Meet Jennifer Mattern, a professional blogger / freelance business writer and a former online PR / social media consultant. She has worked as a freelance writer since 1999, and has been an active blogger since 2004. She owns several sites and blogs covering freelance writing, business writing, PR, small business, and related topics. She is also currently writing a nonfiction book for freelance writers called The Query-Free Freelancer, and is the author of the Web Writer’s Guide e-book series.
1. Describe a moment where you might have said, “I can’t believe I am getting paid for this?”
I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to do what I do successfully. So I have a “I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this” moment almost every day. That’s not to say there are never bad days. There are plenty, and there probably will be for most business owners. But then I remind myself that there are countless people out there who would loved to be able to get paid to be a freelance writer — not to mention being well paid. I come across these people almost every day through AllFreelanceWriting.com, emails, and other networking, so I have a constant reminder. And I do what I can to reach out and help when they ask for it, in the hopes that at least one of them will be able to move on with their own writing career and do the same for someone else down the road. Even when I was running my online PR firm rather than working full-time as a freelance business writer and professional blogger, I considered myself lucky. In that case it was more about having the opportunity to work with such a forward-thinking client base on the social media front (independent artists at the time). I got to work with people who were leading the way while many others in that specialty area had to practically drag their clients kicking and screaming. I wouldn’t have changed that experience for the world.
2. Do you have any examples of a situation in which you would say you failed? What did you learn from this?
I fail all the time. And I’m proud of it. I’m one of those business owners who subscribes to the idea that if you never fail, you aren’t taking enough risks towards growth. In addition to my own business writing and blogging work, I’m also a Web publisher in my own right. I’ve run dozens of sites and blogs since officially starting my business in 2004 (I say “officially” because I’d done independent writing work before that, back to around 1999 when I was still in college). Most of them don’t survive long. I believe in constantly testing and evaluating things, and I regularly sell or otherwise weed out projects that aren’t performing where I’d like them to be. The key is to avoid looking at failure as “failure” and instead look at failure as an opportunity to do even better for yourself the next time you take a chance on a client or project.
3. Have you met any celebrities or really interesting people in your business?
I’ve met many incredibly interesting people through my business — both the former PR side and through my current business writing and blogging work. “Celebrity” is subjective though. And it’s a word I don’t particularly care for. When someone is slapped with that label, other tend to treat them differently. And I have a strict policy both with clients and colleagues — I don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, or how well-known you are; you’re just a person and I’m going to treat you no better (and no worse) than I’d treat a newbie in the field. That said, I’ve met everyone from successful indie musicians with rather large cult followings, to execs with some of my favorite companies, to many published authors.
Even more interesting to me though is my broad international client base. For example, one of my best clients is in Pakistan — somewhere most of my colleagues wouldn’t even consider looking for work because they assume the demand for their level of work just doesn’t exist (or a budget for it I should say). So I get to hear the occasional story about what it’s like there for him, or while he’s travelling. I have another regular in Australia, so I get to work for an Australian market and adapt my writing to a new audience. I’ve worked with clients in the UK, Denmark, other areas of the US, Canada, India, Spain, and more. And that’s what I love — having the opportunity to do work that I truly enjoy while meeting a diverse group of people who also allow me to gain a better understanding of the world around me. Before going into business for myself the other option I considered was a double Master’s in international business and international relations, so staying active in that area in even a small way is very important (and rewarding) to me.
4. How do you think the current economy effected your entrepreneurial choices?
I’ve generally said that any freelancer worth their salt will do better in a down economy; not worse. It’s a nice reality check that you have to be able and willing to change your marketing approach on almost a moment’s notice. For freelancers it’s the simple case of changing the marketing message to reflect a new kind of value (being less expensive — even if we charge more hourly — than the salaried employees companies have laid off). The work still needs to be done, and there’s still a lot of money to be made. I didn’t have to change much personally this time around because I already had a solid steady client base and a waiting list should any of my clients decided to cut back. As it turns out I was the one who cut back — rather than letting the economy negatively affect my business, I was able to prune some of my lower-paying regulars to take on higher paying additional work with others. I was able to cut Fridays from my work week completely, and now enjoy working a four day work week while making more money than when I worked five — not less. So yes. The economy did affect my entrepreneurial choices. It served as a reminder that the economy doesn’t dictate my success or failure. I do. And I made it a point to prove it.
5. What is the best lesson you could give a young women who wants to start her own business?
Just get out there and do it. Well, do the proper business planning and market research first, and then get out there and do it. Thinking about it, dreaming about it… those things are great. But they won’t make it happen. Also, don’t rely on anyone else to determine your self-worth. How you value your own time and talents plays a big part in how successful you’ll become. And last, don’t let the little things hang you up or get you discouraged. Remember that every time you stumble, you have the opportunity to come back even stronger than before.