Invest in relationships – they matter

What makes good business relationships?

A while ago, I wrote about how I came to get the job of editor for Macworld Australia. It came after many years of being a freelance contributor to the magazine. But I wasn’t the only long-term contributor. I also ensured that I maintained a good relationship with the publishers and it was the combination of relationships and experience that got me that job. But, the publisher has decided to shutter that operation and I lost a long-timer retainer client. While that hurt, the pain was short-lived.

Continue reading “Invest in relationships — they matter”

Thoroughness and Fact Checking

Facts are a journalist’s stock in trade. Getting them right is key to your credibility. So what happens when you make a mistake?

Facts are a journalist’s stock in trade. Getting them right is key to your credibility. So what happens when you make a mistake?

Earlier this week I attended a product launch event. It was a spectacular launch held in a proper theatre, with the string section from an orchestra, celebrity host and currently popular artist doing a song. I was flown in for the event.

The whole thing took about two and a half hours. To get there, my day started at 5.00am with a drive to the airport, flight and cab to the event. By the time it was over, I headed back to the airport and sat in the lounge to quickly look at the new product. I only had about 20 minutes but I noticed something that hadn’t been mentioned at the launch.

In my rush, what I had thought was something previously unmentioned was actually a mistake on my part. However, as it was unexpected, I called the vendor’s local representatives and asked if this was a feature of the device. They did some quick checking and confirmed that this was an important new feature.

So I made an error and the “fact” was confirmed as “correct” by a trustworthy source. I wrote the story and it was published online. I did note in my story that I hadn’t tested the feature.

These sorts of errors are likely to become more common. Not because journalists are less competent but because we live is a world of short news cycles, short attentions spans and limited resources for validating information.

I’m fortunate that most of the work I do is not news-related. So I usually have time to thoroughly test and check my work before submitting it to my editor. But with news, it’s often a race and that sort of time isn’t available. Coupled with my need to get on a plane, I rushed, made a mistake, got some bad information and ended up publishing with an error.

Credibility is critical for a successful freelancer. And getting the facts right is a core competency for a journalist. Next time, I’ll be more thorough and won’t push something out until I’m 100% certain.

The Business of Freelancing

The business of freelancing is hard work. I recently presented on this topic to my peers.

This afternoon, I gave a presentation titled “Taking Care of Business – Tools and Tech for Running your Freelance Business” at the annual 2012 Freelance Conference. The crowd was great and asked some incisive questions. Freelancing is a tough gig and I’d never have made a success of it without taking what others shared with me. this was a chance for me to give something to my freelancing comrades.

Once of the challenges of such a talk – I only had 45 minutes including question time – is to cover such a broad topic and do each part justice. I’m hoping to organise a longer version – perhaps a half or full day seminar on the business of freelancing – in the near future. If you’re interested let me know.

However, here’s my slide deck from today. Naturally, it’s not the same when you just look at the slides without the rest of my presentation. I’ve added a couple of extra slides here to add some extra information.

Link Exchange – starting up, targeting and marketing

How to start freelancing, targeting a niche and marketing your business are key skills for freelancers of all persuasions.

Each week, I share some of the stories that I’ve read that I think are f the most value and interest for freelancers.

Thinking of going solo? Play the freelance board game first! [My Business]:  Check out ‘Go Freelance’, a fun, satirical, board game about just how much fun you can have going freelance. The game concentrates on the comic book industry, but the lessons are universal.

Ten Common Marketing Mistakes [Business WeekI can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this refrain, or a variation of it: “We tried _____ marketing tactic. It doesn’t work.” While it may be true that a given approach is ill-suited for a particular industry, audience, or situation, in my experience the tactic is less often to blame than the implementation of it. In fact, many companies make mistake after mistake based on gaps in their understanding of how marketing really works. Here’s a quick review of 10 of the most common errors to help you avoid the worst of them.

How to Break Into a New Freelancing Niche [The Savvy Freelancer]: I’ve been feeling like a rookie freelancer all over again. It’s because I decided to get into a different freelancing niche. Let me tell you, it’s been difficult, slow going, exciting, unnerving, energizing and mind boggling all at the same time.

Have a great week.

How are you going to improve in 2012?

It’s a new year. That’s a good time to look back and look forward to learn from the past and improve your performance.

This year will be my second in full-time self employment. Last year involved a huge amount of learning as I got the hang of working by myself for myself most of the time. I managed to get and keep a regular contract client but I still needed to keep finding other clients and ensuring that I make the most of my available time. I spent some of the quiet time over Christmas and New Years thinking abut 2011 and what I could do to build on the success.

It’s easy to look back and only think about all the things I didn’t do well. However, I think that it’s easy to look at the negatives and create a list of things to do and improve upon that’s too long to do and that distracts you from your main business. this year, I’m going to focus on two things and two things only.

Organizational skills

Managing my time remains my biggest challenge. While there’s an emphasis on the “free” in freelance I need to work harder at creating and maintaining good work habits. That means making better use of my time.

I have a whiteboard on the wall in my office that I use for jotting down notes and reminders. This year, I’m going to draw a five day plan on the board and divide each day into three slots and allocate a specific activity to each slot.

The idea isn’t to totally regiment all my time but to provide some structure. One of my weaknesses is that I can be easily distracted. By creating a regular schedule I can make sure that I make the most of my office time.

Improving my Craft

My main task is writing. I believe (and am told) that I write well but that’s not an excuse to rest on my laurels.

In order to improve my writing I need to do two things more than I have been recently. I need to spend more time reading and more time writing. This ties in nicely with my time management objective as I’ll be setting aside part of my week to write in different styles.

Like all journalists, I’m a slightly frustrated novelist so I’ll put some focus on writing fiction. I don’t know if I’m any good at it but I have some good critics at home and I’m sure they’ll provide honest feedback. My plan is to put at least one three hour block aside each week to write some fiction.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading more than I have in some time. I’ll continue that, endeavoring to read outside my comfort zone. That’s always being a challenge for me as I know what I like.

So, what are you going to do to makem2012 evenbetter than 2011?