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Freelance, creative, blogging and successful?

December 2, 2010 3 comments

If you’re a freelance ‘creative’ – writer, musician, artist, sound engineer, or any of a thousand other skills – your income is going to depend on being able to generate business. I’ve been fortunate enough to generate some large projects and continuing relationships with a few big organisations that continue to commission me, but the world doesn’t stand still and neither can I – or you.

I might add that one company I work with has been bought and sold twice in the last five years and reorganised in between times. Some years they’ve accounted for about 75% of my income and other years, 25%. I’m pleased I’ve been able to stay with them, though conscious that the world moves on and one needs to keep an eye out for the next possibility.

Hence a blog about blogging strategies for freelance creatives in modern, internet-based times, and trying to attract attention and new business. By way of a disclaimer, I’ll admit I haven’t done all of this stuff myself as diligently as I should have done. But I will, honest…

First of all, here’s a diagram. Below, there’s a discussion that highlights a few of the issues it might raise.

Using blogs for success?

Using blogs for success?

What are you selling? Mostly, for creatives, what you’re selling is you – your vision, style, and expertise. Even if you have equipment, like a PA system, or are a band or performer, what you’re selling is still you and your vision, style and expertise. Your internet presence needs to put those things across. If you blog, the usual advice is to post a number of ‘pillar articles’ that people are likely to want to refer to. Those pillar articles may be informational, or commentary, or useful links, or whatever. Leaven the heavy stuff with lighter, maybe slightly personal (but not too personal) stuff.

How are you selling yourself? Visual stuff attracts attention – for blogs, having a picture or illustration with each blog is good advice (which I should take myself more often).

Who are you selling yourself to? This is potentially a difficult question. Is it obvious who your market is? For example, I’m a writer. I’d like my potential readership to know I exist, but primarily I want the people who are likely to publish my stuff to pay attention – companies in need of training packages, higher education, publishers. But without some clever keywording, the people most likely to read my blog will be others in the same position as me. Areas to think about: do different potential client groups use different social networking sites? I notice for example that one company I work for found me through Freelancers in the UK (which costs me a small subscription each year but has been worth it), though individuals in the company tend to link to people via Linkedin (personally I haven’t yet found it a good source for generating actual income, but maybe I need to get out there more). All that said, my conclusion is: you’re trying to sell yourself to people.

I’ve had the experience, for example, of writing a blog that got read by someone in the US, who commented on it, whose comment appeared in their blog and was in turn seen by someone in the UK who wasn’t in the training field but knew someone who was. And I ended up – about a year later – with a request to do some work. If connections are going to be that random, I’d suggest you just need to accept this and not worry too much about ‘target marketing’. Just be clear in your profiles about who you are and what you do.

Some other thoughts:

1. All the advice on networking blogs is that if at all possible, do one blog per day. This keeps the blog itself fresh. Empirically, people I’ve discussed this with get large numbers of hits on their blog of they do this and don’t if they don’t. I’ve been managing two or three bogs a week, so I need to change my habits!

2. The stuff in the diagram about going out there, finding people and commenting on their blogs – it works.

3. If you use RSS feeds to spread yourself around different social networking sites, remember that tags don’t always get included in the feed. You will need periodically to visit all the sites you feed to and deal with tags manually.

4. If you have the skills or know people who do, YouTube and Vimeo seem to be good ways of getting examples of your work out there. Be creative! And make sure everything you do links back to whichever blog is your ‘hub’.

5. If you don’t instantly get enquiries and business, it may be frustrating but it’s normal. Remember the anecdote above about how putting something out got me some new business a year later…

6. The name of the game these days seems to be community building. If you’re able to build or become part of a community of people with multiple skill sets, you can raise your game hugely through collaborations.

National Freelancers’ Day

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment
National Freelancer's Day

National Freelancers' Day

I won’t be settling down to work properly until a bit later in the day, because I have a couple of jobs I need to get out of the way first like deliver some of Chris Cafferkey’s photos to an exhibition. Call it a celebration of National Freelancers’ Day in that I’ve scheduled my working day the way I need it to be!

The 90% rule

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been a day of remembering the 90% rule.

The rule says: in any given project, the first 90% of the work takes up 90% of the time allocated. The remaining 10% of the work takes up the other 90% of the time.

I’d like to add my own twist to this: in developing and updating training materials, 90% of the work is ‘creative’ in the sense that it involves making judgements about whether material is still useful and relevant, adding in updates relating to new publications, etc. The other 90% of the work is the clerical stuff – making sure URLs are still valid and suchlike.

Such is the life of a freelancer.

Hopefully later this evening I’ll squeeze in a bit of time playing with duotrope, since I have a couple of stories written a while back I haven’t submitted anywhere.

Below, for the curious, is a picture of the inside of my brain as I reach the point of having 90% of the work done.

A cactus, highly modified in photoshop

Picture of the inside of my brain

[Pic courtesy of Chris Cafferkey – chriscaff.wordpress.com – see my blogroll for clickable link]

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