Wisdom overflowed from the Freelance Austin meeting room on September 11th, where WCA peer mentors shared the best advice they’ve ever given. First we heard from one of the leaders of the WCA Peer Mentor program. Then the three panelists and the moderator intrigued the audience with insights about burning questions related to freelancing.
What is the WCA Peer Mentor Program?
Women Communicators of Austin (WCA) is an organization which helps women in communications fearlessly architect their careers. Jane Baxter Lynn is the leader of the WCA Peer Mentor program.
There are currently 23 mentors in the program, and any member of WCA is eligible to become a mentor or mentee. Anyone who has any life experience can help mentees brainstorm about career changes and sticky work situations.
If you’re already a member of WCA and interested in participating in the program as a mentor or mentee, you can sign up here.
After the audience learned about the WCA Peer Mentor program, Julie Tereshchuk moderated an intriguing and lively panel discussion. Tereshchuk is editor-in-chief of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She kicked off the conversation by asking the panelists to address a question that many mentees ask their mentors: How much should I charge?
How Much Should I Charge?
Many freelancers are tempted to tiptoe around questions related to rates, so it was refreshing to hear Mary Ann Roser’s straightforward take on how to charge a client. Roser is a journalist and freelance writer/founder of Roser Prose, LLC.
“In my mind I have a minimum,” Roser said. “I will not work for less than X. If it’s something I want to do, I figure how many hours it will take me to do it. I will charge more for writing than I will for editing, because writing is a lot more involved. If it’s in my area of expertise–healthcare–I bump the price up. If it’s consulting it will be more.”
Next to chime in with an innovative solution was Anne Lasseigne Tiedt, who is principal and co-owner of Momentum Public Relations, LLC. She explained that when considering taking on a new client, her firm asks the potential client to complete an in-depth intake form.
The questionnaire asks how much of the work the client expects to do themselves and how much they would like Momentum to handle. The questionnaire also asks for a general budget. Based on the information, Anne and her partner can judge if there’s alignment. Anne said, “We’re looking to work with nice people who can pay.”
Throughout the panel discussion, audience members chimed in with advice they’d received that had been especially helpful. One attendee suggested charging a retainer as much as possible over project-based or hourly rates. Your clients are paying for your brainpower, even when you’re sleeping, picking up your kids from school, or cooking dinner. The retainer reserves a corner of your brain for the client.
With the money question out of the way, the moderator pivoted to ask another question frequently on the minds of freelancers: How to set boundaries with their time.
How Do I Set Boundaries?
As Communications and Organizing Strategist/Founder at Dashboard Priorities, Christine Moline is well equipped to share expertise about efficiency and productivity.
“My biggest message is to be flexible but set your anchors,” Moline said. “If you have a part-time job while you’re freelancing that’s anchor number one. Exercise? Schedule it as an anchor, too.”
She suggested thinking of it like a puzzle. “Put the pieces of the puzzle in place to make sure you don’t burn out,” she said.
Moline said that Apple calendar is invaluable for blocking out her time and helping her set those boundaries. She also recommended Marco Polo to facilitate communicating by video chat with family and friends. It takes away the urgency of texting or phone calls, since users leave video messages.
At this point, a member of the audience offered up this wisdom about just how critical setting boundaries can be. She said:
A long-time communication person told me years ago–when it comes to pricing, time, convenience, and your needs–hold your boundaries, because whatever you’re willing to give someone is willing to take. You earn respect by doing that.
Many of the 30 or so other attendees nodded in agreement.
Throughout the discussion, anyone who had a question could write it on a stickie note and deliver it to the moderator. The next question discussed came from one of these notes.
How do I evaluate if I should or should not accept a project?
Roser evaluates projects on whether she finds them fun, interesting and ethical. She said that she doesn’t want to do things that she doesn’t care about, because she knows the end product won’t be as good.
Lasseigne Tiedt added that you should ask yourself whether you want to do all the same type of work, because that can be efficient. Or, do you want variety so that you don’t get bored?
It seemed all too soon that there was only time left for one more question, so the moderator asked panelists to discuss how they promote their work.
What’s your self-promotion process?
Lasseigne Tiedt suggested having a series of breakfast or lunch meetings throughout the year to keep contacts warm and let them know you’re open for business.
Roser said she volunteers for industry panels that address her target audience.
Then Moline offered these wise words:
Be more focused on being interested than interesting….And gratitude goes a long way.
Long after the official panel ended, the room remained jam-packed with attendees who continued the conversation.
Freelance Austin is grateful to everyone from the WCA Peer Mentor program who showed us first-hand how mentors can fast-track career growth and development.
Jane Baxter Lynn – Leader of WCA Peer Mentor Program, Principal, JBL Strategies
Anne Lasseigne Tiedt – Principal and Co-Owner, Momentum Public Relations, LLC
Christine Moline – Communications and Organizing Strategist/Founder of Dashboard Priorities
Mary Ann Roser – Journalist and Freelance Writer/Founder of Roser Prose, LLC
Julie Tereshchuk – Editor-in-chief, Texas Lifestyle Magazine
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