Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wealthy Freelancer

I have a friend who is an actress. After having played leading roles on Broadway, she left the acting life to raise a family. That's when I met her and so hadn't had the chance to see her perform. What a great thrill it was for me when she returned to the stage and I saw her superb talent shine in a professional theater production.

I’m reminded of that because I just had a similar experience reading a book written by a friend and colleague, Ed Gandia. As with the actress, I have a chance to see my friend shine. The book, The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle
-- published by Alpha books earlier this year -- was co-authored by Ed, and Steve Slaunwhite and Pete Savage.

Not only is it a really good book, as a bonus it makes a genuine contribution to the indie life. The three authors are all copywriters, and the book has the most value to others in that field, but their observations and insights hone in on many of the precepts of any indie life.

It’s a brass-tacks book about success – not a lot of inspirational baloney, but a dozen essays on how to increase productivity, how to price your services, how to use available public data to find clients, and more.

Do you know what a “buzz piece” is? A buzz piece is a useful bit of writing that you can offer online to anyone interested in your work – the 21st century equivalent of the business card. Your buzz piece should be authoritative and impressive – something that will get you noticed. Slaunwhite kicks in with a standout chapter on how an indie can create and use a buzz piece, which he regards as almost a necessity in the information age.

In the age of the Internet, free information has replaced the hardball sales pitch. Available on your site or your blog, the buzz piece creates interest, promotes your credibility and shows that you know your stuff. It can be used in direct mail or telephone calling – instead of pitching your services, you offer it up without obligation. When you submit a project proposal, you send it along. And if you feel you are hopeless as a writer, you give the information to a freelancer to ghost it for you. Slaunwhite notes that when he was checking websites to seek the services of a local plumber, he found that most of them just advised the reader to give them a call. But one offered a free guide titled “How to Find Leaks BEFORE Water Damage Is Done.” That’s the plumber what got the job.

Another excellent chapter instructs freelancers on how and why to keep nurturing prospects that have not yet become clients. This piece, the work of Ed Gandia, traces his modus operandi to his days as a salesman, when he found that keeping in touch with some prospects who had not bought his product eventually won them over. “By staying on their radar screen in a nonthreatening way,” he writes, “I was the first person they thought of when the timing was right.”

Gandia weaves this approach into a fascinating chapter about keeping in touch with what he calls his “not today” list – a list that includes anyone who has downloaded his buzz piece – and explains why you should do the same. He points out, however, that this novel approach takes perseverance as well as a feel on how to build a relationship without being pushy. In the long run, he contends that it will be more rewarding than blind stabs at hundreds of prospects who have never shown any interest in your work. “Lead-nurturing,” as he calls it, requires the compiling of resources, either your own articles or relevant pieces by others; he suggests using the U.S. Post Office to send some material, because postal mail has become more unusual than e-mail and voicemail. It also requires maintaining a schedule with notes to track the content and the date of your previous contacts and a note on when to try again.

I’ve been particularly interested in the last year or so in business writing about the growing importance in modern indie life of finding a niche. (Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is one book that comes to mind in that area.) In The Wealthy Freelancer, Savage comes up with interesting and helpful thoughts that advance the subject a few more paces.

Finding your focus, as he calls it, means that you can discover what you have to offer by developing a specialty. He also points out that finding a focus saves time – you don’t have to waste energy explaining to prospects what kind of work you do and how it fits the prospect’s needs. The other approach of being all things to all people so that everyone is a prospect is in the long run a losing game, he says: you deal with prospects who aren’t a good fit for you, taking assignments that lie outside your expertise and that don’t fire up your interests and passions.

With that in mind Savage introduces us to Pam Magnuson, who grew up with an interest in the power and mystery of plants, an interest that led to a two-year formal study of Chinese medicine, herbal supplements, and natural healing. (She raises more than sixty medicinal herbs in her own garden.) Less than three years later she is thriving as a writer for nutritional supplement marketers (it’s called “nutraceutical marketing,” a phrase new to me). Finding your focus, or your niche, is not only a ticket to success but more personally rewarding. Focus brings more value to the marketplace, and is more engrossing for the freelancer.

Pssst ... you can download 3 free chapters of The Wealthy Freelancer and a lot of other income explaining info right here .

-- June

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