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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Price is Right
Wrapping Up the Beginner's Series
It all comes down to money - whether we write because we love it or we write because we can, we also expect to be paid for it. In the coming years of your freelance career, you will continuously face the question of price. For you as a beginner, it's critical that you learn now how to price your work, and how to present it to the potential client. More importantly, you have to learn how to turn down work that isn't in your best interest.

Most beginners think they shouldn't be charging top dollar. Okay, there's some logic to that. But where on the sliding pay scale are you going to start? If you say you'll write for $4 an article, give me your address right now, for I need to come by and slap you personally. If you say your first job will be priced at $100 an hour, hand over that address again. You certainly can expect to earn that much and more per hour, but not fresh out of the gate. In fact, you should opt for somewhere right in the middle of those two extremes.

How much? That depends. What are the typical salary ranges for "real" jobs in your area? In my old stomping grounds, I was surrounded by steel mills and coal mines (go on, guess where!). The cost of living was low, as were the prices of the homes and of the things we bought. If you can buy a nice home in your town for $60K, it would be smart to price your writing somewhere around a $50-an-hour fee for regional clients. You can go higher for national clients. When I say that, people look at me as though I'm price-gouging. Not at all. I'm remaining competitive. If I went into Manhattan and bid $35 an hour for a writing gig that Manhattan-based writers would charge $125 an hour for, I'd look like a rube, as well as come off as an amateur. When in Rome, price for the conditions.

More often than not, clients will come to you with a price in mind. If it's disclosed up front in the ad, consider very carefully the amount of work required against that price. Always break it down into price-per-hour terms. It's the only way to really see how much you're getting (or not getting) with that price.

If the price is not disclosed, it's impossible to predict if the client expects a 200-page edit to cost $900 when in fact you charge $3,000. That's a rather large gap in your expectations. It's not an impossible situation, however. You still have one or two options left to you.

First, as I mentioned in another post, you can offer flexible payment terms. How flexible those terms are is completely up to you. I've used a three-payment method in the past: one-third at the outset, one-third at a specified point in the project, and the last third at delivery or a specified date, whichever comes first. Make it hard for your client to say no to your fee. Make your skills affordable - accept credit card payments, PayPal payments, etc. Anything that makes it easy to pay in installments is an additional selling point to your price.

One way around it would be to offer a discount. I'd go no lower than a ten-percent discount for new customers only. That means your client gets a one-time break, not a continuation of fees that are too low for you to justify sticking with the project.

I've said in the past that it's a bad idea to negotiate your fee. I still believe that. Even though you're worlds apart in price, you'd be doing yourself a great disservice to take on work you're being undercompensated for. Still, there are times when all of us face the "should I lower my fee?" question. Ask yourself a series of questions - How much work is this going to be? What's the per-hour-rate of the proposed fee? Is this a reasonable reduction? What percentage discount would it represent? Can I do it for that, or will I resent the lower payment terms too much? If you come away with answers that don't satisfy you, turn the project down. Do not burden yourself with a project that is a win-lose proposition, with you as the loser.
Job Postings - July 31, 2007

Just a short break from the Beginner's Series in order to get some of my work done. I hope to be back at it this afternoon.

Freelance Writer
Line Editor/NY Times
Freelance Reporters
Blogging Gig
Proposal Writer
Entertainment Writers
Novel Collaborator
Local Minneapolis Stringer
Trainee Editor/Finance
Environmental Writers
Freelance Copywriter

Monday, July 30, 2007

Query Writing: The Follow Up

The Follow Up
Thanks again to Nikki for providing today's topic in our Beginner's Series - how to follow up on those queries you're now crafting with ease.

Once you've waited your requisite amount of time (I admit - this is an arbitrary decision - despite what I said earlier, sometimes you just know when it's been long enough), it's important to follow up. But how? What do you say? Let's help you over this one with a for instance - Suppose you sent out a query to our fashion magazine listed in the post from last week. It's been about three weeks and you've heard nothing back. What to do? Given that you sent your response in email, that's how you should follow up. And here's what you might want to say:

Dear Client:

About three weeks ago I sent my credentials to you for consideration for your fashion writer position. Have you had the opportunity to take a look at my portfolio and resume yet? Please let me know if I can be of help to you in any way.

Best regards,
Fabulous Writer

Short and sweet. No need to belabor the point. In fact, make life easier for your potential client. Send your follow-up email as a response to your original one. By piggybacking onto that note, you save the client the time it would take for him or her to dig up your original query. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to paste in one or two of your attachments in case the original attachments landed your query in the junk sender box.

A snail-mail query is a bit different. Here, your original letter may have been rerouted to the desk of a now-forgotten colleague of the original recipient. A bit of a reintroduction is in order:

Dear Client:

About five weeks ago, I sent my credentials to you for consideration for your fashion writer position. Have you had the opportunity to take a look at my portfolio and resume yet? If not, allow me to refresh your memory - I am a full-time writer by day and a closet-loving fashionista by night. I am on a first-name basis with local boutique owners, and I run a successful fashion weblog.

I am resending my resume and portfolio for your convenience. Thank you again for your continued interest. I look forward to working with you soon.

Best regards,
Fabulous Writer

As you can see, it doesn't have to be brain surgery. In email, you have the opportunity to be a bit more brief, a tiny bit more informal (though saying something like, "Dude - have you died? What's up with my resume, you putz?" might not go over too well), and you have the real chance for a conversation, albeit a small one. For when that client writes back, you can respond with thanks and maybe another leading question, such as, "Good luck on your project! By the way, do you have a weblog?". Anything that comes naturally to the conversation that could lead you to more than just a resume relationship with the potential client.

Take every opportunity to get in touch with those who haven't answered your query, and do so in a way that's memorable (in a good way). If you approach your communications in a relaxed, open style, the client will remember you as a person who might just work out better than the last writer, who couldn't be bothered.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Sound of Silence
Back among the working again. The vacation was great! Perfect weather, too. Daughter and I had a blast.

I'm taking a small breather from the Beginner's Series to answer a terrific question posed by Nikki. She asked what we should do when queries go unanswered or worse, ask for your rates. Here's my take on it:

When you put your queries out for magazine/journal articles and they go unanswered, it used to be the standard wait time was six weeks before you nudged the editor. I say if it's an email query and you hear nothing in two weeks, send a nudge on week three. It's quite possible the email was lost. Lord knows we've all had emails go missing right there in our own in boxes. It doesn't hurt to send a reminder and ask if the idea fits.

If, however, we're talking about a query for a gig, the fact that it goes unanswered is a telling sign. Remember, most gigs will generate at least 100 or so query letters from hopefuls, so it's not uncommon for the client to not respond at all if he/she has found someone else. However, do yourself the favor of sending a follow-up. Again, wait about three weeks before sending out a note asking if the client has found anyone and if you can be of any further help. I did this once after a few months of waiting and managed to score the gig because the person hired didn't deliver. In fact, following up in a few months is always a good idea. Often, the client has settled for the low bidder, and cheaper isn't always better.

On to the question of rates. I send my rates out willingly. I know there are clients out there looking for cheap writing. Frankly, those are clients I don't think are serious enough about their projects for me to write for them. You should adopt the same thinking. If your price is going to deter them, then it's a bad match for you both. So when asked, quote your hourly or project rate and do so without apologies or batting an eye. Get yourself to a point where you are comfortable asking for the price you quote. Nine chances out of ten you're still too low for the market, but you need to accept your own worth before you can expect it from your clients.

Also, don't get into "negotiations" on your fee. Your fee is your fee. You should offer payment options first and hold firm to your price. If you really want this project and you have a strong sense it will lead to more work in that area, lower your fee only after you offer payment options and have considered carefully how this will affect your work on this project. Know that your bottom line is acceptable to the most important person in this equation - you. For instance, if you bid $4,000 for a total website makeover and the client counters with $1,000, you have to be comfortable knowing that you're getting one-quarter your fee for the same amount of work. Can you do it without resentment, especially when that client comes back for the fourth or fifth little fix or major revision? Factor it all in to your decision to lower the rate.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Roman Holiday

Hardly Rome, but I'll be beachside this coming week. I hope to return here by Friday to catch up with our series. See you soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Query Writing Series: The Query Letter, Part Two

The Query Letter, Part Two
The Meat of the Matter
Once you've hooked your editor/client (who, by the way, is also your first reader), you need to deliver the goods. It's not enough to hit them with a great first paragraph and then say "What do you think?" You need to convey two more things - how you're going to pull off this assignment and why you're the one who should do it.

I like to give clients my credentials so that they can see that my experience matches what they need. Is that the case every time? Of course not, but somewhere in my skill set I can usually find something that relates to what they're wanting.

Let's go back to yesterday's post. Remember the part of my response to the client that detailed my experience? Notice that I took past projects that related to what they were asking for specifically - experience in the health care market and copywriting experience - and highlighted those. The client didn't have to dig through a resume to locate the info. In fact, I left out all the other stuff I'd put into a resume, because my experience in the finanacial trade market doesn't mean a hill of beans to these people. They want a copywriter who knows how to write for healthcare markets.

Pleasing the Client
That's what you need to do. This ad just appeared on Craig's List today:
"A new glossy and online magazine that covers a range of subjects from hard news, fashion, dining and celebrities is looking for freelance writers to submit articles for the debut online issue. To apply, please send clips and a resume. Compensation is based on the complexity of the article and pays from $250-$400 per feature."

So, what in your experience or your interests can you point to that would entice this client to call you? You're a beginner with little experience, so we're going to look toward your interests. You like fashion, you can handle dining, celebrities are a bit trickier but you're willing to give it a go, but the hard news might be tough to pull off. First, erase doubts. You can do this. Hell, anyone can. It's a wide variety of needs they're asking for and chances are you won't be expected to perform miracles out of the gate. (Since they want articles, you're free to pitch only those ideas within your comfort zone.)

Here's how I would set up a query based on no experience:
I own a Versace dress. I'm saving for my first pair of Jimmy Choos, which I plan to wear to the new fusion restaurant on the Lower East Side. I haunt the local boutiques and I'm chummy with shop owners. I know the sommelier at my favorite eating spot. I can entice your readers with compelling copy. If not, would you have read this far?

I am a local writer who enjoys a good meal, a great hemline and a peek inside the celebrity life. Also, I can shmooze and cajole information from public and private entities in order to get to the bottom of a story. I have delivered for clients on projects such as (list whatever you've done to date, even nonpaying markets).

I'm dressed and ready to go. Just check out my resume and clips, which can be found at the URLs listed below, and call me. I'm eager to show you my side of our city.

Best I could do off the top of my head. :) The point is you're not telling this client "I'm new, so I don't have any experience to show you in those areas." Instead, you're telling them you're passionate about what they cover, and that you want to translate that passion into prose for them. You ask for the job. You assert yourself in a confident manner, which does not make this client think you're not up to the job, but that you're more than capable of handling assignments.

Pleasing the Editor
Magazine queries are somewhat different in that you're presenting an idea and then showing how you'll bring that idea to fruition. For that, your intro should be as discussed yesterday. Pretend this person is the reader (because frankly, he or she is). Once you nail that compelling beginning, your next paragraph will focus on details. Who will you interview? (you can find experts at PRN Media, an invaluable resource) What questions will you attempt to answer with the article? Suppose it's a fashion article on the new styles of shoes this year. This magazine's readership is not a consumer one, but those who distribute and sell shoes to retailers. With that in mind, you might approach the query like this:
In my proposed article,Patent Pending, I will talk with designers from Taryn Rose, Nine West, Kenzie and more to get their take on what retailers are being offered in the Fall 2007 collections and how patent leather styles are being utilized and marketed to the masses. I will also address display suggestions and new features that retailers can utilize to increase sales.

Finally, follow up by introducing your experience and asking for the job. If you have no experience, and we'll assume that for this example, don't mention it.
What do you think? May I write the article for Shoe Network readers? Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working with you soon.

If you have links to online samples or an online resume (or hey, even a blog that would be relevant), include them.

Query letters are like little bits of your personality in print. Show potential clients who you are by delivering to them what they're looking for in a compelling, irresistible package

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Query Writing Series: The Query Letter, Part One

The Query Letter, Part One
Get Creative!
It amazes me how many creative writers churn out boring, unimaginative query letters. I once received a query letter from a writer who wrote – “I saw your ad. Here’s my resume. Call me.” Did I call? Hell no! If that writer couldn’t be bothered to sell himself to me, I didn’t have much faith he’d do any better at the actual job. What’s worse, he didn’t bother to get creative. Nowhere did his personality appear, nor did he leave any lasting impression (beyond my thinking how lazy he was). You’re a writer. Your job is to wow people. So wow them!

Let me give you an example from my own query letter pile. The ad read: “Can you write strong marketing headlines that draw consumers in? Can you write engaging marketing copy that convinces consumers that they need to know more? Can you combine these two skills to get consumers to register for a health site that provides samples, information, coupons and more? If you answer YES to all of the above we want you to write our copy! Experience: You must have experience (examples) writing copy for banner ads (consumer), lead generation sites (consumer), sites that require registration (consumer).”

Thinking about the ad and the particular client, you can see that this is someone who needs an imaginative copywriter. In this ad, you see the three things this client wants more – strong headlines, engaging (and convincing) copy and an understanding of the healthcare market. Also, the client wants someone who has written advertising copy. So how are you going to approach this person?

Let me tell you how I did it. My response:

“Why Diets Fail - Are you making these common mistakes?
-Plus tips on how to follow a more foolproof diet and see results!

Curing Poison Ivy's Itch Naturally
-Exploring common kitchen ingredients that can help to heal the rash and remove the itch.

Your Online Health Quiz
-How well are you, anyway?

Eat Better Tonight!
-Check out our recipe section for healthy meal suggestions.

Save Money Now!
-Click here for discounts on your favorite brands.

Hire This Writer!
-She understands how to address the audience and make the consumer want to know more. She's also a veteran writer with over 15 years of experience, and she's published over 150 articles both in the trade and consumer markets. Her articles have appeared in publications such as Health & You, Emergency Physicians Monthly, InformationWeek and more. She's also worked with the marketing and copywriting departments of companies such as Universal Health Services, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Intracorp, Nationwide Provident and more. Her website copy may be viewed at the URLs listed below.

Contact Lori Widmer Now!
-Let her expertise and skill be part of your team!”

The fact is you could easily write a standard query for this. But why? Why not approach it as though you already have the job? Yes, I got the gig. I approached it knowing that copywriters have to be creative and have to grab the consumer’s attention. Plus I delivered on the engaging headlines, attention-getting copy, and I made it apply directly to the market they were in.

Now, if you’re applying for a gig writing financial articles for The Wall Street Journal, this particular approach isn’t going to work. But there’s a way to get the attention of WSJ and any other magazine or gig – give them what they want when and how they want it.

Suppose you want to write about the top five richest Americans and what similarities they share in their approach to business and investing. You could write a query something like this:

Dear Editor:
The top five richest Americans surely have something in common. In my proposed article, ‘Rich by Design’, I plan to talk with these five people and find out what similarities they might have.

Not exactly earth-shattering prose, is it? Why not let your own personal style show through? Do it using a method widely used in journalism: the hook. When I studied journalism in college, these were the first two elements that were taught, and it's because they work to get your story read.

A hook is your introductory paragraph. It draws your reader in, and since your editor is your first reader, it's an essential part of your query letter. So let's try writing that query again:

Dear Editor:
What do Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Lori Widmer have in common? Besides being the wealthiest people in America, they are all members of mensa, as well as former Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts. But more importantly, all five were breastfed as children. And they learned how to compound interest early.”

Okay, so this is total fabrication, but it’s your job, not mine, to fill in the blanks there. But you’ve hooked the reader with the first sentence. Who doesn’t want to know what I have in common with all those rich people (besides once dreaming of being rich)? And you’ve delivered with the answer. That’s the gravy to your meat and potatoes.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the rest of the query letter.
Get a Job!
Tips for Beginners

Each day I wake up one step away from what my husband said was the worst poison ivy case he's seen in a long time. Today, things are much less weepy (both physically and emotionally), and I'm able to type without stopping to blot my arms. Disgusting thought, but try living it. Though I look like I was just pulled from burning wreckage, I feel ten times better. My beach vacation next week may be salvaged after all!

Today's topic - as promised, I'm going to try to explain from my experience how a beginner can find projects. It's a process - find the gig, apply for the gig, get the gig and perform the work. Getting paid is another beast, best handled in another week.

Where are you going to find work? Let's assume since you're reading this, you're online. What better place to start, eh? Here are some favorite haunts of mine:

About Freelance Writing
Media Bistro
Writer's Weekly
Craig's List
Deborah Ng's Freelance Writing Jobs

Note that none of these are a pay-to-apply job board. That's because from my personal experience, they don't work so well. Some of the boards, such as, don't have open-bidding situations in which writers can see what others are bidding. That's a bit better, but I object in general to being expected to pay to view the ads. You can find the same for free elsewhere.

Another place to look for work is within your circle of friends. I'll caution you here - working for friends can be tough as it's hard for some to separate their close relationship from a business deal. However, your friends can be your best marketers. Let them know you're a writer looking for projects. Let everyone you meet know that. When asked what you do, don't say, "Oh, I'm hoping to be a writer someday." If you want the gig, wear the hat. Say "I'm a writer." Ask if they know anyone who needs a writer. You'd be surprised where work will come from.

I'm assuming that many of you work somewhere else. If so, look at the people you come in contact with every day. Do they know you write on the side? If not, let them know. Don't broadcast to everyone in the office that you're trying to start a freelance career or you'll be on the street faster than you expected, but do mention that you handle freelance writing projects in your spare time. Some of my long-term clients came from contacts I made while at my last job.

Also, don't overlook your local newspaper or magazine office. Newspapers are always looking for contributing writers (stringers). The pay is absolutely lousy, but there's no faster way to get your name known in your region than to have your byline in the local paper on a regular basis.

Another great place to start - temp agencies. Mind you, that's not any temp agency. Make sure you look to agencies that specialize in creative talent, such as Aquent, Boss Staffing or The Creative Group. There's no better way to build a portfolio and gain some valuable contacts than through short-term projects. While you're at it, don't overlook the advertising agencies. They're usually looking for extra proofreading help, especially during the summer months. Drop by with your resume, or call the office manager to see if you can help with overflow work.

Tomorrow, we'll go over how to put together a query letter that gets noticed. Until then, here are a few gigs to get you started:

Website Promotion Writer
Skiboarding Writer
Book Researcher/Writer
E-Learning Author
Online Entertainment Journalists
Freelance Business Writer
Freelance Magazine Writer
Freelance Bar Reviewer
Technical Writer

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lost in Translation
Still sporting the itch this afternoon, so no posts about queries. Tomorrow...

What You Won't Read About in the Ads:

- The more paperwork and legal loops a freelancer must jump through, the less the pay will be.

- The more emails that pass between you without any mention of pay, the smaller the chance it will be worth your time.

- The more you're required to do/have in terms of education, experience, published pieces, etc., the less likely you're going to receive payment that matches those requirements.

- Phrases like "This is a start-up position", "Easy work for the experienced writer", "College grads welcome", "Get in on the ground floor of this exciting opportunity!", "Your work published for free!" and "Steady work for the right person" usually mean you'll be lucky to get any money at all.

Read the ads closely. Eventually, you'll see the pattern. You'll be able to spot the ones who want something for nothing.

Interesting conversation on one of the forums today. Someone was awarded a gig, but she wasn't sure it was worth taking as the "start-up, therefore no money up front" line was used. She's right to doubt - that's a deadend. If you follow one like that, you're going to bust your hump for no cash. What's more, you're going to be spending your time working for free instead of actively seeking actual paying jobs. Yes, you'll get clips, but why not just house those on your own site? Any time someone is set to make money off a venture, that venture should also pay its contributors. If not, don't do it. Just don't. You'll be kicking yourself later.
The Itchy and Scratchy Show
Poison ivy should be outlawed. There should be a movement started by Congress that would fine anyone who has poison ivy in their yards and has not made any attempt to get rid of it. I'd vote for whatever party passed it.

Yea, I'm still itching. Now it's looking horrific, which means it's starting to heal. Half the amount of oozing and dripping, but I look like someone tried to play Etch-a-Sketch on my arm (and now my leg) with a blowtorch. Yesterday it burned and itched. Today, it's a slight itch, soon to be followed by the maddening itch followed by whimpering and whining (it's a cycle). It's inevitable that I get poison ivy if I touch it, but lately I'd been able to control it with Zanfel and Tecnu. However, every ten years or so I get it so bad I can't function - my lungs hurt, I'm lightheaded, sometimes nauseous. This is that year.

The upside - I won't have to deal with a bout like this for another five to ten years. The downside - you're not getting a thoughtful post outta me today. My brain is on itch-prevention setting. I do promise to sit down and write a post about writing query letters this week. When? Maybe later today, if the situation improves with these forearms. Meantime, I must eke out some work today before I collapse in a Benadryl stupor. Better living through chemicals!

Friday, July 13, 2007

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won
Let me tell you how badly I used to get poison ivy when I was young - I remember my arms wrapped in gauze and the bottoms of my feet swollen and aching. I remember having fevers and I remember rashes so thick it was solid on all parts of me. I remember also a particular remedy of a now-gone neighbor; he mixed some concoction that included vinegar and some type of embalming fluid used in taxidermy. We'd dab it on, dance and scream for an hour, but inevitably that rash would be mending by morning. We were probably burning holes in both our skin and the ozone, but when you itch that badly, you want relief and you're going to try anything. My own mother uses straight Clorox she applies with a QTip. No thanks. Tempting, given the awful itch, but no thanks.

Two days ago, I woke up with it. I should've seen it coming, for who can work in the garden doing major weeding and revamping and not expect a little? Alas, after one day, I woke this morning to new areas of discontent. I'll say right here - I use a product called Zanfel, which is absolutely life saver. It kills the itch and heals the rash. However, if the rash has yet to appear, it's probably not going to help, as I found out this morning.

I have one thing to do today and then I'm taking a sick day. Meanwhile, if you have any remedies that don't include taking vitamin C until diarhhea results; coating myself in buttermilk; burning my skin with various chemicals; Technu (I use it, but Zanfel works better for me); or steroids, please let me know. I think I have the two-day-old stuff licked, but the new stuff is something I'd rather not live with, either.

Next week, I'm going to start a series of posts aimed at the true beginning writer: How to write query letters, where to find the work, what to look for (and avoid) in contracts, etc. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Micromanagement Hell
Had a conversation with a freelancer yesterday in which he expressed his frustration with a current client situation. He's in charge of one aspect of a project, yet he seems to be dealing with someone in charge of another aspect whose disorganization is costing him precious time and energy. Worse, she wants to manage the entire project, and there doesn't appear to be anyone else in the work process who can halt her. So he sits each project deadline trying to get her to organize so he's not bombarded with additional work, yet she resists.

What can you do about someone who clearly needs to be in charge, and someone who won't hear your requests to organize workflow in a better way? In most cases, you drop that client, for there's little you can do for someone who won't wrest control over to you so you can do your part of the job effectively. But what if it's a situation you can't drop? What then?

In my experience, folks who micromanage do so to feel less insecure about the job going awry, their jobs disappearing, their reputation being marred, etc. Knowing that insecurity is possibly driving your micromanager, try this; offer your client a number of workable options and then ask for the client's advice. It's a way to give the micromanager a sense of balance and control, and you may even get a bit more guidance and/or freedom to produce out of the deal. Make sure your options are those which you can function under.

For example, if your micromanager sends you fourteen emails a day with little scraps of information, it's too easy for you to miss that one note that was critical. It would not be insulting to let the client know the information was buried under numerous emails you receive daily, and that you want to work better with him or her. Suggest either a single email at the end of the day or the beginning of the day that bullets all the points this person wants to convey, or a single phone call in which you hit the tape recorder and grab a note pad. He or she may shoot the ideas down, but you've conveyed the message that things are getting lost due to some miscommunication and that you're needing a better system.

There are times when no matter what you try to negotiate, there just isn't going to be any changes. Those are the times you have to ask yourself how important it is to keep the client on. Still, micromanagers can be reasoned with. Keep trying. You might find a nice compromise that keeps you both content.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Or You Could Just Foot My Bills Instead
Here's one for the books - I answered an ad back in March for a fashion writer. I just received a note today from the "employer." Instead of offering me the gig or discussing it with me, "Guenther" simply wrote this: "I had to postpone the launch of this venture in March as I had to go to Europe...what are you doing these days? If you are so into fashion...why don't you team up with me to launch this site?You could be around apparel all day..."

It's a first for me. Answer an ad for employment, become the venture capitalist for a stranger who not only didn't hire me but now wants my money. Gosh, I should feel flattered. Or flattened. Yea, that's the right one.

Don't look for the check, Guenther.
Job Listings - July 10, 2007
I had a bit of work to clear up this morning, so this list is coming to you a bit later than planned. Tell me, do you guys like the job lists? Not? I'm here doing it for you, so if it's not something you want, feel free to let me know and I'll save some aggravation.

Happy birthday to one of my longest friends (at our age, I hesitate to say "oldest" friends). She was my chum from first grade on, a partner in crime if ever there was one. Happy birthday, Kelly Sue Serwinski! I hope you're still writing, as you always dazzled me with your prose, even way back when...

Here's today's round-up:

Site Guide Reviewer
Freelance Proposal Writer
Freelance Lifestyle Writer
Web Articles Needed (Not sure of the pay, so proceed with caution)
Hip Writers Wanted
Press Release Writer
Website Copywriter
Freelance Travel Writer(this one does pay)
Copy Editor Boat Site
Freelance Travel Writing (this one sounded neat enough to include)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Freelance Does Not Mean Employee
Recently I had an experience that can only be chalked up to a client who had troubles separating freelance from employee. I worked on a project, handed in the project. That's where it got weird. The client called - more than once and at odd hours. Needed me ASAP. That would be fine if I'd been around when the calls came in. Then the inevitable - the mention of when I needed to be available for this client to meet his schedule. Yes folks - I was actually told I had to be by the phone on a certain number of days at certain times of the day.

Don't we call that an employee status? The reason I freelance is so I can do the job and do whatever else I need to do - in this case, it was after-hours English tutoring with a foreign student. I have since dropped that client for other reasons, as well. But it bears repeating - unless you are being compensated for your availability, you are not bound by it. Mind you, if you agree to a deadline and instead you're at the beach, you're not holding up your end of things. Let's put it this way - don't accept a job you cannot deliver on time. Also, don't accept a job from someone who is not going to compensate you for putting time restrictions on you.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Your Late Fees
We've talked about others charging fees to writers who miss deadlines (and I think all of us agree so far that it's a great idea). Now let's talk about your late fees. What are you charging customers who don't pay on time?

Recently I posted somewhere that my late fee was 25 percent. That was met with a little bit of "too high!" talk. However, my late fee is spelled out in my contract. If you're late with payment, here's what you'll pay. Honestly, I've had maybe one person pay the late fee (and it was a client who is not normally late). I've charged it to numerous customers. I rarely collect it. And to be completely truthful, I don't care. My goal is to secure payment in full. If that means letting the lax ones feel they've "won" something by ignoring my late fee, who cares? I got what was due. That's what matters.

So set 'em high, I say. However, not all take my stand on this issue. Some charge lower fees - really low, like a few percentage points. Let's discuss - if you charge high, why do you and what are the results so far? If you charge low, how are your collection attempts going? I'm of the opinion, and feel free to disagree, that if a client sees a huge jump in the price, he/she is going to respond to that bill much more quickly than if it's a few percentages. Then again, there are those who just won't pay no matter what - you could sell their mothers on eBay and they'd ignore your bill.

So what are your late fee rates like?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Late Fees
Many of us writer types are old pros at assessing late fees 30 days out. Some of us make 'em steep; my own late fee for clients is anywhere from 20-25 percent of the total due. In most cases, the sight of that fee causes clients to pay pretty quickly. It's not meant as a scare tactic - it's meant as a sign of someone who's serious about payment and proper business practice.

So it was interesting to me to come up against a late fee recently. A magazine I've been thinking of writing for sends out blanket emails to its writing stable. This particular email lamented the fact that too many articles were late and caused the publication layout and printing problems as a result. For that reason, said the editor, this email included a new tack on getting articles in on time - late fees. For every day a writer misses a deadline, there's a $50 charge. No exceptions. Mind you, they did allow for extenuating circumstances, but added that writers were responsible for notifying them seven days in advance of any circumstance that would cause them to miss their deadline.

So, writers. Is turnabout fair play? Do you see what the publication is doing as sensible? I do. I think it's only fair to expect professionals at all levels to act like professionals. If it comes down to tacking on a late fee, so be it. But tell me - what do you think?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fun Sites
We writers often laugh, share, get angry and respond to ads that promise nothing more than profit for the "employer". But one writer took it as a personal crusade to point out the ridiculous offers and too-bad-to-be-true ads. The Craig's List Curmudgeon says what we all want to say, points out the stupidity of non-offers masked as terrific opportunities and tells it like it is. How refreshing! It's a fun, often hilarious read.

Ever overhear a conversation that sticks with you? Overheard in New York goes one step further - it's an online log of snippets of conversation that reveal deeper behavioral aspects of the speakers. It's like a voyeur's window into strangers' lives. It's also a great inspiration for your writing!

Ever wander what your waiter thinks about your food, your service or the restaurant? No? No matter, for the Waiter Rant will tell you anyway. Not only that, you get tips on what you should/should not expect when you dine out. A fun read.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Job Listings - July 3, 2007
Your Empty Blog

I've noticed a trend in some of the blogs I visit lately. They haven't been updated in months. One hasn't seen action since November 2006. Mind you, I'm a loyal reader, but only if you're a loyal writer.

Perhaps it's because we start blogs without knowing where to go with them. That happens. I've found it best to just let the blog take you where it wants to go. I started this one with no real purpose in mind. It's evolved (I think) to a place that helps those just starting out. At least I hope it helps.

All you need to do in order to keep your blog going is post. Tougher than it sounds, I know. But try this - post your favorite books, your favorite authors and why, events you've heard about, experiences you've had recently, or just a link to another blog that you enjoyed. Doesn't have to be every day. Once a week at the least, though. I've removed a few blogs from my favorites that were inactive for months. There are a few more in danger of being dropped, as well. It's sad, because these are all blogs I think are darned good, or were at some point.

Show signs of life. Otherwise, you're going to be taken off the radar, and the lists, of those who enjoyed your blog long enough to want to link to it.

Here's this week's conglomeration of gigs:

Web Content Writing
Electronics Course Writer
Freelance Editor
Freelance Content Editor
Freelance Food Writer
RFP Writer (La Jolla)
Comp/Benefits Writer
Content Author (London, CA)
Tech Freelancer
Editors & Writers (Midtown Manhattan)
Education Writers
Freelance Surf Writer
Freelance Business Writer
The Workless Work Week
I'm tired. I'm sporting numerous moving aches and pains, along with a sore shoulder thanks to an uncooperative tent. The other aches and pains are making me suspect Lyme disease. Given that the deer from the park live in our backyard more than their own, it's almost a sure bet. Three weeks ago, I picked yet another deer tick off me.

This is not the week for needing to get work done, either. Thanks to the original G Dub and his gangstas back in 1776, I won't reach any of my necessary interview contacts this week. So, while I wait for return calls that just aren't coming, I decided to make a list of peeves. Please join me:

I can't stand:

1. People who type "hee hee." I mean, really. Do you honestly giggle like that? It's goofy to the point of sounding moronic. Try "LOL" instead. Or nothing. How about nothing? Make your words express the emotion. Leave the giggling to four year olds.

2. Clients who take offense. Look, we're professionals. Supposedly, so are you. If we ask for something you're not expecting, the proper response is not to get huffy or express your hurt. Hear the request. Respond to it based on whether you can accommodate or not. Keep your emotions out of it. There's no room for emotions in business.

3. People who walk through a doorway or reach the top of the escalator and stop to decide which way to go. Hey! Don't be so oblivious! Believe it or not, other people exist and are piling up behind you. Step to one side and make up your mind on your own time.

4. Bureacracy. I loathe the "I can't because it's not our policy" answer. It's a bullshit answer designed to insult customers and clients everywhere. Thanks very much to a certain college in Massachusetts that has yet to send my kid any notice of acceptance/rejection for her November 2006 application. And thanks for "investigating" when I asked for a refund of our application fee and concluding that it was our fault. If you received her application, which was mailed in the same envelope with the transcripts, how could you not have received them? Know what? I'm glad she's not going there now. I can't imagine having to work with a school that bureaucratic in its response to a complaint.

5. Promises that aren't kept. I'm still waiting for the weatherstripping for my then-new 1983 Chevy Chevette. The dealer said it would be in within six weeks. It's now a different millenium. I'm guessing they forgot to call. Oh, and thanks to the folks and my kid's college orientation for that fabulous continental breakfast provided to the parents. Only, you didn't tell me on which continent I could find that for I never found even a hint of a donut or a whiff of coffee. Perhaps Juan Valdez was hosting?

6. Repair people who show up somewhere between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Okay, could you narrow that down just a little? I mean, I know the minute I close that bathroom door, you're showing up. I know if I dash to the bank, you're pulling up as I pull away. I know the minute I'm on the phone with a client, that door bell is ringing. Please. You know when you'll be here. It's not a great unsolved mystery. I'll gladly accommodate you if you can give me a smaller window. I can't hold it for eight hours. I just can't.

7. Hershey moving its chocolate plant to Mexico. The only reason I buy it is because it's made here at home. If it goes elsewhere, no thanks.

What's bugging you lately?
Words on the Page