Friday, May 3, 2013

Are You Staying Competitive?

Okay, so you created a business plan and are on your way. But is that really enough? While that may have been fine to get you going, it’s not enough to keep you going, especially if you’re out to make a profit.

Whether you'd just like to sell your work steadily to quality markets without too much hassle or whether you like the idea of making enough money to be invited to visit luxury resorts or  test-drive the latest sport cars, you must look to profits. If you don't concentrate on having a surplus at the end of the year, you’ll fall behind. Profit requires knowing how to compete with the professionals so you may join their ranks.

So how do you stay competitive in this business?

First and foremost, you have to focus on your craft. Your writing has got to be the best it can be. After all, it’s your product and your livelihood. Are your writing skills up to par? But don’t just check the mechanics—spelling, punctuation, sentence structure—check your content. Is what you write compelling? Does it capture your reader’s attention and hold it? In this world of ever-increasing distractions, does your work stand out? Periodically check what’s being written about in your subject area. While you may be a fine writer, you may be behind the times with your content.

And what about your financial reserve? Do you even have one? Too many beginning freelance writers work so close to the wire that one unpaid job can knock them for a loop. Try to build up some sort of reserve so that you don’t fall into this rut. Once you end up there, you’ll find it difficult to get out.

How well do you manage your time and energy? Remember, time is money. If you don’t manage your time efficiently, you won’t make any. Do you work on several projects at once? Do you combine research for more than one project instead of flitting from one to the other? Do you get the most production out of the time you do have?
Have you set some priorities? Arrange your work in order of importance—what’s due first, perhaps who’s paying the most. However, while working on high-profile projects all the time can be rewarding, it can wear you out. Mix lighter jobs with more heavy duty ones that require more intense focus and energy.

Problems arise in this business all the time. Sometimes, you may feel as if one problem follows directly on the heals of the previous ones. Are you ever going to get a break? Often, you won’t. Do you have the stamina and patience to put up with the nit-picking of some editors and clients? Are the ones doing the nit-picking the ones who pay the least? Consider if working for them is worth it in the long run. When problems do arise, are you able to solve them quickly or do they linger and eat into the energy you need to complete your work?

Let’s face it, freelancing is a risky business at best. It’s like putting your right foot out and not having a steady ground to walk on. How do you handle risk? Are you an all or nothing person? Or do you balance risk with some conservative judgements? Ask yourself, “What do I have to lose?” You may be surprised with the answer. Freelance writing is a lot like playing the stock market. Some of your stocks may shoot upwards only to come crashing down the next day. Others may plod along steadily and in the long run earn profits for you. While the steady ones may not be as interesting, they don’t come crashing down too often. Taking calculated risks is good for business. Study the markets and know what you’re getting into before you make the leap.

And once you’re a success, how do you plan to stay up there. It’s a long way down and sometimes the rungs of the ladder break, causing you to fall quickly. There are a lot of ups and downs to freelancing, and it’s up to you how you handle them if you want to stay ahead of your competition.

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