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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writerly Misinformation

What's on the iPod: Unbelievable by Diamond Rio

Rough day yesterday. It wasn't that the work was difficult. It was that everything transpired to get in the way.

Simple Math:
Two client phone calls withing one and a half hours = nothing getting done until noon.

Impromptu call from a client = another 30 minutes unable to touch must-do projects.

I managed a radio script in the morning before the phone started ringing, but I was working past 5 again in an attempt to get ahead of the workload. The phone rang again -- another client, another project, another interview. These smaller projects became harder and harder to do as the phone -- and the other projects-- started to encroach.

I was reading something on a forum about rates. The writer was asking how to handle it when your client lowers your rate. Those who know me already know my answer:

Your clients should not be setting your rates. You should.

The writer is newer to the freelance world, so I can fully understand the oversight. However, those who answered her were not, and in only a few cases did anyone point out that she shouldn't be accepting lower rates.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Writers are passing on misinformation.

One writer said magazine work was dead.

Another said that clients dropping rates was just a sad fact of the business.

Still another thought it was a sign of the times and the writer should just roll with it.

One writer actually said it was time for her to raise her rates. Amen to that writer.

Then there were writers who thought any work during a recession was a gift.

Please, take back your "gift."

So let's try clearing up a few misconceptions:

Certain areas of writing are not "dead." I wanted to tell them just how much they're wrong (by way of my own example), but I don't like telling people how much because it always comes across as pomposity. But if an area seems dead to you, either you're not doing it correctly or your rates or ideas don't coincide with that particular area of focus.

Lower rates are not a fact, sad or otherwise. I've raised mine this year, as have many of you. I'm working more than I can handle, and I know a few of you are, as well. A client who lowers your rates is not a client worth keeping.

Recession be damned. This is my best year ever. Don't use the excuse (or any other) for justifying your lack of work. Something is amiss. Either you're not marketing enough or you're targeting the wrong level of clientele. Aim higher.

It is indeed time to raise your rates. If you work with people who are counting every penny, you will always be struggling with them over price. Instead, raise your rates in order to eliminate them from the competition for your time. Focus on attracting clients who value your services.

Any work does not constitute a career. Survival mode is not any way to run a business. Accepting "the way things are" is foolish at best. Expect more and settle for no less than what you deserve.

What misconceptions are you hearing parroted around?


Sharon Hurley Hall said...

Thanks for exploding these myths, Lori. I had my best year when the recession was at its worst. The 'trick' is to keep marketing and keep delivering great service. Freelancing has ups and downs, but that's no reason to reduce rates. All that does is lower your perceived value for potential clients - and who wants to do that?

Devon Ellington said...

For me, the biggest myth is that you have to have a "niche". Hey, if you like to specialize, great, go for it. But I don't, I like variety. When the economy tanked, plenty of niche writers crashed and burned. I didn't, because I can write about anything.

Regarding the phone interruptions -- you know me. Phone is off, and if someone wants to talk, they have to set a phone date. I've also started charging for phone calls, above the cost of the project, in 15 minute increments. Makes a huge difference. They think twice before wasting my time, because they're charged -- weekly -- for it.

90% of client calls, in my experience, are time wasters. You want a quick response? Email me. Or cough up the dough.

Lori said...

Love your new picture, Sharon. Lovely you are! I agree -- until this year, my best year was in the height of the recession. It's about marketing and knowing enough to switch from one client base to another as the times call for it.

Devon, I agree. I "specialize" but my specialty is one that translates into several different areas, so I don't lack for possibilities. We have to be adaptable, and getting too specialized doesn't allow for it.

True on the phone. If I could have, I'd have tossed that thing out the window yesterday.

Kimberly Ben said...

Thanks for posting this, Lori. Emerging writers need to see more than freelance writing "doom and gloom."

Last year was my best year so far, but this year is not looking too bad either.

Lori said...

Amen to that, Kim! Here's to better years each year. :)

Paula said...

I wish I could remember where I saw it, but the other day I read some statistics on how more print magazines were launched in 2012 than in recent years, and fewer print editions have folded. So much for magazine writing being dead. (I do wish magazine pay rates rose along with their ad rates, but that's another story.)

Like Devon, I like to diversify. It's not so much that I get bored easily, but because I have a wide range of interests and enjoy learning about new subjects and industries.

anne wayman said...

Love Devon's idea of charging for phone calls like an attorney ;)

And yes, there are a ton of discouraging myths out there... I've quite forums and linkedin groups that promote that nonsense.

And in the 5 Buck Forum at Lori and I are quick to jump on any negative myth making. So are most of the members. That's one reason I suspect it's the most supportive writing forum out there.

Dava Stewart said...

This is a great post. One myth that bothers me is that there is a right way to be a successful freelance writer. There are many paths to success, but meekly accepting a lower rate doesn't seem like a very direct one. I hope that new writer reads this post and is encouraged.

Lori said...

Paula, to add to that, magazines are moving online, so the need for content is still there.

Amen, Anne. I have this BS meter and when it goes off, I have to say something. I hate that there are so many people out there stating "THIS is the way it is" when it's merely their own experiences. It's not that way if you refuse to accept it.

Dava, I couldn't agree more. You've stated it beautifully! That old "You MUST do it this way" guidance is just nonsense. Everyone here operates a different way. Like you said, there are many paths.

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