Sometimes, you just donít get second chances. Freelance writing works a little that way. If youíve offended an editor, itís quite unlikely that sheís going to work with you again. If you donít muster up the courage and ask for a higher payment rate, you wonít get that chance till the next acceptance. And if you sell all rights for less, you write away all future income from the sale of that piece.
These seemingly small mistakes can cost you big money when done repeatedly. Avoid these common pitfalls and youíll not only earn more from each sale, but also ensure that youíre developing working relationships with editors whoíll look to you for regular work.
Mistake No. 1: Missing Deadlines
Iíve often wondered why writers constantly miss deadlines. After all, if youíve landed an assignmentóbig or smallówouldnít you want to get it in before time instead of after, so that you could impress the editor and secure more work? But many writers often fall short, and editors almost never work with these writers who do so repeatedly. So drop those waiting-till-the-last-minute habits and get into researching mode as soon as you get the assignment.
Mistake No. 2: Lack of Preliminary Research
When the editor of a technology magazine wrote in to ask exactly which Internet scams Iíd be covering in my ďTop Scams on the InternetĒ article, I wrote back to her within minutes. Thatís because Iíd done my initial research even before Iíd sent the query. You donít want to be on the phone with an editor, with no clue about the details of your piece. Be the writer who responds quickly and intelligently with the latest research, having the facts ready, exactly when theyíre needed.
Mistake No. 3: Not Negotiating
Many freelance writers become so excited on receiving their first national or high-paying assignment that the thought of asking for a little more doesnít even strike them. Many of them move on to find out that other writers were paid better for less work by the same publication. Always try to negotiate for a better contractóless rights, more pay, payment on acceptance, kill fees and even a short bio if you can get one. Most editors expect writers to ask for more, so donít worry about seeming greedy or money-minded.
Mistake No. 4: Not Moving On
Initially, youíll need those low-paying, short deadline, payment-on-publication assignments. But take on too many of them and youíll soon be working 90-hour weeks and still have no food on the table. Once youíve gathered a couple of clips and some regular high-paying assignments, thank the editors at the small publications and move on. Go beyond your comfort zone and start targeting higher paying markets. You canít live on 30-cents-a-word publications forever.
Mistake No. 5: Getting Too Personal
Itís great to get personal with an editor. In fact, I highly recommend it. But donít take it too far. Your editor is not going to appreciate forwarded jokes, tales of your latest adventures in the Himalayas or the sob story of your dogís death. However friendly your editor might be getting, do remember that it is after all, a professional relationship. If you wouldnít say it to your boss, donít say it to your editor.
Mistake No. 6: Letting off the Steam
Your editorís changed the meaning of your review so that it now sounds positive when you clearly intended it to be negative, modified your quotes or hasnít sent payment even after months of bugging her. Youíd want to tell her exactly what you think of her, right? Bad idea. While I wouldnít suggest being a doormat and accepting what happened, I wouldnít recommend a fist-session with her either. Go tell her you didnít like what she did, but do so politely. If youíre still upset, you can always stop writing for the magazine, or let her know that your viewpoints donít match.
Mistake No. 7: Not Proposing Another Idea
Once youíve written for an editor, your chances of writing for his publication again increase by a huge factor. Heís more likely to trust you with more assignments if you come through on the first one. So after the final acceptance, send off a thank you note and another query. Donít give the editor time to cool off and forget you. Strike when he knows exactly who you are, how brilliantly youíve done your job and how youíll make his life easier.
So next time youíre tempted to accept an editorís initial offer or scream at him for adding in spelling errors, remember that you only have one chance. To keep your clients happy and earn a living in the process, avoid making these errors of judgment. Youíll soon be on your way to a very lucrative career.