The freelancer’s short guide to getting paid

May 20, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 12 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

getting paidRecently, I wrote about freelance contracts, the point being to weed out bad clients at the beginning of a project and improve the odds of getting paid.

But what happens when a client doesn’t pay on time or refuses to pay altogether?

Let’s begin by looking at the right way to invoice for your freelance services.

After you’ve completed your work, make sure the client is happy and has received everything you have promised. This is important because you may think you’re finished when, actually, the client has a few extra changes to make.

Also, if you send documents by email, there’s always the chance they will get caught in a spam filter or may get lost in a client’s in-box.

Once you’ve confirmed the project is truly finished and your client is satisfied, send your invoice within a few days. There’s something irritating about sending a bill too soon, but you don’t want to drag it out either.

I create my invoices in OpenOffice from a template, save them as a PDF, and email them as an attachment. I add the words “Please confirm receipt” at the top of my email message and use the delivery status notification and return receipt features in my Thunderbird email program. Again, you want to be sure the email gets through.

In most cases, your invoice will be paid on time. But if it’s not, here are some tips:

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7 elements of a solid freelance copywriting contract

May 17, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 15 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance copywriting contractFreelance copywriters can be a bit shy about the business end of freelancing, especially when it comes to contracts.

That’s because most freelancers are writers first and business people second.

But contracts are an essential part of any copywriting business. Why? Three reasons:

1. A contract helps you set a businesslike tone at the beginning of a project.

2. A contract specifies and clarifies your responsibilities and the obligations of your client, primarily the work you will do and what the client will pay.

3. A contract acts as a screening device to weed out bad clients.

For me, that last point is the most important.

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Are you the job type or the freelance type?

April 15, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 12 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

job or freelance typeIf you want to make a career of copywriting, should you look for a full-time job or strike out on your own as a freelancer?

Good question.

With the economy the way it is, there’s a lot of curiosity about freelancing. So much so that I created a copywriter information center on my business site with quite a bit of information about this.

Over my career, I’ve done both the job thing and the freelance thing and have come to the conclusion that freelancing is what I like best.

I earn good money, set my own hours, and don’t have to deal with the stress of traffic, corporate politics, and an office full of idiots and suck-ups.

Oh, and no ties. I hate ties. I work in jeans and Hawaiian shirts (which I love but my wife thinks are ugly). Yes, I know I’m wearing a tie in my publicity photo, but I did it just that once. And with therapy, I’ve recovered fairly well.

But that’s just me. What’s best for you?

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15 little secrets your freelance clients won’t tell you

March 1, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 10 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance client secretsDo you remember that episode of Gilligan’s Island when Gilligan discovered a bush on the island with seeds that make it possible to read minds?

No? Well, I do. And it was a disaster.

At first, it was an amusing trick. But pretty soon, when everyone knew what everyone else was really thinking about them, it got nasty. Even Mary Ann got pissed off.

Well, I think it’s for the best that we can’t read minds. Too much truth isn’t good for anyone.

But it would be nice if you could swallow just one little mind reading seed to get a taste of what some of your clients might be thinking about you.

Would you like to give that a try? Here we go …

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CrowdSPRING cattle call: “Work for FREE, suckers!”

February 15, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 15 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance cattle callIf you’re a designer, you’ve probably heard of CrowdSPRING. If you’re a writer, you’re going to hear of them soon.

They’ve been around since 2008 and have billed themselves as a way for freelance designers to access a worldwide market, and an affordable way for small and medium-sized businesses to get logos and graphic design quickly and affordably. Now they’re expanding into freelance writing services.

Sounds great, right? That depends on your point of view.

From the point of view of hobbyists, stay-at-home-moms, out-of-work creatives, students, and desperate freelancers, CrowdSPRING probably sounds like a pretty good idea. From the point of view of a professional, the idea is pernicious and borderline unethical.

What CrowdSPRING is really doing is sounding a freelance cattle. They’re automating the spec work concept. They want to convince you to work for free … and like it!

Here’s how it works.

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11 quick ways to kickstart your slow freelance business

January 25, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 12 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

skanky old bathrobeHow long has it been since someone called with a paying project? A week? Two? Welcome to the life of freelance copywriting.

Unpredictable workflow goes with the territory. One week you’re scrambling to write all the sales letters, brochures, and web pages you’ve been hire for, the next you’re knocking around in your skanky old bathrobe waiting for the phone to ring.

Don’t worry about it. Even the very best freelancers go through times when business is slow. Depending on your reasons for freelancing, you might even consider these mini-vacations a perk.

Then again, if you’re like me, those occasional slow periods can also freak you out. Sure, I have plenty of money in the bank to tide me over, but I’m happier when I’m working. And frankly, so is my wife. She is no fan of that skanky old bathrobe.

So what can you do?

Down time gives you the ideal opportunity to do a little marketing. In fact, there are some quick and easy ways to kickstart your slow freelance business and generate paying copywriting projects.

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Translating freelance “Client Speak” into plain English

January 18, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 14 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

client speakFreelance copywriters face many challenges, especially when they just start out. One of those challenges is understanding the special language used by business clients, which I call “Client Speak.”

Client Speak shares many common traits with standard English, with one notable exception: All the words have a different meaning.

This may sound like it would cause confusion. But all it takes is a little experience, and you’ll be able to translate Client Speak all on your own.

Here are just a few examples of common phrases and their English translations.

“We’ve already invested a lot in this.”

Translation: We’ve wasted a pile of money on cheap writers and trying to do it ourselves. We’re screwed. I mean, totally screwed. Now we’re looking for someone with serious expertise to save our ass for dirt cheap.

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Are you making this career-killing freelance mistake?

January 8, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 5 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

Freelancing is a seat-of-the pants operation. You can buy a dozen ebooks and attend every freelance seminar that comes along. But in the end, you have to figure out how to make it work for you.

And you’re going to make mistakes. Lots of mistakes.

Fortunately, most of those mistakes are little ones, such as buying the wrong printer or under-pricing a project.

But there’s one mistake you don’t want to make, because it’s a doozy. In fact, it can be a freelance career killer. Yes, you can recover from it if you discover it soon enough. But it’s better to avoid it altogether because of the misery it brings.

What is this deadly freelance mistake? It’s all about how you answer a simple question: As a freelance copywriter, do you sell a product or sell a service?

The wrong answer will lead you down a difficult career path. It will get you involved with the wrong clients, create the wrong kind of reputation, destroy your self-confidence, and crush your paycheck.

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11 insider secrets for becoming a freelance pro

December 30, 2009 by Dean Rieck · 8 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

freelance secretsMost writers are trained to think in terms of putting in 40 hours a week and taking home a paycheck. But to succeed as a freelance copywriter, you must make a shift from the paycheck mentality to the professional mentality.

There’s a lot of information out there about freelancing, but not all of it is helpful for making a living as a freelance copywriter. Here are 11 “insider” secrets I’ve found that make the difference between the freelance hobbyist and the freelance professional.

1. Think like a professional. Whether you want to earn a little extra income on the side or go full-blown freelance, you should consider yourself in the same class as all other professionals, worthy of the same respect and income.

2. Ignore most of the advice from the freelance “industry.” Many magazines, books, and online sources give bad advice for those wanting to make money at freelancing. You must carefully weigh the advice you get, choosing to follow only what you know will further your business interests.

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How I gave my freelance website a profitable makeover

December 4, 2009 by Dean Rieck · 1 Comment
Filed under: Freelancing 

Freelance Websites — Part 5

freelance website secretsYou’ve heard the saying about the cobbler having holes in his shoes, right? Likewise, business people are often the last to take their own marketing advice. And I’m as guilty as they come.

A few years ago, I dumped my dorky old website and created a new site from scratch. Yes, I did it all myself. I wanted to learn HTML and other Web stuff because I knew this would become more important in my line of work.

So I bought a book on HTML, sketched ideas for my site, created graphics, took photos, did a little Photoshop magic, and cranked out a new site. It was light-years ahead of my previous site and began generating business right away.

I found that it did its job so well, I no longer had to send out samples or answer a lot of questions when potential clients called me. They were pre-sold and ready to do business.

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