Advice For a "Newbie"

Hi everyone,

I'm new to this blog having discovered it just yesterday.

I have been doing business writing for years, but I've never gotten paid for it. I did it as a hobby just for family and friends. It never occured to me that it can be anything more than just a hobby since I was working at the time. Now, my family is encouraging me to go for it, to do freelance business writing as a side job. I'm hesitant for several reasons.

1) Even though I'm technically not a newbie, I have no idea how to start attracting clients. I don't do that in my current line of work. It sounds very intimidating.

2) How much do I charge? Yes, I'm experienced but since I'm a new name out there, I'm not sure what rates would be fair to me and to clients. I've heard so many different opinions, I don't know where to start.

I would appreciate any help and/advice.

Thank you all.

6 thoughts on “Advice For a "Newbie"”

  1. Let me start by welcoming you to the community. I’m happy to have you! 🙂

    Now, let’s talk rates.

    Remember that rates are about value. And value does not equal price. It’s about what you bring to the table — the problems you can help clients solve, specialized expertise you might have about an industry or style of writing, past successes, your overall experience, etc. Those things are all of value to clients.

    I suggest starting with this post. I break down a lot of the things you need to consider when setting freelance rates:

    Then, play with the dual-mode freelance writing rate calculator I have in the resources section here.

    There are two ways to use this:

    1. In the initial view you see, you would set a target yearly earnings goal, and calculate your rate from there.

    The problem is that many new freelancers don’t know how to choose a target yearly earnings goal yet. They mistakenly based those goals on employee salaries, but the two couldn’t be any more different. In general, you’ll need to earn 30-40% more than a typical employee salary to be in the same position as a freelancer — so someone earning $50k per year as an employee with benefits, paid time off, etc. would actually have to earn $65k-70k as a freelancer for all other things to remain equal. Because of that, I strongly suggest clicking the “Advanced Freelance Rate Calculator” link near the top of the calculator to use the second mode.

    2. In the advanced view, the calculator accounts for everything you need to earn to reach your financial goals, and it calculates your early target and hourly fee needed to reach it for you. This not only helps you figure out the bare minimum you need to earn to meet expenses, but it also lets you account for general savings goals, investments, retirement savings, paid time off for vacations and sick time, health insurance, etc. Then, based on your experience, you can decide whether or not to charge a premium on top of that (assuming you didn’t account for that with things like extra money for savings and investments already).

    As for attracting clients, please don’t let it intimidate you. Just think of marketing as a conversation. Clients have problems and they need you to help solve them. Your goal is largely explaining how you can do that. Think of it in terms of what you can do to help them, not in terms of having to talk about yourself. That’s where a lot of new freelancers get hung up — they don’t like talking about themselves. If you can separate yourself from that frame of mind, I’m sure you’ll do just fine. 🙂

  2. Thank you very much for your reply and for the great advice. The calculator will definitely make this easier for me. As for attracting clients, I never thought of it that way. I still am pretty nervous but I hope that’ll go away with time and experience.

    I have one more question. I have a contract written up to protect myself and clients. It contains basic stuff regarding payment terms and methods, copyrights, and exactly what the project entails in addition to terms for termination. I had a client who was reluctant to sign saying that it was just a one page article and it wasn’t necessary. Am I right in wanting a contract for each project no matter how small, or am I being too cautious at the expense of clients?

  3. Remember this. The worst thing any prospect can do is tell you “no.” And really, in the grand scheme of things in this world, is that really so bad? Nah. Every “no” is just one step closer to a “yes.” And every “yes” you get will help you build your confidence, especially early on.

    When it comes to contracts, you have to do what’s comfortable to you. I’m not one of those freelancers who will tell you that you need a big formal contract for every little thing you do. But I do always make sure basics are laid out and agreed to in writing — a project brief with a sign-off by the client, detailed email exchanges, etc. Bigger contracts are what I use if a client requests it or if it’s an ongoing gig (where rates might be committed to for a limited time with a clause stating rates will be renegotiated at the end of the contract period).

    Other writers I know and respect use more formal contract formats for every project no matter how small.

    In the end it comes down to the same thing, whether it’s written in a contract template or some other format — get all details in writing with obvious commitments from your clients. If you want to use the same language and format for all contracts, that’s totally your call. There’s nothing wrong with staying firm on that with clients. If they’re avoiding any kind of contract or formal language, I’d be pretty concerned about moving forward with them.

  4. Hi Gitty!

    Just to add my thoughts re contracts, I think Jenn’s right about getting agreement in writing. I personally always have a contract, but I leave it down to the client whether they want to go down the formal signing of contract route or just confirm via email that they agree. I have one client who likes a contract signed by both of us for her records, but to be honest, the majority just come back with “I agree” in an email. No problems so far!

  5. Thank you, Jennifer and Emily, for your input, advice, and time. I have decided to have an informal contract for the smaller projects, and insist on a regular contract for the bigger ones.

    I’m really glad I stumbled upon this website. It’s really helpful as I’m trying to figure things out.

    Have a great weekend.


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