Writing for free is something, as a general rule, I don’t do – except of course when I do.
After all, I’m a professional with excellent credits and like others need and deserve to be paid what I’m worth. Yet I spent part of this weekend writing quite a bit for free.
In other words my real answer to the question should you or I ever be writing for free is a great big “it depends.”
Maybe I should have a category of “it depends” because so much of the writing game is like that – no certain or standard answers despite what we experts sometimes seem to say.
About this writing for free weekend
Friday I found a job listed that truly excited me. It seems like something I not only could do well, but thoroughly enjoy as well. He asked applicants to read a sample of the kind of thing he wants, watch a couple of short videos, tell him if we wanted the gig and to quote a price for doing something similar with a draft document. I was way to tired to take that on Friday evening, so I started on Saturday morning.
This is Part 3 of charging and invoicing for your writing. Part 1, Let’s Talk About Invoicing and Invoices for Freelance Writers is here. Part 2, about Flat Fees, Hourly Rates or Retainers, is here.
If you don’t have a system it’s impossible to develop the habit of regular invoicing. Business systems you design and use will help you create a truly pleasurable and profitable freelance writing business. Regular invoicing is a major part of your success.
Now, what I mean by system in this case, is a pattern you create and follow to make regular invoicing a snap. The result is every invoice gets sent in a timely manner and you have a way of keeping track of which one’s are paid and which ones need to be reminded or worse.
Create a list of what regular invoicing looks like
The way to build a system is to first chunk it down in its component parts, like this:
This is Part 2 of charging and invoicing for your writing. Part 1, Let’s Talk About Invoicing and Invoices for Freelance Writers is here.
Hourly Rates, Flat Fees, Retainers are the three most popular ways freelance writers get paid, at least in the U.S. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
As you’ll see, I’ve got my prejudices; I’ll tell you what they are and why I feel the way I do, promise.
What you want when setting rates
As a freelancer in charge of your own business you want first of all to be sure you’re charging enough to cover all your expenses and give you at least some of your wants, if not most of them. If you’re having trouble charging enough take a look at the whole Money Issues category – I suspect you’ll find some help there.
This is Part 1 of charging and invoicing for your writing
If you’re freelancing you’re also going to have to learn invoicing if you want to get paid. Oh sure, you can stick with outfits that pay automatically, but if you want to grow your business you need a wide variety of clients and most of them will want you to send an invoice.
And if you find you resist the idea of invoicing clients, know you’re not alone. Many freelancers, particularly on the more creative side, find themselves loath to bill their clients. They have all sorts of excuses and reasons – from not really knowing how to feeling guilty about charging for their services. Yes, creative freelancers sometimes have odd ideas about money. Fortunately you can learn to let go of those if you have them and adopt new ideas that support you and your business.
Invoicing is easier than ever
For years I generated every invoice almost from scratch using Word™. That method still works and you’ll find invoicing from scratch instructions and a real sample here.
Are you on track to be a real moneymaking freelance writer?
A month or so ago I talked about the myths of freelance writing.
But what, really, does it take to earn a generous living with your writing? What follows are what I consider the basics for making money as a freelance writer.
You need to write reasonably well
Writing reasonably well is key to being a moneymaking freelance writer. But ‘reasonably well’ doesn’t mean you need a collage degree or deep studies in grammar. You do need some concept of complete sentences, simple punctuation, and how paragraphs work. I look back at some of my early, published writing, even after being edited by pros and see how much better I could have been. It was good enough.
Too hot to write?
Okay, I live within spitting distance of San Diego Bay. Which used to mean the weather was almost always if not great at least good. But like so many other places it’s getting hotter and hotter here as climate change kicks in in noticeable ways.
(Begin rant: And yeah, I understand that any particular rise in temperature and humidity can’t be directly attributed to climate change. But darn it I’ve lived here most of my life and I know the weather has gradually shifted. As far as I’m concerned it’s mostly climate change mostly driven by fossil fuels and it’s way past time we started doing something serious about it. So I drive less and recycle more and bemoan the fact that our current administration is in climate change denial. Or maybe they really do prefer profits and getting reelected to continuing human and other life on this planet. You can make a positive difference at Treespond.com and feel good about it too. End rant.)
I live in a duplex that’s darn close to 100 years old and although it’s charming, it’s lacking really good insulation – wasn’t needed for most of its life. We also paint the roof black, which is insane – white or silver would probably lower the inside temp by several degrees. Turns out white roofs used universally or even in large numbers could make things worse. On the other hand, they also do save energy; like so many things it’s a mixed bag. And it’s the inside temperature that gets in my way. My office is often in the low – mid 90s for a good part of the day.
When it’s too hot to write start early.
The most obvious thing is to write in the cool of the early morning. Which I do anyway, so it’s easy. Fans help.
Yes, there are secrets that help you work with freelance writing ideas. Okay, not all of these tips are actually secrets, but a few are. The rest are just darn helpful.
1 – Recognize that freelance writing ideas are everywhere
Sure, sometimes I think I run out of ideas but so far it’s never really been true. Freelance writing ideas are literally everywhere. It’s mostly a matter of recognizing them and then honing them so they work when you want to write about them.
2 – Write ’em down or send a recorded note to yourself
A major problem with freelance writing ideas is they tend to disappear pretty quickly. We get distracted and poof, the idea is gone. Sometimes it will come back, but if you want to be sure you don’t lose it, you need a way to get it recorded in a way you’ll be able to find it again. I use an idea file on my desktop.
How do you make writing a priority in your already busy life? Here are some tips that will help you do just that.
The first suggestion is to know why you want to make writing a priority. Seriously. If you’re having trouble writing regularly it may be time to examine your motives. It’s totally okay not to write, ever, or for this period in your life. Most people don’t write and many of them get along just fine.
On the other hand if you find yourself writing in the cracks of your schedule because you more or less must, it may be time to make writing a priority.
It’s just an experiment
However you decide to make writing a priority, keep in mind it’s just an experiment. Even if you find the absolutely perfect for you method of making writing a priority this week, the chances are your needs will change as your life changes. And your life will change. You get married or don’t, have kids or don’t, change jobs, move, and so it goes. Writing can stay a priority through it all, but how and when you write is apt to change. Don’t expect certainty.
Do you consider yourself a success as a freelance writer?
I ask because I’m seeing articles and ads that imply you can’t experience success as a freelance writer if you don’t write a book in 90 days or make a six or seven figure income, or have a gillion followers on social media, etc. etc. etc.
It seems a push toward more money, more prestige, more stuff comes around every year or so. Maybe I’m wrong, but some of it feels like they’re trying to convince me I’m not a real writer or a successful writer until I do it there way. When it does I feel like pushing back.
Have you bought into any of these freelance writing myths?
While it’s more likely a beginning writer will fall for these false beliefs, it’s not unknown for writers with some experience to discover they are trapped in one or more of them.
These freelance writing myths are indeed traps because they can slow your freelance writing career or stop it entirely.
Here they are:
A college degree is a must-have
This one has been around since the beginning of college degrees. I don’t know if it originated as part of the marketing of universities and other institutes of higher education or not. It may have fallen out of the academic world.