03 May 2006

An introduction

Hmmm, where to start? I've already been blogging about my work life on MySpace but I feel like venturing further afield...

After 27 years as a salaried journalist, editor, copywriter and corporate communicator, I finally turned freelance 16 months ago. I run a small but thriving business in north-west England, which continues to grow as I pick up new clients. I picked up my first client a full month before I started "trading" (that is such a weird expression for someone like me - it seems more applicable to a market-stall holder than a wordsmith) when I was at a networking meeting. I love what I do because it comes as naturally to me as breathing and it seems almost a luxury to earn money from it, although like most people I have bills to pay and rounds at the pub to buy... and I also need the occasional bitchfest when I get frustrated with clients or projects.

This was my day today:

A long meeting this morning with my graphic designer and one of our joint clients. Lots of good things came out of it. The company is "thrilled" with the exhibition banners and the brochure we did. Their latest sales trip has already resulted in increased leads and interest, for which we can take a fair bit of the credit. We discussed the next insert for the brochure (one has already been done) but then the client decided starting the website was more urgent. We agreed. I now have less than two weeks to draft the first four pages of copy and get them completely signed off before the client's next sales trip. Just seven working days and within that time, I need to bone up on tips from the graphic designer for boosting search engine optimisation through keywords in the copy. The rest of the website will be done piecemeal over the summer, as we add product pages etc. Then there's the software manual to do, which will be written by their in-house technical writer and edited by me for readability and user-friendliness. I suggested producing a house style manual at some stage so that the technical writer and I are achieving linguistic consistency. This was agreed. The client also confirmed that this would be a long-term working relationship, given the company's delight at what we have done so far. I'm pleased as the work will be regular and frequent.

Afterwards, my graphic designer told me he wants me on board for at least one new project, possibly two. Excellent news. In return, I've asked him to completely redo my website this summer. It desperately needs an overhaul. I need to draft a very rough site map and start thinking about fresh copy.

I got home to find the client for whom I'd done the early morning job yesterday had rung. I called back. We've booked in more work for the next couple of weeks. We also ended up discussing her website. She's been trying to write her own copy for a year and wants me to proofread it. I agreed and then, to my surprise, she asked how much it would cost if I were to do it. I gave her a very rough figure, explaining why it was very rough, and although nothing has been agreed, the seed has been planted and I hope she'll commission me. I've been proofreading her business literature for quite a few months now and we've got to know each other well over the phone. I like her a lot and like working for her. She doesn't make outrageous demands of any sort, she pays promptly and is always friendly and amenable. I don't earn a huge amount from her - the work is regular but mostly small jobs - but she's an excellent client so I always go the extra mile for her, like working at 7.30 am.

Before my meeting, I fired off a polite but firm e-mail to the chamber of commerce regarding my disgruntledness at their incompetence. No reply, even though I explicitly requested one. Typical. My graphic designer told me he's had the same problem. Also unsurprising. (The backstory: My bank statement arrived yesterday- a quick check showed that my local chamber of commerce still hasn't debited my membership fee for this year. The money has been awaiting them for 4 whole months - all they need to do is call my bank and activate the debit. In the interim, I've had three reminders that I owe them money. I have spoken to them on the phone and e-mailed the chief executive, to no avail. The reminder letters threaten to terminate my membership if I don't pay. Never mind that I have repeatedly offered them the fee, they just don't seem to want to take it. Wearily, I rang them yet again and once more was told someone would call me back tomorrow and sort it out. I despair of such incompetence and if it was anyone else I'd tell them to forget it, but my membership is useful to me.)

A press release I'd written a couple of weeks back for another client ended up on the business pages of the local weekly last Friday. I only spotted it yesterday, when I finally had time to sit down and read the paper. The newspaper had only used a couple of paragraphs in the "in brief" column, but the client will be pleased (reminder to self: must e-mail client with congratulations), which means more work in the future. I was pleased too.

The sun is shining outside, my herb seedlings are temporarily in the garden (they are not quite ready for planting out) and I feel good about things.

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