ABCs of Freelance Writing: O is for Organizations

writers organizationsJoining a writers organization can help you boost your career. Every group offers something different, so I recommend doing a little research before blindly joining any of these programs. Some are free, some require membership dues. But all require your time if you’re going to get much out them.

Joining organizations is a great way to extend your professional network. Don’t be surprised if, by joining one of these groups, you find opportunities to collaborate with other freelancers, learn more about how laws affect you as a freelance writer, and expand your business through introductions to new clients in new industries.

National Writers Organizations

National Association of Independent Writers and Editors: This organization will accept international members too. It pretty much covers writers in every field—freelancers, magazine writers, editors, business writers, writing teachers, and the list keeps going.

National Writers Association: I have to say that this organization could use a few more chapters across the United States. If you’re looking for something local, you might need to step up and spearhead the launch of a chapter in your area.

American Society of Journalists and Authors: This organization has been around since 1948. It’s headquartered in New York City, but there are also regional chapters if you want to get involved. One of its primary functions is to serve as a spokesperson for independent writers.

Women’s Writing Organizations

International Women’s Writing Guild: The IWWG was founded in the mid-1970s and touts itself as a personal and professional network for women writers. The group is open to all writers regardless of their portfolio.

National League of American Pen Women: The NLAPW is a 501 (c)(3) that promotes the creative works of women in “art, letters, and music.” You can participate through an active, associate, or student membership.

Unions for Freelance Writers

The Freelancers Union: This union acts on behalf of freelance writers as well as designers, consultants, etc. I’m a free member of this union, and have found the info in the organization’s newsletter alone is well worth the few minutes it took me to sign up.

National Writers Union: The NWU “represents freelance writers in all genres, formats, and media” and focuses on campaigns involving copyright defense, legislative action, freedom of speech and censorship.

Want to share your experience with these or any other writers’ groups? Leave a comment below.

Vote for Your Favorite Writing Contest Finalist

like writing contest

First, I owe many, many thanks to judges, Austin Briggs, Melissa Breau, and Michelle Lowery who spent last week reading and evaluating the Writers’ Week Writing Contest entries. Second, thanks to all of you who submitted entries and participated in the rest of the Writers’ Week festivities.

I’m going to skip thanking the Academy and all that crap and just get on with it. I know you’re all dying to find out which pieces made it to the voting phase of the contest.

Top 10 Finalists

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“Why Yes, I am a Total Badass” at What She Said

I’ll be honest: I’m a girly girl. I love all things Ann Taylor Loft; my idea of camping out involves parking my butt at the poolside bar of a Marriott resort; and, oh, how Clinique’s new lid smoothie eye color with the cooling metallic applicator feels like pure bliss on my tired eyelids. Read more.

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“How Vine Leaves Stuffed Nemesis” at Brainfluff

‘You’d be much more attractive if you didn’t have that cloud of midges buzzing around your head,’ I grumbled, waving away the pesky insects. I smoothed out the frown lines that weren’t doing a lot for my wonderful Grecian brow, or high perfect forehead. Read more.
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“Lessons 2” at Views from Nature

“When I was 13, I thought that everything would be easier once I was an adult,” Rachel confided. She stood at the door to her small loft studio conveniently located a stone’s throw from the cave. Read more.
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“Creative Writing” at Flight of the Tumblebee

Elevators are little more than inverted coffins strung up on piano wire. Except there also are telephones. And, really, that’s not much of an improvement if you ask me. Read more.
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“Fusio Taganinni and the Long Rescue” at Wiley-Davis.com

The difference between good binoculars and bad binoculars wasn’t what it used to be. Even optics had fallen under the domain of cheap but good. Fusio Taganinni wanted to hate his cheap binoculars, but the lenses could reveal a blackened pore at a thousand yards and besides, these binoculars were custom. Read more.
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“The Black Sheep” at {Not} Mommy of the Year

I never did care much for this part. For months I raised them. Fed them every day, made sure they had fresh water, talked to them. I helped in the barn – clipping tails, trimming hoofs and shearing wool. Most of my “help” was standing around watching and handing tools to my dad or Uncle Scott. Read more.
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“I Need To Believe” at The Misadventures of Mrs. B

I used to believe that Santa Claus was real. One night out of every year I’d lay in bed, struggling to stay awake, waiting with bated breath to hear those hooves on my roof. I must have fallen asleep too early, I’d reason the next morning. Read more.
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“Out of the Corner” at Writer’s Challenge

In two weeks I have to go back to the hospital, so Dr. Frey can do my left eye. I don’t know if things will get better or worse. But if something doesn’t change, I’m not going to make it. If things get worse, fourteen days may be all the sanity I have left. Read more.
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“Ghosts of Seniiti” at Writing Works

You can learn a lot from a mother, she thought. I wish I had that chance.
Alone in the endless green of the forest that encompassed her humble village, Alix found she had a lot of time to think. She also discovered that her thoughts didn’t always go where she wanted them to. Read more.
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“Business as Usual” at From My Write Side

“Please don’t make me have to do this again. Please tell me you have the permits with you and you are here in this building somewhere?” Blair’s hands shook as she held the cellphone to her ear. Read more.
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 Vote for Your Favorite!

You have until Friday, September 30 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern to vote for your favorite. Votes are logged by IP and a cookie. (Because people who try to game the system suck, that’s why.)

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ABCs of Freelance Writing: N is for Negotiation

negotiateWhat’s that? You’ve never negotiated the terms of a contract with any of your freelance writing clients?

Well, my dear, you’re doing it wrong.

Now, I’m not a haggler by nature, so I know from experience that it can be difficult and downright awkward for the inexperienced to ask a potential client for more money.

First, there’s that nagging fear that you’ll lose out on the bid and spend another month on the ramen noodle diet. And then there’s that moment you let your imagination take over. You dream up a scene where the client explodes into laughter the moment you announce your counter offer. So, rather than risk rejection or humiliation, you simply shake hands and sign on the dotted line.

But if you never negotiate, never make a counter offer, never ask for concessions, there are real consequences for you and the client. Accept a freelance writing job that doesn’t pay enough and chances are good you’ll lack the motivation to give the client your best work. That’s not good for the client’s business. And, quite frankly, it’s not good for yours.

Luckily, there’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to negotiating a better deal.

Negotiating for Better Pay

The most common way to get the pay you want is to ask for it.

  • Ask for more money. This is what we all think of when we hear the term negotiate. I promise you won’t die from giving this one a try. If the client says no, you can still accept the original offer.
  • Change the fee structure. If the client is uncomfortable offering you an additional five cents per word, consider proposing an alternative fee structure. In addition to per-word rates you can also suggest fixed-rate or per-project compensation. Retainers are another solution. Finally, if you know your client values a speedy turnaround, you might want to propose adding an early delivery bonus in the contract.

Negotiating the Project Scope

When you’re uncomfortable asking for more money, you can suggest making changes to the scope of the project so that the compensation you receive is more in line with the work you are required to do.

  • Suggest changing the word count. By lowering the word count you can effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on a job. In the end your clients can stick with their budgets and you can work at your standard hourly or per-word rate.
  • Reduce the workload. Here’s what I mean: If your client wants you to write, proof, edit, format, select images, and then publish five blog posts a week but she’s not budging on the compensation, let her know how many of those responsibilities you are willing to handle at her price. It might be worth it to her to find the images and publish to WordPress herself.

Negotiating the Deadline

One more way to make a project worth your while is to work on it at a more leisurely pace. It takes the pressure off and allows you to prioritize your better paying freelance writing gigs.

  • Extend the deadline. If your client wants website content completed in a week but refuses your usual rate, it might be worth it to you to have the job waiting in the wings when things are slower. Ask if the client is willing to push back the deadline.
For additional tips on the negotiation process, you might want to read these articles:

How to Use the Power of Silence to Boost Your Writing Career
Freelance Writing Negotiating Tips
How to Negotiate Effectively

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Writers' Week Wrap-Up

I’m not going to lie, last week was exhausting. But it was also a lot of fun.

Because Writers’s Week was a first-time thing for me and an experiment of sorts, I confess to being slightly worried at the start that no one would want to participate. Thank God all of you came to show your support.

Before Writers’ Week had even ended, I was asked a few times if I planned to do it again. So I thought I’d state this for the record for any of you still out there wondering: Yes, I plan to make Writers’ Week an annual event on Suess’s Pieces.

I was particularly amazed by the number of pieces submitted to the writing contest. (If you haven’t already started, I highly recommend you make your way through the list and read each entry.)

Writing Contest: Next Steps

This week our esteemed judges will continue making their rounds and evaluating all of the submissions.

Then, next week on Monday, September 26, I will post the top ten finalists as chosen by the judges. At the same time, online polling will open so that you can vote for your favorite entry.

Voting will close at midnight on Friday, September 30.

Winners will be announced on Monday, October 3.

Writers’ Week Sponsors

I can’t say thank you enough to some very generous sponsors and prize donors. They not only supported me and Suess’s Pieces, but also supported and celebrated writing and creativity on a much larger scale. Please visit them and consider giving them a shout on Twitter or Facebook to help me say thanks.

Sponsors

Content by Smiling Tree Writing
All Freelance Writing

Prize Donors

Small Business Bonfire
InkyClean.com
Dreaming Iris Design
All Freelance Writing
Dear Dr. Freelance
The Freelance Writers Den

Building Your Freelance Writing Career

Today the topic is freelance writing—how to start if you’ve never done it before and how to do it better if you feel like you’ve hit a wall. We’ll cover freelance writing in three sections: the basics of freelance writing, the freelance writing tools I use every single day, and no-bullshit answers to your questions.

Freelance Writing Basics

freelance writerBecause freelancing is one of those things I’ve been doing for a while, I’ve blogged about it a lot. I don’t want to be redundant and rehash what I’ve already covered though. So before I really get into the nitty-gritty of today’s post, I want to link you to some other articles that might be helpful for beginners (and maybe even the pros).

Interested in a Freelance Writing Career?: An interview with Missy from Literal Mom where I answer questions related to time management, breaking into freelancing, establishing fees, and building a portfolio.

Four Clients Every Freelancer Needs: A guest post for Outright.com, a site that helps business owners with accounting and bookkeeping, outlining the importance of blogs, websites, and social media accounts for freelancers.

5 Reasons Not to Be Afraid of a Freelance Career: On Grow with Stacy I explain how you can be shy, poor, ignorant, have a full-time job, and still be a freelance writer.

How to Get Deadbeat Clients to Pay Up:  As a contributor to the Small Business Bonfire Blog, I often write from the perspective of a freelancer. This post tackles ways you can more effectively deal with clients who don’t pay on time.

Top 10 Signs of the Worst Freelance Job Ever: In this guest post, I help you avoid scam freelance writing jobs by identifying some of the most common red flags.

5 Tools I Use Daily As a Freelance Writer

Freshbooks: I invoice clients and track my expenses with this cloud bookkeeping system. If you’re just starting out, you can maintain records for up to three clients for free.

Evernote: I use this for collecting notes and grabbing little bits of the internet that might be helpful for upcoming projects. There is a paid version of Evernote too, but I find the free version has everything I need.

Small Business Bonfire: It’s no secret I’m a contributing writer for the Small Business Bonfire blog and that SBB is also a sponsor of Writer’ Week. But did you know I am also an active member? Some of the past guest authors on Suess’s Pieces are Bonfire members, and I’ve guest posted for other members as well.

AP Stylebook: I have an online subscription that I bought for freelance writing jobs, but I also use it a lot at my day job. I’m such a nerd that I also frequently read the “Ask the Editor” archives for fun.

Google Alerts: Several of my clients have been with me since the beginning. Without Google Alerts to keep me informed about their industry-specific topics, I’d probably pull my hair out trying to brainstorm new topics.

Freelance Writing Q&A

Q: You said no bullshit answers. I want to know how much you charge.

I sense a little frustration in your question, and I think I understand why. Everyone one wants to know how much they can expect to get for their work. The thing is, freelance writers don’t frequently publish rates or share them with the general public. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Part of it is about protecting the freelance writer’s clients. Financial information is considered confidential by individuals and businesses alike, and a lot of freelancers err on the side of caution, even if a client has never said outright, “Please keep our rate agreement confidential.”
  • Part of it is about the freelancer’s ability to maintain flexibility when quoting new projects. Maybe the freelancer wants to charge different prices to non-profits or small businesses and adjusts quotes based on the client’s budget. Maybe the freelancer is having a difficult time finding clients and wants to lower rates for a few months. Maybe the freelancer wants to keep existing clients at an old rate while taking on new clients at a higher rate. All of these things are a lot easier to manage if you don’t publish or otherwise blab about what you charge.
  • Part of it is about competition. Some freelancers don’t publish rates or share them with colleagues because divulging that info means someone out there knows precisely how much they can undercut on a bid.
  • Part of it is that it’s just nunya damn bidnezz. (That’s the no bullshit part of this answer.) I know what it’s like to start out and feel like you don’t have a clue. But I do wonder why it’s acceptable to ask a freelancer what she makes but at the same time it’s uncouth to ask the bank teller or the guy in IT what he makes. Anyway, the reality is that you might not be able to command the same rates as a person with different skills, a bigger portfolio, and more experience. So if you’re new to freelance writing, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to ask someone who’s been writing for 30 years what he charges. Just something to ponder.

Setting rates is many times a trial-and-error sort of process. All freelance writers have to set their fees on their own, and there is no magic number that the pros are trying to hide from the newbies. With all of that disclaimer junk out of the way, I will tell you that once upon a time I wrote 500-word articles for $10 each. It was worth it to me then. It so totally isn’t now.

Q: I’ve been freelancing for 8 months now… I can get jobs consistently, but I don’t really feel like I’m advancing at all. Any advice?
I don’t know where you’re currently getting jobs and how you market yourself, but I can offer some general advice.

  • Stop looking on junk sites for work. Many of my clients look for me, I don’t go looking for them. In fact, my top three clients all found me by doing the same thing: searching Google for “freelance writers in Indianapolis.” If you don’t have a website, get one. If you have a free website that’s 5 years old, hire a professional to make it better. If no one is visiting your super-duper new site, get your SEO on.
  • Make it easy for people to check up on you. Create a rockin’ portfolio and build a LinkedIn profile to serve as your resume. Get testimonials from clients. (Two of my clients decided to hire me before I ever knew they were looking.)
  • Try branching out. If all the jobs you ever apply for are blogging jobs, you probably won’t be able to satiate your drive to be creative. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Some people aren’t cut out to be trapped or limited by a niche or specialty.
  • Are you worth more than you’re getting paid? Raise your rates.

Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever written for money.

Most of the stuff I write isn’t weird at all—blog posts and web content for small businesses and large businesses make up the majority of my content. However, there was this one time that a guy asked me to give him a quote for writing messages on his behalf to women on a dating site. He told me that he’d pick the profiles he liked, and then I could write introduction letters for him. I declined. I guess money can’t buy you love or even love letters.

Q: Are you ever going to write a novel?

Yes.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about freelance writing contracts?

You need to be familiar with writing contracts. Even if you don’t have your own (and you really should have one ready to use), somewhere along the way a corporate client is going to ask you to sign their contract. It will likely cover things like publication rights, compensation, confidentiality, approval and cancellation terms. Always read before you sign.

If you need help drafting your own contract, there are a few free templates online. I’ve used a variation of this contract and so have some of my clients. You can make tweaks here and there to make it fit your unique situation.

As Laura Spencer wrote on Freelance Folder, sometimes drawing up a contract for a small project is a waste of time. However, if you plan to work with a client on a big project or on a long-term basis, I highly recommend you get an agreement in writing. On little projects, you may decide that a simple email outlining the scope and pay is enough. In the end, the decision is yours, and it all comes down to how much you’re willing to risk.

Have a question for me but didn’t submit it? That’s okay! Just ask in the comments.

Do it with (AP) Style

Take the AP Style Quiz

newspaperAssociated Press style is the gold standard for journalistic writing in the U.S. (And a lot of other things, too.) From personal essays you’re hoping to freelance to press releases for a client, knowing whether it’s e-mail or email will give your copy a clean look that editors will love. (Or, at least, give you some good writing karma!)Take the Writers’ Week AP Style Quiz and test your skills. If you’re rusty, or even if you’re not, consider  an online subscription to AP’s online stylebook. Or pickup a hard copy. You can also follow @APStylebook on Twitter.

1    What’s the correct style for a state when it’s used in a dateline or in conjunction with a city?

Alaska: AK, Alak., Alaska

Delaware: DE, Del., Dela.

Pennsylvania: Penn., Pa., PA

Texas: Texas, Tex., Txs.

Wisconsin: Wisc., WI, Wis.

New Jersey: N.J., NJ, Jersey

California: Cali., Calif., CA

 

2    More than/Over:

The book has more than/over 1,500 style mistakes.

 

3    Temblor/Tremblor:

The earthquake had a magnitude of 5.6 and rattled homes across the region. Geologists blamed the temblor/tremblor on a long-dormant fault line.

 

4    Numbers:

a)    Eighty/80 books were donated.

b)    Officials said there were six/6 robberies overnight.

c)     The hurricane was the eleventh/11th storm of the season.

 

5    Political Affiliations:

Michele Bachmann has support of the Tea Party/tea party. But the Minnesota Republican/republican faces a heated battle from GOP/Grand Old Party rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

6    Wine:

Like all good writers, she relaxed after a long day at the computer by enjoying an oaky Chardonnay/chardonnay or a nice, full-bodied Bordeaux/bordeaux.

 

7    He ran to the local Wal-Mart/Walmart to pick up some groceries.

 

8   Abbreviations:

a)    Senator/Sen. Debbie Stabenow

b)    Rev./Reverend/Pastor Al Sharpton

 

9    Tech Things:

a)    She couldn’t stop hitting refresh on the website/Web site.

b)    He hastily sent the e-mail/email without proofreading.

c)     Stewart issued an edict, saying no one was allowed to use their smartphones/Smart Phones/ SmartPhones during board meetings.

d)    As Internet/internet dates go, this one was going down in flames.

 

For quiz answers, click here. (No cheating!)

From Writer to Writer: Mahesh Raj Mohan's Advice for New Writers

Mahesh MohanMeet Mahesh Raj Mohan

Born and raised in Oklahoma, I decided to be a professional writer when I was eight years old; aside from a brief stint as a canvasser, all of my paying jobs have been related to writing or editing. My reviews have been published by Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper The Oregonian and Hugo-nominated website Strange Horizons.

My screenplay, “Indian Errand Day” is a 2011 Kay Snow Award Winner. I live near Portland, Oregon with my wife Sara.

Mahesh’s Advice for New Writers

As you blog, create a network, appear on bidding sites (like eLance), and/or query editors, you will generate leads.

After you and the prospective client begin to discuss the project, you need to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do you really want to write or edit this material?
  2. Is the time frame reasonable to you?
  3. How did the client react when you mentioned your rate?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then politely decline the project.

Here’s why:

-If you are not interested in the material, you won’t produce your best work.

-If you rush a project, you won’t produce your best work.

-If the money is way below the rate you established, you’ll resent every second of the project.

Writers and editors are not pack animals, and we are not magicians. But prospects need to understand your boundaries and whether or not you are a good fit for the project. They will appreciate your honesty.

There is no shame in turning down work that doesn’t meet the criteria I listed above. Also, don’t worry that your pipeline will dry up.

If you cast a wide enough net, you will generate more leads. And, as time goes on, these prospects will convert into clients, and some will become repeat clients.

Happy hunting!

Connect With Mahesh

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