writing negotiationIf you’re going to be a successful freelance writer you must learn how to negotiate contracts or agreements with the people who hire you. Many writers seem to be both confused about negotiation and maybe even a bit afraid of it.

When you look at the definition, however, it’s not so scary. According to dictionary.com the definition of negotiation is simply a

mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement. 

In other words, you and the client talk about what the client wants done, any deadlines, payment and payment terms. When you are in agreement and that agreement is reduced to writing, in an email, a formal contract or a letter of agreement, the negotiation is complete and successful.

In fact, those are the four musts of a negotiation:

  1. Scope  or description of work
  2. Deadlines or due dates
  3. Payment amount
  4. Payment terms or due dates

Each element is up for negotiation. For example, you might want to break a long project into parts, or you might suggest a magazine article instead or in addition to a blog post. The scope of the work is redefined.

The client wants it done by tomorrow and you know darn good and well you can’t do a decent job in less than a week – so you tell your client you’ll have it in a week.

The client offers X amount paid 30 days after completion and you counter with X+ amount, 50 percent down and the balance due on completion.

At any point the negotiation can fail if you and the  client don’t come to agreement. I don’t consider those failure s. If the client and I can’t comfortably come to agreement on any of these issues I know I’m better off letting them go find someone else. While I’m willing to do some give and take, it has to be within what’s really acceptable to me or the project is in trouble before we start.

Ask for what you want – just like a cat

It’s up to you to ask for what you want and need. That’s part of the responsibility of a freelancer. Only you can determine what kind of writing your best at and enjoy the most, how much time you’ll actually spend writing each day and how much money you first need to earn and then want to earn.

When you know these things you’re in a position to successfully negotiate a writing contract – if you don’t, you’ll hesitate and probably settle for the kind of writing job you really don’t like to do.

I actually do use my cat, MzTiz, as a model for negotiation – she knows what she wants, when she wants it and doesn’t hesitate to ask and ask. And she’s pretty reasonable when she doesn’t get her way too.

Asking for money

Naming the price you want, asking for the amount you need seems to be the hardest problem freelance writers have, particularly in the beginning. At least it was that way for me.

The biggest thing I had to learn my worth as a writer – not everyone can do what we can do. In my case I also had to believe I was worth it – improving my self esteem through counseling and groups helped immeasurably. So did just getting older.

Asking for what you want is a practice and it takes practice. The first time I upped my hourly fee by 30 percent I was scared to death. Today I name a price and I’m not frightened a bit, because I’ve learned about myself, and the writing markets I play in.

Another trick I’ve learned is that if I’ve got a fair amount in savings it’s much easier to negotiate than if I think I’ve simply got to have this next contract.

Yes, not everyone who contacts me hires me. Which is fine. I know there are always more clients out there.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman



mage: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Mikey G Ottawa



questionIt’s an age-old question — as a writer, should I specialize? Writers feel pretty strongly about their choices, too. I know I’ve been “corrected” for holding my opinion, and I have done a bit of correcting myself, which I’m not prone to doing. However, when I see people making blanket statements about whether one way or the other is the way to go, I have to speak up.

So who is right? Is a writing specialty something for you?

The clear answer: it depends.

Having a specialty has certain advantages, but like everything else, a specialty career can have some drawbacks. Below are lists of pros and cons of a writing specialty. Start with the pros:
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productivity for writersOne of the tricks to profitable freelance writing is writing efficiently. Five Buck Forum member John Soares is a master of helping writers become more productive with his site ProductiveWriters.com. I think every successful freelance writer has some tricks up their sleeve to help them actually get the writing done.

My two favorite methods are creating accountability and bookending.

Creating accountability for your writing

It’s one thing to make a to do list and use it to more or less guide you through the day or week. It’s quite another to commit that list to another person or several. At least I find that to be true.

I actually have a couple of accountability support systems in place.

free content for writersThe first is at the 5 Buck Forum. We have an accountability forum/thread there and each week I, along with others, post what we plan to do to further our writing career. Day-by-day we check off what we’ve done. Often I get messages of support in the form of post congratulating or commiserating with me.

I also have two accountability partners – one is a safety engineer and the other an interior designer. What brings us together is both friendship and the fact that all three of us are entrepreneurs with our own businesses. We function almost like Master Mind group. In addition to supporting each other with strategies and through challenges, each week we commit to our actions and review the actions we took the last week.

Knowing these folks are constructively looking over my shoulder is often exactly the push I need to go ahead and complete a project or start a new one.

Bookending your freelance writing

This is the trick I use when I need to get something done but for one reason or another I don’t want to do it. On the business side, in my case, it often has something to do with tracking money. I’ll often call one of my accountability partners and say something like “I’m going to spend the next half hour balancing my checkbook.” When the half hour is over, even if I’ve done nothing with my checkbook, I call and tell them the truth – whatever it is.

I use the same process with writing chores I don’t’ want to do or am having difficulty with for one reason or another. When I recognize my resistance or that I’m in trouble I’ll pick up the phone and commit to my bookending partner I’ll spend the next hour or whatever length of time on the problem project. At the end of the period I call back and report either that I’ve done it or I haven’t, closing the bookend.

I’ve found, like many others, talking to answering machines works almost as well as talking to a live person.

There’s something about the committing to another person or several that makes it more likely I’ll actually do what I planned. While I’m sure I should be willing to be as accountable to myself as I am to another person, I’ve found out adding that extra person or two helps me actually get the work done.

Your turn. How do you help yourself get work you resist done?

Anne Wayman



Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Sean MacEntee

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cashYou are what you earn.

There’s the rub, too — what if you don’t earn what you want to be earning? How do you get from that place you are now to that dream spot with the income that allows you to actually sleep?

You charge more.

It sounds simple because it is. You charge more, you earn more. And yet you don’t. Why? Because those clients you’re working with now will leave, because you’re not quite sure what the right price for your skills is, because you just don’t think you deserve more….. fill in the blank.

Here’s what it requires to get over your own mental roadblock and begin earning more:

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