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    Justifying Your Rates

    Everyone likes a good deal. We shop around for goods and services, trying to get the best 'bang for the buck'. It just makes financial sense to be consumer wise. But most things we pay for are competitively priced. You may save a few dollars by purchasing from one merchant instead of another, but the savings are usually minimal.

    Now, step into the freelance writer's world. The writing community is tight-knit, however, competition is fierce when it comes down to landing a new project. Most writers have set rates and are determined to receive the pay they deserve. Unfortunately, there is always another writer out there ready to tackle the same project for less money than you are willing to accept. So much for competitive pricing in the consumer market...

    When you write for the magazine and trade journal markets, an editor generally dictates your fee. If you don't like it, then find another market. Of course, as you build on an editor/writer relationship, the door begins to open for negotiating a higher rate. This is not the case when you freelance in the business world, though. While some business owners understand that quality writing does not come cheap, many do not. There seems to be a mindset in the business world that a writer only writes. "How difficult is that? It shouldn't cost very much...Right?"

    Wrong...If writing were as easy as some seem to think, then why are they seeking a writer in the first place? Because the average Joe is unable to weave prose like a writer. Writing is an art form. If everyone were skilled at the craft, there would be no such thing as the profession of writing.

    So, how do you overcome an objection to your asking price? By educating a potential client about the writing process. Most businesses are plagued by a constricted budget, so it may take a little convincing to get your point across. Since everyone wants to save money, it is tempting to contract an inexperienced writer for $50, as opposed to a more experienced writer asking $300 for the same project. What the client is not thinking of is the end result. Spending less ranks high on the priority list. Usually, contrast in quality is not a factor in a business owner’s mind. We are all writers, so we should all write the same way. The only difference is one will do it a lot cheaper than the other... Welcome to the stereotypical view that many hold about writers.

    It takes hard work to land projects that will earn you a steady income. As writers, all we want to do is write. But in the freelancing domain, our first love takes a back seat to salesmanship. Once you have justified your rates, the business owner should have a clearer picture of what it takes to deliver the quality product they desire. Close the sale, and then get to writing.

    So, how do you justify your rates to a potential client who balks at your asking price? Simply explain what it takes to complete their project. The following is an excerpt from my business package I use to assist in gaining more business writing projects. Remember, writing is a time consuming process. Once a client understands the writing process, your rates do not appear as high as they originally thought.


    The Creative Process

    How will your project be completed? To answer that question, step into the writer’s world and discover for yourself what the creative process entails.


    The Project

    All writing begins with a basic idea. Whether the thought is for a work of fiction, content for a website, a press release, sales letter or whatever reason the written word is needed. The idea must be mapped out in as much detail as possible to give the new project direction. It is difficult to travel a road that has no beginning.

    Before contacting a writer to tackle your project, you should have a clear picture of what it is you want to accomplish. Think of the following:

    • Why do you need this project completed?
    • What will it accomplish?
    • Who is the target audience?
    • What is the best way to communicate with this audience? A straight business like approach? The light-hearted style? Or maybe a more personal type of writing is the way to go.

    It is important to furnish as much detail as possible. A well-outlined project is easier to create than a poorly planned one. Maybe you’re not exactly sure what you want. That’s okay. A few questions will probably point me in the right direction. Don’t feel foolish if this is the case. Many people in need of a professional writer are not sure which direction to take. This is where a writer’s creative process kicks in to assist you with those decisions.

    *** It is important to inform the writer of exactly what your project consists of. Do not surprise them with the need for more than what you originally ask for. This complicates the business relationship.

    Most writers will quote you a price for an entire project based on what you have furnished as your needs. If any extras pop up, you can expect the fee to increase.


    Brainstorming

    Brainstorming is the process of tossing an idea around to see what direction it may take. During this early stage of the writing process, notes are taken, paragraphs written, and many pages find the wastebasket. All writers have their own quirks and approach this task in various ways. Here at Creative Pages, I pace a lot...drink gallons of coffee...stare at a blank computer screen or piece of paper...talk to myself, the wall, or bounce ideas off my dogs (they have yet to answer me. If one day they do, I’ll take it as a sign that I need a vacation). I also try to avoid my wife committing me due to my actions during this phase. Writers are often mistaken for schizophrenics during this stage.

    Research

    Many times a subject must be researched in order to write intelligently about it. Writers possess a vast source of knowledge, but not concerning every subject under the sun. For example, do you want to know about the history of the pizza? I happen to be an expert on the subject due to research I conducted in order to write an article about it. What about information concerning breaking into the sports employment field? Done that too, in the form of a complete website, articles and press releases. Do you know the pains and embarrassment of bladder control problems? Neither do I...But if the opportunity to write about it ever arises, I will become very knowledgeable on the subject because of research.

    My point is, do not expect a writer to know everything about your particular subject matter. This is why it is important to furnish as much information as possible when contracting a writer to complete a project for you. Don’t make us guess if you already know the answer.

    It is important to remember that the less research a writer has to undertake, the less money you will spend for the time it takes to complete this research.


    Pen to Paper (The Essential First Draft)

    The next step in your project’s completion is the first draft. This is where I go through a stack of legal pads and hit the delete button on my keyboard more often than I care to admit. This stage is the first attempt at writing the content you need. Once it is written, I place it in a file to ‘stew’ for a certain amount of time. The ‘’stewing’ time depends on the piece written and the project size. This is an important step. The practice allows me to come back to the piece at a later time (be it an hour or a few days), with a fresh, critical perspective. Hopefully I do not find the piece to be garbage and am ashamed to admit I wrote it. (If that is the case, I bury it deep within the wastebasket and swallow my pride).


    Revising

    Now the rough draft (which, hopefully, I am not ashamed of) is polished. Second drafts, third drafts, sometimes four or more are written (Thank goodness for word processing programs). At this stage, I ask myself several questions concerning the piece I wrote.

    Are there any non-essential words, phrases or paragraphs that can be cut? Is the writing clear and to the point? What about grammar, punctuation, style and usage? Does the voice fit the writing and the project description? Am I meeting the length requirements for this project? Do I need another cup of coffee because all the words are blending in and my eyeballs are bulging out of their sockets?

    With all this complete, it is time to change hats and move on to the next stage...


    Editing the Baby

    It is now time to don the editor's hat (I prefer the Elmer Fudd style). One final check is made after a very brief 'stewing' period. I complete my checklist of questions one more time. If the piece fails inspection, it is booted back to the revising stage.


    Submission

    This is the nervous phase. Your project is submitted to you and questions wander through my mind. (i.e.: Will they like it, or do they think it's garbage and I am not fit to write graffiti on the bathroom wall?)


    Revisions

    Hopefully this stage will not be necessary, and you view me as a genius and throw tons more work my way! But if it is necessary, the pieces will be revised to your satisfaction.

    And you thought the writing life was easy!

    Copyright © 2001 Jim Soos

    Jim Soos discovered writing at the age of 34, when a story refused to leave his head. Drawing on his background as a former police officer, Jim transformed his idea into a novel length police thriller. Never seeking publication, he keeps the manuscript on his desk as a reminder to his discovery of writing. Today, Jim freelances, concentrating on business writing. Specializing in website content, he also writes press releases, newsletters, articles, and offers ghost writing and editing services to businesses. Jim is a contributing writer to suite101.com, writing about his favorite topic, Alaska. He is also retained as the Public Relations writer for HomeJobsOnline.com, and as the site's senior writer for its newsletter. No stranger to rejection letters, (he collects them as a hobby), Jim may edit his novel one of these days and seek publication.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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