Aaah, Billing Day! But…

It always makes me feel warm and safe when I send out invoices at the end of the month or at the end of a project. But I get a cold chill when I realize that most clients don’t pay me for another month. calendar_pages

Is there a way around this time-lag between billing and receiving the money?

Some smaller clients who have control of their checkbooks will write a check sooner. But big companies with Accounts Payable people seem to drag their big corporate feet. Either that, or it takes that long to go through the maze of corporate bookkeeping.

The bills I get are due within a week or two. Like for utilities, insurance, mortgage payments and other things. At the Quik-Trip, it’s pay right then or go home hungry. So why do big companies get the big breaks?

If anybody has devised a system for being paid sooner than 30 days later, please share.

Y’see, I have an interest-bearing checking account. And for every day my receivables are delayed, I’m forfeiting interest! Actually losing money! So what should I do, charge clients my unearned interest for 30 days?

What do you do? I’d really love to know.

Time Machine saved my life!

Just imagine this:

You’ve spent a whole hour interviewing someone by phone for an article. You typed it out on your computer while talking, instead of relying on hastily scribbled (unreadable) notes. How professional of you! Then you moved on to a different project. Then you called your tech-savvy friend to see how to get rid of some annoying pop-up messages and a few other issues. The fix for one thing was to empty the Trash. So that’s what you did.

Your tech-savvy friend had been extolling the virtues of Time Machine (We’re Mac people; you PC people can go do something else for awhile.). You: “Hm. Interesting.” While barely paying attention. When would I ever need THAT?, you think. I save absolutely everything. If they ever have a writers’ version of “Hoarders,” I’ll be on it. Thanking your friend, you hang up.

Dissolve to next day —

You open Word files related to the article you were working on. One after another. Looking for your interview notes. Uh-oh. Search the Trash folder in vain. OMG! I THREW AWAY MY NOTES! you cry. Am I going to have to call that poor woman and interview her all over again? OH NOOOOO.
Then you remember a few words your friend said about Time Machine. You bumble around for a few minutes, then stumble upon the right button. Suddenly, a 3-D depiction of the last, say, 20 backups it did (once an hour) appears to leap out of the screen at you. Wowsers! You click one toward the back, and in a couple more clicks, there’s your interview document! SAVED!

After a couple more simple maneuvers, you’ve restored it to your desktop as a Word document, and voila! It’s as if you weren’t an idiot after all.

Time Machine saved my tuchas. Someday it may save yours.

This has been a public service message from one relieved writer to you.

Avalanche of work

When it snows, it blizzards. Or something like that. 4Q ’09 was bleak. As of January 1, the avalanche rumbled down the mountain, and suddenly, everybody wanted a brochure, some articles, a proposal, and so on. WOW!
Wrote a brochure for one client yesterday, got feedback they loved it and are going right into layout. That never happens!

Today, need to interview a couple of people for a company newsletter. Then, yesterday, out of the blue, someone I’d written an article for months ago needs another one written — due Thursday!

Everything is due this week and Monday. Had planned to visit my mother in Jeff City for her 94th birthday this weekend. Hope I can get everything done in time to go Saturday, but in case I can’t, I’ve had a lovely FTD bouquet sent to her on Friday, her actual birthday.

Hope everything is going well for you, whoever you are. Now, back to work. Or lunch. Yes, definitely, lunch first, to fortify me for those interviews.

BTW, if you have any projects you’ve been sitting on for awhile, get off them and call me. I’ll fit your project in next week. Promise!


Career articles — ironic?

Recently, I wrote some career-advancing articles for a client. Whattya know? While researching, I was shocked to discover some of the dumb mistakes I’d made during my own career. Oops. Well, now I know — only a decade or so too late. Freelancing suits me better anyhow. Employers rarely let you have a parakeet chirping in your space and a cat purring on your lap. And cubicles are creepy.

OK, here’s one of the articles. Think I wrote about eight in all.

Do I Really Need to Send a Cover Letter with My Resume?

The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” writing-main_Full

But, you say, “My resume has everything in it employers need to know.” Wrong! It only lists your job titles and employers, your responsibilities, and your accomplishments. But it doesn’t explain how all that qualifies you for this specific position.

Sending a resume to a potential employer without a cover letter is like walking up to a complete stranger on the street and handing them your resume. Without a cover letter, you haven’t said anything to convince the employer to read your resume.

Your cover letter gives the potential employer a taste of your personality and attitude, spells out specifically how your skills and experience are relevant to the position, and shows you’re not only familiar with the company’s mission, but can help them fulfill it.

A cover letter is the first step toward getting that interview you’re requesting. So put your best foot forward with a great letter!

Write a Great Cover Letter. But First…

    Step One: Check Your Resume

Make sure your resume is current. Does it include every position you’ve held in the last 10 years (if you’ve been working that long), the responsibilities you had, and the achievements that would interest an employer in your field?

Your generic resume won’t be the one you send to every employer. You will want to tweak your basic resume to position yourself most effectively for specific employers. The following targeting tips for your cover letter will help you customize your resume, too.

    Step Two: Research Your Target Company

In archery, you aim for the bull’s-eye. It’s the same in your job search. To target your message effectively, you need to find out what the company is all about. The company’s website will help you learn about its mission, organizational structure, values and culture, and its clients or customers.

Try to find the name of the manager of the department you hope to join, or the name of the Human Resources person. It’s much more effective to address your cover letter to a specific person than “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear sir or madame.”

    Step Three: Connect the Dots

Think about how your skills and experience connect to specific experiences, attributes or abilities the employer is asking for in the ad or job post. When you connect the dots, you create a picture of you as a valuable asset to the department or company.

    Writing the Letter

Your cover letter will consist of one page filled with three or four carefully crafted, interesting paragraphs, in the following order:

Paragraph One:

Open with “Dear Mr./Ms. So-And-So.” Then, in two or three sentences, introduce yourself, tell them what position you’re applying for and why you’re contacting them (Don’t bother with how you learned about the opening, as in, “I’m writing in response to your CareerBuilder ad on January 10.”). Explain why you’re interested in working for this particular company.

Paragraph Two:

The purpose of your letter is to sell this employer on the idea of asking you in for an interview. So in the second paragraph, state your relevant experience and show how well it fits the employer’s requirements. Offer your two or three strong selling points and examples. Show enthusiasm, but without going overboard.

Paragraph Three:

In a few sentences, point the employer to your resume, indicate your availability for an interview, and provide your contact information (phone, e-mail). End with a positive statement about your desire to discuss the opportunity further, at a time that’s convenient for them, and thank them for their consideration.


You can close with “Sincerely,” “Yours truly,” or “Regards.” If your letter is on paper, leave four blank lines and sign your name. Some people think it’s better to sign in blue ink, so it doesn’t look like a copy. If you’re sending an e-mail, leave a couple of blank lines, then type your name.

After Writing the Letter

    How’s Your Spelling?

Be sure to proofread your letter before sending it. SpellCheck helps, but it’s not foolproof. It ignores correctly spelled words, even if they’re not the correct words to use in a particular context. For example, if you wrote “lion’s liar” instead of “lion’s lair,” SpellCheck wouldn’t notice the mistake.

    Check Sentence Construction

Have you used active voice throughout, or did you slip into passive voice? Active voice is, “In this job, I created a system for…,” and passive voice would be, “A system was created that…” You want to be the actor, not a passive observer. So use active voice.

    Strike the Right Tone

You should sound objective and professional, but not stuffy. Friendly and upbeat, but not casual. Words like “heretofore” will make you sound too professorial. “My BFF” or other slang expressions will make you sound immature and flippant. Stick with simple, clear, non-colloquial terminology.

    How’s Punctuation?

If you’re unsure about the difference between “their” and “they’re,” or “its” and “it’s,” check a punctuation guide online or at the library. Be sure you know where and how to use commas and dashes, too.

    Use the Correct Format

Whether you’re sending a letter on paper or attaching a Word file to an e-mail, you will need to use a standard business letter format. You can find examples of block style, modified block style, and others online.

    Following Up

How long should you wait after sending your cover letter and resume before following up with the employer? That’s hard to say.

Remember that managers and HR people get buried in applications, and it takes time to sort them into “go” and “no” piles. Then it takes more time for someone to call and schedule interviews. You want to show you’re interested, but you don’t want to annoy the employer or HR person. A couple of weeks should be enough time to wait before calling. Use your own judgment as to when or if you should call again.

With an up-to-date, targeted resume and a well-written, compelling cover letter, you will improve your chance of getting an interview for that job you really want.
Good luck!