While U Wait: Form the Infrastructure
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Weather: 84º and sunny
You’ve got queries and proposals circulating. You’re writing new books. Is there anything else to be done while you wait?
Goodness, yes! You need to get your infrastructure set. If you think through your office, your computer and your online presence right now, designing the perfect systems, you’ll be set for the crazy busyness that could follow getting contracted. And if no crazy busyness ever follows? You will still be set up for maximum personal and professional productivity.
Let me just make a list of some of the elements that come to mind. Some will apply to you, some may not, but try to think ahead. Those having to do with your online presence we’ll address tomorrow. Think of these today as your office infrastructure. You’ll never again have the time to be as objective and intentional in developing your system.
- Office Design. Having a separate room for an office is a blessing. It will help you set the stage for productivity from day one. Just like any office, you will need a filing cabinet, a desk, a computer, printer and good chair at minimum. You will spend long hours in this room. If resources allow, make it the room in which you most like to spend time. If you must start out writing on the kitchen table, create a mobile office with files in one box and office equipment, supplies in another. Often plastic crates work well to create a mobile system.
- Mail Collection. Think long and hard before you use your home address as your write-to-the-author address. (Remember the movie Misery?) Now might be the time to get a post office box and to begin using it for your business address. (Yes, writing is a business.)
- Physical Filing System. Even in this day of digital files, you will need a file cabinet with real file folders. You’ll need financial files, files for each project–sometimes multiple files for each project, you’ll need idea files, publisher files, a file for each organization you belong to, files for conferences, events, etc. No one else can develop and organize your filing system. You need to think about your life and organize accordingly. You can find excellent books on the subject including my favorite, Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. Just remember, if you have a stack of papers that sit on your desk because you don’t know where they go, you have a flaw in your filing system.
- Computer Organization System. Now is the time to learn your computer inside and out. Discover as much as you can about each program you will use. Learn to use the “Track Changes” function in Microsoft Word since that is how you will most likely work with your book edits. Just as you must design your physical filing system, you need to develop a hierarchical computer filing system for your documents and email. (“Hierarchical” means folders within folders.) When you open your documents file, you should see subfolders that divide up your life. You might have something like: Church, Computer, Personal, Family, Organizations, Photographs, Reading, Speaking, Travel, Writing. In each one of those you will have subfolders. In “Writing” you might have: Agent, Articles, Books, Interviews, Publishers, etc. If you were to open up the “Books” folder you might have: Published/Contracted Books, Ideas, Unsold Books, etc. Knowing how to get to a file in seconds will save you hours later. You will also want to set up a system for naming files so you can always tell which is the latest edit for instance. Again, there are great books on how to do this.
- Contact File/ Address Book. Start at day one to capture and organize addresses. I am a Mac user so everything is integrated across all my systems. I use the Address Book application. I fill out the v-card completely, including a photograph. I can usually find one on the web or in Facebook if I don’t have one. Once the v-card is in place, I never have to type an address again. I use this to automatically print labels, sync wirelessly to my iPad and iPhone, address letters and envelopes and even send Christmas cards. I can organize it any way. As long as you commit to doing this every time you get home from a conference with a stack of business cards, it will never become overwhelming and will form one of the most valuable resources of your business.
- Calendar. Learn to use your calendar program, including how to send and accept invitations, how to have airline flights go automatically to your calendar, etc. Make sure there’s a way to sync this to your phone.
- Project Tracking/ Planning. This is often part of your calendar program, but I just bought a task/project program called Things for Mac that I already love. I have it on my desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone– syncing across all platforms. Because you’re going to be working to deadline on multiple books at the same time, make sure you learn how to use a project tracker.
- Reader Data Files. One of the most important things you are going to build as a writer is your reader base. From the first day, collect every name and address either physically or digitally. This reader list is what will impress or depress future publishers. This may well be one of your most important assets as a writer. Set up a system now that can capture every name. Make sure you are able to separate them by zipcode for mailings and to let them know geographically when you will be in their area. In addition to reader files, you’ll need to have influencer databases, reviewer databases, etc.
- Telecommunication. Decide now whether you will use a land line, a cell phone or both. Make sure you have voicemail and know how to use it. Learn your phone just like you plan to learn your computer. The more comfortable you are with technology, the easier your job will be.
- E-Book Reader. Our world is changing. Get to know e-books and how they work. I bought the very first Kindle immediately and changed to Kindle II the day it came out. I got my iPad immediately as well. Why is this important? I understand books in a whole new way and I’m not afraid of the changes. Content is still king no matter whether it is delivered on the pulp of trees or on digital readers. The more technology you can master while you wait, the better.
So what did I forget? Can you give us more tips of setting up an office, mastering technology and building the infrastructure?