What you Must Know when Contacting Writers for the First Time
This page is driven from my desire to inform rather than any innate urge to highlight the BS in and around the freelance writing and journalism industries. Yes, it is for selfish reasons. Put simply, I wish to reduce the amount of time I spend processing enquiries from bargain hunters and those seeking specific pricing but without specific information. When contacting writers for the first time, there are some items to consider to ensure a positive response. In this post, I will go through some of the questions and suggested project terms that I have received, each of which I will answer honestly.
Consider it not only my Client FAQ, as the title suggests, but a recommended working template of a process for retaining freelance writing professionals in a manner that demonstrates your own professionalism. Firstly, let’s dispel some myths by reviewing some of the initial enquiries received from potential clients.
Contacting Writers – The Initial Query
Questions received on social media (primarily LinkedIn) have included but are not limited to:
Are you available for project/freelance work? Perhaps this is due to politeness or an assumption that I am swamped with work. Unfortunately, freelancers at this level can rarely claim all our working hours are billable and spend a large portion of our time pitching new markets. Therefore, this question can be omitted – Sure, I’m available for suitable projects.
Will you complete a test article for inclusion in a freelance talent pool? My portfolio demonstrates my competence. Requests for fresh samples, test articles (whether paid or unpaid) are always rejected. I’m not a novice and do not have to complete tests to be part of any team. Judge my portfolio and add me to a team. Or don’t.
What do you write about? What style do you write in? Questions like these only demonstrate one thing. The potential client has contacted me but has no idea what I do. As this attitude to research is likely in other activities, how professional can you expect other processes to be? By using due diligence, the same way writers do (quoting a client article or press release, for example) when they pitch, clients can present a better impression. For example, I enjoyed your article in … rather than asking questions that are obvious from a scan of the writer’s portfolio.
How much do you charge for x-word articles? This assumes that word count is the only factor when calculating pricing. It may well be the case for content mills that offer standardised pricing to underpaid writers but not for me. I work from a defined writer brief (supplied by the client) that includes proposed terms and conditions (including project rate). A reluctance to include pricing raises several flags. Either the potential client is seeking the freelancer with the lowest rate or has no idea how to assign a budget to their content marketing efforts. In both scenarios, the freelancer realises that he is not dealing with a professional who will value the work completed.
I typically respond with “How much are you willing to pay?” as this allows me to protect my rates from those only seeking market rates to estimate costs for future content initiatives. The curious among you should know that my rates are above average, given my industry and business focus and related expertise. Expect to pay in hundreds of US dollars (or equivalent) and not tens per post and you’ll not be disappointed. Am I worth it? Read on…
IF you want me to quote for business, please include the proposed rate (which I can accept or reject, according to the work vs. reward principle), the word count, industry and topic, audience type, where it will be published, rights required and any other pertinent information such as requirement for expert interviews.
Responses to Estimates or Quotations
Birds of a feather flock together, as they say, and I like to work with professionals. This makes me choosier than most when I decide to work with clients. Unfortunately, despite acting in good faith and providing a cost breakdown for potential projects, some will respond negatively, stating that my costs exceed their budget or being even more blatant by informing me that my pricing is too high or that others will do it cheaper. Let’s look at these responses…
Your pricing is too high. It’s too high for you, perhaps. From my perspective, it’s maddening and a prime example of what not to do when contacting writers. I wasted my time providing a quote and this third party is telling me how I should value my work. It’s not that I don’t understand the financial pressures facing small business (as a small business owner myself, I know only too well) and I select my service providers accordingly. I have identified my market and its corresponding rates and will stick with it, despite my so-called high prices. There are others willing to offer lower rates if you are dissatisfied with mine. Budgets will determine who we hire and I can live with this fact.
Someone else will do it cheaper. Go ahead and retain them. No hard feelings. Thanks for contacting a writer in such a professional manner. Do you do speaking engagements?
Our finance department has reduced our budget. Will you do the same work for less going forward? Would you? Hmmm… not unless my IQ drops several points.
Can you work for a lower unit rate as we have volume orders in the pipeline? In my naïve early days, I made mistakes and agreed but, as a seasoned professional, I know these volume orders or ‘ongoing regular work’ are merely empty promises and never materialise.
You quoted hundreds of US dollars for a post, it’s cheaper to do it myself. Yes, I quoted a rate in line with your requirements and my expertise. It is certainly cheaper to do it yourself if you have the writing skills to do so. In fact, I would recommend that every client with writing ability consider this approach. The problem is that writing takes time, time away from your core business activities and that is why outsourcing is necessary for many. This writing activity is my core business area and I expect fair compensation for my activities. If it exceeds your budget, that’s fine, please find an alternative solution within your budget.
But, I’m under no obligation to reduce my pricing and sacrifice billable hours from clients that understand the costs of professional copywriting. I wouldn’t ask you to reduce your service or product pricing and expect the same attitude in return.
What I Offer a.k.a. Am I Worth Hiring?
In a world of micro-tasking, crowdsourcing and content mills, it is possible to obtain cheap content for your company website, blog or for marketing materials and social media posts. Such content costs little and offers as much value to your online or physical marketing efforts. How could it offer additional value? The writers of this material receive roughly half of the proceeds, if that. They churn out this content at the rate of dozens of posts per day–they must do so to earn any sort of living. How invested are they in your company or its promotional efforts? With dubious SEO practices and URL inclusion, this material is not futureproof as search engine algorithms evolve to weed out weak content that lacks any tangible information.
Professional copywriting is by its very nature professional. Content is relevant, promoted on social media network and ultimately gets read by your target market. It is for this reason that journalists are often used by companies, as they can interview experts, choose ‘golden quotes’ and write compelling stories. I am one of those journalists, having interviewed hundreds of industry and business experts around the world.
Therefore, although relatively unskilled in the art of blowing my own trumpet, I’ll do my best… You should hire me because:
I’m Irish – Not the primary reason, of course, but it makes clear that I write in UK English (as on this site) although U.S. English dominates my portfolio. In other words, I can satisfy requirements for U.S. and UK English copywriting. My freelance writing site is in U.S. English and this one is in UK English…
I’m a freelancer – As a contractor, clients only contact me when necessary. They do not have to provide any of the perks associated with my salaried counterparts. Life, medical, pension, dental and unpaid holidays are all my own responsibility.
I’m a journalist – This means that I know how to construct a story headline, interview relevant experts and write a compelling story.
I’m a specialist – I write on business, technology, marketing and entrepreneurship only. Whether it’s cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, edtech, legaltech, fintech or data privacy and censorship, chances are I’ve written about it. I tend to focus on how tech benefits business and marketing in my pitching activities but can write on any technology topic.
I have industry experience – I worked in electronics (from component-level debug to process, quality and management roles) for more than 20 years, owned an IT company in Ireland and now run a consultancy based in Hong Kong. The last has evolved from a product and supplier sourcing solution to a localisation and copywriting solution. I handle all IT and data security for my company, including website creation and updates. My project management experience ensures problem-free completion of multiple concurrent projects if necessary. I use the best available tools to manage information, research and other project-related tasks.
I have industry writing experience – Clients to date have included some of the world’s leading technology companies with styles varying according to the brand voice. My portfolio demonstrates this variety.
I have creative writing experience – I’ve written short stories and am currently working on two books (one fiction and another non-fiction).
I own my own company – I am the only decisionmaker and can sign binding NDAs on demand. The company also has an EIN number to simplify tax obligations for US clients. All payment options involve company accounts, with each solution requiring a verification process. This ensures legitimacy and offers peace of mind to potential clients.
My time zone – My location in Hong Kong / China is not a disadvantage as most client interaction is by email or on a web platform. In fact, in some cases my location is a benefit, allowing US and European editors to outsource urgent content for next-day completion when their onsite staff finish work. When they start work the next day, a first draft is ready and waiting for them.
The Drawbacks of my Service
My specialties – I only write on industries or topics that I’m familiar with. Client seeking writers for travel, fashion and other areas outside my previously mentioned specialities are wasting their time contacting me.
No outsourcing – I do not outsource my work to other writers or hire others for volume work. If I cannot handle a proposed volume, I will refer you to an agency I work with so that their other writers can handle the additional workload. However, if this is necessary, I will remain part of (or lead) the writing team for your project.
Not a budget solution – Actually, I make no apologies for this one. The lack of ethical rates is a big problem in the freelancing world and I only accept rates that are comparable with published rates in the UK and USA for similar work.
Remote or contract work only – I am not interested in onsite work or assignments requiring travel. I work from home, using the technology that I write so compellingly about.
Prompt Payment – As a small company, bimonthly or quarterly payment is not acceptable as we do not have the working capital of large companies to wait so long. Payment terms are always on submission of first draft, within seven days of invoice or within 30 days. Clients that cannot be verified will pay 50% before work starts.
In conclusion, the decision is yours. I’m not begging for an opportunity. I don’t wish to develop a lengthy personal relationship in the years ahead and I don’t need opportunities that offer low pay or ‘useful promotion’.
However, if you wish to establish a mutually beneficial business relationship and you feel that I could be a match for pending projects, feel free to contact me in the manner suggested above. As professionals, I’m sure we can work well together.
Thank you for reading what turned out to be a lengthy post on contacting writers.
For additional tips on hiring a writer, please read other posts in the blog category – hiring a writer.
If my writing service does not match your requirements, we can still work together in the future.
If you would like to contribute to my future business and technology stories as an expert source, you are welcome to join my mailing list and avail of free promotional opportunities for your business. The subscription form is on the left sidebar of every page – just enter your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Thanks for reading,
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