First off, a huge thanks to everyone who participated in Building Your Freelance Business: A Special 1-day Seminar for Writers and Editors!, co-presented by the Editors’ Association of Canada (Toronto Branch) and the Professional Writers Association of Canada—Toronto Chapter on Jan. 19, 2013.
First up in the morning was Diane Davey, president of Castledale Inc., and executive director of Work In Culture. She talked about business planning for freelancers: setting a vision for your business, supported by Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely (S.M.A.R.T) goals. Those goals are further supported by specific strategies and action steps, which you’ll track by setting clear outcomes and measurables.
That planning model, she explained, is used by businesses, non-profits and arts organizations, and can be a powerful tool for freelancers to avoid drifting. People found it challenging but useful to start thinking about their business as a separate entity. And Diane reminded us that it is important to check in with clients, colleagues and ourselves on a regular basis to get a reality check on how we are doing as professionals.
Next up was Darren G. Rotsch, CPA, CA, MMPA, BASc, who gave us practical tips for keeping our finances organized. He suggested keeping an accordion file for each year. The file helps you separate and file receipts right away so that nothing goes missing and you can easily write off all your expenses at tax time. He also reminded us that when we collect HST, we are just temporarily holding the government’s money, and suggested setting up a separate bank account and transferring the equivalent of the HST on an invoice as soon as you are paid so that you don’t accidentally spend it, and find yourself in a crunch when you have to remit. We also talked about the quick method as being a good option for freelancers to cut down on HST administration and possibly even save some money.
Thanks to Sandy Crawley, executive director of PWAC, for walking people through the new writers.ca site. Tutorials are online for anyone who wants a refresher.
The afternoon was buzzing with group discussions. Here are just a few highlights from the facilitators:
Jane Langile on Networking with Colleagues:
“Participants were members of a diversity of organizations, including: PWAC, EAC, The Writers Union of Canada, Crime Writers of Canada, The Plain Language Association International, Canadian Association of Public Speakers, Travel Media Association of Canada and The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.” They talked about what they got out of various groups: camaraderie, professional development, accreditations and practice at networking so they are better equipped to get out there and pitch themselves. Jane says the key learning was “attend events in your niche, where you will find your type of clients and be one of a few writers or editors in the room!”
Lynn Biscott on Planning Your Financial Future:
“Both my groups were keen to learn about TFSAs. These are a great way for freelance writers to set aside money for the future, whether that means short term to pay their income tax, HST and CPP at the end of the year, or longer term for retirement savings. But you have to understand the rules so you don't get hit with penalties.”
Luigi Benetton on Get LinkedIn:
“When speaking about LinkedIn, most people say two things: they have profiles but they don't know what to do with them.” Luigi walked people through an exercise to write a strong profile that would speak to potential clients and everyone swapped tips. Have you looked up any past clients lately? Why not reach out?
Ben Benedict on Managing Your Brand:
“The concept of ‘consistency’ in your brand—e-mail, websites, letterhead/invoices, and business cards—raised a few eyebrows. Social media is all the rage, but it does not replace face-to-face meetings or networking.” They talked about how your business brand and your social identities can dovetail, and how to manage both well and consistently within your own limits.
I led Contracts, Estimates and Invoices, and my biggest takeaway is that we need more discussions about contracts, estimates and invoices! A lot of freelancers find estimates especially challenging. We talked about knowing your systems and your value so that you can account for everything you do, and demonstrate the value of your service in your estimates.
Feel like you missed out? PWAC members can download audio recordings of Diane and Darren’s talks on the biz forum on writers.ca - look for the topic, PWAC/EAC event: Building Your Freelance Business.