Scaling for Writers: Writing Tips

tips for writersAs a freelance writer, I feel that talking about building our business is often a taboo subject. After all, you can’t let the competition—whoever they may be—know the intricacies of our chosen field. I mean, what would happen? Once we let out the secret, the market will be flooded with would-be hacks that will drive our prices down below our hard-earned market rate. Oh man, that sounds like dangerous territory.

Wrong and wrong again. Good writers are hard to find, and clients know this. There’s countless examples of clients hiring cheap,  only to be left with an incomprehensible mess that ultimately takes more time than hiring someone with the skills necessary to complete the job.

Experienced writers have all done it beforehand; therefore, we know just what “value” really is. However, this article isn’t necessarily about quality; it’s about scaling.

Scaling sounds like a buzzword bandied about by pseudo-intellectual entrepreneurs, but hear me out: how well you scale your business determines how well your business will prosper. After all, no one wants to stay stuck performing the same task for days on end. No, we want to progress to higher planes of achievement and achieve our not-too-distant financial goals while staying true to our craft: writing.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what scaling is and how freelance writers can take advantage of simple concepts that ultimately pay dividends. After all, you don’t want to be doing the same job forever, do you? Let’s begin.

What is Scaling?

I want to ask you a question that your guidance counselor should have asked you: where do you see yourself in five years? Think about it for a moment. Where are you currently in your business? For me, I spend a large amount of time hunched behind my laptop, churning out word after word for my lovely clients. I don’t think I’ll be operating in this fashion forever, but I ask myself: how can I make this easier and more profitable?

Enter “scaling”. How is it defined? Let’s ask our friend Wikipedia:

Scalability is the capability of a system, network, or process to handle a growing amount of work, or its potential to be enlarged in order to accommodate that growth.”

Okay, that definition may seem a bit off-putting, but my initial idea remains the same:

More money, less work.

Thinking in terms of scaling, how can you make your business more profitable while decreasing the amount of effort that you’re expending. Follow my example and learn…

A Common Misconception

Writing is often a personal undertaking. Hour after hour, we consider every nuance so that we both satisfy our client’s demands and create work that we can be proud of. I hear you, but let’s also consider this: what are you doing that can be done by someone else? Just how much of your writing is “you” and how much could be performed by another person? I hate to break it to you, but there’s generally little that I write that wouldn’t have been written by someone more talented than myself.

Does that feel weird? It should. The reason behind this is that writing—the act of transmitting thoughts, fact, and opinions via the written word—doesn’t necessarily need “you” in the mix. Sad but true.

Think of how a restaurant manager operates: new employees are acclimatized to a new environment, reproducing recipes and work that ultimately gets the overall job finished, day after day. While it may be a rocky endeavor to begin with, anyone who has ever worked for a long-established business will tell you the same thing: it seems to run itself no matter who is flipping the burgers. The same goes for writing.

What Are You Holding Onto?

I assume you’re choking on your beverage right now, but this is for your own good. Scaling is a logical step in a direction towards bringing more efficient means and/or other people into your business idea. Remember, once you set off the path towards becoming a freelancer, you set the rules.

It all comes down to whatever preconceived ideas about freelance writing that you’ve held onto. Many of my clients are former writers that realized just how much effort and time it takes to craft something that resonates with the public. You should come to the same realization and act accordingly. Ask yourself the following question:

“Subtracting myself, how much of the current workload that I undertake could be finished by someone else without degradation to the final product?”

Like sausage, I don’t care how it is made; all I care is if it’s delicious. Your clients are looking for that same tasty pepperoni.

My advice is that you find areas of your business where tasks that you’re undertaking could be better performed by another person or another method, and implement them. By understanding where you don’t matter, you can move on to the task at hand and create better work with less effort. The more you adjust for scaling, the more time you have for either a) creating a bigger business, or b) creating the same business with less effort.

My Own Example of Scaling

You’re probably more familiar with this concept than you think you are. You’ve probably used scaling all your life without knowing it; mathematics is a natural example of this:

In grade school, learning your multiplication tables may have seemed like a daunting task when your teacher first posited the idea. Instead of memorizing addition tables and counting fingers, those same multiplication tables are merely just a quick calculation nowadays. Goodbye arithmetic, hello multiplication. Instead of adding twelve instances of 12, you know that by using multiplication short cuts, that 2 x 12 is 24. 10 times 12 is 120. Adding both of those together, we arrive at the total: 144. The same goes for writing.

In my own freelancing experience, I faced similar quandary: a client needed a tri-fold brochure composed for their real-estate business. I have first-hand experience using InDesign and similar programs, but I estimated the project to take twice as long if I had to do it all myself.

After careful deliberation, I knew what to do. I created a mock-up of what I wanted accomplished and subcontracted the idea to a reliable freelancer. She took my designs and exceeded my expectations. A project that was normally slated for 40 hours of laboring only took 20, cutting my workload for half. The freelancer worked while I slept; I felt like a client. Of course, I paid a generous portion to my freelancer, but the end-product was outstanding. My client was happy, my freelancer was satisfied with the fee I paid them, and it taught me a valuable lesson: you’ve got to scale your business. Repeat after me: how can I make this easier and more profitable?

* * *

Remember that your hourly rate should be a fixed figure; if you are doing work to “make up” these lost and uncompensated hours, you’re working too hard. We all do it, but please stop. You’re only losing sight of the end-game: to make money writing with less efort.

Again, think of the pepperoni. I don’t care how it’s done as long as it is delicious. Make your business delicious and start scaling today.

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