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10 Negotiation Tips for Writers

Negotiate Your way to Better Writing JobsOne of the questions I get a lot is how to negotiate a good rate. Writers who’ve written for mills usually have no experience with the dynamic of working out a rate with a client.

You’ve seen a million job ads that insist you send a rate quote, even though you’ve been provided almost no details about the proposed project. Or you meet a prospect at a networking event and they ask you to send a bid on the white paper they want done, or on rewriting 10 pages of their Web site. How to respond?

Here are some of the negotiation strategies I’ve used:

1. Be vague. If you absolutely must submit a bid to be considered, give them a big range. As in “In the past year, I’ve done copywriting jobs ranging from $.30 to $1 a word. I look forward to learning more about your project so I can pinpoint an appropriate quote for you.” This way, if they’re a penny-a-word or $10 article type of client, you can screen them out fast and move on, but if they’re paying anything remotely appropriate, you can hopefully stay in the game long enough to learn more. Then you can decide if the pay rate makes it worth your while.

2. Ask, ‘What’s your budget?’ If at all possible, get the client to tell you what they can pay. Try to put the onus back on them to quote a price. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve discovered the figure they had in their heads was bigger than the one I had in my head. I asked a business-book agency this question recently, with the thought that I’d ask for $10,000. Their figure: a range of $17,000-$21,000. Let them speak first, and get paid more.

3. Defer quoting. Ideally, you’d like a prospective client to get to know you well before you put in a bid. So I resist blind bidding in response to online ads. When I respond to job ads that ask for a price quote, I usually indicate that I’ll need more information to develop a quote. This gives me a chance to show how thorough I am, while putting off quoting, hopefully until after I’ve had a more detailed conversation with the prospect.

4. Don’t lowball bid. Many online job solicitations and jobs on portals such as elance or odesk set up a competitive-bidding contest where the job will go to the lowest bidder. I personally don’t get involved in these, as when you win, you lose – you’ve gotten yourself a slave-wage gig. Though I’ve heard from people who say they’ve ended up with good-paying clients through these sites, I believe it’s a real long shot, and there are better ways to get good clients. In general, companies that would hire whoever bids lowest regardless of qualifications aren’t companies you want to work for.

5. Bid per-project instead of by the hour. This is always a better way to go for both sides. You know exactly what you’ll be paid, the client knows exactly what they’ll have to pay, and if you’re new and it takes you a bit longer to do the project, the client doesn’t suffer for it. Clients also seem more satisfied with per-project rates than when they’re thinking, “Sheesh, this guy is making $95 an hour!”

6. Bid by the word instead of by the hour. One quick, easy way to come up with a project bid is to simply add up the proposed wordcount and multiply. I usually bid somewhere between $.50 and $1 a word, depending on degree of difficulty and client size. As with a flat fee, this gives the client the reassurance of knowing exactly what their project will cost.

7. Consider all the hours involved. Remember that projects take a bit of time to get set up and rolling, especially with new clients – files need to be created, initial emails exchanged, contracts negotiated, meetings taken. You should bill every hour of this time, and figure those hours into any per-project bid you submit.

8. Know industry rates. Try to do some research to help you determine an appropriate rate. You should belong to some writers or copywriters forums online where you could describe your project and prospective client, and ask members to comment on your rate proposal. I’ve gotten really useful feedback this way.

9. Get details. I’ve developed a questionnaire at this point for clients to fill out to help define their project. One of the biggest problems in copywriting is that companies know they need some content…but they’re often very fuzzy on exactly how much, what form it should take, when they’ll need it by and other issues that can greatly affect my quote. I’ve had proposals for 400-word quick blogs turn into 700-word fully reported stories I’m ghostwriting rather than getting a byline on. Scope creep is a major problem in the writing world — so get it in writing so you can renegotiate for more if the client changes the project parameters.

10. Make a counter-proposal. There is no law that says you have to accept the first price a client throws out there. See How I got paid $300 a blog on The WM Freelance Writers Community for details on how to successfully bid up your contract during negotiations.

I’m proud to report that I took my own negotiating advice this week. I was approached out of the blue by a major company I’d actually had on my list of prime targets, to write articles for their site. I was excited…until I heard their rate, which was a lot lower than I was expecting. I told them I was surprised by their price, and could they do any better? They raised their flat fee $50 a piece immediately. I could easily end up writing 50 or more articles in a year for them if the relationship continues…if so, that’ll be $2,500 more I make just for asking the question.

Got any other negotiating tips? Feel free to share them with the group in the comments.

Photo source: andyrob

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7 Great Ways to Break into Freelance Writing

By Carol Tice

For those of you who have begun freelance writing in the past few years, I’d like to provide a short history lesson. Up until six or eight years ago, most writers who started their freelance career did it without ever writing for a content mill. Content sites didn’t exist yet. How ever did we manage it?

Each of us found some other way to get our career started. I bring this up because as I read the writer chat forums, it’s difficult to recall that there was ever another bottom rung of the writing-career ladder! But there was. And I think the pre-mill routes are still better ways to quickly establish your career and start earning well.

Even better, the traditional routes to good pay have been enhanced in the past few years by all of the new pay opportunities that have arisen online.

What are the other ways to start a writing career that can get you earning more, faster? Below, I count the ways I earned in my first couple years. Almost all of these paid more than mills from the very first assignment. The hourly rate wasn’t the greatest at first because I had so much to learn and wasn’t efficient, but they very quickly became good earning options on an hourly-rate basis, and led to work that paid very well.

1. Win writing contests. I won two of these early on, and they led immediately to long-term editor relationships and $500 article assignments in major publications. Great visibility, and it starts an “awards won” page for you that impresses prospects.

2. Write for the alternative press. I did this for years, and worked up to writing cover features. Alt papers are a great place to develop as a writer and get paid $50 an article or more off the bat. It can lead to a lot of other great opportunities — I got a full-time reporting job that paid more than $40,000 a year to start from my alt-press clips, and one of my feature stories was optioned for a movie for $20,000. Alt papers have gained reporting cred over the years, as so many highly successful writers such as Elvis Mitchell have started there and spun off to national radio, paper and TV gigs.

3. Write for daily papers. Yes, many have disappeared, and some don’t have freelance budget anymore. But many of the major papers need freelancers more than ever. The pay isn’t great, but I get $300 an article for Seattle Times pieces that aren’t terrifically complicated, which beats $15 an article any day.

4. Write for small, regional papers and magazines. When I first moved to Seattle and needed to find my first local markets, I wrote for Today’s Careers, a free local job paper, for about $200 a story. Easy, interesting work.

4. Write for local nonprofits or small businesses. The first small, startup business I wrote for paid me $750 an article. My second client was a $1 billion-plus global corporation that paid $85 an hour to start and sent me more than $20,000 a year of work for several years running. Moral: It doesn’t take much to get launched in the world of copywriting if you can write clear, compelling content. Walk around your town, hit your Chamber breakfast, approach your favorite nonprofit, and find a business or organization that needs something written. Now you’ve got samples and you can pitch anybody, including the biggest corporations in America. And writing a business profile for the business can lead to writing an article about business for a magazine — the two realms cross over quite easily.

5. Write online content. Businesses across America are waking up to the reality: their Web sites suck and aren’t attracting customers because they are static and dull. They need writers! Study the Web sites of your local business establishments and call the ones that look the worst. Suggest they add bios, case studies, a blog. Despite what you see on Craigslist, all Web content gigs do not pay $5 a page. Demand decent rates, and you’ll get them. And some great samples.

6. Write a couple free samples. You may be surprised to hear me say this, but I’m a big believer in just writing a few sample articles on your own, to create your first clips. I like it because you don’t get confused and think what you’re doing might be a living. You’re clear about moving on quickly to paying gigs. Here’s a great story from this week’s Writer’s Weekly about how this paid off big for one brand-new writer.

7. Take a class. I got into journalism kind of sideways, from songwriting. When I realized I wanted to write reported stories, I went and took some UCLA Extension classes in journalism. While I don’t believe basic writing talent can be taught, you’ll never regret taking the time to study and learn about this field, particularly about reporting technique, article formats and ethical issues. Many writers are coming into the field now without any training, and it limits their options. Getting a bit of education can jump you ahead of the pack.

Just being in the class may help jump-start your career. You may write for a school paper or online site, getting a few clips that can lead quickly to paid assignments. Your professor might refer you if they like your work — editors do call them. The school’s career center could connect you with internship opportunities where you could compile solid clips. Possibly most importantly, you’ll leave with increased confidence in your ability to write for a variety of markets.

Yes, all of these alternative routes I’ve outlined for breaking into freelance writing involve a bit more work. Most involve actively marketing your business. If you love writing quick, easy articles and don’t yearn for more, keep writing for mills and enjoy your life.

But if you’re focused on earning as much as you can right away, explore some of the other paths to earning well. They’ll likely offer you more interesting assignments with more opportunity to grow as a writer, and get you earning more sooner.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

Photo source: pedrosimoes7

Subscribe–or Resubscribe–to Make a Living Writing

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Time to subscribe!

Hi all —

It’s been a rocky week trying to get everything working here on the new Make a Living Writing site. A couple problems remain that only you, the reader, can resolve.

If you subscribed on RSS to this blog back on…you need to resubscribe if you want to keep getting the posts. If you’re on email, we should be able to enter you from here. But if you’re on RSS, we don’t have your contact info, and apparently we cannot flow you over here. You have to do it.

Of course, if this is your first visit here, please feel free to subscribe for the first time! Generally I post free tips and thoughts about how to earn more from your writing twice each week.

There’ll be lots of great stuff coming up, including special subscriber discounts for my upcoming ebooks. Hope to be giving you details on that before too long.

Until then…if you missed Content Mill Week over at The WM Freelance Writing Connection…head on over there for a full week’s worth of perspectives on this often-controversial subject. Here’s my entry from last week: Content Mills: Why Aspiring Writers Should Avoid Them.

This is my last double-post that’s going on both sites…so if you’re getting this from, migrate over here and subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

Thanks all!

Source: derrickwa

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Content Mills: Why Aspiring Writers Should Avoid Them

By Carol Tice

As many WM readers and readers of my Make a Living Writing Blog may already know, I am not a fan of content mills. I advise the writers I mentor to avoid them, and many of my mentees approach me with the specific goal of kicking their mill-writing habit.

I think there are many types of people for whom these sites are a superb option — but in my opinion, those types don’t include writers who’re serious about building a good-paying, sustainable writing career. To clarify, I mean people who want to earn $50,000 a year and up from their writing. People who ultimately want to have unlimited earning capability from writing.

Let me explain why I’m down on content mills. In my experience, here are the career problems writers may experience who rely mostly on content-site assignments:

1. It does not teach you to report. Most of the stories on content sites are written with light Internet research or off the top of your head. They don’t help you develop newsgathering abilities, which are a bedrock skill needed for most good-paying byline reporting and corporate writing work. You don’t develop interviewing skills since you generally aren’t conducting interviews. If you dream of earning $800-$1500 for a single article, mill writing is not helping you get there.

2. It does not teach you to research. A lot of good-paying writing assignments call for extensive research. I recently wrote a $650 article for a regional magazine about all the stimulus money our state got and how it was spent. I wrote a $1,500 article about where Seattle’s trash goes and what happens to it. I’m doubtful that anyone cutting their teeth on mill stories will ever be able to write stories like these. Writing for mills does not teach you how to do investigative reporting, how to dig deep into documents, understand them, interpret them, or synthesize complex information. Copywriting as well can demand a decent amount of research and ability to dive in-depth into a topic.

3. It does not give you nurturing editor relationships. I would be nowhere today without two or three amazing editors I worked with earlier in my career. Editing at mills is usually cursory at best, and not the kind of close, one-on-one relationship you want where someone will really take you under their wing and take the time to show you exactly what you need to do to improve.

4. It does not teach you to market. Many mill writers have spoken in ecstatic terms of how much they love never having to market their writing. But marketing your writing is a key skill for those who want to earn big. Generally, you go out and find the really lucrative magazine connections and corporate clients yourself…they do not fall in your lap. Every week you write for mills is a week you don’t learn this critical skill.

5. It does not enhance your reputation. While some mill writers have reported they were able to parlay their clips into better-paying assignments…I usually find when I nail them down that their definition of “better paying” and mine are very different. They often mean something like they’ve worked their way to $50 an article. Know that many editors at quality publications discard outright the queries of anyone who offers clips from mill sites, so this work can slam a lot of doors for you.

6. It’s a model that may disappear. There’s been much discussion online of the possibility that Google may soon find a way to screen out mill sites in its search results. If that happens, the entire article-aggregator industry, which sprung up to serve Google’s ranking analytics, will disappear overnight. As it is, mill sites go out of business on a regular basis, taking any promised “lifetime” residuals they owe writers along with them.

If you write for mills, ask yourself how you would replace that income if this model goes away? What other client types could you find work with?

There’s already signs that even if it survives, the content-site model is changing — check out ProVoices, the new site that wants professionally reported articles for up to $250. The trend is toward rates going up, and more work being demanded of mill writers as these sites seek to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

If content mills are such a career dead-end, you may ask, how are writers to break in and start a freelance writing career? Plenty of ways. Tune in next week for my guide to better approaches for breaking into freelance writing and earning more sooner.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

Make a Living Writing Gets Its Own Site!

New Writer Website!

Source: laurenatclemson 

I’m excited to report the next step in the evolution of this writing blog…welcome to, the new home for my blog about the business of writing.

Why spin the blog off to its own site? I increasingly find myself in two businesses — the business of getting my own writing clients, and the business of helping other writers, through this free blog, through one-on-one mentoring, and soon through my ebooks. Over time I may add a community forum and other features here. Befittingly, MALW is my commerce site, and now my named URL can be the place to learn about me as a writer. I’m excited to see this split finally happening — I think it will inspire a lot of new creativity in both sites.

MALW gives all of my writer services a place to live, apart from my portfolio for writing clients. The new site will also allow me to do some things I’ve wanted to do but my site wasn’t formatted for it — have a blogroll, recommend books, potentially allow a very select few ads, have room for promotions, polls, and possible partnerships…and get a retweet button that’s working properly, to name a few! My old blog was coded by my teenage Web developer and had a number of technical issues. I’ve now broken down and am using a real pro, so everything should work a lot better. Costs more…but worth it.

The RSS/email subscription features is up and going here on MALW for new subscribers…and I’m looking into whether existing subscribers have to subscribe over here or whether we can transfer you over. For now, there may be a bumpy week or two while we get all the features up and going.

Welcome your feedback on this move! Thanks for being readers.

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How to Convince Writing Clients to Pay You More

Make a Living Writing blog reader Susan Glenn emailed me a while back to ask for more information on how to convince corporate clients to pay higher rates for your services.

Get your writing paycheck

Source: borman818

“Tips about how writers can articulate their worth would be very interesting,” she wrote. “Not what does the writer NEED, but what is professional writing WORTH to the client — especially relative to other professional services they retain.”

Great question…so today I’ll share a bit of the speech I give prospective clients who ask me about rates. One of the things I’ll frequently say early on goes something like this:

“If you’re having a bidding contest to find the lowest price, I’d like to tell you right now I’m going to lose. I will not be your lowest bidder, and I don’t generally work with companies that are only concerned with how little they can pay for writing.

“I work with business owners seeking exceptionally talented writers who can help establish them as the pre-eminent thought leaders in their sector. They need to communicate in a sophisticated, compelling way with their target audience.

“That’s what I will deliver for you — authoritative content that communicates that you are the most knowledgeable source for information in your industry. This will attract quality clients, build Web traffic, and will pave the way for you to charge more for what you do.”

Of course, when presented with it that way, most of my prospects rush to say, “Oh, that’s me! I understand that I need to be the authority. That’s just what we need to do.” And discussions of how little they can get me to work for tend to evaporate.

They get it immediately — I’ve helped them put their finger on what it is they’re really in the market for. They need content so compelling and strong that it will enhance their brand and company reputation, and bring them more business. Not every writer can give them that — but I can.

Once you’ve framed it that way, if they balk at a rate, I tend to point out that paying, say, $1,500 for a custom-written article they can get republished in newspapers, use on their site, hand out as fliers, email to their prospect list, expand into a white paper, and otherwise use FOREVER to promote their business and drive Web traffic at no additional charge is the marketing bargain of the century.

Compare it to the cost of placing a single decent-sized print ad! To doing one radio spot, or putting up one billboard! The reality is that having strongly written information about your company is a real deal, even at prime rates.

I find most writers don’t think about their services through the client’s eyes. Writing is usually part of companies’ marketing budget — and in that context, it’s very affordable compared with many other forms of marketing spend.

So ask for a great rate, and explain why you’ll be worth it. You’ll be surprised how often you find yourself with a wonderful new client who’s happy to have you, and willing to pay you what you deserve.

For more about negotiating rates, see my post for the week on WM Freelance Writing Community – How I Got Paid $300 A Blog.

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