Category “Entrepreneurs”

So you’re thinking of starting your own technical writing or content writing business?

Monday, 3 December, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to talk about my STEM career path in two different spheres – one was an article on the BCIT website and another was at a recent BC Tech and Discovery Foundation Aspire to Tech workshop. These opportunities really got me thinking about what a journey it’s been and how much I’ve learned along the way (through definite trial and many an error), and I realised that there are lot of things I can share now that I had no clue about when I was starting out, and that may help you if you’re  just getting started in a career as a technical writer or content developer. Read on…

Tip #1: Think About What Sets You Apart

We all have something that can shape what we offer to our clients and our audience. Think about your background, your studies, what you excel at. If you’re a career changer, how can what you did before this change work to your advantage? I often have students in my Writing for the Web class (part of BCIT’s Technical Writing program) who have degrees and experience in other fields, so I encourage them to look at what subject matter expertise and transferable skills they have, along with their writing skills. For example, you may have worked in the finance or medical fields, so these would be excellent areas to look for clients in, because you’ll bring not just the writing talent, but the industry knowledge with you.

Tip #2: See What’s Already Out There

If you’re not sure what kinds of contracts are out there, what client you might suit, or specifically what skills you might need to take on clients, then do your research! Google Technical Writing jobs or Content Writer jobs (+ your area). Look at job descriptions, the type of companies and industries hiring, and get an idea of salaries to figure out what you should charge as a contractor/freelancer (you can also use PayScale to help you with this). You can get a sense of whether you need to take a course, brush up on a skill, etc. Also take a look at your competition. What are they doing well? What can you do differently or better? And see Tip #1 🙂 

Tip #3: Build a Portfolio and Self-Market

You may be working in a technical (or other kind of) workplace currently that needs better writing – for their website, their general documentation, marketing, etc. Offer to do some of this (but try to get it to be within your job, not as unpaid extra work on top it) so that you can build up portfolio pieces. Look for websites that may be looking for articles (just be sure you aren’t under valuing yourself, but doing some articles for free at the beginning can be good for building your online presence). Set up a blog and write, write, write!

Use all the free online marketing tools you can – namely LinkedIn and Twitter. These have great search engine rankings, so they will help get your name out there. LinkedIn also has a publishing tool, so you can write and contribute articles there (also don’t be afraid to use the same content across these – use Twitter to promote your blog posts or online articles; post your blog posts or articles on LinkedIn as posts on your profile – saves you time and drives readers to your writing). LinkedIn Jobs is also very useful for looking for clients, as you can often find contract work this way. There are also other sites like Upwork that allow you to find freelance jobs. 

If you can’t afford to set up your own website yet, then at the very least, put together a PDF of your services, with your contact information. This was a highly valuable piece of advice that a career coach and friend gave me. That way, you can email your PDF to potential clients without feeling embarrassed that you don’t have a website**. I also found that when I sat down to do this, it actually motivated me to set up my website, so I ended up not having to use the PDF and instead got my website done. 

** That said, get a website ASAP 🙂 (see Tip #5).

Tip #4: Volunteer (and Network)

I know that everyone always says that you need to network when you’re looking for a job, but I believe there are more creative ways to do it than just attending networking events. Try volunteering. You don’t have to give all your time up for this, but this is an excellent way to build relationships and, in so doing, build your networks. Talk to people. Tell them what you do and what you’re looking for. Print up a cheap business card with your name, LinkedIn URL (if you don’t have your own website), and your email and phone number. Attend events that include people that aren’t just your competition. My volunteer efforts helped me meet people who became or referred me to my first clients. I didn’t have the budget to join a formal networking group, and when I was starting out, something like a BNI group didn’t make sense, because I didn’t have a network to refer others to, but do what feels right and what makes sense for you. 

Tip #5: Do Trades

When you’re starting out running your own business, see who you know that you can do trades with for services (often referred to as “contras”). Make sure that you know the value of what you offer, and draw up a proper letter of agreement (you can find templates online). For example, a friend of mine who is a talented graphic designer created my business cards for me, and in return, I rewrote and reworked her resume. Another friend of mine generously helped with set up my website and designed my logo (and didn’t even ask for anything in return!). Think about what you need and what you can do in exchange. 

Tip #5: Build Partnerships

Something that was invaluable for me what I was starting out was to build a relationship with a graphic designer who ran her own business. It was a completely logical fit, as she was able to advertise “full service” offerings to her clients, and then sub-contract the writing work to me. This way, I built my client list and portfolio, earned money, and built a great relationship with a talented designer. It was win-win! 

Tip #6: Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do informational interviews. Get advice from experts like the fabulous folks at Small Business BC. Start following people who might be potential clients or partners on social media (but keep it professional). 

And finally…

Trust that you can do this! Keep learning, keep writing, and know that although it will take time to build up a client list (I didn’t want to believe it but it’s true what they say about it being about 5 years to build up a business), you will. Running your own technical writing business or content writing company can be incredibly rewarding – terrifying at times – but I can safely say that I love what I do. 

Getting Back to Basics

Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

One of the hardest things after a long break is getting back into one’s routine… a new year, a new set of goals, but also the usual day-to-day responsibilities, and of course, work.

The plus side of a wonderful holiday is that it ideally gives you the energy and kick-start one needs to get going in the new year. However, when it has been SO relaxing, it can also take a long time to get back into the swing of things.

I find that what really helps me is to start small, and get back to basics. Build a list of goals, as well as a list of the essential “Have tos”; those naggy, admin-related things that just have to happen whether I like it or not. I then try and prioritise and ensure that the most important things get done first. Of course, having to also go back to teaching and the start of a new term means that I just have to do it… no excuses, no stalling (well maybe a little 🙂 )…

With my other work, it can be a lot harder, as all clients are a priority. One has to find the balance and not undo all the work of the relaxing holiday either! AH the fine line…

Personally, I am still struggling with jetlag, which takes a helluva long time to get over, and all the bits and bobs of post-travel come down. But here’s to a wonderful 2011, with less stress, more success, and above all, enjoyment and contentment.

Geraldine

R and R

Monday, 6 December, 2010

I know this can be a wickedly busy time of year, where everything gets blurry round the edges (wait, is that because of too much eggnog 🙂 ) and a little stressful, but don’t forget to take some time out to be thankful for friends and family, goodies and treats, and also to rest!

I plan on resting and recharging as much as I can, to ensure I am rearing to go for 2011. 2011!! It’s terrifying to write. As an entrepreneur and teacher, I spend most of the year giving a lot of my energy to students, clients, employers, family, friends etc. and so often I have to force myself to remember  to take some time for me, to give myself permission to take some time off (and that includes brain-time too; i.e. NOT thinking about next term, the next project, my to do lists).

Although I usually take time around my birthday to check in with myself and my list of goals and wants and needs, I also do like to think about what I want the next year to be like as the old year draws to a close. I am excited for new opportunities, new friendships, new projects, and of course, a new term of students. I also like to reflect on everything that has happened in the old year (good and bad) and see where I need to improve, what I am proud of, and what I would like to make sure I achieve in the following year.

Most importantly, however, is to just be in the moment and enjoy myself! Don’t forget to do this for yourselves.

Happy holidays to you all,

Geraldine

Where does the time go?

Tuesday, 16 November, 2010

A while back, I realised with a shock  how close it is to the end of another year! Yes, the Christmas decorations were competing with the Halloween decorations since about July, but when you look at the calendar and suddenly realise that 2011 is not so far away, it can be terrifying!

Each day, to paraphrase Jung, we fight apathy to decide whether or not to get up in the morning. Some days it is a LOT harder than others (especially when you confuse your cellphone text sound and the doorbell ringing – happened to me yesterday!). We have our tasks and our “to dos” and in between, relationships, life, friendships, family… taking time to walk barefoot on the grass or have a cup of tea in the sunshine. It can sometimes feel really overwhelming and crazy out there, and I know I often (as an entrepreneur) have to fight the urge to just hide at the computer (or under the duvet!), or allow myself to be distracted by time suckers like Facebook… It can be very hard to work that balance out each day. I also find that as the weather changes, and we descend into the darkness of winter, it gets even harder!

It is so strange to think that our lives revolve on an illusionary construct: time. We set appointments, meetings, classes, tasks… all based on something that doesn’t really exist. It’s weird, isn’t it? I’ve started counting the sleeps til my visit to South Africa at the end of the year (the first time in almost 4 years), but at the same time, I hate feeling like I am willing time away to get to something that I am looking forward to.

It is indeed a balance that we are trying to achieve in life, between appreciating the moment we are in, and setting goals in order to complete the tasks we want and need to complete. I have a million and one things to do before I fly south for some much needed summer sunshine, but I am also trying to ensure I don’t get lost in the “have tos” and “should haves”.

It’s a tricky tightrope.

Geraldine

For anyone who works from home…

Friday, 22 October, 2010

I LOVE The Oatmeal. Off the wall and  totally hilarious. I found this one today on “why working at home is both awesome and horrible”. Too funny!

Ridiculously funny artwork with a lot of truth.

Geraldine

Trust Your Instincts, and Your Self.

Friday, 15 October, 2010

As an entrepreneur, it is often so hard to stop yourself from doubting your every move. Am I doing enough? Too little? Should I take that client? Work with that company? Am I networking/promoting/earning enough? It’s enough to make your head spin!

I have found, as someone who has ended up on the path to opening her own business without a business background, that I tend to doubt myself. And yet, I have such strong instincts and have to remind myself of how much I have accomplished. I have to remind myself that I am not naively trusting someone, but that I have read them and know that I can do business with them and won’t have to struggle to get paid, or that my hard work for them will be recognised. And I also have to remind myself that if I trip up, it’s not the end of the world. But it can be tough to keep positive sometimes.

What are the things you do to keep positive? To keep your eye on your goals? Who supports you, if you work on your own? What strategies can you use to keep on track or learn more or expand your skills? How do you reach new clients? A new network? I’d be really interested to hear from you what works and doesn’t work, for you.

Sometimes it can be as simple as talking to someone and telling them what you need. Sometimes you have to do a lot of pavement pounding. And the best times are when everything serendipitously just falls into place. (If only it could always be like that, right?). The exciting part of this is nothing stays the same; there is always change and growth, and the opportunity to learn more about who you are and what you do.

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On a related, but slightly separate note, if you are an entrepreneur in Vancouver looking to expand your skills, then this might interest you. Wired Woman Vancouver (the organisation I volunteer for, and have just signed on as the Director of Communications for) is running a fantastic event on November 1st entitled Growing Your Business: Tips for Entrepreneurs. The event will run in a round table discussion format and features Bob de Witt from New Ventures BC, Valerie Mann, Lawson Lundell LLP, Bill Tam, CEO in Residence (Vancouver), Jeanette Jackson, CEO , Light-Based Technologies, and Lauren Kulokas, COO, of Energy Aware.

Not only will you get tips and ideas on legal issues, understanding your market, and financing, but also hear entrepreneurial success stories to help motivate and inspire you.  You can learn more on the Wired Woman website, and register for the event on the site too. Membership is free, so it makes to join, and then get members’ rates!

Sadly, I will be teaching that night and not able to make the event, but it’s going to be outstanding.

Keep trusting and learning,

Geraldine