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Why Writers Should Know Their Daily Rate

Increase Your Freelance Writing IncomeI’ve written frequently about the need for freelance writers to set a goal of having a high hourly rate. I’ve written about how to raise your rates. I’ve talked about how you can earn more bidding per-project than per-hour.

Today, I’m going to take the rate discussion to another plane and talk about daily rates. That’s the rate you want to earn per work day in order to bring in the amount you want to make in a year.

Why is it important for you to know your daily rate? Several reasons:

1) Quick tracking mechanism. If you know your daily rate, at the end of each day you can evaluate how you did. First, look at what you billed. If you didn’t actually bill any clients that day, review how much work you put in on ongoing projects. For instance, if you estimate you’ll work parts of 10 days on a $1,000 project, attribute $100 of earning on that project for today.

Now add up the total estimated earnings for the day. Does it add up to the daily rate you want? If not, the time to take action to find better-paying clients is now — not at the end of the year, when you do your taxes and are confronted in black-and-white with the reality that you aren’t meeting your earning goals.

2) Good weekly yardstick. Once you have a daily rate, it’s easier to track how you’re doing each week and each month. I find these calculations help me schedule deadlines throughout the month so I have revenue in each week, instead of having a lump of work all stacked up at the end of the month, which leads to late nights and stress as I frantically try to keep projects from hanging over into the following month (thereby screwing up my revenue projections for that month!).

3) Another way to view earnings besides hourly rates. While I’ve often said freelance writers need to aim to make $100 an hour, not all your work may be at your goal rate. Or you won’t be fully booked every day.  A daily rate can give you a better sense of whether you’re charging enough based on other factors including how busy you are, how many hours per day you’re willing to work, and how long it takes you to complete projects.

4) Quick quote ability for exclusive projects. Every now and then, a client may want to lock down all your time for a project. They want you to go cover a trade show for several days. Or they want you to drop everything and work on a rush project for them for a week or two solid. Maybe they need someone to write in-house for a month at their office. Or they’d like you to spend two months ghostwriting their e-book.

How do you know what to charge?

If you know your daily rate, you know how much revenue you would lose by being locked down on an exclusive project, unable to work your usual clients. Without a daily rate, you’re just guessing whether it’s worth it to you financially to take the assignment, so it’s easy to end up shortchanged.

How to figure your daily rate

Now that you know why you should care about your daily rate, let’s figure it up. Say your goal is to earn $100,000 from freelance writing this year. (Think big!)

There are 365 days in the year, but 104 of those days are weekends. There are also roughly 10 holidays a year where it’s virtually impossible to get much work done — Christmas, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. Family members will likely expect you to shut off the devices and pay attention to them on these occasions.

Let’s hope you’re not working weekends or major holidays, and that you also plan to take at least two weeks off a year (which you certainly should). That leaves around 240 real, viable work days in the year.

Divide $100,000 by 240 and you get roughly $417 a day. That’s your daily rate. Want to earn $50,000 a year? That’s around $209 per working day.

Have you calculated your daily rate? Ever needed to use it for client quotes?  Leave a comment and let us know whether you think it’s useful to know your daily rate, or whether hourly rates are more important.

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Photo via Flickr user bigburpsx3

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How Writers Can Send Query Letters Without Facing Rejection

The Face of a Rejected WriterOne of the biggest hurdles many writers face is sending query letters. They don’t want to take the time to research, write and send them because of the seemingly low odds that a particular query letter will result in an assignment.

In summary, they can’t take the rejection!

In an age of social-media connecting and online blogging, some see querying publications as hopelessly old-fashioned. But sending a well-crafted query letter is still one of the most powerful methods available to freelance writers who want to make great new connections with editors at publications where they are currently unknown.

Like a ninja throwing star, your query can slice through all the barriers to seeing your byline in great publications and vault you straight to an assignment. You don’t need to know anybody — the power of your story can take you there. Isn’t that awesome?

Also, despite the complaints you see on many writer forums, crafting query letters doesn’t have to be an all-day project. If you know how to re-slant and re-pitch similar topics to different publications, you can have plenty of queries out without doing a ton of work.

This year, I had a goal of adding to my client list at least one or two more national publications that pay $1 a word or more. I sent many query letters in pursuit of this goal. Most of them were rejected.

This did not bother me in the slightest.

After nine months of making time to send a few queries each month, I finally connected with two new publications — one online, one off. Both pay at or above my target.

How did I keep from getting discouraged? Why didn’t I give up?

The many queries I sent that flopped didn’t bother me because I never experience rejection.

How do I avoid feeling rejected? I follow these four simple rules for querying:

1) Maintain an unshakable belief in your abilities. Many writers seem to take the echoing silence that greets their query as a personal condemnation. They suck as a writer!

Instead, consider the likely reality — the editor never had time to read the query, they already had a story on that topic planned, they’re ceasing publication, remaking the pub and not needing that type of topic anymore, just hired a staffer to  handle those type of stories, etc. There are a million possible reasons you didn’t hear back from the editor, or got a polite “pass” email. Often, it’s not about you.

Resolve not to take a “no” personally. Believe in your talent, and press on.

2) Don’t get emotionally attached to any one query. This is a big problem for many writers. They spend way too long crafting one, single query. It’s for a big, national magazine. They’re so sure this idea is perfect for this magazine — it’s definitely their ticket to the big time!

So the writer waits anxiously for a response. They’re paralyzed into inaction on their other query ideas. When they never hear back, or get a “no,” they’re crushed!

This is like the person who decides they’ve met their future spouse on their first date. You’re getting too committed too soon.

I’ve had really awesome ideas that I thought were perfect for Parade and other major mags, that never went anywhere. Such is life. Happens to all of us.

The antidote to falling in love with your query is to have lots of great ideas and send many queries. Make querying a routine part of your monthly marketing plan. Then you won’t stake too much emotional capital on any single query.

3) Seek a match, rather than an acceptance. Rather than thinking of querying as a one-sided activity — “I need an assignment! Please give me one!” — I think of it more like the old Match Game TV show. I have ideas, and I know editors have needs for interesting articles. I play the querying game until I find a match. You really want it to be a fit from both sides.

If a publication passes on my query, I’m not bothered, because I know editor relationships are a two-way street. And there’s lots I don’t know about this publication and editor.

Maybe the editor is a raving lunatic. Maybe the publication is about to go under. Maybe they’re the type who’d edit my piece into an unrecognizable mass of goo. Or the kind that would have me gang-edited by three different people.

So if it’s a ‘no,’ I assume I’ve just been saved a ton of heartache with a situation that would have turned out to be a terrible fit. It wasn’t a match! So what — no biggie. Move right along and send more queries.

4) Be unstoppable. Back when I covered home-improvement retailing as a staff writer, I once went to a great trade-show seminar on how to break prospective customers’ existing relationships with their current lumberyard and get them to buy from you instead. The speaker advocated staying in touch with prospects even if they seemed very happy where they were.

How long did he advise continuing to try to sell the prospective customer?

“Until they buy…or they die,” he said simply. If they die, the company will name a new person to that buyer’s job — and you can start right in trying to sell the new guy.

I think of querying the same way. Keep going until you get the acceptance you need. (Like Dory in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming…”) Keep learning and sharpening your skills.

One day, a new editor may come on at that publication you’ve always wanted to bag. Then, query them. Never stop trying. Those who take this attitude usually get where they want to go eventually, while those who’re easily discouraged give up.

How do you cope with query-letter rejection? Leave a comment and tell us your strategy.

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to Make a Living Writing for more free tips on earning well from writing.

Photo via Flickr user Orin Zebest

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Why I Joined a Monthly-Subscription Bloggers’ Learning Community

Why join a writer community. Makealivingwriting.comI’ve been curious about monthly-subscription course models. I’ve interviewed more than one person who I know is making over $1 million a year with their subscription courseware. I decided I need to learn more about how this works, in case I want to do it myself!

I have some real strengths as a writer — years of staff-writing work honed my discipline and helped  me learn how to meet deadlines and come up with tons of story ideas. But blogging — now that’s fairly new for me.

Yes, I’ve found some success as a paid blogger for others, currently including and Entrepreneur magazine and Forbes along with some small-business clients, too. Many months now, I find half or more of my total income is coming from blogging! So in one sense you’d say I’m a successful blogger.

But what I’d really love is to find a way to make this blog into more of a paying gig. That way I could spend more time helping other writers earn more, which I’ve discovered is an activity I truly love. Have to say, when one of my mentees tells me they’ve gotten a lucrative assignment by following one of my tips, I feel more excited than when I land a fat client myself! If this blog generated income, I could offer more free tips on the blog and spend more time helping more people realize their dreams of supporting themselves through writing.

I’ve already got a partial plan for monetizing my blog with my upcoming Make a Living Writing e-book (we’re proofing it now!), and with more e-books to come. While I’ve found success blogging for others, I know there’s a whole lot I don’t know yet about being successful here on my own blog — how to grow the subscriber list, engage readers, and reach a broader audience.

This week I got a great offer from two bloggers I’ve been reading for a long time and whom I think are among the top niche bloggers today, Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch of Zen Habits and Goodlife Zen, respectively.

The upshot is… I’ve just joined their A-List Blogging Bootcamp, which I can already recommend (and yes, that is my affiliate link). At last, that graphic’s making sense now, right?

They were doing a special deal where it was just $20 a month (cancel anytime!) and we got a lot of freebies for signing up now. I thought at that price, given what I could reap from having a blog that earns, it was such a tiny price that I couldn’t say no. I gather there are 700+ of us in the community right now, so lots of folks to connect with in there as well as great learning.

I haven’t had much time yet to participate and work their courses, but I’ll report back when I’ve gotten a chance to do so. So far, I got to look at a video of Mary’s frank assessment of how her blog initially sucked, and what she did to make it more successful — and I got one really valuable tip out of it I’ll be implementing for my site soon. Watch and see if you can spot what I change!

Have you joined any of the monthly-sub learning communities? If so, what did you think? Was it worth the money? What did you learn? Leave a comment and share your experience.

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Writing vs Marketing: 5 Tips for Scheduling Your Freelance Time

My Freelance Writing ScheduleBy Carol Tice

Ah, the old juggling act. As a freelance writer, you need time to write! Even if you don’t have an assignment, you need time to practice your writing. But at the same time, you’ve got to be out there marketing your freelance-writing business to keep it growing.

How can a writer find time in their schedule for both writing and marketing? It’s always a tricky balancing act.

Earlier this week, responding to Alyssa’s post about time management and juggling family and writing, reader Kelli commented:

Now that my youngest is in kindergarten, I’ve got 15-20 hours/week to devote to writing! No excuses!

I’m curious how people find balance between looking for writing gigs and actually writing? I feel like I could spend hours researching the aspects of starting a freelance business, but then the writing time fades away!

She brings up a great point. Marketing your writing business is a bottomless pit! There’s always more you could be doing. A few more comments on those forums, another networking meeting, a few more query letters to send, an hour researching prospects you might send messages to on LinkedIn.

Especially if you’re getting started in freelancing writing, as Kelli says she’s doing — you could easily read all day about whether or not to write for content mills, for instance, and which ones pay better. Or research whether creating and monetizing your own niche blog would be a better way to go than trying to land copywriting clients.

Here are some tips for keeping your writing on track while still devoting enough time to marketing:

1. Remember it’s all about the writing. If you have writing assignments, meeting those deadlines comes first. Period. Keeping existing clients happy is job one. If you have no current clients, write for at least an hour a day on something — your blog, a journal, spec articles. Then spend all the rest of your time on marketing. Paying clients are essential to keep the freelance lifestyle going, so focus on lining them up!

2. Keep it contained. To keep from losing your mind, find a containable slice of marketing that you can handle within the time you know you’ll have. Perhaps have a different marketing task each day — Monday you check job boards, Tuesday you write queries, etc.

3. Reserve a specific time block for marketing. Maybe it’s at night after the kids go to bed — that’s your marketing time. Or maybe for two hours first thing in the morning. Or Wednesday is marketing day. Any way that works for you, but set up a specific time each week for marketing. That way it’ll happen, but you’ll also have a clear sense of when marketing time is over and it’s time to write.

4. Have a goal. Marketing is a lot easier to execute when you know what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you feel destined to be the next $1 million blogger? Then learn about blogging. Do you need to land a major copywriting client to provide a measure of security to your freelance writing? Then focus on cold-calling, direct mail, in-person networking, or whatever other strategies you feel will most readily connect you with businesses hiring freelancers.

5. Measure your results. Whatever the goal, try to pursue several strategies at a time. Then, after several months, take a look at the results. How have you found your assignments? The answers are often VERY interesting, and can help you figure out the most productive ways to spend your marketing time.

Next week, I’ll talk about how I got great clients this year — what marketing strategies got real results and landed me clients paying $.50-$1 a word, $100 an hour, and up.

How do you work marketing time into your schedule? Leave a comment and tell us your techniques.

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

Photo via Flickr user Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale

Why I Told My Husband to Work for Demand Studios

Content Mill Factory for Starving WritersRegular readers of MALW know that I am not a fan of content mills. We had one of our liveliest-ever discussions here a few posts back about Demand Studios’ IPO plans, which to my mind revealed more reasons to be wary of the popular content factory.

As a result of my position that $20 an article is not a fair wage and that writers can do better, I’ve been called an elitist snob and worse.

So it may surprise some to learn that I recently told my husband that he should work for Demand.

Why? Because he is one of those people who are in a perfect position to benefit from a short stint at the Demand factory.

My husband is not a writer — he’s a Web video producer. He is a UCLA film-school graduate who worked in TV for years, and now he’s getting back into the visual arts. He’s a very talented visual artist, but to be frank, marketing is not his strength. He’s put together a couple of nice samples, but he’s having trouble translating that into paying clients.

In other words, he is perfect for Demand. Yes, they only pay $100 a video, which given the additional hours it takes to go out and shoot and then edit a video, I’m sure makes it roughly equivalent to Demand’s writer payments in terms of an hourly rate. So the situation is basically the same as for writers who contemplate writing articles for Demand.

It will be work for peanuts. But right now, for him, that will be a step up!

A few Demand assignments should be able to give him a few more samples and round out his portfolio. It’ll also give him experience taking assignments and meeting deadlines. It’ll get him in the habit of going out and making videos on a regular basis. I really see it as all good — for now.

The key to this idea is that he shouldn’t hang around Demand very long. Once he has a complete portfolio, he should be movin’ on up.

I’ve said it before, but it’s often been lost in the din of outrage that I’ve dared suggest mills aren’t the best new invention since the Internet… Mills have their place. For a brand-new artist who needs to get their feet wet, they’re great. For writers who don’t have the time for marketing or an interest in earning big, they may be the only game in town.

If you do have dreams of making a high-earning, award-winning type of career out of it, the trick is not to hang around places like DS and get hooked on these low pay rates — and get lazy about marketing. You can bet once he’s got a nice-looking portfolio, I’ll be suggesting my husband go out and find his own clients.

Photo via Flickr user loop_oh

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The Critical Networking Step Many Writers Miss

Networking Requires Immediate Follow upIt’s confession time. This past week, I made a tragic error.

I washed a pair of my husband’s pants.

No, I do laundry around here. It’s not that.

It’s that inside a small side pocket of the pants, it turned out, were about 30 business cards my hubby had collected at a big networking event several days before. It was a multi-chamber, all-county networking event at a local casino. Sort of a once-a-year opportunity.

The cards were turned into mush in the wash. Totally unreadable. I should have checked the pants more thoroughly before washing.

I felt so bad! After all, I had been the one encouraging him to get out and more aggressively network to find clients for his new Web-video business.

What allowed this mishap to occur was…it had never crossed my mind that the business cards would still be in the pants! Because what was the point of collecting those business cards?

So you can follow up right away with all your new leads! This is the missing link in networking, the critical step so many new networkers — freelance writers and all other types of freelancers, too — so often overlook.

When I get home from a networking event, before I even put my purse down, I get out the business cards I’ve collected from wherever I’ve squirreled them away. Then I walk them straight over to my desk and put them down right next to the monitor. That way, they’ll be the first thing I see when I’m next in the office, and I’ll get straight to my followup.

Those leads are gold. They represent thousands of dollars of potential new business. Great new relationships. Fun new friends.

You’d be crazy to leave them lying around, or shoved in a pants pocket.

Without followup, networking is often a total waste of time. The people you talked to also spoke to dozens of other people. It’s all a blur! You need to make another connection and start building the relationship.

Connect with them on LinkedIn. Start following them on Twitter. Send them a quick “Nice to meet you!” email. Send them a contact for someone you know who might fit a need they have. Email them an interesting article, your resume, or whatever other followup is appropriate to the conversation you had. Update your marketing calendar to get in touch with these new leads again in a month or two.

Sometimes, prospects need a while to come around to the idea of working with you. I’ve had networking connections take a full year of development before they offered me a gig.

So follow up. Get in touch. Or your networking is as useful as that soggy stack of unreadable business cards I sadly fished out of the laundry.

Photo via Flickr user PolandMFA

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