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Things You Need To Know About Being A Writer, Part 3:

This is borne out of my experience and I am putting it up here in case it may be of interest to you. It may not necessarily reflect your experience or ideas but whether it does or not, please feel free to comment and have a good dscussion going. 🙂 There are five points in each part, you should be able to find links to part 1 and 2 in the Related Posts section below.

On with the show:

  • RATES:
    You are going to have to calculate what your rates will be. This can be a bit traumatic. The best way to do it is to be absolutely honest about your expenses. Try to calculate your total expenses on a week basis then multiply by 48 so you have an option of taking a month long vacation.  Now you have an idea of what your total income for the year needs to be in order to just break even.  Then decide how many hours a week you are working – 40 hours for full time, 20 hours for part time. Divide your weekly expenses by this number and you will have the minimum rate you need to charge to break even provided you get work for all those 20 or 40 hours every week, week in, week out. You will not get enough work to keep you busy when you first start out and work depends on you spending a lot of time chasing potential jobs and clients down. Doing this can be the equivalent of a permanent job hunt. So charge accordingly and remember to check the guidelines posted by any editing or writing unions and societies. Then try to think of your target market and what they would prefer to pay. Ask them what they can afford to pay. Ask them what they are willing to pay. Remember to account for expenses you haven’t taken into account yet such as tickets to networking events, printer cartridges and so on. Don’t offer discounts unless you have a specific policy about who you can offer them to. I offer discounts to undergraduates because I consider that most of the money they get has to be spent on rent and so on. I can’t offer a discount to postgraduates because it does take a lot of time to help them with theses, dissertations and papers that are bigger than 5000 words. this may be what you love to do but treat it like a business. Or it will never be a business.
  • SOCIETIES & UNIONS:
    Join them. Even if the membership rates make you freak out and the people you meet are not always nice. You pick up contacts, tips, ideas and then sometimes you get asked to contribute. You get information as to what rates you need to charge and employment rights and conditions. They also give you access to laws, guidelines and rules you need to follow when you are writing, signing contracts, negotiating payment and so on. They also maintain freelance registers and can be the first point of contact for people looking for your kind of services.
  • TRADE JOURNALS:

    Always be up to date on what is happening in your field. While societies and unions are a great way to do this, think about how much more you can find out in your field from who’s working where with what company to what kind of work is out there and anything else that might be relevant. They can often take a bit of work to find and can be a bit steep in price for a subscription but they are worth it and can often surprise you. For anyone looking for the Australian publishing industry trade journal, it is called the Weekly Book Newsletter and is published by Thorpe Bowker.
  • JOB BOARDS & SITES:

    These are the sites that list freelance work. Usually you sign up and get an account or a profile and put up all your relevant information and maybe a portfolio. Sometimes you take tests to assess your skills in certain areas. Then you start looking through the jobs and you bid for the ones you’d like to work on. Usually, the people looking to hire freelancers pay for the job or project listing but there are ones out there where the freelancer has to pay to see the jobs listed. If you get accepted for a bid you put forward, you work with the employer and give them status reports. At the end of the work, you are paid through the website by ESCROW into an account, out of which you get a cheque every so often.  There are sites out there that list work and projects for free – you just have to find them. I will post a list very soon.

  • GET A WEBSITE:
    It can be worth paying for a domain name. This works best if you have an ABN as you get it for cheaper. Put up your rules, your payment methods, your services, your portfolio, your resume and then add content that keeps people coming back and interested. If you write articles, let people know where to find them if you can’t reprint them on your site. If you publish something, let people know where to buy it or if they can buy via your site. Make your site match your letterheads and business cards. Design it so it is easy to navigate, easy to find what they want to find, easy to hire you to work for them and easy to maintain. Learn enough so that you can design your site yourself if you don’t want to hire someone else to do it. Learn how to submit your site to search engines or to have it show up in search results, ranking sites and networking sites like facebook. Build up a fanbase online of other writers. Link to them and to organisation sites and forums. Get your RSS feed if you have one, on a relevant planet which is a feed of collected feeds from weblogs/websites with a similar topic or subject. These are also called RSS aggregators, blog aggregators and community aggregators. I get most of my hits from these planet sites – in particular, one called Kottu which is an aggregator for Sri Lankan weblogs. I have yet to find one devoted to the topic of writing which annoysme because I don’t think I have the energy at the moment to start one.

That’s it for Part 3 and I hope it was helpful. Please do feel free to toss your opinions in. Stay tuned for Part 4 sometime in the near future because there is so  much more to come …

Cheers, Marisa.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.

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