For some people, writing is simply about writing. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and saying what they have to say. For others, it is a business that they want to build from the ground up.
When you land your first job, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. As a writer, your name in print can be an amazing feeling. It’s one thing to say you’re a writer, but it’s another thing to build a business around it and as any freelance writer knows nothing is handed to you.
When you are starting anything new, there is so much to learn and starting your own business is no exception. As a new freelance writer, there are some important things to consider when hashing out the details with your first clients.
Fame or Fortune?
Sometimes you have to choose between fame or fortune. You can’t always have both. There are publications that have millions of followers, but they don’t pay for submissions. Huffpost comes to mind here, they have over 9M followers on Facebook alone. Truthfully, if the opportunity ever presented itself I would jump at the chance, but that’s me. Huffpost, anyone listening? As you continue to do your research, you will quickly gather who’s who amongst digital magazines and the blogosphere. You will also learn which publications you’ll set your sights on. On the flip side, there are blogs or publications that may not have that many followers, but they pay for accepted submissions. The choice here is often a personal one based on your goals.
I wouldn’t say to continually write for free. However, being published on a particular media outlet can pay dividends down the line too. Getting your name out there, building a reputation, and establishing a portfolio should all be considered when deciding whether or not to write for free.
Ghostwriting or Bylines
An important question to ask is, whether you get a byline or will the piece be ghostwritten. A byline is your name on a published piece while ghostwriting is anonymous. Bylines are important as you work to establish yourself as a writer or as an expert in your niche. Bylines may not always come with compensation whereas ghostwritten pieces do.
Remember, you are spending your time creating an article for your client. It’s up to you to decide what your time is worth. A few months ago, I took a job as an editor for a mystery shopping company. The pay was disclosed to me during the interview process. It was low, but I thought I’m new, everyone has to start somewhere, I’ll get over the hump. At the end of the day, I decided that the amount of time it took to edit those reports, just wasn’t worth it. I didn’t stick with that job, but I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that my time is valuable and I should be paid what I’m worth. Be honest with yourself and set rates that are worth your time. Consider the amount of time it takes to create a well-written piece of work, time for research if needed, and the time it takes away from other things in your life.
Forms Of Payment
This is important. You must be clear up front, regarding how you get paid. Is it cash via PayPal, a check in the mail, goldfish crackers? You need to know. Just recently, I stumbled upon an “opportunity”. The proposal was for me to be paid a laughably low amount in cryptocurrency. Yes, you read that right. Umm, sorry, I still like greenbacks, thanks but no thanks. Needless to say, I passed on that one. Perhaps it’s an ‘opportunity’ for someone else.
Who retains the rights to the work?
More often than not new writers just question who’s going to hire me and how much will I make. There’s another important question to ask yourself. Who retains the rights to the work? If you publish on some.com first, does that bar you from publishing the same article elsewhere? Some sites may allow you to retain the rights to your work, allowing you to publish elsewhere after a certain amount of time. Some clients may feel that once they have paid you for your work, they then retain the rights. It’s important to be clear on this when negotiating the work or you may set yourself up for some grief down the line.
Ask for any and all guidelines.
Ask for any and all guidelines in writing. This avoids confusion and wasted time on both ends. If the client is expecting a 1000 word piece and you only write 379, that’s a huge issue. It puts the current job in jeopardy and it will most certainly kill any chance of repeat business. Remember, you’re building a business, a reputation, and a portfolio. One of the bests pieces of advice I’ve read about freelance writing is under promise and over deliver. Good advice for anything really. But especially important when you are trying to establish yourself, and your business as a writer.
Starting a business as a freelance writer can be quite the undertaking. But asking the right questions from the start can save you a lot of time and aggravation down the line.