Friday, May 29, 2009

The Business #2: Is there anybody there?

So you've got your goal and your plans and a place to worry about the legal stuff. Now what? Is it time to write yet?

Not yet.

In a business things come in and things go out; and there are customers who exchange things that are valuable to you for things that are valuable to them - money and scripts, for example.

But for any of that to happen they have to contact you. Generally they won't come knocking on your door, but they will email and they will phone and they may write. So you need a place for that - when I say "place" it's not necessarily a physical location could be just the time when you deal with phone calls and emails.

This should not be all the time. When I'm on my day job I switch off my mobile and don't have access to my main e-mail address. It's distracting and reduces my productivity. If it's an important call they'll leave a message. It's worth turning your answerphone message into something friendly like "I'm really sorry to have missed your call but I'm in the middle of something right now. Leave a message so I can get back to you."

Being a business means being organised and setting aside time for stuff. It doesn't matter whether your writing time is spent staring out the window. You and I know that that is valuable staring time. It is part of writing. But that's not the time to be doing something else, because that's your writing time. (If you know that ironing will help then feel free, it's the business part I'm talking about.)

If you feel bad about cutting off your phone and email lines - then perhaps you really need to. Twenty years ago nobody thought twice about not being in constant, obsessive communication with everybody they know.

Anyway, have a time and a place to handle communications. Another point is that if a letter comes in that's financial put it in the financial pile, likewise emails, or calls. This is not the point at which you deal with financial things, this is just the time and the place when you look to see what communications have been sent.

When you work in a larger organisation you have a time to be at work and you try to do that because it's the right thing to do. Keeping a schedule is good even when you're "just" a writer on his/her/its own. You need to be disciplined in your schedule, and in how you deal with your business. It isn't easy, and this is one of the reasons why writing in particular isn't - it's just between you and the words.

You also need to have a plan as to what to do when a potential client communicates with you, how will you handle it? What do you need to find out from them? Better a bad plan than running around like headless chicken. For example, your first step would be not to reply, but see what you can find out about them. If you have an agent you contact them about it. Never be rushed, it has the potential to lead to big trouble.

Anyway the long and the short of this article is you need to have a place when you deal with external communications, when you put them in the right pile not answer, and only do it at specific times of the day.

Next time we look at the next part of being in business, and it may not have much to do with writing either.

What's on the turntable? "Amarok" by Mike Oldfield

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