Freelancing

Posts about Working for Yourself

I Don’t Answer my Phone

If you know me or have done business with me, you may have learned that I do not answer my phone. Unless it’s from a family member, it’s probably not going to get answered. The funny thing is, I am always near my phone, and most of the time I am looking at it. I simply don’t have the time to tap the little button that would connect our call.

You can’t do business without a landline phone…

Years ago, my father would have said something like the above. It’s probably due to his years of business consultancy combined with constant traveling. Being the daughter of a mobile businessman helped me learn the power of constant communication very early on. He also taught me a little bit about great customer service, the biggest lesson being:

If customers cannot reach you, they won’t do business with you.

Well, my father is from a different generation, because I have not had a landline phone since 2001, yet I have been a self-employed professional for nearly 10 years without one. It hardly seems like a business requirement anymore – especially if you are a solo –entrepreneur. Technology has created new (and cheaper) ways of communicating across distances.

Cell Phones Are Not For Talking

My reluctance to answer the phone skyrocketed this year when I purchased my first smartphone. Yes, I said first. This is because I find the vast possibilities of a smartphone to be distracting from phone calls. I mean, why would I answer the phone, when I could be skype chatting or tweeting? It just doesn’t make much sense.

That is why I am convinced cell phones are no longer designed for phone calls. If they were, they’d have a longer battery life, be more comfortable to hold, and wouldn’t include YouTube. I can’t possibly be the only independent professional to feel this way…

Maybe I should just send an email…

The last ten years, the Internet has proven that it can solve nearly any problem- including the fact that I never have time to answer my phone. First there was Netmeeting. It came installed on my Windows 95 computer but strangely disappeared in Vista. Then there was the handy dandy Magic Jack, which I cautiously purchased from Radio Shack only to lose interest after a few weeks.

By the time most of the world had adopted Skype, I had already used and disposed of a Google Voice number, forgotten the password of numerous GoToMeeting credentials, and pretty much loss hope in terms of what the Internet could offer for voice communications.

A Beacon of Hope?

The great thing about technology is that is always evolving, and it appears voice over internet protocol calls (VoIP) has now reached a point of being worth my consideration again. I have been fortunate to meet two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (yes, Silicon Valley like the genius’s behind Facebook and that ridiculously humorous HBO show) that understand the problems I am facing.

They have created technology that helps busy professionals like me continue to not answer their phones while still making money.

In yo’ face, Dad!

Their company, Smith.ai, combines real receptionists with the best in technology to create a marketing and customer service solution that does not involve me answering the phone. Considering the fact that I plan to stay in business for a while, this is a total win.

 

Jenn Marie Writing & marketing Elance

Jenn Marie Writing & Marketing on Elance

This page does not exist.

Today, Elance removed my profile from their site. I still am unclear as to why they did that, but at this point I don’t really care. It is just one site on the Internet, and not crucial to the success of my business. Unfortunately, many online freelancers are not as lucky.

Take, for example, the freelance virtual assistants working through the site Zirtual. When the website suddenly shut its doors, not only did the company’s employees suffer from sudden layoffs, the freelancers using the site lost access to their clients. Desperate clients went searching for their freelancers via social media while copycat sites immediately tried to sign up abandoned VAs. The employees have started to take action as well, with a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, this is the type of behavior I’ve begun to expect on the Internet. Online websites, such as Elance and Zirtual, or even Facebook for that matter, have no allegiance to their site visitors. Their explicit purpose is to make money off of the use of their site. When that is no longer occurring, the site vanishes – with no commitment to those using the site.

That is why I knew my Elance page was going to disappear in a short amount of time – not because I had done something wrong, but because I was not making the website money. So when announced earlier this year, that the site would be shutting down, and all freelancers were being transitioned to Upwork, I knew that meant all profitable freelancers.

So I am not at all surprised, but I am still a little sad to see my profile go. I put a lot of time into creating wonderful experiences for my clients, and it showed in my reviews and ratings. The fact remains, though – Elance owned those reviews, although I earned them for them. So as that site is slowly erased from the internet, so goes the written record of my time there.

That’s okay, though because it leaves more room for everyone else.

I envision a freelancing website that does not hold individual’s livelihoods hostage. It should be a site that connects freelancers with the clients that want to work with them. It should be easy to use, moderated for scams, and supportive to new freelancers. It should promote top performers while still having a community feel. It should be everything that Elance was not.

Knowing the internet, it will only be a matter of time before something like this exists.

What Everyone Can Learn From Ruff Ryders, Roc-A-Fella, and Wu-Tang

I grew up loving Hip-Hop. In South Carolina, when the latest rap song blasted through my radio, it fueled excitement in an otherwise simple and uncomplicated day-to regime. Although I had never walked the mean streets of Philly, sold drugs on the streets of Brooklyn, or ran the streets of New York, I knew about it because of these famous rap labels.

As a business owner, that experience has shaped how I approach marketing. They used a strategy that every business should be using if they are online. The fact that these record labels were able to reach a small town teenager 100s of miles away is not only due to huge financial backings. It’s due to something a bit less obvious.

Branding

What these labels did is create an identity for themselves outside of their music. They created something bigger than the product they were actually selling. By doing that, not only were they able to be more memorable, they were also able to make money off of their brand.

How many times did you see Ruff Ryders apparel in the mid and late 90s? Could you hold up the hand signal for Roc-A-Fella if prompted? Maybe you own some Wu-Tang branded merchandise?

Branding gives potential customers something to remember your business or product by. It helps customers forgive that mistake you made last month…

Remember when Old Dirty Bastard got in a little PR trouble? It didn’t kill the brand.

Your business can do something similar – with a little effort.

We’re Not All Rap Stars

This is probably a good thing too because my free-styling skills suck. However, we can all brand ourselves.

Seattle branding event

Which is why I am proud to be an ambassador for Tribe of Zero, a Canadian company helping small businesses and entrepreneurs find their way. This month, they are hosting a one-day event focused on branding for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Seattle, Washington.

Not only will I be attending, I also have discounted tickets to give away. If you would like to join me at the event, enter code JMCK307 to receive more than 30% off of your ticket.

Learn how to stand out from the crowd and be memorable, without having a crew of extra rappers who never actually produce anything…

And if you need any help with a writer to put it all together for you, you know who to call =)

Buy your discounted tickets here. Hope to see you there!

Baltimore, Opportunity and Freelancing

I’m from a small town in South Carolina. I wasn’t born there, but I spent most of my formative years imagining life beyond the local Piggly Wiggly. My father lived there as a child, and his father lived there. Prior to that, his father likely lived there … The story continues as far back as slavery when they picked the cotton that still grows there. It’s an upbringing that I am thankful to have because it keeps me grounded, although I have never set foot in the town as an adult.

My grandfather left our small town during the segregation era as a young adult to pursue work in Baltimore. In the big city, he found opportunity on the boats. My father left during the Civil Rights Era headed for New York, after a short stint in the military, he found opportunity in entrepreneurship. I chose a different route. Opting for college and a family I jumped from city to city, eventually laying roots in the Seattle area.

How does this relate back to freelancing?

I come from a legacy of people that search for opportunity when presented with little. From the moment I left my small town, I knew it was going to be an uphill climb, and I sought out that challenge. On the backs of those who had left before me, I knew there was opportunity in front of me… I just needed to find it.

That opportunity presented itself online. With the exception of part-time retail jobs, every job I’ve ever had was courtesy of the Internet. From freelance reporting to modeling, to mystery shopping… I found my opportunity through a system of information that connected me with the world.

I have been ‘online freelancing’ for 17 years now… and as I watch the environment change – I am saddened by what it has become. Just like Baltimore was once a Mecca of opportunity for my grandfather, it is now a city of despair. Similar to how my father ran to New York in the 60s, he ran from it in the 80s. The online marketplace has become overrun with the second-wave of hopefuls looking for their next opportunity. Many of them come underprepared and under-qualified and aren’t willing to put in the necessary work.

As a result, they have cheapened the definition of what it means to be an online freelancer and made it difficult for the quality ones to stand out.

Take, for example, the million dollar freelance copywriter. …

He brags about how easy it was for him to make money. He brags about how little education he has. He suggests that anyone can do what he did – if you just click here — it’s no wonder why anyone would have a difficult time putting a value on quality copywriting.

Am I suggesting he’s not good? Not at all; I don’t know anything about his work. What I am saying is that he is not unique. Time Magazine reported last year that 1 in 3 Americans freelance. If so many of us are going at it alone, how does anyone know who is actually about their craft and who is just looking for the next opportunity?

I’m not going to say I’m the best to have ever done it. Actually, I will be the first to admit that I am not. What I am, however, is dedicated. I am dedicated to freelancing, not because it’s what’s popular and not because someone suggested I could make a whole bunch of money. I am freelancing because it was the best opportunity for me- a small-town girl with big dreams. The Internet is my Baltimore. Freelancing is my New York.

I am committed to defending ‘my city’ from decay, and helping others succeed here as well. You deserve to be online. Read about my services and let me know if I can help.