How Saying “No” Has Made Me Successful

How Saying “No” Has Made Me Successful

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium

You are allowed to say no to work you don’t want to do.

When I first started my business, I said yes to everything. You need a press release? Sure! You want help with a sales strategy? Of course! Oh, you need me to design the information architecture for your new website? Why not!

I didn’t know how to do half the things I said yes to. But I kept saying yes.

I learned. I researched and figured it out, and the clients had no idea it was the first time. Confidence comes in handy!

Remember, being an expert doesn’t mean you know everything, being an expert means knowing that you DON’T know something are are not afraid to go find the answer. Being an expert is knowing how to find those answers.

I said yes to everything because I was at the very beginning of building my business. I didn’t have any long-term clients yet, and I was doing what I could to make money but was not completely sure what direction my business would eventually take. I also thought I needed to say yes to everything so that I could make money!

In fact, looking back now, there is no way I could have predicted where I would be now, over a year and a half later. My business has evolved, I have cultivated relationships and have clients I adore, and my focus has shifted significantly from where I started.

And saying yes to everything helped with that! I was able to try new things and discover I was good at them and enjoyed doing them. I was able to come to the realization that some things were not what I wanted to spend my time on and focus on. I recently wrote about what I learned in my first year freelancing, and it has been amazing to see the growth.

I’ve spoken before about how what happens when you’re working on things you don’t want to do, and how to break up with clients. This was something I had to learn.

I was telling my husband about how one of my clients paid well but was really pushing me into working entirely on sales and marketing projects. Things I really was not wanting to spend so much time on. But the money was good and I felt like I couldn’t turn away guaranteed income.

He looked me in the eye and said, “Isn’t the biggest perk of being an entrepreneur getting to do the work you want?”

It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. Of course, it is. That is why I became an entrepreneur in the first place!

The next day, I spoke with that client and broke up with them. It was the best decision for me and opened me up to other new possibilities.

As I continue to re-frame and evolve my business and discover new things I love to do, I am finally saying no to work. I still often say yes to interesting new things that I want to learn, but I have given myself permission to turn down paying work that I don’t want to do.

I am making really good money now, and am in a position where I am able to be aligning everything with what I WANT to be doing. I don’t need to take low-paying projects to make ends meet anymore, and I don’t want to.

When a prospective client says to me, “Well that is too much money for this.” Instead of negotiating like I did at the beginning, I simply say, “Ok, what is your budget?” And if there is no compromise to be made (less work to fit within their budget) then I walk away.

You are allowed to say no to doing things that do not fit your business model.

You are allowed to say no to someone who wants to pay you far less than what you are worth.

You are allowed to say to people you don’t want to work with — for any reason! You allowed to choose who you do and DO NOT want to work with. If someone treats you badly, or yells at you, or does not appreciate you, guess what? You have the power and authority to hop on the Nope Train and not work with them.

As my business continues to evolve, I am able to continuously find new and interesting ways to stretch my talent and grow as a person and as a business owner.

Most importantly, I continue to find things I love to do, say no to things I don’t want to do, and work with amazing people.

This allows me to also be able to work on passion projects like writing and publishing my first book 6 months ago or putting together my second book, where I have been able to put together an anthology based on the #metoo movement.

Allowing myself more space in my business to do the work I want and the projects I love has been perfect for me and allows me to continue to be creative while also continuing to grow my business.

How did you learn to say no to work? Has this been beneficial to you and your business? If you have never said no to working with someone or on something — why not?

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Some Freelancers Pitch to Publications, I Pitch to People

Some Freelancers Pitch to Publications, I Pitch to People

JS

Grinding It Out versus Growing A Business

There were two separate stories about pitches on my main Medium feed this morning. One about pitching to journalists and writers about THEIR clients for publicity purposes and the other one was about pitching your article to online publications.

They both had some excellent points — keep it about the person you’re pitching to. How does it benefit them? Don’t get bogged down in filler words and useless information. Provide a draft/additional information if needed.

But the pitch article I see missing is the one for full-time writers and editors who don’t want to do one-by-one blogs and articles.

I decided at the very beginning of my writing career that I was not going to spend the bulk of my time trying to get individual articles into major publications.

The main reason for me is the time and effort required versus the results or money.

When you look at people who talk about the money they make pitching individual original pieces to Forbes, Business Insider, Inc, etc, they are often making very little money — or even doing it for free for exposure.

Now, the exposure is awesome, and when I happen to have a perfectly well-suited article, I sometimes take 5 minutes to email a pitch to a magazine.

But the grind of putting out separate individual pieces in the HOPES that one of them will take it, and if they do, then waiting 4–8 weeks for publication and even longer for potential payment is not something I want to do.

That is just me, personally.

There are a million lists online of websites who pay for articles. Here is one from Carol Ticeanother from Bamidele Onibalusi, a long one on Freelance Writing Gigs, one from the Penny Hoarder, and this one by David Trounce.

This is not a BAD way to go about making money. Clearly, there are plenty of websites willing to pay for articles.

But let’s break it down:

If each site pays on average $50 per article and you want to make $5000 per month (a $60,000 annual salary), you need to write, pitch, get accepted, and get paid for 100 articles each month.

If you only want to work Monday through Friday, that is 5 articles per day you need to research, write, find publications if you don’t have one in mind, and pitch. This does not include following up on payment or the ones who don’t pay until it has been up for a month, or any other restrictions.

In contrast, I made $8,000 last month with 6 clients.

Instead of pitching myself to individual publications or writing one article per website, I went directly to clients.

I pitched myself to small companies and entrepreneurs. Right now, my 6 clients are:

  • An online publisher (monthly blogging, book editing)
  • An entrepreneur and business coach (email marketing, web copy)
  • A global public speaker (monthly blogging, email marketing)
  • A startup technology company (blogging, managing blog)
  • A medicinal cannabis business (weekly blogging, managing blog)
  • A small digital marketing agency (weekly blogging, press releases)

As they come and if I have time, I also take on editing books, ghostwriting, and book coaching.

I work Monday through Friday and only on the weekends if I have a special project or major deadline coming up.

All of my clients are longer-term. We have contracts, I charge one monthly retainer, and they pay every month. I have built a relationship with these clients, meaning we work together even better over time, they rely on me and trust me, and I know what they need on an ongoing basis.

For me, this is a reliable, more stable income, without having to grind out a bunch of articles every day.

It also means I can really build a rapport with these people. By doing so and focusing on maintaining a real relationship, it has resulted in all of my current clients being referrals from previous ones.

This is how I have built my freelance writing into a business. A real, thriving, stable business built on clients, not pitches to individual publications.

Now, this is simply what worked best FOR ME. I am under no illusion that my way is the only way or even the best way. It’s just what works for me and MY business and my life.

What have you found works best for you? Is it all one or the other, a mix of both, something I didn’t even mention? I’d love to hear and learn from you!

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Relationship Building for Freelancers: How to Get & Keep Clients

Relationship Building for Freelancers: How to Get & Keep Clients

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium, Sales & Marketing

Apparently, most writers aren’t good at marketing and many salespeople aren’t the best at writing. Or at least that is what people keep telling me.

I am lucky enough to be both, which has been extremely successful for me. It has truly been my superpower, which allowed me to be my own boss and get my business up and running very quickly.

Relationship building is an extremely important skill. Many people who consider themselves extroverted or a ‘people person’ may also find that they are strong at job interviews and good at networking in group settings.

However, more introverted people may find themselves at a surprising advantage in the one-on-one relationships and phone calls which freelancing often requires.

95% of my work and communication is done via email, text, slack, Facebook messenger, etc. And while I am an outgoing, talkative person, this mode of communication is fast, easy, and best of all — does not require pants. But there are ways to be great at phone calls and written communication.

Phone Calls & Relationships

When it comes to winning over potential clients, I believe in the power of a great conversation.

When a prospect is asking me about pricing and information, I don’t just shove my website in their face and tra-la-la away to my next task.

I ask them for a time to jump on a phone call. Instead of giving them a straight-up price, I explain that prices depend on needs and scope of projects, and that monthly retainers are often less expensive than paying per project, per word, or per hour. I say:

“The price depends on your exact needs and can also be impacted by how long we plan to work together. Are you available this afternoon or tomorrow to jump on a short call with me? I can do 3pm EST today or 1pm-4pm tomorrow.”

What I have done here is set them up to expect individual, customized attention and pricing for their needs, and after mentioning the call, instead of leaving it open-ended, I have provided specific time frames.

People are psychologically more likely to respond to the specific timeframes than just a general request for a phone call. It also shows my professionalism. I am available right away, but at specific times. I know my schedule and keep it. I am also punctual.

Once I get them on the phone, I’m golden. I love talking to people and it shows. I smile while I talk to them, I ask and answer questions. I show them my value by giving free information. For example, if we are discussing blogging, I’ll throw out a couple of facts and statistics about SEO and content marketing. If they want book coaching, I tell them what the process looks like and give them information on general lengths of books in different genres and discuss pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing.

Another thing I do is weekly phone calls with each of my clients. It is a chance for us to check in, update them on my work and progress, and sets and manages expectations on both sides for the week ahead. It also serves to continue to build and solidify our working relationship.

Email & Relationships

Because most communication is done over email, I make sure to let them know what I am up to or ask questions when I need. I am professional but personable over email, saying “hey” and using their first name, unless they have specified not to or are much more formal.

My clients never need to ask what I am working on or where I am at with their work because I make sure to let them know.

I offer free email support to my book coaching clients and make sure to respond to people in a timely manner.

Once they are my clients, I stop selling them. They know what my services are and if they want additional ones, they always let me know. I don’t try to promote my other services or upsell them anymore unless they ask. I might say offhandedly, “Hey, you may not have thought about it, but some social media management would work really well with what we are doing now and would promote your company faster and better. Here are a couple of examples ___. Let me know if you want to discuss it further, and I am also happy to recommend a couple of other fantastic people.”

Because that shows it’s not about ME. It is about what is best for THEM and their company. I’m not saying it just to make more money, I even offered to refer them to someone else!

That is because honesty, trustworthiness, and transparency are the pillars on which I have built my business. I am not afraid to say “I don’t know,” and then go find the answer. I am not so self-centered as to think I’m the only person who can do what I do or even the best at it.

I am selling prospects on working with me, specifically, not with a writer in general. They don’t only need to know the benefits of writing, they need to see what working with me will be like. How well do I communicate? Do I remember information from previous conversations (I do, I take notes)? Do I listen to them and understand their pain points and have ways to solve those problems? Do I talk more about them than myself?

Clients & Relationships

You should be approaching a client relationship in a similar way to a new friendship. You want them to like you and you don’t want to scare them off.

Sales is not about just getting that dollar amount. It is about getting someone who WANTS to work with you and KEEP paying you that dollar amount.

But it’s more than sales. As a solo entrepreneur, how I represent myself to anyone is literally the face of my business. I am myself, but professional. I am knowledgeable, able to show strong writing samples, and deeply understand the process and the business of writing.

Being nice, kind, a good listener, asking the right questions, showing your value — that is how you get and KEEP a client.

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Freelancers & No Paid Time Off

Freelancers & No Paid Time Off

JS, Medium

If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

This has never been something that bothered me, as I have long been the type to work more than necessary and then bring my laptop on vacation and do an hour or two a day while we relaxed.

I have no problem doing a bit of work. After all, I still get the vacation — I sleep in, eat great food, don’t work out, and explore new places. I have fun with my husband and enjoy the trip. I also get a small amount of work done.

But this week.

This has been the toughest week of my life so far.

My grandfather was hospitalized, and he had been sick for a while.

I flew down on the day of Thanksgiving. We canceled the family get-together at my brother’s house and my brother and I booked last-minute flights to go see Grandpa.

We all assumed he’d get better. He spent 2 weeks in the hospital before he went to hospice and died peacefully, in his sleep, while surrounded by all his children and grandchildren. That was the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

He was lucid just 2 days before.

It’s been horrendous.

My grandpa was larger than life. He was a builder, a fixer, and a creator. For as long as I’ve been alive, one of my most vivid memories of him has been seeing him out on the mower or the tractor or any other of the heavy machinery littering his garages and driveway.

He was always under a car, tinkering. Or building something. He would pretend to be reluctant, but he adored helping any of us 3 grandkids fix things. He picked out my first car. He built us a treehouse when we were 8 or 9, then handed us nails and some wood and tried to teach us how to make furniture for it.

He was a self-made man who lived the true American Dream. He started with nothing and created a business of used truck parts and a junkyard, and grew it into an empire. He and my grandma got to live the retirement they wanted, traveled often, and loved us all.

He and Gramma were married for 61 years since they were 18 and 21. I can’t even imagine that type of relationship.

The funeral was Tuesday.

He would have hated the funeral. He didn’t like being the center of attention or religious ceremony. He would have hated seeing people get so emotional and cry over him.

But I guess the funeral isn’t meant for the dead, but for the living. To say goodbye, to pay respects, to have something to see, to hold on to.

I’ve never lost anyone so close to me before.

It has been a blur of family, tears, and yes, even some laughter.

When all the cousins get together, we enjoy it. We love hanging out and haven’t gotten the chance to see each other much as we got older and moved away and started new traditions.

We played Grandpa’s favorite game — poker — with his own poker chips.

We drank his favorite whiskey and we shared our funniest stories of him.

It won’t get easier for a while, but it will someday. He continues to live in my heart and his name will leap off my tongue at the oddest moments. “You know, your great-grandpa used to love this…” to my niece and nephew and to my own hypothetical children.

And while I mourned and grieved and ate bagels with my family, I still had to pull out my computer and do some work here and there. Do the tasks that I do daily to keep my business running and my clients happy. I let them all know what was going on so that they could cut me some slack for this week.

But the stress of this week, the anxiety of the flights, the breaking of my meticulous routine, and the worry over not doing work for my clients has been a bit overwhelming.

I smoked some cigarettes even though I quit over a year ago. I drank even though I’m not a big drinker.

And I didn’t write. This is he first thing I’ve written since it happened.

I will remember Grandpa as the Godfather of our family, I will continue his legacy by living by his teachings and by telling his stories.

Hey, have I told you about the time he took me fishing and we caught a shark…?

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End of an Era & New Chapters

Entrepreneur

I have been working 2 jobs for months. I’ve been working in my corporate sales job in the staffing industry during the day and then building and running a writing business in the evenings and weekends.

My husband has been having an unlimited amount of nag-free video game time, and I have been so busy I could barely catch my breath. We were both loving every minute.

When I decided to really try to be a writer, I told Husband that I was going to be cautiously optimistic and say that I could quit my job in 12 months.

I got my first big paying client on 11/1/2016, and met my arbitrary number that we agreed to in January 2017, where I could have quit altogether. Instead, I went down to part-time, figuring that would help me with the transition to working from home. I was wrong, it actually was very difficult and a strange dynamic to be working part-time in an office and part-time at home, and still having to work nights and weekends to get everything done.

So 3/8 was my last corporate work day. My team and I had lunch and it was bittersweet for me. In the end, the team moves forward and will of course, succeed wildly without my help, and I will fade from their minds, to be thought of when one of my clients pop up or my name shows up in the database. I’ll become “oh, she used to work here.” 10 years of corporate sales and business development fading fast in my rearview.

Instead, I’m living my dream.

It’s still bittersweet to leave. Corporate sales has been my home for about 10 years, and I have had the most amazing boss for the last few years, a guy who has become a close and trusted friend, who has been very supportive of my new venture, and without whom I would have gone crazier, sooner.

I’ve also recently discovered that I go stir-crazy when at home alone for too long. Time to start making work-from-home and neighborhood friends! I can go to the gym to get out for a bit, and I also plan to find somewhere to volunteer for a couple hours per week, to get out of the house and give back to my community.

I am extremely lucky to have a supportive husband and family and friends, and people who are happy seeing me happy and successful. I am so full of love and words right now. I have a TON going on with my writing, including 4 new clients this month and a ton of work. I am loving it, and I am so excited about going off on my own. Sink or swim, it’s all on me.

I am proud, I am scared, and I am excited.
I’m exciterrified.

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Networking: Standing Out in a Crowd!

LinkedIn
networking1
Photo Credit: http://www.business2community.com/strategy/order-work-need-network-01640509#211hApMQjqjMpTYO.97

Depending on who you ask, networking is either relatively enjoyable or a necessary evil to suffer through.

If you were to ask me, I’d be able to regale you with anecdotes from hundreds of career fairs, association meetings, networking meetups, and client visits. I genuinely enjoy the face-to-face connection you get in a networking  situation. You get a more casual environment to meet people, discuss business, but also pepper your conversation with real pieces of your personality. It’s not a job interview, so the solemnity tends to be lessened, and people generally feel more comfortable in a group setting.

I know some people who wouldn’t go to a large networking event even if you paid them, and I know others who knew about it before you tell them, and are already registered.

Obviously, our comfort levels in crowds of near-strangers are individual to each of us. I am a salesperson, and people are my specialty. I have no problem walking into a crowd and introducing myself and my company, and enjoying meeting new people every time I turn around. I am marryied to an introvert who finds it stressful to be in crowds of strangers, and tends to not know how to introduce himself to complete strangers. Luckily, we balance each other out!

It’s not only a personality thing, though. Usually at an event, I’m representing my company, so I feel that I’m able to offer value to people and to companies. I am able to bring something to the table, so starting a conversation is even easier! Not that as myself I am not valuable, simply that as a representative of my company, I am bringing a different sort of value to the table.

Here is an example of how networking has been a huge help to me previously. I was tasked with bringing a rebranded company name out to market in NYC when the company rebranded in 2014. Being able to get in front of people who knew me as the former brand, and explain in person our new name and logo, but with the same great services, was the best way for people to associate the new name with our old brand that was so well known. People could associate me with the new name, as they already did with the old one. Giving presentations at networking events allows me to stamp myself and my company into people’s brains.

A great networker is someone who is remembered. They are not the funniest or best looking person in the room, or the one who spoke the loudest. It is the person who had great conversations with people, who was credible and knowledgeable without being pushy or a know-it-all. It’s someone who focused their undivided attention on the person they were speaking with, and not allowing passersby to distract them. A great networker expands their network by mingling with new people and introducing themselves to newcomers, and being a genuine, friendly source of information.

Bringing value to your events is so important. If you are looking for a job, the way you should think of this is “what do I bring to the table?” This is a view of what YOU can do for a company or service, and don’t even begin to focus on what they can do for you. You are not owed anything by companies, but you may be bringing fresh perspectives, specialized experience, or a tech-savvy eagerness to learn to them, all of which are invaluable to companies.

Expanding your network is vital to branding yourself (or your company) in your chosen industry or market. You can really learn and gain a lot from meeting pillars of your field, or perhaps you are one and you have a lot of knowledge you could be teaching others. Everyone has value to bring to every conversation. Mingling with other experts is a great way to learn new things, meet potential clients, and more.

As a salesperson, when you are marketing anything: yourself, your employer, a client, you are a subject-matter expert putting yourself in a position to expand your network. Hand out business cards, and get them from people you meet. Connect with them on LinkedIn and check in occasionally. Networking is an important piece of the puzzle, but not the only one!

Have you ever had an amazing or amazingly bad networking experience? What has expanding your network done for you, personally and professionally?

This article originally was posted on LinkedIn on 3/11/2015  by me (original content). It has been edited a bit for relevance.

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