Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Things to Focus on

Bragging writes

If you want to be successful in any venture it's important to lose your inhibitions. I don't mean you have to run down the street naked, in full view of the neighbours, but simply this - stand up for yourself, and have more confidence. Which is another way of saying - believe in your skills.

There, believe in your self, your skills and experience. You are good at what you do. You can write. And you can write persuasively. There are lots of successful freelancers, entrepreneurs and businesses out there doing what you want to do. They started in the same way, with hard work and application.

Oh yes, you need to work hard and apply yourself. Don't think success (whatever that means to you) is just going to come knocking at your door. It doesn't know where you live yet. So the first thing you have to do is tell it. Compose a letter. Get some business cards. Set up a website. Do what you need to do to tell success you are waiting for a call. Then it will come looking for you.

I live and work in England. The English are naturally guarded (and I don't just mean by the sea). We err on the side of caution. Reserved is a word commonly applied to us. We generally don't like to brag, but sometimes we need to get our message out there in forceful terms, which can look like bragging. But it's not. If it's done persuasively, honestly and to the right people.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

What you're worth

The chief mistake I made when I was running my own print business was not to charge enough for work. I had the basic estimating costs right, and I built in overheads and everything else. My mistake was not to allow for expansion. And holidays. The prospect of employing someone else to do the printing. Or moving into larger premises. Consideration of all these things means you should charge more than the basics for your work. Whatever that is.

The print industry is often driven by price however, and there are always others willing to undercut yours. That makes life difficult, especially when you are starting out and don't have the goodwill or a portfolio of quality work behind you.

After the experience of self-employment, when I became an employee in a print company, funnily enough as an estimator, I could see that I had been doing all the right things. The difference was that I was now working in a specialist market - the continuous stationery business - at a time when that was taking off. Everyone was buying dot matrix printers and running off invoices and statements. The shipping industry was churning out six part Waybills by the 1000's. And no-one knew what the right price was. We were a trade printer dealing with brokers. They were putting 50 or 100% on the job. We were putting 20 - 50% on the prices to them. And we were still getting lots of work!

My other problem when self-employed was not aiming high enough. I concentrated on small companies: estate agents, other local start-ups who didn't really have a lot of cash. With hindsight now I would do a mailshot to bigger businesses, get larger contracts. Charge more. Value myself, my work and experience more highly.

Postscript: The print industry is a strange thing, in what other industry can you do a job and not expect to get paid for 30, 60 or in some cases 90 days? That's madness. Would you go into Sainsbury, take out a trolley full of shopping and tell them you'll pay for it in a month or two?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Self Assessment

I'm busy assessing my goals and expectations as a training copywriter. What am I doing it for? Is it a natural progression from a life spent writing? It's true to say that I don't subscribe anymore to the theory that fate or some divine meaning controls or guides our lives. We are just a species of animal that has evolved over millions of years to become well adapted to its environment, To the extent that we can now control aspects of that life by delegation and division of labour within the group.

So it's not a divine providence that says I must do this or that with my life. The years I have had so far are an evolution in themselves, derived from a series of personal decisions or chance occurrences. I do what I feel comfortable with, bearing in mind I have responsibilities (which I do or do not have to accept) as a result of having children and being part of a family. I weigh pros and cons. I balance skills I have learnt with what I enjoy. And all the time keep the perspective of 'society' and the bigger picture of moral and social responsibility in mind. Some might argue that in the absence of a faith or dogmatic belief in the supernatural such moral or social considerations are superfluous. I don't subscribe to that view, and I steer a path through the obstacles thrown up by life while considering them.

This, at the moment, is what energises me, and that is what I am doing. Some say follow your head, others say heart. Reason or emotion is what it comes down to. I call it making a living. By whatever means you can.