One of the unwritten rules I grew up with was that good girls simply had to be nice at all times.
Of course, I wanted to be a good girl so I spent a lot of time learning to be nice. Ugh!
As you might suspect that notion that I always had to be nice often meant I didn’t get paid well, or even at all, in my freelance writing business.
You know how that works. A potential client balks at a price and you immediately lower it. Or an existing client explains they won’t be able to pay you on time and you keep working. The list goes on, all in the name of being nice.
What it took me awhile to figure out was being nice didn’t mean letting myself treated badly when it came to my business.
In fact, I finally realized that it was anything but nice to let myself be abused in the name of some sort of warped idea I had about being polite. Nor was I being nice to the clients by caving.
Here are some of the ways I used to nice myself out of profits and what I did about them:
Taking whatever is offered. Usually when I accept whatever is offered it will be less, and often way less than my hourly, assuming I know my hourly. The first thing to do is work out how much an hour you want to charge, even if you’re using that only for a jumping off place. Then when someone asks you what your charge you’ll be able to state it clearly – a truly nice thing to be able to do.
Accepting work below my hourly. Although I don’t always get exactly what I ask for I know that if I accept work that’s way below my hourly rate I tend to get resentful. The truth is when I’m in that state of mind I don’t do as good a job for the client as I might. It’s far nicer to turn down such work if they won’t meet, or come close to meeting my price.
Agreeing to deadlines that are next to impossible. Although some writers charge premiums for rush jobs, as well they should, I usually don’t accpet such work. Of course, it depends on what’s going on in the rest of my writing life, but generally I find clients who want rush jobs tend to be disorganized and hard to work with because of that. I’d rather be nice to myself and not buy into their schedule.
Putting up with intrusive clients. I avoid jobs that state they want me to be available by instant messaging – and if an existing client asks for that kind of contact I simply say I don’t use it. I like talking with most of my customers about our work and even sometimes about other stuff. But I am not available at all times or even most of the time. I want clients to be as nice to me as I am to them.
Accepting work on the come. I’ve had some good luck with carefully selected revenue sharing, but it’s always been in addition to a base. Other than that if a prospective client wants to share the profits instead of paying me up front I decline. I’ve discovered if I simply say, “I’m sorry. I’m not in a position to write without getting paid,” they usually accept that and look for a more gullible writer. In terms of books, unless they have a contract in place with an advance of at least $100,000, of which I get half, it’s not go. I’m always surprised at how many people seem to expect a writer to write on the come.
There’s nothing nice about letting someone treat you badly, even if they don’t know any better. You can be polite in setting your terms. You can help educate writing clients nicely. Be nice to yourself and earn a profit. You’re entitled!
Have you ever niced yourself out of a profit? How have you let go of that practice?
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