Essential Business Software: Free Resources

Quickbooks Simple Start Free Edition 2009

http://www.download.com/QuickBooks-Simple-Start-Free-Edition/3000-2066_4-10608523.html

BillQuick Lite 2008 9.0.87

http://www.download.com/BillQuick-Lite-2008/3000-2066_4-10050793.html?tag=mncol

Volutive Free Invoicing & Inventory 1.3

http://www.download.com/Volutive-Free-Invoicing-Inventory/3000-2067_4-10262791.html?tag=mncol

Easy Time Control Free 5.0.121

http://www.download.com/Easy-Time-Control-Free/3000-2064_4-10783490.html?tag=mncol

Free Project Management Software

http://www.download.com/Free-Project-Management-Book/3000-2076_4-10513312.html?tag=mncol

Excel Calendar Template 1.4.1

http://www.download.com/Excel-Calendar-Template/3000-2077_4-10346449.html?tag=mncol

 

Enjoy!

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Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 11:40 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Essential Business Software for Your Freelance Writing Business

I will admit that business software is not one of my favorite topics to discuss, but in the interest of expanding yesterday’s time-management theme, there are some applications you need in order to run your freelance writing business. They will improve efficiency and simplify your life. I do not intend to advise you about which brands or specific programs to choose. I will only be suggesting some applications you might find beneficial. Check out the Resources page for links to free software downloads. Hey, we all have to pinch every penny these days, and I have never been a fan of paying for something I can get for free.

The first application you will need is a financial program for your business to help keep accurate transaction records. Look for an all-in-one program which allows you the convenience of filing your billing, expenses, and important tax information in one place.

I know you really don’t want to hear this, but the next thing you need is a time clock to punch. It will allow you to track how much time was spent on each project for billing purposes. You will get an accurate depiction of your true hourly rate. Bottom line—it is extremely helpful for increasing productivity and making billing a snap.

You need a software program to help you manage your projects. This can be a basic spreadsheet or an application specifically designed for the purpose of project management. It is your choice, but I strongly advise you to keep a detailed work log for every single project.

Some other handy software programs you might consider looking into include: a photo editing application, mass mailer, and web conference tool.

Stay tuned for a passionate discussion about Avoiding Nay-Sayers.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 11:31 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Time-Management and Your Freelance Writing Business

Time management is a topic for discussion that most freelance writers avoid like the plague. Let’s face it—we are not a traditional, play it by the book group when it comes to our vision and ideals about working hours. There are exceptions to every rule, and if you are the exception, then I envy you. Most of us need a little kick in the boots from time to time in order to keep things running on schedule and avoid losing money on projects due to time overages. Even if you charge an hourly rate, there are still only so many acceptable billing hours for each type of project. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial for freelance writers to manage their time wisely.

Here is a list of ideas which have seriously helped me to manage my time and increase the bottom line:

–Keep your workspace neat and organized.

–Use a time clock program and work log to keep projects on track and discover which type of projects are eating up too much time. Then you will be able to either avoid the time-drainers or adjust your rates to make them worth your while.

–Make weekly schedules for your workload based on deadlines.

–Create templates to simplify repeated projects whenever possible, such as sales copy or query letters.

–Improve your research skills.

–Save the editing for after the work is finished instead of as you go. I know…it’s a hard habit to break.

–Take personal time to avoid getting burnt out.

I hope you find these suggestions useful for developing better time-management practices. We are all struggling everyday to fit a square into a circle so to speak when it comes to balancing our freelance writing businesses with our personal lives.

I look forward to sharing some essential business software with you tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 5:36 PM  Comments (1)  
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Resources

I will be adding resources periodically which I think you might find helpful.

Here are some resources that I have found extremely useful in setting rates for a freelance writing business:

Survey of Freelance and Contract Writer Rates by the National Writers Union

http://www.nwu.org/nwu/index.php?cmd=showPage&page_id=1.3.14.2.4

Crunching the Numbers: Setting Your Freelance Writing Rates by Jennifer Mattern

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/89685/crunching_the_numbers_setting_your.html?page=2&cat=31

Setting Your Freelance Writing Fees by DailyWritingTips

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/setting-your-freelance-writing-fees/

The Biggest Pricing Mistake You Can Make by Steve Slaunwhite

http://thewealthyfreelancer.com/2008/09/the-biggest-pricing-mistake-you-can-make/

Tips for improving your Internet research skills and writing by Barbara Whitlock

http://www.helium.com/items/432999-tips-for-improving-your-internet-research-skills-and-writing

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 5:33 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Setting Rates for Your Freelance Writing Business

Setting the rates for your freelance writing business can be extremely confusing and frustrating. On one hand, you need to earn a comfortable income for all the hard work you put into the business. On the other hand, you need to stay competitive with the market in order to bring in projects. You probably feel like you are in between the proverbial rock and hard place.

Despite anything you may have heard to the contrary, above all else, you must keep your rates within the realms of the industry standards. Naturally, you have a little room to play with the figures, but overall, you do not want to stray too far from the averages. You do not want to cut off your nose to spite your face. Setting your rates too high will price you out of the runnings for many projects. Yet, setting your rates too low will make you appear unprofessional and inexperienced. You may win a few projects initially with cheap rates, but ultimately you will set the bar too low to ever be able to earn a decent living.

Instead, you should pay close attention to the industry averages for each niche field of writing. Then you should adjust your rates accordingly, keeping in mind a few personal factors.

The first thing you need to consider is your current experience level. It is unrealistic to expect a six-figure income from the moment you start your freelance writing business. You will have to pay your dues and prove your talents before you can compete at that kind of income level. However, that being said, it is equally important that you don’t make the mistake of giving too much away or developing a habit of being underpaid. Your time is valuable.

Remember to account for your overhead when setting your rates. What does it cost to run your business? You absolutely need to recoup any and all costs, or you will be closing up shop before you ever get off the ground.

The last thing you will have to take into consideration is your niche field. Different writing services pay different amounts. You will charge significantly more for a feature editorial piece which includes an original photo being published in a national magazine than you will charge for a 300-word web content article.

I am including a page with some resources you may find beneficial for setting rates for your freelance writing business. It has information about some of the industry standards and market averages for rates in several of the niche fields of writing.

Check back tomorrow for some thoughts and advice on time-management.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 6:00 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Marketing Your Freelance Writing Business Offline

Now we should talk about some ideas for marketing your writing business offline as this is also an important part of the equation.

You need to get some business cards. Make sure to include your website URL and contact information on the card. Pass them out relentlessly. Leave your card with your tip when you dine out. The waitress could be trying to start a small business and only working at the restaurant until she gets it established. She may very likely call you for help writing a business plan or sales copy. Give your card to the guy you struck up a conversation with at the post office, and it turns out he is trying to finish his first book and could really use your help with editing it and writing query letters to publishers, or maybe he is an executive with a local advertising firm who will contract you to write sales copy for his firm. The point is that you never know, so you need to take every opportunity to market your freelance writing business.

Attend writing seminars and conferences to not only learn valuable information, but also to network with other professionals in your field. Exchange business cards, and make contacts which could lead to future working relationships.

Join a local writing group and start attending the meetings. This is another excellent networking opportunity. Many projects in the field of writing turn out to be collaborative efforts. Many times when a writer’s workload gets too big, then they will throw work to another capable writer as opposed to passing on the project and risk losing a client.

Prepare a personal sales letter for your writing business. Introduce yourself and your writing services. Explain how you could benefit an organization with your professional writing. It is the same concept as when a new pizza place opens in your town and you receive a door hanger of coupons. If you do not cast your line into the pond, you will never catch a fish.

I hope these suggestions got your wheels turning about all the potential marketing opportunities you have at your fingertips. You are a creative person, and you can use that creativity for marketing as well as you do for writing.

We will talk about setting rates for your services tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 5:54 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Marketing Your Freelance Writing Business Online

Marketing your writing is perhaps the single most important step you can take in order to establish your business. It can also be one of the most intimidating and uncomfortable aspects of the business. It can be ackward to market “you” as a brand. It is true that sometimes you feel like the weird guy you used to work with who was always making unnatural references to himself, “Jeff likes your new haircut. Jeff really likes it.” Sorry, that’s another story. You may feel like you are brown-nosing yourself, but you are just going to have to tough it out. I promise it will only hurt for a second, and the rewards will be well worth the initial discomfort.

In order to achieve success with your freelance writing business, you are going to need to market it both on and offline. I will offer some suggestions for both, but marketing is a living, breathing beast which is constantly growing and evolving. Let your creativity run wild with it. Just remember to maintain the professional image you are striving for at all times.

First, I want to talk about developing your web presence because I believe it is the most crucial marketing strategy for any freelance writer. The first thing you need is a website. You can build one yourself if you are comfortable with basic web design principles,or you can hire a designer. You will want to purchase the domain name for your business, however. The website should have a clean professional appearance, and you will want to include a resume highlighting your skills as well as a portfolio of your clips for potential clients. If you do not have any published clips, then you need to create some.

Which brings us to the next step, writing articles and web content. You should join a content community such as Helium to use as a platform for displaying your work and getting your name into search engines.

Join forums, especially those which pertain to writing, and get involved in the discussions. Sign your posts with your website link as a free and shameless promotion.

Take advantage of the many free advertising opportunities presenting on the web. You can market your freelance writing in free classifieds and directories, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Contact some of the online magazines and publications, particularly the ones that are still relatively new, and offer to exchange an article for free advertising. Many times an editor for a publication that is still trying to get off the ground will be more than willing to work with you on the basis of free advertising because they desperately need content but have stressful budget constraints. Not only do you stand to benefit from the free advertising, but you will be creating published clips as a professional writer. However, I do not suggest you make a habit of doing this on a regular basis. You work hard and deserve to be paid for your efforts. You have to draw a fine line between self-promotion and indentured servitude.

Stay tuned for the second part of this post about offline marketing strategies.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 5:50 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Developing a Business Plan

Once you have determined your professional focus and goals, you are ready to develop a plan to use as a reference and model for your freelance writing business.

You will need to identify your target audience and evaluate the market. Determine why your writing services are necessary in your chosen area(s) of expertise. Consider why potential clients should choose you for their projects. What do you have to offer that gives you an edge over the competition? Trust me—you have special skills and experience that is extremely valuable to the industry. Never sell yourself short. It is only a matter of thinking outside the box to realize what assets you bring to the business of writing.

Define the essential elements of your freelance business. Where will your dedicated workspace be located? You need a comfortable space, but it also needs to be an organized and functional office. What essential supplies do you need in order to run your business? Computer with internet connection is an obvious must, but you will also probably benefit from a printer, fax machine, filing cabinets, notebooks of paper, an abundance of pens, and reference books. The current edition of The Writer’s Market is an office necessity as well. It is a good idea to set some consistent working hours for your business in order to meet deadlines and keep your business life as separate from your home life as possible, considering you most likely work from your home. Of course, the flexible schedule is one of the writer’s only real benefits when they are starting out, so you can take advantage of it on occasion. But, doing so on a regular basis will eventually start to disrupt both your business and your personal life.

Finally, you need to set some rough financial goals for your freelance writing business to help keep you on track. You are a one-person empire—owner, operator, advertiser, accountant, and motivator. Setting realistic goals, both short-term and long-term, will give you something to work towards on those off days when you just want to play hooky. However, remember to be reasonably flexible; these goals are not set in stone.

Take some time to develop your business plan to fit your needs. If you do not take your freelance writing career seriously, then others will follow suit.

I look forward to talking with you about marketing and advertising your writing business on Monday.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 5:05 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Determining Professional Goals

The first thing you need to do is determine your professional goals. What kind of writer do you want to be? There is a wealth of options for the freelance writer. You can choose to specialize in SEO web content, advertising copy, entertainment editorials, or news media–and this is a very short list. You can write for online or print media outlets. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Today, spend time visualizing your goals. You need to know your intended destination before you can plot a course to arrive.

Tomorrow we will talk about developing a business plan.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 2:44 AM  Comments (2)  
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About

My name is Heather Orr. I have been a freelance writer and editor for almost a decade, but I recently took the plunge and made it my full-time source of income. My son started school, and I found myself with more free time to devote to writing and pursuing my professional goals than I can ever remember having in my life. It was a miracle! So I thought. The transition has been full of changes, and unfortunately it exposed some serious weaknesses in my business management and organizational abilities.

I have been writing my entire life, so I always considered it to be more of an art form than a business. Well, writing may be an art, but the business of writing is a corporate machine like any other. If you want to earn a full-time income as a freelance writer, then you are going to need a lot of business know-how.

My continued journey to turn my dream into a career is the inspiration for this blog. The focus is on the business end of writing. I hope you find the information posted helpful, and I sincerely hope it saves you some of the heartache I have experienced throughout my trial-and-error training.

My goal is to help my fellow writers who are still establishing themselves gain an upper hand in the business by taking advantage of my learning curve. My reason for doing this is simple. I am really tired of watching talented writers lose opportunities based on their lack of business insight to business professionals disguised as writers who are really just looking for a work-at-home position and have no real regard for the art of writing.

So enjoy the blog. Share your experience and knowledge with me as well. We can all benefit by helping one another in this business.

Peace, Love, and Happy Writing!

Published in: on January 2, 2009 at 10:21 PM  Comments (2)  
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