Monday, November 3, 2008

How to Avoid the 'Free' in Freelance Writing

When was the last time you were asked to write for free? It may be to help out a charity, to kick off a new enterprise or to assist an ezine that promised publication in lieu of payment. Here's three ways to ensure your writing isn't taken for granted and for free.

Writing for free is an issue that faces every freelancer at some time in their career. Generally at the beginning. Often, that's the only way newcomers feel they can launch their career or business.

Let's face it. Most writers are hired on their track record ~ successful projects they have worked on or articles they have written ~ but how do you get started without a track record?

For some, it's a matter of persistence, playing the numbers game. For others, the answer is to write for free. When you're starting out, you can write your first few articles for free or for a reduced fee. It gives newbies a chance to develop their skills, hone the craft, and the 'employer' gets the benefit of their effort. In this case, it's a win-win for both parties.

The problem with continuing this approach when you are a profesional is that it devalues not only the writer's work but also the industry as a whole. You only have to look as close as the Internet to see what value is placed on the writing process.

Many Web sites and ezines offer to publish your work but do not offer to pay for it. Their 'payment' is publication. Many content providers expect writers to produce copy for next to nothing. Their mentality ~ and that of a large proportion of the online community ~ is that information is free, and so why should they pay for it to be presented professionally.

So how do you convince businesses to pay for something that they can get for free elsewhere?

You need to demonstrate the benefits of working with a professional. Here's three simple ways you can help change your next client's thinking:

1. Promote yourself.

Promote the sites you've worked on, the clips you have amassed and the satisfied customers you have worked with, both online and offline. Success breeds success. I have worked with a number of large and well-known clients, and I make sure that new clients know that, and they know the results I have gained for them.

2. Develop a profile.

Contribute to online forums, publish a regular ezine, write an ebook. Make a name for yourself. Your opinion will be worth more if you do. 'Celebrities' and 'authorities' don't come cheap, and they never come free. This is a good way to attract new business and to command an attractive rate.

3. Think benefits.

Whether you are hiring a writer, buying a new car or even going out for dinner -- you're not thinking about the provider, you're thinking about yourself. What I am saying is that you -- as the consumer -- are thinking about 'what's in it for me'. People are not interested in products and services, they are interested in solutions. And the same applies to your prospective client. He's thinking about what's in it for him. So it's your job to not promote so much who you are but what you can do for him . . . by lifting the product's market share, improving the company's presence, or improving customer service through good copywriting.

And the best way you can convince him is by showing rather than telling him. Make sure that all of your communications are professional and punctual. Offer case studies of work you have done which clearly shows the benefits of working with you.

Smart business people will realize that while they have to pay for your work, they will benefit by saving time and/or making money. Either way you slice it, your job as a professional is to convince another professionals that investing in you is investing in the future success of their business.

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