Monday, 20 April 2015

In the Long Run

Who truly knows where the path leads?

Repeat clients are a freelance writers' best friend. When you build up trust and a dependable working relationship with someone it's a win-win situation. They know they can rely on you to produce the content they need, on time and on budget. You, on the other hand, are happy to prioritise their needs because they have clearly defined requirements, give relevant direction and pay their invoices promptly. It's like the end of a rom-com movie, only without the kitsch.

However, working relationships are not something you can ever afford to take for granted - pun intended. Situations change, editors move on and all businesses are subject, to a greater or lesser degree, to market forces. As a wise project manager once told me: always have a Plan B.

Your freelance what-if strategy needs to take into account the following questions:
1.     What if the client decides they want something different?
2.     What if I could increase the rate?
3.     What if there were other ideas I could pitch to them?

Not so long ago I faced all three questions with the same client. It started when I reviewed my rates and realised that I'd written over 20,000 words for the same editor. I approached the editor carefully, by which I mean I was succinct and that I led with the benefits of continuing our business arrangement. The editor agreed to a percentage increase so quickly that I could have kicked myself for not doing it sooner.

However, having reviewed my contributions, the editor also decided that it was time to retire one of my magazine columns. Foul play? Not at all. She went on to explain that most monthly columns do not extend beyond two years - like mine had - and that she would continue to need occasional top-up pieces.

More encouragingly, she was now keen to hear if I had any other column proposals (which I did, naturally), so now there's a potential opportunity to research and write about a completely different topic. I also have around 17,000 words of content that I can repurpose or offer as second rights material.

If you remember nothing else:
1.     Know your own worth, which lies somewhere between what you think you're worth and what your client thinks your work is worth to them.
2.     Don't rest on your laurels. Change is inevitable. Be prepared and be ready to take advantage of new opportunities (and the gaps left by old ones coming to an end).
3.     Push yourself in your writing. My 17,000 words and 30 columns began with a piece about our chickens and grew to encompass composting, recycling, foraging, water management, gardening, grow-your-own, herbs, making a mini-meadow, and much more besides.
4.     Be professional. Anyone who reads this blog will know that over the years I've made some clangers worthy of a campanology for beginners workshop. Even so, if freelancing is your business and your livelihood you need to take a mature, long-term view. Today's stupid client could be tomorrow's work reference!

Take heed. In the long run, you'll thank me for it.

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