with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
As a brand new freelancer, it can feel like an endless dog-and-pony show of finding the kind of work you want, attempting to get the attention of the people who might hire you for said work, impressing those people once you have their attention, and building your resume up to the point where all of those things will ultimately land you some paying work.
Once you’re somewhat established, you spend less time looking for work, and more time doing work. Still, you have to spend some of your time looking for new work, because you need more clients.
As a veteran freelancer, if you’re lucky you pretty much don’t have to look anymore. You spend most of your time doing paying work. And then every so often new clients will find you, and they’re doing so because your reputation precedes you, and so they know who you are and what they want and why those two things might go together well.
For a long time I was in the “veteran freelancer” category where I didn’t need to look for work, and that was lovely, I won’t lie. But as I’ve pulled back on work some to tend to my family, I’m now back in an unfamiliar position: I need to relearn how to seek work opportunities.
I turned down a bunch of potential new clients, this year. I also resigned from some existing gigs. And whether those folks have talked and word traveled through the grapevine or I am just somehow giving off “not working” vibes, over time the inquiries stopped coming. This was fine—while I was hunkered down with personal stuff I didn’t want to think too much about work.
Life is hardly back to normal, but at least things have settled down enough that I’m trying to get back to working more. And that meant a good hard look at the finances and my client list. In the end, I was left with the realization that I was going to need to find some new work. No problem; I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
What I’d forgotten about the hustle for clients is that there is an art and a finesse to presenting yourself to a client when what you do for a living is regale people with real-life stories. If my husband (a college professor) wanted a new job, he would send along a cover letter and a CV and hope to be invited for an interview, at which time he would need to be personable, of course, but mostly he would need to demonstrate mastery in his field. For a writer like me, the way I demonstrate mastery in my field is to be personal and captivating, right from the very first email.
I’d forgotten about this part. It came back, though. Kind of like riding a bike.
My challenge, when interacting with a potential client, is to somehow show that I am a competent writer who is entertaining and engaging, plus that I am professional enough that I can be trusted to produce content on a deadline, take direction from editors, etc. That means there’s never a “Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing to inquire about the posted position for a writer” kind of form letter. Ever. (Seriously, if you are still sending those, please stop.)
So it’s really very simple: I wrote a potential client, tried to make it clear that I’m a accomplished wordsmith and have the skill set they’re seeking, and also offered up enough personal information to make it clear that I am open and approachable. And I tried to make the recipient laugh while I did it. To cap it all off, I tried to do it in a way that didn’t sound like I was trying too hard.
Did I say it was simple? I may have experienced some flop sweat while composing the email. I’m definitely out of practice, and there’s a very fine line between “competent but cold” and “amusing but a loose cannon,” which makes walking along it as “professional but relatable” a bit of a tightrope routine. I guess I won’t know for sure if I managed it until I see if I landed some work, but the initial response was encouraging.
Are there other fields where freelancers have to do this, or are we writers just a lucky bunch? That whole “being an open book” thing makes life a lot more complicated, sometimes.
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