Wednesday, January 21, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: Contract bottom lines

Yesterday I shared my bottom line for the number of queries I send a week. Today, I'll talk about why I have bottom lines for how much I earn and contract terms.

In my first year freelancing, I regularly took assignments that paid 10 cents a word, on publication--and I was happy to get it. I was thrilled to see my name in a magazine I'd read for years, even though I often found myself in the odd position of occasionally receiving a check for $50 and wondering what it was for. It might even buy a dinner out--but it didn't pay my bills and it left me having to churn out tons of work--and tons of queries to make ends meet.

So it shouldn't be surprised that my other marketing bottom line goes like this: Those three queries go to markets paying $1/word or more on acceptance. Period.

If I'm only going to send three queries a week, I need to make them count. Spending them on a publication that isn't going to meet my financial needs is a waste of time. I'm pretty adamant about this because I remember clearly what it was like to work nights and weekends and still barely be able to afford my rent. I don't want to go back there--and I don't want you to suffer the same fate.

Does that mean I never query lower-paying markets? Of course not. But I don't count those queries toward my weekly total. The practical reality of it, then, becomes that I accept assignments that pay less than $1/word, but I don't spend my precious marketing minutes trying to get that work. And I don't accept pay on publication work. Ever.

Limiting my querying to what I consider higher-paying markets
makes my marketing life so much more serene. Suddenly, my marketing decisions aren't personal. They're professional. Just like me.

And limiting my querying to pay-on-acceptance brings me one step closer to having a guaranteed income--as guaranteed as it can be in this economy. Pay on publication is essentially an interest-free loan to your client, with no guarantee of payment. Especially in this economic climate, publications can go out of business between the time your work is accepted and the time your story is slated to run. If that happens, you're out money and a clip. I don't know about you but I'm not rich enough to provide a mini-bailout to my clients in the form of contract terms.

The payoff of this system is I don't feel like the victim of my marketing anymore. I mean, really: If you have to query, do you want to make it any harder on yourself than you have to? I don't. Bottom lines make sure it isn't.

Bottom lines eliminate from my work life the kind of unnecessary drama that comes with financial panic. I have more energy and attention to spend on my work, I'm more able to show up for my clients and have time to do the last-minute edits that are an inevitable part of this business.

I can spend my days full of gratitude for my work instead of resentment.

Just like in yesterday's post, your terms may vary. You might not get out of bed for less than $2 a word (and if that's the case, I want to buy you coffee and pick your brain). Or, you might feel that 50 cents a word is a fine fee. Whatever it is, the key is to know it and live by it.

How good are you at sticking to your marketing bottom lines? What stands in your way?

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