Archive for the 'freelance' 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?

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A plea to editors and publishers: Do you want to attract pro writers or not?

February 4, 2008

At a party late last year, the owner of a new local web site asked me about freelancing. He’d been soliciting articles for his site from business owners and people who liked writing for exposure; he wanted to know how to attract professionals.

“Well, you’re going to have to start paying them,” I said. (Too frank? The party was hosted by a generous sponsor who’d paid for an open bar.)

Seriously, though, there are three things I just wish editors would do that would make everyone’s lives a little easier. This applies to blog editors as well as those in the print spectrum.

  1. Offer pay–and not pennies per word either. If you want people (potential writers) to take you seriously as a business owner and editor, you need to make sure you are taking writers seriously, and offering rates so low that they are a joke is a great way to show how little you care.
  2. Offer sample copies, and make them easy to buy. I just tried to get a sample copy of a magazine I liked, but didn’t want to put my credit card number onto their UNSECURE (http:// vs https://) server. When I called and asked if they would take Paypal, I was told that only their merchandise can be paid for through Paypal. This is for a $3 magazine. Now I have to write them a check and stick it in the mail because they can’t code their Web server correctly? I might just skip this mag altogether.
  3. Provide writer’s guidelines. It’s really important that writers are familiar with your blog, magazine, or other publication. But on the other hand, I shouldn’t have to sit there with my sample copy counting the number of words in an article so I know how long my piece should be. I shouldn’t have to guess whether a certain department accepts freelance or not. If this is all spelled out in your guidelines (which are online as a PDF or HTML file, not ones that I have to send in a SASE for) you save both of us time.

Feels good to get that off my chest, actually! Editors, take note–you’re affecting my health ;)

Tuesday’s Tools: Negotiate your way to more money!

December 11, 2007


flickr: Big-E-Mr-G

Get more Tuesday’s Tools here

For freelancers, getting paid is just as important as writing. (I wish it weren’t so!) But what if you’re not making as much as you want to be?

Inspired Author asks writers to think about how much they want to make per hour and how to turn that number into a per-project or per-word rate, plus tips for making that number real. A British organization, LondonFreelance, includes conversation-starters for negotiating a higher rate after you’ve built a relationship with a client. Finally, you’ll want to know the going rates for various kinds of writing so you’ll have a platform from which to negotiate.

With one in ten employers actually thinking less of someone who doesn’t try for more money, what do you have to lose? After all, all you’ve got to do is ask.

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.

Tuesday’s Tools: Journos’ web sites

October 2, 2007

(This is the fourth in a weekly series about tools for writers. For the rest of the series, go here.)
Here’s a big list of journalists’ personal web sites, compiled by Sreenath Sreenivasan. This came in handy for me recently when I was updating my resume and wasn’t sure how to phrase certain items. I was able to look at what other people in my field have written–MUCH better than going to a career center where nobody has journalism-specific advice, or shelling out for one of those sample resume books. (Does anyone actually use those these days?)

Also, this is a great resource for anyone building his or her own web site to promote a freelance business.