Tuesday, February 3, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: Juggling Marketing and Motherhood

This week, I've invited fellow writers to share their marketing tips and tricks, either as guest bloggers or by answering a few of my questions. Today's guest blogger is Sara Aase, a freelance writer who blogs about personal finance at Cash on the Barrelhead.

As a freelance writing mom, she knows more than a little about squeezing as much quality time out of her work hours as possible. If you're in a similar situation, I hope this will help you feel a little less alone. If you don't have kids, read on--there's plenty we can all learn from her shrewd approach to marketing.

"How many hours are you working a week?" is the first question that freelance writing moms ask each other. (Dads, I don't mean to exclude you--but if you exist, I haven't met you.) Freelancing as a business is properly a full-time-plus endeavor. You need eight to ten hours a day to market, do research, schedule interviews, write, blog, maintain your social networking sites, answer email, invoice, follow-up, etc.

Marketing, in particular, is often the first activity to fall off after you have kids. If, like me, your business has taken big body blows after each birth, you know what I'm talking about. It's hard to advertise your services if you can't count on a reliable way to be reliable. I don't know where you are in that precarious work-kid balance right now--and I'm not going to tell you it's easy to do this with limited hours, because it absolutely is not. But here's what I've learned, and I hope it helps:

The Personal Connection is Fastest

There's so much emphasis on querying for freelance writers that it's easy to forget to tap who you already know. The fastest and best way to get your name back out there and drum up work for yourself is to reconnect with old clients, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. These people already know you or know of you. Tell them what you've written before, what you're writing now, and what you want to write.

You can do this:
  • in big email blasts;
  • through Facebook;
  • through LinkedIn;
  • on Twitter;
  • by phone; or
  • in person, as your schedule allows.
Take a half hour and write down the name of everyone you can think of, and then put them on your to-do list as you have time. Have coffee, lunch, or a drink with someone. A former colleague of mine (and freelancer mom) hit me out of the blue on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, wanting to take me out for lunch. It was fantastic. We both got a ton of different names and marketing ideas from each other. And I can't emphasize how important it is to get out of the house and feel professional again.

It's Okay to Say No to Some Goals, For Now

One of the hardest things to accept as a part-time freelancer is that I can't do everything or be everywhere all at once. I've had "join ASJA" on my list of professional goals for at least three years. But I'm going to defer that goal yet again for at least another year, and possibly even until 2012 when both kids are in school full-time. (I just shuddered as I typed "2012.")

Hopefully it won't have to wait that long. But this year, I can't afford the cost of joining, plus the cost of attending the conference in New York, which I'd like to do as a new member to take advantage of the extra bump for personal pitch. Plus, it's all I can do right now to keep up on the market guides and connections I have elsewhere. I felt so relieved that I know it's the right decision.

Outsource Tasks

I've realized, working only about four hours a day, that it's most critical for me to market or write during that time. In order to boost the number of queries I can get out the door each week, I've hired a part-time assistant (a journalism-school graduate) to help me do research.

I also have her write up notes for me on webcasts (on using Twitter and LinkedIn effectively, for example) or other tasks I don't have time for. This is brand new for me, and only possible now because I'm working a steady 20 hours a week. If you ask yourself, "Who could I get to help me?" maybe you can think of other resources.

For example, maybe your sitter could scan clips for you if she has some downtime. Maybe you can hire your own (now older) son or daughter, or the neighbor kid. Maybe you've got a husband who is a crack transcriber.

And if you're falling apart reading this because it all just seems impossible, that's okay, too. Let yourself feel it, then pull yourself back together. Take a look back at what you've accomplished while you thought you were getting nowhere, because I bet it's a lot more than you think. Remember, the world needs your skills and your expertise, so give it to them, even if, for now, it's only a bit at a time.

Have other tips for maximizing marketing if you're short on time? Share them in the comments.


About the book said...

This post is full of really good, solid advice. It *IS* hard to juggle work and kids but it's really rewarding (despite the dips in the bank account bottom line) and it means you get to actually experience your children's childhoods when they are little. I sat next to a guy on a plane who was older and so regretful. Why? Because he was such an absent father and now is estranged from his adult children...

Anonymous said...

Do you find that you have to leave the house to make full use of those four hours? Or are you able to concentrate at home.

It works in spurts for me. There are several weeks when I can do a lot of work at my home office, and other times when I need a change of scenery in order to concentrate.

Anonymous said...

@Margarette: Great question. Most of the time I am here, just because it takes no time to move everything I'm working on somewhere else. And sometimes that's hard, because my kids and my sitter are here, too. So if things aren't going well, that's not good for the concentration! It is great when I can get out to the coffee shop sometimes.

Lisa Romeo said...

I have to echo your advice on not being hard on oneself because you can't get to everything you would like to do. I know that feeling of having something (a very worthy something, like your ASJA membership) on a list for months or even years.

Lately I find it helps to have several kinds of lists going -- weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual, and why not, a big pie-in-the-sky "maybe someday" list too.

Even though this sounds kind of corny and too Oprah-esque, I also recently made a vision board, simply because it helps to get the long-range ideas out of my head (and from sticking in my craw)and moves them from the category of something I feel guilty about NOT having done yet - to another category of "I'll get there someday."

Kerry Dexter said...

thanks for the wise ideas, Sara (and Heather). I'm not dealing with kids at present but other heavy and unexpected challenges that have made it hard to work on my business full time, and being reminded that I actually have accomplished a good bit, as well as the other fine ideas about moving forward, is really helpful.