Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don't Forget Your Clients at the Holidays: Eight Tips for Freelancer Gifts

One of the happier moments in the work days leading up to Christmas is when a package arrives from a freelancer or vendor. Coworkers swarm in like termites to snatch a sugary goody before they're all gone. Everyone gets a sugar buzz and thinks happy thoughts about the contractor who took the time and trouble to show how much they care.

We have a faithful indexer who always sends us something fun from Harry & David, and a printer that never fails to send yummy cookies from Cheryl&Co. In fact, it was while I was happily munching a chocolate cookie with peppermint buttercream frosting that it occurred to me: I did a lot of freelance work for Frommer's this year. Perhaps I should show my gratitude.

And so I did. Online ordering made it relatively easy (despite a couple of bugs in the site). Within three days, a big box of little cookies found its way into the hands of the grateful Wiley production editors. Before I even got arrival confirmation from UPS, they were e-mailing me to thank me. Now I'm not saying that this is going to guarantee me more work next year (doing a good job, of course, is more important); however, maybe it makes them smile a little when they think of me. And that can't hurt.

Here are a few tips on freelancer gifts, from someone who both gave and received this year:

  1. Time it right. Make sure your gift will arrive before most people take off on vacation. You still have a little time to get a gift out to your best clients--but not much. There won't be a lot of people in offices past next Tuesday.
  2. Avoid perishables. I've gotten sausage and cheese a few times and wondered whether it had been refrigerated adequately. It kinda ruined it for me.
  3. Don't be too chintzy. If you file Schedule C, you can deduct the cost as a business expense, anyway. So why not get something nice?
  4. Packaging isn't so important. The adorable gift towers are fun. But people are really just interested in the food. Opt for more food over fancy packaging.
  5. Tie it to your personal or company brand. If you have a logo for your business, send a gift or card that communicates it. DeBrand's Chocolates will even make custom candy in the shape of your logo. (I'm not sure I followed this rule. Maybe my brand is traditional, dependable, and sweet. And what says that better than cookies?)
  6. Be sensitive. Don't send something that will offend or exclude anyone. If you know that any of your recipients has allergies, avoid sending them something they can't eat. And those packages of sockeye salmon are always revolting-looking to me.
  7. Don't forget a note. Make sure they know who it's from and that you are grateful for your working relationship.
  8. Keep it up. If your gift is a hit, send the same thing next year. Your client will look forward to getting your gift as the holidays approach.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Indiana Historical Society Holiday Author Fair: A Whole Lotta Awesome!

A while back I mentioned my intention to drop into the Indiana Historical Society's Holiday Author Fair, in which 80+ local authors were on hand to autograph copies of their works. Could an event be more tailor-made for me, who lives in the past and subsists on books? The event was Saturday and it lived up to all my expectations.

Immediately upon arrival I was asked whether I would like to join the society. As a matter of fact, I did want to. I want to support history in Indiana; but I also want to learn more about the historical society's press, which seems like a dream employer to me.

The next stroke of good luck was running into my longtime friend Gayle (yes, just like Oprah, I have a friend named Gayle), whom I hadn't seen in some time. We did our catching up as we weaved among the many authors, asking about their inspirations and their publishing experience.

It was an interesting mix of the self-published and those with the backing of major publishers. Our first mandatory stop, of course, was to meet Terry Border, author of the quirky Bent Objects. We'd already corresponded via Twitter, so he knew I was coming. We enjoyed hearing about his creative process later during his presentation. He's a former commercial photographer and baker who went from the mundane to doing what he really loves: Making funny scenes with everyday objects and taking photos of them. I predict big things for him.

We also visited with Larry Sweazy, the Noblesville author of The Rattlesnake Season with Penguin. He's got a four-book deal, so he's working on the next installment. (He then chided me for not keeping this blog updated lately. Duly noted.) Next to him was another fellow Macmillan/Pearson alum, Chris Katsaropoulos, who told me he is serializing his entire novel, Fragile, over Twitter to promote it. Wow.

We enjoyed chatting with Scott Sanders about his Arcadia-published book devoted to the history of Burger Chef. Cool! I also had a nice discussion with Andrew Stoner about his book, Notorious 92, chronicling the most heinous murders in each of Indiana's 92 counties.

It was also great to finally meet Julie Young in person after having some online interactions with her last year. She's the author of an Arcadia book Historic Irvington, and A Belief in Providence, about Mother Guerin, Indiana's only saint. Turns out, Julie is writing a video script for my company and invited me to be her Facebook friend.

Last but not least, I had a private audience with Philip Gulley, author of I Love You, Miss Huddleston (and quite a collection of other highly successful books with Harper). I'm sure he wondered at some of my questions, but I was sizing up his book's appropriateness as a gift. He convinced me. I bought it.

Looking back, I enjoyed that the event wasn't overrun with people. But now I hope they had enough book buyers to make it worth their while. I know I came away some $200 lighter in the pocket.