What Goes into a Writing Project (Besides Just Writing)?

Anything involving the creative process is never just the physical ACT of creating. Usually that’s the LAST step in the creative process. Some times people on the business end (clients, account managers etc) don’t always understand how this process functions. I always try to make potential clients aware of what is entailed with completing a project.

Besides writing creating a finished product involves:

  • Creating a concept
  • Carrying out Research
  • Initial Consulting with the client about the project
  • Proofreading and editing
  • Making Revisions to drafts
  • Communicating with you (phone, conference, fax, email, etc)

It’s important to remember that all of those steps are BILLABLE steps. Now you know honesty is the best policy. You shouldn’t spend two hours concepting and an extra hour Facebooking and call it three hours. That being said if you’re struggling to come up with a concept and it requires a lot of research it’s not unheard of to take two  hours to research a new topic, fact check, and then if it’s a toughy concepting an approach could take another hour or two…and you haven’t even picked up a pen to start drafting yet.

When giving clients estimates factoring in these extra steps will make sure that you’re being accurately compensated for your time and prevent overages that’ll cause frustration on both ends.  Plus it’s also important to keep in mind a few other things:

  • Building content “from scratch” takes longer (and therefore costs more) than just editing existing copy.
  • Writing content that is search engine optimized is more difficult and time consuming than web content writing that is not concerned with search results.
  • Complex projects, products, and services require more time to research and write.
  • Large sites with many pages, tabs, and nice little nooks and crannies that need to be filled with content will take longer and therefore cost more than simple websites.
  • Sites that are consistently changing may requires on-going web content writing to keep content up to date.

I actually include some of this important information on my business website to make sure that my clients are informed about what my rates include and to create an understanding of what they are asking me to accomplish. I think being upfront is the best way to do business because it builds mutual trust, and mutual trust leads to…repeat clients (and more profit! Yay!)

Did I miss anything? What about non-writing freelancers? What else is involved in your process besides the obvious?

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Freelance Reflections 6/27: Freelancing for Free? Yes or No?

Recently I was approached to do a volunteer freelance project for a small charity trying to update and redesign their website.  I accepted and offered to do it completely for free. WHAT?! I know. Free. People said I was crazy, that I should have charged a nominal fee. As a first year freelancer I was immediately conflicted about this decision after the initial response I’d received from others about it. 

It got me thinking about how others might feel when asked to complete a project for nothing. After all, the adage, “Time is Money” is definitely true for freelancers. The more we work the more make and the sooner we can increase our rates as we collect more and more experience. 

In the end I stuck to my guns and completed the project for free and came to the conclusion that really it’s no one’s business if I offer to lend my skills out to a cause that I believe in for nothing. In fact, I did get paid but not in the way that most people expected. In personal satisfaction.

I know, I can’t live off of satisfaction and I wouldn’t recommend anyone offering to volunteer their services if they don’t have enough income to take care of themselves but once I’d finished the project I felt great. So often in freelancing we’re called to complete tasks for clients and we don’t really get to pick and choose who we write for and what we write. This charity happened to be something very personal to me and the opportunity to help them and make a difference is something I don’t come across often. 

Also, the gratitude expressed by the Director of the charity was extremely motivating. They were so grateful for the help, they gave me a fantastic testimonial, and I know for a fact that they will be getting in touch with me in the future for other work and recommending me to people as well. Good press is always good to get, and when it comes with feeling like a hero it’s hard to miss the money I would have made had I charged them. This will open doors to other opportunities down the line and establish professional relationships that will surely help my business grow. 

So Freelancing for Free? I say yes but depending on the project and what you’re being asked to do. Also setting up a boundary for revisions is essential. My maximum is three for paying clients but for pro bono assignments I would probably only allow two rounds of free revisions. After that I say my hourly rate kicks in which is a good way to keep pro bono assignments from dragging on for forever.

What do we think? Have you had any bad or good freelancing projects where you worked pro bono? 

6 Freelance Writing Websites You Need To Know About

I’m a firm believer in getting your foot in the door. As a first year freelancer that means you may have to take projects that don’t pay fantastically so that you can get the street cred necessary to build your freelancing business. A great way of doing this is by getting involved in some online freelancing websites and developing the habit of seeking out new clients regularly. Once Write Away Freelance LLC officially opened it’s doors in March all I wanted was to get out there and build my portfolio and gain experience with the whole three step process (i.e. 1. Find Clients 2. Write Stuff 3. Profit). Here are some notables that you should look into when you start writing as a freelancer:

1.) Freelancewriting.com – This website is your best friend. Not only do they have TONS of resources available, they also post jobs, tell you know when magazines are asking for submissions and have regular articles and job leads that are invaluable to freelancers.

 2.) Scripted.com – Great for newbies to the freelancing gig. They have good pay rates for first timer’s  they pay on time, there’s a lot of job diversity, the opportunity to become Favorited and receive specialized work from clients who like you, you can advance and become experts in certain criteria after a certain time, it’s great and the application process isn’t that grueling. They will ask you to do a grammar test, they will ask for writing samples but by and large their  process is pretty pain-free.

 3.) Onlinewritingjobs.com– Also great for newcomers, rates are a little low for my liking but I started with them when Write Away Freelance had JUST started and now I’ve got a regular client through them for work that’s pretty easy regular money in an industry that I want to get into more closely so I’d say give them a try too. They do require a writing test which isn’t too scary and expect to learn a lot about SEO there, they’re big on having their writer’s integrate SEO keywords which is a great place to start so you can learn about SEO without having to be an expert going in. Nice amount of job diversity as well.

4.) FreelancersUnion.org – I’m a firm believer in do-it-myself crafts but it’s nice to have someone to guide me through using tools so I don’t saw off a vital bit (i.e….thumb…or leg). Freelancing is much the same way, and one of the best resources that I’ve found for first time freelancers is Freelancers Union. I make it a point to read their e-newletters when they come out, they are always answering a question I have, or maybe one I hadn’t considered.  They also can get you insurance and other benefits so it’s worth checking them out if you’re looking for a resource for that.

 5.) Bloggingpro.com – Specifically, their job board here is active and there are a lot of posts for people looking for web content, content curation, social media specialists, really anything related to web writing. I’ve gotten some good leads from here. Unfortunately it’s not really helpful for freelancers in other disciplines.

 6.) Journalismjobscom – Another one primarily geared towards writers. I happen to love this website because there is a tremendous amount of job diversity here from PR to Non-Profits and a lot more. So if you want to gain experience in a certain niche area this is a good place to look.

 

Anyone else have freelance resources? Post them in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

What First Year Freelancers Don’t Know About Taxes

So maybe you’ve started an LLC, or a Sole Proprietorship or some other business entity (if you haven’t done this yet as a freelancer I highly recommend that you do, and more on this later). You’ve heard tales of massive deductions, and rumors that “everything is a business write off” PLUG YOUR EARS RIGHT NOW.  Stop listening to the crazy.

First of all, the IRS will know the receipt for fuzzy bunny slippers you bought are definitely NOT a business expense so let’s be clear about this from the beginning. You want to start off and continue to be honest about your business expenses from the very beginning. Why? Because it’s simpler that way come tax time. Imagine that your business money and your personal money are in two completely separate dimensions. If you want some spending cash from all that profit you’re making write yourself a paycheck and deposit it into your personal bank account. Trust me, your accountant will thank you, and you will thank you if you get audited.

Now. Deductions.  I am a writer (well, duh, Rez) and I know NOTHING about taxes other than I need to do them or end up like Al Capone (yes, famous kick ass bootlegger and scary American gangster booked for the wimpiest crime ever). I do know that deductions are out there the questions are, What can I deduct? How much can I deduct? How are my business taxes calculated? Since I can’t answer this myself I went to someone who could.  My accountant.

As a first time business owner make sure you make friends with your accountant, because they’ll  be the people who’ve got your back come tax time and they are a great source for answering tough questions like this.  So after trading a few emails back and forth here’s the upshot:

 

How much of what I make as a freelancer is subject to income tax?

Short answer, ALL of what you make is subject to income tax, which is dependent not only on the federal rates but also the state rates as well. So factor that in before you make any purchases. A lot of companies meet quarterly to pay their taxes four times a year instead of doing it all in one shot which is a lot easier for freelancers since it fractures up paying those taxes into manageable chunks. It also shows you how you’re progressing since for many freelancers in the first year you’re not going to know how you’ll fall profit wise.

Are there any additional taxes I should know about?

Well if you make over $400 as a freelancer you’ll also be responsible for paying a self-employment tax which currently as of 2014 is 15.3%.

So, how do deductions work exactly?

The answer is a bit back to front but bear with me. Net earnings are the total earnings minus allowable deductions. This is why keeping a separate checkbook is so important.  If you don’t know what an allowable deduction is then ask your accountant otherwise you could be making purchases and then still be responsible for paying taxes on top of that which would be a really nasty surprise.

What are some deductions I can definitely take?

If you work from home, you can take an estimated portion of your cell phone and/or internet connection costs as being related to your freelancing business, and if you need to use your car for anything related to business keep track of your miles.  Office supplies, paper, ink, business cards, any advertising you do for your business are all deductible. If you mail anything business related, the postage is an allowable deduction.

If you buy a new computer for your business, then it is deductible but over FIVE years so you can only claim one fifth of what you spend for this first year.

Many people think that checks to themselves are deductible but they ARE NOT.

What about Insurance deductions?

If you carry liability insurance for this it’s deductible. If you have your own health insurance it will be partially deductible whether or not you have a profit or loss at the end of the year.

So there you have it!  And if you need more information about this definitely check out the IRS website for more information.

 

 

IRS Website for Small Businesses and Self Employed