Yesterday, as part of my series about how I doubled my freelance writing income over the course of about 24 months, I advised you to “Always Say ‘Yes’ (Except Sometimes).”
Today’s tip is also somewhat contradictory:
2. Be Prepared (But Not Too Much)
A while back, a fellow writer asked me to look over the outline/proposal/project scope thingie he’d just prepared for a client.
The client had hired my friend to write the copy for a ten page website.
My friend’s outline was… 40 pages long.
Whereas I’ve written the copy for 40 page websites, and the outline was five pages long. Maybe.
And I only create outlines (or whatever you want to call them) if a client asks me to (and I can’t talk them out of it.)
Otherwise I never write outlines. I’ve never had a business plan.
I do not make to-do lists. I avoid face to face meetings whenever possible.
Don’t get me wrong: My day, and therefore my week, is planned hour by hour, because my regular daily/weekly work routine rarely changes.
(As I said yesterday, my calendar looks like a clown car, and sounds like one too, thanks to the loud honking noises that remind menopausal me about my deadlines, even ones that have fallen on the same day of the week for years.)
However, my idea of “being prepared” involves, say, having two working computers (and mice and keyboards) at hand, at all times. And a LOT of batteries.
(And toilet paper and cat food, so I don’t have to interrupt my work day to restock those and other non-work-related necessities.)
I use the fastest and most reliable internet connection available, and, like the ones related to my blog’s dedicated server and its domain name, those (sizeable) bills are paid automatically.
Speaking of “automatically,” every file on my computer is backed up throughout the day to CrashPlan Central — except for my emails, which are stored to DropBox using Email Backup Pro.
In other words, “preparation” for me is about taking care of the boring, hardcore, mission critical basics, not fiddling around with outlines, to-do lists and other calorie-burning “business” activities that give you the dangerous illusion that you’re actually working.
Again, maybe it sounds counter-intuitive, but rigid, real planning ahead and preparation actually allows me to be more flexible.
Only a day long, city-wide blackout has ever put me out of business completely. Even then, my husband and I drove to a Tim Horton’s in another, unaffected area code and used their free Wi-fi.
(Yes, one day I’ll spring for a generator…)
This matters because — as I’ve said before — your clients don’t care about your problems.
A few hours after my mother died, I conducted a long-scheduled interview with a big name author for Canada’s biggest newspaper.
This wasn’t just about me not wanting to give up the much-needed check, or lose my status as “Kathy the Reliable One.”
The author, her publisher and the newspaper were counting on my piece, to sell books (and newspapers.) Period.
Which reminds me:
It isn’t enough to be prepared. You have to look that way, too.
When discussing deadlines or any other business, don’t mention your doctor’s appointment, or your child’s, or your temperamental computer or old cell phone or your flooded basement. (Or dead mother.)
As far as your editors and clients are concerned, you never have any problems.
And if you prepare the “right” way, you almost never do.