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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Risks in Freelance Writing

Making Money by Writing

Given the right talent, the right dedication, and the right opportunities, freelancing is way better than "traditional office work". As I've told Ed Prashant, one of my most valuable clients, "we're not merely freelance writers." 

We're thought provokers. We're not merely word factories. We sell ideas and not words. 
The Risks in Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is a business. It is you, the human capital that is the "object" of the business. The articles are your products. As a business - it is therefore, highly risky. I've learned that lesson the hard way. 


On March 16, 2010, I had a client that did NOT pay me for 15,000 words. That's the equivalent of two days work. In my contract - that was worth $52.90

Yes, it can happen. 

I was given the task of writing about bunk beds and thinsulate gloves. One can only guess at what to write about bunk beds and thinsulate gloves right? 

It was agonizing work. 

The only motivation I had was money. Apparently the man had a vast network of interconnected blogs and websites. Each website would then have my dead words. It was repetitive, it was torture to a writer. 

The man seemed ambivalent to my existence as he gave out instructions and assignments piecemeal. This kept me from completing the project on time because the assignment instructions were always incomplete. Every time I tried to communicate, he would simply be unavailable. When he does communicate back, it would take 1 to 2 days, and he only does so to give out new assignments without paying for the first ones. 

It stretched my patience to the limit. Today, was the day that I finished half of the project. He said that he would no longer renew my contract. That was agreeable and I told him that I respected the decision. But - he must pay for finished work. 

He didn't. Now I am contemplating on filing a dispute against him.

Tips for those who want to start 
Making Money by Writing:

1. Select a reputable freelancing website that offers a dispute resolution system
The reputation of a website hinges on its ability to:
  • ensure payment to the service provider/seller (you) and,
  • its ability to ensure that the service buyer (the client) meets the standards that he or she requires. 
2. Find a client who is reputable:
A client who is reputable a.) communicates regularly, b.) gives instructions correctly, accurately and timely, c.) has a lot of feedback from people who also have feedbacks, d.) acts reputably.
3. As a freelance writer, conduct yourself with the highest professional standard. Keep excel sheets of records and provide reports to update your client with the progress of your work. If it is possible, maintain a regular regimen. Remember some of your clients actually do have brick and mortar offices. Think about how you would feel if you were the boss, what would you like? 

4. Keep your promises. It's that simple. Keep your promises. Don't make promises you can't keep for anything. 

What to do if you encounter bad clients

1. Be professional, never get angry. The bad client that I have now wants me to be angry by taunting me, not paying me, giving me more work while doing all that. Since I have some experience with some of the psychologically toughest people on the planet I have the capability of writing almost with medical detachment. 

* One good tip to keep you from bursting out in anger is to imagine how Spock would speak or write for that matter. 
* Remember: WWSW (What would Spock write?)

2. While doing number one,  keep verifiable records of correspondence between you and your client. If possible use the website's private messaging function to submit your work. This serves two purposes. It provides a verifiable proof for the dispute resolution system to acknowledge. And it serves as evidence with date, time and the message itself to prove what is going on.  

In the end, freelance writing is not about doing lousy work at home and earning big bucks. It is providing service that should be worthy of payment. Think about how you would feel, if a McDonald's crew spat on your burger and asks you to pay for it.

Always empathize.  

As a rookie freelancer who is making money by writing, I know that I will encounter a lot of people who will take advantage of my services. 

The technique as my friend Anthony would say is "to separate the good from the bad".
There will always be bad clients. Always. Do justice to what they require and move on.

When you find the good, always make it a point to give them more than what they asked for. Because they simply are the ones who will make your freelance writing career worthwhile and enjoyable.
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