Monthly Archives: February 2009

I’d rather not . . .

Writers are not very different from lots of other people who are working hard at building a business.

An awful lot of people in business dislike the idea of selling.

An awful lot of people who would like to think of themselves as writers also dislike the idea of selling.

Most writers’ approach to selling could be summed up as:

“I’d rather not.”

Ask people why they say this and they will explain that selling isn’t a very nice activity and it’s not something they have been trained to do.

Some writers will say that selling their work, and all the tasks associated with selling their work, are within the scope of their agent, or their publisher – or any one else they can think of.

They see the world in very stark terms. They write; others sell.

Quite a few writers who haven’t got an agent will often try – in a half-hearted way – to do a little bit of selling, and maybe a little bit of book promotion. They are often disappointed by the results.

If you are committed to making a financial success of a business that has your writing at its heart, you need to accept one thing very quickly.

Selling is a core business activity.

You outsource, or try to outsource, a core business activity at your peril.

If you are going to succeed in your business:

  • you need to learn how to sell your products and services
  • you need to allocate time to the selling activity.

Time is really the key here.

You need to allocate a significant proportion of your time to the task of selling.

However, before you start to think about a life spent cold calling, note that selling isn’t about telephoning people who don’t know you and don’t want to hear from you. Successful selling is about something quite different.

More next time.

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What next?

So what comes next in the life of this blog?

I had thought about a series on getting organised to do business – adopting the right frame of mind – that sort of thing.

I had also thought about something on personal effectiveness or thinking about an approach to being in business as opposed to being in employment.

Of course, that would be taking the blog down the wrong track, at least for the moment.

If the most important thing in business is getting paid, which is what I said a little while ago, then the next most important thing is bringing in the business.

That leads me to sales, selling and the activities that most writers shrink away from.

There we have it then.

The next few posts will be about sales, and how people who are in business as writers need to address this issue.

More next week.

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Defining Yourself (4) – Define your brand.

Discussions about brands can cause people who prefer to define themselves as writers to panic.

They don’t want the spotlight on them. They want to stay in the background. They want to sit at their computers and produce text. They want to point people at the outputs of their endeavours and away from them.

“That’s okay, isn’t it?” They will ask – hoping to get the answer they want.

They won’t get it from me.

Successful businesses need successful brands. In fact, successful businesses are built on successful brands.

A brand is a promise. People know what they will get when they buy a brand. They seek out the brands they like and in doing so demonstrate loyalty to those brands.

In the case of creative individuals, when people buy, they are actually getting a tiny slice of the person who created the product as well as the product itself when they make their purchase.

That tiny slice of you is what makes you special. It’s what differentiates you from every one else. It’s this aspect of your work that you need to promote and to highlight.

You are doing yourself a disservice by trying to sink into the background and sell each item you produce as a commodity.

Guess what? People pay less for commodities than they pay for what they think is special.

If you have ever been in competition with lots of other people for the opportunity to write a feature, or to complete a piece of writing work, your output is being judged as a commodity. You could do the piece of work, so could lots of others.

Little wonder, then, that buyers look for the lowest price.

If people are buying a piece of writing from you as a commodity which they could get from other people, you definitely need to think about your brand.

When people buy from me – whether they are buying a handbook, a guide, a feature, a book idea or a training programme – they know they are buying an approach which makes difficult concepts easy to understand.

That’s what I do. I take complex ideas and make them easy for people to understand and to work with.

Now, think about this with regard to your own work.

Why are people coming to you? What are they buying from you? (Why are they coming to you rather than to anyone else?)

Work out the answer and start to define your brand. It will help your business, if you do.

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What’s the most important activity for any businessperson who writes?

Take some time to think about this.

When I talk to people who like to define themselves as writers, they always talk about their work, and the task of writing, in answer to the questions about important activities.

Most writers focus on writing well and they want to focus on this – all the time.

Writing well is a good aspiration, but it’s a only part of the story.

If you’re interested in building a business which has your writing at its heart, then the answer to the question about what is important is simple, but it has nothing to do with your writing.

The most important element of business life is: making sure you get paid.

For most businesses this means invoicing, first, and having some terms and conditions that you send to your customers about the amount of credit you will give them.

If you’re writing for publications that work on a self-invoicing basis, that is, you don’t actually have to invoice, then you need to find out, at the start of the relationship, when you will be paid.

You need to find out who pays, and keep in contact with the accounts department. You need to track your work as it moves from the editor’s computer to the publication.

You also need to be clear in your mind at what point you will start to chase payment, how you will chase and with whom you expect to deal at this time.

You need to schedule time to do these activities. Practise doing them, too, so you won’t behave in an apologetic manner if you ever have to ask someone when you will be receiving payment for work you have done.

Some writers shake their heads at this. They don’t like talking about money and they don’t like chasing money. Payment comes when it comes, if it comes.

This isn’t a very businesslike approach.

If you really want to be in business as a writer, you need to take your business’s finances seriously.

That means looking after the management of the payment process as well as the writing process.

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The final days of January

I wrote in the previous post about the first twenty-one days of January and how they looked for a businessperson who writes.

In order to complete the account, I’m now writing about the remaining days.

In last days of January I had another feature article published. Here’s the link to the piece.

Are we sending out the right messages?

That made seven features for the month. I also agreed to write a further five pieces for an editor.

I spent some time helping customers to be more aware of the differences between on-line and off-line communications. I ran a workshop on e-communications and a teleseminar on the same subject.

I critiqued some e-newsletter copy and reviewed four TQS applications. If you want to know what the TQS is have a look at my other blog.

I also worked on one of a businessperson’s most important tasks: invoicing.

At the end of each month I allocate time to making sure our company invoices for the work we have done. I also make time to check on payments received and payments that are about to fall due.

That’s how the month ends for this businessperson who writes.

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