Freelance Writer Files: A Tight Deadline is Good For You.

Today, I outlined and wrote a sales presentation for a company I’d never heard of until a few days ago. A PR friend of mine had called and asked for my help on the writing end of a big branding/positioning project with a number of closely-spaced deadlines for items progressing to a complete revamp.

Hey, doing anything is easier when you don’t have time to do it. You doubt it?

Without thinking time, you don’t have ruminating time. You go with your first instinct and make it work. It’s kind of exhilarating. Kind of devil-may-care, even!Of course, background info helps. And on this project, it was coming through in small drips as the writing progressed. It’s still coming in, even as I’ve just finished the presentation script. Do I go back now and change things? Heck, there isn’t time! My PR friend has to present the danged thing in about an hour!

Thank goodness for tight deadlines, I say. Now for a little nap.

Freelance Writer Files: When a Friend Falls

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Such a terrible sentence to impose on such a nice guy as my former hair stylist, whom I shall call “D.” Yet there it is, the ugly truth of the situation. Without medical insurance, he must fight the demon cancer as best he can, with the help only of friends and clients.

Last week, friends got together and put on a garage sale to raise money for his medical treatment. It was called a success: $900 raised. But his first hospital stay cost $91,000. Still, the garage sale proceeds are at least a small drop in the bottomless bucket.

Short of finding a rich person to pick up all the expenses of D.’s hospital stays, doctor visits, medications, and loss of business, what can a friend do?

Hope, pray, send encouraging messages? Send D. to France, where they treat everyone at hospitals for free? Should I encourage him to commit a petty crime so he could get prison health care? (God knows what else he might get there, though.)

Is there no chance at life for uninsured people with dangerous conditions? Is it only the rich who can have endless treatments to keep them walking around? Shouldn’t there be some consideration for simply good people, good friends?

His former partner is rallying friends on Facebook. He is tireless in his efforts to do SOMEthing.

When a friend falls, and you can’t pick him up, what do you do?

Freelance Writer Files: Does a title make a difference?

For the past 10 years, I’ve been calling myself a freelance writer. But recently, a friend who is cognizant of the kind of counseling I give my clients, suggested that “writer” is a bit limiting.

There's the whole thinking part, which "Writer" doesn't address.

It’s true that I can write, and am, in fact, “a writer.” “Senior Writer” is the title by which I’ve been known in the ad agency world. But, as anyone who has worked at an agency, or as a freelancer, can tell you, there’s more to the job of writing than pulling out a computer and banging out some random letters. There’s the whole “thinking” part, for instance, which the title, “Writer,” doesn’t address.

By way of explaining this to a foreign client who was unfamiliar with the process and wondered what I had been billing him for, since he hadn’t seen his campaign yet, I drew a picture of an iceberg (I do have some artistic skills, but anyone can draw a triangle.). I drew the waterline close to the tip.

What you see is not all you get.

Then I explained that all the background info gathering, analyzing, thinking, strategizing, getting bids, estimating, budgeting and planning were in the part below the waterline. You can’t see them. The part you finally see, the finished project, is the very tip of the iceberg. You have to pay for all of that, just as you have to pay for an architect’s plans before you build your house.

My client’s question brought to mind the image of a dad-to-be looking at his third-trimester-pregnant wife and saying, “You’ve been saying for months that you’re going to have a baby. I don’t see any baby. So what gives?”

But getting back to services I offer clients: beyond simply writing, I do project management.

Business owners are busy. Really busy.

Harried business owners don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to manage graphic designers, webmasters, HTML experts, and others involved in a Web or other project. So if they turn the project over to me, let me communicate and negotiate with the other suppliers, then report to them, they save a lot of time, which equates to money. Not to mention that they avoid the anguish of trying to get business, do business, AND manage a marketing or advertising project.

Managing a project in print or Web or video for a client is child’s play, compared with my duties as an ad agency writer/producer. In that capacity, I was in charge of every aspect of a production, from keeping the client happy (Number One, always) to producing estimates to riding herd on the production company, casting talent, directing same, selecting wardrobe set designs, keeping costs in line, and overseeing anything else that would affect the final product.

Would he have been as famous?

So, since I help clients as a consultant, thinker, planner, strategist and project manager, what do I call myself? Would a rose by any other name really smell as sweet? Or would another name make me smell sweeter? If I give up “writer” and go for the more accurate “independent marketing and advertising consultant,” will people actually know what I can do? Hmm. I changed it on LinkedIn. Let’s see what happens.

Freelance Writer Files: A Short Story, “Popcorn Girl”

Popcorn Girl
Short Story – 860 words
©2011 Liz Craig

My name is Dorthy Parrott. I live in Mexico, Missouri, population 13,000. It’s the kind of place you get born in, get brain-dead from boredom in, and forget to leave.

Excitement is pretty scarce around here. Driving around the courthouse square with its miniature Statue of Liberty is about it. Oh, one time Roy Clark came to town to appear at the Audrain County Fair. I saw him at the Acapulco Lanes after his show drinking beer out of a plastic cup, but I didn’t want to bother him.

As a native Mexicoan, my expectations have never been high. Until recently, I spent most of my waking hours sweeping up popcorn off the floor of the Liberty Theater, which keeps you looking down in general. The best thing about the job was getting to see all the movies for free. Watching the beautiful stars up there, I could forget Mexico, being fat, wishing for a boyfriend, and Mama bugging me to do something with myself.

It was pretty much the same routine every night. Watch a movie, sweep up the popcorn and Milk Duds afterward. Tie up trash bags and lug to dumpster. Repeat.

But then one day, something different happened. Larry Bright gave me a Powerball ticket to repay me for letting him in for free whenever Mr. Doumanian, the owner, wasn’t around. I had a crush on Larry, but I knew he’d always see me as the lump I was in high school, even if I slimmed down to my ideal weight according to Cosmo. I thanked him for the ticket and stuck it in my uniform pants pocket, then forgot about it.

A couple of days later, though, I found the ticket when I was about to wash my uniform. I thought, “No way will I win more than a couple of bucks.” But when I compared my numbers with the winning numbers in the paper, I nearly passed out on the kitchen linoleum. Then I started screaming, and I couldn’t stop. Mama ran in from the yard to see what was wrong. When I told her I had won $110 million with Larry’s Powerball ticket, she started screaming, too, and when we were all out of screams, we entwined our arms the way they do on TV at New Year’s and toasted my luck with a 10 a.m. beer.

Mama wanted me to build us a house in Branson, so she could go see that Japanese fiddle-player any time she wanted. I said nobody actually lives in Branson. Besides, the sight of all those seniors from Arkansas in plaid polyester outfits would depress a person after awhile.

The question was, what did I want to do with the money? What did I want in life, anyway?

First, I decided to give a million to Larry. Mama started yelling, but I stood firm because I thought it was the right thing to do. After all, he had been nice enough to give me the ticket. A million would ease his suffering over having blown it.

Then I quit my job and let the money (still about 6 mil after they took out the taxes) sit in the bank while I figured out what to do next.

A few days later, I had a dream. I was thin and gorgeous, and I was dressed in a long white satin gown. I swiveled my hips sinuously as I glided down a long white marble staircase to meet a crowd of screaming fans waving autograph books. I smiled graciously and signed my name in their books, making each fan feel they were the most important person in the world for just a moment. They all loved me. Then I sashayed out to my sleek silver limousine and waved like the Queen, turning my hand in little circles, as it pulled away from the curb. I woke up with a warm feeling in my heart and a clear idea of what I wanted to do.

So this is it: I’m going to hire a personal trainer and a nutritionist and get down to my ideal weight, and then I’m going to have my face re-sculpted and my teeth capped, and I’m going to get into the movies. I know you can buy your way into Hollywood. Look at Pia Zadora. Well, maybe she’s not such a good example. But anyway, Mama just wants to take one of those “See the Stars’ Homes” tours, but I told her nobody who lives in Hollywood takes those tours. Because you know all the people who live there, and they invite you over.

United Van Lines just pulled up. We’re only taking a few things to get us started; I’ll buy good stuff when we get to Beverly Hills. The real estate agent found us a house there that once belonged to Jean Harlow. We saw the pictures of it, and it’s fabulous. The best thing about the house is that it has a movie theater and a popcorn machine. You know, I might even sweep it out now and then, just for old times’ sake. Come and see me sometime–in the movies.

– 30 –

Freelance Writer Files: Look, Ma! I made an animated video!

This is my first attempt with xtreme media. I was inspired a couple of years ago by a video of a graphic designer and totally clueless client. It was obscene and funny, and completely true, if you know the biz.

Give me a break on the quality. The motions don’t match what I wanted, but I have a request for help in to the company. Maybe more better videos later.