My Juggling Act

How do we do it? How do freelancers—and others– keep all of the (insert one) balls in the air, plates spinning, knives tossing?—whatever analogy you want to use. How do you manage your juggling act?

  • What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
  • How do you pick up when something gets dropped, or a connection lost?

And, perhaps most the most important question, and one that we don’t consider often enough:

  • How do you take care of yourself so you don’t get burnt out—or worse—sick from trying to do too much?

These are questions we’ll be asking members over the next few weeks in our conversations with  the Freelance Writers’ Connection group I co-manage on LinkedIn. Please join the conversation, either in the group, here on this blog, or both.

How do you manage your juggling act? Here’s what I am trying to juggle right now:

  • reporting local events for  The Napanee Guide (my newest freelance gig)
  • freelance writing for magazines and journals
  • promoting and teaching writing workshops
  • being the Ontario regional director for the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC)
  • helping to organize the professional development sessions at PWAC’s 2017 conference
  • leading or co-leading two fitness activities in my community

Don’t get me wrong. I love my work, and I’ve chosen to do this volunteer work with PWAC and other volunteer work in my community, which includes the fitness activities. I chose to be a group leader so that I make sure I show up!

I know—lots of people have a list as long as mine or longer. I didn’t even add in the personal stuff—time with my husband and friends, and keeping in touch with friends—not that those aren’t important, because they are very important—but while they should be at the top of the list, they often get put down to the bottom.

Lots of people juggle paid work, volunteer work, family time, etc. I am not complaining, and this list is in no way in the order of the importance of the people, and things in my life. I am lucky to have a husband who supports me in so many ways, and often helps with my work. I am lucky that we have sons who want to share their busy lives with us, and keep in touch. I am lucky to have good friends to spend time with, and keep in touch with online. I am lucky to have colleagues to share the challenges and frustrations of my work. I am lucky to have the opportunity to share the fitness activities I enjoy with others.

Like our Nordic Pole Walking Group, sponsored  by the L & A Seniors Outreach Services in Napanee. We are now 18 members strong, and will keep walking all winter! Some of these women join me in my “Strength and Stretch” group at the SOS. (Photo courtesy of Grace Vanderzande.) dscn0981

So how am I keeping all of this straight? I am trying to use my Google calendar more—mark everything down and add reminders. That calendar shows up on my phone and tablet too, so I have those devices to help keep me organized. Maybe there are other tips you can share on how you juggle the things in your life. One thing—that personal stuff that often gets put down to the bottom of the list—they are getting moved up.

This week, our social calendar is full with three events in a row—a meeting with other creative people in our community to find out about local arts and culture in the Town of Greater Napanee, and two concerts. So that will help balance out the work and get me away from the computer. If it sounds like I’m “all work and no play,” that is definitely not the case.

I just need to find ways to juggle the new paid work—the writing and the teaching—which I am thrilled to have—with all of the other things I’ve been doing, and want to keep doing.

I’ve been a freelance writer for almost 20 years, and I’ve done this juggling act before, so I know I will manage it better in the coming days, weeks and months than I have in the past month. I don’t know why it seems harder now. I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to figure that out. I’m just going to get on with it, and I am secure in the knowledge that if a ball doesn’t get tossed, a plate doesn’t spin, or a knife doesn’t get tossed, my juggling act will still go on, and everything will get done when it needs to be done.

So, this week’s question: How do you take care of yourself when your life gets so busy that you’re on the go all the time?


Dealing with dumping a client—or getting dumped—it’s all going to be okay

In my last post, I talked about how dealing with clients is easy—and it isn’t. Thanks to everyone who posted a reply. One of my followers, travel writer Doreen Pendgracs, said that sometimes it’s necessary to end a relationship with a client, and she’s absolutely right. Sometimes it isn’t worth your time and energy to stick with a particular client—and it could be costing you money to do so.

How do you know when you need to end the relationship?

If a client doesn’t pay, or pay on time. Of course there are exceptions, like the client might be going through a temporary slump and has to delay payment, or you may choose to write for a particular client for free once in a while for your own reasons, but generally, if you’re finding that a client isn’t paying, or payment is always delayed—it’s time to cut the cord. I had a client whose cheques bounced. The first time it happened, I let it go, and accepted his apology and new payment. The second time it happened, I asked that the cheque be covered plus interest to cover the delay, which I received. The third time, I asked for the payment in cash, and told him I wouldn’t be writing for him anymore. Three strikes—you’re out. I let the first two times go because I liked this client and enjoyed the work I was doing for him, but it seemed to have become a pattern that, according to him, “the bank just isn’t following my instructions to transfer funds.” So I had to cut him loose.

If the pay is consistently low Clients can also cost you money if the pay is low,(or lower than you are willing to accept) because even though it may be steady work, it’s taking time away from you being able to find higher paying clients. I was in this situation for too long and had to really step out of my comfort zone and start doing the legwork necessary—research and pitching—to find better clients and it paid off.

If the work isn’t what you expected. With some clients the work may start out well and then take a turn in a direction you didn’t expect, and don’t like. I had a client who wanted me to write articles that really made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t like that he was asking for more than we’d originally agreed upon, but was not willing to pay a higher fee. If it doesn’t feel right, it likely is going to get worse rather than better, so it’s time to let go.

Sometimes it’s the client that lets you go, which isn’t fun, but it happens and you have to learn to bounce back and move on. As another friend, writer Suzanne Boles says, “Let rejection fuel you.”  Suzanne’s advice is to turn being rejected by a client into something positive by letting it energize you into working harder and finding even better clients.

Travel writer Roy Stevenson, a member of The Freelance Writers’ Connection, had a post on his blog, Pitch, Travel, Write that dealt with The bright side of rejection letters. It’s good to know that others have dealt with this and found a positive way out.

I regularly read the posts on the site The Write Life, and I thought this post fit here: There are some great tips on how to cope when a writing client dumps you.

I’ve been dumped a few times, and it was nice to know that it usually wasn’t my work the client didn’t like, but their business that was going in a different direction, and they no longer needed my services. I’ve had very nice recommendations from them that I can use to find other clients. Of course there have been clients who weren’t happy with what I wrote, but even though I didn’t meet their expectations, I sometimes got paid for the time I’d put in because they recognized that I’d made my best effort.

The bottom line is that sometimes you’ll get dumped by a client and sometimes you have to be the one who dumps the client. Either way, know that everything will work out in the end, and you’ll get the clients who you want—and who want you.

Have you ever had to end a client relationship, or been dumped by a client? How did you deal with it?

Dealing with clients is simple—and it’s not

I am the co-moderator of The Freelance Writers Connection on LinkedIn, and this month we are discussing “Dealing With Clients.” I posted an email to the group about this and am adding some other thoughts here. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Dealing with clients really comes down to three things:

  • Getting clients 
  • Keeping those clients
  • Getting more clients

Everything you do—and don’t do—will affect those three things. There are, of course, many things to consider to keep those three things going.

In her article, 5 Reasons Clients Won’t Work with Freelancers (And How to Fix Them) Raubi Marie Pirelli, owner of Simply Stated Media, outlines some common mistakes and how to avoid them to increase your roster of clients.

So, once you have the work, what then? How do you keep those clients and keep them happy? You need to remember the 80/20 rule. That’s an old adage of business: that 80 percent of your work will likely come from 20 percent of your clients. The odds may not be quite that cut and dried, but you will get a lot of work from repeat clients and new clients referred to you by your satisfied clients. So keep them happy.

Do a little extra  If you are writing an article, offer to source images. This will especially impress editors who may not have an extra budget for photographs, but you may be able to negotiate a little extra if you’re taking the photos. Travel writer and editor James Durston tells you in this article from his new blog, Travel Write Earn  why editors really appreciate you sourcing your own images.

Don’t be a clock watcher  If you quote your client a fee based on your hourly rate, keep track of your time, but don’t count every minute. It may take you an hour and 15 minutes to complete a task. Let them know it took a bit longer, but don’t charge for those extra minutes. Your client will recognize that you are willing to do a bit more, and that will keep them as clients. Happy clients bring you more work.

Stick to your schedule    Complete the project on time or even slightly ahead of deadline. Filing your story or handing in your project on time will keep you top of mind for future projects.

Respect your client’s process  You may not like that it’s “pay on publication” or “pay after 60 days”, but if that’s your client’s process, then you have to accept it. If you can’t, find other clients.

Keep in touch  Keeping in touch with a client, just to say “hi” once in a while, without pitching a specific idea will help keep you in your client’s mind. Arrange a coffee or lunch meeting, (which you offer to pay for) will let you know the client as a person, not just a client, and, more importantly, let them know you as a person, not just a writer/supplier.

There is a lot more than could be said here, but you get the gist. Find your clients, keep them happy, and they’ll keep coming back to you for more work.

What’s your “go to” tactic for getting clients and keeping them happy? Join the conversation and come back next week for dealing with rejection—it happens to the best of us.