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Friday, May 4, 2012

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Go Beyond What's Expected

Last week at ASJA, long-time freelancer Sam Greengard shared his "Seven Deadly Freelancing Sins" during the "Secrets of Successful Freelancers" Panel. Number one was, "Do only what's asked of you."

At first glance, this doesn't seem to be a problem. You're given an assignment by an editor or client. You follow the parameters of the assignment, complete it, and turn it in. No problem. Right?

Except that you've lost an opportunity to impress your editor--and to move to "favored freelancer status" with her.

So instead of doing what's asked, or expected, of you: the Hot Freelance Tip of the Day is: Go beyond what's expected of you.

What does that mean? That depends on what type of work you're doing, but it could include:

  • Suggesting art/graphics for the piece as you're researching/working on it. (For example, while working on a piece about the increasing problem of obesity in kids, I wrote a lead about "uprooting your couch potato kids." I told my editor about it and the story wound up with a layout that included graphics of cute potato/children hybrids. Art directors/designers love having a little extra time to work and plan.)
  • Obtaining art for a story. For a travel piece on festivals in Coeur d'Alene, I obtained photographs from the local convention and visitor's bureau, and sent along a half-dozen with the piece. My editor used three of them. (I knew she couldn't pay me extra for them--this was a market with a very limited budget--so most writers never bothered to submit photos with their stories.) 
  • Turning your story in before deadline. Most writers turn work in on the day of the deadline. Beat the deadline by a few days or more, and you'll endear yourself to your editor. 
  • Sending backup without being asked or reminded. In my opinion, your backup, or fact-checking material, should be ready to go when you turn in a story. Then if your editor accepts is as is (yay!), you send the backup in and you're done. So why not attach the backup along with the piece, explaining that you've included everything when you turn it in? 
  • Throwing in an extra. Several years ago, I wrote a book for a ghosting client. After the book itself was completed, he realized he needed jacket copy, too for the inside front and back covers. He had pulled something together and asked me to edit it. I did--for no charge. (This isn't the same as writing for free! This is providing a bonus to someone who's already your client, like I did with the photos for the CDA story.) 
You may not always be able to "go beyond," but make an effort to find ways to surprise your editor (in a good way!), and you'll be rewarded with more assignments and grateful clients. (See Secret #43, Follow the platinum rule, in Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success.)

**Readers, do you "go beyond" for your clients? If so, how? I welcome your comments below.