Running a home-based writing business is a great way to make a living. It allows one to be creative, flexible, and above all, it allows for a certain amount of freedom.
There remains however, some things that anybody who runs any size of business can get out of; client management. Without clients you have no business, and without your business, it’s back to the drawing board.
There are several key points all freelance writers should remember, in order to stay organised, stress-free, and legally covered. None are hard to implement, but one should work hard at sticking to the following basic guidelines:
Get It In Writing First
It goes without saying that contracts are a vital tool if you want to be a successful freelance writer. Having a standard contract detailing your terms of work, deliverables, and billing procedures, sets client expectations and means you will be taken seriously.
Always ask for the contract to be signed and dated, and provide a copy for your client for their own records. Any further agreements should be placed in a superseding contract.
Template contracts are readily available from the Internet, but a good one can be adapted from the example provided by Peter Bowerman in his book, The Well-Fed Writer.
Set Your Payment Schedule In Advance
There’s nothing more unprofessional than an unprepared freelance writer. When asked how much a job will cost, a client wants to hear confidence, reliability, and professionalism, more than they do a bottom-rate charge. Good clients know how much good writers cost, so set your rate card in advance and stick to it.
Working for free or severely discounted rates not only damages your reputation, but it leaves you open to being taken advantage of. Nobody will take you seriously, and it hurts the industry as a whole, especially for those writers who do charge market rates for work that you have offered to do for next to nothing.
Clients try many tricks to get payments down to a minimum, so always remain aware of slick persuasive tactics. Don’t become over friendly, and keep the relationship business-like and professional. This includes when asking for payment, and sticking to the terms of the contract they have already signed.
Set Reasonable Deadlines
Never be pressurised into agreeing to work at a shortened timescale, when you know you will struggle to complete it. It’s far better to complete a project well within an agreed deadline than after it, because the client will likely not use you again.
Until you are very experienced, always be prudent with your time estimates for work to completion, and incorporate revision and research time within the original estimate.
If a client has a non-debatable deadline in which he is looking for your help to meet, it may be a good tactical move to rearrange other work to accommodate him. If there is room for altering one or two other deadlines to meet a client’s urgent request, they will be delighted when you are seen to be bending over backwards to help.
Obviously, this scenario will result in a higher percentage fee for the client, so have a line detailing this in your contract.
Be Comfortable Saying ‘No’
Sometimes it’s all too easy to agree to take work, especially when you start to do well and the money begins to roll in. But it’s not always a good idea to take on too much work if you don’t want to hurt the relationships you have built up with your clients.
Not only will you end up working 20-hour days, but the quality of your work will deteriorate, you will lose your focus, your clients, and probably lose your head. Money isn’t everything, and the business won’t grow any faster.
Saying ‘No’ is as important as saying ‘Yes,’ and further down the line you will be glad you struck a balance. Working for oneself is supposed to permit a certain amount of freedom, so don’t blow that by agreeing to every project that comes along. Your body will thank you for it, and believe it or not, clients will respect you for it. If they really want you, they will wait until you can schedule them in or pay you to reschedule them in.
Allow Downtime for Administration
Being a self-employed freelance writer means more than typing out articles, sales copy, or web content. You are the director, the manager, the employee, the cleaner, the accountant, the marketing executive, the secretary, and even the cleaner. In short, the success of your business depends on you!
In order to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently, you must build in a certain amount of time each week for administrative tasks. It helps if you can develop as smooth a process as possible for keeping track of all your work, looking for more work, and managing cash flow.
Whatever process you settle on, stick to it religiously but don’t be afraid to adapt it if it needs fixing. Falling behind will get you into a mess very quickly, and you will only spend more time than you can afford untangling the mess and fixing all the problems. An unorganised freelance writer rarely gets work, is never taken seriously, and loses clients faster than hot cakes from a baker’s shop.