I might be less gullible than an 80-year-old grandma, but my hubris lowered my defenses — and it nearly cost me thousands of dollars. Here’s my story, along with six smart takeaways.
Imagine that you’re a freelancer. A potential client gets referred to you by a trusted colleague. It’s a colleague you’ve been working with for years, and everyone he’s connected you with has proven to be a serious prospect. You’re so excited that you make a rookie mistake known to anyone who’s gone on a first date in the last decade: You fail to Google the guy.
The project at hand (writing the script for a workshop) has an aggressive deadline (less than one week), along with two provisions you’ve never encountered: The client doesn’t care about the tone or style of the text; he just wants it to be “informative.” And he wants it not as a Microsoft Word or Google document, which are easily editable, but as an Adobe Acrobat P.D.F., which is not.
Why is this odd? Most people who hire a ghostwriter care about their words; that’s why they pay big bucks for a pro. Also, most want to tweak writing that goes out under their name; rare is the client who accepts whatever you’ve written uncontested.
On one hand, these requests constitute red flags. On the other, they also make your job easier. Your mind leans toward the latter.
Let the way a prospect couches his request determine your next steps.
Here’s a scenario all freelancers will bump into at some point: I recently completed a project running LinkedIn ads for a client. My client then referred me to a friend of his, who sent me the following email:
“I’d love to chat with you about LinkedIn when you have a minute.”
Here’s how I responded:
“Sure thing! Do you have a specific project in mind? In case you don’t have the link, here’s more about my services.”
I never heard back. Any ideas why?
Here’s my best guess: This guy didn’t want me to hire me. He wanted free advice.
Please stop using this nonapology apology.
Have you ever told someone, “I’m sorry if you feel that way”?
If so, please know that this is most certainly not an apology. It’s not even close.
In fact, this everyday phrase is one of the most specious, one of the most insidious, and one of the most repugnant in the English language. It’s a head nod toward contrition, but it’s unforgivably devoid of sincerity and ownership.
Let’s unpack the explosive meaning of these seven little words.
Here’s the first tip I provide in my workshop on how to master phone calls: Give people a choice.
What does this mean? It means that not every call needs to be a video call.
How does one become a ghostwriter?
Well, a new profile of yours truly shares the secrets to my success. Here’s an excerpt:
“Rick’s opinion writing appears regularly in places like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, C.N.N., U.S.A. Today, and Fast Company.
“There’s just one catch: His byline rarely appears on the op-eds.
Wikipedia has a lot of rules. And if you don’t know them, you’ll have great difficulty adhering to them.
As a Wikipedia consultant, I encounter the following conflict every day: Everyone wants a Wikipedia page for themselves, their C.E.O., or their organization, yet few people know what it takes to create one.
Indeed, half my job consists of counseling clients on what’s possible and what’s not. In that spirit, I’ve written a six-part checklist for those considering a plunge down the rabbit hole.
Why you should send emails when you’re angry.
“Count to 10.”
“Breathe from your diaphragm.”
“Stick with ‘I’ statements.”
Most advice about anger management comes down to this: Don’t act when you’re angry.
Allow me to offer a contrarian viewpoint: When it comes to email, do act when you’re angry. Received a nastygram? Respond in kind. Hand a mike to that voice inside your head that’s shouting, “What a jerk this guy is!”
Let me explain.
By reframing a hostile question.
A few days ago, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced a coronavirus vaccine that’s cheap and easy to make. Yet shortly afterward, the company was forced to disclose a critical mistake.
Making matters worse, AstraZeneca chose not to publicize the mistake, as it had done with its initial results. Instead, the company notified regulatory officials and Wall Street analysts in private conference calls.
Predictably, the story soon spread, which prompted a reporter to ask the obvious:
Why didn’t AstraZeneca share the negative news with the public?
Before your client asks what you can do for him, ask him what he can do for you.
“My computer crashed.”
“My password doesn’t work.”
“I can’t connect to the internet.”
In our Age of Gadgets, such complaints are inescapable. Yet the language we use to describe them is exasperatingly vague.
Every word counts — and none more so than your first few.
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
That seems obvious, right? Yet you’d be surprised by the number of people who disregard or downplay this advice when writing a cover letter.
In our business-writing course at the University of Maryland, we teach the art and science of writing a cover letter. We explain how to create a hook. We present ideas for personal connections. And yet, every semester, some students believe that it’s ok to launch this critical document on the strength of a weak opening line:
“Dear Mr. McGarry, My name is C.J. Cregg, and I’m writing to apply for…”
If ever there were a wasted opportunity, this is it.