, , ,

Cheat-Sheet: Industry Acronyms Every Creative Freelancer Should Know

Having trouble discerning your CMS from your GDPR? You’ve come to the right place!

It occurs to me as I write these posts that certain terminology has embedded itself into the way I talk and write. And I’m sure that some readers are scratching their heads, wondering what all the acronyms stand for—and potentially, even, why some of the language is important for them to know.

“Knowing is half the battle…”

G.I. Joe

This is one of my favourite sayings for a reason: I’ve never met a client who didn’t appreciate a service provider who knew their stuff. And to “know your stuff” in the creative world these days means knowing bits and pieces of marketing and sales, technology, media and a whole host of other interconnected threads that make up the digital fabric of our existence.

Here’s a list of acronyms that, once learned, can help you sound like you’ve been in the industry as long as I have:

  • B2B (business-to-business) vs. B2C (business-to-consumer): Whether a business is trying to sell to other businesses or to consumers. (Hint: Most popular brands that come to mind are likely B2C, though they also likely have a B2B offering that consumers don’t know about.)
  • CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation): A privacy legislation that’s meant to regulate and reduce spam and other electronic threats to user privacy and security; applies to almost all forms of Commercial Electronic Messaging (CEM), including email, text and IM, as well as the unlawful upload of software or programming on users’ devices.
  • CMP (consent management platform): Technology solution that allows marketers to manage consumer opt-ins to receiving CEM; especially important in light of privacy legislation like CASL and GDPR.
  • CMS (content management system): The back-end system that allows you to change the content, design and other elements of a digital platform, site or app. The most user-friendly versions often use WYSIWYGs (literally, “What You See Is What You Get”), which let you see the changes you’re making as you make them (vs. relying on complicated coding and trial and error).
  • CPM (cost per thousand): Roughly, the cost of advertising to a thousand digital users, though fraught with issues, including whether a user actually interacted with the ad/brand. Alternatives: vCPM (viewable cost per thousand), which is tied to how often an ad can actually be seen by users, or RPM (revenue per thousand impressions), which is tied to sales resulting from an ad placement.
  • CRM (customer relationship management): A platform that many marketers use to collect, manage and massage their customer data; also often used to pull target audience segments for digital marketing campaigns.
  • CTR (click-through rate): Measure of the number of click-throughs an ad receives from users. Considered outdated, as click-throughs don’t necessarily mean sales.
  • CX (customer experience): The experience a consumer has when interacting with a brand; end-to-end CX takes into account brand engagement in-store, online, on social media and in the world at large.
  • DTC (direct-to-consumer): Consumer brands that choose to bypass traditional retail sales channels, to sell their wares online, on social media platforms or in pop-up shops. Popular examples: Allbirds, Glossier and Warby Parker.
  • GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation): Launched in mid-2018; legislation that regulates the privacy, control and transfer of consumer data for citizens in the European Union, with widespread implication for all marketers who use CEM to engage with consumers worldwide. Learn more about GDPR here.
  • SEO (search engine optimization): Methodology used to increase the number of visitors to a site by obtaining a high-ranking placement in results pages on Google, Bing and other search engines.
  • SMB (small- to medium-sized business): A highly prized category of clients/customers for many brands
  • UI (user interface): The front-end experience that any user sees when they open up a digital platform, site or app.
  • UX (user experience): A catchphrase for the quality of the experience that a user has when interacting with a digital platform, site or app.
  • VR (virtual reality) vs. AR (augmented reality): VR works by completely covering and replacing what a user sees in their field of vision vs. AR, which adds to a user’s field of vision, and only alters what users see on their smartphones, tablets or other digital devices.

Which industry acronyms make you think “WTF”?

Let’s talk about it! Leave a comment below or email me (ruth@ruthzuchter.com) to discuss.


Ruthy Z

, , , , ,

5 Pro Tips to Elevate Your Professional Persona (While Still Maintaining Your Individuality)

per·so·na /ˌpərˈsōnə/ noun  The social face a person presents to the world; “a kind of mask, designed… to make a definite impression upon others.”

Source: Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 7: Two Essays in Analytical Psychology. Edited by Gerhard Adler and R. F. C. Hull, Princeton University Press, 1966. p.190.

As I detail in an earlier post, your professional reputation is built upon the characteristics and values you demonstrate day in and day out, which I believe ties back into the qualities and inherent values that provide the foundation for how you live your life.

And while it can take very little time to build a negative reputation—and years to change that reputation—you can begin to build a positive reputation by cultivating your professional persona, taking a cue from the world’s most revered leaders, and figuring out how to integrate what you stand for into your daily activities and behaviour.

If you’re feeling like you need to level up your professional persona as a creative freelancer, enlist these five pro tips to put your best foot forward:

#1. Be considerate of time.

While common courtesy dictates that you arrive on time, go one step further and show up early to meetings and calls! It’ll give you time to read prep material, focus yourself, and review the points you want to make and the outcomes you hope to achieve from the meeting.

Pro tip: Set each of your clocks ahead a different number of minutes between five and 10, so your brain won’t be trained into knowing how far you can push your timing.

#2. Be prepared.

It astounds me how many people try to “wing it” through meetings. In reality, lack of preparation can make you look like an idiot—and can lose you business, too (remember: reputation matters!).

  • To do: Do your research; review the material; formulate your fact-based argument; and, share your own documentation either prior to or within 24 hours of the meeting/call.

Pro tip: Create a cheat-sheet with top stats and points you want to make. (That cheat-sheet might even become the next client one-pager!)

#3. Sleuth your way to success.

If you’ve followed Step 2, you’re prepared. But how much do you actually know about the company you’re doing work with or its people? Why is this important? The more you know about the company and its people, the more valuable you can be to them, the better your relationships will be, and the more business you’re likely to receive from them as a result.

  • To do: Read through the company’s entire website (i.e., don’t just skim their home page). When searching, look at the first couple pages of search results (not just the top results, which are typically paid ads, meant to drive a specific perception of the company and its brand). 

Pro tip: Go the extra mile to search for the company’s leaders. Look for details like previous employers/roles and publications that the person may have written or was mentioned in. Also: Look them up on social media: Find out if they’re a dog- or cat-person, whether they like coffee or tea, if they like to travel… All of this will help you have better conversations and make stronger connections with your contacts over time.

#4. Review before signing off.

Yes, we’re all busy and no one wants to spend more time in a meeting than they necessarily have to. But you’ll be demonstrating good overall time management skills if you take two minutes at the end of each discussion to summarize what you believe you learned and confirm your next steps. This helps to set mutual expectations on the work to be done and also, solidifies the discussion in everyone’s minds.

Pro tip: Dictate a numbered list of takeaways and then, a list of follow-up items. (Note: It doesn’t have to be a formal declaration; you can even do this as your client walks you to the door).

#5. Follow up within 24-36 hours.

This gets missed so consistently that it bears repeating: After a meeting or call, email the participants about next steps. Why is this important? First, it further solidifies your relationship, and also, if you’re new to working with the group, it provides your contact info, so they can easily reach out to you. Second, you’ll gain agreement on what’s expected of you from the relationship and can help to uncover scope-creep. Finally, it’s just a respectful and honest way of doing business.

Pro tip: Keep it short and sweet, please! But do—
*Thank participants for the insights you gained from their comments. (No need to list insights or people one by one. Just indicate your thankfulness…)
*List each person’s next steps as you understand them, including specific deliverables and ETAs. (If you’re feeling extra keen or are an Excel or Google Docs pro, why not create a workback schedule?!)
*Give them “an out”—if they understood any of the next steps differently, ask them to document via email to the group, so everyone’s in the loop.
*Sign off with a memorable line or words—not “best” or “regards” (too generic) or “yours” (too personal).
*Include an e-signature!!! (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to search for someone’s cell number because they didn’t include it in their email. Ugh…. big-time pet peeve!)

At the end of the day, putting your best foot forward as a freelancer comes down to the work you do and how you present yourself in the public eye.

Many creatives choose the freelance life for the freedom it gives them, including how they represent themselves and their own unique personalities. But remember: You can still maintain your individuality while presenting a positive and professional persona that entices new and recurring clients into your roster.

Next steps:

What do you do to cultivate your professional persona? Or—do you have any pet peeves of working as a creative freelancer? I want to hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below.

Until next time, keep on truckin’,

Ruthy Z

, , , ,

Welcome to Lessons Learned from a Creative Freelance Life.

A space for personal-professional reflection and tips and tricks on how to make your freelance work-life more fulfilling and successful.

Why a blog? Simply put: It’s time!

I “hung up my shingle” in 2013 as a freelance writer, editor and digital strategist, after advancing for well over a decade in omni-channel media, marketing and sales sectors.

Since 2013, I’ve produced and perfected B2B and B2C content for dozens of different companies in a range of industries. From Canada’s Big 3 telecom companies to an eCommerce jewelry start-up; from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (CPAO) to three different novels for a writer in Trenton, ON; from a national healthcare procurement firm with ties to 80% of Canada’s hospitals and clinics to a boutique real estate brokerage in downtown Toronto…. and beyond.

And I’ve learned quite a bit of lessons along the way… about how to balance my creative interests with my business practice, and also, that freelance life doesn’t always have to be hard, but it’s not always easy, either.

It may sound idyllic, but creative freelance life isn’t always easy.

If you’re naturally introverted like me, you might fall neatly into the typical freelance way of life, where working from home and not having to interact with many people throughout your days is not just comfortable but preferred!

  • Your work hours can flex to meet your responsibilities;
  • Your commute might be 15 steps to your workspace and 20 steps to your kitchen (if your kitchen IS your workspace!? even better!); and,
  • You may choose to work in your pyjamas or whatever attire suits your work-life best.

But… if you’re going to be successful in your creative freelance life—that’s to say: make enough money while carving out time to have some work-life balance—you’ve got to invest some time and energy into the business side of your freelance practice.

Balancing “the art” with “the business”—where this blog comes in.

Business smarts aren’t necessarily a priority for all creative folks. (At the same time, getting a business person to do creative work might seem like unnecessary torture to them!)

Yet, with a little guidance and attention to particular details—including recommendations for balancing your creative pursuits with your professional persona, the importance of managing your reputation, branding, and more—I’m confident that any creative freelancer can thrive in our economy, taking advantage of the need that’s out there, now more than ever, for professionals who can walk the fine line of pursuing their creative practice and making money from it, too.

Join me and we’ll walk the creative line together.

Follow my blog, post comments and above all, get ready to have some fun and get inspired!

Ruthy Z

, , , , ,

The Value of Reputation in Your Freelance Business (A.K.A. Reputation as a Pull Strategy)

honesty | discipline | hard work | initiative | mutual respect | connecting people | being a good human being

About a year ago, on a five-hour, cross-country flight, when I should have been preparing for the meetings I would have once the plane landed, I found myself musing on my relationship with the client whose work I was travelling to complete. After reviewing the ups and downs over the years with said client, I documented the 20 fundamental things I stand for as a professional freelancer, a business owner, and ultimately, a human being trying to make my way in this world.

Now, six years into my freelance life (and those, after more than a dozen years in the professional arena), I believe that if you were to poll people I’ve worked with, they’d say that what makes me “me”—as a colleague, a manager, a business partner, a service provider—is that I hold myself to a very high standard that’s built upon personal characteristics like honestly, discipline, strong work ethic and mutual respect.

I’ve built a reputation based upon what I stand for.

This reputation has kept me steadily working, if not too busy at times, these past six years. And I can say with pride that up until the last year or so, about 75% of my business came from three main sources: former colleagues; former clients; and referrals from former colleagues and clients.

The remaining 25% or so comes from organic search and social media channels, including my website, LinkedIn and Twitter, where I maintain a regular but low-intensity presence. Otherwise, I do very little marketing and promotion, and have yet to advertise my services in any formal way.

And still, I’m as busy as I want to be.

How does this work? Simply, how you conduct yourself and the reputation you develop among your peers sticks with you from job to job, career to career. Demonstrate that you’re a hard worker who has respect for colleagues and clients, and you’ll become known for that behaviour. Likewise, show that you’re willing to cut corners or throw people under the bus, and you’ll also develop a reputation for such characteristics.

In this way, then, a strong reputation can work as a “pull mechanism”—something that attracts people to you, both personally and professionally. And it might just be one of the easiest and least expensive marketing tactics around! If your reputation is built upon your innate personal qualities and the things you stand for, then it takes little investment to nurture that reputation and put it out into the world in an organic way (i.e., just by being yourself!).

A “pull strategy” aims to get clients to come to you, rather than going to them. It typically works best with highly visible brands, or where a solid brand reputation has already been developed. A common example is using social media posts to build one’s reach and demand among new clients.

What’s important to understand about this: Professional reputation goes both ways; clients (or prospects) have reputations that affect how business gets done, just the same as freelancers and service providers. I’ve experienced clients behaving badly every step along my career:

  • treating contractors like less-than-human beings;
  • bad-mouthing other service providers, colleagues or people in general;
  • quibbling about fees even while receiving competitive rates and great value…

As much as possible, I want to work with people who live by the same credos as I do. And when I live by my own values, I’m better able to find those like-minded professionals who do the same. (I swear to you, those people are out there! It’s taken a whole lot of trust—something I continue to try to cultivate!—but time and again, I’ve proven to myself that professional, honest and respectful partners are out there and need my particular form of art/skill/magic.)

A positive reputation is the pull, when other promotional activities are a push.

If you’ve built a positive reputation for yourself, people you’ve interacted with along your journey to freelancing will want to work with you, even if you’re a “business of one.”

Try it:

Take the time to consider and then document the “things you stand for.” This could be strictly from a professional perspective, or if you’re like me and you put a lot of yourself into your work, you could cast the net wider, to consider your personal qualities and how those play into the way you do business.

For reference: Here’s the list of 20 things I stand for, broken out by personal and professional qualities.

A list of 20 things I stand for as a professional and a human being, broken into 2 columns of 10 bullets each