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Sunday, September 14, 2014

No Consideration=No Contract (Talking Money Upfront)

I was intrigued by this post on Contently about a fellow freelancer's new ebook about making a six-figure living as a freelancer. As an author with a book with a similar name, (though it sounds like mine is quite a bit longer), I was intrigued by the concept. I agree that much of freelancing success can be summed up with succinct tips. One of hers is to "think of writing like a business," and this is critical for freelancers, especially new ones.

Case in point--I just heard from a potential client this morning (we've been in touch via email already). She offered me an assignment of several blog posts. That's great! She told me the topics she wants me to cover, and gave me a deadline of Friday. I asked her about word count, and she told me what she needs. Great. There's only one problem--we haven't talked money yet (though she did ask me to quote her a fee.)

But without agreeing on my fee, we don't have a contract yet. (Legally, because no "consideration" or value, has been identified for the blog posts, no contract exists. Thank you, law school.) 

And I won't work without a contract. That's because I always think of writing like a business. I emailed her back promptly with my bid, and asked her to let me know ASAP if that rate will work. If she says "yes," I have a contract (which I'll confirm in an email to her) and I'll get to work. If not--well, then I don't have a contract, so I don't have an assignment. 

Sounds obvious, right? But I know writers who have been burned doing work for clients before they've hammered out their fees and that never ends well. You need a contract--even it it's an email contract--before you start work.   

***Yeah, I have my own book with 101 tips to freelancing success--Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success.It still hasn't earned out yet (more about that later) but it's sold more than 4600 copies since it was published in 2012, which is good news. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Full-Time Job? No, Thanks

Would you give up your freelance career to take a full-time job? No? You're not alone. According to a report from the Freelancers Union, 88 percent feel the same way. That's nearly 9 in 10 freelancers who find the benefits and challenges of self-employment more appealing than a traditional full-time gig. 

When asked why they freelanced, reasons included flexibility, being able to be their own boss, and being able to better balance work and life. Those reasons certainly apply to me, too, but one of my primary reasons to freelance is because I can make more money per-hour than I can working most other jobs. 

Could I have done this at the outset of my freelance career? No. But as I've gained experience, I've become more valuable to clients in a variety of fields, and that means I can charge more for what I do. And for markets that offer a set fee (think consumer magazines, for example), I'm typically able to work more efficiently than I did in the past--again, a benefit of experience. 

That experience means I've learned where I can save time, too. I no longer do 30-minute interviews with sources when I know I can get what I need in ten. I no longer rewrite articles four, five, or six times seeking perfection--my second draft is usually the final one. And I focus on developing solid relationships with clients, editors, sources, and other writers--which pays off for me with more work. 

So, yes, there's the freedom. That's huge. And I can typically adapt my work schedule around my kids' schedules, which is a huge plus. But the biggest reason for me to freelance is a financial one. At least at this point in my life, working a limited number of hours, I want to make as much during those hours as I can. And with experience, I've been able to do so. 

So what do clients actually pay for the work I'm doing? That's the subject of an upcoming post.

In the meantime, where you do stand? Are you among the 9 in 10 who would turn down a full-time gig to continue freelancing? If so, why? 

**My latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, shows writers how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. Want more advice about making more money as a freelancer in less time? Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Editiona freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line. And if you're brand-new to freelancing, I recommend Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets



Monday, September 1, 2014

For Labor Day: Changing the Way You Labor?

Happy Labor Day to my American Readers, first off. I hope you're taking it off, like I am! 

My kids started school last week, and I'm slowly starting to find a work groove. One of my goals for the coming year is to work more efficiently--which to me means working when I'm supposed to be working. I work part-time hours, so I have to make the most of them. I'm sorry to say that lately I've been wasting plenty of time while I should be working...and my biggest time-waster is Facebook. 

Of course I'm not alone; according to Facebook (which admittedly may be a biased source), Americans average 40 minutes a day on Facebook. That sounds about right for me--and I'm almost always on Facebook during my work hours. Well, 40 minute of lost work time a day equals at least 10 to 15 percent of my available work time, and that's quite a loss--and it's not making me any more productive when I do get back to my current assignments.  

 So I've decided I'll only check Facebook at the end of the workday and not allow myself any "quick" social media breaks when I'm supposed to be working. If I do need a break, I'll take one away from the computer. I think it'll be a better way to recharge, too, even if I miss out on a few status posts, quizzes, and photos of cute kids. 

Will this be challenging? I'm sure. But it's one simple way I can get more from my work time without sacrificing anything else.

What about you? What one thing can you do differently to work more efficiently? Feel free to  comment and let me know. 

**My latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, shows writers how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. Want more advice about making more money as a freelancer in less time? Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Editiona freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line. And if you're brand-new to freelancing, I recommend Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't Shortchange Yourself: Another Smart Marketing Tip

Who's attending ASJA's ConCon in Chicago November 13 and 14 this year? If you do content marketing, or you're a freelancer who wants to break into this field, consider this Chicago event. I went last year (and was on the ASJA committee behind it) and will be there this year as well, speaking on a panel about setting and negotiating rates as a freelancer.

But as of last summer, I didn't even know what "content marketing" really meant--and yet I agreed to help run a conference about it! What the hell, I thought--I'll go and figure it out once I'm there. But a few weeks later, when I was talking to another freelancer who does it, I realized I did know what it was. I'd actually done quite a bit of it already. 

"Content marketing" what used to be called "branded content" or "custom content." If you've been freelancing for a while, you've probably heard of custom magazines (think, Home and Away put out by AAA or WellBella, published by GNC) and may have even written for them. Expand your definition of "content" beyond articles to anything a company creates for consumers with a specific marketing purpose--web copy, white papers, videos, audios--and you've got "content marketing." 

My point? As a freelancer, I've been doing content marketing for years, writing articles for a variety of custom publishers. Not recognizing that that's what it was called hamstrung me from promoting that work to potential clients. Now I'm positioning myself as a content marketing writer, and getting work from companies to do more of it as a result. 

Take a look at your experience and consider how you're marketing yourself to clients. If you have experience that's valuable to potential clients, make sure they know about it! Don't shortchange yourself because you haven't labeled your skills in the most appealing way. 

**My latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, shows writers how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. Want more advice about making more money as a freelancer in less time? Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Editiona freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line. And if you're brand-new to freelancing, I recommend Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Everything Old is New Again: How to Make a Reprint Fresh

I've written before that two of my favorite kinds of money to make are royalty checks and reprints. Why? Because they require no (or next to) work on my part. In the past, I've made as much as $6800 in a year from reselling articles that have already been published. The market for reprints isn't as lucrative as it once was, but I still make several thousand dollars a year offering reprints to smaller, regional, and specialty markets, many of which have purchased stories from me for years. 

One of the reasons I continue to offer reprints is that it's so easy, once I find an appropriate market for them. I've had the greatest success with "evergreen" stories, but even evergreens can do with a trim--or in this case, what I call a tweak. So I'm always willing to update a piece, or rewrite a lead, or "tweak" a story to better fit an editor's needs. 

For example, one of my regular reprint markets recently asked me about reprinting a story I wrote a decade ago. She wanted it framed in a slightly different way. I was fine with reworking it the way she asked, and updated my sources' titles in the meantime--two have new positions (not surprisingly as it's been 10 years), and one has added a PhD to her name, which I included. Total time to do this: 30 minutes. What I'm charging for the reprint: $100. Do the math and you'll see that translates into a $200/hour rate. 

No, you won't get rich selling reprints--most of my markets pay just between $40 and $150 for reprint rights to a story. But the fact that they take little effort to sell--especially if you're willing to take a little time to tweak them--makes them well worth the effort for me. That may be the case for you, too. 

**Coming next post--my latest royalty statement and breakdown. Aspiring book authors will want to read this! 

**Want more advice about making more money as a freelancer in less time? Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Editiona freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line, and my latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, which shows how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. If you're brand-new to freelancing, I recommend Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Do You Need to Challenge Yourself Marketing-Wise?

I've posted before about the importance of marketing constantly; it's how you fill your freelance pipeline with work. Yet when I'm busy, marketing often falls to the bottom of my to-do list. I'm preoccupied with the work on my desk, and when I finally look up, I realize I'm short on work and have to scramble. I hate that feeling, and I hate the loss of productivity, and the loss of income, that results when I haven't marketed enough to keep me busy. 

That's one reason I signed up for the eight-week marketing challenge sponsored by Freelance Success, a website I belong too. (Freelance Success is a website for serious freelancers; it produces a weekly newsletter with market guide information and includes active forums for freelancers. It's a great place to find market info, network with other freelancers, and share advice about our business.) 

Writers who want to participate are divided into teams (there are five teams this time). Each team's writers keep in touch throughout the week, sharing pitching advice and ideas, and then at the end of the week, each writer reports their weekly points to the team captain. During the challenge, members get: 
  • 1 point for each query
  • 1 point for each LOI, or letter of introduction 
  • 1 point for each follow-up
  • 1 point for each social media post
  • 3 points for each assignment
While each team wants to win (our team is in second place this week), the marketing challenge is about more than gathering points. It's about consistent marketing, and having other people to cheer you on--which should hopefully result in more assignments. 

But you needn't belong to a member of Freelance Success to participate in a marketing challenge! Consider creating your own with some freelance friends. Agree in advance what points will be awarded for different types of marketing, and how long the marketing challenge will last, and then get pitching! 

Readers, what do you think? Have you ever participated in a marketing challenge? And would you be interested in doing on through this blog? Comment here to let me know and if there's enough interest, I'll consider managing and overseeing one!  

**Want more advice about marketing? Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Editiona freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line, and my latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, which shows how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. If you're brand-new to freelancing, I recommend Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets




Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Write a More Effective LOI (Or, Why to Forget the Kitchen Sink)

Hi, readers--I'm back! I enjoyed my monthlong blogging hiatus but I'm back and you can count on a new post every Monday like usual. I've posted before about the importance of a strong LOI (letter of introduction); it's very likely the most effective weapon in your freelance arsenal. 

However, some writers tend to "kitchen-sink" the LOI and overwhelm the potential editor or client by listing all of their accomplishments, credits, experience, background, you name it. I suggest a narrower approach, focusing on one specific area that is most likely to appeal to the client instead. Here's an example: this is a actual LOI I sent out earlier this year that led to work. (My comments are in blue in brackets.) 

Dear Dan:

First off, it was a real pleasure meeting you at ASJA this year. I’m writing to remind you of my strengths (or at least some of them), which I hope you’ll keep in mind for assignments. [Typical opener if I've met the person already; always use your "in" early in your LOI.]

As I mentioned when we met, I’m a long-time freelancer who’s written for custom publishers including The Magazine Group and McMurry as well as 50+ national magazines including Self, Health, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Continental, Fitness, and ShapeI’m also an ACE-certified personal trainer and Les Mills Body Pump instructor, so I “walk the walk” so to speak when it comes to writing about fitness and health. [Although I'm a former lawyer, I didn't mention this here--it's not relevant to him. nor do I mention my ghostwriting/coauthoring work, or the fact that I'm a motivational speaker, or that I own a small press. I don't want to detract from my identity that is most valuable to him--that of an experienced fitness/health writer.]

I’m an experienced researcher and easily translate complicated health and fitness topics into “plain English” for a variety of audiences. I’m also happy to come up with story ideas; working with clients as a personal trainer gives me access to an almost unlimited list of ideas and new angles to take even with evergreen subjects. [No, you typically don't suggest an idea with an LOI, but your willingness to do so will make your editor happy.]

What else should you know? I’m reliable, professional, and easy to work with, and strive to give my clients exactly what they want, on or before deadline. I’m happy to send clips, pitch story ideas, or tell you more about what I can offer. [Again, I'm keeping this short and sweet.]

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon. 

Sincerely,

Kelly James-Enger

**Want to see more LOIs that worked? I include real-life samples in both Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Editiona freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line, and my latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, which shows how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field.