I don’t know about you, but when I was in my 9-to-5 job imagining and dreaming and finally planning my escape to be a full-time freelance travel writer, I never once considered getting an MBA in travel writing.
Before I made the leap, I did spend every commute and probably many idle hours in the office reading up on the hows of making it work as a freelance writer. And I spent more than a year building up clips and gigs before leaving my job.
But I never thought there would be any reason to study how big corporate businesses make things work. Isn’t that what we gleefully give up having to care about when we go
Fast forward several years into my freelance life when I found myself ghostwriting for a college business professor who had the business savvy and skills to be psyched about the web-based business she was running helping freelancers build solid businesses, but was lacking in experience as a freelancer to make what she wanted to say resonate with her audience.
As she talked me through the concepts she wanted to cover, how, and why–particularly now that I had several years of freelancing under my belt–I started to see solutions to many things that had been stymieing both myself and other freelancers for years.
(A similar thing happened when I took the plug and got certified as a business coach!)
Businesses have been around for millennia. The fundamentals they teach in business school have been honed in so many situations by so many sharp minds over so long that we ignore these basic principles at our peril…
…and, by that I mean that most freelancers end up learn these kind of things the hard way, after something goes wrong, and, unfortunately, in many cases, when it is too late to undo the damage.
While I still don’t think it makes sense for any of use to spend two or three years of our lives on an advanced degree to run a freelance business, I’ve seen for myself and for hundreds of others these lessons have helped that there is absolutely a necessity, if you are serious about building a long-term freelance business for yourself, to make a basic study of these business fundamentals.
Of course, this kind of information (especially the legal, finance, and accounting bits–snooze, I know!) can feel very, very dry when it’s not put into practice.
That’s why I’m working on a huge new webinar series that deep dives into each “department” that makes up the primary functions of every single business, including your freelance travel writing one.
If you’re currently waiting for a rainy day to catch up on some of the work we outline in these webinars, know that these parts of your business are there (and potentially causing problems for you) whether they have your full attention or not, and in each webinar, we walk through:
- what these business functions really mean to freelancers, writers, and travel writers in particular
- the key differences between the way that these business areas work for corporations vs. freelancers who don’t have other people stepping into these roles to worry about these things for them
- the things that you absolutely need to know (because folks out there like the revenue service don’t really take ignorance for an answer!) about each of these key business areas so that you don’t get caught out
- a cheatsheet of the most important ways each of these business functions interact with your freelance travel writing business so that you can concentrate on what matters and not create a new way to “productively” procrastinate
- quick tips for how to streamline the most important parts of each business area without adding a huge amount of work to your to-do list
Check out everything we’re covering in the Freelance Business Systems series (it really is like an MBA in freelance travel writing!):
April: Finance Fun*
In this webinar, we’ll start our journey into the numbers that really make your freelance business tick (as in, make the money that pays the bills flow into your bank account so you can function as a human with a room over her head and food in her belly) with the bigger picture.
Finance and accounting are widely confusing or thought to be one and the same among those who don’t hold these roles, and accounting is already the bane of many freelancer’s “admin” to-do lists. So this week, we’re going to start with finance, which is more about planning to make sure money is always coming your way, something you’ll find puts a smile on your face every time you do it once you get the hang of it.
April: Accounting Minus Suck*
Freelance accounting commonly takes the form of “why haven’t I been paid for this story yet?!?! I sent the invoice this week!” but invoicing is actually a very small piece of the pie.
On the heels of tax season, we’ll take this hour to go through, line by line, what numbers you should be tracking, how, where, and why, so that the numeric side of your freelance life no longer feels scary, and everything has a place that feels just right and brings you joy, Marie Kondo-style.
April: Perfect Purchasing*
When you don’t know what your income is going to be each month, it’s automatically harder to budget (not just for life, but for your business!). The unfortunate follow on of that is that it’s also harder to make clear, informed, deliberate decisions about what to purchase why and when, which can often lead to snap decisions or overspending.
But those are just the surface-level considerations in creating a plan for how to purchase purchases related to your business—which, in case you’re not thinking of it that way, also includes your travel spending. In this webinar, we’ll pull a page from the corporate playbook and look at strategies that allow you to make the most of each dollar.
May: Operate Like a Boss*
Like it or not, as a freelance writer, you are a center for production—a factory, if you will—for completed collections of written words centered on certain themes and collated to client-determined specifications.
So many parts of writing involve independent decision making and the act of creation, but at the end of the day, as a business that delivers goods (read: polished prose) to clients, you need to focus on optimizing all aspects of your production operations.
This is an area that I spend a significant portion of time with my coaching clients on simply because its such an unparalleled game changer, and I’m very excited to change your approach to how you produce your writing work in this webinar.
May: Control That Quality*
Quality control? That sounds even more like something an assembly line needs that writers do not than our operations-focused webinar!
While many writers I talk to worry—whether in their heads, to other writers on Facebook, or just to to their friends and significant others—about the quality of their writing, not enough talk about what quality means as a business person, and how it can and should be leveraged, both in terms of mercilessly duplicating the steps that lead to quality every time and determining what exactly quality means for your clients in a way that allows you to deliver each time and rest assured you’ve got happy clients time and time again.
June: You, the Resource, Supported as a Human*
Even though I have been self-employed for ten years now, I have to tell you, there are things about the HR operations of large, established companies that I not only miss—pick-me-up happy hours and excursions, holiday parties, ergonomic chair and table options, and someone tasked with thinking about the healthiness of the menu options on offer, to name a few.
In part because I have worked for big organizations myself in the past, and in part because so many people in the my circle of friends through my big-brand-employeed husband, I’ve always had an eye on incorporating the most crucial and supportive HR practices in my own organization of one throughout my days as a freelance writer.
In this webinar, we’ll talk about why HR people do what they do and how to apply it to a freelance setting to make sure that the most important resource in your freelance business—you—always has the support it needs to do its best work.
June: Just Make it Legal*
“Legal departments” are things that we tend to associate with big corporate entities that have in-house council and annoying folks who insist on seeing every tweet before it goes out (even though that defeats the entire purpose of Twitter!). But the legal considerations for your business cannot be ignored, and I’m not just talking about what kind of business you are or are not legally registered as.
There are countless situations that come up from freelance writers, from parsing rights to photos with a CVB or business that hosted you or knowing that the magazine you’ve sold a story to has also purchased the rights to any royalties if your story becomes a movie amor book, and making decisions upfront and establishing standard practices for your business will help you know what to do when any of these situations arise and take them in stride.
Please note in appropriate legal fashion: I am not a legal professional, and the recommendations in these webinars are based on journalistic research, personal experience, and experiences of your peers. We absolutely recommend you consult and individual with the appropriate licensing or accreditation for your physical business location on all legal matters.
June: Your Technical Support Squad (Coming up this week!)
As one-man or one-woman bands, freelancers suffer from two things that really affect you in the tech department: being the only one doing all the things, and having to be very judicious about where we spend our most precious resource, time.
When it comes to keeping your business operating as best it can in the tech department, that tends to mean that you’re either using sub-par equipment and resources in one area or another, or, if you just love the stuff, you spend way too much time fiddling with the latest apps and systems in a way that is more hobby that actually supporting your business.
In this webinar, we’ll walk through specific areas of your business that the right tech can help excel in ways you didn’t realize were possible, what you need to know about keeping yourself and your client’s data appropriately secure at home and on the road (don’t be scared if you’re not doing this now—we’ll cover it!), and how, most importantly, to implement systems to make sure that tech issues never slow your business down.
July: Sell Smart
Of all of the different areas of business and business systems we’ll discuss as part of this serious, the topic that probably has the most written, researched, and optimized about it is sales. And yet it’s also the part that most writers more or less want nothing to do with (money, yes; selling, no), particular the “icky”-sounding word “sales.”
As we enter the three-legged stool of sales, marketing, and public relations, we’ll explore the differences between the three often co-located and conflated areas, so that you can make sure not to skimp on anything that will propel your business forward by accident.
We’ll explore why and how sales people in companies are compensated, so that you can get a handle on how this is truly one of your most fundamental jobs within your business, and we’ll break down what lies at the heart of sales (because it’s really, really not what you think) that makes great sales people in all industries grow their companies.
July: You Plus Market Equals Money
Particularly with the advent of social media (marketing) and blogging (content marketing), or, really, the internet in general, there is a lot of “work” you can do these days that may feel like you are marketing your business that doesn’t seem to get a lot of traction no matter how much you put into it.
In this webinar, we’ll start by pulling back significantly from the tactically to really exploring what marketing means conceptually and how it should work to pull you away from the feeling of an endless “should-do” list for your marketing and get grounded in what you should really focus on, why, and how to adjust it over time.
July: Promotion, Promotion, Promotion
As we tease out the difference between sales, marketing, and PR, it’s time to turn our gaze to the public relations side–not the PRs we interact with trying to get information for a story or a spot on a press trip, but the external relations we must pursue for our own freelance businesses.
I often speak with travel writers who are going to networking events or even conferences without knowing exactly why, in terms of what they hope to get out of it. Ditto with spending time on LinkedIn or Facebook groups. There may be a sense that some business development (new gigs) may come as a result, but the general underpinning of getting one’s name out there (promotion) is always at heart.
This installment in our freelance business systems will break down the core goals and strategies of public relations professionals so that you can make confident, grounded, informed decisions about what will really get your name in front of the right people and spend your time where it will make a difference.
July: The Surprising Secrets of Servicing Customers as a Freelancer
Customer service–whether behind the counter at you local ice cream shop as a summer job or temping in a phone bank somewhere–has long gotten the wrap as something we may be obliged to do when young and deal with when older (why is it again that Amazon has no way for me to get in touch with them when my package shows as arrived and did not, in fact, arrive?).
The complex nuances in this business area, however, will literally make or break those attractive, retainer-contract gigs everyone wants to get their hands on with companies or magazines. There is a lot of surprising science to how you interact with your editors to achieve the best outcome for everyone, no matter whether you aim to write for magazines or pursue content marketing gigs.
August: Is That Really Admin on Your List?
When I talk to writers about how they are spending their freelance writing time, the concept of “admin” comes up frequently. But that admin is usually actually some kind of accounting, promotion, or operations work. Some freelance writers lump anything they don’t lump under writing under admin. And that leads to struggles in other areas.
As we dive into the true purpose of administrative functions in business (and look, of course, at what you may want to consider outsourcing at some point in your career), we’ll renew your understanding and appreciation of what does and doesn’t need to be done, and what it can really do for you when it’s done masterfully.
August: The Fun Stuff on Your List (Research & Development) R&D
Depending on your pre-travel-writing background, the term “research and development” may make you think of many things (I always think of pharma companies somehow), but I bet you would never think of it as something that relates to your travel writing.
In this webinar, we will look at how this crucial area of your business is (a) something you’re no doubt already doing, (b) how doing it in a non-systematic way is the source of many problems you run into as a freelancer, and (c) what we can learn from highly functioning R&D departments to make this area of your business something that thrives and brings you closer to your most important goals each quarter and year.
August: Getting Your Business GED on with Governance, Executive Functions, and (Strategic) Direction
Tying up our whole series on freelance business systems, we head to the top of the business totem pole with your role as the executive of your freelance firm. In this webinar, we will first examine the most fundamental roles of the traditional executive–and these may be the most surprising of everything you learn in this series.
We’ll then look at how the owner or named partner in other types of one- or very-few-man/woman bands (lawyers, architects, interior designers, etc.) work to manage their practice as a combination doer and owner-manager and what we can learn from the growth of those businesses.
*Denotes that this webinar has already been recording and is available for immediate viewing.
Once we wrap up the series, we’ll add these webinars to our on-demand webinar library, but in the meantime, you can join each new webinar live and have access to all seven we’ve already recorded in this series when you join the Dream Buffet.