Friday, December 4, 2009

My Writerly Limits

Lori Widmer over at Words on the Page had an interesting post a while back on "writerly limits." Her post was about advertising on your blog, and what you will and won't accept--but this post got me thinking about other limits.

I tend to be pretty flexible. It's why I'm my own boss--I love the freedom. But there are a few limits I have--both in business and in the practice of writing. Here they are:

I won't work without a contract--and a deposit. I've had clients before who were in a huge hurry--such a hurry they didn't have time to wait for the contract to be signed, the check to be sent, and so on. That doesn't work for me. Unless the proper framework is set for a business relationship, I don't work. It's too easy to get burned.

I don't work without knowing everything I need to know. It's crucial to have all the info necessary to sell the product. That usually means, for me, a client interview to go over the audience, their needs, and how the product or service meets those needs. I've had clients want to breeze through this part or fill out a questionnaire online instead--which is fine, as long as I can get all the info I need. I tell clients that the more work we do together up front, the less work there will be in revisions later on.

I don't take on too much at a time. It's tough to turn down work. But it's crucial for me to accept my own limitations. I need time to work on personal projects, marketing, and nothing at all.

I don't make myself available all the time. I've found if I'm available by phone all the time, I might as well have a full-time job--because I have to stay home in case the phone rings. I don't like working that way. I like running errands during the day or meeting a friend for a long lunch, then catching up on work at night. I like working in cafe's and even in parks. I don't like being accountable for all my time or staying in one place--it's why I left the corporate world. These days, I schedule my phone calls strictly, keep the necessary phone calls to clients at one if at all possible, and keep other communications to email.

What are your limits?


Lori said...

Thanks for the link hug, Jenn. :) I tried posting to yesterday's post, but my computer was too busy being stupid.

I need to learn that third one. I find myself taking on too much more frequently than I used to. Saying no is so hard! :)

Kimberly Ben said...

n, Jennifer, you're reading my mind. Like you I refuse to work without a contract and deposit. I find that most of the time clients comply. When it is a problem it's often a sign of more problems to come.

I've learned the hard way not to take on too much. Not only does the quality of your work suffer, but you also risk serious burnout. Many clients are willing to wait, and if not I don't mind passing the work on to another qualified writer.

Laura Cross said...

All excellent limits that every freelance writer should heed.

Mike Chen said...

Contract is absolutely necessary. I've been burned once or twice without them -- and burned once or twice even with them, and I had to threaten small-claims court after the client bounced a check.

This might just be me but I prefer communicating over email with clients. I always screen my calls, mostly because I hate dropping everything to talk with people who can ramble for a good 15-20 minutes.

I will take on that "extra" job in limited circumstances -- as in it'll be quick and I need the cash!

Jennifer Williamson said...

I'm with you on screening your calls, Mike. I do that a lot. Even though I've taken steps to making my business more 'phone friendly,' I'm still all about scheduling time.

Contracts and deposits are absolutely necessary to running a business--and it's really important not to let anyone pressure you not to use one, I feel.