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Friday, September 29, 2006

I Can't Write Like This

Do other freelance writers have to put up with this? As I type this, someone is drilling in the background (but it might as well be in my head). Someone else is fitting a smoke alarm which is beeping once a minute. I'm sure someone else will come knocking at the door in a minute. That's what happened yesterday and that's why I was up till nearly midnight so I wouldn't get too far behind on my writing work.

The story behind this is that in April we came to look at the house and left a list of jobs that needed to be completed. Four months seemed a reasonable time scale, but when we arrived they hadn't been done. One month in, we were still waiting, so two nights ago my husband crafted a strong email, the gist of which was that we were tired of waiting for the contractor to get his act together and we might consider legal options if he didn't get the jobs done. So yesterday, we had people popping in every five minutes to do the jobs they should have done four months ago.

Writing Deadlines

So today I am really fed up, because I have too much writing to do in the next week, and every time people are in the house I lose at least half a day. Now, of course, I'm glad they're doing the work, but if they had done it when they were supposed to it wouldn't be interfering with my writing deadlines.

I have an ebook due in two days, some Lifetips due in four, some blog posts daily from Monday and 95 articles of a series of 100 to do over the next couple of weeks. This was already going to be a manic schedule as I'm fitting it around my daughter's school day. Now it's nearly impossible. Ok, rant over - somebody say something to cheer me up, please.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Setting Freelance Writing Goals

Freelance writing is like any other business - you have to set goals to make it a success. When I went freelance a year or so ago, my goal was to make enough money working from home to replace my former salary as a part time lecturer. It was five months before I made any money at all. In that time, I concentrated on creating my website, writing a few children's stories, entering writing competitions (only two, neither of which I won) and writing free articles so I would have some up-to-date examples of what I could do. This helped me to polish my writing skills.

Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

I also looked at many of the sites that listed freelance writing jobs and started applying. That was a difficult time, because bidding is hard work for little reward. I learned a couple of things about bidding, while I was doing it:

First, I learned to have some text ready that I could cut, paste and change around to suit any job with only minor editing. This included a paragraph about the job and my proposal, a paragraph about my relevant experience, a paragraph with links to examples of my work and a paragraph with contact details. That's enough for most bids (and too much for some - some people only want the figures). That didn't help me much with winning bids, but it did help with learning to blow my own trumpet and promote.

Second, I learned that if you're competing with people who will write for peanuts, you will never earn what you think you're worth. So I swallowed my pride, dropped my prices and vowed that one day I would get better paid writing jobs.

Freelance Writing: The First Job

My first freelance writing job (paid) came from one of my former students. I suspect it gave him a thrill to be in the driving seat, but I didn't care. He was pleasant, polite and paid on time - everything you want from a writing client. The next big job came from someone who wanted to take advantage of my experience as a teacher. The job was ghostwriting a lesson. Again, done and paid promptly.

At the same time, I was writing for a new venture that I first heard about here on this site - the revamped InspiredAuthor. Over the course of four months or so, I wrote 75 articles for two new topics I was managing, one of them on freelance writing. I was able to use these as examples of my web writing and that suddenly put me in a whole different league where writing jobs were concerned.

The next thing I knew I was writing for a whole slew of sites on a variety of topics and 10 months after I went freelance, I had achieved my first goal. I was pleased about it, because I was doing it part-time, fitting it around childcare and other family responsibilities. I now have a couple of regular writing clients who pay above the minimum, though I still take the 'peanuts' jobs as well. If I write fast enough, I can make enough from the job to make it worth my while.

Freelance Writing Goals

It has to be said that I managed that first freelance writing goal with only a minimal amount of planning and quite a lot of learning, from people on this site and others. What I have learned in the process is that unless you turn your ideas into goals they may never happen. That means prioritising and detailing the steps that need to be taken to achieve those goals.

For example, I know that in 10 years' time, I don't want to be scrabbling around for 1 cent a word jobs, so I have to raise my profile further and do some writing that will bring in residual income. I can also use my teaching experience to do the same thing. So my plan for the next year is to try to find a few more of those higher paying jobs, and to convert my offline journalism courses to online courses. I've also got a few plans for books. I'll let you know how it goes. If you're a writer (or in another business), I'd love to hear about your process for setting goals and how you've done with achieving them.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Writing Gold

While I'm stting at my desk writing, Monex is trading in gold, which apparently has held its value. Bully for them. What I value, especially at the moment, is my brand new ADSL connection. Living with 56k has been difficult, especially when my last writing job required me to download several large files as background information. Not only did the dialup drop out several times during the downloads, but it also downloaded a couple of them twice. So that was a couple of hours during which I could surf the net even more slowly than usual.

Since a lot of my work is for the internet and researched on the internet, life in the slow lane has been a trial. Add to that the minutiae of setting up a new home and you'll see how inconvenient it has been for the rest of my family to have to do without a telephone while I've been working. So a working ADSL connection (even though it's only 512k) is like gold to me. It will make my writing life so much easier.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Writing For Money

That's what freelance writers do. I've popped in from time to time and read the debates about the ethics of putting ads on your blogs. But here's my position. I'm a freelance writer, which means I get paid to write. If someone is going to pay me $5 or more to put an ad on my blog, that makes me a well paid writer. I do the post in five minutes, which gives me an hourly rate of $60. At the moment, I'm the main breadwinner at home and I can't afford to turn down that kind of money.

Paid Freelance Writing

If I asked most people to pay that for my writing, they would laugh in my face and go to someone who will write for less than 1 cent a word. Granted, I hope not to have to do this forever. There are also a few ads I've turned down. Today I've been lucky. They want me to write about search engine optimization and a press release from USWeb about Google's Accessible Search.

What most people question is whether putting an ad for SEO on my blog lessens its quality. Judge for yourself. On all my posts I make it clear that there is sponsorship so people can take that into account when forming a judgement. But the people who pay for ads on blogs pay for links. The rest of the content is up to me.

I was amazed to see a link on another web page (I'll post it when I find it again) referring to me as 'working for Blogitive'. I think whoever posted that missed the point. I work for myself - and that's why I have ads on some of my blog posts. That's also why I can take the time to craft a detailed blog post about an important freelance writing issue.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Making Money From Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is like any other business. Any business person (or affiliate marketer) will tell you that the bedrock of the business is in repeats. That's the people who keep paying year after year without your having to do anything more. That doesn't work well for freelance writing. But what does work is getting repeat business. As with any business, work where you don't have to resell yourself is money in the bank.

Freelance Writing - Show Me The Money

For freelance writers that means one of two things. Repeat work from clients who know your writing and use you as their first choice, or a regular writing contract that means there's a bit of your income you don't have to chase as long as you keep delivering. The less time you have to spend promoting, the more time you can spend on writing (promotion IS important, too, but that's another story).

I've been lucky. Since I started full time (ish) freelancing a year ago, I've met a few people who liked my writing and brought me new work. So much so, that it's been about two months since I've bid for any work. The less time I spend bidding, the more I spend writing. Then, just before I left the UK, I hit the mini-jackpot. Someone saw my site and my CV (this is where my promotion paid off) and approached me to write daily blog posts on the UK financial market. I can't say who, because it's ghostwriting, so it's confidential.

Freelance Writing Lessons

I broke the payment into an upfront retainer (small, but enough to make sure that if I don't get paid at the end of the month, I won't be too far out of pocket) and a per-post fee. This should ensure that I make just under a quarter of my (rockbottom) monthly target from that source. (I make a slightly lower proportion of my get rich quick and retire target). Lesson number one is to work out how much of your work time you will spend on the job and price to match.

By the end of the first week, I was asked to increase the length of the posts and the quantity. I said yes to the first but no to the second. The reason is that I need to earn a certain amount of money to pay my bills and this client cannot pay me enough of a retainer for me to give up the chance to do other work. So lesson number two is to make sure you don't get so much repeat work that you have no time to do lucrative writing jobs when they come up.

Then my client asked me a question: 'what happens if you're sick or go on holiday?'. Yikes, I hadn't thought of that - and I should have. We all assume we'll always be ok until we aren't - and then it's too late. So I asked a friend with experience in the market whether she could cover for me in those cases. And I also asked whether she wanted to mop up the extra work he had going. So I did both my friend and my client a favour. Lesson number three: always have a contingency plan for your freelance writing work.

What I'd like to find now is another client who will operate on a similar basis. I'd like to have at least half my income come from this sort of work. That would mean I could almost always pay the bills (because my job is portable, I'm the main earner at the moment) but wouldn't be too dependent on one source. Lesson number four: diversify.

So to recap, I've now got:

  • an agency that puts lots of work my way
  • a client on contract who should (fingers crossed) pay me for the next year
  • two clients who give me writing work when they have it
  • occasional work from Lifetips
  • some paid blog postings

And I didn't do all this alone. Some of it was promotion, but a lot came from tips and introductions from other writing friends, gracepub in particular. Lesson number five is: you never know how or when the contacts you make will help you. One of the things I've enjoyed most about this site is the friends I've made here. They've given me advice on everything from website development, to networking, to publishing. And I've met a lot of fellow freelance writers who have shared their tips and experience. Thanks, everyone.

Freelance Writing on Inspired Author

Check out the revamped freelance writing pages on InspiredAuthor. And subscribe to my free writing newsletter, WritingLab News. Lots of good content and absolutely no spam.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Doing It On The Floor

It's amazing what you can do when you have to. I moved into my new house on Wednesday and that's all it was - a house. Not a stick of furniture. Lucky for me we had the piece of cardboard the fridge came in and two of the most uncomfortable airbeds known to man. Air? More like rocks! I haven't slept this badly since my daughter was born.

We were lucky, though. Thanks to a little foresight (and some help from a friend), the phone was connected on Tuesday. Getting an internet connection was a little trickier, though. On Tuesday I went to the bMobile office (the mobile arm of Cable and Wireless, not known around here for their customer service). I asked whether I could get a dialup connection that day. They took my details and my money and said I'd have a connection that afternoon. Hah! Did I heck!

I went back the next day and went through the same thing again. Still no joy. So on Thursday I went to the rival company, Sunbeach. They set up my service straight away and when I got home I was able to connect and wade through more than 200 emails. Oh joy!

Now I have a dilemma. Do I get ADSL through Cable and Wireless (cheaper but with shoddy service) or through Sunbeach (a pleasure to deal with)?

And in case you're wondering what I've been doing on the floor, it's working on my computer. No furniture, so I put my laptop on an empty suitcase, the keyboard in my lap and started typing. Today I'm in luxury, because a friend has lent us some plastic chairs.

So now my laptop is on two suitcases and the keyboard is in my lap. I have deadlines every day this week, but I'm feeling good. I had positive feedback on the first blog posts I did for a new contract, the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day. Hope you're having a good day, too.