Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Freelancers: When Does Push Become Shove?

One of the biggest complaints from freelancers is the unsteady flow of work and income. It's a gold mine one month and famine the next, but how you cope with it will eventually determine your longterm success.

After what's been the busiest fall yet for me, I actually have a few hours of breathing room this week and I admit, it's been really tempting to take a much-needed break. In past years I might have done that, but with the economy in such an unsteady state, it seems far wiser to push myself a little harder.

So instead of taking a couple of days off this week, I'll be finishing up a new ebook with a fellow writing friend that we're hoping to have out before year's end. It's on goal setting and success strategies for women, so we're doubly motivated to release it in time for all those New Year's resolution setters.

The economy and a deadline committed project partner have given me a good shove to keep up a busy and productive pace, what helps you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When everyone screams "economy" will anyone end up hearing?

It's election day and we're all marking our ballots for the leadership we think can fix the struggling economy...among other things. But, long before the newly elected team could get to work, many organizations were adding references to the tough economic times to fundraising appeals landing in donor mailboxes in the coming months. Some included a one line reference, others wanted to lean harder on the grim outlook in hopes of donors understanding that if they're feeling the economic pain, the poorest of the poor were really feeling it.

As a copywriter, it's seemed easier as of late to make a case for an organization's need, because quite frankly, we're all feeling the pinch. Let's face it, even a simple trip to the grocery store means coming home with less, but paying more!

The other trend in recent appeals has been wanting to share something positive with donors. While it's pretty typical this time of year to remind donors of all the good stuff done throughout the year, it's seemed more important to deliver good news because people are weary of dire headlines.

As you open your end of the year appeals, which will be inspiring you to give - the good..the bad...or are your deep donation pockets simply not as deep this year?

Friday, October 10, 2008

How often do freelancers really play hooky?

I'll never tell how often I play hooky. But then again, is it really playing hooky if you're self-employed? Ditching out of the office for "a long lunch" when someone is expecting you to come back is definitely hooky. I mean, it's not likely you're going to show back up at 5 when everyone else is leaving so you can finish the missed afternoon of work.

For freelancers, it's not hooky if you choose to leave the office on a Friday afternoon, with the intention of working on Saturday morning, is it? I've done that plenty, but at some point the work has to get done. If I'm only going to be spinning my wheels creatively on a Friday afternoon, I'll go play instead. But, only if I really am able to reserve Saturday morning for work. And, I've done some great writing over java in my pjs on weekend mornings. When I'm not fighting to be doing something else, the creative juices flow freely. But, like other seasoned freelancers, I've learned there are days when sucking it up and staying in the office can pay great dividends - like a whole day actually away from the office!

So how do you handle hooky time? Are you disciplined enough to stay at the desk regardless or do you go with the creative flow and work only when the mood is right?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What do lapsed donors & lapsed bloggers have in common?

Fall is one of the busiest times in the fundraising arena and one of my many (mostly lame) excuses for not posting as of late. And, like a lapsed donor, it's not that I've lost interest completely, it's just that other things on my plate seemed more pressing .

So, what's brought me back to a commitment to blog more regularly might also be what will bring donors back to your's that time of year!

As the year winds down, we look (sometimes frantically) to see how we can make up ground on meeting our goals for 2008. And, we're taking a peek at what we'll try to accomplish in 2009. Many of the appeals that have kept me busy the last two months will be landing in mailboxes right when donors are of a similar mindset. Who did they commit to helping this year? What are their priorities? How will their end of the year gifts make a difference?

For donors who have "forgotten" to give as of late, end of the year appeals are the perfect opportunity to remind them of how they "fit" with your organization.

How will you be reminding donors of their belief in your mission and work and how important they are? What will make your well-timed ask a meaningful one?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Being Nice to the New "Kids" in the Sandbox

At some point, every one of us was a newbie to the fundraising sandbox...and hopefully someone helped you through your first wobbly steps. But, it's pretty likely that, even with help, you made a few mistakes along the way. C'mon, who hasn't missed the boat completely on the copy or underbid a job and worked for peanuts? And, how many times did you lose your courage to make a big career move only to find opportunity had moved on to knock on someone else's door?

I'm working on a project called, "Copywriter Confessions" to help new copywriters realize the mistakes they fear making are far from fun, but rarely fatal. Professional copywriters who have jumped those early hurdles and gone on to success are sending in their own "I can't believe I did that" stories to share with newbies in hopes that their stories will assure those just starting out that things do get easier and the mistakes fewer and further between.

If you'd like to be part of the project, share your story here or email it to me at with the subject line, "Copywriter Confessions."

Friday, July 25, 2008

With many fundraising folks attending the Bridge Conference in Washington, DC the latter part of this week, there was time to get caught up on a few things at the home office. I'm waiting to hear back from a few people on the best parts of the conference and whether it would be a good choice for freelancers to attend. It can be hard to know where you fit in when you spend so much of your time working solo from a site far removed from others in the niche.

As Bob Bly noted in an article not long ago, many of us are hiding behind our emails and missing out on the interaction time, like conferences, that used to solidify working relationships. While, I'm not a huge fan of conferences (you'll find me at the food table avoiding having to network and make small talk), they do have value as a learning and relationship building resource.

So which conferences have you found useful to attend to keep up-to-date on your skills? Are smaller events better for bulding relationships or do large gatherings provide more opportunity and "bang for your buck" when it comes to meeting the right people? What can you tell me about events you've attended that would motivate me to come out from behind the keyboard?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fridays are the best day of the week...but why?

Happy Friday! 'Tis my favorite day of the week - a little bit of work, a little pleasure.

As a freelancer I've gotten into a groove of certain days being good for certain types of activities. And, Fridays seem to be best for beginnings and endings. I'm wrapping up getting my website updated, a task I'd put off far too long. And, a FedEx with information on a new client should arrive soon, I'm hoping to get the full scoop this afternoon on a new project for an existing client with a quick turnaround and another article to promote my new ebook is next on the to-do list. Always nice to give the creative juices plenty to work with over java on a Saturday morning.

I've tried to relegate Mondays, my least favorite day and least productive creatively, to handling paperwork and other mundane activities that are appropriate to my attitude and brain power after a full weekend. It's also been helpful to try to protect large chunks of time mid-week to avoid feeling a time crunch at the same time I'm trying to relax and be creative. Is all this making me sound...moody?

Please, tell me I'm not alone in shaping my days this way! Freelancers, how do you arrange your work days to optimize your time? And, client friends in offices, do you face the same dilemmas? I know you have to work around staff meetings, trainings and client meetings...what's the best way for freelancers to keep in touch and make things easier for you?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Since starting as a freelance copywriter in 2002, the one thing I’ve noticed is how nice folks in the fundraising arena are to be around. I investigated a few other niches early on in copywriting, and while I never met a true class bully, I’m sure I crossed paths with a few people who wouldn’t hesitate to run with front of the teacher!

There seems to be a prevailing attitude in this sandbox that there’s far too much important work to be done to waste time bickering or bad mouthing and that getting along is far easier and more pleasant than the alternative.

The reason for the Solution Sandbox blog is to perpetuate that mind-set and to create an on-going “play date” where fundraisers, freelancers and others can get to know each other just a little better..I like to think of it as cyber-recess with a purpose.

I was fortunate enough to have one of my earliest encounters be with one of the fundraising arena’s most respected members, Kay Partney Lautman. She was the first to hire me as a freelancer fundraising copywriter and quite gracious about answering my many awkward questions. I'd hoped to meet her in person on a trip to Washington, D.C. this summer, but wasn't able to. It would've been so nice to thank her in person for being so kind to a fundraising newbie!

Is there someone who helped you get started or served as a mentor and helped you learn more about life in fundraising? Post your kudos here and let everyone know about those who provide the leadership that makes fundraising such a nice sandbox to play in!