Do You Have a Writer’s Heart?

heartbrken writers

“A writer’s heart, a poet’s heart, an artist’s heart, a musician’s heart is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world…”― Alice Walker

Author, Alice Walker changed the way I see my animals in life, especially my cats in her groundbreaking book, The Temple of My Familiar. That was back in 1989 when we were all enamored with polyester and pleather and she was weaving magic with words and pulling us into subjects that would change how we see the world. The Temple of My Familiar was an ambitious and multi-narrative novel containing the over-leaved stories of Arveyda, a musician in search of his past; Carlotta, his Latin American wife who lived in exile from hers; Suwelo, a black professor of American History who realizes that his generation of men had failed women; Fanny, his ex-wife about to meet her father for the first time; and Lissie, a vibrant creature with a thousand pasts. And, her quote lingers with me still.

norman rush

Mark Nepo, author of The Exquisite Risk writes about the same thing. About how the heart is the most critical part of writing. “Very quickly, when the heart is broken open, we are exhausted of our differences. We don’t try so hard to keep up needless boundaries and are forced to realize we are all the same, and this allows us to touch and be touched more directly. Things we thought that mattered don’t. I know once my heart is opened, I can find the courage to lean into the place where I am broken, to lean into that opening, letting life rush in and touch me there, even though that place is incredibly tender. I’ve discovered over time that the rush of life into the tender place where we are broken is the beginning of resilience.” It is also the beginning of an exceptional writer.

And it is just this relentless courage to write from our broken places that makes a writer stand out from the crowded writer’s circle. Those books, articles, poems and memoirs that stop you in your tracks and make you want to read one sentence, one page over and over again are not always about the writers talent to craft words. It is usually that they have taken a candle and allowed themselves to go deep into their own stories, feel their wounds, compile their learning and relive the pain. The very definition of courage for an artist.  They illuminate all of their own truth right there on the page for everyone to read. To write from these places assures the writer that they are listening to the most powerful muse: Themselves. This level of honesty and raw writing is a challenge for many writers. But without it, we skim over life on the page, we water down truth to something that mirrors our culture at a superficial level and do not allow for the mystery of our own lives and our broken hearts to lead the way for us as writers. When we can, each of us will feel the palpable difference in what words we craft, the depth of the stories we chose to tell and we find that once the plunge into the crack of our own hearts has occurred, we become the bravest writers possible.

sylvia plath

 

 

 

Making Money as a Writer

17 grants

Question:  How do you make money as a writer?

Writers write because they are compelled to, because they are  crazy, because they want to tell their story, feel that writing is their purpose, their passion and some write for profit.  Making money in a shapeshifting industry for writers is always a creative edge.  From simply paying the bills to making six figures, most people do not consider grants as coming to the rescue for getting your project off the ground.  Rebecca McCray (see her profile at the end of her article) did some serious homework for you so I am passing her article along to add to your file on how to get paid as a writer.

typewriter and champagne

“Writing may be incredibly satisfying, but it’s not a cash cow; most writers do what they do because they love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

When you find yourself with a big, time-consuming writing project to pursue, your love of words alone might not pay the bills. That’s when grant money can swoop in to save the day (and your budget).  Here are 17 great grants for writers. Ready to apply for money to fund your writing?

1. Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grants

These grants are available to women and transgender artists and writers based in the Delaware Valley region whose work emphasizes social change. That means “social change must be integral to the ideas, beliefs and goals that are woven throughout your [writing] and your process of creating and sharing your art,” and should positively engage the community.

Keep in mind that one key to success for this grant is securing a “Change Partner”: an individual, business, or organization that is connected to your work, and who will endorse your project.

If you are at least 18 years old and live in Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties, you are eligible to apply. All genres are welcome. Applications must be received by March 1, 2015, and you can only apply once per grant cycle. Check out this page for all the details.

2. Artist Trust

If you are a resident of Washington state, this is the grant for you.

The Grants for Artists Program (GAP) awards up to $1,500 annually to 50 practicing literary and visual artists. Grant money can support the “development, completion or presentation of new work.”

Applications for the next round of grants will be available in March 2015; check out the details here. The organization also connects artists to an array of services, including career development, legal support, residencies and continuing education (just to name a few).

3. Bard College Fiction Prize

This writer-in-residence award is an amazing opportunity for an emerging writer over the age of 39 to devote a semester to a fiction project.

The recipient is required to give one public lecture on the campus and to informally meet with Bard students, but the rest of the time is devoted to their writing project. Bard College’s writing program boasts a talented faculty and a beautiful Annandale-on-Hudson campus in New York.

The award is annual, with this year’s project deadline having just passed on July 15, 2014; look for details on the 2015 deadline shortly. The application process is very straightforward; no lengthy FAQ pages here. Applicants should havepublished at least one book, three copies of which must be submitted with a cover letter explaining their next project and their C.V.

4. A Room Of Her Own Freedom Award

An especially generous grant of $50,000, this award is for a female writer in any genre with a true vision for her project. The application is a serious undertaking, but AROHO boasts that the process is a rewarding one, whether or not you end up with the big prize.

This grant period’s deadline has yet to be announced, so starting dreaming and planning now. Take a look at some of the past grantees and their work for inspiration.

5. Arts Writers Grant Program

If contemporary visual art is your writing area of expertise, you’re in luck. This grant funds writers who are passionate and knowledgeable about contemporary art and whose work will broaden the arts writing audience.

Good news for those who are trying to break into the arts writing field: emerging talent is welcome to apply. Writers can apply for a grant in one of five project types: blog, article, book, new and alternative media, or short-form writing. With prizes that range from $5,000 to $50,000, keep your eye out for the application period to reopen in spring 2015. Details are available here.

6. Sustainable Arts Foundation Award

This award of $2,000 or $6,000 stands out from the crowd by specifically supporting artists and writers with at least one child under the age of 18. The foundation strives to support parents who are trying to balance their creative work with the demands of child rearing.

Interested applicants should submit a sample of their work (maximum 25 pages), along with the answers to the questions found here. The fall deadline is September 8, 2014. Writers with kids might also want to keep an eye on this foundation’s work funding organizations that are trying to make their residency programs more parent friendly.

7. Creative Capital

If you’ve been working as a writer for at least five years, Creative Capital’s individual awards for “Artist Projects” might be for you. They aim to support working artists (in film, visual and performing art, emerging fields and literature) through funding and career development, based on a venture-capital model with the goal of helping grant recipients build sustainable artistic practices.

Projects receive between $10,000 and $50,000. Past literature recipients includeRebecca Solnit, Ben Marcus, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and Alan Gilbert. Applications for Literature Projects will be accepted from February 2 to 28, 2015, and winners will be announced in 2016, so you have plenty of time to get organized.

Check out an online info session and this page for details on the application process. Note: applicants must also be over 25 years old, legal permanent residents of the United States and cannot be full-time students.

8. Arizona Artist Research and Development Grant

Arizona writers who are “pioneering new works” may want to try their luck with this grant, awarded to 10 to 12 artists across disciplines each year. The grant’s amount goes up to $5,000 depending on funding, though last year the average award was $3,500.

Applicants whose projects emphasize the “new” — new methodologies, new strategies, new ways of engaging readers — are primed for success. Writers should also explicitly state in their applications how their project will impact not just their own artistic practices, but also the larger Arizona community. The application has numerous demanding parts, so be sure to give yourself time to delve into the guidelines and meet the September 18, 2014 deadline.

9. Table 4

In honor of New York restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, the Table 4 Writers Foundation offers funding to New York City-based fiction and nonfiction writers.

Kaufman was known for opening the doors of her Upper East Side restaurant to established writers as well as those who were waiting for their big break, sometimes even picking up the tab when they were low on cash. The grant upholds this spirit by supporting promising writers aged 21 and older with grants of $2,500.

Applicants must provide an unpublished writing sample that somehow addresses New York City and an explanation of how the grant will further their latest project. Take a look at past winners and details here. The 2014 deadline hasn’t been posted yet, but last year’s application was due in October.

10. Minnesota Artist Initiative Grant

Minnesota-based writers of poetry and prose should keep an eye on this grant in 2015, awarded in amounts of $2,000 to $10,000. If you’ve been a resident for at least six months and are 18 or older, the Minnesota State Arts Board will consider your application for this grant, which supports the “career building and creative development” of Minnesota artists across mediums.

Public engagement is key for successful applicants; all projects must include a community component such as a reading or open workshop. Find the full details of the application process here.

11. Spirit of Writing Grant

If your writing project involves or serves a team, this grant may be a good fit for you. The Crystal Spirit Publishing grant supports writing projects that benefit a group of people rather than just an individual writer, particularly projects that tackle a designated problem head-on.

Expect to explain the problem in your application and how your work will address it. There are two application cycles per year; this year’s deadlines were in January and July, so you have time to prepare for 2015. Winners receive grants ranging from $500 to $2,500, but keep in mind the larger sums will likely go to organizational entrants as the grant is open to both organizations and individuals.

12. Kansas City Inspiration Grant

Kansas City writers may be awarded between $250 and $2,500 for professional development and budding projects. The regional arts council notes that the highest priority for the grant is to fund projects that significantly advance career development or an artist’s capacity to complete their work — not to fund “business as usual.”

Interested applicants can submit letters of intent, the first step, in March, July and November. A full proposal, which includes six samples of work, is only submitted after an applicant passes this initial phase.

Note that if you request more than $1,000 for your project, matching funds may be required. Check out the Inspiration Resources page for more information.

13. RISCA Project Grants for Artists

As with most other state arts council-based grants, this Rhode Island grant is available to writers who ultimately plan to share their work with the public through a reading, performance or other open event. The emphasis on public value is strong with the RI Arts Council, so this grant will best serve socially minded writing projects.

Submit applications twice per year, on April 1 and October 1. Individual applicants can request up to a whopping $10,000, but be mindful that more realistic requests are more likely to be granted, and if your request is especially sizeable you might consider providing proof that other organizations or individuals have invested monetarily in your project.

Note that applicants to this program must contact the director, Cristina DiChiera, before submission. Find her contact information here, along with all the application details.

14. Arts Council Grants for the Arts

Writers of fiction and poetry in England are eligible for this grant opportunity. Some nonfiction options exist for particularly innovative applicants, but theguidelines explicitly exclude screenwriting.

Public engagement and significant professional development are key for successful applicants, and writers should be able to demonstrate the support of an objective third-party such as a publisher, editor or literary organization that also supports their work.

One of the great things about this grant is that the funding can be applied to a broad range of resources, including residencies, mentoring, research or simply time to write.

15. Wyoming Individual Artist Grant

Awards of up to $500 are available for Wyoming writers of prose, poetry, scripts or screenplays. The Wyoming Arts Council notes that many applicants who receive the grant use the funding for travel or to build a professional website.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but should be submitted at least six weeks prior to the anticipated project start date. The application process is delightfully straightforward; take a look here for more information.

16.North Carolina Regional Project Grant

North Carolina writers at any stage in their careers are invited to apply for grants to fund new or existing projects, with awards ranging from $300 to $5,000.

Application procedures and deadlines vary depending on your county, so make sure you reach out to the office designated on this page for specific regional details. The guidelines are fairly open-ended, which is good news for writers who want to use the funds for a variety of professional development needs.

17.Awesome Foundation Grant

This grant is as awesome as it sounds. Winners receive $1,000 with “no strings attached” to pursue their incredibly awesome projects, and the foundation and its donors have no say in the finished project.

Chapters of the foundation organized by region or subject review applications and select the grantees. The process is almost unsettlingly simple (the website boasts it can be completed in 15 minutes), but don’t be deterred — this really is a great opportunity.

Looking for more great grants and funding options? Check out C. Hope Clark’s fantastic list of opportunities at Funds for Writers.”

 

Rebecca McCray is a New York-based writer who covers social justice, criminal justice reform, and whatever else catches her eye. Check out more of her writing here. .

Rebecca McCray | @rebeccakmccray

Dana Sitar

FEATURED

Tips for Writers on How to Price Their Work: Social Media

money from sky

How to charge for something you contribute as a writer is always a bit of a question for writers starting out as freelancers.  I had someone write me today about Social Media writing and how to charge for everything from Landing Pages to Blog Posts.  This is a great article that cuts to the chase, by a site called The Content Factory.  You will find their website at the end of the article.

I will make it my business to find the best answers out there for ghostwriters, freelancers, article writer to children’s book writers since there is no need to reinvent the wheel when so many great sites are up and running to help answer these questions.  This article helps those wanting to HIRE a writer and how to price their projects.

Next time I will talk about ghostwriting a novel or a screenplay.

The Content Factory On Writing for Social Media:

Judging by the popularity of our blog post about how much social media marketing costs, people are very interested in how much agencies and freelancers charge to manage social media. In fact, that post is currently ranking #1 in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) for a variety of keywords associated with that phrase. So, we decided to write a post about how much professional web content writing costs. This pricing guide has been updated for 2014, and will tell you how much it costs to outsource landing pages, blog posts, press releases and other web content – both for our agency and in general. We did quite a bit of research, so you won’t have to!

Side note: if you just want to know about The Content Factory’s web content rates,click here to review our generic proposal that outlines everything we do and how much it all costs. PR, social media marketing and content marketing is also included in our larger packages.

There are many different types of web content writing, each with different price points. Most of our web content writing services involve one of the following:

  • US_Dollar_banknotesLanding pages — Involves writing content like you see on our home, about and services pages. They should have distinct calls to action, include the SEO keywords you’re trying to target and be somewhere in the range of 250-450 words long (depending on the design of the site). The purpose of landing pages is to convert browsers to buyers, and having amazing content can make a huge difference in your conversion rates. Poorly written content can seriously affect your sales. Landing pages are the most difficult to write out of all the web content, which is why they’re so expensive.
  • SEO blog posts — SEO blog posts (also known as SEO articles) are one of the easiest ways to increase your website traffic. They drive SEO, fuel social media marketing campaigns and are a good way to introduce people to your brand. Blogs give people a reason to visit your website, and once readers are there they tend to click around a little. In a directly indirect way, blogs drive sales.
  • Mini blog posts — These are the same as regular blog posts, only e-mailed to the client as a Word file. Most of our clients have us post the posts directly to their websites (we include relevant tags/categorization, social bookmarking and other extras), which saves them time and costs them more money. Choosing the mini blog post option takes the client a little more time, but saves them some cash. Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.
  • Linkbait articles — These are like standard SEO blog posts, only twice the length and hyped up on awesome. Designed to go viral, linkbait articles tend to be provocative in one way or another. There’s a huge amount of effort and talent involved in writing linkbait articles, but the traffic payoff is often worth the per-word rate.

So, how much does all this web content writing cost? It’s hard to say, because most companies don’t advertise their prices. Here’s what we were able to find out, though:

How much do landing pages cost?

Landing page content is where you want to drop your money, since it acts as your website’s silent salesman. If your web content is coming off like a sweaty and desperate used car salesman, it’s not going to convert and your sales are going to suffer. Who cares if you’re getting a ton of traffic if none of it is converting into actual sales? With that said, how many Benjamins should you expect to throw at your website copy?

This is one instance where it’s difficult to tell what companies really charge for landing pages. For example, at The Content Factory, we only write landing page copy. We don’t develop or design websites — instead, we specialize in writing the words that go on the pages and outsource the design aspect to one of our agency partners who (surprise!) specializes only in designing amazing and functional websites. Many web design businesses roll the cost of the content writing into their design fees, and then scratch together the content themselves. This is why so many websites have such crappy landing page copy.

There was a really interesting forum discussion about it, though — and some professional landing page writers quoted $1,500-$25,000 per page of content.

Now, I’m not going to argue that there isn’t a ton of time involved with creating landing pages that convert. But $3,000-$4,000 per page still seems excessive. When you consider that you’re looking at five or more pages per website, the actual cost of content comes to $15,000-$20,000about the cost of a new compact car.

Here’s the argument these and other people use to justify such expensive fees: if you pay more for content, you’ll get a better conversion rate and the extra sales will make up for the obscene per-piece rate. That may hold true for a luxury car dealership, plastic surgeon’s office or home remodeling company, but only because they make so much money on each transaction — and the truth of the matter is that most businesses don’t. The majority of the people who come to us for web content writing services make less than $500 profit on each sale, or are fresh startups that don’t have that kind of capital. For them, that argument just doesn’t work (especially not in the short-term).

At The Content Factory, we bill for landing pages by the word — $1 per, with a project minimum of $750. On rare cases it may cost slightly more, depending on the complexity of the subject and research involved. Our landing pages are usually around 250-500 words and most clients need five pages of content written, which means thatthe average 5-7 page website content project costs between $1,500 and $2,000, including all edits.

For that price, you get pretty sweet copy — the copy on our site features a certain tone that we find preferable, but when we write for clients we do so with their preferred tone. We’ve written content for large law firms, real estate agents, adult e-tail sites, startups and everything in between. Everyone wants something a little different, and we can modify our writing style to deliver exactly what the client wants.

How much do SEO blogs cost?

For our regular SEO blog posts, we charge between $80 and $750 each, depending on the length and how many you want (we give bulk discounts). If you want a 2,000+ word in-depth article that features interviews from industry experts and thought leaders, it’s going to be on the higher end of the spectrum. Our rates include posting the content to the your website, using proper tags/categories, formatting, etc. If we have access to your analytics, we’ll even target our topics based on the popularity of past posts. If you’re looking to save some money and know how to publish the blogs yourself, we’ll e-mail the Word docs and let you take care of the posting and promotion. We call these “mini blogs” and charge $60 per. Plus, we give bulk discounts for orders of 10 or more.

Another thing that isn’t really outlined is the most important: content strategy. Before you can execute a successful content marketing plan, you need to know:

  • Everything about your target audience
  • Which keywords to target, to target the target audience (is that enough targeting?)
  • How difficult the keywords will be to rank for
  • Which keywords your site currently ranking for
  • Which keywords the competition is ranking for
  • Which keywords are more likely to convert
  • If your site needs any tweaks on the back-end for better optimization (we useSEOsiteCheckup – it’s free, fast and VERY easy to understand, even if you know nothing about SEO)

This all takes quite a bit of time, knowledge and experience – along with a dash of A/B testing. It’s unclear if strategy is included in these rates, but at TCF we complete comprehensive keyword research and competitive analysis for $1500. This also includes coming up with a content strategy to target keywords, while also appealing to your target audience in a way that will get the keywords searchers to convert into paying clients or customers. It’s something we’ve done with great success for our website, and we’ve helped clients achieve similar goals.

How much do linkbait articles cost?

Linkbait blog posts take much more time and talent to write than a standard blog post, although some of our posts turn out to be linkbait anyway (we can’t help it, sometimes our writers submit incredible work). The whole point of writing linkbait articles is to get as many sites to link back to you as possible, which boils down to getting more site traffic.

Linkbait takes a lot of time to write and even more time to edit — but it won’t cost you as much as a new Honda Civic. We weren’t really able to find too many  prices for linkbait articles, which I’m guessing is an indication that other content writing companies aren’t as hip and with it as we are. Christopher Angus, alleged SEO expert (he has a very nice haircut and a black and white headshot, which makes me trust him immediately), seems to think they cost $2,000 each.

Our linkbait costs around $500 each. Do we guarantee that each one will get you hundreds of backlinks? No…but nobody else can, either.

Other writing services:

There are a couple of other writing assignments that we get in on a regular basis:

  • Press releases — A professional press release writer knows how to format the damn thing correctly, which is the hardest part. Well, at least the second hardest part, since coming up with a catchy headline isn’t as easy as you’d think. Press releases should be written from a semi-objective viewpoint, so that journalists can copy/paste it into their articles and blogs.
  • E-mail newsletters — A good e-mail newsletter writer knows how to create a subject title that boosts open rates. Once the readers are in, it’s up to the writer to hold their attention and get them to click through to the website (or some other action). Great e-mail newsletters are hard to come by, which is why so many end up in the spam folder.

There are all kinds of BS prices listed online for e-mail newsletter and press release writing. You can find somebody on Craigslist to write either for less than $15, or you could pay $2,500 with a fancy online PR agency. We charge a flat rate of $1500 per press release, which includes writing, editing, distribution and promotion.

www.contentfac.com

 

Procrastination is the Name of the Game

procrastination

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” ― Alan Dean Foster

“Like most writers, I am an inveterate procrastinator. In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and Googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read. Lots of people procrastinate, of course, but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard. One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.” Megan Mcardle

I teach writing workshops and classes and it is inevitable to hear a writer say, under their breath and hoping no one will hear, that they in fact battle a million and one distractions in order to sit down and become a productive writer. Then whether the battle is won or lost, what the end product generates is self doubt, and self criticism. Well let’s all just stop that. The common issues regarding procrastination for writers are captured by the quote above made by Megan Mcardle.

But, the problem of procrastination can be as simple as working from home and the phone ringing and jumping up to answer it, putting that load of laundry in, having to get up and walk the dog or the most common issue being the uncertainty about what you are writing and welcoming every single little tiny distraction that exists in order to avoid the fear, the lack of clarity or the horrible feeling of being stuck.

What we use to procrastinate must serve us in some important way. Procrastination is what is called an “avoidance technique” and it is your job as a writer to look it square in the eye and fess up to what you might be avoiding. In the end, procrastination is all about being uncertain about your self as a writer. Whether it is about inspiration, self concept, constantly comparing your writing to others or the loop that is going all the time in your head that says something like this: “what the hell are you thinking writing this book?” the ultimate outcome is a kind of stalling out and waiting for a magical elixir. But, procrastination comes in many shapes and sizes.

The French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette who wrote Gigi, used her French bulldog, Souci, to procrastinate writing. She would pluck fleas from Souci’s back and hunt for them in her fur until the grooming ritual prepared her to move on to other procrastination techniques like cuddling with Souci and swatting flies. Only then would Colette begin to work.

Graham Greene, who wrote The Quiet American, needed a sign from above to begin working on a piece. Obsessed with numbers, the English playwright and novelist needed to see a certain combination of numbers by accident in order to write a single word. He would spend long periods of time by the side of the road looking at license plates and waiting for the hallowed number to appear.  Now that is navigating by the sigs and by coincidence.

Wherever he traveled, Charles Dickens decorated his desk with nine objects. The bronze toads, green vase, and the statuette of an eccentric dog salesman surrounded by his pups comforted Dickens when he hit a mental block, and helped him feel comfortable enough to work anywhere.  Now this is bordering on being Obsessive Compulsive but OCD has its place in history with a slew of famous writers.

Victor Hugo, who wrote novels like Les Miserables, did more than buy a new bottle of ink in preparation to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame. With a deadline looming, Hugo locked himself inside his house with nothing on but a knitted gray shawl that reached down to his toes. The uniform suited his productivity, and he completed the novel weeks ahead of the deadline.

Some people dream of lounging all day, but Truman Capote really did. His workday began in bed or on a couch where he would write on a notebook rested against his knees. He always kept cigarettes and whichever drink was appropriate for the time of day—coffee, tea, or sherry. Boy do I relate to this. Not the cigarettes and Martinis at the crack of dawn, but I get out of bed and put on my favorite tea at 6:30 am and then crawl back in bed with my laptop on my knees and write until 10am every morning. If I do not do this I am a basket case and cannot get my barring’s for the whole day. I put music on every time and listen to soundtracks of my favorite movies while I write. The theme from Bourne Legacy gets me every time.

So you are in good company. You are not odd or unusual in your procrastination. And in the end you need to make friends with a pattern that is one of the most frequent issues for a writer. Know that procrastination is just part of the job. Get over it when you can and then laugh at yourself the rest of the time. You will get to writing, you will finish and you will be done in your own good time.

“We are so scared of being judged that we look for every excuse to procrastinate.” ― Erica JongSeducing the Demon: Writing for My Life

A Word on Worth

“The freelance writer is a person who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”

—Robert Benchley

Joanna Trollope said, “Writers who last, the writers whose writing is indeed their monument, not only have an essential benevolence, a fundamental affection for the human race, but also, more uncomfortably, possess a hefty dose of humility”.

I wish this were truer in the world of those who want to hire a writer. Who depend on a freelancer to make dreams happen or meet a deadline, or who want your words to be their words, want their name on the product and who need you, the writer, to get them out of a jam? Sadly, not so.

Six months ago I took a huge leap in my life into the world of Freelance Writing: Highly competitive and a marketing marathon. But I lucked out. I had a unique marketing approach, had published for myself and had a twist to my work in that I had 30 years as a psychologist under my belt and that created a bit of a niche for me. I did copious research on what to charge for a given job and created a middle-of-the-road approach. This was not easy since as a therapist I made $150 and hour. But I was determined to do what I love and the money would follow. Within 24 hours I had my first job offer. Here was my first historical inquiry for ghostwriting a book:

“I have a million dollar story that takes place over 40 years, on 3 continents, will have a sequel, includes famous people in Hollywood, should be made into a movie and I need the entire book done in two months, 300 pages and I can pay you $250 for the whole job. Do you want it?”

I fell out of my chair. Figured this guy was simply pulling my leg until more requests for jobs came in with the same sort of focus: No money for lots of hard innovative, creative blood sweating work. This was my introduction to the world of freelance writing.

My second job offer was from a young group of entrepreneurs who wanted to capitalize on the energy amassing from the book 50 Shades of Grey. They wanted to generate a few full-time writers to write erotic stories to be made into cheap paperbacks. The wanted to pay $.08 cents per…page…I chocked. That must have been a typo but it wasn’t. I would rather work at a car wash wiping down Escalades.

Freelancers have freedom, yes. But they inherit an industry that is much like working building the pyramids. In the world of “internet freelancing” the basic understanding is “get a writer for as cheaply as possible”. No concern for quality. And the reason that hundreds of ‘wanna-be-writers’ flock to signing up for the sites that help them bid on writing jobs is simply this: They have no idea what they are worth and will simply bid on a ten page job and accept a measly, insulting, self-esteem-crushing $25 for their hard work being someone else’s muse. I am here to say to these writers, “WTF are you thinking?” And I know the answer: It’s all about self-worth.

This question “what am I worth” follows us through life in one form or another. We start with the most obvious reason for asking it, which is all about love: Am I worth loving, am I worth knowing, am I worth that gift you are giving me, that smile, that compliment. Then the second string of brutal questions float to the surface of our self concept: Am I good enough, will they like me, will I be rejected? And our perception of the competition being better than us, has us downgrading our dreams, our skill set, and our earnings. In creeps resentment, exhaustion, and the death of inspiration.

Once these questions become a staple of our self-concept, self-worth then gets all tied up with money. Worth becomes all about the dollar. When we take our first waitressing job and see that the guy who ate two breakfasts the size of Texas simply left a dollar and change as a tip we take it personally all too often. Most of us first think to ourselves “Did I give bad service?” before we arrive at the most obvious reason: He’s a cheapskate!!

So, what does self-worth this have to do with writing and what does it have to do with those of us who freelance write, ghostwrite, and generally write for other people or who long to write for a living? Well, it has to do with the issue every artist collides with which: “how much am I worth, what do I charge for a story, for my ideas and my writing?” This question is not only difficult to answer if you don’t believe in yourself, but it is even harder to answer if you are in a growing industry that does not value your craft. The world of the freelancer is currently built on a lack of respect for the writer and his or her craft. But the old adage says: People cannot get away with what they get away with unless we let them.

Self-esteem commands more money and gets it. This is a trustworthy equation. But just as real is the other, more dominant equation: Low self-esteem does not command money and many times you do not get the job or the sale. This truth is another Murphy’s Law: Anything that can happen will. I would add to this, “anything that can happen will and it will reflect what you believe every time, especially about yourself”.

So, let’s say you do some painstaking therapy on self-worth, you forgive your teachers or your country for creating beliefs about what perfect and enough is, or a belief that you should write like Hemingway and Sylvia Plath before you can show your writing to anyone, or paint like Chagall before any of your paintings see the light of day. But what happens if you slog your way through falling in love with yourself, loving the art of writing or self-employment and when you finally are out there as a writer and a creator, you find that the world does not have a reference for the worth of your craft? Now that is where new questions come in.

As a freelance writer, which includes writing for others, ghostwriting, writing articles, blogs and web copy there is a general understanding of what to charge. Most freelancers either charge by the hour, the word or the project. The going rate by the word is from $.25 per word if you’re a new and budding writer to $2.00 a word if you are the ghostwriter for the stars or for Clive Cussler as a bestselling author who needs to crank out a novel a year. And a given page of original writing is 300 words, an article is about 1500 words and a full-fledged book is on the average of 65,000 words. So you do the math and see how this shakes out. It looks pretty good in the long run doesn’t it? But there is a kink.

Have you noticed that some of the most important jobs in the world are under-valued and under-paid? Childcare specialists and grade school teachers are at the top of my list for underpaid and in fact two of the most important jobs on the planet. Artists, writers, potters, builders, and fine craftsmen and those who make our lives more interesting and beautiful follow a close second. But, if my web designer fixes some code on my website for a hundred dollars a blink, if my plumber unsticks my toilet handle, or if my lawyer gets me out of a jam, I could empty my bank account. This is now the world of the freelance writer: Underpaid and underappreciated. And we can thank the internet, for those sites promising you a lucrative writing career and who charge you to bid on a job prospect for this growing issue of lack of value for a writer. But in the end we the writers are who sets our own value and should pick and choose who we write for.

There are dozens of sites springing up for getting freelance writing gigs. Outsource and Elance are clearing houses for people needing to find and hire a writer but not before you have to jump in with all the other freelancers and outbid the project to get the job. It is like Russian roulette. Bidding is how it works and you can be the most amazing writer but there is always a twenty-year-old who hardly can write who will outbid you every single time and in the end, for almost all those doing the hiring, money is the object not quality, not originality, not experience. It is all about ‘how cheap can I get the job done?’ (Maybe that is why there is very little good writing out there) Duh.

So, today I got a request for a three-article project for a woman’s business blog. That comes to about nine pages of original writing that needed research in order to write the articles. Although this is not the kind of writing I do, I read her terms and they went like this:

“I need three articles written by tomorrow by 12:00 NOON. The topics are dry cleaning, dryer vent maintenance, and fireplace parts. I can pay $20 for all 3. Contact me to get information.”

Can you even spell slave labor? That comes out to about one penny a word. And words are precious commodities.  But people answer these job requests and crank out something in the middle of the night and submit for their hefty $20 that you hope will be paid on time or at all. What are people thinking? Oh I said that already.

Writing is an art-form, freelance writing is even harder in that you have to get inside the head of another person especially to ghostwrite 250 pages. But, like so many of the arts people want something for nearly nothing. More people will by poster art at Marshall’s than invest in original works.

In the art world when I was selling paintings I was frequently asked to lower the price on an original oil painting, asked to make a deal, asked if the artist could change the painting and add red. The same things happen for writers. We are frequently asked to prostitute ourselves, be less of who we are, write less, write faster, change and change and change copy till the person that hired you in the first place is now happy. This can be a form of prostitution. Writing is a skill that is worth good money and even greater appreciation.

So I wrote the woman who wanted three articles in less than 24 hours, I wrote the man who wanted an entire screenplay for $80, I wrote the person who wanted ten blog entries for $250 total and simply said: “Are you nuts”. They did not reply.

Marketing yourself as a freelance writer first starts with knowing how much you are worth and sticking to it. Learning how to market yourself and not fall into the internet bidding frenzy that will have you wearing shackles and never being able to get up for glass of water and in the end will erode every bit of self-esteem you have fought so hard to retain.

As for me, I take the risk. I ask for what I want only after I am certain how much I am worth. I show them amazing writing that I am proud of. I am prompt, original, a great listener and can interpret what they want and give them more. In the end, a hundred twenty-dollar-jobs drift in and out of my life in a month but the people who know my value, know that writing is an art form, even if it is for the internet, and who value integrity and professionalism will hire me and give me the price I submit. I wait patiently for these moments. And these are the people who pay promptly and with gratitude.

Writing for someone else is a relationship, even if it is for a newspaper or magazine. These relationships are what will build your freelance life. These relationships will enrich your life, teach you to be a better writer and in the end pay all your bills. But you need to love what you do, have faith in yourself and know what you are worth. Then ask for it and don’t settle even if you cannot pay the utility bill. The right jobs will simply fall your way and you will be off and running with a life that makes you feel you are worth a million dollars. Because you are.

I read a story about a bestselling author, Mary Higgins Clark. She was turned down more times than I have backbone for, but today she is paid 12 million dollars for three books a contract. She cranks one out every year and says she never thought she would be where she is. It takes starting with that one article, that one blog entry, that one contest and knowing you were born to write. Then the waiting begins.

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
—Jim Tully

 

writers block image