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Listen in on a Writer-Client Negotiation

Writing Client Negotiation Tips to Help You Earn MoreOne of the biggest problems many new copywriters have is they’re afraid to discuss a client proposal and negotiate. Instead, the writer gets a prospect and is so excited, they jump at the first offer that’s made. Often, this means they end up with a lower rate than they might have secured if they’d explored the client’s needs and budget a bit.

This process should have some give-and-take to it as you hammer out what you’re going to do and how much you’ll be paid. It’s also an opportunity to display your knowledge of what will best help the client meet their goals for growing their business. A recent conversation I had with a prospective small-business client went like this:

Prospect: I looked at your site and I love your writing! I have a new Web site I’m launching that will have an audience of private-equity investors and small companies looking for funding. I was thinking about having you blog for me once a month for a couple months. I also need a press release written.

 

Me: I could certainly do that for you, but I have to tell you I don’t think it’s going to be effective in drawing enough traffic to help your business get rolling. You need more frequent posts – at least one blog a month. I have a minimum contract for startups that’s four blogs a month for $500 that I think would start getting you meaningful traffic.

Prospect: That’s a little high for my budget…

Me: What if I throw in the press release? I’d do that if you signed on to a minimum three-month contract.

Prospect: That sounds good.

So what happened here? I took what was likely just $200 or so of blogging work and maybe a $250 press release and turned it into a $1,500 minimum contract. Because what I proposed is more likely to succeed in building this client’s business by drawing more prospects, I also upped the likelihood this will turn into a long-term gig.

Throwing in the press release made the client feel he was getting a freebie, and sealed the deal. In reality, his blogs were easy to put together, and he was willing to let me write them ahead of time all at once, which was very time-efficient for me. Even with the press release, my hourly rate for the project stayed in the neighborhood of my target $75-$100 an hour, so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice on my part.

As with all truly successful negotiations, it was win-win.

Of course, if you make a suggestion and the client doesn’t like it and wants to stick to their original idea, you can always agree to it and take the work that’s offered. But remember, it never hurts to negotiate a little and see if the client might commission a bigger, better project.

Photo via Flickr user Joe Howell

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7 Ways to Shake Up Your Online Writing Job Search

Twitter is a Great Way to Advertise Your Writing BusinessAre you in a job-ad rut? I hear a lot of complaints from writers that there are no good jobs advertised online.

What writers who say that often mean is they keep going to the same two or three online job boards every week, or even every day. The jobs are all super low-paid junk from Craigslist…and they’re getting depressed.

If that’s you, I’d like to gently remind you that insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing every day but expecting a different result. If you don’t think you’re seeing quality job listings, it’s time to shake up your online job-search routine.

Some different places I look for writing jobs:

• Niche sites. Since I’m kind of a financial dork, I get great leads from Gorkana alerts, which seems to attract a lot of financial publications. I got my new gig blogging for BNET through Gorkana, and I did not see that job anywhere else. Somewhere, there’s a site for an industry specialty you have that might list related writing jobs. Find it and bookmark it. Realize that employers are sick of getting bombarded with 200 resumes when they place an ad, and they’re seeking out smaller-circulation places to put out the word.

• LinkedIn. If you haven’t looked for jobs on LinkedIn, check it out! It’s a growing, busy place for listings, and has a sophisticated search engine so you can filter jobs a number of ways. While I don’t see a lot of freelance gigs on LinkedIn, I’m impressed by the number of writing-sector full-time jobs I see on there, every day.

• Indeed. This is a powerful job-oriented search engine that searches across many other portals. It has interesting statistical capabilities too, and can tell you trends in job listings. Great way to toy with search terms and turn up jobs you might otherwise miss. Want to cheer yourself up? Look at this chart for jobs with “writer” in the description — and you’ll see ads have stayed fairly constant straight through the downturn!

• Twitter. Search on twitter for “writer jobs” and take a look at the number of sites that are streaming their job offers on there! Build yourself a nice list where you can look at your customized jobstream — or just follow my list if you like.

• Your desktop. I don’t often go on job-search sites anymore, because I’ve dragged most of the sites with jobs that interest me onto my desktop through RSS. Great way to save time and get to the jobs you want as soon as they’re posted.

• Industry association job boards. The Society of Professional Journalists is among the professional writers’ organizations with their own job listings. When’s the last time you checked them out? The National Writers Union has a job hotline for members that enforces decent-pay standards.

• Morning Coffee. I just discovered this list recently, and it’s one of the ones on my desktop, along with Writer’s Weekly. Morning Coffee seems to have a more extensive range of writer jobs than I find on many writer-job sites. I found a smokin’ hot lead for me this week on Morning Coffee that needed my insurance expertise and was offering up to $60 an hour.

Of course, as regular readers of this blog know already, I find the best jobs aren’t waiting for you on an ad on the Internet. You get them by prospecting — getting out and meeting new people, sending query letters, or however else you reach out in the real world. Don’t forget about in-person networking and cold-calling, as they can’t be beat for meeting new clients. But if you are looking for jobs online, think about new ways to approach your search if you’re not seeing quality leads — they’re out there.

Photo image via Flickr user szlea

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Writing Gigs You Never Thought of: Community Moderator

By Carol Tice

Today I’d like to talk about a growing writing niche that’s a bit off the beaten trail — community moderating. Indeed.com recently had 83 job listings for community moderators, both for free local forums and for pay, moderating online forums for companies — Allstate, Fox Entertainment, and many others. Corporate moderators learn to be the “voice” of the brand to their online community.

This niche is so new that it’s like wide-open spaces as far as breaking in. If you write well, have an even-tempered disposition, a background in the subject matter, and are willing to get trained on the company’s criteria for what is an allowable post, you could find yourself getting into a whole new sideline. Community moderating tends to be steady work, so it can provide a ground floor that helps you keep freelancing and supports other writing projects.

I’d like to introduce WM readers to someone who’s got a paid moderating gig — my awesome Make a Living Writing Web developer Tony Kehlhofer — that’s his mug above. After six months of freelancing, Tony, who’s an experienced programmer, started a couple of Web sites he’s monetizing, Maps4Kids and TotalCraigSearch (lets you search Craigslist across many cities at once for jobs, check it out!)…and was recently trolling for more freelance work.

He answered a Craigslist ad — NOT kidding! — and several rounds of interviews later found himself moderating building-block giant Lego’s new massive-multiplayer online game for tweens, Lego Universe. They flew him to Denmark for training…can you say dream job? He reports it’s decent, steady money and there’s growth potential aplenty. His edge: They wanted someone bilingual-German, and Tony lived in Austria for years. I was dying to hear the details, and thought WM could listen in:

CT: Tony, what did you say to Lego that got you this amazing gig? Did you have any moderating experience?

TK: I didn’t really have any. I said I’m familiar with online tools and gaming, I’m willing to work as a contractor, and I spoke the required language, German, which is the second language they’re going to roll out. I interviewed on Skype in English, then on Skype in German and took a written test in German. They flew me to Denver to meet the hiring executive, and then to Denmark.

CT: What did you learn about moderating in Denmark?

TK: We went through extensive psychology and policy meetings. We talked about trademark issues — you can’t be “Luke Skywalker” on Lego Universe. We learned how pedophiles groom children online so we can spot them. There were up to 20 people on my team there, who’re based everywhere, Spain, Italy. I’m one of the oldest members (laughs)…by far.

CT: What-all do you moderate within the game?

TK: Everything, even the usernames. The conversations the players have when they get in an area together. There are also community forums.

CT: What kind of hours do you work for Lego Universe?

TK: I’m working 16-20 hours a week now, and it will ramp up to 24-32 hours a week when it goes live. I was in the program, which is in beta, last week and had to approve over 300 new usernames in a few hours. My afternoon is the middle of the night in Germany, so I save them having to pay third-shift overtime.

CT: What sort of future opportunities do you see now that you’re in moderating?

TK: I think there’s a whole career path here in moderation that is pretty incredible. For me, the neat thing is there’s another company involved with Lego, eModeration.com. They do a first level of screening out problems. Their client list is exceptional — MTV, Disney, Canon. So I’ve made a connection there.

CT: Any final advice on finding unusual jobs such as this one?

TK: Search widely. I have eight or nine regular search terms I use to find jobs on Craigslist in Seattle, and I would never have found this one if I hadn’t decided to also search on “German.”

Since this interview, I’ve posted on my own site about more jobs in social media — take a gander over to Make a Living Writing to learn more.

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

When Writing Clients Create Crises

Crisis Writing Clients Need to Pay MoreI got a new client recently that I was very excited about. It was an ongoing account for eight short articles a month, from a decent-sized, established company. They had a big list of topics ready to go. I thought it sounded just great.

Then I started trying to work on the account, and everything changed. This client turned out to be a crisis-creator. And even though it represented more than $1,500 a month in income, I dropped them.

It turned out the client didn’t really want short blog-type pieces, they wanted full-blown reported articles. They also wanted me to interview their experts and ghost some of the entries for them (a fact they hadn’t mentioned up front). Their experts weren’t very readily available, I’d have to try and try to reach them before finally getting an interview time, so deadline panic became the norm.

It quickly became clear that this client was a massive pain in the butt. Also, the services they really wanted I would have billed at three to four times the rate I’d quoted them for the “quick blog pieces” they originally claimed to want.

Some writing clients are really dysfunctional and tend to create crises in your schedule. If you end up with a crisis client, you have to decide if it’s worth hanging onto them or not.

I have another crisis client right now. They pick their topics v e r y   s l o w l y…then they take forever to OK a story outline. Then…the minute they approve it, it’s due in one week flat. Kinda crazy.

But they’re paying me $1 a word, and I’ve decided they’re worth it. Which brings me to my main rule of crisis clients: They need to pay a lot.

Often, you get the deadly combination of crisis-creating client AND they pay sorta crummy. Those two do NOT go together!

When I worked as an entertainment-industry secretary back half a lifetime ago, I saw that the production office often had a sign posted on the wall. It was a triangle with the corners labeled “Good,” “Fast,” and “Cheap.” Below it would say: “Pick any two.”

Clients who want good work done fast because of their crisis-creating proclivities need to pay top dollar. Otherwise, you’re letting them turn their crisis into your crisis.

Don’t let that happen! My philosophy is that your crisis is my opportunity. I happen to have the ability to turn around complex stories fast — if you need that, pay the freight.

Photo via Flickr user alancleaver_2000

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Avoid the Crash When A Big Writing Project Ends

So here’s a situation a lot of freelance writers are confronted with: You’ve had a great client and been working on their great project, but now you can see the end is in sight. Soon, this project will be over.

What to do? How to prevent the income and self-esteem crash that can come when suddenly, a fat account wraps up and that party’s over.

Got an interesting comment on this topic from one of  my mentees this month, Boise freelance writer Lindsay Woolman. She’s in this exact situation right now, as she strives to find more direct clients and move away from working as a subcontractor:

Right now my only client (other than subcontracting) is a ghostwriting book project, which has been the best and good pay. I expect it will last through the end of the month. It makes me nervous to have the project end, but she has really liked my work, so it has given me more confidence.

Right on, Lindsay, about the confidence — it feels great to do a fun, lucrative project!

But you’ve got that bad, nagging feeling because it’s ending. What is that nervous feeling? It’s the feeling that you should be doing something about this. Either:

1) You do nothing. You’re going to work this account, and feel nervous until the bomb drops and suddenly you have less income. Then you’re going to be poor and scramble to try to find a replacement. Meanwhile,  you’ll be depressed because the ego boost of having this great client is gone. This is not a good scenario.

OR

2) You take action now to find a replacement client. You really can’t act fast enough. If you start a six-week project that you know will end, the day you start the job is the day to start looking for its replacement. Because finding another great client takes time!

AND

3) You keep constantly prospecting, in case a client unexpectedly shuts down. In this economy, it’s happening more and more. Even if you can’t see an end, there may be one coming.

I’ve dealt with replacing big accounts myself…one of my biggest clients ever suddenly fired my editor about a year ago, and everything changed. Though I initially still had plenty of work in the pipeline from them, I felt the writing was on the wall. This account was going to wind down.

So instead of just cruising along on my remaining projects, I started looking immediately for something else to take its place. As it turned out, I didn’t find one giant account just like it to plug in when it went away — which it did, in about 4-5 months — but I found several smaller ones which together paid roughly as much.

Life went on without much of a hitch. No panic, no depression, no big income dip. The client went away mid-year in 2009, and it still wrapped up as my highest-earning year ever, because I was aggressive about replacing this account, and others that came and went, too.

This is one of the prime strategies for becoming a higher-earning freelancer — keep your pipeline of clients and projects constantly full. If you wait for the crash and then start looking for a replacement, that delay — and in this economy who knows how big a delay it will be? — will cost you big dollars over the course of the year.

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How to Earn Well Writing Reported Articles

Write Reported Stories to Earn MoreBy Carol Tice

One of the comments I get a lot from writers who started at content sites is that they can’t imagine how they could write fully reported stories and still earn well. They take so much time! Finding sources, setting up interview times, talking to live humans. How can it possibly pencil out?

Well, I’m here to testify that when done right, reported articles are a far more lucrative way to write. Here are some tips on how professional writers earn well writing reported stories.

1. Keep your interviews short. Unless you’re doing a 3,000-word profile of somebody or something similar, I try not to spend more than 15-20 minutes talking to any particular source. This not only keeps your hourly rate for the story up, but keeps the source from entertaining delusions that they will be the whole article. Respect sources’ time and yours, have your questions ready ahead of time, and keep it brief.

2. Think before you drive. Before you get in the car, adding hours to your reporting time, ask yourself whether this needs to be an in-person interview, or if it would do just as well as a phoner. Many roundup stories don’t need in-person work. If you do need to travel for a story because you really need to see things and people to write it properly, take a single day and line up all the interviews the story needs, so you go straight from one to another. That’s my M.O. with stories that need field work.

3. Double-down on your sources. While you’re talking to sources, think about other stories you’re writing for other outlets, and whether you could use them for those pieces, too. Also pick their brains for additional stories you could pitch elsewhere. Recycling your experts really saves time, and it’s legit as long as it’s different topics for different markets.

Example: Recently, I interviewed the head of a niche recruiting company for a career story on a major jobs portal. I learned her company had gotten certified as a Beneficial or “B” Corp, which I thought was interesting so I sold that idea to a corporate business-information Web site. She was a woman business owner, so I also got her into a story for the online site of a national magazine about women who owned her business type. Total pay: more than $1,400. Not bad for a half-hour of interview time with her, plus a few other short interviews thrown into the roundups.

4. Find sources fast. Learn how to use HARO, Profnet and other source-finding tools. Find expert authors fast on Amazon books. Become a Google pro. Tweet or tell your LinkedIn crowd about your sourcing needs. You have to find exactly who you need, pronto. If you have to interview three people to find one good expert, you can’t make this pay.

5. Resell, resell, resell. Once you’ve done a topic, think about noncompeting markets you could rewrite it for with a slightly different angle and reuse your experts. A classic one: once you’ve learned about a business, ask your source where they went to college, and sell a profile about them to their college alumni magazine. If it’s a daily paper piece, see if it could be resold to dailies in other markets. Crack that Writer’s Market and find more places that could use your idea.

6. Build relationships. Don’t be a news zombie, sucking the information out of a source’s head and leaving them a dry husk by the roadside. If you think a source is articulate and knowledgeable in their field, make friends! Often, if you’re friendly, respectful and don’t waste sources’ time, you can come back to the same sources over and over for various stories — sometimes even for the same outlet. Just ask your publication if it’s OK if you use someone you’ve cited for them previously.

You don’t want to overuse this — keep finding new sources, too. But when you get stories with rush deadlines, it’s great to have built a rolodex of sources you know will return your calls.

If you need tips on how to be a crack interviewer, there’s more here on that topic.

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

Photo via Flickr user Piratenpartei Deutschland

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