Guest post by Derek Thompson.
It is often a difficult leap from being a creative writer to becoming a successful,
working writer. While every journey and approach is unique, there are certain
key principles that will serve you well.
Here, freelance writer Derek Thompson, offers a few tips he has picked up
along the way.
1. Have a starting rate.
When you choose freelancing as a means of earning an income, you need to
have a baseline. That can vary, of course, depending on the client and what’s
required. But be very clear at the outset what you’re prepared to work for – it
makes negotiation a lot less painful because…
2. Almost everything is negotiable.
The timescale, the scope of the job and even the specifics of the requirements
– all these are subject to change. This can work to your advantage as well.
The ad may say ‘local writers only’, but that doesn’t stop you making a pitch if
you really believe you can convince the client that you’re the best person for
the job. Although…
3. The client is ALWAYS right, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
They can change their mind, cancel the project, dangle carrots in the far
distance and promise you the moon. They can be frustrating, contradictory,
flaky or never satisfied. But it helps to remember they are the client and you’re
being hired for a job. The professional thing to do is grin and bear it (even a
tiny grin counts) until the project is completed; then collect your payment and
politely walk away. Because…
4. You’re only as good as your reputation.
Your CV or resume may serve to illustrate your credentials and experience,
but personal recommendation will serve you well in the long run. Everyone
remembers the plumber or carpenter who arrived on time, finished the job
to the agreed spec and tidied up after themselves. Who wouldn’t want to
recommend someone like that?! So it is with freelancers – every client is a
walking, talking advertisement. So be very sure that what’s on the billboard is
good for your business.
5. Practice good time management.
As a project manager, I never forget that all projects are a balance between
Time / Cost / Quality and Scope.
If the price is fixed then your time needs to be fixed as well, or you very
quickly start to both see your hourly rate and the viability of the project
eroded. When you’re working on a project, don’t answer personal emails or
allow yourself to get distracted. It’s a business so treat it like one. However…
6. Accept that there will be unproductive time.
And a personal thanks to Geoff Thorndyke here. Geoff – a tutor on a
business course I attended – believes that you should expect half an hour
of unproductive time (i.e. unpaid) to every productive hour. Setting up,
researching, clarifying by email or phone and those last minute revisions you
hoped not to see. These are all nibblers of time and nibblers that expect to
dine for free. It’s part and parcel of freelancing so the sensible thing to do is
factor that in to your hourly or project rate.
7. Everything is more useful than you think it is.
Every piece of writing is a combination of facts, circumstance, imagination
and creative ability. It’d be a shame to waste all that on just one piece of work.
Everything you produce has the potential to become many different pieces
and you can accomplish that in several ways:
- Be clear which rights you are offering, both electronic and print.
- Approach the same piece from a different angle.
- Look at syndication options.
- Can a serious piece be rewritten with humor and vice versa?
8. Paypal is the freelancer’s friend.
It’s quick, convenient, secure and accepted around the globe. It’s not perfect
of course – the wait for eCheques can seem like forever. And don’t not forget
to factor in Paypal’s commission when you work out your fees. Overall, it’s a
great way to do business.
9. Work is where you find it.
Be discerning. The $1 an article brigade seem to have taken over the Net,
but that isn’t the case. Move on and search more intelligently. Check out
writing forums, online communities and magazines. There is work out there
for the intrepid freelancer, although you may have to spend some of that
unproductive time I mentioned.
10. Cultivate your successes.
Every time you complete a client’s requirement successfully, you have
made a valuable contact for future work – either for them or through their
recommendation. And every success is another notch on your CV (or
resume), increasing your repertoire, your confidence, your range of clients
and, ultimately, your earning power.