“I do know that if I put something like ‘Texting is good for us’ in the title of a talk, I am guaranteed an audience.”
The quote above is Jeff Grabill’s explanation for the title of his recent Ted Talk – and spoiler alert – he doesn’t actually say if texting is good for us. He does, however, offer an insightful look at the power of networks and writing education.
Speaking engagingly and intelligently for almost 12 minutes is a uniquely difficult (and anxiety ridden) task. “[T]he situation was challenging. [...] I had to try to be interesting, engaging, and absolutely on time in a speech situation that was basically live TV … and without my typical memory aids.” explains Grabill.
As a rhetorician, however, Grabill was uniquely prepared:
“To prepare, then, I relied on my rhetorical training (Ta da!). Specifically, I created a memory palace, a very old technique for recalling a speech. It isn’t memorizing the speech, but in a classic memory palace, you imagine rooms of a house/palace and what you will say in each room. During the talk, one simply “walks through the palace.” Another take on the memory palace can be found in this season’s Sherlock.
Chris Messina, a former Google designer, first proposed the hashtag idea on Twitter back in 2007. However, he wanted to use the ‘#’ symbol as a way to create “groups”. Here’s his first tweet proposing the idea:
Much to his chagrin, Twitter rejected his idea then but took it up years later as a news feed sorting technique. Had Messina patented the hashtag idea back then, he could have earned quite a sum of money. However, he had two pretty good reasons for letting the hashtag become public property. “Claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support – across networks and mediums,” Messina explained. “I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.”
To learn more about Messina and the birth of the hashtag, check out Business Insider’s article here.
By the time you leave the Professional Writing program, you will have crafted more pieces of writing than you will ever know what to do with. It’s good practice. The breadth of experience and expertise you will take from the faculty and curriculum will give you a skill-set in high demand.
But when it comes to working as a freelance writer, there’s just not a lot that coursework can do to prepare you for the day-to-day business situations you’ll find yourself in. Here are some tips to avoid a big mistake I made getting started.
Watch Out For Rocks
When you first start working as a freelancer, it’s easy to jump right in to what you’ve learned, know, and love—creating high-quality content. Be careful though, there are some rocks beneath the surface. The reality of the freelance world—and this is certainly not unique to writers and content developers—is that many clients are not entirely certain about what they want, need, and more importantly what happens on the freelance side to make it happen. This can lead to confusion and friction down the road unless the scope of your work is laid out in advance. It’s in everyone’s best interest for both sides to know what is expected of them. Take the time to sit down and work through what needs to be done.
I consulted with a small, local client on marketing strategy and implementation. At the first board meeting, we spoke generally about direction and metrics/targets for the quarter.
During the next month’s meeting, I shared news about unexpected growth in a different area. One of the members later told me how confused some of the board was to not hear about what we had discussed during the first meeting. We had set no month-to-month targets or even discussed the need for monthly reports. Why would they think that? Because without explicitly outlining how we would handle updates and meetings, each member of the board developed their own expectation. That was my fault.
Come next month, I was prepared with every metric I had. It was much better received. Lesson learned—always manage expectations from the start and think ahead.
Remember Your Training
You are being brought on as a professional. Your input in negotiations is not only valuable, but necessary. The difficulty will come in building and maintaining those relationships. You don’t want to miss a deadline because you could not get information or feedback in a timely fashion. Give yourself breathing room and make sure the client knows what is expected of and from them.
Even if you don’t intend on making a freelance business your primary career, you will find that your skills and working knowledge are too valuable to not exercise on the side—especially in today’s economy. Keep an eye out for workshops and information from the Professional Writing program on how to get started.
“Adrian de Novato has been writing professionally since 2011. He currently writes for the Amway Corporation and has consulted with various business and public advocacy groups. He is a graduate of the professional writing program and lives in East Grand Rapids.”
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