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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Changing Face of Freelancing

Time for some frank talk - we've been in this business long enough to see the trends unfolding before our eyes, right? Even if you've been in freelancing a year, you've seen it. You may not recognize it yet, but you're definitely experiencing it.

It's the way we find our projects. For a few years now, I've lamented, cajoled, moaned and shouted about how project employers are requiring more of us and paying us a damn sight less than in previous years. Numerous reasons exist - and I'm not going into them here. I've fussed about them endlessly in previous posts. Just read backwards, please.

It used to be we could log on to Craig's List or About Freelance Writing and find tons of work that paid decently (and Anne Wayman does an excellent job of searching for job listings for us, so kudos to her). Even the paid job sites used to do good by us. But the evolution taking place online right now is depressing, maddening, sickening and not doing anyone any good. The jobs that are there pay squat. If we secured 20 gigs a month, the pay still wouldn't add up to enough to bring home KFC for dinner (or tofu kabobs for us vegetarians).

I talked with a writer friend yesterday who sits in his home office idle. He holds a Master's degree, yet he's forced to either taking lousy jobs for crap wages or not work. Employers of all shapes and sizes are downsizing the pay while upscaling the amount of work and the amount of experience needed. He's nowhere near alone. I've faced it. You have, too. I defy anyone to say they've not had to have the "I'm worth more" talk with a potential client in the last year - nay, I'd wager even in the last month.

Part of the blame rests with us, you know. The Internet made us passive observers in our careers. We no longer marketed nor did we make cold calls. We just clicked and clicked and voila! Work appeared. Well guess what? That's all becoming a fruitless pursuit. Time to return to our roots. We gotta start marketing again. Do you remember how?

Starting Monday, we're going to get back to basics. With the help of some friends (possibly you?) and some of my own marketing experience, we're going to relearn how to sell ourselves to potential clients. No more waiting in line with 1,200 other hopeful writers. We're not going to hit the job boards. We're going to hit the untapped markets - the ones in your neighborhood or the ones across the country (we're not leaving the Internet totally behind). So if you have ideas or suggestions, let me know. We're here to support each other, and that can only strengthen our profession in the long run.

Ready?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Go Team, Go!

Admit it - you've always wanted a writing coach or a life coach. Who better to help you refocus your energies in the right direction?

Now's your chance - coaching guru Lisa Gates is offering two coaching teleclasses: one for writers, and one for everyone else. The teleclasses are scheduled for the following days:

Tuesday, December 4 at 5 p.m. PST
Friday, December 7 at 12 Noon PST

And they're free. Yep. Free. It's an introductory telecoaching experience designed to give you a taste of what coaching can do for you.

If you fall into either of those categories (and you do), check out the info on her weblog. I hope to be there. Join me!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Job Listings - November 27, 2007

The Sound of Money Dripping

Is anyone else finding the work drying up around them? I'm sitting here looking, yet nothing seems to be out there. There are a few nibbles, but again, thanks to the insane amount of competition (see this post and this post for that rant) no one's taking the bait. Most frustrating are the inquiries that lead to nowhere. I had three in the last two weeks - all of whom decided to go with someone cheaper. No great shakes - who wants to work for someone who's looking for a bargain? You can't do a good job that way, nor can a client expect a good job.

Luckily, I have two ongoing projects that are keeping my head above water. You should, too. If you've done your marketing homework, you've already secured two or maybe more ongoing gigs. And if you've aced the class, you know to continue the search, for permanence is a fickle beast in freelancing. Those jobs, should you have secured them, are going to keep you in the black while you look for more gigs. If by some chance you're facing an empty wallet and you haven't the ongoing stuff, I sympathize. It was one year ago I was facing that same horrendous situation, and about the same time I decided enough was enough. Time for you to do that to, eh?

Start here. You never know - you may be the one lucky enough to rise above the competition and get paid a decent wage.

Freelance Feature Writer
Grant Writer
Magazine Article Writers
Finance Writer (ongoing work)
Children's Writer/History
Hip-Hop Writing
Freelance Editors (Get out your Master's - you're going to need it!)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ready... Set... Holiday

Never - I mean never have I ever dragged myself out of bed at 5 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving to shop. In fact, if I'm up before 8 a.m., it's surprising. I may or may not go shopping at all. Call me contradictory, but I'm rather like the Quoibler, whose list of things she'd rather be doing than shopping on Black Friday is one I can agree with 100 percent. If it can't be had online, it won't be had at all. I won't go to all that trouble just to save ten or twenty bucks. To me, it's worth it to spend the extra and catch up on sleep.

Despite the Hell that descends on the mall this time of year, Thanksgiving has to be the best holiday around. What other holiday does not require gifts and is all about the food and family? I hope your celebration was a good one this year. Jennifer over at Catalyst Blogger has her list of things to be thankful for.

My list -

I am thankful for:

My writing friends. Without you - all of you - I wouldn't have the stamina to continue the freelance life. Your support means everything to me.

My children. They make me proud every day by living their lives as compassionate people and living with a passion for what they want.

My husband. Each day is a gift, and the joy he brings to my life is incomparable.

My parents and siblings. No better support group ever existed, and I am who I am because of these people.

The chance to be a writer. I am eternally grateful for the gift of creativity, and I'm damned well going to use every drop of it while I'm breathing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Job Listings - November 20, 2007

Creating Your Niche

Good chum Devon Ellington made a comment on yesterday's blog entry stating she prefers to create a niche with a company she's hoping to work for. How many of us even consider doing that? And why should you?

Let's look at it from a few different angles - is there a specific industry you'd love to work in? Let's assume you enjoy very much the wine industry. You know a little about it maybe, or maybe you're just itching to become an expert. That's a reason to approach magazines, trade groups and even vintners themselves with your services.

Another angle - exactly how many job listings have you seen lately for wine expertise? Not so many, eh? Again, there's another reason for being proactive in your search.

Yet another angle - how much do you suppose someone posting a "wine expert wanted" ad on Craig's List is going to pay? Chances are not much. Why? The pool of candidates is entirely too deep.

Here's another angle along those same lines - you're competing with people who would work for less than minimum wage. While you may be more talented, the employer isn't looking merely at talent. He's looking at dollar signs. That's why his ad went up on a free site, n'est pas?

The most compelling angle - how much do you suppose you might charge someone who isn't necessarily looking for help, but does need it/want it? By dealing directly with the client (sans any advertisement), you're able to A) get his full attention, B) convince him he needs your services, and C) charge a fair price for it.

At the risk of speaking for her, I will assume Devon has all this in mind when she opts for direct contact. And Devon, please add whatever other reasons you think folks should know.

Meanwhile, if you're hell-bent on getting work from online sources, some of these may be worth your time:

Cruise Ship Employment E-Book Writer
Freelance Medical Proofreader (May be onsite in Manhattan)
Freelance Writer/Urban magazine
Writer/Foodservice publication
Female health blogger
Web Copywriter

Magazine Guidelines:
Direct Marketing Association Insider
Planning Magazine
NailPro Magazine
Idea Fitness Magazine

Monday, November 19, 2007

ELance Debate (Continued)

Thanks to everyone who commented on Friday's post regarding Elance. Thanks especially to Kathy and Jennifer for hauling out figures and giving us a very clear picture of what they pay in current fees versus the work they bring in. I'm grateful to you both for letting others see your own experiences.

This discussion has somewhat muddled my opinion of ELance, which I will confess was a pretty poor one until Friday. I now see that writers are making money at it. While it remains to be seen whether the new fee structure will make it harder for writers to clear a decent wage, it does help to see what one can expect when signing up for a paid job site.

Despite the moderate support for ELance from others, I remain undaunted in my view that sites should not charge writers for listings. Think about it - there are zero guarantees that your cash will buy you anything more than the privilege of bidding. I respect those who make decent cash at the sites, but I've been burned by one such site in the past and I'm not terribly inclined to repeat the process. If we made six figures annually, I could justify finding projects there. What gets me is the low-paying jobs are soon going to take over. It's happened on numerous free sites already and had begun happening on Guru a few years ago. As long as sites like this don't put a minimum on what an employer's project fee can be or be a bit more discriminating in what types of projects they will accept, I don't feel I'm getting a whole lot for my money.

If there's a site out there that charges and has some decent parameters around what writers can expect (and employers, too - remember, they're also paying) in terms of value for the dollar, I'd sign up. I thought Guru was like that. I found out otherwise. ELance sounds like it came close, but the new payment structure may make it economically unwise to join.

Back to searching the old-fashioned way. (sigh)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Paying for Work

There are two great discussions going on over the recent changes in service to ELance - one at Kathy Kerhli's site and the other over at Jennifer's Catalyst Blogger site. Both are great discussions on the state of job sites and how the ELance changes will affect you. What's more, ELance's Lorenzo Mellon-Reyes pipes in with his promise that ELance will be rethinking the restructuring and taking the complaints seriously. I think all opinions in this discussion are valid and have merit. However, I think the bigger-picture issue is this: What exactly are we paying for?

I was part of Guru at one point. I did get work from it. But when I started seeing more low-paying gigs (really low - $4 and $5/article jobs), I complained. I asked the gurus at Guru to do something about it. They did. They responded to me saying that they don't turn down these "employers" because there are writers who bid on these jobs. Maybe so, but why the hell should I pay $74.95 every three months to weed through the same crap that's rampant all over the Internet? The message I took away from Guru, and they didn't have to say it directly, was that if the posters pay the fee, Guru couldn't care less if the writers like it. They collect on both ends, so it's not their bottom line that's affected. No, they didn't say it like that, but it takes no genius to translate the message.

That was the day I cancelled my membership and turned my back on paying job sites. I cannot justify spending money to find out what should be free information - a client needs my services. I remember waaaay back when I first started out in the working world. There were people whom you would hire in order to help you find a good job. Back then we considered them just one small step above scam artists. Now we hastily hand over our dollars for the chance to compete over crap jobs, and we do it with our eyes wide open. Until any of these sites can guarantee a minimum project fee, no exceptions, I'll remain underwhelmed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nano Rising

The word count for the Nano contest now stands at 6,184. I know why now. I tend to edit in my head before I type. It's great if I'm writing for a client, but it causes me no end of grief in the fiction world. Oh well. Slow and steady. I may not finish in time, but I will eventually finish. Unlike my chum, Devon, who has rocked this contest and now has about 55K-plus words, I am destined to putter.

Work has slowed to a mere smattering of things. It's okay, for a few are paying some very nice cash, which will get me through the slow holiday period. If anyone has a secret formula for finding work during the holidays, I'm all ears. My only suggestion is to fill in as a temp employee while others are off cavorting for the holidays, but that doesn't happen too often. Companies are more prone to just stay lean until the New Year.

But the search continues. Kathy Kerhli is talking about the same thing on her blog today, so I feel like I'm not alone in the hiccup that is the November/December workload.

How about you? How are you managing?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Job Listings - November 13, 2007

Carrie Bradshaw Lied: She Couldn't Afford Manhattan Let Alone Manolos

It's a mystery - how do people in movies and on t.v. survive on the jobs they never go to? Look at Carrie Bradshaw. She wrote a column. A column. Do you have any idea what writers are paid for columns that aren't syndicated (and it didn't appear that hers was)? Here's a clue - a LOT less per month than the cost of one pair of leopard-print Manolo Blahniks. In fact, if the girl made $500 a month at it, she was doing pretty damned good. Wasn't that a newspaper she worked for? If so, figure on something like $150. Yet there she was in that fabulous, rent-controlled apartment wearing designer gear from stem to stern. Carrie, you've lied to me.

She's not the only liar in the fiction world - most main characters (with the exception of Will Smith's character in The Pursuit of Happyness and the ever-popular Willy Loman) are sitting around collecting money from gawd-knows-where and are able to take the time to travel, wax on about their lives, and examine their relationships ad nauseum.

We know the truth. We bust our tails daily in order to afford the braces for the kid or the tires for the car. We pay our bills with pure blood and sweat. We have no time to wonder about our relationships unless someone's agreed to pay us a buck a word to write about them. Manolos? Try Keds. And I don't know about you, but my first gig at a newspaper paid me the whopping sum of $35 for a 450-word article. Not exactly going to afford that penthouse on that paycheck.

So here you go. Get yourself a better gig than Miss Carrie had. Maybe you can eventually afford a new gravy boat. :))

Poker Writer
Workshop Presenter
Copywriter/Jewelry
Press Release Writer
Sports Info Specialist
Articles for Website (proceed with caution)
Freelance Reporter
Freelance Marketing Manager
Freelance Writer
Technology Writer
Freelance Proposal Writer (onsite)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Work is What Happens

When You're Busy Making Other Plans...
I apologize profusely. Normally, I'm here almost daily. For me to let this much time pass between posts is just wrong. The reason? Work. Yes, that four-letter word once again foiled my plan to do what I'd rather be doing.

It's why my count on the Nano contest is so low - 5,001 words. How pathetic is that? Do we think she'll get 50K by November 30th? HA! But I'm so deadline-driven, I'm sure I'll nearly kill myself to attempt it.

I'm getting a touch nervous. I have clients, but I don't have many. I don't have many invoices out, either. And the holidays are coming. Does it always have to be like this? So back to the search for more clients. I have one who contacted me last week for a retainer arrangement. If he follows through, we won't be having this conversation next week. If he doesn't, I'm hoping the queries I've sent out the last two weeks will net something. Meantime, I'm working for the magazine and making a nice amount on that gig. Amen. I love the work, too. And I have two ongoing gigs that are both more drudgery than actual creative work, but it's a steady stream of income nonetheless. Oh, and there's the semi-regular gig that is about to pick up again. It seems odd, as I was scrambling to get it all done just before vacation.

The moral of the story - no matter how busy you are, always look for more. You never know what's coming or when. It's a trap we fall into much too often. We get busy and lazy about marketing. Marketing is constant. Consider it medicine you must take in order to remain healthy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Buddy-less in Cyberspace

I have no buddies. It's true - not a one. Since joining the National Novel Writing Month contest, I've managed to link up to a few familiar faces, but as of this writing, no one has found me .... or maybe they have and don't want to be buddies...oh, it's like fourth grade all over again!

Anyway, I'll brush aside the doubts and just post the link to my profile here. Please make me your buddy! I'll do my best to be a good buddy. I will be supportive, glad to see you, and I won't pee on the carpet. Or wait - maybe that's my criteria for a dog. Oh well - works for both, doesn't it?

If you've not joined the contest, which offers no more prizes that the personal satisfaction of finishing something longer than a web log post, go to the NaNoWriMo site now and join! Oh sure, you'll have to crank out 50,000 words by November 30th, but you'll be a better person for it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Job Listings - November 6, 2007

Why I Love Magazines

As I sit here busting my tail at a gig that pays okay, but not great, I only have to think back to last week. For last week, I did what most writers dream of doing - I wrote, handed in the assignment and collected a very nice wage. See, I signed on to write semi-regularly for a magazine that is professional enough to pay a very good wage ($1/word) and not bitch about it. Better, there are clear instructions from the magazine's editor, and there's a contract. Amen, Alleluia.

That's not to say other gigs aren't worthwhile - some are. But there are some that will cause you to spin your wheels, spend more time than you should at them, and generally pay you almost - but not quite - what you should be getting. These seem to be more the rule than the exception, at least in my career. sigh

That said, tread carefully in your quest for new clients. Don't be afraid to say, "You know what? That's not acceptable." And don't be afraid to expect to earn a fair wage. If your would-be employers were the ones looking, wouldn't you think they'd be all over you to pay them fairly? Feel free to mention that should you hit upon resistance.

And here - give some of these a try. There could be some jewels in the crowd. I cannot guarantee what these gigs offer, but I try my best to bring you only those that sound both legitimate and worth your time.

Copywriter/Publishers Clearing House
Freelance Copywriter (some in-house required)
Freelance Healthcare Marketing
Freelance Copywriter
Freelance Travel Writer
Finance Web Writer
Freelance Automotive Writer
PR/Publicity Writer

Monday, November 05, 2007

When You Get Paid, We Get Paid

Remember the above mantra - it is part of a movement that will undoubtedly affect your future compensation. The striking members of the Writer's Guild, whose work appears in various media venues, are using the mantra to define very succinctly what they're striking over - compensation schedules that award them for their work appearing in new media outlets, such as the Internet. Read the story here.

Good for them, right? Well, if they're successful, good for us all. Too long have we been working our tails off for a small slice of the pie. Not that all clients or pay scales are unfair - it's that this surge in new ways to display our work has left a very large gap in how, or if, we are compensated. The striking writers have it right, for if this were an article or a play that either appeared in another publication or performed on a different stage, no one would think twice about compensating the writers, who would most likely hold contractual agreements with the original clients. However, when your skit appears on the Internet and your client is compensated for it, why not you as the writer?

Show your support for the striking writers, who haven't hit the picket lines in ten years. Blog this, or link back here. No matter what type of writing you do, the activities today will affect you.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Silver Heart

Cool Writers, Cool Ideas Series

Mark Silver's been around a while. I've been receiving his emails for about a year and a half, and each one is an inspiration. Mark teaches us - all of us - how to improve our businesses, but also how to do so while improving our communities and our well-being.

Consider him a therapist for your business model. Mark teaches business healing, which in Mark's words, "is the process of coming into a vibrant and healthy relationship with your business, and for your business to come into that same vibrant and healthy relationship with the marketplace." It's his contention that oftentimes we succeed at a greater cost than we realize; we lose our hearts in the process. It's not too difficult to understand what he means. And often our fears hold us back. One example he gives is a client who was nervous about billing her clients. Working with her, Mark discovered she needed to heal some emotional reactions in order to perform successfully. The end result - the client doubled her client billings and her business was back on track.

Check out Mark's website.
Words on the Page