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client's real needsYour client’s real needs are knowable and they go way beyond the typical information they give you. For example, a client will often say something like “I need a 500 word blog about my business every Wednesday.”  That sounds fairly specific, particularly when you know a bit about their business.

If you know, for example, they have an online bookstore it’s tempting to think that’s all you need to know. Already you’re envisioning writing a book review, an author interview, a list of new titles and which books are on special each and every month, with who knows exactly what to fill in the months with 5 Wednesdays.

Wait! You don’t yet know enough to do a great job. You need to have the answer to these six questions if you’re going to do a spectacular job and meet at least most of their expectations.

Start by listening

The need to truly listen for your client’s real needs may seem obvious, but apparently it’s not. At least one study reveals clients refuse to hire a provider because as much as 38 percent of the time the client feels the provider doesn’t listen. My hunch is at least have of those complaints would show that the client wasn’t clear and/or complete in describing what they need.

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Ideal Freelance Writing ClientIt’s worth spending some time thinking about your ideal freelance writing client. It makes sense to actually create an ideal freelance writing client profile and keep it where you can get to it easily for review every time you talk with someone who may want to hire you.

Wisdom is understanding that there really is no perfect writing client out there, or if there is, we wouldn’t know how to identify them even if they knocked on the door.

The goal is to recognize the good ones so you can avoid going crazy trying to please the ones you probably shouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to in the first place.

My experience tells me ideal clients come in two categories – the must haves and others who might turn into ideal clients. Let’s look at the must haves first.

Must haves in the ideal freelance writing client

These are the things I really want in a client:

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Negotiating and Renegotiating a Writing Deadline

renegotiating Renegotiating a deadline is certainly possible, Sharon Hurley Hall, a beautiful persoa and wonderful writer, reminded me in our forum, in response to How to Gracefully Miss a Writing Deadline

She’s absolutely right.

Renegotiating a deadline isn’t rocket science, but it does help if you’ve got all the pieces in place. How you negotiated the deal in the beginning has a great deal to do with any renegotiating you might need to do.

Initial negotiation

When you first accept an assignment or agree to do a piece of writing, you make an agreement with the client, hopefully in writing. It contains the creative brief or scope of work. Generally this includes the expected length of the writing plus anything else, like photos, etc. you are to provide, how much you can expect to be paid, how you will be paid and a deadline of when the client expects the finished work.

You can often negotiate anything and everything at this point, including the deadline. There really is no such thing as a standard contract.

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How to Gracefully Miss a Writing Deadline

writing deadlineOf course you know how to meet a writing deadline! You’ve proven that over and over again. But…

Life happens. Even when we’re managing our time wisely, and have a calendar that works, Even if we’ve built a reputation of meeting a writing deadline. Sometimes it seems that life conspires to make us late.

It might be your fault and you simply blew it this time. Or maybe you got sick or injured and couldn’t meet that writing deadline.

Once in a while it isn’t even your fault. More than once I’ve had an editor promise me information in time for me to make it, and not received it. Or a scheduled interviewee doesn’t show and doesn’t respond to your email or call. Or lightening strikes and kills the power not just in your home but for miles around.

How important are deadlines anyway?

The reason behind deadlines boils down to the fact that someone somewhere needs a piece of writing by such and such a time. Maybe it’s a print date for a magazine or book. It might be that the blogger you’re ghosting for has trained her audience to expect a post every Wednesday. If you’re dealing with television or movies or publishing there are always deadlines.

And it’s true, sometimes it’s okay to slip a deadline, but the chances are you don’t know which deadlines are slipable. I was literally surprised that some writers didn’t make deadlines when I first became the editor of a publication. 

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choicesWhen should a freelance writer quit freelancing and get a real job? Any damn time they choose to!

I love freelancing. Except, of course, when I don’t. The longer I freelance, the less likely I am to give up and take a job inside working at a magazine or a publishing house, or… well, you name it. Any job that has a regular paycheck and maybe some benefits is sometimes tempting.

This came to me when a friend of mine scored a great job writing for a publication she loves. When she told me about it she indicated that she felt guilty for giving up freelancing. I wanted to metaphorically strangle her.

If no one else has told you, it’s perfectly okay to stop freelancing. That’s one of the joys of a freelance writing career – you get to make choices, and that includes doing something else. No guilt is necessary or called for.

First, a freelance writer has a real job

If you’re a freelance writer you’ve got a real job. Writing is a work, no matter how it seems to your Mother-in-law or the family cat and kids.

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"no" is a complete sentenceOver in one of LinkedIN Ghostwriting Groups there was a lengthy and convoluted discussion as a result of someone asking if they should accept a questionable offer to write about something – I’ve forgotten the details.

I did, however, comment, “No is a complete sentence.” Maggie Payment Kirkbride, a ghostwriter also in San Diego although I don’t think we’ve met, replied “I love that. Great title for a post. Do it! There are so many “audiences” for that little sentence”

Of course, I have written about it before. When I read that older article I realized I have more to say. Oh, the original article stands up to the (internet) test of time. But it’s mostly about saying ‘no’ to low priced offers and how not to make yourself look, well, weak.

There’s more to saying ‘no’ than a fear of looking weak I think.

Why do we hesitate to say “No”?

I used to be scared to death to say ‘no’ to a client. I guess I was afraid I’d never have another chance.

For the most part we human beings are pretty nice folks. Liking to please people is not all codependency or poor self-worth. Wanting to make others happy is, not only a pretty sane survival skill when you think about it, it’s also feels good. Small wonder most of us prefer to say that other complete sentence, “Yes!”

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flat rateRecently I talked about the three ways freelance writers can charge for their work. Charging by the hour or by the word are fairly straight forward. Many find that developing a flat rate proposal is both mystifying and difficult.

In Writing a Proposal For Yourself and Others I outline my approach. Judging from the comments and questions I get the difficulty comes from deciding what the flat fee should be.

First, be sure you understand the scope of the work

You’ve got to have a clear idea about what exactly you’ll be doing. This goes beyond simple explanations like an article, White Paper, or a blog post, or a book. You need to know things like:

Where the information will come from? The client? Your research? Some combination? If you’re doing the research for the piece you have to figure in that time in order to set the right flat rate.

How many revisions are expected? This may be something you want to include in your proposal.

Who will sign off on the project? If it’s more than one person it will take you much more time to complete it. I’ve occasionally had committees take over a year to approve what to me is a simple writing project. That’s extreme, but it happens.

Another way to look at this is you need to identify all the areas in the project that will take time in addition to the time you’ll spend writing and editing.

How much time will it take you?

Your next step is to figure out how much time it will take you to do this project.

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profitable freelance workRant warning!

I just discovered that Upwork, formerly Elance, has raised the amount it charges their creatives. I also just read and signed a petition protesting. I’m not linking to it because I think I was wrong. Upwork is honoring existing contracts and the increases are based on a sliding scale, which I didn’t understand when I first read the petition. Hat tip to Jake Poinier and his article, Upwork raised its fees, and here’s what you can learn from it which has the facts straight and is well reasoned.

The reason I was so slow to even find out about this is I no longer use bidding sites to find profitable freelance work. Back in the day, and I mean the late 1990s, I discovered Guru.com and successfully landed a couple of contracts that paid decently. As they grew and attracted more freelancers the prices tended to drop. It didn’t take me long to realize bidding for writing jobs is a losing proposition.

Bidding sites drive down the price

It’s a losing proposition for both the  writer and the client. Here’s why:

Jake’s article points out how he was tempted to view a writer he was considering hiring because her rates were too low! You have only to read some of the dreck that’s out there to see how bad writing can be.

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freelance writers charge for their workTypically, there are three ways freelance writers charge for their work:

By the hour,

by the word, and,

by a flat fee.

Which is best? Like so many things in freelance writing, the real answer is ‘it depends.’

The first problem

Pricing your work is full of conundrums. The first is deciding how much you need to earn.

Yes, you’ve got to start there. You must to know how much money you need to pay your expenses and for at least some of your wants. And you’ve got to remember than as a freelance writer you’re paying your own taxes and for you own benefits. Everything from self-employment tax and sick leave through retirement has got to be figured in when you begin to set your rates. Once you know how much you need to earn, you can begin working out how you should charge.

Charging by the hour

I find knowing my hourly rate is critical to determining price. Yet I rarely charge by the hour.

The advantages of using an hourly rate include:

  • It’s easy for both you and the client to understand.

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pricing jittersDo all freelance writers get pricing jitters? I think so. At least I know I do even after years of successful freelance writing.

Oh, it has gotten way easier. I was reminded of this the other day when I had to quote a book ghostwriting price to a new client.

For some reason I remembered the first time I raised my rates – another pro told me to double them, and I couldn’t do that much. But I did find away to increase them by 30-40 percent as I recall. Those pricing jitters were much worse then the proposal I presented last week. Pricing jitters I had, however.

Here are seven things to think about when you’re thinking about pricing for your freelance writing.

Willing buyer / willing seller

There really is only one good definition of a fair or good price – a willing buyer and a willing seller. Of course, if you let pricing jitters eat at you too much you may find yourself leaving money on the table – setting a price that’s too low.

Your price is your price

There really is no such thing as a ‘standard price’ for any writing. There are trends, maybe. Know what you charge and how you got to that number even if you pulled it out of thin air.

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