Monday, October 3, 2011
Anne Wayman on the 5 Biggest Mistakes Freelancers Make...
You’ve sold a book, or several articles, or you’ve worked inside publishing someplace and you long to declare yourself a freelance writer and go home and write. Or maybe you’ve already made the leap. Either way, here are the five biggest mistakes writers make when they transition to freelancing – avoid these and you increase your chances of success immeasurably.
1. Not treating your writing as a business.
The idea of freelancing may seem romantic, but the truth is you must treat your freelance writing like a business if you are to succeed. This means setting goals, tracking income and expenses, paying self-employment taxes and all the other things that go into making a business work. This isn’t glamorous but it’s necessary. And once you get the business side organized it’s not too onerous.
2. Not determining how much to charge.
Determining how much money you need to charge is imperative. If you don’t you won’t know how to answer the question, “how much do you charge?” The place to start is with your monthly expenses. Then add about a third and work that out to an hourly rate based on how many hours you can realistically expect to write five days a week. I can manage about four hours of real writing every day. The rest of my time is prep, marketing and the business stuff. It will take awhile to really know how much time writing jobs will actually take you, but knowing your hourly rate will help you not under charge. And yes, you’ll make mistakes – which is okay. Just learn from them.
3. Not insisting on a written agreement.
I can’t count the number of writers who have contacted me with what they call problem clients and it turns out there’s no contract or written agreement. It’s not the client that’s the problem; it’s the lack of a clear, written understanding between you and your client that causes most of the grief. Contracts (which can be simple but clear emails) need to describe the work, describe the deadlines, explain the method of payment and say what to do when there’s a problem. You don’t need a lawyer, just a clear agreement.
4. Not implementing a marketing plan.
Yes, you need to market your writing. The plan can be simple – like three queries a week, or five cold calls a day, or two blog posts on the blog that markets you, or developing your own website or ordering and using business cards. There are at least a gazillion things you can do to market yourself and your writing. Get one small one done a day and you’re sure to be a success.
5. Not respecting your time.
Folks, all of us have the same 24 hours in every day – if you don’t respect, even cherish, your time no one else will. Train yourself and your family and friends to honor your writing time. Don’t answer the door, turn off the phone – do what you have to so you can write and conduct your freelance writing business. One of my most successful writing friends hired a nanny just so she can write every day. Do what it takes and you’ll see positive results.
On the other hand, if you work out how to avoid each of these problem areas you’re likely to wake up one morning and realize you truly are a successful freelance writer.
What else would you add to this list?
Anne Wayman is a writing coach, ghostwriter and blogger who has been writing longer than she now cares to admit. AboutFreelanceWriting is where she blogs about writing. She blogs about 12 Step recovery at PowerfullyRecovered.com, about money at DollarsandDebt.com and life at WhenGrandmotherSpeaks.com
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