The phone rings and to your surprise and excitement the person calling you wants to talk with you to about doing some freelance writing for them!
After your caller checks a couple of details with you, she says “I’d like to hire you. When can you start?”
As tempting as it may be to say “I can start right now!” don’t!
There are some details you must cover before you say yes. Make sure each of these questions is answered to your satisfaction. Each one is truly necessary if the job is to go well. Note too, that each of these questions is professional – you need this information. Not to get answers is un-businesslike.
Is the writing work clearly defined?
For example, do you know why they want this piece of writing done? How are they going to use it? Are you supposed to work from their ideas, or are you expected to do some or all of the research? How many words or approximately how long should the writing be?
You need to be clear on each item before you start writing.
How many revisions will this freelance writing job require?
Almost every freelance writing job you take will require some editing after you submit what you hope is the final version. Usually it’s up to the writer to specify how many revisions they will do under the initial contract. I usually spell out one, two or three revisions, noting that if we get beyond that they will pay me an hourly rate.
There are two reasons for this. First, some clients simply can’t seem to approve of any revisions and want seemingly endless ones – you want a way out of a situation like that.
Another truth is if you get beyond three revisions it often means that either the project has changed or it wasn’t well enough defined in the beginning. When this happens to a freelance writing job, you and the client need to go back to the drawing board.
What is the approval process?
You need to know the approval process for every freelance writing job you take. The only way you can find out what that process will be is to ask.
I once turned down a book writing gig I wanted because they thought the approval process would involve six committee members and the board of directors! I explained that was too many and that we’d all be working on this project for years. That was about five years ago, and the organization still hasn’t produced the book – in spite of many promises.
Include your understanding of that process in your email confirming the contract if necessary.
How much and how, exactly, will you be paid?
It’s up to you to get clear on how much you’ll be paid for each freelance writing job. If the client hasn’t spelled out a payment amount that’s satisfactory to you, you’ll have to ask and/or negotiate the rate. That negotiation might include all or part up front, a regular payment schedule, etc.
You also need to know if they will be sending a check, if they want an invoice from you (it never hurts to send one even if they say they don’t need one), or will be paying you through Paypal or some other online method.
Keep in mind that if you’re paid via Paypal, there’s usually a fee – make sure that’s covered. Also, you may want to make sure you’re getting paid in the currency you want – which Paypal will sort out for you automatically. Just be sure you’re clear on how getting paid in foreign currency actually translates to U.S. dollars if you, like most readers, are in the states.
Get it in writing!
Make sure your understanding of these details, and any others, are clearly spelled out in writing. In most cases an email is sufficient. I find it often falls to me to write the agreement, which I’m more than willing to do. Lori Widmer wrote an excellent post here called The Strong Writerly Contract. Use it as a guide for your emails and letters of agreement with clients.
If you get these five items handled, the freelance writing job will most likely go smoothly – drop any one and you’re likely to have problems.
What did I leave out? Which of these do you feel most strongly about?
If you’d like more help with these business issues, sign up for my Freelance Writing Problem Solutions series.
Write well and often,