New media equals new opportunities

Many freelancers complain about the global economy and new media. Guest writer Keeta Nova provides some guidance through the maze.

New media offers new opportunities for journalists and freelance writers. Technology has changed the world, and allows us to think and communicate in different ways. For journalists, this means keeping up with new communication methods and, without compromising your professional integrity, adapting to new and spontaneous media forms, like blogging and social media.

Image credit: Grant Robertson

Traditional print media has a history of protocols and expectations that ensures the communication of quality and reliable information, and journalists can easily sink into comfortable patterns that have been proven with time. New media and the Internet can often be overwhelming to established journalists, as it requires them to adapt and forgive some of those well respected practises they took so long to develop.

But new doesn’t mean poor quality. New doesn’t mean transient, and it certainly doesn’t mean a lowering of professional standards or respect. Sure there are countless websites filled with irrelevant dribble, some just to stand attractive to search engines, and some only holding a vague resemblance to the English language. But as a journalist or professional writer,  you don’t need to join them. Hold your own standards high, because there are plenty of online outlets who will take you on, and give you opportunities to explore your areas of specialty in new and innovative ways – without sacrificing the quality of your work.

Radio is a time-proven traditional media format that promotes intimate communication, and podcasts take on the same objectives. The only difference is that they are broadcast on the Internet and can target niche audiences. If you have recently worked on a project through traditional media, transfer the same message into audio format. Minimal technical equipment is required, and using basic research skills you can find a podcast publisher that attains both high levels of traffic and a reputation for quality broadcasts.

Blogging

The debate over a blogger being a journalist won’t die out soon, however what do you call a journalist who blogs? Does a journalist instantly lose their integrity when they publish online and explore the issues that interest them both personally and professionally?

Thousands of high-profile journalists around the world keep their own blogs for a variety of reasons, including self-expression, a break from constrictive corporate rules, or simply to get down and dirty with the raw issues that are of importance to them.

While professional blogging certainly doesn’t pay the high rates of printed media, it often won’t take you as long. You can also keep your own blog and use this as a networking tool to interact with other professionals, and score new and diverse projects online.

Information Products

Corporate work allows for journalists to transfer their skills into the production of annual reports, internal magazines for clients and colleagues, online web systems and innovative promotional products.

Corporate doesn’t always mean big, ugly and corrupt. You can also check out charities you are passionate about, the publications they produce in print and online, and also work with other professionals in creative areas like graphic design, film and animation.

Small and boutique creative studios are producing impressive and alternative products like wall calendars, coffee table books, and information wall art. These jobs probably weren’t around 40 years ago, but they certainly are now. They just aren’t advertised. You need to open your mind, talk to people outside your industry and work out ways to integrate and expose your skills.

Social Media

People are still learning how to use social media. There are plenty of public mistakes, and plenty of anti-social profiles that seem to forget the essence of social media, is actually interacting. As a freelancer, you can make your own rules, but just don’t forget the basic factors of communication and publishing. Know your audience, write for them, check your facts and invite a response.

If you are an established journalist you will naturally attract enthusiastic followers who will be eager for some insight and entertainment. Just take some time to work out your own objectives, and what you’d like to achieve through social media. You have the power, because this time you are the publisher, and your publications are instant.

Get creative. Think ahead.

Ultimately, a journalist is responsible for the accurate and timely communication of news, facts and relevant information. Keep these objectives in mind, but also open your mind, to consider the emerging platforms available to your profession.

Keeta Nova is a journalist, copywriter and content strategist from Sydney, Australia. She helps small businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovative publishers create impressive printed and multimedia content. Keeta Nova is the editor of Brilicious Lifestyle Magazine, sports reporter for Cornerman Magazine,news and blog, and contributor to No Bull Business Deals Magazine.

Dealing with disaster – losing your income

Freelancers need to plan for disasters. Guest writer Mark Juddery explains why from his own, very personal experience.

One thing that freelance writers discover early in their career is that there is no sick leave or holiday pay in this job. In most cases, this doesn’t bother us, or we’d go back to working nine-to-five in an office. You start to miss all these things more, however, when an accident leaves you out of action.

Image Credit: The Ammons Law Firm

This happened to me just over a year ago, when my car was demolished by a drunk driver at 120 kph. I have no memory of this, but I awoke later in pain, to see the fire department slicing through the roof of my car. I was carried out in a stretcher and spent a night in hospital. Between the pain and the painkillers, I wasn’t at full capacity for the next couple of months. As I was not responsible for the accident, medical expenses were paid by the NRMA (the only choice in the ACT, but fortunately they were fine – provided I didn’t charge them for natural remedies).

While medical expenses were fairly straightforward, another issue was not so simple: loss of income. As I’ve kept in generally good health during my decade as a freelancer, and have previously had the good fortune to avoid any major injuries, the problem was new to me. I have no regular income, save a lowly-paid weekly Fairfax newspaper column, but usually have enough work to keep me busy, sheltered and fed. Happily, apart from my column, I had no deadlines over the next two weeks.

So how could we calculate “loss of income”? If I were a salaried employee, this would have been simple. I previously had loss-of-income insurance with one of my credit cards, but when I discovered that it didn’t encompass the more variable income of a freelancer, I cancelled the insurance.

The accident happened in November, which was bad timing. As a lifestyle and travel writer, the end-of-year “silly season” is a prime time for assignments. Most years, I get plenty of newspaper assignments around that time of year – often the result of several hours’ pitching. Naturally, this income was all speculation. Instead, we had to rely on my relatively modest earnings of the previous quarter, when I had spent more of my professional hours on book promotion. Dividing my quarterly earnings by 13 was an imperfect method of working out my fortnightly income, but it was the best one available to me.

Another problem was with my income protection insurance. I didn’t have any. I had looked this up in the past, but the policies I had investigated were rather expensive. A colleague once had a policy with FAI/Tower (as part of a package), but she cancelled her income insurance after it was costing her some $700 a month. As most freelancers earn less than staff journalists of similar experience and calibre (who, of course, should have no reason to pay income protection insurance), this caused a considerable dent in her earnings.

Had I known, I could have arranged a policy through Media Super, which is far more reasonable than through an insurance company. Media Super’s income protection cover is generally based on 75% of your income. (If your monthly income is $1,000, the maximum cover available to you is $750 per month.) Of course, working out your income is another matter, and you might need to speak to the good folk at Media Super about that.

I had no knowledge of Media Super’s insurance rates, but as it was a motor accident, I relied on the NRMA to provide me with insurance cover. (Happily, I was not responsible for the accident, or I would have shouldered some of the costs.) This meant that I would eventually receive a payout, including pain, suffering… and loss of income. However, as they planned to pay in one large lump-sum payment, I would need to wait until I had mostly recovered. This, I was soberly informed, could take up to three years.

Happily, I was prepared for this. While it might occasionally seem easier said than done, a freelancer should always ensure that they have money stashed away for just such an occasion. Though I am told that I should expect my payout soon (far less than three years from the event), it has taken over a year and counting.

Fortunately, though not fully healed, I was able to work full-time at my desk (and even travel for work) within a couple of months. Had this not been the case, I might have had slightly more trouble paying for food and rent.

That’s one of the less glamorous parts of freelancing. Unless you have a lot of money saved up, you should work out some form of loss-of-income insurance. You never know when you will need it.

 

Guest blogger Mark Juddery is a writer, author, screenwriter and journalist. He’s a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australian Journalists Association) and the Australian Society of Travel Writers. In addition, he’s also the author of OverRated: The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History.  Check out his blog at Mark Juddery.com

A Junket Attendee’s Story

The payback on a junket can come in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Industry junkets can be a challenge for freelancers. Outside of the ethical issues associated with accepting what amounts to a gift from a vendor and having to weigh that against any genuine benefit that comes from participation, there is the question of how you value your time. I would assert that you can’t always count the value of participation in simple financial terms.

Sure, your time is worth money, but being a journalist, freelance or otherwise, is as much about participating in life as it is about making money and meeting deadlines. A case in point.

Coupla years back, Canon ran one of their famous “event” shindigs that took the assembled junketeers to the Hunter Valley [Editor’s note – in New South Wales, Australia].

Part of the itinerary involved spending some hours at a greyhound racing track, where the privilege of access with a license to shoot and the use of any of Canon’s L series lenses meant a bucketload of pics were taken. Three of those pics are still part of my folio.

Anyway, turns out that among the crowd was a bloke in a wheelchair. Crusty face, coke bottle glasses, form guide in one hand and a fag permanently hanging out his mouth. (Reality check: fag = ciggie, OK?)

He was the quintessential trackside character, and every tog on the course knew it. He got lots of pics taken.

Coupla days later, I get a call from a dog trainer. Ever the enterprising type, I’d managed a sale while I was there. Took some pics of his dogs. Anyway, the guy asks me if I got pics of Charlie.

“Charlie?”

“Yeah, you know, the guy in the wheelchair. His funeral is on Friday.”

“What? Funeral?”

“Yeah, the day you mob came down to the track was almost his last day on earth. You saw his mate there, right? Well, his mate asked him what he’d like to do most before kicking the bucket and Charlie said he’d like a day at the track. He was a fixture around here for years. So his mate nicked a hospital wheelchair, put ‘im on a bus… his mate had been done for drink driving … and brung him down to the track. At the end of the day, offers were coming from all corners to get Charlie back to the hospital, but his mate refused, saying ‘I got ‘im here. I’ll get ‘im home.'”

So I contacted Canon, told them what happened, and because they had all the photographers’ CF cards, they collected all the pics of Charlie they could find, put them on a disk and couriered them to the trainer the next day.

On the following day, the day of the funeral, the trainer gives me a call.

“Mate, I can’t thank you enough for organising that. The pictures were amazing. They were exactly how we all remembered Charlie. Try to imagine a room full of trackies and trainers huddled around a laptop watching the slideshow, mate. It was great. Couldn’t have done a better send-off.”

The moral of the story? Sometimes really good things happen when you throw your bean-counting to the wind and trust in the possibilities of serendipitous adventure.

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Chris Oaten is a freelance photographer and writer with more than a decade of experience covering consumer technology. His web site is www.insightvisuals.com.au

 

Three steps to avoiding the freelancing trap

Freelancing? Not rich yet? Want to know why?

One of the traps of freelancing – really it’s going into small business by another name – is “the books”. No, this isn’t a lesson on book-keeping or reading balance sheets or even a master class on the dreaded BAS [Business Activity Statement], but instead a small piece on a common freelancing trap.

We know we need to make a profit. That’s what pays the rent or mortgage, buys food, takes care of insurance, rates, electricity bills etc. And of course profit is equivalent to sales minus costs. And therein lies the trap.

We all know how much we “sell”, that’s the easy bit. Costs are a different thing again. Who truly knows what their monthly costs are? Go on – be honest.

Step 1 – Catalog Your Expenses

Excerpt from one of the sheets of my spreadsheet

The only way to find out is to get a receipt for everything you buy and catalogue it. Even better, to get a more accurate average, do it for three months. And I do mean everything – as well as the obvious mortgage/rent, fuel, weekly grocery shop, include all those little things you normally wouldn’t consider such as the daily and weekend newspaper, your lunch from the sandwich bar, that Friday night beer at the pub, entry fee to the zoo with the kids.

Everything.

Don’t cheat at this either. Even throw your credit card payments in there for example and any money you set aside for holidays etc. These should also be entered in step 2 (below) that is later creating a meaningful budget from these numbers.

I use a purpose built Excel spreadsheet I made to catalogue this stuff, work out budgets, variances and summarise them all into monthly running totals. If you want a copy, let me know at david@auscamonline.com.

At the end of the first month you’ll be very surprised at how much you are spending. This is a good thing as it will allow you to create a realistic budget and find ways of cutting costs. Which means of course that the profit gets bigger! And that is the end game.

2 – Cut Unnecessary Costs

Cutting costs can be as simple as making a sandwich rather than buying one, using the bus or train on occasion rather than taking the car to appointments, making sure all unnecessary electrical appliances are off and not just on standby, making your own home brew (which is bloody good fun and a huge cost saver over packaged beer), washing the dog yourself as against a weekly hydrobath and so on.

3 – The Reading List

There a number of very good books I have read recently on these sorts of topics I can heartily recommend. I bought them through the Kindle bookshop via Amazon, but they are available in paperback too (although I do recommend the Kindle option!) [Affiliate Links]

The eagle-eyed among you will notice a common thread here (mostly). All except Alan Sugar are members of the Dragon’s Den team from the BBC TV show. They are all self-made multi-millionaires (as is Alan Sugar) and tell it as it is.

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This is a guest post by David Hague, editor of AusCam Online. You can follow David on Twitter  – he’s @vbthedog

The 7-step guide to using social media for small business owners

Social media can be an immensely useful tool for small businesses. Here’s our 7-step guide to getting the most from social media for your business.

This guest post is by Phoebe Netto, the Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a marketing and public relations consultancy for small-to-medium businesses. Phoebe has a background in public relations and marketing, and takes these skills that are often reserved for big businesses with big budgets, and uses them to help good small businesses grow and meet their objectives. Visit www.goodbusiness.net.au (be sure to sign up for the Good Business Consulting newsletter and check out the blog while you’re there) or follow her on Twitter at @Phoebe_Netto

In marketing yourself and your business, you should aim to be at every watering hole where your ideal clients congregate. After all, if people do not know that you exist and what you can offer, how else will they become clients? For many of you, one of those waterholes will include social media.

Social media opens up a whole new audience to you, provides a means to make new connections, and gives you the tools to introduce yourself and your services in a subtle way to your ideal clients.

It allows you to extend the reach of your thought leadership and gives you the opportunity to share examples of your work and testimonials. Social media can also provide you with a constant flow of advice, ideas, and links to resources that are focused on your area of expertise or interest.

Regardless of what social media platform you decide to use, there are universal principles or golden rules that you must adhere to. You will notice that these rules are not much different to society’s rules for social engagement offline.

1.        Do things on purpose

If you are on twitter, know why you are on twitter and let your tweets reflect your purpose. The same rule applies for every social media platform. For example, I help small-to-medium businesses and sole operators grow with marketing and public relations. I need to ensure that the majority of my tweets on twitter are about small business, marketing and public relations. My twitter followers should know what to expect of my twitter content.

One of the mistakes that many small businesses and sole operators make when using social media is that they do not choose the right platform. This results in busy activity rather than productivity. Only focus on social media platforms that are a gathering place for your unique target group.

For example, young pet owners would be more inclined to interact with you on facebook than on LinkedIn. If you are a freelance journalist, twitter would be best as there are countless editors to interact with there and you can share links to examples of your work.

2.        It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason

Always remember that social media is not a foreign land speaking in another language. It is real life with real people, real relationships and real conversations.

This is why many of the same social etiquette principles that we value and operate by in business and in life, also apply to social media.

3.        It is better to give than to receive

In my business there are a couple of principles that lead to successful marketing and public relations. In media relations if you give others (journalists, editors and the publication’s readers) what they want, you will get what you want. For example, if I help a journalist by giving them a great piece of news or a well-written bylined article, I will get what I want which is great coverage for my client.

Similarly, marketing is most successful when it is focused on meeting needs and making life easier and more pleasant for others. When a small business addresses the deepest concerns and desires of both its clients and potential clients, and makes them feel special, they will attract leads and repeat business.

When operating by the following rules, social media can deliver your message to new audiences, provide you with new connections, and act as a platform to share your expertise and thought-leadership:

4.        No yelling in the hallway (or on social media)

Would you ever walk into a room full of strangers and announce, “I can take your business to the next level at half the price”? No? Didn’t think so. So don’t do it on social media.

If you notice that someone on your social media platform asks for a recommendation or complains that they can’t find a good provider of a certain product or service, then sure – feel free to suggest a solution or offer to discuss offline with them. You might even land a nice piece of new business. The point is to be helpful, with brings me to my next point.

5.        Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you

Use social media to share, give value, help others, provide helpful information, collaborate, and create a reason for people to want to know more about you and what you do.

You can give value and at the same time promote your business by sharing links to your blog, provide thought leadership, expertise and helpful advice. This shows that you are passionate about your industry area and gives people a non-confrontational and subtle way to experience your knowledge.

Make sure you also share other people’s blog posts, links to useful website, spread great social media content (such as tweets) from others, and promote other businesses (if worthy of promotion). Remember, it’s not all about you!

6.        You have two ears and only one mouth for a reason

My mother always used to tell me this and she was right (as usual). Social media is not a forum for monologues. Those who do not interact or listen to what others are saying on social media will eventually find themselves very lonely (offline and online).

Worthless tweets and overactive robots cause more harm than good.

Instead interact with others by asking questions, offering advice and responding to other people’s online questions.

7.       All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Show your personality. People do business with people, not companies. So make sure show your personality so people can feel a connection.

Be sincere. You can’t fake relationships – even on social media. Put a smile on the faces of those who follow you.

These principles are also golden rules of social media. Zig Ziglar summarised it by saying, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” When you follow these principles you are well on your way to building important connections with your ideal clients.

Social media is one of the greatest tools available to small-to-medium businesses and sole operators. You can communicate directly with your ideal clients without going through a ‘middle-man’ such as a journalist, advertisement or website.