By Terri Huggins
My name is Terri and I have a problem. I think most Americans can relate to it. (I can’t be the only crazy one.) I am addicted to the Internet. I always knew my excessive Internet use was a problem but I didn’t know how big an issue it was until October 2012. I, amongst thousands of other Central Jersey residents, found myself the main target of Superstorm Sandy. I was one of the fortunate people, though. I am alive, my home was intact, and we never lost power. Yet, I still found myself suffering when it came to work.
Obviously, never losing electricity wasn’t a problem. The problem was that everyone else did. That meant I wasn’t able to email editors, follow up on pitches, or schedule interviews and expect a response. When everyone lost all connectivity, I lost all connectivity. That loss made me feel like a fish out of water. (Of course, it wasn’t as extreme as those who actually lost electricity.) It turns out I didn’t know how to function without sending emails with instant gratification, calling people and sending tweets for sources. As a result, my productivity and business really began to suffer. It was then that I learned I rely on the Internet way too much.
Sure, having access to Gmail, HARO, and WordPress have boosted business and helped journalists stay organized, connected and on top of breaking news. However, when you lack the ability to operate without these tools your business may be in total jeopardy. It was a life lesson I learned the hard way. To spare others from learning that lesson the way I did, I’ve come up with a list of 13 Internet free tasks that can boost your freelance career.
1. Do some cold calling
Most people lost phone service during the storm. Truth be told, I got a lot of busy signals, error messages, and voice mail prompts during my cold call sessions. However, I did strike gold every once in a while. But when cold calling proved to be pointless, I decided to make a list of people I planned on contacting once business went back to normal. When it was time to return to my normal routine, having the list on hand made my work schedule easier and increased my productivity.
2. Assess your client list
It’s easy to take on clients blindly out of excitement. After all, it’s extra work and pays the bills. But they don’t always fulfill your mission or may not be worth the time. Revise, your list of clients and analyze which ones aren’t as profitable. Are you satisfied with your relationship with them? Do you have too many clients to handle right now? Do they assist in reaching a bigger goal? Can you afford to cut some loose? Do you need more clients? Now is the perfect time to reevaluate.
During the loss of connection, I found that many of the clients I took on don’t assist in fulfilling my reason for being a writer. By the time, everything was restored I was able to begin eliminating those who no longer fit my needs and work towards getting clients that do.
3. Revise your marketing strategy
It is always wise to have a marketing strategy. Otherwise, you will be moving blindly toward your goal. If you don’t have a strategy, take out a pad and scribble down your plan of attack. Should you already have a marketing strategy, decide whether or not it’s helping you reach your goal. Do you practice in-person networking? Are you writing guest posts? Do you send out email campaigns? Are they working? It’s normal for marketing strategies to not fit as businesses they grow. Take the time to analyze and see what needs to be amended.
4. Edit your resume and bio
The rumors are true. Even as a freelance writer, you need a resume. Occasionally, you still might run into the potential client who decides a resume, bio, and portfolio are necessary before hiring you. Make sure they paint an accurate picture of you. Update your resume to reflect your best and most recent gigs. Make sure your bio is still relevant. I had been putting of the update of my resume for a long time. Sandy provided me with the nudge I needed to get it done.
As freelance writers, this one should be a given. But the truth is finding uninterrupted time in which you can draft that blog post, start that article, or complete that copywriting assignment is difficult. There’s always the distraction of an open email box, Twitter alerts, Facebook messages, and phone calls. Take the time to unplug and actually do what you’re paid to do for a living.
With no Internet and calls to follow up on, I was able to write more than I ever had in a long time. It was really rewarding being able to complete my blog posts for the month in one day!
6. Meet the neighbors
Unfortunately, constant access to Internet has made it unnecessary for people to actually see each other face to face. However, it’s good for business. Getting out of the home office for a while, mingling with others, and networking with neighborhood businesses is revitalizing.
7. Set and evaluate your goals
As time goes on, goals change. Unfortunately, we never take the time to stop and realize it. Think about goals you’ve already made. Are they still in progress? Have you reached them? Are the goals still relevant to your career path? Once you set and evaluate goals, you will be able to be more efficient as a freelance writer.
8. Assess your budget
I hate numbers. It was one of the reasons why I went into journalism. Journalism or not, numbers are important. It can’t be avoided for long. Tracking expenses, and income is necessary for running any business. Once you assess your budget you can determine if you need more income, slash your budget, or search for new clients.
9. Create templates
As great as personalized, unique documents are, they take a lot of time. They aren’t suggested for everything, but it can be very beneficial to have templates. If you happen to use the same format for email follow-ups, or some pitches, create a basic template for it to save some time.
10. Back up files
Technology is great, but sometimes we have to accept that it will fail. If you don’t have several copies of documents you are out of luck. Dedicate an afternoon to backing up all your documents. You’ll be happy you did should your computer crash.
11. Revisit your reading lists
Remember, all those magazine clippings, printed blogs, and downloaded e-books you saved? If you are anything like me, they are still sitting in your “rainy day” pile untouched. It’s about time you actually go through the pile. You may come across new ideas to pitch, potential sources, and inspiration for your blog post. Sandy gave me the opportunity to slash my “rainy day” reading file in half. I learned so much.
12. Organize your source list
There is nothing worse than scrambling to find sources for a story at the last minute. If you’ve been in the business for a while there is probably a collection of sources in disarray. Save yourself the time and stress by organizing your sources. When you need a source at a moments notice you’ll know exactly what to do.
13. Go to the library
The library is a foreign land to many people. After all, who needs the library when you’ve got Google, e-books, and I-tunes? The problem is many people forgot how to research without the use of Google. A visit to the library can help you relearn the basics of thorough research.
Image credit: svilen001