent process that ensures the obtained result within a project is aligned with the product scope. During this process, the project manager and the quality control team review the project against acceptance criteria, we’ll talk about this, too, to ensure that all features and functions that characterize the product are completely embodied in it and work properly.

So you’ll notice here a word that we talk about a lot, especially folks that work for the companies, but also even for writers who work more on the magazine side, is this idea of being aligned with the product scope. And then there’s this term acceptance criteria that we’ll get into more. And I think when we think of acceptance, we tend to think of, you know, like we pitch an article, the article gets assigned, we write the article, maybe there’s some revisions, and at some point the editor accepts it.

And, you know, we talked last week about this idea of the black box. But I think the black box comes up in a huge way in terms of this idea of how, when, what will make my editor accept my piece, right? And like, it’s always the dreaded thing when you think a piece is done, because you haven’t heard back from an editor. And then, you know, they come out of the woodwork wanting all sorts of stuff, and you have absolutely no time.

And I use the example, I can’t member if it was one of the webinar, so when I was on a coaching call with somebody, but I’ve used this example recently of somebody who I was working with through a situation where she had a book project, and the editor from her book project owed her edits on the entire book, okay? And these are usually edits that are relatively deep. And she had a travel schedule coming up, and she just knew given the number of weeks until the final final, as they call, like, the draft that is accepted, the final final of the book was supposed to be done, she knew that she was at a pace of one week per chapter if the editor started sending her edits right away, which was not guaranteed. And we had to essentially, you know, go back and work with that editor to make sure that those edits started coming right away so that the editor could get what she wanted in time.

Now that wasn’t in the original project scope. The scope had changed a little bit from when the project started. And there’s times when this happens when you have scoped out something, and for reasons that are totally valid, you know, maybe you push back the deadline, maybe there was an issue in terms of being able to get the material for the piece with interviews or something, that the scope has changed. But it’s always important, and we’ll talk more about this throughout this call, but it’s always important for you to be able to do your best work to be really super clear on the scope with the folks that you’re working with.

I just came back from a conference that wasn’t explicitly for writers but had a lot of writers and editors as well, where we were talking about this idea that there are more and more, very frustratingly, demanding magazine editors who come back to new-to-them writers six months after the writer has pitched an idea and say, “Hey, I want this thing, and I want it in three days, five days, maybe six days,” something like that.

An editor, I’ll tell you where he’s from, because it was a fabulous thing to say, an editor from “Epicurious,” which has, like, been around for a long time and is a very respected outlet, he said, “Any editor who comes back to you six months after the pitch out of the blue is an asshole.” And I’m quoting him very verbatimly there. And I really appreciated that, because I think that often writers think it’s a very us or them thing with editors. And here’s an editor saying this thing that another editor is doing is not okay.

And yet, at the same time, this definitely happens. And the person who asked this question in the panel at the conference that this happened at, she told me that, basically, she submitted this thing to this editor, you know, in three days as he wanted. And then the editor came back and said, “Whoa, whoa, I haven’t even sent you a contract yet. Like, what is this?” And she’s like, “This is the scope that you gave me. These are the parameters for success that you gave me, was that you wanted this by this deadline. And now you’re saying that there’s other parameters for success. What am I supposed to do here?” So there’s certainly times when the acceptance criteria, if you will, whether it’s accepting, you know, the full article or accepting the first draft of the article or whatever it is that’s gonna be acceptance where we are missing some information that’s gonna help us know what will allow the editor accept the piece. But there’s other ways that we can figure that out. And we’ll dig into this.

So the last definition that I have in here is the concept of quality assurance isn’t to test yourself all at once at the end to report the bugs and then fix those bugs, but is to create a quality product in the first place and then also test the quality of product. In order for QA to work and to result in a real process improvement. So this is interesting, because I also see this particular definition coming to play a lot less, but a lot with less experienced people, which is that I see people write a pitch that they may have spent really, really, really, really a lot of time on, and that might even be like months of thinking about this thing and trying to get themselves to write and writing and scratching it out. And then I look at the pitch, and I can’t even look at the pitch. I can’t give them feedback on the pitch. Because the idea at the basis of the pitch is so not an idea that would fit any magazine whatsoever, because it’s a place, not a concept. And all of these, you know, things that you hear me say all the time, that they have to go back to the drawing board.

And so this is something that, like I said, isn’t happening to most of you, but I want you guys to keep this in mind, that as we’re talking about quality control now, it’s something that has to be part of the process, the process of creation. And it starts at the beginning. And we’ll get into that. Because if you just do it at the end, you run the risk of having to go back and redo a lot of things that could have failed a quality check and thus had you work more on them earlier on.

So let’s have a look at how that works. But before I do that, I wanna say one more thing in that last definition. So I know that I said some of these examples that come from software. So there’s this idea of bugs. I think we’ve all heard of this that software has bugs, like when your phone or your computer just restarts randomly, that’s because, like, it had a bug or had a fatal error or something like that. Now everything that I was reading that was about quality assurance in the software world, and this is not something new, I’ve heard this a lot before, is that there is no such thing as bug-free. I want you to know that. No company out there is intentionally sending things out in the world that are bug-free. This is real. This is, like, the way that the world works. Nobody sends things out that are bug-free. Bug-free is not possible. Bug-free is not the goal. Look up quality assurance and bug-free, and you will see this over and over again. There is 100% no such thing as bug-free, okay?

And part of that is because, for instance, in an article that you’re working on for a new-to-you editor, you have no way of knowing exactly the way that that editor likes to receive their things until you send something to them, until you put yourself in that situation, and then you figure out what the bugs are, and then you can iron them out for next time. So this person who had the editor come back to her six months later and then say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I haven’t sent you a contract yet.” She didn’t know that, for him, the contract has to come first. I mean, I hope that for all of you the contract has to come first, right? But this is something that she wouldn’t have had a way of knowing. She wouldn’t have had a way of knowing, you know, other things that that editor might need that are in his style guide, for instance, okay? So there is no bug-free because you can’t have all of the information. So be heartened and be emboldened by that. Because that is not, being bug-free, is not actually the definition of quality, okay? Quality like we looked at in the earlier slide is something that does what it’s supposed to do and is suitable for its intended purpose. It’s not perfect. It doesn’t include every single feature somebody would want. It doesn’t address every single problem that they may have, okay?

So what that means is that, if we can’t be bug-free, what is the goal of our quality, okay? If even the biggest companies who have huge stakes in this and pissing off their existing customers and all of these things, if they’re not releasing things that are bug-free, what do we do? What quality assurance people try to do, quality control people, we’ll get into the definitions of these different terms in of it, is that they focus on the things that they know are gonna impact customer usage the most, okay?
And I really wanna share this idea with you, because we need to remember that our customer is the editor or the client if it’s, you know, a company owner who’s not actually gonna edit your stuff, okay? Our customer is the person who receives our written words. They are really our customer. The reader is not really our customer. The reader is their customer, okay? And it’s always great to help our client, our editors, our, you know, company clients, whoever that is, with their job of meeting what their end clients will want, okay? But our job is to do what our customer needs.

So if your editor really needs you to do something in some cockamamie format because that’s how it goes in her CMS or content management system, and if you don’t do it that way then she’ll have to do it, then that’s really important to her. She’ll be really pissed if she doesn’t receive something in that format no matter how beautifully it’s written, no matter how many amazing facts that you have found for her, okay? So when you are thinking about how to spend your time on an article, you need to think about what are the bugs or what are the issues that will affect your editor the most.

So let’s say, for instance, that you have a magazine that you’re working with, let’s say it’s a trade magazine, but it doesn’t have to be. And they have an editorial requirement that there must be a minimum of three interviews per piece. And this even includes, like, you know, front of book pieces that are maybe gonna be 200, 300, 500-words long. They just have an editorial requirement that for, you know, fact-checking and expertise purposes and all this stuff, there must be a minimum of three articles.

So what customer usage in this case means is that do you necessarily need to focus all of your piece around those three interviews? No, it means that for the editor, she needs to know that you have done the three interviews that that is checked off the list. You can just include, you know, I spoke to such and such and such, and this person completely agreed that this is a trend, okay? So it’s really interesting how sometimes people read into something that is important for your user, for your editor and take that to be a larger goal, something that you have to wrap all of your work around when it’s really just a requirement for your end purpose.

And so we’ll get into this idea of requirements in a little bit, because this is really important. I’m hoping that this idea of what requirements will kind of help reshape how you get into your writing work in terms of how much time it takes you to get into your work. But first I wanna look at two maxims in quality control. So one is that something is fit for the purpose and right the first time. Now particularly that second one, how gorgeous would it be if everything that you wrote is right the first time, right? Like, wouldn’t that be the dream? And I don’t mean grammatically when I say that. I mean, that it’s right in terms of like what we talked about before. Like, it’s suitable for its intended purpose, okay? Or it does what it’s supposed to do and its suitable for its intended purpose, but also this idea of fit for purpose.

I see very, very, very often, and this is one of the reasons why I won’t read drafts of articles, that people, like I mentioned with pitches, people have spent a bunch of time on something like an article, and I can look at it right away and know that it’s not gonna fly for whatever it is they’re gonna do because it doesn’t look like the article in the magazine. So for instance, this might be, you know, the classic case of somebody who has written, some of this happens still to this day, I hear it all the time, somebody who’s written something that’s 2,000 words that’s supposed to be 500 words, and they expect the editor to cut it down or worse. They think the editor will be grateful that they wrote more words and that they did that extra work. Okay, that’s not fit for the purpose. The purpose is that it needs to be a super-tight, 500-word article that addresses all of these things in just 500 words and doesn’t include things that don’t fit into the scope of a 500-word article.

So, like, that also doesn’t fit into this category of right the first time. Because when the editor receives that, they’re gonna send it back, and they’re gonna say, “Not only do you need to make this shorter, but I also need you to include these three things that you didn’t touch upon.” I’ve seen this happen, too. And then my favorite part of this particular situation is then writers get really upset because they say, “Well, the editor wants me to write more words than the word count. They assign me a piece that’s this long, but then in the edits they told me they need me to include additional things. So they’re gonna pay me for the extra words, right?” Like, I’m not kidding you, this actually happens. And editors’ responses are always like, “I will pay you for the number of words that I assigned you. If I assign you a certain number of words, why would you try to bill me for more words than I assigned you? That doesn’t even make any sense.”

So right the first time is something that we need to do not only for ourselves. Obviously, like I said, it’s not necessarily grammatically perfectly right, but the first words that you put on the page for any article can be more or less right the first time. I promise you, I see it happen all the time, okay? And the way that we do this crazy-sounding thing of right the first time, is by being really dialed into what means quality for that outlet, which means what is the structure of the article, what are the type of sentences they’re looking for, how much of it should be quotations, how much of it should be detail, how much of it should be historical background, and so on and so forth. And when we have that formula, then we can just sit down and plug things into it, and then our first draft can be very close to being right the first time. And likewise, that will also check the box of fit for purpose. And when you’re able to do something right the first time, not only does that make you happy because you spend way less time on it, but it also makes your editor very, very, very, very happy and much more likely to work with you. And then you’re happy to work with them, because you don’t have an astronomical hourly rate, because you can do it relatively fast. And then everything spirals delightfully into happily ever after.

So I want you to really think about how these two things fit for the purpose, okay? Nothing should go in that page that’s not fit for the specific singular purpose of the specific singular assignment that you have at this moment, okay? And how can you make something be right the first time? I really love the idea of this challenge. Not how can you labor and work over something for it to be right eventually, but how would it change the process of you going towards the blank page and working on the writing in the first place? How would it change things for you to think about putting something that was pretty much right down the first time…?

There’s somebody who, I think she’s doing kind of other stuff now, but who used to have a blog about writing and freelance writing, like, way back in the day when I started named Linda Formichelli. And she would say that she would write for these, like, $2 a word big women’s outlets like, “Oh!” and “Elle” and “Allure” and all these things, and that she would write her 1,500-word pieces in an hour, that she would pretty much always do that. So she’s writing for these really high-level outlets, and she’s writing up the pieces in an hour, and she’s spending only a little bit of time, really, to be honest, during the research.

And I remember we were talking on the phone one time, and I was saying something about having $100 an hour hourly rate that I really like work to consistently maintain. And she was like, “Well, I wouldn’t do anything less for a $350 an hour hourly rate, you know, when I started moving away from writing for magazines.” And you could certainly say, “Well, she’s writing for $2 a word outlets, and so that gives her a lot more hours, you know, if she’s got, like, $2,000 a story coming in.” But I just love that idea of, like, be pie-in-the-sky. You can be a freelance writer with a $350 an hour hourly rate no matter what size of publications you’re writing for if you can use this right the first time approach to controlling your quality. And you also have to be able then to let it go.

So for writers, you know, it’s so often comes down to this question, is this good enough? This comes up all the time. It comes up when people are working on pitches. It comes up when people are working on articles. It comes up when even, you know, just when people are, like, at the idea stage, before they’ve even written the pitch, is this good enough, okay? But I want you to think about reframing that question. Is this good enough for blank, for who? Is this good enough? And what time frame? Is this good enough for what circumstances?

So somebody that I work with was recently on a press trip that she did just a big pitch blitz beforehand to get some article placed so she could go on the trip. And she came back and then did a big pitch blitz based on the trip that she had done, they get stories out. And she’s worked really hard on honing her pitches down to be written in about 15 minutes. And she spent a bunch of time going through “The Travel Magazine” database and finding new outlets a pitch and things like that.

And I have seen other people who have trips like this where they would never have accomplished, you know, 20, 30 pitches in the span of a week before and after the trip. It just would have been impossible. Because to them, each pitch is like a precious dragon egg that only comes into this world, you know, once every 1,000 years or something, pardon the “Game of Thrones” reference. But the real idea needs to be you want to maximize, in this situation, for instance, you want to maximize the chance that you’re gonna get a response by singing the most pitches for the most outlets in the quickest time possible.

And that’s what your good enough metrics are. You know, is this pitch readable? Is this pitch focused on a particular area of the magazine? Does this pitch accurately get across, like, my background and the details, you know, at least some details about why this is interesting? Great, it’s good enough. It goes out the door. So this idea of thinking about…I’m actually just gonna skip ahead for a second. This idea of thinking about what is good enough starts with the requirements, okay? So I just introduced this idea of good enough being for who, in what time period, in what circumstances, okay?

And in this, you know, like, mythical but, like, real-life example that I used of having a trip where you wanna get on the press trip, and then when you get back you wanna get as many pitches out as you can so you can land stories quickly from that trip. We have some requirements here, right? We have requirements that you need to hit the maximum number of places, that where you will have the best chance of success. We have the requirement that you need to get some pitches out and land one story before you leave the trip. And we have the requirement that when you get back, whatever that requirement is, you know, in this case, it might have been that she just wanna have at least one story, it might have been that she wanted to get as wide an exposure if possible, it might have been that because this person was gone for a certain number of days, let’s say, like, eight days, she wanted to make sure that she had eight stories come out of it, or at least income worth $5 grand or something like that. So assuring your personal quality is met starts with outlining what that quality looks like, okay? So this involves the way, I really like how it says in here, that these requirements are captured, phrased, prioritized, and managed, okay?

So let’s go back to this article for a new-to-you magazine example, okay? So I’m not gonna take the person where the editor got back to them after six months and one of them in three days, because that’s hopefully, like, more of an outlier. But let’s just start with the normal you are working with a new-to-you editor example, okay? So in this kind of setting, you have an assignment, right? You have an editor who said, “I need you to cover this in this many words for this section by this deadline.” So we’ve already got some requirements right there, right? We know the framework in terms of the length of the articles. We’ve got a cap there. We know the framework in terms of the total amount of time we could possibly spend if we’re gonna dedicate all of our time to it in terms of the deadline. And then you know that it’s for a certain section, so you can look at what has gone in that section before, and pull from there some requirements in terms of how the article is addressed. You can also look at how the magazine has treated similar topics previously. And you can pull some requirements out from there.

Like I said, if you’re working on an article, some typical requirements you can pull are how many interviews need to be completed, how much background information does this magazine typically include. Because that’s the place where I see a lot of you guys go really deep on your research in a way where you’re never gonna use all of that stuff in your article, and you end up finding things that become darlings that you have to kill, like little historical facts that you’re just fascinated with or anecdotes that you really wanna include, okay?

But if that’s outside of the requirements to have five different historical antidotes, then you shouldn’t necessarily be going that far in to that research in the first place, okay? It’s out of the requirements. And doing that is going to negatively impact the end quality of the project. Because the time that you’ve spent researching those things, writing them up, and then deciding you have to cut them is time that you could have spent on something else in this article or otherwise.

So some other requirements that you might have, that you might wanna capture at the beginning, is you can talk to the editor about what their style guide is, if they haven’t already provided you one. You can ask the editor a question…I always like to ask new-to-me editors, you know, is there another article that you’ve done in the past or recently that you would like me to use as a model for this? And some of them will, you know, want you to do that work yourself, but some of them will be like, “Yeah, you know, I didn’t really like the last couple, but here’s one that we did, you know, last November that I really like. Like, look at this as an example, okay?”

Now this idea of pulling out requirements, like I said, there are some that are really obvious. You have the deadline from your editor. You have the word count. You know, you have the section that it’s gonna be in. But there’s other ones, like I said, in terms of the structure of the piece, how many interviews they include, how much background information that you need to pull yourself.

But what I really like to do, and I’ve done this ever since I was in school, I really love to do this, is at the top of the page where you’re working in your draft, write down all the requirements that you know about. And I mentioned in the past, you can also write down, you know, your thread, your sort of thesis sentence. You can write down your who, what, where, when, why to keep yourself focused. There’s a lot of different ways that you can choose to set up the requirements for yourself, and so I don’t wanna give you restrictions on that. But get your requirements in hand and put them somewhere that you can focus on them, okay?

Because quality control includes three main segments. And we’ve used these words interchangeably, but now I’m gonna tell you what they mean. So quality planning, quality assurance, and quality control. So I just talked about getting those requirements and putting those out for yourself at the top of the page. That is quality planning. You are planning what the end product needs to look like.

Now in a larger way, there’s a lot of sort of industry buzzwords that you can use around this that I just wanna touch on quickly. There’s cost-benefit analysis, okay? So this is where you say, do I wanna spend 12 hours on this because it’s a new to me editor and I really wanna impress them? What is the pay for this? What is the potential long-term relationship here? Let’s say it’s a magazine that comes out three times a year, and they’re paying you $400 for a feature. So at the maximum, this would be a $1200 a year assignment.

Now let’s say that you would generally spend, like, 6 to 8 hours on it, and you’re contemplating spending 10 to 12 or maybe 15, okay? What are the other things that you could be doing with that time, okay? And what is more valuable? So that’s cost-benefits analysis there, right?

Now benchmarking is something that I think we’ve probably heard about in a lot of other settings, but I wanna introduce it for you as writers. So benchmarking is when you look at a publication, whether a publication you’re working on an article for or, like, a super dreamy publication like “The New York Times” aside from their, you know, can never have accepted any free anything for your entire lifetime policy, but you know “The New York Times” or Conde Nast Traveller or Travel and Leisure. And you think about what is the level of writing on this page? What is the benchmark for quality that’s being set by this publication?

And so I’ve had people, for instance, who are really in an impostor-syndrome moment go through several magazines that they feel like are really beyond them and then grade the writing for like A, B, C. A being this is absolutely outstanding. This should win an award. It’s so poetic. It’s just a delight to read. B being like this is really solid writing. And C being like, wow, like, I would write this when I’m drunk. And that can be really effective in terms of benchmarking to look at other publications that way and see what is the quality of writing that’s being submitted. Because we don’t know what the submission looks like, right? We can only imagine the submission wasn’t as good as what’s on the page, okay? That’s food for thought. But what is the quality of writing that’s actually appearing on the page compared to what you think you need to be writing and submitting, okay?

Now this last thing, acceptance criteria, I touched on a little bit earlier, but you can really easily look at existing articles in the magazine that you’re working on or existing writing on the website of the client that you’re writing for and see what has been accepted in the past. What are the characteristics of this thing? And you can ask your editor or your clients, what’s the most important thing for you, you know, in a good working relationship or in this article or in the work that we’re gonna do together? And you can create, just like you can those requirements, you can create what are the criteria that will allow this piece to be accepted by the editor.

And I can tell you that by and large those acceptance criteria are almost always, from what I hear from editors, adhering to what needs to be in that section, what’s in that section, every single month, okay? So, like, even if you think you’ve written like the most beautiful piece ever, if it doesn’t look like the way the section looks like last month, they’re gonna have to ask you to change it, unfortunately. So quality assurance is something that for us is typically done by our clients, especially if we’re writing for magazines. Because this is assuring that what goes out meets the standards of the publication and that’s something that we’re not gonna know the standards of the publication.

So I want you guys to all relieve yourself a little bit of that onus, because unless you are the last check step for a client of yours, like you’re doing their blog and no one else looks out after you, in which case, I recommend that you personally shell out and include this in your quote, but for somebody to look at your piece, like for an editor who you work with directly, there’s somebody else who’s worrying about that, okay? So that’s not usually your goal. To ensure that every article in a magazine that comes out is of the same quality is the onus of the editor or of the chief editor or the publisher, okay?

But quality control is something that we touched on last time. And I’m going to jump ahead to the slides on that in a second. But quality control is what we do in our work process to ensure that our work is quality, to ensure that we can be right the first time, to ensure that it is suitable for its intended purposes. And there are three main aspects of that: it’s prevention, inspection, and tolerances. So tolerances, to start there, are what is it okay to give a little bit on? What doesn’t need to be perfect? You might need to have three interviews, but you might not need to include a quote from all of them, okay? Or it might need to be 500 words, but those can be breaking up into paragraphs however you want. Or maybe it needs to be just one paragraph, okay, but you’re you have a little more leniency in the word count. So whatever is that tolerance. Inspection is these steps where we look at the work that we’re producing and ensure that it’s in the right track. And prevention goes back to quality planning. How early on are we avoiding creating work that’s not what the client looks for.

So we looked last time at this idea…Oh, sorry, I love this quote. I just wanna take it for a second, but I’ll come back after these. We looked last time at this idea of the production black box. So things go in, you know, our thoughts, our research, our interviews, and what comes out is a piece. We talked about the breakfast example last webinar. And then we talked about the idea that we can cut holes in this black box, which is our process for how we create these pieces, and start to see how, you know, the sausage is made, as they say, but how are the piece is really written and where we can introduce check steps to make sure that that happens correctly.

Now, like I said, to make sure that something happens correctly, it really depends on your requirements, right, on what the end product is gonna look like. And so there’s another quote about sailing in the Spain that I also really like, but I found this one I hadn’t seen before, which is actually like an ancient Roman quote. “If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”

And I like this because I think that we often think, oh, I have a deadline you need to write this piece, and that that’s enough in terms of a destination. But I really encourage you to take this idea of requirements to heart and that quality planning and outline for yourself on a more granular level what an acceptable to your editor piece looks like, okay? Because otherwise, if you’re not writing to that, if you haven’t created a template for yourself, for this magazine, or a general template for writing a profile or writing a feature or whatever, you are gonna be doing a lot of meandering through the very large ocean of information to get there, okay?

So I told you I have this slide that has a lot of, like, interesting ideas that I wanna introduce to you. And I’m gonna leave this up here. But these are some things that I saw come up in this idea of the realm of quality control best practices. And I just wanted to throw out there, in case some of them for some of you really light upon, oh, this is a thing that I get that really resonates with me. This is something that I can do. So part of quality control is risk management. For us, a big part of that is money, right? Like, what if I do this thing and the person doesn’t pay me? What if I do this thing, and they don’t like it, and they don’t pay me? You know, there’s, like, so many things around that.

But also part of it is peace of mind. Like, what if I do this thing and I’m not confident that it’s good, and it just continues to needle at me, and I just continue to pick at it, you know, between now as I’m working on it, the deadline, which isn’t for two months, or something like that. And I think that aspect of not being able to feel sure that something is of the quality level it needs to be is one of the things that can make us put things off until deadline, because that’s something where we won’t be able to question the quality anymore. We need to just turn it off, right?

But another part of quality control in terms of risk management that I want you guys to think of is availability of supply. So for us on the editorial side, that might be interviews. It might be background information that we’re trying to have. It’s usually some pieces of information or access to something on the ground or something in that vein that we need to get, because it needs to go into article, okay?

But also I see this come up so often on the client side for people who have content marketing clients, okay? Like, a lot of you have contracts where you are doing some sort of blog post, social, something rather based on some piece or pieces of information that you need to get from your clients, and there’s a delay there, okay? So any time you have other things that you need to get to do your work, that’s a risk. And you need to manage, as part of your overall quality control and process, how much that risk can affect you.

So another best practice that I liked was this idea of to consider the entire lifecycle. So that means, like, each…We talked a little bit about this before about, you know, that it’s not just fixing the bugs at the end. But as you’re starting to plot out how do you plan quality, how do you create quality, how do you need to look at that at different stages of the lifecycle of an article. You know, there’s the beginning when you’re working on the pitch, that has a certain standard for quality. Then, you know, as you’re going back and forth with the editor, answering questions, that has a certain standard for quality. As you’re gathering the information from sources and interviews, each interview has a certain standard of quality, what you need to get from that source, and so on and so forth.

Something that I read that I really liked is this idea of applying effective methodologies. I think, like I said, writers tend to have the sense of, like, you’re in the Wild West, and you’re doing something on your own, you know, maybe that other people haven’t done before that interferes with the idea of applying effective methodologies. But there are methodologies, you know, like I’ve come up with quite a few myself, but particularly in the writing space, there are so many out there. And so if you feel like you’re stuck on the how, go and look for a methodology. Go check out a journalism website and see how they say to do it.

Reduce maintenance cost. Now this is a place we’ll get into more down the line. But in this particular setting, maintenance means when you have done something and you need to keep changing it. And so I mean that in terms of your pieces, okay? This goes back to the idea of, you know, creating that final thing first.

This other best practice that I really like, consider the end user’s mindset, okay? Consider in what circumstance somebody would be picking up the magazine that you’re writing for, what their mindset might be at that time. Do they not have a lot of time? Are they looking to really be devoured by a piece of writing? What is their mindset?

Align enterprise quality with strategic goals and initiative. So you are an enterprise, you personally, your company, or LLC, or whatever you are, and what are your goals for your overall quality of the work that you’re putting out in terms of how they align with your larger strategic goals? So if your goals are to get as much money as you can from content marketing so that you have more time available to do other things, that’s a goal, and that aligns with how you’re gonna produce things in terms of quality.

Establish structures and resources to get the desired results. We’ll talk about procedures again in a minute, but I would love to see more of you guys have procedures. I see a lot of procedures around pitching, but I’d love to hear from more of you guys that you’re creating really specific procedures in terms of how you approach writing your articles and particularly the articles that you write for clients regularly where it’s a really repeatable thing. You probably have a procedure that you’re doing kind of, like, automatically, but I’d love to see that more standardized.

Creating supporting policies procedures and tools, not mandates. As we all see, like telling ourselves, oh, I’m gonna X. I’m getting more pitches out. I’m gonna read more magazines. Like, that doesn’t work unless you have a super, super disciplined mindset. So how can you create whether it’s a policy or procedure? You know, like, a policy might be like I don’t get to watch “Game of Thrones” until I’ve sent, like, 25 pitches, right? Like, that’s policy. Like, it’s just something I don’t do. I don’t watch “Game of Thrones” until I’ve done X, right?

Select, define, and standardize quality measures across the enterprise. We’re gonna get into it in a second, what quality measures can be. But this other one I also like. Problem analysis and not mere identification. So anytime you come up with something where you’re having an issue with ensuring consistent quality, don’t just point out like, oh, well, because, you know, this editor didn’t tell me, there was no way that I could have done what she wanted in advance. No. Introduce a step for when you have a new-to-you editor. You ask them XYZ questions before you get going.

So some tools that you can start with today are a definition of ready. So often people tell me that, you know, they sit down to work on something. And I asked them have you X, have you Y, have you done this? Like, what about this research, have you heard about this? And they haven’t. So make sure that you have a definition for yourself of once all of these things are met, then you are ready to work on a piece, and that you don’t try to do that beforehand.

Likewise, a definition of done, what does done actually mean to you? Is it when you hit the word count? Is it when you hit the word count and you’ve incorporated all these things? You know, because for some content marketing work, it’s just when you hit the word count. Like, that’s it, right? So have a definition have done and be ready to change that when appropriate.

Now I have these open, and I’m just gonna flip over really quickly, but this idea of procedures. This is a tool in your quality control arsenal. And we’ve looked at this a couple times, this idea of this procedure for copywriting, right? This procedure that I’ve looked at, there’s a lot of things that they ask the client for at different points in times that they go back and they check with the client to make sure that they have them all. Like, you request all these things from the client. You send them to the client. You ask them to get this.

And this type of procedure for making sure that you’ve collected all these things, it is a form of quality control, because you’re making sure that you have those things not only in a timely fashion but also to include them in the end result. And something else I just wanted to look at, we’ve looked before at the Free to Focus program and how we have that available in your client libraries. And I just wanna pop over to one of the PDFs here for a second. This is in the Free to Focus program. This is lesson number five. And it talks about some different types of automation.

So I have this on the side we were just looking at. But the idea is that there are several different types of automation you can use, and they’re not all digital. They’re not all text expander, okay? So there’s self-automation that you can do in terms of rituals, okay? There’s template automation you can do in terms of documenting a workflow. And that’s what we were looking at before with that copywriting procedure, right? Did we skip one? Oh, template automations. Template automation, sorry. Template automations are not process automations. Template automations are a checklist. So a really good example here that I mentioned on the next slide is, if you have a blog or you use blogs for any of your clients, there’s this thing called Yoast, however you wanna say it, which is an SEO plugin. It basically has a checklist of different things that you wanna check before your blog post goes out to make sure that you’re doing, you know, what you can in terms of SEO. So that’s a template. A template is, like, any sort of checklist that you have for yourself. And I have a couple ideas for that on the slide, and we’ll go back.

So we talked about a process or procedure automation. And then of course there’s tech automations. You know, there’s, like, you can have text expander software. You can have email filtering software. You know, you can put all of your emails from a given client, have them go into a folder, and you only look at those when it’s time to deal with that client. And that helps you, you know, from having concerns about that client creep into the rest of your day and all sorts of things like that.

A couple other sort of tech-oriented automations are like Grammarly is an automated test that you can use on your sentence structure and grammar. It’s not a be all and all thing. And you should also have a manual read through that you do with that as well. There’s a lot of issues with Grammarly that I think I’ve spoken about in the past. Yoast is another SEO one. But then in terms of checklist that you can create for yourself, like, I know people that have really cool ones where there’s words that they know that they overuse. Or, like, one I always look at is, like, do all of your paragraphs start with I. This is a really quick test that I do whenever people send me pitches. As I look, does every single paragraph in that pitch start with the letter I? Because that’ll really jump out and send a very strong visual signal to the editor.

So there’s a lot of little things like this where you can just make a checklist. Like before I send in a pitch, one, I wanna check that not all the paragraphs start with I. Two, I wanna check that there’s a place where in, like, 7 to 10 words I have very clearly outlined what this article is about. Three, does the lead actually tie back into what this article is about. That’s something that often people go awry on. You know, four, have I mentioned that I have specific experience with the topic of this article. Whatever that is. Or it could be like, have I said that too many times, or whatever that is for yourself, okay?

And you can also have checklists of best practices specifically by client. And this is one thing that I just wanted to throw in there for those of you who do, like, a lot of work in the content marketing arena and feel like, you know, you’re not sure how that is affecting your writing quality or you don’t get a lot of feedback on those things, so you’re not sure if it’s really good anymore, is that you can introduce, like, a quarterly call-center-style update.

What I mean by that is that you use the random number generator, and you pick a random date, and you pick like a random article that you’ve written on that date, and you check it for certain things. Like, you know, have I said something witty? Have I stuck to the point of this article? Have I covered, you know, a lot of information in a small space? Have I, like, effectively used facts or whatever to check for yourself in a randomized…This is very, like, classic quality control here. Have some assurance for yourself that even these things that you’re kind of churning out meet your personal quality standards for that type of work.

So in the continuation of this series, we’re gonna talk about something, I’m so excited, I have so much to talk about about this, about human resources. We’re gonna talk about legal issues. And we’re gonna talk about technical support.

So thank you all for joining me today, and I will catch you soon. Have a great holiday weekend.