Archive for the 'career' Category

No Tuesday’s Tools this week–instead, a discussion about quoting rates

February 5, 2008

There is a very interesting and heated discussion raging over at Freelance Writing Jobs about whether one should include a rate quote with a cover letter when requested in a want ad. My position is no, no, no.

Why might you want to do this?
As many commenters have pointed out, if a prospective client asks for rates with a cover letter and you don’t include rates, you have technically not followed their directions. Proponents for the include-rate side claim that not following directions to a T will disqualify otherwise qualified writers.

Flickr: DavidDMuir

Too, commenters argue that it’s important to be firm about your rates. I couldn’t agree more. You don’t want to let clients dictate how little they are going to pay you (and in my experience, the ones looking for an upfront quote are often looking for the cheapest labor available).

But isn’t there a better way?
Yes. Let the client make the first move, and open negotiation after you’ve made the initial connection. Here’s why.

Talking about money is rude.
Yes, it’s an old-fashioned etiquette rule, and old-fashioned etiquette is no longer “in,” but these things come from somewhere. Talking about money makes people uncomfortable. If you’re trying to convince a client that you’re a great writer who can solve all his problems, why would you make him uncomfortable at the same time? After you’ve gotten the job, or have done the initial legwork to make a connection and learn about the project (and make the client feel comfortable with you) is the time to bring up money.

You lose your power to negotiate.Flickr: oooh.oooh
Unlike the commenters who believe “negotiation” means “lowering your rate to get the job,” letting the client make the first move is a wise idea. Would you storm into your first job interview, exclaiming “I want $35,000 a year to take this job, not a penny more, not a penny less!” Of course not. You’re going to go in with an idea of what you want and see how closely it meshes with the employer’s idea of your worth. If the numbers are too far off in either direction, you amiably part ways. Otherwise you find wiggle room. A great benefits package, a nice office, or a (written) promise of a 3- or 6-month review can offset a lower salary, or vice versa. Why wouldn’t you do this with your freelance work? A prestigious byline or the opportunity to work with a great editor can justify a lower rate–an annoying client or difficult subject matter warrants a rate hike. And none of this even scratches the surface of the art of negotiation.

If a client’s prepared to pay $500 for a project and you ask for $250 without knowing the budget, you’re either showing yourself to be cheap (in both senses of the word) or, well, cheap and poor, because you could have asked for, and gotten, $400. If you truly believe the project isn’t worth $500, by all means ask for $400—you get more than you’d hoped for and the client gets less than she had expected to pay, and everybody goes home happy.

That’s negotiation. Can you do that by putting everything on the table right away?

Review: Jobs That Don’t Suck (career books, part 2)

January 25, 2008

Yesterday I mentioned The Girl’s Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear. I mentioned that though I can’t vouch for the book, I can totally vouch for the authors.
Here’s the opposite situation: a book that will change your life, though I don’t think I like the author very much. Jobs That Don’t Suck is the only career book that has ever done anything useful for me; it’s geared toward people just finishing college who want to move into a creative field. Monster.com and Yahoo! Business and all that are, of course, aimed at MBAs and salespersons and the like—surprise, those people have more money and are thus more attractive to advertisers. (You would not believe how long it took me to figure that out—go naiveté!)

But really. If you are interested in writing or journalism or radio or fashion design or any of these competitive fields, you need this book. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to unconventional cover letters, one of which, when I snagged the format, landed me a job—the person who interviewed me actually said she “loved” my cover letter. There’s chapters about resumes that go way beyond the usual schlock. There is a chapter about calling receptionists after you’ve submitted a resume—that gives you a script. I hate how other career books assume you know what to say. Many people, especially recent grads, have no clue. I sure didn’t. I thought I did, but I was wrong.

There are a few caveats with Jobs That Don’t Suck. First, there is a laughable chapter about the Internet. (The book came out in 1998 and could use an update.) Skip it. Rip the pages out if you want—they are that useless. Second, the author, Charlie Drozdyk, tries to write in a “hip” style that may have been cool 10 years ago, but takes a little getting used to. But he knows his stuff.

Also, I don’t really like Charlie Drozdyk as a person, at least from what I gleaned from his book. He advocates lying on your resume, for one thing. He suggests working 10-hour days, every day, with no end in sight. (Working late when you’re getting started and you want to make a good impression? Great. Working late every day of your life, even when you’ve gotten that promotion you wanted and you have an assistant who works late for you? Not so great.) And the lying on the resume thing really irks me. If you’re good, you shouldn’t need to lie.

Despite its flaws, I’d give this book a high rating—an 8.5 out of 10, if I did that sort of thing. Anyone in the job market oughta pick this one up.

Career books and being a mini-celebrity

January 24, 2008

On Tuesday I attended a career seminar/book signing held by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio, author of the The Girls Guide to Business series. Their latest book, The Girl’s Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear (yes, their series doesn’t have an apostrophe but the book titles do–go figure) is about how to ask for a raise, a promotion, a corner office, or just a longer lunch break. (It also covers how to switch jobs if the one you’re in is making it hard for you to get what you’re asking for.)

You can read my interview with Kim Yorio (the shorter one) on ReadExpress.com here: Real Chick Lit

In the course of writing this story, I didn’t exactly have the opportunity to read the book, so I can’t vouch for its content, but I can certainly vouch for Caitlin and Kim, who are both very well-spoken, enthusiastic, knowledgeable women. (And I don’t believe the bit about Caitlin having a fear of public speaking–nice try, ladies.)

The ‘girls’ mentioned a story about being on The Today Show: the first time, Kim freaked out and Caitlin did all the talking. The second time, just before the cameras went on, Caitlin said she thought, “Oh my god, people actually watch this show.”

I had my own mini-moment like that yesterday, when I introduced myself at the end of the presentation and the girl behind me in the book-signing line said “Oh, you wrote that article? That’s how I knew to come here.”

Oh.

People actually read this paper. Hmm.

It’s easy to get suckered into the idea that you’re a lone writer toiling in obscurity, but everyone–from the top guy at the Post to a blogger with a Technorati authority of 3–has to remember that there ARE people out there reading.

Tuesday’s Tools: Freelancers: find your next job here

November 27, 2007

For a while, when I was just getting started as a freelancer (which was ever so long ago) I was visiting FreelanceWritingGigs every morning trolling for leads. The jobs posted here are free to look at and are culled from tons of Web sites, many of which are either filled with junk (“write for exposure,” anyone?) or really ugly to look at. I really appreciate Deb’s (and assistant Jodee’s) efforts to only post jobs that are worthwhile.

Now, granted, I didn’t find myself swimming in work, and I suspect that I priced myself out of the market with many of the ads I did reply to, but I did find a few leads through here. Much more successful was, and still is, local networking and pounding the payment. So now, thanks in part to FWG’s work, I find myself too busy to read FWG every day–which is the goal, isn’t it?

So though your mileage may vary, FWG is free and blessedly concise: just a listing of freelance jobs every day and a few quick posts with writing tips or ideas.

WaPo: The Washington Times, Hunting For A Bionic Editor-In-Chief

November 8, 2007

Last week the Times announced they were searching for a new EIC. The Post has a breakdown of the job description:

“articulate and execute . . . the mission of the paper and Web site . . . Support and contribute to the strategic vision of the company . . . Serve as ‘master’ of the tone and voice for the paper and Web site . . . Maintain an awareness of and respond to market trends/needs identified through market research. Use Web analytics to measure success of Web content and modify approach accordingly . . . Build and maintain a collaborative and productive relationship with the President/Publisher regarding vision, mission, goals and objectives, while fostering church/state separation.”

Good gravy. And it goes on. And on. And on.

This may be a sign that there are too many journalists.