Feb 14

Hi Folks – Would love to hear how you have handled this sort of issue.

I’m poised to take a gig that will likely last three months, possibly longer. I’ll have to commute two hours a day. Client is cool with a charge, but left it up to me to structure it. And I have no clue about this.

All this is in Canada. My car is leased, but new, so there will be an overmileage charge, but not for 3 years. I am incorporated and pay corporate tax. Apparently I can claim mileage at $0.52/km. on my tax. I’ll check with insurance company on whether I need to up my coverage as a result of using car for business. What would I charge the client?


Thanks so much for any help.

Sue Johnston

Dec 21

Productivity Tools

by Monica Surfaro Spigelman Add Comments

Lateral Action posted the Ultimate Guide to Productivity Tools. Many interesting resources for us, please check it out if you are in need of online tools.

Happy holidays to all.

Dec 08

Hi Everyone,

Recently, an IABC member commented on my chapter’s reference to “freelancers” — those members who are not on staff of organizations — in an announcement for an upcoming program  as being limiting.  She considers herself an “independent communicator,” not a freelancer.  We didn’t intend to distinguish freelancers from independent communicators or sole proprietors.

But, this got me thinking about our use of the term.

Do you consider the terms “freelancer” and “independent” (as in “independent communicator”) to be synonymous?  If not, what is the distinction? Does “freelancer” have a negative connotation? Is the term “independent” readily understood by clients? Which term do you prefer and why? Or, is there another term that is better?

Thanks for your thoughts,


President, San Francisco IABC

Nov 20

Hello all,

In your experience, what problems have clients had with freelancers? (Not with you, of course. But in general.)

I don’t mean unreasonable clients, but reasonable ones. In other words, what do some freelancers do to cast us all in disfavor?

Horror stories are welcome, but also more routine problems. A writer who hasn’t quite mastered grammar, or repeatedly makes interview subjects angry, or knows English lit but is clueless in business. Or who bills way high and delivers way low.

I’m doing some research for a piece on the pros and cons of outsourcing, and I’ll gladly share it when it’s ready. I have a hunch the subject may be more relevant in the coming days.


Steve Marshall
Big writing for big business

Oct 22

Hi Everyone,

How do you keep track of clients and prospects? Do you have suggestions for a good prospect and client management system that is also inexpensive? I’ve heard of ACT and SalesForce.com. Do you have experience with these? Others?

Thanks for your suggestions.

Michaela Hayes

President, SF IABC

Oct 15

I’m the director of the Independent Communicators’ Roundtable group for the San Francisco chapter, and at our lunch last week the topic was elevator pitches.

It was a great conversation and I just wanted to share some of the points that came up:

  • Elevator pitches should not be about closing a sale but about making an introduction and starting a conversation. Overt selling at this stage is a turn-off.
  • Given that, how creative is too creative? Can we use analogies and metaphors? The general consensus was that short illustrative stories worked – You know when this happens, I help people to deal with it by doing X.
  • This was a stepping stone into a conversation that got right to the heart of elevator speeches and marketing ourselves– how do we define what we do? Can we differentiate what we offer from other people or companies?
  • Deciding to focus on a defined area, and offering that with confidence seem to be key. We all have the tendency to not want to boast but we also agreed we shouldn’t apologize for wanting to specialize or for not offering everything to everyone. Although choosing to focus sometimes means turning away work (scary!) it does open up your schedule to take on the work you really want to do.
  • Having a clear elevator pitch is one way to provide a focused definition of what you do, and backing that up with concrete examples and questions to ask will encourage conversation – which is the objective.

I also found a couple of useful sites when I was researching the topic:

·         15 second pitch : this site has a pitch wizard which got me started

·         A posting on Freelance Switch about improving pitches

·         A piece from the Guerrilla Consultant site about what’s wrong with most pitches


Sep 22

I recently made contact with the folks at the Alliance of Independent Practitioners over at IABC Toronto and signed up to their excellent newsletter. I just wanted to recommend it here and also their blog (which contains a link to their start-up guide for freelancers in the form of a wiki – how cool is that?)

One of the best things about being part of IABC is that you really can network with like-minded souls across vast distances. Also seeing other what other IABC Chapters and groups do online by way of promotion really inspires me to get on and do something for the Independent Communicators Roundtable here in San Francisco.

But it also got me wondering – what other groups are out there for independent communicators in IABC?

Sep 03

I just came across this helpful post at Freelance Folder which looks at bundles of web applications to help with everything from invoicing to task management and file sharing. It includes the Freshbooks application which Barb Gibson highlighted recently, and caters for those on a budget as well as those with a bit more moolah.

If you have anything to add to the list at Freelance Folder, be sure to circle back and share it here, too!

Aug 28

There are loads of great things about being newly self-employed – like having the perfect excuse to curl up on the sofa and read as much as I can about freelancing, all in the name of research. These, in no particular order, are my top 5 books for newbies:

The Well Fed Writer: Peter Bowerman

I love this book. It’s packed with solid advice on marketing yourself and dealing with typical freelancing issues but because Peter Bowerman’s style is so relaxed this is more friendly conversation than lecture. It’s not going to help you write a novel, or get published in magazines but if you write or edit for businesses – like me- it’s a great place to find examples and encouragement.

Get Clients Now!: C J Hayden

C J Hayden has taught me to put together a marketing plan and stick to it – meaning I can’t make excuses and put off what I know I need to do. And because it’s based on creating month-long plans, it’s really good for flakes like me who can’t manage longer term planning but still want direction.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business: Barbara Weltman

OK – back to basics. I am a sole proprietor, working from home, and this book has information on everything from taxes to how not to be lonely when you have no water cooler to gather around. It’s not the definitive guide to the legal and financial side but it does explain the basics in a simple way, and I know I’m going to keep needing that. Also it has a great list of useful business websites.

NOLO Small Business Start up kit for California

The gold medal winner in the setting-up-in-business Olympics. Every question I had about legal and tax issues was answered, and there’s a really informative section on pricing, bidding and billing for projects – mysteries to me before I read this. If you want to know how to write a business plan, or what you need to do to keep the taxman happy or how to carry out a focus group with your customers – NOLO rocks!

The 4 Hour Workweek: Timothy Ferris

I read this book for a discussion group and people were sharply divided about whether Timothy Ferris was a charlatan or guru.  I certainly don’t want to follow his example of setting up an e-business, and I really have no desire to compete in martial arts tournaments, but I did come away from this book with an important revelation – you have to decide what you are working for.

In my case, I had built up a pretty good corporate career. I worked hard to pay bills, put away money for my old age, and buy stuff to reward myself for surviving another week.  Reading this book started me thinking about how choosing to work the way I did kept me from the experiences I enjoy– travel, horse riding, spending time with family.

I don’t want a 4-hour workweek, I enjoy working way too much for that, but this book sparked new thoughts for me about what I do want – which is why I’m now a freelancer.

So – that’s my top five. What hidden gems have I missed? What books would you recommend to fellow freelancers for inspiration or advice?

Aug 21

I just came across Freshbooks yesterday, it’s an online tool for tracking time and billing clients.  I had been looking for something like this for some time, because at least for one client, who likes very detailed reports, I found I was spending far too much time creating those reports.  Inevitably, I didn’t keep detailed records along the way (just a series of sticky-notes and calendar entries, so compiling them at the end of a month became a huge job.  Freshbooks has a low-end free offering, and also several very reasonably priced packages (all with a free 30-day trial).  So I’ve started trying it out, and in a matter of minutes I’m up-to-date on my August reporting. 

Anyone else have good tools to recommend?