Tips for Home-Office Heaven
Peter Economy's column Home-Office Hell was interesting. I have a few additional tips for the user of an office at home.
David or Goliath?
The points which San made in his column Putting Your Stamp On It are extremely relevant and important to me. It's hard for IPs to decide whether they want to have a more personal or corporate image. I have been leaning more and more towards appearing "corporate," but this column explained why doing so would be a mistake. I would be sacrificing the one important advantage I have over many of my competitors. Thank you for the gentle wake-up call.
Humility or Chutzpah?
Thank you for San's great column about self-criticism. As an author with seven novels in print (and three more in process), I can attest to the fact that I am never satisfied with my work. In fact, I make it a rule never to read anything of mine again after it goes into print; I simply can't stand looking at it and realizing that it's set in stone and I can't possibly make it better.
I do know some authors (not very many) who are very self-congratulatory about their work; the odd thing is that they seem to be relatively successful. I think part of that is due to self-promotion. Being completely convinced of your own excellence has the side effect of making it easy to give interviews and conduct yourself as a proven genius -- and we all know about self-fulfilling prophecies.
Maybe what independent professionals need is an equal mixture of both -- the humility borne of self-criticism and the brazen chutzpah of overconfidence. It's how you achieve it that's a bit of a puzzle!
Roxanne Longstreet Conrad
I have been an independent consultant for over 20 years. I, too, have a son who's subject to middle of the night emergencies, not to mention a disability of my own that knocks me out of commission when I least expect it (and can least afford it).
Economy's advice is refreshing, very well-written, and very much to the point. Life has a way of sneaking up on you and kicking you in the backside when you're busy looking the other way. An IP cannot afford not to be prepared.
The last thing that an IP needs is to let a client down in the middle of a project that is top priority to the client. Many times, the client's own position in his company rests on your work; letting him down has a very bad ripple effect that can come back to bite you long after you thought you had moved on.
Setting yourself up so that you can adapt quickly to most emergencies and keep right on working through them is one of the best types of insurance you can carry.
Thank you for your insight into the very real issues facing the IP. I look forward to your future columns.
The Case for Charity
I agree with your article Give It Away about the benefits of donating one's services to a charity. As a "newbie" IP (I'm an artist), I recently gave one of my paintings to a charity auction for an environmental institute. It turned out to be the best move in my IP career. My painting was seen by 250 wealthy community members at the gala auction. The painting sold for more than I had priced it. I asked to meet the buyer. He ended up coming to my studio and purchasing another piece after viewing it on my Web site. He's interested in several others. I've already broken even for my contribution to the charity.
My donation also looks good on my Web site, and makes visitors to my site know that I'm a charitable guy and care about the environment. I would highly suggest charity auctions as another route to "giving it away."
The Pros and Cons of Workaholism
I loved Peter Economy's column "In Defense of Workaholism." So, Peter, lemme ask you: Have you been watching me for the last two years? Is there a secret camera hidden behind my cluttered home-office bulletin board? And may I scratch out your byline and pencil in my own?
Bravo, and thanks for reminding me that I am not nuts to be firing up my computer at 12:30 am.
I can't relate to Peter Economy's column about workaholism. I've been a combination job-shopper and freelancer for 20 years, rarely working more than half of any year. And often less. By keeping myself fresh and charged up for high-paying assignments, I do as well as many full-timers. I, of course, live frugally, driving a 12-year-old car that stays showroom clean because I don't have to drive that much. I do dozens of other things to save money and time, loving the months I free up for bicycling, motorcycling, reading, and walking along the beach. I've just returned from a wonderful couple weeks in Chicago, reliving my youth with a boyhood friend I hadn't seen in decades.
I guess it all depends on how one measures success. I feel wealthier having time to study poetry, philosophy, languages, deep science, and great literature. But of course I have to keep my resume and skills up to date and keep my 60-year-old body in shape. It's all about choices and what one can live with, isn't it? It's exciting to think how many possibilities life offers. But I only hear and read about the rat race. I wonder why.
You're Welcome, You're Welcome, You're Welcome
All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you for San's column How to Blow an Interview! I'm going through a very difficult time at the moment (job-related, of course) and reading your story gave me the laughs I desperately needed.
Thank you very much for Susan Vaughn's article Charge Your Clients More. This article is right on the money. It's down to earth, practical, encouraging, and logical. Vaughn suggests an elegant approach that is bound to keep long-term clients satisfied.
Now that I've discovered your classy Web site, I'll visit often. Thank you for providing such appropriate and high-quality reading for IPs.
Catherine von Dennefeld
Linda Formichelli's column Printing for Penny Pinchers is great. She gives the best advice for small entrepreneurs I have ever read. I will pass this column along to my friends who own small businesses. We need more of this type of sensible and cheap advice. Thanks!
The ADD IP
San's column Junkyard Creativity is great; I love his use of stream of consciousness. I'd like to know what he thinks of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It seems to have all or more of the connotations and bad mojo that being an IP does. I just figured out I'm the poster child (a middle-aged one) for ADD. I used to think it was something People Magazine made up or 20/20 dealt with on a slow week -- a trendy consumer fear for the '90s, brought to you by Pfizer.
I think people with ADD don't fit into normal work cultures, and I think we're the most interesting people. A typical person plugs into the regular work force and rides the successful commercial tide that is the American economy, never wondering for a second if being a middle manager is a worthwhile way to spend his life. It's worth it as long as he's driving a Ford Excursion, his second wife has a full bottle of valium, and they've got a home in the 'burbs. I wish I were jealous of these people -- but then I'd have to be one of them, so I know I'm not.
I'm an ADD IP and proud of it.
Linda Formichelli's column Clients With Class was a great inspiration. I never understood why people think you have to be an IP or a teacher. Why not be both, right?
I've always wanted to teach a course or seminar to seniors in design college about the real world of graphic design. I'd teach them the skills they need and give them tips on marketing themselves and finding jobs. I'd also tell them what jobs are out there and what they're really like, along with what art directors will expect from an entry-level designer. And I'd answer the question on the minds of every college senior -- how much they'll be paid!
Score One for the IPs
I enjoyed IPs on the Grill, Nancy Austin's column about how to respond to the questions we IPs are always asked.
When I'm asked if I worry about staying afloat as an IP, I answer this way: A person who is employed full-time by a single company has one "client." An IP has several, even dozens, of clients. So if an IP loses one client -- even his biggest -- he's still "employed" by others. If a working stiff loses his "client" by getting laid-off or fired, he's unemployed.
Rick Redmann, Jr.
More Tips for Penny Pinchers
As an IP designer/marketer, I thought Printing for Penny Pinchers offered some great ideas. Here are a few more tips for beginning IPs who want to do their own stationery.
Paper options don't have to be boring. Office super stores usually stock more conservative choices, but retail paper shops offer everything from wild translucent papers to bright colors to lined and textured paper Also check out the paper at art shops and wedding stationery shops. Some outlets sell paper as little as one sheet at a time, so you can experiment with different combinations, weights, and colors before spending more money.
When making your own stationery, there are a few more tips to keep in mind for great results. Instead of heading off to the copy shop to use a paper cutter, you can -- affordably -- purchase a metal ruler and small blade cutter to get accurate results at home. Along with a paper cutting mat, you'll always be able to make stationery at a moment's notice. I can get nine business cards off a single sheet of heavy paper stock, so you'll only need a handful of sheets at a time to ensure you have enough cards. When you print the design, include "trim" marks outside of the design's borders -- with a little practice you'll be sliding your cutting knife right through these hairline trim marks without any mistakes.
Quite often I'll produce in-house stationery using these methods for a client before a longer print run is ready, especially when I get a call late at night to supply business cards for a new staff member. The result still looks professional -- and it doesn't cost the earth.
Start Me Up
My partner and I are starting to research and throw ideas around for a home-based business, and I can't begin to tell you how practical and informative I found Linda Formichelli's column Printing For Penny-Pinchers. We'll go over the options and decide which is our best starting alternative. Thank you so much.
Definition of Success
Your article Great IPs in History: Leonardo da Vinci is great for its valuable perspective on genius and for its ability to make even a semi-organized IP feel like an ace compared to this "Master of All Trades." No doubt if he were around today, he'd be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, and we'd attempt to cure him.
But what is your definition of success as an IP? Hopefully not merely "financial independence" -- which is a myth, in my opinion. After four years of progressively higher-paying computer jobs in which I've tripled my salary, I still can't move to the Caribbean and surf for a year -- or even six months. Or take that time to paint or design new flying machines, like he did.
What Leonardo had is fame of the enduring sort and the pleasure of knowing a lot about a lot -- which, if you believe knowledge is power, made him a very powerful man. He had the ability to express himself creatively, think analytically, design, create, and build. I hope we all can at least taste a little of all that in our lives.
"Do" or "Don't"?
Linda Formichelli gives good advice in her column You Oughta Be in Pictures -- but unfortunately I can't use any of it.
I am an illustrator, mostly for children's books. I had a very business-like photo taken at some expense. I was wearing a white blazer and black blouse, looking into the camera from a three-quarters view with a slight smile.
Every single one of my clients has rejected it; they want something "softer" or "friendlier," and I have a feeling that one of those "glam shots" would have been perfect. The photo that my clients like and are now using is a snapshot with trees in the background, where I'm smiling broadly. The only thing missing is a frilly dress and a rose-covered porch swing.
So you never know.
Another Treatment for Workaholism
Your article Work Junkies is great! I can relate to all the IPs' stories. I'm an independent PR person, and there's one thing that has really helped me address my overwork issue. I see a therapist once a month to specifically discuss my business practices. A good therapist doesn't just have to be about emotional health -- mine has helped me triple the size of my business while creating more time to take care of myself!
Wash Our Mouths Out With Soap
I found some great content in Linda Formichelli's columns, especially Printing for Penny Pinchers, At a Premium, and The Bulk Email Blues. I understand the attention-getting motive of your use of shocking words (like "piss-off," "crap," and "sucks"). However, the frequent use of such words seems cheap and insults the dignity of both you and your readers. You should think of a more professional way of maintaining audience attention. I do, however, enjoy your clever use of sarcasm, and Steve Smallwood's illustration in the printing column was super.
Confessions of a Work Junkie
I couldn't agree more with your article Work Junkies. It was like suddenly there was an almighty light and I wasn't so alone in my swamp den after all. As an IP graphic artist, I seem to spend my whole life glued to my computer. They say couples start to look like each other after a while, and, strangely enough, my head is starting to look like a square.
Jokes aside, it's all very well to say gun your clients down, raise your prices, set limits, etc., but it seems the only thing we IPs have going for us is the fact that we care -- unlike the high-rise corporations that treat their clients like a number. And showing that we care means going beyond the limits of rational business behavior -- listening to clients babble on about Grandma's hip replacement at 9 p.m. or making last-minute changes for the 50th time, free of charge.
What I want to know is, when you're sick of the mere sight of your own home and you can barely make your way out of your home office due to the barricade of reflex paper (or, for the unlucky, thermal paper), when do you decide enough is enough and take that leap into renting office space? Is expansion really that scary? How do IPs make that transition painless?
This is by far the best of the freelance sites I've seen. The editorial content is very useful and right on target. The writing style is delightfully edgy.
Another nice thing -- you've avoided the job-bank feature, which usually ends up being pretty lame.
Thanks, and keep up the great work!
We'll Keep You Going -- Or Keep You From Going Under
Just found your website; I love San's columns! I'm a new freelance copywriter. Actually I'm in my first week of being self-employed -- or unemployed as some people insist on defining it. But I have projects I'm doing and getting paid for. I can relate to having all these feelings and thoughts that contradict each other constantly. Working out of my house is something I have to get used to. Ditto finding time to focus on my writing in the middle of all the necessary bookkeeping and marketing. It's a tricky juggling act. Thanks for sharing your insight. It'll be the thing that keeps some of us going, or prevents others of us from going under. Keep up the good work.
Hope This Helps
I am desperate to have one question answered that no one can seem to explain. What are the real differences between being an LLC or an S Corp? I need to choose soon.
LLC, S Corps, C Corps -- it's enough to make your head spin! For an explanation of all the legal structures your business can have and the differences between them, check out our article on incorporation.
A Solution to the Problem That Plagues All IPs
I thought your article Tower of Babel was an interesting observation on a situation that plagues IPs everywhere. There is truly no clear answer to the question, "What should I call myself?" After 14 years of being an IP, the essential problem as I see it is this -- "How do I identify myself in a manner that clearly says I'm a professional (of any kind), and how do I specify the area of business in which I specialize?"
My solution is to avoid the term "consultant," which many businesses seem to equate with "unemployed and can't find a job." Instead I use the term "counsel." As "communications counsel," clients quickly understand my area of specialty and easily grasp the concept that my role is to counsel them in whatever way might be appropriate or necessary. It is a small difference in self-identification, but one that seems to work and which might be worthy of consideration by other IPs.
What's Your Image Worth?
In response to your column Printing for Penny Pinchers... while I agree that you can get away with cheap business cards and stationery, I think that you should keep in mind how much your image is worth. A cheap look can affect your bottom dollar if you're not careful.
Hairy-Armed and Dangerous
I do some freelance writing for my local papers, and I've found that the hairy arm is a useful tool. I've learned that with some editors I should insert a throwaway paragraph that is either redundant or can be easily edited for clarity. That allows them to feel as though they have done their job and are really in control, and keeps them from mulching up the rest of the story.
Most of the time I understand the needs of the ego and the desire for credit so I just let it go -- but there are still times that it truly amazes me. Thanks for putting this story into words that we can all relate to and use in the future.
Men Behaving Badly
I enjoyed Peter Economy's column Let's Get Ethical. It's about time someone let others know that, even if they get away with unethical behavior for a while, they are only hurting themselves in the long run.
One common situation I've observed -- a trusted friend steals your ideas in order to make a few more bucks, add a feather to his cap, and keep you from rising to his level. Then he wonders why his calls aren't returned anymore.
Resistance is Futile
I tend to agree with the gist of what respondents to Linda Formichelli's column on logos have to say. At best such an approach marginalizes the economic value of IP graphic designers, especially in the context of a guild's recommended pricing approach. However, the point Linda tangentially raises is an important one -- graphic designers are likely to find their work marginalized as creative individuals gain access to cheap -- even free -- design software, broadband access to the Internet, and access to a freer market. These are things that IPs desire in general, but they also tend to destroy the asymmetries of information that create higher chargeable rates.
This will no doubt lead to the commoditization of what has heretofore been a craft-like industry. Linda's advice to IPs is sound -- get it as cheap as you can, and graphic artists beware... One has only to look at the demise of similar guilds (think about the advent of industrialism and its impacts on tinkers, cordwainers, and the like) to realize that any craft tends to be marginalized over time. Graphic artists should plan for this and realize that, as the Borg say, "Resistance is futile."
A Viable Alternative
I am a full-timer at a dot-com as well as an IP. When I was testing the waters of Web design, I did a few projects while I was in school that were priced way below the market rates. I knew I was not being paid what professionals were getting, but it looked like a good opportunity for me. I gained the experience and confidence to continue in the field. As a proto-professional, I did not know what to charge nor did I have the benefit of knowledge of how to plan and execute a job efficiently.
I do not agree that these types of arrangements are bad for the student or the IP community. For very limited budget projects or operations, this may be a viable alternative.
A Good Business Practice or Reckless Advice?
As a graphic designer IP, I was unhappy with your column on logos. You describe how "clever" it is for an IP to pay as little as possible for a logo by a graphic designer or student designer. Most graphic designers are IPs as well, and it doesn't seem very ethical to influence the undercutting of a profession's pricing standards. It hurts the rest of the graphic design community and lowers our potential income.
The Graphic Artists Guild strongly discourages commercial artists from undercutting their peers. Iyna Caruso's insultingly cheap student recruitment for her identity-system design is damaging to designers since a student has no idea what to accurately charge and will take any work in order to gain experience. It is a way to take advantage of someone's talent, while cheapening the overall value of graphic design.
Although I agree with your advice to have a well-designed logo (the world has enough bad logos), your column is quite reckless.
Would you encourage IPs to go to student accountants to do their books and taxes cheaply, or go to law students for cheap legal advice? Why are illustrators and graphic designers treated as though their fair pricing according to industry standards should be disregarded to get a cheap deal?
If IPs don't support each other by avoiding low-ball prices, then we will all be out of business.
There's a difference between working for cheap to gain experience and working for cheap to undercut other freelancers. Working for free or cheap is a time-honored way of gaining experience (think charity, internships). For example, most professional magazine writers charge at least $1 per word, and good copywriters charge $75 per hour and more. When I started out, there was no way I could command that type of rate -- so I wrote for magazines that paid 20 cents per word and clients that offered $50 per hour. With the resulting clips, I worked my way up to the going rates and beyond. I wouldn't call this undercutting. After all, do you think the people who hired me for $.20 per word/$50 per hour, or, for that matter, the person who hired a designer for $350, would ever be able to pay the full going price for these services? No. They would have had to forgo the writing or designing altogether, and some poor freelancer would be sitting in his home office (i.e., kitchen) wondering why he can't get experience. Nobody wins.
The bottom line: Asking for or accepting low rates isn't necessarily bad -- it depends on the situation, and there are enough variables to make even the most experienced IP's head spin. Deciding what price you can live with -- without undercutting the industry or yourself -- takes research, experience and confidence. But remember that whether you're a beginner or an expert in your field, there's someone out there offering a rate that will make you happy.
You Like Us! You Really Like Us!
I kind of stumbled across 1099 Magazine the other night, and I've spent a good few hours here since. I love the site -- there's great information and it's fun to read. Linda Formichelli's columns are excellent -- witty and helpful.
Congratulations on a great resource. I've passed the link on to a few people.
This is the first time I've visited your Web site. I love it. I read all of it from "cover to cover." I found the articles very informative, and I like that they have a touch of humor in them.
Warming Up To Cold Calls by Nancy K. Austin was especially interesting. As you might suspect, I hate making cold calls. But I've heard over and over that it is the way to go. Reading the column, I realized that there are better ways to handle these cold calls. Nancy even made them seem... uh... cool.
Keep up the good work.
The After Hours IP is simply a great article. It provided me with the encouragement I needed to keep on track with my own "double life." I am currently employed as a Web programmer, but my real passion is doing it for myself, so I have a side business.
Being both an employee and a freelancer has made my life a non-stop learning experience filled with interesting people (most of them, anyway) and challenging situations. I can honestly say it has made my life better.
The Dark Force
Peter Economy really hit the nail on the head with his column Hasta Mañana. Procrastination is the dark force that lives deep within every IP because -- let's face it -- we're all human and we're all capable of slacking. Some let the dark force take control, while others are better at subduing it.
I especially liked the following line: "Instead of stopping when you hit a breakpoint, keep working past it -- just enough so that you're immersed in the next portion of the project before you stop." This really is great advice, as anyone who has worked on a big project can tell you. It can be arduous and frustrating to pick up where you left off, especially when the next part of the project is different conceptually than the last.
Don't Get Caught
Greetings from Hong Kong. I read Jim Emmanuel's article The After Hours IP, and liked what he had to say, with one major reservation. Here in Hong Kong, it is written into most (if not all) contracts that full-time employees may not undertake any other work of a similar nature on the side.
This rather rigid rule means that freelance and full-time work are not so easily reconciled. You can still do it, though -- just don't get caught!
The Case of the Antique Vase
I found your profile of antiques appraiser Judy Campbell very interesting. I had the privilege of being her client a few years ago. My husband and I were astounded by the detective work Judy did in appraising our household items. We had her investigate a small vase my husband bought in Arizona many years ago. I had almost sold it in a garage sale for 50 cents. Judy went to work, checked books, and called all over the country -- and sure enough, just as she thought, it was worth a great deal of money. We sold it for about $1,500.
Antiques Roadshow is very fortunate to have a woman of Judy's knowledge, integrity, and professionalism working with them.
If I don't stop writing such wonderful things about Linda and her columns, she's going to get a restraining order against me. Fear not, Linda. There's a whole continent between us. You have nothing to fear from me!
Anyway, your latest column about queries is right on target. It's been more than 20 years since I took magazine writing in college, so thanks for the little refresher. You're all right! Keep up the good work.
I was intrigued to read the inSANity column The Theory of the Hairy Arm. A similar story is part of the folklore at Hallmark.
Before a greeting card is judged complete and sent on to manufacturing, the artists have to bring their work in front of a committee. According to legend, there's an artist who always adds something distorted -- a flower or tree or something wrong in some way -- to help get his work past the committee.
Then, after the design director tells him to change that stupid thing, his work is approved.
She's P_ _ _ _d At Us
Your article on Leonardo da Vinci was very well done. I enjoyed reading it, except for one thing.
Did anyone consider that your use of the word "pissed" is inappropriate for the article (which is otherwise well written), suggests a limited ability to express oneself, and is potentially offensive?
I am not a stranger to the use of such words, and even have invented a few myself. However, the use of such language should be judicious and take into account the time, place, and audience. In your case, you are promoting a slick magazine with a certain professionally breezy style, and you have placed it on the Web for one and all to see. Why would you risk offending any of your readers or denigrating your own good work?
Roberta J. Wasserman
Leonardo With Cheese
I thought I'd give you some feedback on your Leonardo da Vinci article. I understand you wanted to use da Vinci as the backbone for the article, but you overextended his connection to modern freelancers with terms like "Leonardo's consulting work" and by referring to him as an IP. It's really campy and out of place to refer to a 15th-century artist in that manner. I couldn't get through the article because it was just so cheesy.
I'm sorry. I just thought you should know. I'm not trying to be mean.
Just read the excellent letter from Sonny Lykos in which he described his new policy to charge for proposals. My hat's off to him! I'm an event planner specializing in high-end weddings, and I, too, was the first among my local peers to start charging for initial visits. It was a difficult decision, but I found I was spending way too much of my time giving away free advice, not to mention wasting it on idle chitchat -- brides love to talk about how they met their fiancés!
Just like Sonny, I found that once I started charging an hourly consulting rate for all meetings and giving clients a specific agenda ahead of time, the clients respected me more and came better prepared to the meetings. It also helped to weed out people who weren't serious.
I now provide consultations as a separate service. This way, clients who don't need full-service planning can choose to come for just one consultation; they leave with a ton of helpful information, ready to tackle many of the planning elements themselves. Others, having gotten a taste of my expertise, are ready to sign a full-service contract on the spot. It has been a win-win situation.
Charrisse Min Alliegro
Nice Guys Finish Last?
Just wanted to commend you on the column Are Your Prospects Worthy? -- every word is so true. The problem is that some of us are just too nice to say no to demanding prospects, or think about your article when dealing with them, or, for that matter, even remember those bad clients the next time around.
Keep inspiring us.
The Match Game
I've recently come across 1099 and have been able to immediately connect to the content. As an IP -- now I know what I am! -- it's one bookmark that has gone straight to the top of my list.
The advice on charging clients more has been especially helpful. My fees don't reflect my value, but now I have a way of getting them to match up -- which hasn't been the case since I went solo in 1998.
Thanks for a great resource and best wishes from Melbourne, down under.
I enjoyed the article Bearing Your First Webchild. It's informative, to-the-point, and lightly humorous. I'll keep all of it in mind when I'm ready for my Web debut.
You're Welcome, You're Welcome, You're Welcome!
Linda Formichelli's column on how to write press releases was absolutely terrific! I'm an old broad new to the game, and Linda's information, not to mention style, hooked me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm looking forward to more.
I'm a remodeler, and remodelers have only two things of value to sell: time and expertise. I got fed up with having to give away both.
Several months ago, on an Internet forum frequented by remodelers, I suggested we change our process of working with potential clients by eliminating the free estimate. I suggested changing its name to the more accurate Specification and Cost Analysis (SCA). Our proposals include detailed specs, and as any IP knows, the amount of time spent in preparing detailed proposals is tremendous, taking hours -- or days.
At first I caught hell from some of my peers who protested, "Everyone gives free estimates!" But lo and behold, those who were fed up with the current situation started charging for SCAs, explaining to their clients exactly what was involved. Those bold explorers got paid for their SCAs. Some now even charge $60 to $75 for the initial sales call to the client's home, calling it a "site evaluation."
To explain this to our clients, and show them exactly what is involved in the selling, designing, and implementation process, I created a four-page brochure. It sets the tone for how our meeting and, if agreed, the project will proceed. I send it to prospective clients prior to the appointment so that when I call them to verify the meeting, they have had the time to read it. About one of three decide to cancel the appointment.
All it takes to be paid for all of your time and expertise is some guts and self confidence -- and I guess being a little fed up with just giving away your "wares."
Getting Through the Interrogation
The inSANity column How to Blow an Interview was really interesting. It reminds me of my last interview. The interrogator (doesn't that word look like a composite of terror and gator?) asked me what I would do with an irate customer. I answered, "Let him run out of steam and then ask him, 'Do you have to practice at being irritable or does it come naturally?'"
I got the gig.
Individual or Small Group, That Is the Question
My husband and I became self-employed a year ago. So far things have gone well. However, one big problem is trying to find health insurance at a reasonable rate. We are on the COBRA plan for now and continue to have good coverage, but that will be running out. We have the option of either going to an individual plan or having a small group plan since I work for my husband. Can you give me guidelines as to how to decide what plan is best for self-employed individuals and what I should be looking for in health plans?
Your best option depends on what state you live in. In some states, an IP can obtain health insurance as a stand-alone small business "group." Normally a small group plan will have easier underwriting requirements than an individual plan. Also, a small group plan is usually less expensive than an individual plan. However, in some states the individual plans have better coverage.
You should check to see if you can roll your COBRA policy over to a small group or an individual plan; some insurance carriers will allow this. This would allow you to continue with the same plan and doctors you now have. You might consider having Aquent Insurance Brokerage Services look into obtaining a proposal for you (note: Aquent is 1099 Magazine's parent company).
I just read Living with Irregularity. Man, I consider myself extremely lucky -- I had no problem getting a mortgage even though I'm an IP. Not only that, but I was sought after by a local bank for a business line of credit, and got it. And it's unsecured -- not a huge amount, but enough for any emergency, or to purchase new equipment. Great article.
Nina P. Messina
Just Say No
Linda Formichelli's column Are Your Prospects Worthy was great stuff. I am a publicist, and Linda's advice validates a lot of the ways I evaluate clients these days. I am happy to have the luxury of turning work down if it doesn't sit right with me, too!
Outside the Filing Cabinet
Your column Tips for Successful Meetings was well-written, concise, and informative. I used to tear articles of this quality out of magazines and save them for future reference. In all honesty, the initial reading was all they got. Ten percent, at best, ever saw life outside the file cabinet, but the Web has changed things. I've bookmarked this article for easy reference and will consult it as each meeting opportunity arises.
Thanks for providing the resource.
Warren L. Henderson, Jr.
All the Business World's A Stage
Nancy Austin's column on using acting techniques in business was nicely presented. I have received instruction in these techniques and use them in the college courses I teach. They really, really work. Education and entertainment are sisters.
Professor Robert Faulkender
Getting Them To Remember You
Great article regarding the etiquette consultant. I agree that manners are so very important in business. I'm a stickler for thank-you cards and just making people feel appreciated. When it comes down to it, five minutes to make someone else feel really good isn't that much to ask. Be it a thank-you card or a kind word, they aren't likely to forget you.
Fan for Life
I was introduced to your magazine by Linda Formichelli's wonderful columns on how to get work. I found them to be interesting and easy to apply to my working situation. There's a lady who really knows her business -- and mine. She has a fan for life.
On your site I've also found a number of great writers who have really increased my ability to get and keep work. There are no publications that do that as well as you folks.
I only have one beef with you: that name! Let's get Aquent back and get on with business. Every time I see 1099 in my email, I think, "The tax man cometh!"
Canadian IPs are united in our call to have your name changed from 1099 to T4. You guys are so America-centric. There are IPs all over the world for whom the name 1099 doesn't make a bit of sense. I may be a bit of a crank, but I think my case is valid.
As an overseas reader based in Australia, the name 1099 has no relevance to me, as the form is only used in the States. You might like to consider making the name a little more relevant internationally. By the way, though, looovve the content -- it's bite-sized and informative. Keep up the great work!
We were aware of the international implications of the name 1099. Every name we considered had some shortcomings. More than anything else, we wanted a name that's short, simple, and easily remembered.
There's a British pop group called UB40 that was popular in the U.S. Very few Americans knew that the UB40 is a British unemployment form... to them, it was just a catchy name. We hope that to our non-U.S. readers, 1099 functions as a catchy, short name and URL.
all names are arbitrary, anyway. Frankly, the issue goes deeper
than just the name. The content of our magazine tends to be a little
U.S.-centric, which is unfortunate. (We have done one or two explicitly
international articles.) The reason for this isn't that we have our
heads in the sand; it's just a lack of resources to cover the whole
world as we'd prefer. Given our limited resources, we've chosen to focus
our content on where most of our readers live (the U.S.). We apologize
to our international readers, and hope they can still find something
relevant and of value to them in 1099.
At Least Someone Likes It
Your new name 1099 is already embedded in my mind! It rolls off my tongue quite easily, whereas the tongue gets all tangled on that "A" word. Good decision!
After spending a zillion hours researching and reading a billion other similar sites, my conclusion is that 1099 is professional with just the right light touch.
Minding Her Manners
I just finished reading the delightful profile of the etiquette consultant. Although I find it to be insightful and on target, there is one statement with which I must disagree. The manners of Ms. Smith's beautiful daughter are definitely a result of genetics. (By the way, I'm Ms. Smith's mom.)
You Gotta Give A Little
Linda Formichelli's column Taking the Free Out of Freelance rang true. It's truly a shame in this day and age of so-called "professionalism" that some organizations still feel the need to wield their power to get IPs to work for them for nothing. Sadly, many still use the outdated argument that "We're big and wonderful. Doing work for free for us is like free advertising for you. The exposure alone would cost you thousands to get on your own, and you still wouldn't have our clout in the marketplace." Horse puckey!
I've been an IP for 14 years, specializing almost entirely in healthcare, medicine, and science. A significant proportion of my business involves tracking Internet-based clinical research from around the world, most of which I do on a contractual retainer basis. One of the more common requests from clients is to track down original scientific papers that have appeared in arcane medical journals. I've learned through experience that if clients are told in advance that there is a cost associated with this task (most often for long-distance telephone calls and copyrights), there is rarely a problem.
My general rule of thumb is: if the task takes 15 minutes or less and there are no out-of-pockets beyond local phone calls, send the client an invoice but mark it as "Provided as a professional courtesy in the interest of enhanced client service." This gives the client three distinct messages: the assignment has a value; I value them as clients; and I'm willing to work with them on a professional-to-professional basis. Sometimes that involves doing a small favor for free.
In some cases, I've charged clients for out-of-pocket expenses, but my invoice always reflects this with billing split into two parts: cost recovery and professional fee. The cost recovery reflects my actual expense, and the professional fee is usually charged to "professional courtesy."
No one yet has abused the courtesy, so perhaps I've been more fortunate than most. The practice has also led, in some cases, to larger and longer-term assignments. I probably adopt this approach a couple of dozen times a year and it has been a good investment. It's just a matter of being careful.
Vent Today, Go Freelance Tomorrow
oh, wit and rapier, adviser and prince of cult: where the hell were you last summer when i took a 12-month tour of duty to help a struggling news operation back at my first newspaper, huh? canned! terminated! fired!, after five months. tossed from the jaws of a new zoo called next generation editors, a hodge-podge of egos singularly bent on self-preservation. careerists akin to a pack of barristers. barracudas doing helter-skelter, scuttling my good intentions and mocking my four decades of editorial prowess. thanks, needed to vent.
Forewarned is Forearmed
I enjoyed the article Charge Your Clients More, but still don't see the sense in telling the customer the rate has gone up. Why give them a chance to complain? Half the time they don't even realize the change. I have always raised rates at the beginning of every year, without announcing it to my clients -- and they've never balked at the invoices.
Nina P. Messina
You've been very lucky to have clients like that -- but it probably wouldn't work for most IPs. True, it's not uncommon for an IP's rates to creep up indirectly -- by gradually billing for more hours, or by breaking out extra service charges that were previously buried in other billable items. However, we believe that IPs who plan to raise their core hourly or day rates should tell their clients in advance. Having the client discover it for the first time on the invoice, after the work is done, would risk seriously pissing the client off.
Of course, if you're billing flat rates for projects, that's another story. In that case we could understand why your clients might not "realize the change." You can charge higher flat rates without announcing that you're raising your rates for the simple reason that different projects get assigned different flat rates anyway, due to a multitude of factors. And some clients trust their IPs enough not to ask the price on individual gigs up front, discovering it only when the bill comes in. Usually this extremely informal arrangement happens only after a long working relationship involving a string of similar (and similarly priced) small projects. Free-wheeling arrangements like that can be great, but we've also seen them blow up in the IP's face (even after years of working together).
Linda Formichelli's column on spam was great stuff -- right to the point. Spam is a big nuisance, and Linda has been an active spamfighter for a long time. She knows what she writes about.
Spoiling Your Customers
I sure got a bang out reading Linda Formichelli's column Taking the Free Out of Freelance. It really struck a chord with me. I have a three-year-old business and I often have been very generous with my time. But now that I have a paid employee, I can no longer give my services away. It's hard to convert spoiled customers into payers. What's worst is that they don't even realize they're spoiled, they just expect the free service and whine at an invoice.
Y'All Come Back Now, Y'Hear?
I like this thing you're doing here -- 'tis good. I'm a lifelong freelance artist. I read a bunch of your articles today, and I'm going to come back and read more.
Making It Past the Honeymoon
I absolutely second Mr. Adams' opinions in Beyond the Honeymoon. After five years of being an IP, I have witnessed first-hand the phenomenon I call the client curve. It starts with the honeymoon, enters the "working hard together" phase, and then for some reason devolves into the "scapegoat" or "blame" or just plain "Twilight Zone" phase.
One of the toughest things we IPs face is that we're outsiders. We're not privy to the goings-on at our clients. I can't tell you how many times I've begun to get paranoid when I don't hear from clients or they don't return my phone calls. Most often, I eventually do hear from them, and they call to say they've been swamped. I follow Mr. Adams' second strategy, often writing notes to clients. And they remember them, even if they don't respond for months.
Having been on the "inside" for a number of years myself as a corporate communications staffer, I know first-hand about the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" rule. Those freelancers who stayed in touch with me, without being pests, always got more work.
This zine is hilarious -- I'm getting my dose of necessary freelancing advice and I'm being entertained at the same time. I know I'm going to be religious about 1099 -- the personable style makes me look forward to reading it. Thanks for making it so witty and fun!
Screening Your Cold Calls
I enjoyed reading Nancy Austin's column on cold calling. But how do you deal with voice mail and the people who don't respond to it? And what about those with Caller ID? In the town I live in, this is a problem of mega proportions.
Take Our Advice
I found your article on raising rates very prophetic. I have been a debt counselor for 14 years providing a lifelong credit repair service for a fixed fee -- $995, payable at $50 a month. Fourteen years ago, my fee was $600. I think I need to take your advice.
I loved Linda Formichelli's column Take Back the Sales Letter and her great writing style. This is the first thing I've read by Linda, and I hope she keeps writing. It was useful to me. I do marketing and development consulting for non-profits -- everything she said applies there, too! Lots of business articles are valuable, but since they are no fun to read, I don't finish them. Yours, on the other hand, was great!
Raising Your Rates
Charge Your Clients More is a good article with lots of suggestions that anyone can use. I have read in other places that people equate a high rate with better quality. I am definitely keeping this article in mind when contract renegotiation comes around with my current project.
Kick in the Butt
The profile of cameraman Eddie Marritz reminded me of the two siren calls of my life -- writing and photography. Marritz was persistent in following his dream, and this adventure has provided him with both a nice income and great lifestyle. Thanks for the kick in the butt!
Feeling the Power
The Power of Suggestion is one of your best-written interviews. Andrea Poe's writing style is so crisp and captivating. As for Pat Lavin, I have seen her twice to help overcome my stage fright and can already feel the results. She is amazing.
Knowledge and Experience vs. Honesty and Sincerity
While interviewing for gigs with prospective clients, I've found that most interviewers expect candidates to be Einsteins. Typically their questions are all along the lines of "Can you do this and this? What do you know about that?" They were not satisfied that I had a master's degree from a top ten school and several accomplishments that were laudable. All this was unimportant!
Having been in business for many years, I know that most people's daily work does not require all that knowledge or experience. The most important things a job candidate can be is honest, sincere, and hard-working. Any person with these three qualities can be trained, molded, and taught to grow into the ideal kind of person required. Why don't interviewers realize this?
by Lawrence San
Contents copyright (c) 1999 Aquent and/or individual letter-writers.