Archive for the ‘Independent worker’ Category

When Should You Compromise?

August 5, 2011

Recently I was presented with a question about compromising on rates. It’s such an important topic in this economy. We’re all tempted to offer the world for nothing just to keep things rolling. See my response below.

QUESTION: When and if do you compromise on your rate? Say someone refers you to a prospective client. You discuss the project with the client, and give an estimate of $2,000. Client comes back and says she expected your rate would be lower and cited the referrer’s rate as $50/hour, which you know for a fact is actually $100/hour. She says budget is $500-$800 and wants to know what you can do for that amount. Do you stick to your guns and say this is my rate, sorry I can’t help? Do you offer a slightly discounted introductory rate for less work? Do you refer her to someone else who’s cheaper than you?

MY RESPONSE: Chasing clients who don’t value your worth is never worth your time. If you have been in the business long enough, then you are in tune with what your time is worth. I don’t usually give in when someone low-balls me, but when I do, I always regret it.

Truth is, in this market, you can always find someone who will do a cheaper job. Know your worth, and stick to it.

On the other hand, it’s helpful to have a frame of reference for your rates so you can quote them with confidence. I use this site as a guide all the time, keeping in mind that I have 20+ years of experience, so I tend toward the higher end of the range.

I also recently attended a business seminar where we talked about the importance of tracking profit margins and making sure that the work we do is actually profitable. If we don’t keep a close watch on the profitability of our time/services, our businesses won’t survive the long haul.

I’m having a particularly tough time right now with a client who used to contract with a friend of mine for communications work. My friend was able to charge very low rates for this client, and now the burden is on me to educate the client about the “real” costs of what they want me to do. It’s been a struggle.

Against my better judgment, I even let the executive director talk me into lowering my cost estimate for the conference program. According to her it would be “simple” and “not take much time at all,” so I adjusted my rate, trusting that she knew the project well (although she had never actually produced it). Sure as the world, when I completed the project, my original projected time and cost estimate had been right on the nose.

Lesson learned.

Big-City Business

January 18, 2011
A colleague recently asked for advice about how to maintain clients in the DC area if you don’t live in the DC area. My situation isn’t exactly like hers because I didn’t start my biz in DC and then move out of town. I lived in DC for about a decade and made many contacts there. In 2000, I moved about two hours southwest of the DC area, but I maintained a full-time satellite office here for my DC-area employer. 
In 2008, I started my own communications business, and I find that my DC connections are still strong.
All of my clients are in the DC area, but all the work is virtual, so they don’t care where I live. Most of my clients are associations, and they work with contractors and freelancers from all over the country, and even some who live out of the country. (Personally, I did a lot of work when I spent a week in St. Lucia last February. My clients didn’t even have to know I was out of the country.)
I think my ability to keep DC clients can be attributed to a few things:
* Networking. I have both a personal and a business Facebook page. I also have Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Most of my clients are connected with me through one or more of these accounts. I use Facebook to stay on people’s radar, so when they have a project, they think of me. I do regular posts on my business Facebook page about what projects I’m working on so people can see my various work. Maybe they’ll learn about a service that I offer that they didn’t know about. I follow my freelance/small business friends on their social networking pages, and I promote them every chance I get by reposting their accomplishments and congratulating them, etc. I also still travel to DC regularly to meet with clients and friends who are in the biz. This might not be easy for everyone, but I specifically make time to do this as an investment.
* Experience at virtual work. Since my clients know I’m able to manage their work virtually, they’re more likely to recommend me for other projects. For at least two of my clients, I am the managing editor of their publications, so I’m doing more than just editing one book or article at a time. They know I can manage the production workload and the incoming content, etc.
* My website. I put up a very basic website (, actually a simple Yahoo template, so people can get a clear picture of who I am without actually meeting me in person. This has had an amazing impact. I made sure to include a client list so the DC prospects can see that other organizations trust me to do their work virtually.
* The right tools. One of my clients is a consultant for associations that want to go completely virtual. I maintain her blog, and it’s a resource of useful articles about how to make virtual work a success ( I am not super high-tech, but I do use basic virtual tools like my Droid, Google docs, Skype and, which are great solutions to have in my toolbox when I’m talking to clients about their projects.
More and more employers and clients are comfortable about working with someone long distance, but you do have to make an effort, and be prepared to deliver.

Don Draper as Role Model?

August 2, 2010

The new season of “Mad Men” is all about Don Draper leading the way in his newly formed agency. But what kind of leadership skills does he possess? Will his creative talent fall victim to his boozy propensity to pull cute secretaries onto the couch? Maybe that kind of behavior cut the mustard when he started his career, but keeping up with social cues is a must for any business leader.

I also recently caught a rerun of the mid-90’s office drama “Disclosure” with Michael Douglas playing  subordinate to Demi Moore’s aggressive female character. From Douglas mindlessly patting his female assistant on the backside, to Moore’s demand for sexual superiority, the portrait of social cues is still thought provoking a decade-and-a-half later.

Read more about how art imitates life in Abrams’ article ‘Mad Men’ offers good business lessons –

April 28, 2010

After the general fluster caused by AP announcing it was ok to use the term “website,” last week, I had a few conversations with colleagues and clients encouraging them to set up their own websites. I wouldn’t say my website guaranteed the growth of my small-biz startup, but it’s definitely an essential building block.

For instance, just one or two days after I set up, I met with a potential client about a long-term contract. She was still holding an old version of my resume in her hand without a website listed, at the same time she was saying, “…and from what I saw on your website…” She had already visited my site? I hadn’t even told her about it. That’s a clue to the power of having a website.

I’ve even encouraged clients who are job hunting to set up a site for themselves so it can act as a virtual resume. Hand out your card with your website address, and suitors can browse to their hearts’ content. No matter what you have to offer, a site can give a general description of your business, list your services, detail your experience, name your satisfied clients and even display samples of your work. Read more about how easily you can set up a site. 5 Small Biz Website Musts –

Insourcing Is In

February 17, 2010

Heard this week on Good Morning America that some workers are finding projects with international companies looking for U.S. expertise. Tory Johnson emphasized being both “global and local” when pitching to these clients. For instance, if I was gunning for a client in Tokyo, I’d be sure to mention that I once lived there and which local restaurants or districts I enjoyed. Watch Tory Johnson’s tips on reverse outsourcing.

Analyze This

February 11, 2010

Now, more than ever, access to data and the ability to analyze it means everyone should know how to use basic data tools. If you’re competing in this recession for a job, for clients, for growing your membership or raising money for your nonprofit, it’s not enough to know how to create your own Facebook page, e-mail blast or Web site. You also have to know what to do with the data these tools generate. Sure you can create a Facebook ad, but can you track how successfully that ad drives traffic to your site? In this tight economy, don’t expect your employer to pay an IT specialist to do this on your behalf. Richard Baily talks about these data-driven and other need-to-know skills for future career success. Culprit

The New Look of Success

February 6, 2010

Business WeekWhen I saw this recent cover of Business Week, I felt like I was looking in the mirror. Last year when my 15-plus-year position at a DC-area publishing firm slipped away with the rest of the nation’s secure jobs, I was left to figure out a new definition for my own success. This BW article points out the costs and benefits of living a new life as a permanent temporary worker. It also includes some savvy suggestions for setting up insurance, health care and the kind of attitude that could help you build your new career. The Permanent Temporary Workforce