Diana Schneidman (@DianaSchneidman) is a freelance writer, researcher, consultant, and author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less. She offers marketing services and advice for freelancers at Stand Up 8 Times and runs Diana Writes to showcase her diverse experience in freelance writing.
Diana Schneidman graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in English and French education, and then attended Kent State University to earn a Master's of Library Science. After working two full-time jobs after college, Schneidman freelanced off and on through the ’90s, jumping between periods of full-time employment and freelancing.
Schneidman shares how she made herself a niche in freelance writing and offers tips for tackling common freelancer problems. [The interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.]
Why did you ultimately stick with freelancing over full-time employment?
I decided to freelance because it made life easier. If someone was sick, I could cover it instead of having to explain it to my boss.
I have the unusual distinction of knowing how to start getting business quickly when you don’t have anything. Underemployed or unemployed, you really have to start making money quickly. That’s my area of expertise.
How do you tackle these common freelancer problems…
It’s important to get a quick start on projects. There’s a temptation to save things for the last minute, telling yourself that you work better under pressure. But if you start early, you can better plan how you’re going to approach and research a project. You can see information gaps and areas you don’t understand, which means you can clarify any issues with the client early.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than calling up a client the night before a project is due with questions because you were procrastinating.
Attracting clients with minimal experience?
It’s easiest to go after work where you have experience in a specific skill or industry. Sometimes it’s also helpful to go into a new field. You can offer a lower rate, so you basically get paid to learn instead of paying to take classes to learn it.
It’s easy to overwhelm yourself with marketing efforts. You may have 101 ideas and you can’t do all of them. Keep your efforts focused. Social media and networking are powerful tools.
When you talk to someone who's not interested now, check in later. Schedule something on your calendar to give them another call.
Competition for services?
You can’t know all your competition, so it’s best not to think about it. Just put forth the best marketing and work that you can do.
I started freelancing more than 20 years ago. You would think it was easier freelancing then, but back in those days, people had never heard of it. If you asked businesses if they used a freelancer, they would ask, “What’s that?” I would explain and it would turn out they had staff to do that work. Times have changed.
It’s about starting early. Think about work and your tasks while doing household chores, errands, driving, etc. Put suggestions into your brain before sleep and wake up with answers. Give yourself more time to think about it and companies you would like to talk to.
Budgeting and finances?
It’s important to structure payments to make sure you get paid earlier rather than later. There are challenges now because payment within 30 days is somewhat common, but there are larger companies waiting 60 or 90 days, too. Avoid those situations. Get paid ahead of the work, at least a down payment, instead of getting paid after.
What are the advantages of strong marketing?
When you’re freelancing, marketing is part of the work and it always will be. It’s not enough to just get some work. Ideally, you market so intensely that you receive more work than you can do. With greater confidence, you can price your work higher and select assignments you enjoy the most.
What are your freelancing plans for the future?
I’m interested in eLearning. I believe it’s a growing field, and I have some background that relates to that. I like looking for areas of growth. It’s an interesting thing to add to the mix.
3 Tips for Freelancing Success
Whether you’re an aspiring freelancer or a struggling one, Schneidman offers these three tips for getting ahead:
- Start projects early.
- Focus on marketing.
- Commit to consistency.
For more freelancer business tips, check out our freelancer blog series!