Your Friday 5: Taxes, Email Management and More to Help You Launch Your Freelance Writing Career
Tip 1 (Monday): Identify Your Strengths
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to walk you through a common marketing analysis called SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Save each portion as we go through this so you can put things all together at the end of the exercise.
Your mission for Monday is to identify all the strengths you bring to the table as a nurse-writer and entrepreneur. From my own SWOT analysis, some of my strengths are:
- Clinical nursing experience
- Writing skill
- Fast typist
- Good researcher
- Desirable writerly voice
- Business background
Write your strengths out on a piece of paper and put them in a handy place to continue building on next week.
Tip 2 (Tuesday): Taxes!
As an independent businessperson, you have the supreme privilege of being responsible for taking care of your own taxes. Self-employment taxes differ from what you may be used to as a W2 employee. As freelance writer, you may be required to file estimated taxes throughout the year. This depends on the type of business entity you chose when you set up shop.
Your job today is to spend some time researching self-employment taxes so you understand your basic responsibilities in this regard. Here are some resources:
- IRS Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center
- Beginner’s Guide to Taxes for the Self-Employed (Intuit)
- Tax Tips for Freelancers and the Self-Employed (Kiplinger)
- The Finances of Freelancing
Even if you decide (as I did) to hire an accountant to handle all your tax stuff, you still need a rudimentary understanding of self-employment taxation — because ultimately YOU are the responsible party.
Tip 3 (Wednesday): Blogging
I recently exchanged emails with RN2Writer reader Patrick, who’s making great strides toward launching his freelance career. In our exchange, I advised Patrick to blog as a way to hone his skills. This might be good advice for all of you novices out there.
Blogging offers you a way to practice your craft. I’m not talking about navel-gazing, journal-type blogging. I’m talking about blogs in which you craft stories or articles on your chosen niche topics. Think of modeling your blog after the Harvard Health Blog. Or, if you’re more interested in marketing writing, cover new developments in this arena the way Digital Marketing Blog does. As you get more experienced at blogging, you should inject your personality and opinion into your pieces. In the beginning, just focus on putting together a solid story.
Tip 4 (Thursday): Email Management
I’m big on “systems.” Without great systems, you won’t be productive. My systems begin on first contact with a prospective client and end…almost never. Because I probably will maintain periodic contact with clients throughout my career.
Anyway, email will suck your productivity right into its gaping maw if you let it. You should work today on putting some email procedures into place to help you avoid this potential time-waster. Here are some ways I manage email:
- I have an email address that is for WORK ONLY.
- I never check email first thing in the morning. I always dive right into my first project for at least 25 minutes, then take a break and deal with email.
- As soon as I’ve checked email, I shut the program down entirely.
- I use Outlook and create detailed folder trees. My Inbox looks something like this:
- Active Clients
- Client A
- Client B
- Client C
- Accounting and Finance
- Virtual Assistant
- Past Clients
- Active Clients
You get the picture.
- As soon as I’ve read an email, I either flag it, calendar it or move it to its proper folder.
- At the end of each workday, I review all of my flagged email to make sure I didn’t miss anything important.
- I shut down Outlook when I leave the office in the evening and on weekends and only check it if absolutely necessary.
I’m not saying you should handle your email using the same processes I do. My message is: Develop your own procedures. Write them down, if necessary. And then put them into practice consistently.
Tip 5 (Friday): What product are you selling?
Trick question! Your ‘product’ is probably a service: your writing skills. But what do you use those skills to produce? Write down all the types of materials you expect to produce in your freelance career. My list includes:
- Web copy
- Ghosted blog posts
- Bylined blog posts
- Health articles
- Healthcare articles
- Case studies
- Feature stories
- News releases
And so on.
The reason I’m asking you to spend some time thinking about these things and writing them down is because you can’t identify your target market (clients) unless you have a good understanding of what your products are. For example, you are not going to pitch case studies to the Wall Street Journal health section editor. You are not going to pitch an article with breaking news on the Ebola virus outbreak to the marketing manager of a hospital disinfectant supplier. By identifying your prospective ‘product list,’ you’ll get a better idea of how to focus your marketing efforts.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the RN2Writer Newsletter! Every month, you get a four-point action plan PLUS my best tips and tricks. (And now, you also receive my FREE special report, “How Much Do I Charge? An Introduction to Freelance Pricing,” when you sign up!)
Wishing you well,