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Writing Assignments

(c) Copyright 2001 
By June Campbell

June's writing has appeared in several international print publications. You can visit her site for biz articles, a free gift, books at low Canadian prices, online sales of proposal and business plan templates and much more.


Are you losing out on freelance opportunities because of poor telephone communications? The lowly telephone is an indispensable item of your writing business equipment. Still, if used carelessly, this necessary item can cause problems with editors, publishers and interviewees. 

Keep these tips in mind to use your telephone to the best advantage:

  1. Correctly used, contemporary telephone technology will create the image of a professional operation. BUT if you don't know how to use the technology properly, you will create instead the illusion of incompetence. Learn how to transfer calls, put callers on hold and how to perform other telephone functions.  If necessary, make notes to help you remember seldom-used procedures.

  2. Consider using earphones instead of speakerphones for your interviews and other communications. Speakerphones subject the caller to an annoying echo that makes it difficult to hear clearly and will probably pick up the kids playing in the background.  Earphones and headset will let you type the story right into your computer.  Some writers have the story finished when the interview is over.

  3. When you have to look for a contract, or a disk, ASK a caller's permission before putting them on hold. Studies indicate that callers become annoyed after being on hold for 17 seconds. Reduce annoyance by asking permission first, explaining why they are being put on hold and by giving an estimated time that will elapse before you get back on the phone with them.

  4. Answer the phone with your business name and your own name. For example, "Hello. WordWorks Writing Service. This is Sandra Jones."  Or, "This is Sandra Jones, author of The Gathering Storm."  If answering a call that has been transferred to you, answer with your name. Mistakes in transferring calls occur often enough that callers have little faith that the person saying "Hello" is really you.

  5. Ensure that no more than four rings elapse before the call is directed to voice mail. If the phone is to be answered in person, try to answer in two rings. Avoid leaving a phone ringing indefinitely without answering.
    If you or the person charged with answering your phone must leave your post for even a short time, ensure that incoming calls are automatically switched to voice mail.

  6. Place a list of your services and your hourly rates beside the telephone. You'll be glad you did the next time your mind goes blank just as a potential client asks your rates for proofing and editing.

  7. If you are using an 800 number, find out precisely what areas or countries can reach you by using that number. Post that information on your web site or wherever the number is being advertised. Ensure that you don't respond to a potential client's email message with an invitation to call an 800 number that won't work in their location.

  8. Give a thought to time zones before phoning an editor or interviewee. If you're on the East Coast of North America, that 9:00 AM phone call you place to an interview source on the West Coast will wake them up at 5:00 AM. Or, if it's a pre-arranged call, your 11:00 AM telephone appointment won't work unless you both understand the time zones involved.
    If you don't recognize the area code that you are calling, your local phone book will usually offer that information. Still don't know what time zone your caller is in? Check the World Time Server at http://www.worldtimeserver.com/

  9. Be especially aware that coffee drinking, gum chewing and cigarette smoking are clearly audible over the telephone. It's best to avoid these activities while engaged in phone conversations, and absolutely must be set aside when you are being interviewed for a talk show over the phone.

  10. If working from home, your business phone must be answered in a professional manner. Many telephone companies offer a service that in my area, is called Smart Ring. You pay for only one phone line, but you have two different numbers -- each with a distinctive ring so you always know whether it is a business call or a personal call.
    Ensure that your telecom will allow you to use Smart Ring for business purposes. Mine does.

  11. Think twice about using Call Waiting when you are talking to an editor, publisher or interviewee. The caller you already have on the line will not appreciate the message that they are less important than the incoming caller. With a good telephone setup, your incoming caller can be directed to voice mail while you continue your conversation with the first.

And, of course you do know that no-one will think it cute when your toddler answers the phone?

the end

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A dozen more articles from June Campbell are available:

1. Tips for Writing a Business Proposal. Eleven tips for making your proposals effective. 900 words.

2. To Your Credit. A business consultant (and former credit manager) offers tips for developing a credit policy that will help protect you from business losses. 500 words. 

3. Ten Tips for Building an E-commerce Web Site. Ten elements of site design that will encourage your customers to stay and shop. 400 words.

4. Don't Gimme No Solutions. Humorous "rant" about marketing jargon that confuses rather than communicates. 900 words.  

5. Avoiding Wired Mistakes. Four mistakes to avoid if the Internet plays a role in your marketing plan. 585 words. 

6. Using Email in your Business. Do you really need a web site to do business online? Several business women discuss the role that email plays in their day to day business undertakings. 685 words.

7. The Psychology of Color in Marketing Materials. An overview of how color affects mood and behavior, with implications for the design of brochures, websites and other marketing materials. 360 words.

8. Your E-Sig: A Great Promotional Opportunity. How to write an email signature that will do double duty as an ad for your business. 500 words.

9. Ten Questions to Ask Before You Purchase Disability Insurance. Covers the key qualities of a good policy. 460 words. 

10. Just Say No to Marketing Scams. 600 words. Offers advice on how to identify marketing scams when you see one. Written in a humorous vein.

11. NetPosts. How to make a post card from your Home Page. 565 words.

12. Contracts Demystified. Clarifying the language of a business contract. 552 words.

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