Hey, Mr. Trump, sorry I haven’t had the honor of working for you

As a freelance business copywriter, I’m small potatoes. My largest single assignment ever paid $15,000 (paid in full in advance), and I estimate I am still unpaid for about $500 of invoices in over two decades.

So here’s Donald Trump who has taken four companies into bankruptcy.

Don’t worry, The Donald is doing just fine. His companies went bankrupt but Donald-the-individual’s financial resources are H-U-G-E. Still has the plane, Mar-a-Lago, opulent New York City digs.

He says he loves debt. He loves to play with it. Regardless of what we’ve heard about his hands, he’s the biggest, baddest deal maker there is.

Some business pros say that negotiations should be win-win. Pathetic pansies! Trump is using his campaign to expand his message beyond TV shows and Trump University and teach us that effective negotiations are I-win-you-lose.

I understand that bankruptcy plays a valuable role in the economy. It enables business to take risk. It serves us better than debtor’s prison ever did. And I understand that Trump’s bankruptcies are perfectly legal.

What bugs me is the absence of humility. To deprive product and service providers of agreed-upon payment is nothing to brag about. And it is downright scary to see that many Americans aspire to do business like Trump.

But what do I know? I work from a modest home office in a modest suburban house where I make my own coffee and empty my own trash.

Not like business magnates who cockily negotiate with Trump.

Ah, the prestige of not getting paid for projects costing in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. Of jetting out to NYC to gather with other bigwig creditors around a solid oak conference table outfitted with genuine leather chairs.

Not that Trump has ever offered to negotiate with me. Forgive my sour grapes.

Voters tell pollsters that Hillary is untrustworthy. But as best I can tell, she and Bill have paid their attorney fees and past campaign expenses in full. She’s my kind of crook.


Posted in Getting paid Tagged with: , , ,

There’s more to freelance rates than getting “what we are worth”

Among freelancers, our most cherished business objective as expressed on the internet is to “get paid what I am worth.” (Note that more than a third of the U.S. labor force is freelancering per Freelancers Union and Upwork, 2015, and freelancers will be in the majority in a few decades.)

So let’s ask the question: What are we worth?

Obviously, quantifying human value is touchy. Even God settled for an inspired generalization: Man is but “a little lower than the angels” and crowned “with glory and honour.”

It is far more reasonable to attach a dollar figure to what our work is worth.

OK, what is our work worth?

Professional associations take stabs at determining the worth of work. As an example, check out the rates listed by the Editorial Freelancers Association, which (in my opinion) are surprisingly low, considering that its goal is to “raise the professional status of its members and to make freelancing more dynamic and rewarding.”

Through years of freelancing—and of slacking off by scanning websites, marketing emails, and social media discussions—I see a consensus among freelancers: Yes, we do want to get paid what we are worth. Market value is darned near off the radar of most freelancers.

Our worth is determined by our self-esteem, objective qualifications be damned. In marketing lingo, these are derisively called “features,” as opposed to mouth watering “benefits,” which are results that may objectively or subjectively benefit the client.

Today’s freelancers never determine that our rates are too high. Getting “what you are worth” always, always, always means getting paid more.

Experts and fellow freelancers recommend that we hire the very cheapest labor from online job boards for the tasks we need done but that we also demand top rates for our own services. Apparently they see no inconsistency there.

I confess: My own issues around pricing

I have dealt with pricing fears and foibles for over 20 years as a freelance writer. I have underpriced and overpriced.

I am also a client for diverse tech, design and administrative freelance services. I have paid from $40 to over $100 per hour (and much more for specialized coaching).

In other words, I don’t pay pathetically low. At the high end, I am constrained by the limitations of a one-person business that cannot earn back a huge “investment” in a reasonable timeframe. (Sometimes I pay some way other than by the hour, such as by the project.)

I am proud to pay invoices from freelance service providers within 24 hours. None of this sit-on-the-money-for-30-days crap for me.

For those of us with self-esteem issues (count me in and many other somewhat well-balanced people as well), this get-paid-what-you-are-worth talk feeds our insecurities and causes us to second guess our rates, no matter how high we raise them. By golly, I’m as valuable as anyone else, I assure myself with rates I pull out of my derriere.

The “experts” say . . .

You aren’t getting enough assignments? It couldn’t possibly mean that you are overcharging, advise experts and peers. In fact, quite possibly you are undercharging. If your rate isn’t high enough, prospects suspect there is something wrong with you and opt for someone who charges more, we are told. That the price can be too high and above the market is totally off radar.

If a prospective client does not immediately submit to our number and dares to attempt negotiations, we should be deeply offended. “Stick to your guns,” urge our fellow practitioners in online forums.

It’s an “investment,” not “expenditure,” we are told. That claim may appear to justify the cost from the provider’s side, but what about the prospect? The local no-kill cat shelter can’t afford a hefty bill regardless of the work’s quality, while the same fee for a Fortune 50 company may be a pittance. (And let’s not forget that the F50 assignment may be much more sophisticated in scope, tech requirements, etc.)

If we want to earn more, we could determine the most lucrative niches and go after them. Good idea, but seldom recommended. Instead, we should do what we love so much that work is like getting paid to eat ice cream. We should calculate our pay rate based on cost of living and then push it up plenty to fund the lifestyle of our dreams that we’ve illustrated on our cut-and-paste vision boards.

Then there is imposter syndrome, which according to freelancing experts is commonplace. That’s when we freelancers fear that the world will catch on that we are frauds, not as talented as we pretend to be.

Could it be that the real problem is freelancers who are shamed into asking for rates their guts say are too high? They repeat to themselves what the experts preach, that their discomfort is merely unfounded insecurity.

You get what you pay for, right?

At this point you may be saying to yourself that it’s all OK. Everything is just as it should be in this best of all possible worlds because as a client, you get what you pay for.

Alas, I have learned through years of experience as the client that it’s more likely for the opposite to be true: the more I pay, the worse the service.

I have found—with a few pleasant exceptions—that the freelancers with the highest rates have the biggest chips on their shoulders and are the biggest pains in the derriere.

Some of the most expensive freelancers are the most egotistical and condescending. They are the stingiest with their time and the most rigid about not giving away any work for free. Requests for reasonable turnaround offend them. They may even resent client work openly because it interferes with their true creative calling.

Most important, the highest-priced people often produce work that is no better than the work of lower-priced people.

I don’t begrudge freelancers their top fees. I’ve landed high-paying work myself. However, freelancing rates should have some relationship to the demands of the assignment and the level of performance, not merely ego.

As freelancers, let’s reconsider rate setting. There’s more to “getting paid what we are worth” than claiming our self-esteem.

Posted in How much to charge Tagged with: , ,

Our most interesting writing projects are the most challenging

The most memorable writing advice I received as an Ohio State undergrad was from Mr. Smith (can’t remember his first name), in freshman English 102.

I complained that the more interesting my essay, the worse my grade. The ones on typical freshman-English topics that I dashed off quickly with less thought or editing scored the As.

Mr. Smith said that the topics that bored me were the topics I was most familiar with. On the other hand, fresh ideas were new to me. I had thought about them less. I was still developing my ideas.

The boring topics were easy to structure. Three reasons why … Four benefits of . . . Five life lessons.

I’d start with an introductory paragraph on the importance of the topic and introduce the number of concepts I would present.

Then I would write a paragraph or so on each. In those days, paragraphs were longer. They started with a summary introductory sentence. Then three (or more) ideas were developed, each in its own sentence. Followed by a summary sentence to wrap it up before heading off to the next topic. (This was back in the seventies before bullets—of  the writing type—had been invented.)

I’d add a little twist to connect each paragraph with the following one (another trick I learned from Mr. Smith). Perhaps a little phrase at the start of the following paragraph, such as “As an example” or “Furthermore.” Or it could be something really short, such as “Then…” It could even be repetition of a word used at the end of the preceding paragraph.

The same problem holds true today: The more exciting and novel an idea feels to me, the harder it is to write effectively about it. I keep revisiting and revising and doubting and fretting. At the same time, I can handle a simple, kind of regular idea quickly and efficiently.

That’s part of why it is so hard to write a book or to submit an article to a prestige publication.

The ideas are rich and scintillating. We ponder them, both in our waking hours and as themes in our nighttime dreams. We start writing. It’s a mess. We write some more. We even start a fresh draft. Finally we are done . . . more or less.

It is more difficult to write the novel idea that we care about more. The more it matters, the harder it is to write. The concept is so iridescently beautiful in our heads that no words in print seem to do it justice. It is harder to commit and easier to become discouraged.

The reverse happens when writing business copy for clients. The work generally proceeds at a reasonable pace and comes to a satisfactory conclusion in a reasonable amount of time.

Success results with ease not because we don’t care—we do!—but because we are not so emotionally involved. We understand the assignment and outline major points. Then we sit down and produce. We don’t expect to create breathtaking copy. We expect to meet client expectations and we do.

Between less emotional baggage and a firmer understanding of what is to be written and how it is to be structured, the typical paid business assignment is much easier than our personal projects. Thankfully.

Because if all writing was as intimidating as the big, personally meaningful projects to which we aspire, freelance writing would be exhausting.

Posted in writing Tagged with: , ,

Marketing for freelance: Expert says I’m on the right track

Live phone conversations are the way to go in 2016. Email lists are likely to fail.

To be honest, an article in the January 2016 issue of the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News by Pete Gracey doesn’t say I’m right. Gracey doesn’t even acknowledge I’m alive. Still, he and I are on the same wavelength.

In his “Five Must-Know Sales and Marketing Predictions for 2016,” he writes that “the use of automated e-mail for sales prospecting will get punched in the face.” He claims that open rates will drop precipitously and that email is too impersonal.

Actually, I believe that open rates have already dropped and that unsubscribe rates remain modest because people are so overwhelmed with floods of email that they won’t even take the time to cancel. (Anyway, many of us fear that when we unsubscribe, we are acknowledging that the account is live, possibly encouraging more spam.)

Then Gracey predicts that live phone conversations will make a marketing comeback as emails fall to the wayside because “customers and prospects seek authentic engagements.”

Yep, that’s what I’ve been saying all along.

The telephone has been around for a long time but it continues to excel as a communications medium. For complex conversations, it allows more nuances of expression and prevents misunderstandings. It’s warmer and more friendly.

And it’s the fastest, most efficient way to exchange information, ideas and emotions.

Want to market your freelance services more effectively? Why not simply pick up the phone.

(Here’s a link to a summary of the AMA article. The summary falls far short of the full article, which is available online only to organization members.)

Here’s more info:

Hey, why not take my B2B phone call?

5 do’s and 5 don’t’s when phoning for freelance and consulting work

Is phoning for freelance and consulting work really so awful?


Posted in cold calling for freelance and consulting, Marketing Tagged with: , , ,

What do you do that’s special? (describing your work)

If you are a freelancer or consultant who has been challenged with this or a similar question by prospects or even at workshops and marketing programs, you may feel uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. I-wish-I-could-sink-down-below-the-floorboards-and-disappear uncomfortable.

What service do I offer that is truly my jewel? My diamond of infinite value? My special sauce? My quality that incites gasps of wonder? My special thing that sets me above any competitor in the world, so awe inspiring that no one else is qualified to be in even the same category as me? So juicy that everyone is drooling in envy?

Here are three valid, real-world possibilities to consider when talking to business prospects about how you are special:

  1. I do for you (or “my clients”) what you would do if you had the time to do it yourself.
  2. I do for you (or “my clients”) what your staff person would do for you, with the same quality and just as appropriately, if this staffer had the time to get to this assignment.
  3. I do what you need done that you and your staff don’t have the skills and / or resources to do, and I do it as much like how you would do it as possible.

Choose one. If you don’t know which one fits the situation, choose the first.

You can expand on the concept. Here are some ways to expand it:

  1. I have more time than you do. I seldom attend meetings and am not called upon for corporate firefighting. I work at my private desk with far fewer interruptions. I devote my full focus to your project and get it done by deadline.
  2. You can participate in the project as much or as little as you like. You can give detailed input. You can delegate to me and depend on me to do an excellent job. You can assign a staff liaison to advise me. You can review the work and make suggestions several times. (Of course your pricing suits these details.)
  3. I can study your company’s past work in this area and match it in content and style. Or I can go in a new creative direction if you prefer.

Note that we are talking about freelancing and consulting assignments for companies, not coaching for individuals.

People in the market for coaching don’t want coaching per se. They want transformation. They want miracles. They pay for personal help that inspires and elates. They pay for it themselves.

Often they don’t know what they want until they hear it. From you.

Freelancing and consulting as the concepts are used here are about providing services to companies. These services are already well defined. You’ll use words like “writing” or “designing” or “diagnosing.”

These corporate prospects aren’t looking for miracle workers. If you suggest you can perform a miracle, they will be suspicious if not outright turned off. You are claiming that despite their years of experience, you know far more than they do. They are insulted.

Sometimes we deliver our elevator speeches to broad-based networking groups or practice them at marketing workshops. Take the leader’s advice with a grain of salt or even a full saltshaker.

How you talk (and write) about your work should connect with your most likely prospects.

It doesn’t matter if an expert uninformed about your industry or function thinks your words lack pizzazz. It’s what your true prospects think that matters.

Your true prospects don’t care about cute or zippy. Your nonprospects may be temporarily amused or impressed, but they will not become prospects. And if they don’t actually understand what you do, they won’t refer you to others either.

The more specific your offering, the more they want to hear that specificity, no matter how dull it seems to others.

Do you agree? Disagree? What has worked for you? Please comment.


Posted in elevator speech, Marketing, phoning for freelance and consulting work Tagged with: , ,

Our greatest interest is ourselves, right? (The marketing conversation)

This concept should shape all of our marketing as freelancers and consultants, especially elevator speeches, networking conversations and outbound marketing phone calls.

It’s delusional to think that others are so charmed by our scintillating, “juicy” self-descriptions that they immediately fork over gobs of money in thrall to the wonder of what we do.

Even more off-putting is the idea that “the more you tell, the more you sell.” Yes, it works for sales letters and certain types of web copy, but it can really kill a conversation to the point that the victim decides he desperately needs a coffee refill right now.

In an initial marketing conversation, you want to get the other person to talk about themselves, especially their business and their business problems. You are using their talking to learn what they are doing, to see if there is an interface between the problems they face and the problems you solve, and to hear the language they use to frame these problems.

How to do this


Ask people to talk about themselves.

When you phone a new contact name, you can start by telling what you do succinctly and asking them if they ever need such services. Have they considered using a freelancer to get more work done or to relieve them of tasks they dislike or to improve their results?

When you introduce yourself at a meeting in the elevator-speeches round, sum up what you do quickly and add that you love the subject and enjoy discussing solutions with others in the networking portion of the meeting.

Nothing is more annoying than listening to others recite testimonials word for word that they have received or pontificate on their success stories and case studies.

In a face-to-face conversation, talk about them. Show you care. Yes, it is appropriate to talk business. That’s why we are there. Personal chitchat is fine, but sometimes enough is enough.

Continuing the conversation

What if they just keep talking about themselves relentlessly?

This could be a good sign. Your input is of interest to them. They may be a real business prospect or they may be thinking of an acquaintance who can use your service.

Or it could be the sign of a real bore.

Today everyone with any marketing polish knows that networking conversations should be two sided. They are about giving each participant attention and helping each other.

So you’ll get your turn though it is often more beneficial to demonstrate your interest in the other person’s problem than to orate on how wonderful you are.

Are you giving away too much for free?

Be generous rather than disgustingly self-serving in helping with problems.

If you are giving the store away for free, something is wrong. Don’t get all Chatty Cathy. Talk in terms of concepts. No matter how compelling your advice, the other person may well need help in implementing.

Or provide a website, book title, or other resource that solves the problem. If you can solve the problem so easily, there’s really no paying opportunity here. Plus you can build good will.

Or maybe you don’t have enough of a service or product pyramid to take the prospect beyond the immediate resolution. It’s good to recognize this and then determine if you want to build out your business or change course significantly. (Or get a job.)

Or you may want to set up a longer free meeting. I have been gifted with valuable, free consulting sessions although I told the service provider I would not be buying soon. I have “paid” for the time with an unrequested testimonial on LinkedIn. I may use the services in the future and recommend them to others.

Most of all, don’t get huffy about their questions, especially if you initiated this conversation by asking them about their problems. In a casual, friendly tone, suggest setting up a consulting appointment or their buying your information product.

Your thoughts? (I may be much grouchier than you.) What works for you in these marketing situations? Please comment.

Posted in networking, phoning for freelance and consulting work Tagged with: , , ,

My shameless plea for Amazon book reviews (and my ebook for free!)

Most years I develop a list of activities I want to carry out during the year, but 2016 is different. I have a specific goal for 2016 that measures the impact I wish to have.

Specifically, by December 31, 2016 I want to have at least 100 reviews on Amazon for my book about freelancing and consulting, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less.

As I write this article on December 30, 2015, I have 28 reviews and an average score of 4.8 out of a total of 5.0. That’s pretty good. It represents my significant effort to get the word out.

To encourage people to access my book and write a review, I am offering it for free today and tomorrow (December 30-31) in the Kindle ebook version. You don’t need a dedicated Kindle reader to use it. You can read this ebook on any internet device, from smart phones to desktop computers. (You can also order the book as a paperback for a fee.)

I dearly appreciate your posted review. I recognize that your review requires effort and claims your otherwise billable time. It is a substantial favor on your part. If you have already posted a review in the past, I am so grateful.

There are a zillion ways to publicize books, but I have decided to focus specifically on pursuing reviews. After all, I sell my book solely on Amazon and reviews are especially effective in creating visibility on Amazon. I plan to speak to job clubs and other relevant audiences, write guest blog posts, distribute news releases, and undertake similar marketing activities to support this campaign.

Please let me know if you’d like a presentation to your Chicago-area organization, guest article, etc.

Is it smart to give a book away for free?

Interesting question.

Obviously free books cannibalize the purchase of paid books. Some also argue that free devalues books that have taken so much time to write and even kills the book-selling market as people buy more for free.

Valid points but getting more reviews is widely recognized as worth the effort.

Furthermore, I wrote this book to help people, especially those who are unemployed, underemployed, or simply must create income promptly. Offering the book for free will put it in the hands of those who most need it and bring my message to those who need it.

Please share this free link with friends who need help towards freelance and consulting success, whether they will post a review or not.

How to write an Amazon book review

Amazon changes its rules for book reviews from time to time in an effort to post only valid reviews and to block unethical practices. For instance, lately it has taken legal action to prevent service providers on Fiverr from charging authors for posting five-star reviews.

Of course I prefer five-star reviews but you are free to rate the book as you wish. All I ask is that if you give a low rating, you explain the rating rather than simply slam the book.

Here are some more tips to posting an Amazon book review:

  • Write at least 20 words.
  • Demonstrate that you have read the book (but this does not mean the review must be long). Don’t say you haven’t read the book. Seems obvious but reviewers do it all the time.
  • Submit the review through your Amazon account so Amazon recognizes you as an actual customer.
  • Use a penname / alias if you wish. Yes, the system allows this (though I think it is a bad practice on Amazon’s part).
  • Assign a star rating. Add a headline that summarizes your opinion of the book.

Thanks in advance for your consideration,


Posted in Amazon books, Real Skills Real Income book Tagged with: , , , ,

What to do when a freelance project turns out to be harder than expected

Unfortunately, it’s quite common to have this problem. After all, each new client is different from every client we have experienced in the past.

Sometimes the differences are slight. Sometimes they turn out to be significant, especially if the assignment appears to be run of the mill until we start to implement or even when we submit it and the client feedback is unexpectedly harsh.

It is so easy to commit initially to a project we aren’t sure we understand. We approach each project offered us with a can-do attitude until we get deeper into it and discover that maybe we can’t do. At first the money is so appealing.

Not only do we land assignments that prove to be less within our sweet spot of expertise than we had thought, but we have no coworkers onsite to ask for advice.

Back at our regular jobs, we were deeply entrenched in recurring assignments. Plus we had managers, supervisors and coworkers close at hand. When we had problems, there was someone nearby to work them out with and expertise abounding.

When we are offsite—sometimes by hundreds or even thousands of miles—it’s far more difficult to get any assistance when we get to a rough spot. However, when we have so little experience with the client, we may need this assistance even more.

The solution

The solution is to get as early a start on a project as possible.

It is far easier to request help or solicit another opinion when we give the client time to participate and when we allow time to digest and implement their leads.

If you find you need a corporate source to interview or technical data from the client or background to help evaluate possible paths, you can’t get what you need at 5 p.m. the day before the deadline.

As the deadline nears, assisting you is more of an imposition on the client.

Besides, an admission that you are missing something you need is downright scary for the client.

A freelancing or consulting client is not supposed to monitor your implementation closely. The freedom to shape how the assignment is completed and to pace the work along the way differentiates the self-employed person from the employee.

Let time be your friend

Cutting it close to deadline in asking for help warns the client that you may miss deadline or submit incomplete work. The client senses an uh-oh moment in the offing.

Plus there is the possibility that the client does not have the answers that would help you. That may be precisely why they contracted with you instead of doing it themselves in-house.

Asking questions earlier would let you know where you stand so you can look elsewhere or do more research as you explore the problem.

It’s easy for the freelancer or consultant to get in over his head. When we sense this is happening, there is a tendency to procrastinate and put the project off till tomorrow.

But leveling with the client or going elsewhere for help will be every more challenging as the deadline gets closer.

So discipline yourself for an early start and benefit from more time to consider the complexities you face.

Have you taken on work that has had unexpected problems? How did you resolve them?


Ready to convert your education and work experience into a career in freelance writing or other freelance / consulting services? My book, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, can help you achieve exactly that. It’s available on Amazon in print or as a Kindle ebook.



Posted in freelancing and consulting, Running a business Tagged with: , , ,

Why live networking feels so uncomfortable and what to do about it

Do you have issues with live networking? All that effort for such meager results?

You’ve extensively brainstormed with friends to develop long, stress-inducing lists of groups to visit. The networking dartboard has many targets, but there’s nothing precisely in the bull’s eye. Furthermore, once you identify a group that could be in the center, you don’t know what to say to the people you meet that doesn’t feel manipulative, even yucky.

The solution

There are so many live groups in your community, as well as LinkedIn, Facebook, and other online groups, that are relevant, but few are ideal. Don’t rush into ones that don’t feel right. If you attend once and there is no chemistry, they probably are not your perfect audience. You may wish to give it one more try. Or simply don’t go back! Give yourself permission to trust your gut.

Save your energy for people who are your right audience in terms of their work, service needs, demographics, etc.

Be picky! Your time is limited, and your energy needs the lift you get from connecting with the right people. Work smart, not frenetically.

What to say

Lots of experts say we need sticky elevator speeches that arouse great interest.

True . . . but only for some specialties.

“Juicy” elevator speeches work well for coaches, especially personal coaches, but not so well for corporate people looking for a certain type of easily-understood service.

Here’s why:

No one is in the market for coaching per se. They want the personalized solutions that coaching may provide, such as a happier outlook on life, weight loss, or finding a soulmate.

However, those of us providing corporate services, such as writing or marketing support, don’t require an enchanting offer to lure clients. They already understand the benefits of effective copy or a new website or social media management.

You can best engage these prospects by relating to them personally. This means starting a conversation, not launching your monologue. Get them to talk about themselves and their service needs.

Ask questions: What would your perfect workday be like? Do you need help? Are you overworked? Do you have a website? How is it working for you? How would you like to improve it? Do you have a blog? Have you thought of hiring a freelancer?

In other words, get them talking about their work needs and dreams rather than dominating the conversation with we, us and I.

This initiates a much more positive conversation with prospects.

What to offer

Start to develop a relationship instead of a sale. Offer the people you meet something helpful and free. Maybe they would appreciate a phone conversation or follow-up meeting at which you could give them free advice.

When my solution is my book, Real Skills, Real Income, I offer a free PDF and suggest they post a book review on Amazon if they like it. I can also offer to put them on my newsletter list at no charge. (I used to try to sell the book, which didn’t feel right.)

This feels much better than trying to get them to buy the book.

The gift doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a free report or that free meeting.

Note that a free consult is a better gift if implementation is a substantial part of your business. If you implement for clients, you can’t possible give away the store for free.

Your next step . . . or not?

If in-person networking feels disgusting, something is wrong. You have the wrong audience or the wrong product / service or a pushy sales message that makes you cringe inside.

Get in touch with what aspect of the whole thing feels off to you.

Go slow. You want to find a networking group with which you can build a relationship over time for the benefit of both you and your market, not set yourself up for experiences that sour you on networking and make you want to hide out at home.


Posted in networking Tagged with: , ,

Four lessons about building my own business I’ve learned the hard way

This weekend I met up with an old friend and fellow self-employed freelancer /coach / writer. We reminisced about life and business lessons we have learned along the way, inspiring me to write down some of the truths I have discovered.

These lessons are on a single theme: There’s much more to success than simply committing to build a business on a rigid schedule.


Lesson 1: No matter how strongly you resolve to complete a prescribed series of business-building steps within a predetermined timeframe, sometimes you cannot wrap it up on time because you don’t have the experience to do so.

When I first started to build my practice, I signed up for an extended course with live event and mastermind components to guide me through the developmental process. The cost was in the thousands of dollars, and I resolved right from the start that I would stay on schedule and have everything up and running by the last class.

I worked hard. I put in the time and effort to meet every deadline Still, I lagged behind even in the very first classes when we laid the groundwork by identifying our unique personal strengths and branding concept.

I thought long and hard about my passions and talents and developed some ideas for how my work would help people, but in class discussions, the leader and other students would point out shortcomings. I was stuck at the beginning and feeling like a loser by the second class.

Then, in a private phone conversation with the leader, he pointed out that the fastest-moving students had already met with considerable success in their business over years of effort. They had experience and extensive feedback from clients to help them identify their strengths and what their market desired.

Simply because a schedule has been defined does not mean that effort alone will enable us to complete with the most advanced students.

I was doing fine simply by entertaining these topics as I went about my day. It would take time to identify my purpose and how I would express this purpose, both in terms of the work I would do and the words I would find to describe this work.

Learning the steps is useful but business development is not as simple as following the recipe for a chocolate cake.

Lesson 2: You simply cannot perform some business activities.

Some experts recommend hiring people to work for you so you can save your time for activities demanding creativity and leadership.

I could not afford much hired help in the beginning. So I eventually decided to direct my financial resources specifically to activities I may never master or that I abhor so strongly I can’t do them. In my case, this means setting up a website and certain other technology tasks.

I once took a course in how to design websites. The teacher was agog with the fun (to her) of what she was teaching. She spent almost an entire webinar session demonstrating how to use HTML to change the size, shape and color of a “buy now” button.

I simply didn’t care if the button was red or gold. I finally realized that no matter how handy it would be to have the skill to make such changes, I wasn’t interested.

I dropped the class and decided instead to hire someone else to do this work.

Some of us hire others to design websites. Or write marketing copy. Or organize our tax data.

Life is so much easier when you recognize the tasks that don’t suit you and promptly take action to have someone else do them.

Lesson 3: We must relearn the lessons others have learned at our own pace.

So many teachers have sales pages claiming that it took them years to figure out how to do it but they can save us time by teaching us what they have learned.

Maybe yes, maybe no.

If their processes will work for you, if you want to do exactly what they do, maybe you can save yourself months if not years of frustrating effort.

However, sometimes it simply can’t be done that quickly, especially if your business idea is substantially different from theirs.

They probably took more time than they had hoped because they had much to discover about themselves and what they wished to achieve.

Your discoveries must be your own. Your journey may take much longer than the months, weeks, or even single weekend timespan they promise.

Lesson 4: You may need a way to bring in money while you develop your business.

I had thought I could make a fast transition to a new type of business, but I learned that extensive freelance writing experience would serve me long-term as a proven way to bring in income. I needed this skill and could not afford to let it fall by the wayside merely because I preferred to do something else.

Multistep programs, whether a system in a box designed for self-study or an individual coaching series or a master-mind group program, can be big on accountability. Leaders push you along the path.

Building a personal business that matches your talents and your goals—perhaps even talents and goals you are still struggling to identify—involves so much more than completing tasks on schedule.

In summary, it’s important to make peace with these realities so you can proceed with acceptance, persistence and faith rather than frustration and defeatism.

How about you? Has your experience been similar? Or perhaps vastly different?


Ready to convert your education and work experience into a career in freelance writing or other freelance / consulting services? My book, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, can help you achieve exactly that. It’s available on Amazon in print or as a Kindle ebook. 


Posted in Marketing, Running a business Tagged with: , , ,