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Petty Things, Big Savings
by Lizzie R. Santos
When I started freelancing, I had only one regular writing assignment: a weekly radio script that earned me a measly 750 Philippine pesos (roughly $15) monthly! Having had a corporate job that paid handsomely, I wondered how in the world I could manage to survive. I had no computer of my own then. I relied on my dear, old typewriter. I had to shoulder my own telephone bills, buy my own paper and ink, and pay for other capital expenses. There was no choice but to cut costs until I found other writing opportunities.
Since then, cutting costs has become a habit for me. Though I now earn a lot (lot) more, I still save in any way I can. Here are some of my saving secrets:
Copyright © 2003 Lizzie R. Santos
- Join writersí groups that offer freebies and privileges such as free use of computer, free Internet time, free workshops, complimentary copies of books and a lot more. Being part of a group also entitles you to discounts on writing/writer-related expenses.
- Be inquisitive. When you see an ad for a new product or equipment (computer, printer, facsimile machine and other stuff) ask if you can avail of a demo unit. Companies usually allow a one-month free use of their product without the obligation to buy. Imagine how much you can save on equipment depreciation if you rest your own unit for a month! And what about those new office and school supplies? You can ask for free samples from most companies.
- Volunteer to attend press conferences and product launchings. Usually, they raffle off handsome prizes or give free items to the attendees. And mind you, they give away their best products to impress the press people! You even do your editor a favor since he may have a hard time looking for people to attend such affairs. (Thatís how I got a free pager years ago!)
- Schedule and plan your writing-related trips to save on transportation expenses. If you can drop by three publications in one day, then you can spend the next days writing. See to it that you have something to submit each time you collect your fee/s from publications. Remember, you donít only spend on gas or fare when you leave the house. You are bound to eat and buy things on impulse.
- As much as possible, submit by electronic mail. Hardcopies mean paper, ink, postage or transportation and other expenses. Itís even faster!
- If youíre merely renting a computer, prepare a longhand copy before you drop by the cyber cafť. That way, you wonít waste time and money thinking, editing and/or revising. You will pay only for the time you spend actually encoding.
- Ask friends and relatives (or even some publication staff that you have befriended) who work in the corporate world if they can give you scratch papers regularly. Writers need a lot of scratch papers, right?
- Research through the Internet. It will cost less than having to go to different places to gather materials for an article.
- Use your phone to the max. Call up and ask for an appointment instead of spending on gas or fare to go somewhere only to be told that the person you have to talk to is not available. For informal interviews, you can call your interviewee and ask if itís okay to conduct the interview by phone. Most of them are busy anyway. This is most practical if your expenses wonít be reimbursed by the publication.
- Instead of brainstorming with your writer friends in expensive restaurants or rented rooms, just meet in one anotherís house on rotation basis. You can also go nature tripping. Pack some foods and brainstorm in the park! Thatís cheaper.
- Ask relatives and friends to donate their old magazines (even books) to you. Those are good sources of research materials.
- Avail of tie-ups. Some school and office supplies manufacturers will gladly supply you with paper, ball pens, folders, envelopes... or whatever, in exchange for one or two articles (advertorials) about their products.
- Do some pencil pushing. How much will you save by working in an open space like the lanai or the patio rather than having an air conditioner running the whole day? What about the lights you use? Do you really need to open that lamp the whole day or can you just open one or two windows when you work? Be practical!
- Instead of buying countless books and/or magazines, allot some time for visiting the local libraries if you canít research through the Internet.
- Get the most out of the freebies being offered by different writing websites. There are software you can download, informative writing articles you can learn a lot from, free workshops you can participate in -- all free of charge.
- Try trading-in. Gather the items you want to dispose -- books, equipment, whatever -- and advertise for a trade-in with items that you need. Some newspapers advertise these for free. Thatís another form of savings!
- Donít dismiss the small amounts you can save in so many ways. Use paperclips instead of stapling your often-handled hardcopies. Paperclips are reusable, staple wire is not. Use pencil instead of ball pen to save on scratch paper. Use refillable ink cartridges, folders, clear books, notebooks, anything.
- Analyze your different writing opportunities. Which one/s will give you a higher net income? One assignment may pay more but if it entails a lot of expenses to accomplish, you may earn less in the long run. Learn to compute your net income so you can choose writing assignments wisely.
- Buy equipment wisely. Check the features of each piece of equipment. Invest in your own PC, complete with Internet and facsimile facilities. (That way, you donít have to buy a separate facsimile machine.) A reliable and complete PC unit will save you a lot in the long run. You wonít have to pay rent for every hour of your freelancing career!
Lizzie Santos writes features, literary pieces, scripts and other writing projects both in English and Pilipino. She also lectures at creative writing workshops. Her first book, The Laughter of the Leaves and Other Musings, was published by Giraffe Books. She is working on her second book. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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