In the panel “Business Basics for Freelance Success”, business coach Damon Brown, award-winning journalist Katherine Lewis, and resource coordinator for the SPJs freelance community Ruth E. Thaler-Carter discussed the fundamentals in finding success in the freelance world.
Here are some key takeaways from the session:
Understanding the market
You have the responsibility of finding work, gaining connections, and developing relationships that could create future opportunities. It is important to have in mind who is buying the product you’re selling, what people are paying for what you deliver, and what the overall market pays.
Pitching a story
You want to make sure you have your story prepared and not just an idea. Clearly explaining the aspects of your story is essential. Make sure the editor knows the characters that are involved, the conflict that causes tension, and what the overall story is about. Don’t ever pitch a story that has already been featured at that organization.
“Find the sweet spot between something they would never cover and something they already covered,” said Lewis.
Elements that should be included in every pitch:
- Why now?
- Why me?
- What the story is
Relationships are a long-term investment
Develop relationships with editors and publications. Create interactions on social media and get to know the interests of that editor. It would help you stand out from the crowd. Also, identify the missing parts in the publication that are struggling to be filled and be knowledgeable of the issues that editors are experiencing. Envision yourself as being the solution to their problems. You should constantly use your networking skills to make connections.
A professional relationship between a freelancer and a client starts with a contract that shows a clear understanding of who does what. You can tell clients which clauses don’t specifically apply to you. The contract is created to protect you and the client. Include late fees in your contract and invoices to make sure you get paid.
“You want a kill fee in there in case something happens where you do the assignment and it gets knocked out of the publication because there’s a change of focus, there isn’t enough advertising, there’s a change of ownership, or maybe your editor even leaves,” said Thaler-Carter.
Standard contracts should include what your specific job responsibilities are and when an assigned project is due.
When taking assignments ask organizations:
- What methods do you use to pay?
- How fast do you pay?
- Can I view the contract?
You own the copyright to all of your work. The U.S copyright office is a resource to register your work and protect it from any potential plagiarism by another party. A freelancer who releases major work such as a book should consider copyrighting.
Negotiating a higher rate
Make your request based on the number of certain skills and expertise you possess. Have the courage to ask for more money if the amount offered isn’t to your liking and say no to things that don’t make an impact on your business.
Building a support system
Have a group of people who you trust, who loves you, who want to see you succeed, and who cheer you on no matter what. It’s important to have people who know exactly what you’re struggling with and who have experienced the same obstacles.
“If you’re having a tough time, then you have someone you can immediately relate to”, said Brown.