On Tuesday, Oct. 28, we hosted our latest #ConnectChat, "Making Lateral Moves as a Freelancer," with Joanne Cleaver (@jycleaver), a freelance business journalist and author since 1981, and a strategic communication consultant who helps organizations and experts develop and deliver strategic messages that build reputation and authority.
Joanne discussed managing time, getting clients/assignments,increasing work opportunities by making lateral moves, next month's ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) Content Connections conference in Chicago and much more.
Joanne, please tell us about yourself and about what you do.
I’m a content strategy & communication consultant: Wilson-taylorassoc.com . My firm helps clients develop & deliver stories, often based on our original research. Our specialties include women in business, entrepreneurship, career pathing & communication & media training.
I’m also a former newspaper deputy biz editor; staff content manager; & nationally published writer. And, I wrote www.thecareerlattice.com about lateral moves for career growth. Over is the New Up!
What’s the biggest mistake someone can make starting out as a freelancer?
1) Not realizing that client care is 50% of your time and probably 80% of your energy. 2) Writing for love not money...you need both! 3) Saying you can write anything. You can't. Specializing is key.
How does one go about landing their first client or their first assignment? It’s a struggle to get them even when more established.
The sweet spot: pitch what you know that isn't being covered. Bring insight. Surprise the editor or client with a fresh take. Bring a point of view, not just facts.
What do you suggest for managing one’s time between family, writing and other activities?
Having it all is possible! Just define 'it all.' For me, it's a blend of creative writing, content strategy, and business writing…plus quilting. The freelance delusion that you can write while the kids play. Not. Treat your professional time as such.
Multitasking triumph deadline bread! Here's the recipe: proof yeast in a.m. Make calls. Make dough & set to rise. Make more calls. Knead & fold into pans. Let rise. Write. Put bread in oven. Work out. Reward yourself! Start deadline bread at 9 a.m., serve warm bread to kids home from school at 3.
How much time does one need to devote to pitching, landing a client, writing a story and starting the cycle again?
I allow 3 - 4 months lead time from idea to payment. Now, let's break it down. Develop a unique angle for THIS client. Find the decision maker. Allow a month for the decision. Expect to evolve the idea...and your fee, as you do. I try to tee up the next assignment as I win the current one. Under promise, over deliver. I add a small extra soon after I start, such as a sidebar. Outline the project schedule & deliverables (yeah, corporate speak). Deadlines = payment.
Check in to make sure reality matches expectations. The sweet spot: pitch what you know, that isn't being covered. Give ideas for graphics, social content. Can you refer to a designer, etc.? Deliver top journalistic quality. Corporate clients love this! Use anecdotes, short stories to illustrate data. It IS like Build A Bear! Start with a leg, add an arm. Cross sell within a company. Show client love by referring THEM to potential customers, clients.
When it comes to money, people often have no idea what to do. How do you manage when you’re a beginner without a fixed income?
Ebyline is a great place to gain traction. I have gained great clients through Ebyline. Specialize! OWN a topic & network with experts. Learn how at @ASJAConCon Nov. 13. Team with other freelancers for projects. Don't be the lone ranger.
Is it easier to freelance when you already have a steady FT or PT job?
Starting with FT or PT job gives you specialization and potential conflicts of interest. To career lattice into freelancing, build a portfolio with association projects. Association work puts you in front of trends and potential clients. Millennials can get a fast start via nonprofit work, building authority.
Once you’ve become a more experienced freelancer, there’s still room to grow to increase your opportunities –how can someone branch out into other things while continuing to freelance?
Freelancers must find their own lateral moves. The Career Lattice shows how. I discovered I was great at communication and media training. Expect to invest in training to build new skills. I took a train the trainer course. One caveat: many writers suck at speaking. And it's hard to get paid for speaking. Speaking requires deep knowledge plus stage presence. Writers typically have just the knowledge.
What about former journalists who may not be looking to work as freelancers – what opportunities exist for people with their skills?
Lateral moves are the only way. Consider research, analyst jobs in your beat. Project management skills are valuable, too. Know your core people skills for potential advocacy, communication jobs. If you think all PR jobs are 'the dark side,' you see the world only in black and white.
You’re very involved with the ASJA. What’s your role with the organization?
I founded and chair Content Connections, @ASJAConCon, where freelancers meet content clients. The Content Connections committee is the best!
Can you please tell us about the upcoming conference?
Why, yes, I can! Content creatives: learn how subject matter expertise = client cash flow. Corporate and nonprofit clients can find the writers they need for content goals. Plus: power networking, workshops, and lots of muffins. Keynote is @JayHeinrichs - smart & funny. Details at www.asjaconferences.org .
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