Recession Writing Tips, Part One

By Jason Boog Comment

15bc79edd7a0d4a370bd7110.M.jpgThe print world chopped more jobs last week and the stock market continues to tank. This is a frightening time to work as a freelancer.

To help GalleyCat readers cope with this ongoing crisis, we caught up with freelance guru Michelle Goodman, author of the brand new book, My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire. Every week she offers career advice at, and her new book may become required reading for a new generation of struggling writers.

According to Goodman, all freelancers should do one simple task: “Diversify, diversify, diversify, she explained. “Have your two or three beats or niches, sure. But make sure that if you’re a health and fitness writer, you’re not just relying on the health glossies and lifestyle section of newspapers. Worm your way into online media outlets like Yahoo! and iVillage. Write for trade and alumni publications. And don’t turn you nose up at writing newsletters for the wellness and medical industries or writing marketing copy for companies selling vitamins, fitness equipment, or any other products in your area of expertise.”

She added: “Even if you just do one trade pub article or copywriting gig a quarter, it’s a foot in the door with another type of revenue stream should the bottom fall out and you lose all your MSM or newsstand work. Also, capitalize on (or beef up) any writing-related skills you have. If you can edit, project manage, broadcast, podcast, design, code, or teach, you’ve just greatly expanded your marketability and income-earning potential.”

For fees, Goodman had these suggestions: “Suss out a publication’s pay range for freelancers before you talk to an editor there. Your freelance buddies and resources like MediaBistro’s How to Pitch section (I swear no one paid me to say this — it’s just a great resource) come in handy here. When asked for your rate, state it quickly and matter-of-factly; don’t hem and haw. Forget the long preambles, forget the recession. Don’t give a price range — the client will always go for the bottom number; instead, give one price, padded by 5 or 10 percent in case the client wants to haggle. Then wait for the client to respond.”

Finally, she concluded: “If you’re asked to name a price before you have all the project details, by all means, get the word count, angle, tone, expenses, research/source requirements, photo/art expectations, and any other variables squared away first … If the budget is the budget is the budget and the editor can’t meet your desired price, see if you can negotiate something else: deadline, copyrights, number of sources required, number of photos or sidebars needed, and so on. If you’re not getting paid top dollar, make sure you can resell the piece or repurpose it for a non-competing market so you get the most buck for your research. Many more strategies in my new book, too.”

Tune in tomorrow for advice about surviving layoffs.