Planning for Freelance Writers

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Alan Brown Science Writers in New York Career Night talk focused on the difference between goals and plans, how to set and achieve financial goals, and how to develop some of the skills –- networking, …

Alan Brown Science Writers in New York Career Night talk focused on the difference between goals and plans, how to set and achieve financial goals, and how to develop some of the skills –- networking, negotiating, pitching, and simply dealing with anxiety –- that help writers succeed in freelance writing.

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  • 1. Planning for Freelance Writers Alan S Brown [email_address]
  • 2. Background
    • Freelanced 25 years (technology)
    • Couple years in dot.com
    • For main types of work
      • Newsletters
      • Magazines
      • Corporate/PR
      • Market research
  • 3. What is Planning?
    • Some questions…
      • Can you estimate accurately how much money you will make this year?
      • What constitutes a good income? $50K? $75K? $100K? A spouse with benefits?
      • How many of you are making good income?
      • Who knows what steps you are going to take to make the income you want?
  • 4. What is Planning?
    • Financial (CATS)
      • Clients
      • Assignments
      • Time
      • Subject expertise
  • 5. What is Planning?
    • Skills (NNAPS)
      • Networking
      • Negotiating
      • Anxiety
      • Pitching
      • Style
  • 6. What is Planning?
    • Three steps
      • Assessment: Where do I stand today?
      • Goals: What do I want tomorrow?
      • Actions: What steps do I take to make that happen
  • 7. Freelancer’s Dilemma
    • Boom or Bust
  • 8. Freelancer’s Dilemma
    • Solution: regular assignments
  • 9. Freelancer’s Dilemma
    • Overcapacity
  • 10. Freelancer’s Dilemma
    • Overcapacity
  • 11. Freelancer’s Dilemma
    • Dependency
  • 12. Freelancer’s Response
    • Newsletters/Websites
      • Short (250-500 words) articles
      • Very regular
      • Always important part of income
        • High-Tech Materials
        • Advanced Coatings
        • Performance Materials
  • 13. Freelancer’s Response
    • Magazine Features
      • Regular clients
      • Broad subject range (no accident)
        • Hidden costs of Chinese manufacturing
        • Polishing semiconductor wafers
        • Biometric security technology
        • Internal predictive markets
        • Brain control of prosthetics
  • 14. Freelancer’s Response
    • Corporate/PR
      • Brochures, news releases, features
      • Company-sponsored magazines
      • Software to SABIC
      • Hourly rates ($75-95/hr)
      • Retainers (for set # hours)
  • 15. Freelancer’s Response
    • Market Research Reports
      • Technology & market research
      • Freelancers write many
      • 6-12 weeks research & interviews
      • Pays $4-12,000/report
      • Opportunistic
        • Polyethyleneimide
        • Fluoropolymer coatings
        • Electronic Plastics
      • www.marketresearch.com
  • 16. Freelancer’s Response
    • Why diversify?
  • 17. Freelancer’s Response
    • Find relationships, not assignments
      • Take less $ for steady income
        • Less $ anxiety -- always pay rent
        • More confidence to seek better assignments (not do or die)
      • Time/pay not always commensurate
        • Go overboard to lock relationships
        • Can always trade up
        • Can always slum
  • 18. Freelancer’s Response
    • What editors want
      • Consistently good
      • Quick response to issues
      • Exceed expectations
      • Style
      • Oh wow
  • 19. Freelancer’s Response
    • Key: Other thoughts
      • Time management will take care of itself
      • Stretch into new subjects and types of writing
      • Be easy to work with
  • 20. Goals
    • Financial: $10K/month
      • 75% of that from steady work
      • One good new client
    • More medical writing
    • Pitch consumer magazines
    • Learn Web design
  • 21. Assessment
    • Diversification
  • 22. Assessment
    • Financial planning
  • 23. Assessment
    • Financial planning
  • 24. Assessment
    • Financial planning
  • 25. Planning
    • Want to make $10K/month
    • Need to close $3K/mo gap
      • Can do it with 1-2 good new clients
        • This may take several months
      • Can do it with one-two features/mo
        • What can I pitch?
        • Who do I pitch?
        • Figure on 2-4 months lag
  • 26. Planning
    • Who do I pitch?
      • Existing & past clients
        • Lots of holiday greeting e-mails
        • Mail out some jokes or articles
      • Editors
        • Publishers have several magazines
        • Ask for recommendations
      • Other writers
        • Some are very helpful
      • Writers Market, Wooden Horse, Media Bistro
      • NASW, SWINY, ASJA lists
      • Search engines
      • PR & Advertising agencies
  • 27. Planning
    • What do I pitch
      • Leverage industrial background
        • Anything that catches my fancy
      • AARP on knee & hip replacements
      • NJ Monthly on regional wines
      • Science education
  • 28. Planning: NNAPS
    • Skills (NNAPS)
      • Networking
      • Negotiating
      • Anxiety
      • Pitching
      • Style
  • 29. Planning: NNAPS
    • Networking
      • Plan ahead to find a way in
      • Only network with people you like
      • Include editors, fellow writers
      • Find ways to stay in touch
        • E-mail news articles
        • E-mail jokes
        • Occasionally ask what’s up
  • 30. Planning: NNAPS
    • Anxiety
      • Have friends
      • Find situations that make you feel good
      • Know which editors love you even if they can’t afford you
      • Bounce back from the bad
  • 31. Planning: NNAPS
    • Style
      • Read the best
      • Steal from the best
      • Learn why you like what you like
      • Practice – tell stories
      • Find ways to sneak it in
  • 32. Planning: NNAPS
    • Pitching
      • Pitching to someone you don’t know is like cold calling in sales
      • Increase the odds
        • know what they published before
        • know reader profile (media kit)
        • suggest several topics
        • promise more details if interested
  • 33. Planning: NNAPS
    • Pitching
      • Pitching to someone you don’t know is like cold calling in sales
      • Increase the odds
        • know what they published before
        • know reader profile (media kit)
        • suggest several topics
        • promise more details if interested
  • 34. Planning: NNAPS
    • Pitching
      • Don’t be afraid to call
      • Follow up with calls and e-mails
      • Sometimes, break those rules
      • Don’t try to write perfect pitch
  • 35. Planning: NNAPS
    • Negotiations
      • Scope out the project
      • It’s always about the money
        • Use NASW, SWINY, ASJA
        • Talk with writers, editors, account reps
      • It’s not just about the money
        • Additional assignments
        • Future rates
        • Expenses
        • Timing
  • 36. Planning: NNAPS
    • Negotiations
      • Scope out the project
      • It’s always about the money
        • Use NASW, SWINY, ASJA
        • Talk with writers, editors, account reps
      • It’s not just about the money
        • Additional assignments
        • Future rates
        • Expenses
        • Timing
  • 37. Planning: NNAPS
    • My favorite negotiations: AspenTech
      • Met at meetings, hit it off
      • 18 months before an assignment
      • Kept in touch
        • Postcards of Russia
        • News stories
        • Jokes
      • Found a way to help her hire me
  • 38. Planning: NNAPS
    • My favorite negotiations: Mechanical Engineering
      • Pitched the editor over the phone
      • Offered multiple articles
      • Wrote good, far-reaching articles
        • Bring down the grid
        • Changes in ME education
      • Told them what I wanted
      • Took advantage of reorganization
  • 39. Finally
    • Financial
    • Soft Skills
  • 40. And Finally
    • Take advantage of SWINY
      • Great organization
        • Meet other writers
        • Do things you can’t do at work
        • Learn of new opportunities
      • Quantity vs quality time
        • You never knew
        • Assignments
        • Walk in the right seminar and it can change your world
  • 41. And Finally, Finally
    • Give Back