As a freelance writer, after diligent searching for writing jobs you get an offer.
It’s exciting but if you’re not careful that excitement can lead you into a situation that simply won’t work.
Take a deep breath and see if the offer of freelance work matches the following seven considerations. If it doesn’t, you can either forget it or talk with the potential client so you both get clear.
Is the potential employer clear about what they want you to write? The client needs to be clear about what they want you to write. A request like “I want you to help me promote my business.” doesn’t tell you what you’ll be writing. It could be press releases, ad copy, web pages, a book, or who knows what. It’s okay for you to help them get clear with a series of questions, but if it’s taking too long you may want to also charge them for helping them understand their own vision.
How long is too long? It’s a judgement call, but if after a few minutes I sense the conversation is not leading to clarity I either thank them and pass or offer to coach them to clarity.
What rights are they buying? Sometimes this is obvious. You won’t want the rights to a press release or ad copy or to some web content. If you’re selling to a magazine or websites that are like magazines you probably want to sell on first rights so you can resell the work elsewhere. Someone who demands all rights and is only paying a buck or two is sending up two red flags. Better to move on.
Not so by the way, most people and companies that hire freelancers have no idea what they want or need when it comes to rights. Be prepared to do some educating and/or some push back if it starts to get complicated.
What are the deadlines? A thousand word article do by the end of the week should pay you at least 50 percent more than the same article due in two weeks or a month. If you’re being asked to write a series, you need to know when each part is due.
With big projects like books, ebooks and even some articles it only makes sense to have milestones along the way. Sometimes the client will provide them; often you’ll have to set them yourself.
Are they asking for writing samples for free? Ads for low paying article or content writing often come with a request for a free sample. Although I can’t prove it, my hunch is they will use your sample and never pay you. If you’ve got a web site, and you should, with some decent samples – even if they aren’t published, that should be enough.
On the other hand I’ve been known to write a short sample – say two or three pages – when I’m trying for a book ghostwriting gig. It tells both me and the client if we can truly work together.
Use your best judgement and be sure you’re not giving away too much. You may also want to read Should You Write For Free?
What are they paying? Okay, I could have put this first and I often eliminate ads that indicate low pay. But pay isn’t the only thing that makes a freelance writing job a good one. On many, even most, jobs you should get an advance. That won’t happen with magazines unless you’re already a famous writer and it won’t happen on many blogging gigs, but it won’t hurt to ask.
When will they pay you? In addition to the amount they’re paying, you also want to know when they will pay it If the tell you ‘on publication’ be careful because there’s no guarantee they will ever publish it, yet you’ve tied it up in a way that will prevent you from selling to someone else.
Get it in writing. You need some sort of written agreement before you actually begin the writing work. It doesn’t have to be an official contract, although I often write those myself. An email spelling out what’s to be done and how it’s to be paid will be enforceable in the U.S.
Even with each of these items clearly in place a writing gig will sometimes go completely wonkers. It happens, but it won’t happen often if you pay attention to the details.
What else do you consider before accepting a writing job offer?
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