Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Phone as Writing Tool

Let's face it: Times are tough for freelancers.

Each day brings news of another newspaper or magazine going belly up. That reliable corporate communications director you've relied on for years has been axed. Prospective new sources of writing assignments seem as plentiful as Republicans at a gun-control rally. (Sorry, that last one just slipped out...)

So how do you freelance your way through these tough economic times?

The first step is to pick up the phone. Start calling everyone you know who might be a source of writing assignments or who might be able to refer you to others in need of your services. In some cases, this means calling clients you haven't worked with in a while.

These can be awkward conversations if not handled properly. So don't even bother trying to disguise the purpose of your call, as in, "I was cleaning out my desk drawer, came across your business card, and thought I'd give you a call..." This not only sounds phony, it also positions the call as an afterthought. Not exactly the impression you want to make.

Instead, be as straightforward and as professional as possible. Think of way to make the client or ex-client glad you called. The best way to do that is to talk about what the client or potential client cares about most. (Hint: It's not you!) Then, describe how you might be able to help, or express the desire to explore ways you might be able to help. For example: "I know a lot of companies are cutting back in a lot of different ways, which usually means an increased workload for people like you. I'm calling to see if there may be a way that I can help you with that."

Put the client's interests first, and the call is likely to get the results you want.

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