Lessons from Chicago Women in Publishing: Guest Post by Rhiannon Falzone

Last week, a few lucky women from the MAWP program got to attend an event offered by Chicago Women in Publishing. Among them was Rhiannon Falzone, who was generous enough to write about what she learned at the event and share it with the rest of us in a very detailed guest post. You can read more of Rhiannon’s writing at any time at her personal blog, chicagogirlmoveson.blogspot.com. Thanks, Rhiannon!

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Chicago Women in Publishing (CWIP) is a nonprofit volunteer organization that began in 1972. This organization exists for non-professional editors and writers and individuals currently working in the writing and publishing industries.

On Wednesday, February 15, along with two other students from the MAWP program, I attended an event, The Freelance Edge: The Thrill of the Hunt: Finding and Retaining Great Clients. Over the course of two hours, I heard from experts on freelance writing and editing, business coaching, time management, and pricing management, giving the attendees tips on the best ways to efficiently market themselves.

The keynote speaker was Vickie Austin, a public speaker, business coach, career coach, and writer living in Chicago. There is a reason this woman makes a living from public speaking and coaching people on pursuing their passions; she commanded the room. The first thing she did was physically move the table at the front of the room. “Own the room!” she shouted.

Walking up and down the aisle in a room of forty-fifty people, 99% of them women, she advised all of us to, “Have a plan. You are in business and any good business has a written business plan for 3-5 years in the future.” She spoke of the actual physical endorphin rush one can get when accomplishing tasks on to-do lists; this is something that made me nod and nearly say, “Absolutely!” out loud.

Other tips she shared:

  1. Grow your “Golden Rolodex.” Know how to network for results. Use everyone who knows you by name, which is everyone who is breathing. Begin with who you know and be willing to give referrals as much as you ask for help.
  2. Find a community. I.e. Chicago Women in Publishing, where you can share your values and visions.
  3. Build your “posse.” Surround yourself with your cheerleaders, the people who support your mission.
  4. Figure out your mission. Find out what you love. Make your work something you love and can build and pass on.
  5. Give back. Be a mentor.

After the keynote speaker was finished, I chose to stay for a “Time Management” session with Kellie Christiansen, a freelance writer and editor. There was also the option of moving to adjoining rooms for talks on taxes and contract negotiations and the best ways freelance editors and writers can protect themselves. Kellie spoke about common pitfalls such as over-booking and under-booking ourselves, which are things we can control, and the thing we can’t control: distractions and surprises. She spoke of the four big “Don’ts.”

  1. Don’t let anyone else set your schedule. Be honest with a client about how long you estimate a project may take. The only thing a person has to trade on is their reputation.
  2. Don’t take on too much and don’t be afraid to ask for more time.
  3. Don’t be afraid to turn down projects. There will always be another one, truly.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more money. Time really is money. You are the one determining how much your work is worth.

From this event I took away the following:

Be organized and more importantly, keep yourself organized. I am in charge of my time and how I choose to spend it/who I give it to. It’s crucial to decide what my daily schedule will look like: how many hours a day do I want to spend writing? How many hours can I spend writing, realistically? How many freelance projects should I take on at one time? When do I do my best work? As I continue the MAWP program and consider doing freelance work, all of these are things I must consider so I’m able to do my best possible work.

The overall theme of the night was making a plan for yourself and how to put it to work. What’s your plan?

More information can be found on the Chicago Women in Publishing website: http://www.cwip.org/index.html.

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Do you have an idea for the next Ex Libris guest post? Email Maria at mhlohows@depaul.edu.

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