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.


A Sad Tale on “Tell A Story” Day

Today, April 27, 2016, is supposedly “Tell a Story Day”, so here’s mine. I’m sorry it’s a sad tale.

This is about a journalist I used to respect: Margaret Wente, who is currently a columnist for The Globe and Mail newspaper. Wente is described by her own editors as “controversial.”  I don’t always agree with her but I applaud her for taking some unpopular stands or expressing what might be considered politically incorrect opinions. What I don’t applaud her for is plagiarizing other people’s work. She did it in 2012, and she’s done it again. (Please follow the link at the end of the story for more details.)

The editors have posted an apology and let people know that corrections have been made. Corrections and apologies are often buried in the paper and many do not even see them. I expect that will be end of it. Business as usual: Wente will continue to be employed by The Globe and they’ll just hope that this will blow over; that everyone will move on. Wente is the one who should move on. But she isn’t.

Wente said in defending herself in 2012 that she was not a “serial plagiarist” but that there were folks who “just don’t like what I write” and were therefore attacking her work ethics.  She hasn’t said anything this time around and if her editors are doing the apologizing for her and correcting her mistakes, then why should she? Her story is being told for her.

This is not just a problem for Wente, but for The Globe as well. Or is it? No doubt, its readership is down, as is the case with many newspapers, and what better way to bring in readers than with a “controversial” writer? People will be looking to see if, nay, when, she will plagiarize again, and get away with it—again.

The state of journalism is not in disarray because of digital media, as some have suggested. It is in disarray though when editors keep defending writers who seem to have no issue with writing something that is so similar to someone else’s work that it cannot be called anything but plagiarism, and that writer, now caught in this web more than once, cannot be called anything but a “serial plagiarist.”

This story may have a happy ending for Wente, but it is not a good one for writers and how they should conduct themselves. She should resign (but likely won’t) or she should be fired (but likely won’t be.)

I am sad that a writer I once respected, and the editors of a paper that I love to read have let this play out the way it has. A sad tale for me, indeed.

This has been covered in many media outlets. One of the most informative for me was an interview done on the CBC program “As it Happens”  last night. Here is a link to the interview, and some snippets from other media outlets covering this issue.

Leaving Australia on a sweet note

Talk about a sweet ending to our trip to Australia.


On our penultimate day, we drove for about 90 minutes west of Sydney to the Blue Mountains. Whether, like us, you just want to stroll around Katoomba, the main town in the area, or you’re up for some more rugged bushwalking, this area should definitely be on your “to see” list.

208-150916The rugged cliffs and deep forest valleys topped by the Three Sisters rock formations add to the grandeur, and if you’re as lucky as we were, you’ll get a bright sunny day to really enjoy the vistas.

We could have taken a trolley tour or gone to see the visitor centre but we had to get back to the city and, because it was such a beautiful day, we chose to do a couple of walks through town and a drive around the local area.


One of the highlights, which took a little while to actually find because it’s smaller than you’d think, is the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company.

Given its name, you might think it would be something larger than a house yet that’s exactly where this company is located, and all of the chocolate making is done in the kitchen.


Out front there are shelves full of bags of chocolate,  other sweet treats, and a large case displaying so many types, sizes and shapes of chocolate that it was a bit overwhelming. Completing the scene is a café where you can enjoy your special snack.


The highlight—and something the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company is famous for—is the hot chocolate. This is no ordinary hot chocolate! It’s made in a specially-designed fondue pot, heated by a tealight, to which you add steamed milk and as many of the little chocolate wafers as your taste dictates.  200-150916

The chocolate slowly melts into the milk as you stir and sip with the distinctive straw-spoon. (spoon-straw?)

It stays nice and hot as you linger over it and keep eyeing those chocolates in the display case.

The hot chocolate can be made with regular or soy milk, and you can buy your own 5-piece Choco Fondue set.

(They were out of stock, and we really didn’t have room in our luggage for the set, but I am on the lookout now.)


While the sky was blue and the sun was bright, there was a cool, brisk wind, and after strolling around Katoomba looking at some magnificent street art and checking out some of the local shops, we were definitely ready for a hot drink.189-150916 192-150916

We drove back to Sydney to return our camper van. Then we settled into the apartment we’d booked for our last night in Australia, still talking about that magnificent hot chocolate and looking forward to the delectable chocolate goodies we’d purchased. What a sweet ending to our trip.


Now that I’ve started at the end, I might just go back to the beginning of the trip to Australia in my next post. So, stay tuned.

Keep telling your travel stories

As a professional writer, I love to tell stories, and usually I am telling other people’s stories. On this blog, I get to tell my own stories, and many of them have been about travel. I’ve been lucky to have some travel articles published, and I am still learning more about travel writing. I also want to hear travel stories from others, and help us all learn how to be better travel writers.

So, I have a workshop called “The Travelling Pen.” I first presented this in Napanee (Ontario, Canada) on Saturday, February 27, and it was well-received. I have been asked to repeat the workshop so here are the details for this presentation.

Saturday, March 19 

10 am to 3 pm

Airhart  Community Room

L & A Country General Hospital

8 Richmond Park Drive


$50 (includes all materials)*

This community room is accessible through the hospital or from the parking lot, and both the coffee shop and cafeteria will be open for lunch and snacks.

While we chat about travel writing for publication online and in print, we will spend most of the day talking about writing travel journals and blogs and look at some of the travel blogs that I follow.

Throughout the day, participants will make valuable contacts to help them with their writing, and I will hand out information that I hope will be useful for them as they write their travel stories.

I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled across Canada and to several countries in the world with my husband whose photos complement my stories brilliantly.

Here are some photos from our first trip to South Korea to visit our son Jeremy in September 2010.

Palace guards, Joseon era dress
Stirway to Incheon's Chinatown
Painted steps in Incheon’s Chinatown

We returned  to South Korea in August 2015  and then went on to Australia. We’re still editing photos and stories from that trip so stay tuned.

Whether you want to become a published writer or just learn how to capture your stories in a more meaningful way, joining me for “The Travelling Pen” will be an adventurous day–but the date is fast approaching,  so please register soon.

To register, please contact me:


*Payment must be cash, cheque, or direct deposit.

The Slow Cooking Muse

The Slow Cooking Muse
My slow cooker

My muse has finally been making a few appearances lately, usually in the wee hours of the morning. Given her choice of visiting hours, she doesn’t stick around long. So while I have had, or been given, some ideas for this blog, none of them are very fully developed, and I am not sure any of them warrant fleshing out. Maybe they just need more time, just as some meals are better if they’re slow cooked. So perhaps my muse has been a slow cooking one.

The idea about slow cooking came to me one of those nights after my muse had me wide awake. So there I was in the middle of the night, thinking about how my next story might be like a pot roast with the meat, potatoes and vegetables all still intact as separate entities but melded together as a fine meal. Or the story might be more like a chili where the ingredients–the meat, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables have to soften together with the spices in order for the chili to be any good. Both of these meals are good, and better if cooked for a longer time, but with very different results. Both can leave you with a memory of a fine meal.

Memories, specifically Christmas memories, was another idea the muse left with me another night. Now that it’s almost New Year’s,  it’s time to take that idea out of the pot.

In one of her latest posts, my friend “Buttons”  wrote about the memories on her Christmas tree, which had me look at our tree more carefully and remember the significance of our decorations. Two that always touch me are the baby shoes and first school pictures of our two sons.

While we can’t add his [current] size 11-1/2 shoes to the tree, we did get our son Eric new shoes for Christmas, and his dad wrote on the tag, “For your new path, wherever it may take you.” Eric is returning to school as he follows his passion for design to learn techniques for video game and animation  design. Maybe we’ll have a new school photo to put on next year’s tree. We should get a new one of our other son Jeremy too.

Jeremy isn’t a student, but he is in school. His path has taken him to teach English in elementary schools in South Korea, and he’s now married to a young Korean woman, Jieun, who is a wonderful addition to our family. The small flowers given to us at their wedding this summer have now been added as decorations on this year’s Christmas  tree.

We also have house decorations that belonged to my mother, my sister, and two dear aunts who have died but whose memories live on in these decorations.

2015-12-21 16.22.36

Another tradition we carry on is baking. Cookies, loaves, muffins, and scones have lovingly been prepared, and eaten, and I’ve made an annual favourite: Peanut Butter-Marshmallow Squares. I got the recipe from my aunt years ago, and have added my own twists. Eric even made a batch this year. My husband made a Christmas cherry pie, just as his mother used to do. That’s inspired me to try pie baking again and see if I can come up with a better gluten-free crust than the nut-crumb crust I made for my post-Halloween pumpkin pie. I also want to get back to making yeast breads in addition to the quick scones and muffins.

*Sorry, no photos. Everything got eaten before I wrote this blog post. Time to do some more baking, I guess. 

Whether I am cooking, baking or writing, it seems like the slow muse needs to visit more often and hang around longer. Then I might come up with a more unified post rather than this hodge-podge. But then, sometimes things do meld together nicely, don’t they?

Do you like slow cooking or getting things done quickly? Both have their merits don’t they? What about your writing? Do you wait for “the big idea” or put together smaller ones?

Join the conversation and let me know.




Do we really need “trigger warnings”?

Danger, Will Rogers—Do we really need a warning? 

I think it was the television program “Lost in Space” where the young boy, Will Rogers, was warned of danger by the family’s robot. On many television or radio programs an announcement is made that the material may be “disturbing” to some, and guidance may be necessary. I guess these would be called “trigger warnings.”

There are certain songs that I can’t listen to on the radio; there are movies or television shows I can’t watch or at least I can’t watch certain scenes; and there are books, or parts of books I can’t read. I can’t do any of these things because they “trigger” an emotional response—usually anger—that I’d rather avoid. That anger is triggered because it reminds me of a time in my life that I’ve worked hard to forget and for which I don’t need any reminders. So when I know I’m already sensitive to being upset by this stuff, I avoid it. Yet it seems that some university students are not capable of this avoidance and need “trigger warnings” from their professors. Seriously, this is a thing—especially in U.S. universities and now apparently in Canada too.

So, what’s a “trigger warning”? I hadn’t heard the term until I listened to a documentary by Frank Faulk on the November 29 episode of the CBC radio program “Sunday Edition.” Faulk features professors and students discussing the need for such warnings, especially to avoid “triggering” an adverse reaction in a student who might be prone to anxiety, depression, or other symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Fairly, he covers the other side where it seems unreasonable for a professor—or anyone else—to know exactly what might trigger such adverse reactions, and therefore it’s up to the individual student to decide whether certain course material might be problematic.

According to the outline for this documentary, “trigger warnings” first started in the late 1990s, and have steadily become more widespread to the point where, by 2014, university guidelines for professors were advising them to avoid any material that might smack of any of the “isms”, including, but probably not limited to, ageism, sexism, racism, classism, etc. Yes, we need to be aware of these things, and be culturally and racially sensitive as much as possible, but presenting the subject material without a sufficient “trigger warning” surely cannot and should not be necessary.

It may be reasonable to expect that when a professor knows the material in the class to be controversial, she or he might state that in the course outline. It is not reasonable to expect professors to avoid all material that may be deemed controversial or “trigger” reactions from their students. University courses are supposed to make students think—and learn not what to think, but how to think; how to develop critical thinking skills for themselves. That’s how they will learn to be able to form opinions on a wide variety of subjects and back up those opinions with facts they glean from numerous sources, including their professors. [This isn’t just for university professors, but for all teachers and parents who are responsible for raising a generation of well-educated young people.]

Listening to the program I was left with the feeling that today’s university students must not be the young adults we think them to be; that they cannot possibly walk away from a class or other group discussion that is or might be upsetting to them; that they cannot expect to have to form any of their own opinions about subjects that may be uncomfortable to learn about—but subjects which are part of our collective history, and from which we must learn important lessons.

What must be missing in today’s university programs is context—the professors’ ability to put controversial material into that context, and the students’ ability to understand it.

I know what will trigger an uncomfortable feeling and whenever possible I avoid it. That’s not to say I will not watch, read, or listen to something that I know will be difficult, especially when I know I will learn something from it. I would hope others can do the same and not need “trigger warnings.”

Are we becoming too sensitive? Are we being too “politically correct?” Do we need “trigger warnings?” Join the conversation and let me know what you think.

On a totally different subject, I have another blog, “Local Business Matters” where I talk about the need to “shop locally” every day, not just at this time of year, but perhaps especially at this time of year. Hop on over to that blog and join that conversation too.

Reconnecting, Reinventing, Disconnecting

Reconnecting, Reinventing, Disconnecting

On October 3, I reconnected with a few women from my Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, now Ryerson University.

Together again after 40 years. Photo courtesy of Marian Williamson
Together again after 40 years. Photo courtesy of Marian Williamson

We had a terrific day, and the years fell away.  We’ve vowed to not wait another 40 years before getting together again, and I really hope that’s the case, since most of us would be centenarians by then!

One of my new/old friends said that she found it so interesting where our career paths have taken us from that starting point of the ECE classes. Some stayed in education, working in child care centres, elementary schools, and resource centres. Some got out of the field all together, working in technology or journalism, but still using some of those skills we learned all those years ago.

While we chatted a lot about where those paths have taken us, and how many of us have children, and grandchildren, we also spent some time looking ahead—to continued enjoyment of retirement, or new work. I’m looking forward to some new challenges.

I have been reviewing a lot of potential markets for my writing as I plan on doing a lot more freelancing in the coming year and less teaching. I have also been reviewing story contests and other writing opportunities including the famous NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month) coming up in November.

Encouragement and support have come from the folks in my Creative Writing group. as well as from friends and colleagues in the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC).  A former PWAC colleague, Paul Lima, has been an inspiration with his books, particularly (Re) Discover the Joy of Creative Writing, and The Business of Freelance Writing.

If I am going to get this writing done, I will have to spend more time with that work, and less time on the Internet, which means disconnecting from Facebook and other social media sites—or at least not being as connected.

I can hear the “D’uh” from here. That seems like a no-brainer, right? Just concentrate on the work. The problem is that I seem to need social media to fuel the work—to get the creative juices flowing. I also get story ideas, leads, work connections, and great ideas for my creative writing classes from Facebook, so it’s not a waste of time checking that out daily. I just have to spend a little less time checking all of the other stuff—the political articles (numerous because of the upcoming federal election), the recipes, and of course, the pet and baby videos, which are too cute to ignore!

Of course, there has to be time for my Creative Writing class, my Nordic Walking group, my Classic Strength Training class at the 55 Plus Activity Centre and spending time with my friends from those groups. Those personal connections are as important, if not more important than the online connections.

So, while I am disconnecting, rest assured, I will remain reconnected to friends old and new as the reinvention will be a work in progress—just like the writing.

Let me know whether you feel the need to reconnect, reinvent, or disconnect, and how you do that.