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Showing posts with label money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label money. Show all posts

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Don't Be Afraid to Talk Money, Part 3: Know Your Daily Nut

Welcome back to the Blogathon! We're back to talking about money. On Friday, I posted about the importance of knowing what a market pays before you write for it; yesterday I described four ways to determine your hourly rate

There's another figure you should have in mind as well, especially if you're writing with an end goal of making money (and if you're reading this blog, I assume that's the case!). It's what I call your daily nut, or the amount you have to make to reach your annual income goal. 

To determine your daily nut, you do two things: number one, determine what you want to make this year. Then divide that number by the days you'll work this year; the result is your daily nut. 

Here's an example. Let's say your income goal is $60,000 this year (that in fact is my goal this year, working about 15 hours/week). And let's say that you're planning to work 240 days out of the year. That's Mondays through Fridays, with four weeks off for holidays and vacations.

Grossing $60,000 a year comes to $5000 a month, or $250 a day. So your daily nut is $250. If you want to make $30,000, your daily nut is $125. And if you're shooting for six figures, your daily nut is $450. 

Every day, you should average your daily nut, or you won’t hit your financial goal at year's end. So, a content marketing assignment that pays $1,000 should take you about four days' worth of work. A book proposal that pays $4500 should take about 18 days' worth of work, total. Of course, not every project will work out exactly like this--some will take more time, some will take less. The idea, though, is that you average a certain amount each day.

Readers, your assignment: determine your daily nut. 


**As always, if you want to make money as a freelancer, I recommend these three books:  Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Marketswritten for brand-new freelancers in search of their first clips. Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition is a 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, shows how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

More Straight Talk about Royalties: 3,429 Books = ?



I've been a full-time freelancer for 16+ years, a book author for more than a decade, and a ghostwriter/coauthor for 8+ years. While I still work with traditional publishers, I've also published books through POD companies; published stand-alone ebooks (a stand-alone is an ebook that is only published electronically, compared to an electronic version of a print book; and launched my own publishing company, Improvise Press, earlier this year.

So I've accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about the book publishing industry, at least from an author's perspective. I'm what publishers call "mid-list." A mid-list author isn't a bestseller (at least not yet) but she usually produces a profit for her publisher. A mid-list author might sell 10,000 copies of a nonfiction book--not a bad number when you consider that traditional publishers produced more than 360,000 titles in 2011 alone (and that's not counting POD and stand-alone electronic books!) 

What new and would-be authors don't realize, however, is how little most authors actually make for their books. (This is the primary reason I started ghostwriting--so that I could cut back on the time I spent promoting books and boost my hourly rate.) I've seen average advances drop, particularly over the last five years. A book that might have garnered me a $15,000 advance a few years ago? Well, I'm probably going to get offered maybe $5,000 for it.

Which sucks.

But there is one advantage to a small advance, at least in theory--you can earn out faster. But not as fast as you'd probably like.

So let's look at some real numbers. I just received my latest royalty statement from Writer's Digest for Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. (I've shared before what I make per-book.) The good news? The book is still selling, and selling steadily. The bad news? I have yet to earn out.

From January 1 until June 30, 2013, I sold a total of 802 copies of Writer for Hire, including 72 electronic versions. (This surprises me as I usually sell a higher percentage of ebooks than this.) That means that since the book was first published, I've sold a total of 3,489 books. Those 3,489 books have produced a total of $3,046.26. Do the math and you'll see I'm averaging less than $1/book--which is one reason I launched Improvise Press earlier this year.) Do more math and you'll see that I have to produce another $1,953.74 in royalties before I collect that elusive check--but I'll get there, I guarantee it. 




Sunday, April 28, 2013

Talking Freelance Money: Per-Hour Versus Per-Word

Hi, readers! Today's post is a flashback of sorts--an updated version of one of my first, and also one of my most popular. It encompasses one of my freelancing philosophies--that it's more important to pay attention to what you're making per-word than per-hour

Per-word rates are the norm in the freelance world. You may be paid $2/word for a national print magazine, $0.25/word for an online publication, or, say, $200 for a blog post of about 600 words. The per-word figure, multiplied by word count, tells you how much you’ll make for writing a particular article. story. But it may not tell you whether it’s really worth it to take it on. To know the answer to that, you must also consider how much time the piece will take to pitch, research, and write--and possibly rewrite. Divide your assignment fee by the number of hours you put into an assignment, and you'll have its hourly rate. 

Knowing how much time an article (or any other project, for that matter) will take gives you a concrete idea of the return on your time. Because those $1/word and up assignments can be mighty misleading. Sure, it’s a bigger check than writing for a market that pays a lower per-word rate. But does a higher per-word rate mean you're making more money if you were to write for a market that pays less? 

For example, let’s say I do a 1,000-word story for a national magazine that pays $1.50/word. Fair enough—I’m getting paid $1,500 for my work. But what happens if between researching and writing the query, writing an outline (per my editor), researching the article, finding sources, doing interviews, transcribing interviews, writing the piece, turning in the piece, revising the piece (per my editor’s request), finding new sources (per my editor), interviewing those sources, turning in the final revision, submitting my backup material, answering additional questions from the editor (say, nine months later…it happens), I’ve put 25 hours into my story? That means I’ve made $60/hour on that story.

Not bad, but here’s the thing—compare that to a 1,000-word piece on the same topic for a smaller magazine that pays only $0.35/word. Yet I know the editor and my query is just a short paragraph. The story requires some background research and several interviews, and takes me a total of five hours to write. (No revisions requested! Yay!) That a total of $350, for five hours’ worth of work—or $70/hour.

At first glance, the $1,500 piece appears to be a more lucrative assignment—and it is a bigger check. But my experience has been that national markets (and I’ve written for more than 60 of them during the last 16 years) expect a lot more work from you to earn that higher rate. In many cases, I’ve found that regional magazines, trade publications, custom magazines, and websites pay more per-hour than their national counterparts. And that makes them worthwhile markets, at least for me. 


Another example? I sell reprints to a variety of markets. No, the rates aren't high--and may be as low as $40/story, but last week I got a request for an article of mine. It took me less than 15 minutes to locate the story on my hard drive and email it to her along with an invoice--an hourly rate of $160. That number puts a new perspective on selling reprints, huh? 

To know your hourly rate, you have to know how much time each assignment takes, and thats's why I recommend using a time sheet, especially if you're a new writer. As you gain experience, you'll find you can more easily estimate how long a piece will take and have a better feel for what its hourly rate--its true value--will be. 


**Looking for more advice on writing for money? Check out my latest two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, and Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition

You'll save money by buying them direct through www.improvisepress.com, my newly-launched publishing company. Use the discount code, IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps, no breaks) for 20 percent off of your order--and let me know if you'd like a signed copy for yourself or a friend! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Forget Coffee, Try TEA: How to Ask for More Money--and Get it!



Hate to negotiate? Scared to ask for more money? You're not alone. I was a lawyer in my former life and it still took me more than 13 months of fulltime freelancing before I summoned up the courage to ask to ask for more money. Now, more than 16 years later, I do it as a matter of course.

But if you're new to freelancing, or if you're wondering how to go about negotiating better rates, here's a simple and effective way to do it. Think TEA:

1. Thank. When you're offered an assignment, express your appreciation. Let her know you're excited about or looking forward to working with her. (i.e., "Thanks so much for thinking of me..." or "I'm glad you want to assign this piece..")

2. Explain. Now give a reason (or more than one) why you're asking for more money. The way you make your case will depend on the assignment, but I've used the following reasons to ask for more:

  • A tight (or extremely tight) deadline. (i.e., "I'm happy to take this on, but the deadline means I'm going to have to work nights to meet it...")
  • An all-rights contract that the editor won't budge on. (i.e., "I realize you can't change the contract, but this prevents me from ever reselling the story in the future and as a freelancer, I rely on reprints to fund my 401k...")
  • A story that requires a lot of legwork. (i.e., "Hey, we both know how hard it can be to find 'real people' sources for this kind of story....")
  • An assignment that requires a certain level of expertise or experience. (i.e., "You know that I've been doing health writing for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do all the background research this story will require..." or "I've written more than a dozen book proposals that have sold, so you know I can write a proposal that will capture an editor's attention..."
  • A market that I've written for before. (i.e., "You already know I'm going to do a great job for you...")
3. Ask. It's that simple. After you've expressed enthusiasm for and appreciation of the assignment and stated your case, ask the editor if she can "do better". (You don't have to say, "Pay me more, dude!" even if that's what you're thinking.) The way you phrase it will vary, so use language you're comfortable with. Here are some sample scripts, using the above scenarios:
  • Tight deadline script: "Thanks so much for thinking of me for this story. I'm happy to take this on, but the deadline means I'm going to have to work some nights to meet it. Considering that, can you boost your rate a bit?"
  • All-rights contract script: "I realize you can't change the contract, but this prevents me from ever reselling the story in the future and as a freelancer, I rely on reprints to fund my 401k--I don't have a pension plan. Keeping that in mind, could you do better money-wise?"
  • Legwork-heavy story: "Hey, we both know how hard it can be to find 'real people' sources for this kind of story...it can take days just to find the right person! Can you do better than $1/word for that kind of legwork?"
  • Complex or complicated assignment script: "You know that I've been doing health writing for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do all the background research this story will require, but this is a story not everyone could write. Can you do better money-wise to reflect my experience?"
  • Regular market script: "You know me and my work, and you know I'm going to do a great job for you and turn the story in before deadline. Could we talk about me getting a raise?"
Thank. Explain. Ask. It's that simple. Forget your regular cup of coffee. Try TEA instead, before you say yes...and let me know what happens!

**Hello, readers! I'm happy to report that I've been averaging more than 5,000 hits/month here for the last six months or so. That's awesome! I get lots of emails from people thanking me for my help, and I appreciate that. Now, let me ask for a favor in return--that you consider buying my latest two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, and Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition

You'll save money by buying them direct through www.improvisepress.com, my newly-launched publishing company. Use the discount code, IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps, no breaks) for 20 percent off of your order. 

Can't afford to buy the books right now? Then request them from your local library! And thank you for your support of Improvise Press, and this blog. 



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Write for reasons other than money? Say whaaaaaaat?

Take a look at the tagline of my blog and you'll see the words, "helping nonfiction freelancers make more money in less time." That's been my primary platform for the last decade, and I now have a stack of books, articles, blog posts, and ebooks on the subject. So the subject of this blog post may come as a surprise, even a shock. 


I do write for reasons other than money. I always have. 


And I'm not alone. Most freelancers started out writing because they simply loved to write. Most did not envision successful careers as self-employed scribes from the outset. Yet sometimes we freelancers think that writing has to be all about the money, all of the time. That's wrong. Even if you're serious about your writing career, and about being paid for your words, I can give you at least five reasons to write that aren't all about the money:  


1. It's personally satisfying. I know, you can't pay your bills with personal satisfaction. But sometimes you want to write for yourself, not for an editor or for a client. You have something to say, and saying it well--in your unique, inimitable voice--gratifies you in a way that a check may not. (Although checks are always awesome.) That's my major reason for continuing to write fiction--and I'll be announcing a new novel later this month!  


2. It builds your platform. Platform is deserving of its own post, but in short, it's considered your ability to sell a book to readers. Platform is more than your name and reputation--it's your "reach" as well. The more you write, the more readers you have, the more people know who you are (and like, enjoy, or find useful what you write), the bigger your platform becomes. And if you want to be an author (regardless of whether you purse traditional publishers, POD, or ebooks), a platform is essential.  


3. You can make a difference. Words matter. What you write can make a difference in someone's life. I've posted before about publishing essays, and I can tell you that my personal essays provoke more "reader mail" than anything I write other than my novels. Maybe a reader who's never really thought about it will realize that expecting a baby through adoption is just as exciting as expecting a baby through pregnancy, or recognize how painful infertility can be. Or maybe not. I like to feel that my words may make at least one person see the world a little differently.  


4. A little money can turn into more money. One of my first sales as a new freelancer was a 1,000-word piece that I sold to a magazine for a whopping $100. But once it had been published, I resold that story several times,  once for $300 and once for $225. Another essay I originally wrote for just $50 has been reprinted five times, for between $35 and $75 each. Evergreen pieces often have legs and turn into multiple checks. And even small checks add up. 


5. You're just getting started. As a new writer, your goal is to get published, and get paid (at least eventually) for your work. Who cares if your first stories are for tiny checks? I wrote feature-length articles for as little as $25 or $35 for the local newspaper, but I was learning the ropes, improving my interviewing and writing skills, and slowly progressing toward my first goal of making $10,000 that year. 


So don't beat yourself up if you write for (gasp!) reasons other than purely financial. I do too.  Remember that every article, every clip, every check--no matter how small--helps you build a successful freelance career. 


***My new line of ebooks, all branded with the Dollars and Deadlines name, are geared toward new freelancers. I take the same approach with them that I do with this blog--I give practical, proven strategies and plenty of examples to help you achieve your writing goals. So far the most popular has been Dollars and Deadlines' Guide to Selling your First Article, but Dollars and Deadlines 10 Essential Freelance Templates is also selling well. Please check them out, and recommend them to your would-be-freelancing friends.  


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Power of Example--or, One Reason I Talk about Money



I started my freelance career with little more in mind than to escape the law. Sure, I had a financial goal (I wanted to make at least $10,000 my first year of freelancing full-time), but I didn't have much of a business plan. It wasn’t like I decided to freelance and then took a few business classes online or anything. Fact is, I had no business plan. But I did have a lot of energy, motivation, and drive, which certainly helped. 

While I lacked a business plan, I did set specific goals to keep myself on track. I sent out at least one query or essay submission every day, five days a week. When I received a rejection (what I call a "bong"), I sent a new query to the market that had rejected me, and eventually started getting assignments from markets like Bridal Guide, Fit, Fitness, Shape, and Family Circle. I also broadened my scope, and started writing for the local hospital and small area businesses as well. By my fourth year, I was making more than $60,000/year and was confident that I could sustain a successful career as a self-employed writer. 

Still, I had no idea I could make even more money than that. I was already making more than I had as an (admittedly underpaid) lawyer and I realize now it didn't occur to me that I could continue to increase my income, and make, say, six figures. 

Then I met another writer who made six figures regularly. And she wasn't a better writer than I was. She wasn't any more professional about her career than I was. And she didn't have that much more experience than I did. I remember thinking, hey, if she can make six figures, why can't I? Two years later, I cracked the six-figure mark (and wound up writing a book on six-figure freelancing along the way!).  

That's the power of example. When you see someone else reaching a goal (especially someone similar to yourself), you're more likely to believe that you can do the same thing. That's one reason I'm open about the financial aspects of my writing career, whether it's sharing what I made last year, surveying freelancers about their income, explaining the difference between print and electronic royalties, or how many copies of a POD book I've sold. As the saying goes, information is power but information is motivation, too. My hope is that by seeing what I've done (or what other successful freelancers have done), you'll be empowered to reach your own writing goals. 

***My ebook list keeps growing! I've now added a new book designed for new writers who want to make the leap from unpublished to published--whether you write essays, short fiction, or articles. Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to be Published Should Know will help you make the transition from writing for yourself to writing for publication.  

If you know you want to focus on writing articles, you'll want to check out Dollars and Deadlines' Guide to: Selling your First Article, which takes away the mystery of getting published for the first time. Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Essential Freelance Templates includes the 10 templates you'll use the most often as a freelancer and describes when to use them. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eight Ways to Make More Money as a Freelancer

If you're familiar with my work, you already know that I believe writers fall into two camps: those who write because they simply love to write, and those who want to make money for their work, or who write for money.

There’s nothing wrong with launching a freelance career because you love to write. But that's enough to sustain a successful full-time freelance career. And if you want to succeed as a freelancer, you must think about-and talk about--money.

Yet I find that many writers are afraid to talk money, or (mistakenly) think that you can’t make a good living as a freelancer. That’s simply not true. But if you're a new freelancer and you want to make real money as a writer, you have to start thinking about money—and possibly changing your mindset as well.

Use these eight strategies to start thinking (and acting) like a writer who deserves to and plans on getting paid. To make money as a writer, you should:

• Submit your work to markets that pay. This sounds obvious, but if you want to get paid for your work, you must find someone to buy it. If you only submit to nonpaying markets, you won’t make any cash.

• Actually submit your work! I’m amazed at the number of writers who are diligently committed to their craft, yet are afraid to send in work. Will you be rejected? Yes! Every writer, no matter how talented, has his or her work turned down. But you must overcome that fear to start making money as a freelancer.

• Ask about pay. Most markets, whether print or online, now keep writers’ guidelines online. If you don’t see any, don’t be afraid to send a quick email to the editor or webmaster asking about rates. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

• Present yourself as a writer who gets paid. When I submit work to potential reprint markets, I say something like, “Please let me know if you’re interested in purchasing reprint rights to this story.” Note my language—I don’t ask if the editor is interested in reprinting the story (she might think I just want the exposure), but if she’s interested in paying for that right.

• Track your income. If you want to make money, you should be keeping track of how much you’re making, and from what markets. It also means following up on outstanding invoices, if necessary. Don’t forget to keep track of your business expenses as well, so you can deduct them from your gross income at the end of the year.

• Write what sells. This is possibly the most important tip of all. I’m a twice-published novelist and still entertain visions of being able to write fiction fulltime. But I can’t--unless I can figure out how to live on, say $7,500 a year, my advance for each. So instead I write nonfiction articles and books about health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness because there are plenty of markets looking for that kind of work, and those markets pay well. I also ghostwrite and coauthor books for clients in those fields because there's a demand for this kind of work.

• Gather information. To market your work, you must know what markets are buying, and what they're paying. Keep up on markets through sources like Writer's Digest, Writing for Dollars, and PublishersMarketplace, and submit your work to them.

• “Just say no”—to writing for free. It’s one thing if you have a blog to showcase your writing and hopefully attract future clients. But when you write for markets that don’t pay (or pay in “exposure”), you’re devaluing your own work as well as that of other writers. I suggest you say no thanks to writing for free in favor of paying markets. You—and your bank account—will benefit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Double-Dip Technique #5: Think Reprints from the Outset

Happy Monday, readers! Last post I talked about TEA, a simple, effective method of asking for more money. Today we're back to double-dipping, one of my favorite subjects. You already know how I love reslanting and selling reprints, but there's another double-dip technique I use to maximize my work time.

Reprints aren't just an afterthought for me; instead, I think about reprints from the outset. In other words, when I pitch an idea to a magazine, I'm already lining up potential reprint markets in my mind--and as soon as reprint rights revert to me, I send that piece out to my other markets.

Let me give you an example. I have a handful of reprint markets that purchase stories on women's health, lifestyle, fitness, nutrition, and wellness topics. When I write an article on one of those topics (for a market with a writer-friendly topic), I make a note to offer the piece to my regulars as soon as it's available. So after I wrote a story on how to reduce your risk of breast cancer for a woman's mag for $500 and it ran, I turned around and sold it as a reprint to two different overseas women's magazines ($150 and $300 each); to a small custom magazine ($75); to a regional parenting magazine ($150); to another regional parenting magazine ($50); and to a regional woman's magazine ($80) within the next three months. And the story is still selling to other reprint markets as well.

Get the idea? Don't just treat reprints as an afterthought. Think about potential reprint markets beforehand--as you pitch, and as you write--and you'll make more money for your original pieces as well. That's double-dip technique number 5.

Working efficiently and making more money has been my focus as a freelancer for more than a decade. If you want to learn more about how I do it, read more of my blog. Or check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, or Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money. (Notice a theme here?)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Try TEA: The Three-Step Method to Getting Paid More

Hate to negotiate? You're not alone. I was a lawyer in my former life and it still took me more than 13 months of fulltime freelancing before I summoned up the courage to ask to ask for more money. Now, fourteen years later, I do it as a matter of course.

But if you're new to freelancing, or if you're wondering how to go about negotiating better rates, here's a simple and effective way to do it. Think TEA:

1. Thank. When you're offered an assignment, express your appreciation. Let her know you're excited about or looking forward to working with her. (i.e., "Thanks so much for thinking of me..." or "I'm glad you want to assign this piece..")

2. Explain. Now give a reason (or more than one) why you're asking for more money. The way you make your case will depend on the assignment, but I've used the following reasons to ask for more:
  • A tight (or extremely tight) deadline. (i.e., "I'm happy to take this on, but the deadline means I'm going to have to work nights to meet it...")
  • An all-rights contract that the editor won't budge on. (i.e., "I realize you can't change the contract, but this prevents me from ever reselling the story in the future and as a freelancer, I rely on reprints to fund my 401k...")
  • A story that requires a lot of legwork. (i.e., "Hey, we both know how hard it can be to find 'real people' sources for this kind of story....")
  • An assignment that requires a certain level of expertise or experience. (i.e., "You know that I've been doing health writing for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do all the background research this story will require..." or "I've written more than a dozen book proposals that have sold, so you know I can write a proposal that will capture an editor's attention..."
  • A market that I've written for before. (i.e., "You already know I'm going to do a great job for you...")

3. Ask. It's that simple. After you've expressed enthusiasm for and appreciation of the assignment and stated your case, ask the editor if she can "do better". (You don't have to say, "Pay me more, dude!" even if that's what you're thinking.) The way you phrase it will vary, so use language you're comfortable with. Here are some sample scripts, using the above scenarios:

  • Tight deadline script: "Thanks so much for thinking of me for this story. I'm happy to take this on, but the deadline means I'm going to have to work some nights to meet it. Considering that, can you boost your rate a bit?"
  • All-rights contract script: "I realize you can't change the contract, but this prevents me from ever reselling the story in the future and as a freelancer, I rely on reprints to fund my 401k--I don't have a pension plan. Keeping that in mind, could you do better money-wise?"
  • Legwork-heavy story: "Hey, we both know how hard it can be to find 'real people' sources for this kind of story...it can take days just to find the right person! Can you do better than $1/word for that kind of legwork?"
  • Complex or complicated assignment script: "You know that I've been doing health writing for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do all the background research this story will require, but this is a story not everyone could write. Can you do better money-wise to reflect my experience?"
  • Regular market script: "You know me and my work, and you know I'm going to do a great job for you and turn the story in before deadline. Could we talk about me getting a raise?"

Thank. Explain. Ask. It's that simple. Try TEA before you say yes...and let me know what happens!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Want to Add Ghostwriter/Coauthor to your Resume? Here's How

Are you a book author who wants to make more money, sell more books, or work more efficiently? Or are you a freelancer who wants to branch into a lucrative niche? Consider getting into ghostwriting. (I decided to start ghosting and coauthoring when I realized I could make more money as an author in less time by collaborating with experts on their books--but there are other compelling reasons as well.)

Not sure what you need to succeed in this field, how to attract and qualify clients, or set your fees? Need advice about marketing yourself, negotiating contracts, and working efficiently with clients? Then you'll want to check out my new book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. (While you can get the print version now, I'll let readers know when the Kindle version is available.)

Just as with my earlier books on writing, Six-Figure Freelancing and Ready, Aim, Specialize, I don't rely only on my own experience--I want to know how others have succeeded as well. So, for Goodbye Byline, I interviewed twenty experienced ghostwriters, coauthors, and publishing experts to include their experiences and advice. Plus you'll find templates for letters of introduction, bids, contracts, and other essential documents you need to succeed in this growing field.

If you want to start ghostwriting--or simply want more information about the field--I hope you'll check out my new book. And please let me know what you think!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The State of Freelance Income, Take Two

Long-time readers of my blog will recall that I started a poll about the state of fulltime freelancers' annual income back in the spring. Well, I'm continuing to receive responses and will report on the latest figures soon. (I'm also planning a follow-up survey in January, 2011 so we can see how 2010 turned out compared to 2009. As of June, 2010, 55 percent of respondents expected to make more in 2010 than in 2009 and 30 percent expected to make about the same; only 15 percent expected to make less than they did in 2009.)

Already participated in the survey? Great--thank you! If you haven't, though, and you're a fulltime freelancer, please visit my Freelance Income Survey to share your data. (Tell your freelancing buddies, too.) It will take you less than 3 minutes, is completely anonymous and will give all of us more info about the state of the market these days.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Freelance Mistake #3: Failing to Market

What's the mistake to discuss today? Failure to market...or failure to market enough...or failure to market consistently.

You don’t have power over the amount of work that's assigned to you, but you do control how much time you spend pitching ideas and marketing yourself. The tricky thing is that when you’re swamped with assignments, it’s all too easy to stop querying . . . only to find that a month later, you’re completely caught up and have no new work coming your way. (Alas, I'm living this firsthand and it's my own fault. I've spent the last two months engrossed in researching and writing Goodbye Byline, and guess what? I'm close to finishing the book, but am looking at few assignments at the moment, which means I'm going to have a lousy fall money-wise unless I bust my marketing butt immediately.)

So, do as I say, not as I'm doing at the moment. One of the techniques I’ve used to help ensure a steady stream of work is mentally dividing assignments into three categories: work that’s been completed and accepted (and for which I’m awaiting payment); work that’s been turned in but hasn’t been approved by the editor or client yet; and assigned work that I still have to research and write. I then try to maintain a certain amount—say, $5,000—in each category at any given time. (The more you want to make, the more that amount should be.)

Let's call these categories A (work that I'm awaiting payment on), B (work that has been turned in but needs client approval), and C (work I still have to do. If I’m looking at $6,000 worth of work in category A, and another $5,000 in category B, that’s great, but if I only have a $2,000 assignment in category C, I know I need to get cracking to line up some more assignments or my checkbook will look pretty thin a couple of months from now.

Get the idea? Market aggressively, market frequently, market consistently--or your freelance business will suffer. Now I've got to sign off--and follow my own advice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Money Test: Say Yes--or Not?

When I started freelancing 14+ years ago, I said "yes, please!" (think Austin Powers) to any paying work that came my way. I was trying to make money. My financial goal my first year was to make...wait for it...$10,000. I have no idea why I chose that number, other than it was a nice, neat one and seemed realistic for someone launching a freelance business with no connections, no experience, and no clue.

However, having a financial goal (even a small one) made me focused on money and it meant that every assignment I took that first year had to pay something--even if it was just $25 or $35 for a short piece for the local paper. Even the "small stuff" did move me toward making my income goal that first year. and I actually made more than $17,000 my first year of freelancing.

Today I can't say yes to everything, or even most things. And over time, I've developed a four-part test I use when I decide whether to take on work:

1. How much money does it pay? (If you're freelancing to make a living, or at least make some green, this is obvious.)

2. Less obvious--how much time will it take? I've found that the work I've done for national magazines takes far more time (including the pitching and follow-ups) than the work I do for smaller publications. Yes, the big magazines pay more, but I'm always looking at my hourly rate, not just the size of the check. And sometimes the magazines that pay less per word, actually pay more per hour.)

3. What's the PIA factor? My regular readers know that PIA is my shorthand for "Pain In the..." Some clients and editors are just...annoying. I'm thinking of an editor I work with who takes forever to respond to queries, then assigns stuff with ridiculously tight deadlines. I love her, but there's definintely a PIA factor to working with her. And if that PIA factor on a particular project is high, I'm either going to get more money...or I might even walk away.

4. Will this work further my career--and if so, how? So, for example, when I wrote my first book, Ready, Aim, Specialize, I received an advance of $2,500. And I interviewed 56 people for it! Looking at my hourly rate, I made more as a teenaged lifeguard. But I wanted to start writing books, and I had to begin somewhere. So I said yes to the book, added "author" to my CV, and even made royalties from it. My first book led to many others, which made the first deal worth it.

What about you? How do you decide to take on work? Is it just about the money or do you consider other factors as well?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Share your Fulltime Freelance Income...Anonymously, of Course

Good news...I've already received 84 responses on my freelance income survey; if you haven't done so already, please visit http://www.kwiksurveys.com/online-survey.php?surveyID=KNMIOF_cdf53ce4&UID=2614948357 to share your data. And please ask other fulltime freelancers to do so as well. It will take you 3 minutes or less, is completely anonymous and will give freelancers more info about the state of the market these days. And if you've already participated (or are about to do it this minute!), thank you! :)

Tune in for the results next week. You may be surprised at the results!

Happy Friday! :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Talk about Money...How Much are you Making?

Let’s talk money some more. How much are you making this year? How does it compare to last year?

Here’s the thing—I talk about money. Maybe it's a character flaw, but I think other writers should, too. There’s a perception (a misconception, in my opinion) that freelancing is a good way to starve. But for me, and thousands of other successful self-employed writers, freelancing more than pays the bills. So why isn’t that info getting out there?

Sure, plenty of writers are making little money. But are they going where the money is—in other words, writing for clients who pay reasonably well? Are they writing what people want to pay for, not what they particularly feel like writing that day? Hey, I would love to be a fulltime novelist—and I already have two published novels under my belt. But I can’t make a living writing fiction…unless I can figure out how to live on $7,500/year, which is what I got as the advance for each of those novels. (Insert dejected sigh here.)

Anyway, there isn’t a lot of info out there about what freelancers are making money-wise today. Writer’s Market includes an annual roundup of going rates for different kinds of work, and if you’re a member of ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors), you have access to Paycheck, where members anonymously report what they’re paid by different publishers. But what are we making annually these days?

When I was working on Six-Figure Freelancing, I found only two surveys about freelancer's income. One was a 2003 survey of 369 ASJA members. At that time, 41% made more than $50,000 a year, including 12% grossing more than $100,000 annually. Another survey of nearly 500 freelancers conducted by Doreesa Banning in 2004 found that while nearly 68.9% of respondents made less than $50,000 a year, more than 30% made more than that, including 7% who made more than $100,000 annually. (Visit http://www.asja.org/pubtips/050324a.php for more about the survey.)

What about you? Where do you fall on the income bell curve? I’ll tell you that in 2009, I grossed about $52,000 last year, working an average of 15 hours/week. In 2008, I made $57,500, working about 18 hours/week. However, this year I’m on target to make significantly less than that, which means it’s time for me to market myself much more aggressively.

Still, I’m curious about what other freelancers are making and thought about asking for feedback here. Then reality interceded; after all, I do realize not everyone is as willing to share their annual income in a public forum. So I’ve set up an anonymous survey to report on the current state of what we're making as freelancers. Please visit http://www.kwiksurveys.com/?s=KNMIOF_cdf53ce4 to participate in the survey (it will take you 3 minutes or less!) and I’ll report on the results by the end of June. After all, more information about money=more power for freelancers. And that is an excellent thing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One idea=one story? Wrong!

As a freelancer, you have a limited number of hours to dedicate to earning money from your work, whether you’re writing part- or full-time. That’s why I make the most of mine by squeezing as much as I can out of my research—by selling “reslants” to other markets. I never write about an idea only once. I'm always looking to cover it again for another magazine.

Reslanting is writing about the same topic more than once, with a different angle, for a new market. And it’s a way to work much more efficiently, boosting your hourly rate.

It took me several years to grasp this fact, though. When I first launched my career, I dug for story ideas, looked for appropriate markets, and queried magazines. When I got an assignment, I wrote the article. Then it was on to the next idea, the next market, the next story.

I wrote about topics ranging from how avoiding employment discrimination claims to memory improvement techniques to animal dissection alternatives to religious weight loss programs. Each story took a considerable amount of time to research, but once I was finished with it, I never revisited the topic. Not smart.

Does that sound like how you work? Then break yourself of the one idea=one story habit right now. Instead, start thinking about the different ways you can reslant material to different markets. That lets you take advantage of the information that’s already in your head, in your interview transcripts, and on your hard drive, reducing the amount of time you spend researching and writing your next piece. Sure, you may do additional interviews, but the lion’s share of the work (wrapping your brain around a new subject) has already been completed.

Not sure how to do it? Put your brainstorming hat on. You pitched a specific angle on a particular topic to one market. You wrote the piece--or you're writing it now. Don't stop there. Think about the different angles you can take with the subject, and which markets might be interested in them.

For example, last year I was assigned a piece on the health benefits of gratitude for a custom magazine. (I'd never written about gratitude before, though I am the mistress of thank-you notes.) Using the same basic research and one additional interview, I wrote a piece on helping your kids become more grateful for a major newspaper. Then I wrote a piece on surprising ways to be happy (including becoming more grateful) for a woman’s magazine. Get the idea? The idea—gratitude is good for you—was the same, but by coming up with different slants and markets, I sold three stories based on the idea. And I’m still pitching related stories now.

So break free from the concept that one idea=one story for one market. Instead, think one idea=multiple angles, multiple stories, multiple markets, multiple checks. Reslanting lets you cover a subject more than once, and each subsequent story takes less time to research and write than a wholly original idea. Bottom line is that you're making making more money…in less time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ask for More Money...and Get It

I’d been freelancing fulltime for more than a year before I summoned up the courage to ask for a better deal than whatever was on the table. Before then, I simply took whatever the editor offered, scampered off, and was grateful. (For example, my first article, which sold to Cosmopolitan in 1996, sold for $850… for 1,300 words. That’s what the editor said she could pay, so I took it. This was at a time when the magazine paid $1/word and up for articles. Did I ask for more? Did I even try? Of course not. I was so thrilled to finally get published I would have sold the piece for $50. Good thing I didn’t tell the editor that.)

With 13 months’ experience came some confidence, however. Also the realization that while I was working 50- to 60-hour weeks, I wasn’t making that much money. Granted, some of my work was for the local newspaper, where I was paid anywhere from $35 to $75 for a story. But another factor was that I kept saying “yes” to any work that came my way without ever asking for more. So I decided to try—and I think you should too.

Feeling nervous? That’s OK. I’m going to make it easy for you with some specific techniques you can try:

Be nice. Meaning, I don’t attack the editor for a less-than-stellar offer. Instead, I express my gratitude to her and remind her that I do want to work with her. Then I ask for more. Try something like, “Thanks so much for thinking of me for this piece—I’m looking forward to working with you on this topic. But considering the length/scope/deadline/insert-reason-hereof the piece, do you think you could do a little better money-wise?”

Give a reason. Bottom line—I want more money. I just do! But that doesn’t give my editor a reason to give it to me. That's why I give her an explanation of why I want more money—the complexity of the story, the number of sources I’ll have to interview, a tight deadline, a piece that requires some expertise in the subject matter, whatever fits. I want to give her a reason to say “yes.” Years ago, an editor I’d worked with before called to assign a 2,000-word piece on oral contraceptives that included five sidebars—and then offered $1/word for it. That’s not a terrible rate, but it wasn’t enough to justify all the time I was going to put into the story. I told her, “I really want to write this piece for you, but obviously this story is going to take me weeks of research and interviews, especially with all the sidebars. I don’t think $1/word is really fair for this particular story. Can you do better than that?” She immediately agreed to $1.50/word, which gave me an extra $1,000 just for opening my mouth. (In retrospect, I realize she agreed too quickly—she probably would have gone even higher. Oops.)

Cite your standard. If the per-word rate is much lower than what you usually get, mention that. Try, “I’d love to write for you, but for this kind of work, I usually get more per word. Is there any way you can do better?”

Prove your worth. You may be surprised to learn that I don’t try to negotiate every offer. If a new editor comes to me with an assignment at a fair rate, I take it. Then I do a great job on the piece…and ask for money the second time around. Remember that whether you’re a new or seasoned writer, the editor’s taking a chance on you—there are plenty of talented freelancers who are lazy about deadlines or turn in sloppy copy. Once I’ve proven myself, I’m in a much better position to ask for a higher per-word rate for the next story. That’s when I ask for a raise, using language like, “I’m so happy we’ll be working together again! Because you’ve worked with me before, you know I’m going to do a good job for you, and turn in the story before deadline. Considering that you know I’ll deliver for you, can we bump up my per-word rate?” (Or, “Can you do better money-wise this time around?”)

Keep the door open. I’ve asked for more money from editors and been turned down. My motto? It never hurts to ask. When an editor says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do any better,” or “we have a set rate for writers and I can’t change it,” I don’t complain. If I want the assignment, I say yes, and say, “No problem—I understand! It never hurts to ask, right?" And if I don’t want the assignment, I just explain that I can’t take it on but that I do appreciate the editor getting in touch. I never burn a bridge…and you never know where your editor may end up!

So why not try? Yes, it’s easier (and less stressful!) to simply say “yes” or “no” to an offer than to try to negotiate with an editor, but that’s no reason not to try. Take a deep breath, summon your courage, and ask if the editor can do better. You may be surprised at the answer.

One more thing--writers often fear that if they ask for more money, they’ll lose the assignment. In more than 13 years of freelancing, that has never happened to me. The worst case scenario is that you’ll ask for more money, the editor will refuse, and you’ll have to decide whether you’re willing to take the work or not. Best case? You make more money—simply by asking for it.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to ask for more money on your next freelance assignment. Let me know how it turns out. And if you have any negotiating techniques that you’ve found effective, please share them here!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Let's Talk Money

Starting out as a new freelancer, my only source of market and pay information was Writer’s Market. My strategy for choosing magazines was simple—if they had four dollar signs listed next to their name (Writer’s Market rates publications on a one to four “$” rating, depending on well they pay), I wanted to write for them.

That’s not exactly a strategy. It’s more of a crap shoot. And I’ll tell you now that I never sold an original piece to a market, $$$$ or otherwise, that I didn’t actually look at first. There’s no substitute for examining the market so that you have a feel for the readership, coverage, and tone—and that can’t be encapsulated in a long paragraph in WM.

When it comes to money, writers don’t talk about it…or talk enough about it, in my opinion. And that does all of us a disservice. It wasn’t until I attended my first writer’s conference a year into my career that I met other fulltime freelancers—all of whom were successful and making steady incomes—that I knew that I too could do that.

A few years later, I met a freelancer who made six figures. Then I met another—and another. That sparked the desire in me to reach for that goal, and the confidence that I too could do it.

But I’ll tell you something. I’m not pulling down huge book advances (I wish!) or doing a lot of high-paying magazine work anymore. I’m just working as efficiently as possible in the limited time I have. I wish that all my articles paid in the $2,500 to $3,500 range the way most of my features did five or six years ago. But that’s not the case. I have to work smarter, work more efficiently, and repurpose or resell as much of my work as I can to make the money I want.

I promised to talk money, didn’t I? So I’ll give you the rundown on some rates for recent projects and assignments to give you an idea of what magazines and other clients are paying—because information is power in the hands of other writers. And if that information helps you negotiate a higher rate from a current market or simply tells you what you can expect, it’s worth it. Feel free to share your own rate info here…or to pass along this list to other freelancers. Because information is power.
Rights/type of work Type of Market Rate
Reprint/article Non-US magazine $150
Reprint/article Custom magazine $75
Reprint/article Regional magazine $75
Reprint/article Regional magazine $60
Reprint/article National magazine $200 (plus $100 for sidebar)
Reprint/article Non-US magazine $300
Ghostwriting/article Private client $0.40/word
Ghostwriting/book Private client $100/hour
Ghostwriting/book proposal Private client $4,500
Ghostwriting/book proposal Private client $3,500
Revision and update/book Book publisher $10,000
First NA rights/article National magazine $450/1,500 words
First NA rights/article National magazine $500/1,200 words
First NA rights/article Regional magazine $350/1,200 words
All rights/article Trade magazine $500/1,500 words
First NA rights/article National magazine $3,150/1,800 words