The Pro of Prose

For Colleen Szot, a gregarious type, “working in a vacuum” is the most difficult part of having a home-business. In an office I could get up, walk down the hall and say to a co-worker, “What do you think about this?” I don't have that option here. There's nobody down the hall. But I have my telephone, and I've built up a network of people whom I can call up and say, “I've got an idea for something. Tell me what you think”

A related problem, familiar to anyone who has ever worked from home, is how easy it is to be distracted. “The lure of 'Oh my gosh, there's a bird out there!' is very, very strong. But I've always been very disciplined. You have to have a certain type of discipline to work from home; I don't think it's for everybody.”

As the name of her business, Wonderful Writer, LLC, demonstrates, Colleen Szot takes a direct, aggressive approach to spreading the word about herself. “I'm in Minneapolis, in the middle of the country,” says Szot, a freelancer specializing in television commercials and informercials, “and my clients are on both the East and West coasts. How do I let them know I'm here?”

Szot didn't wait for a healthy cash flow before she began to market. “The very first year I was in business, when I thought I was going to have a struggle financially, I ran ads in very prominent publications—and they weren't little ads. I ran a $9,000 ad in the Informercial Sourcebook (since acquired by BPI Communications, Inc., a subsidiary of VNU USA, Inc.), which is the bible for the industry, and have grown the ad every year. This year I'm running a half-page ad to the tune of $7,000.

“The second thing I did—and I can really credit US West (now Qwest) for this—was to put a in a toll-free number. That has made a ton of difference. People look at my ad and they say ‘Here's a person who can afford to advertise, number one. Number tow, she's got a toll-free number. She's making it easier for me to call her, and she can obviously justify that kind of expense. And number three, she's her ein periodicals that I'm reading.’”

Szot credits her US West Home Office Consultant, Angie Conway, with putting together the right package of services. ”Because I'm a writer, I sit at my computer all day, and the phone is my lifeline,” Szot says. “I have only two lines, one for business and on personal, but I have call waiting features and three-way calling. Angie knows best to call me whenever US West comes out with something new that might help my business.”