4 Reasons You Should Definitely Work for Free

Seasoned freelancers tend to give the advice that you should never EVER work for free. At first I thought, sure, they’re right. Who wants to do work that they won’t get paid for? Especially if it leads to word getting out that I’m cheap. But then I accidentally undercharged for my time, and I’m glad I did. Here are the 4 reasons why I recommend that you work for free (at least sometimes!).

Seasoned freelancers tend to give the advice that you should never EVER work for free. Here are the 4 reasons why I disagree. Freelance advice from WordsbyErynn

 

Number one: It kinda feels good to work for free

 

This is borderline selfish, but I like to help friends and family out to make myself feel good. I don’t see them as charity cases, I see them as people who have a need that I can fulfill, without cash exchanging hands.

I don’t necessarily spend hours upon extra hours sweating over a project, but if there’s time in my schedule, why not? In the end, the service or product you and I provide has the potential to positively affect lives. Why the heck would we hesitate to put it out there?

 

Number two: You’re expanding your portfolio

 

Another purely selfish reason I’ve worked for free or at a discount. I can always use more experience, the more diverse the better. Part of the reason why I used to attend any and all interviews extended. Even if I knew there was zero chance I’d realistically be offered the job.

I enjoy experiences, and I rank that 30 minute interview for a job I *know* I won’t land at the same value as a 30 minute resume review for a colleague. Truly, it’s why I left a structured, rule-driven job. I have the freedom to earn what I want and how I want. Therefore, I maintain the wiggle room to offer select services for free on occasion.

 

Number three: You’ll earn street cred

 

I’m no rapper, but a few important people know my name. My reputation for providing valuable content speaks for me. Partly because I have a handful of friends that I helped out before my business sprouted. Now I have regular clients that smother me with praise (it still shocks me every time!).

I don’t have a terribly long list of referrals asking for free services because of word of mouth. Plus, once I do a bit of work for free for clients, they tend to return for paid content later. Kind of like free samples at the grocery store, right?

 

Number four: You might save yourself from a negative review by tacking on freebies

 

We’ve all had a client that, for any number of reasons, simply isn’t happy. It could be that she didn’t read the contract thoroughly, if at all. Maybe I overlooked a significant detail in our communication. Maybe she’s hoping to get a fat discount! Either way, going above and beyond in this situation might lessen your monetary gain, but it could help prevent a stressful complaint situation.

Personally, I’m not so worried about negative reviews as my customers’ perceptions of me. I want to do everything in my power to make sure you’re satisfied with your content. Thus, I’ll willingly spend the extra two hours making edits and creating new templates so that your vision is fulfilled (and your stress is relieved!).

 

Word of caution though: Don’t go crazy!

Eventually, you will have to say no, or simply refrain from offering to work for free. Don’t feel guilty- this is your livelihood, after all. But definitely stay open to the possibility that a new and potentially challenging project could be amazing for improving your creative process. It could even inspire you to develop new products or tools, all thanks to a small initial investment of your time.

Your Email Pitch: What Not to Say

I’m a little surprised to say that I’ve been on the receiving end of less than stellar pitches. I would hope that someone who is pitching to a writer would… well, pay more attention to his or her writing. Therefore, I have a few tips for my friends who use cold email pitch tactics to drum up new business.

To enhance cold email pitch potential, I have a few tips for those who use email marketing tactics to drum up new business. [Marketing advice from WordsbyErynn]

Before the actual email pitch- do your research.

Please don’t offer me a service that I am already using. Please don’t call me sir when I’m [hopefully] obviously a woman. Do a little research on your intended target, and your email will come across as knowledgeable and more personal. It’s particularly respectful to find out the name or title of the addressee, so you can avoid that awkward ‘To whom it may concern’ and other vague nonsense.

Besides, you’re better than that. If you’re trying to start a business-client relationship with a contact, you’ve got one shot to impress him or her. Show that you know your stuff, and that you are a professional.

On that same note…

Subject lines: bland = unsuccessful

So, you have an awesome product or service that I might need. You write a short and sweet, but personal, email, telling me why I must have your Amazing Thing. But. And it’s a big but. Your subject line offers me no incentive to click. If I weren’t so interested in picking apart other professionals’ marketing tactics, I wouldn’t have clicked at all. The point is, you’re not guaranteed eyeballs on your email unless the subject line is inviting or at least transparent.

I don’t recommend going over the top with “Click now for a special deal” or “Limited time offer, act now,” because those feel skeevy. My suggestion is to stick with something simple. For my freelancing business, I might approach a business owner who is apparently lacking a regular writer to maintain its web copy. A suitable subject line would be, ‘Web copywriting inquiry’ or ‘Product description suggestions for your business.’ Not enough promotion to come across as flashy and cheesy, but enough information so that the recipient understands why I’m randomly emailing her.

Did a robot write this? A robot lacking spell check?

Aren’t we all tired of those automated Twitter messages and impersonal product pitches? I don’t mind hearing about your product, especially if it might be beneficial to my business, but if you send me the same message as the other 500 contacts on your list, I will know. And I will shun you. Not publicly, but you won’t get my business or my respect.

Also, please spell check. I can’t beg you enough. I routinely receive newsletters to blogs I subscribe to, and I have seen more than my share of cringe worthy mistakes. Am I not worth your time? Do you not read and re-read your content before publishing? Embarrassing secret- I do, often multiple times. I also re-read days or weeks later and have caught a few mistakes of my own (gasp! how is it possible?!). I suppose I should go back to offering  a Starbucks gift card if a reader catches a mistake and notifies me 😉

The point is, we are human, and minor errors are forgivable. However,  if I know that I’m receiving the same typo-ridden Twitter message that all 800 of your other Twitter followers received, I might just un follow you to avoid further eye strain.

 

Along my freelance journey, I’ve learned a ton of valuable tips and tricks for landing jobs, creating content, and generally just giving good, consistent service. None of that does me any good if my email pitches are poorly conceived with lackluster delivery. Avoid these mistakes, and you just might see better return on your email pitch investments!

How to Stay Organized On Outings With Your Kids

Gone are the days when all I needed was a wallet and my car keys to get out and get things done. But according to my sister, I’ve got impressive prowess that helps me stay organized on outings/trips with my kids. I’m not sure why she thinks this…  She’s the one who works full time, juggles kids’ appointments, and well, quite frankly, still looks human. At my house, however, we don’t “do” fashion, and school is done in our pajamas. Wake up call rarely comes before 8am, and flexibility is the only constant. When we go out, though, my ducks get in their rows! Here are my [evidently] pro tips for how to stay organized when the shit you simply *must* do requires leaving the house.

Here are my [evidently] pro tips for how to stay organized when the shit you simply *must* do requires leaving the house. Staying Organized with WordsbyErynn

Lists, charts, itineraries, schedules… On paper.

My first secret is about 500 lists. I write lists for everything; groceries, meal planning, homeschool studies, work projects. I actually enjoy writing stuff down, although my memory functions fairly well. Plus, I like to think it empties out my brain temporarily so I can focus on important things. Like not burning the pancakes. Or calling the correct name of the kid I’m attempting to summon.

I’ve tried using my Kindle or my phone to keep lists, but it’s super satisfying to check tasks off as they’re accomplished. While it might not be the greenest method of note taking, it’s the most effective for me. I earn back eco points by reusing my kids’ rejected artwork and scribbling on junk mail.

I’ve been known to create elaborate itineraries for our trips, including what to see and when. At home I write down our daily schedule so that the kids and I both know what to expect. Even my freelance projects are categorized neatly, appropriate time frames allotted. Occasionally I step outside these paper boundaries, but even then, having the outline in print helps me refocus.

Plan in advance.

Preferably, embarrassingly in advance. When we take trips to the coast, it’s not unheard of for me to plan six months ahead of time. Also, I’ll prep my lists for big trips like that a few days before, and go over them again before we leave. I lay out my lists while packing so I stay organized and divvy up goods accordingly. I consider my destination, the weather, the possibility of extending the trip, and factor in extras for everything and everyone. It doesn’t hurt to have spare sets of clothing for each passenger in your vehicle. At the very least, I try to carry sweatshirts or blankets/towels in case of accidents or unexpected chilly weather.

Same goes with smaller trips; if I know I’m running low on groceries, I’ll pick a specific day to shop and make a mental note ahead of time. Way better than realizing you’re out of soy milk right after you’ve mixed the rest of the ingredients for pancakes. Even if the kids have a meltdown en route, I’ve got the list to stick to so I don’t forget anything vital in the scramble. Plus, since I planned ahead, I’m not shopping during nap time or right before dinner.

Prioritize.

Pants might be most important to you, but my number one priority is making sure my kids are fed and watered adequately. Secondary to that is clean and dry clothing. Unless you have special medical considerations, my advice is to keep food and clothing on the top of your list, too.

Much of my trip prepping is spent getting snacks together, like homemade pumpkin spice balls or no-sugar-added date bars. I’m vegan, so the kids enjoy those special types of healthy treats, but also standards like raisins, dried apricots or mangoes, bananas, carrot sticks, crackers, cheeses, and applesauce in reusable pouches.

Accept the fact that to stay organized, you’ll need more time.

Let’s be real, it’s easier to get packed and prepared when the kids are asleep and not underfoot. Because heaven forbid Teddy gets in the suitcase the night before we leave for our trip, and obviously the diaper bag must be packed with a certain someone’s favorite color cloth diapers and absolutely nothing else. Therefore, I’m forever cutting into my snooze time with planning duties.

I typically stay up later than the rest of my family, so I’ve got time to wrangle the diaper bag the day before an outing, or get the laundry finished so the suitcase can be packed. Besides, even if I went to sleep reasonably early, I’d still be obsessing over the details of whatever event is looming!

If you see me out somewhere…

And I look like a hot mess… Don’t pity me. Or stare. Just remember- my kids are clothed and fed, my lists are neatly organized, and I’ve got a spare sweater and extra snacks if you’re in need! Plus, despite the chaos, I’m probably having a pretty good time!