Archive for June, 2011

Marketing vs Sales

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Last week I attended the Creative Freelancers Conference to market my book What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants.

Despite the name of the conference, few independent writers and editors were in attendance. Because this conference is held in tandem with a large design meeting, most of the freelancers were graphic designers and web designers.

This audience is challenging for me to reach. I speak the same language as writers and editors, and my name is known in some sectors of the world of word freelancers. I was crossing the border into the world of image freelancers.

Sales were modest. But I was not disappointed, because my marketing efforts were successful. I connected with leaders of several organizations for freelancers, and they are eager to spread the word about the book to their members. In addition, I made direct contact with about 200 freelancers who were not aware of the book. If only 15% of them eventually buy the book and another 15% tell their professional colleagues about it, that will be a good reach into a relatively untapped market.

When I promote myself as a freelance writer and editor, I don’t think of what I’m doing as sales. Maybe that’s because my services are not tangible, like the books I cart to meetings, put on a table, and ship home if unsold. But every contact we independent writers and editors make is a marketing effort, with a sale as a potential outcome.

Marketing is a long-term effort, whereas sales put money in the bank. The time horizon between marketing and sales can be quite long.

I once met an editor who took almost two years to offer me an assignment. Then I continued to freelance steadily for her for seven years. The wait between marketing and sales was long, but in that case the sales payoff was substantial.

As independent professionals, we have to continually market ourselves. We can’t necessarily expect quick sales, although that of course is the dream when we need work and money to pay our bills. But without marketing, sales will never happen.

Meet the Author in Chicago

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I will be in Chicago next week at the Creative Freelancer Conference.

A conference called Creative Freelancer sounds like it’s perfect for us. In fact, though, independent writers are but a small proportion of the attendees. Most are web designers and graphic artists, because this conference is held in tandem with three others targeting those professions.

So why am I going? Mainly to promote my book What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants.

I’ll be a split personality at the Creative Freelance Conference. I’ll be a freelancer, and I’ll be a marketer of a useful product for freelancers. I’ll be an attendee but also as an exhibitor. 

If any NAIWE members are at the conference, I hope you’ll connect with me, in whatever form you see me.

Memorable Writing

Friday, June 10th, 2011

I went to the theater last night. It was an event I have been waiting for for 15 years.

The play was Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. I saw it when it first appeared on Broadway 15 years ago. It blew my mind away!

Sometimes when I see a wonderful play, I feel so completely satisfied that I never want to see it again. I have felt that way since seeing Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman. He WAS Willy Loman, and no actor, however great, will ever be so quintessentially the Salesman.

But with Arcadia, it was different. I have been longing for the chance to see this play again, to be swept away by the language, by the amazing genius of Stoppard that turned mathematics into dialogue.

I heard that the Broadway revival did not match the original production, although it was nominated for several Tonys. So I went to the theater last night prepared to be disappointed.

I didn’t feel the acting or the stage design and lighting were as good as in the first production. But the writing! What a masterpiece! Cerebral yet accessible. Real and imagined. A play with a message that delivers by showing, not by shouting.

So much came back to me as I anticipated and then watched the show. It helped that my seat was almost identical to the first time I saw Arcadia: as far right as you can get, almost close enough to touch the stage. The names of the characters, which I had not heard in 15 years…Ha-ha, the word for sunken fence which was new to me then but which I have since met in many a crossword puzzle…The mathematics and physics and philosophy lessons, miraculously turned into the stuff of drama.

What makes writing so memorable? Is it the excellent execution of an impossible task, such as making math become speech? Along these lines, I hold Philip Roth’s early book Deception, written entirely in dialogue without identifying the speakers (a technique he used later in a few pages of The Human Stain, to equal effect) as a memorable work.

Characters whose names alone bring back the reader to their first encounter—that too may chacterize a work as memorable. I recall rereading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and immediately feeling my old friend Howard Roark was calling on me after a long absence. Same for Little Women, especially Jo. If I read any book set in a cold climate or including a train that has a character named Anna, I am transported back to Russia in the days of Anna Karenina.

Sometimes,a single word or phrase makes writing memorable. For me, it was “ha-ha,” the sunken fence, in Arcadia…Many words and phrases in Shakespeare…On a mundane level, a lot of advertising: Where’s the beef? Can you hear me now? Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.

Writing can be memorable for a variety of reasons. I hope readers find at least some of my writing memorable.

The Un-blog Blog

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I’ve always admired people who keep diaries or journals. As much as I enjoy writing, journaling doesn’t work for me. I review the minutia of my life and fall asleep from boredom.

I used to think that the problem was my handwriting. It’s atrocious, and always has been. I was the last girl in my third-grade class to be permitted to write in pen. The teacher thought if I kept erasing the pencil scrawls, my penmanship would eventually improve. By the end of the school year, she gave up.

I tried typing a journal, and it was as unsatisfying as writing it long-hand. Deciding that nothing that interesting happened to me on a day-by-day basis, I once opted for a monthly journal instead. My old computer has a file named “Mensary”—that’s the name I coined for a monthly version of a daily diary. The mensary file remained untouched after less than a year.

When blogging came into existence, I thought, “Oh great. Another form of journaling for me to fail at.” I resisted blogging until recently.

My blogging career began in secret. Really, I was a ghost-blogger for a physician. After half a dozen posts, he decided to call it quits.

Then I started to guest blog on writing and freelance websites. I had a specific aim: to share tips with other freelancers while promoting my book What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants. I enjoy this type of blogging, because it is basically writing articles. When I think about doing another guest blog, I don’t think of it as blogging but as article writing.

Now I have my own blog here. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. But I know one thing for sure: it won’t be a daily, or even a weekly, diary.

If I find myself posting daily, I’ll know I’m in trouble. Doing a daily blog can be a huge time waster. I already waste enough time playing Spider Solitaire!

On the other hand, if I don’t post at least twice a month, what’s the purpose of having a blog? I’ve been to websites with blogs posted once every three months or so. The infrequency of the posts makes me think the blogger must not be a very interesting person.

So I’ll try to post between twice a week and once every two weeks. Hmm, biweekly, in both meanings of the term. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard “biweekly” used appropriately, vaguely yet specifically.