So today I was talking to a friend of mine. We were discussing the pros and cons of freelancing, especially in regards to copy.
Now, that's not what this post is about. Personally, I freaking love being freelance and don't think I could ever do an inhouse thing unless I was a partner (and even then, it'd have to be pretty much perfect).
But it did get me thinking about a guy I used to talk to who was also a freelancer who has since gone off the radar.
At the time, this guy was a "cub" for a guy doing $1k salesletters in the WSO forum. The story behind the WSO was suspect, and the cub in question confirmed it as bullshit, but it was well-written enough to get this guy a fair bit of work.
This cub was writing the entire letter for $300. The "mentor" in question was basically taking the extra $700 for himself.
Now, that's all fine. The cub knew all this. The problem was when he wrote a letter that hit the top 10 in CB for the category. Obviously since he was ghostwriting he didn't get any recognition for it.
Now, as a freelancer, your portfolio and past successes are a big part of how you keep getting work. Building those contacts and reputation is one of the ways we improve our income and our market visibility.
So the cub told me all this. And I asked him why the freakin' hell he would put himself in the position?
In short, he did it because he didn't have the balls to step away from that guaranteed income, even though it was crappy (though he did 4 letters a week, so even working like a dog, he was making $1,200, which isn't terrible by "employee" standards).
The thing is, as a freelancer, you have to know when to say "no".
Even - or especially - when you really need the money (we've all been there).
I get it. The wolves are at the door, and you need to pay the bills. But consider getting a part-time job rather than becoming known as a copy whore (or other kind of freelancing whore).
When I was hanging out with Vin Montello in NYC, he said something that's stuck with me for a long time...
He was a standup comic and doing pretty well. (Sidenote: Vin seems to have been pretty damn successful in pretty much everything he's done, and it's in large part because he knows how to sell himself. It's also his birthday today, so embarrass him.)
He was driving around the country with his opening act and this guy one day goes, "Vin, I'm funnier than you! This is bullshit! Why do I only get $500 for the week and you get two grand?!"
(NOTE: this was back when $2k was worth significantly more than it is today)
Vin's answer was, "Because when they offer me $500, I say no."
I'm no longer a student of Vin's. We don't work together, and my writing has turned out pretty different to his. So we don't spend a lot of time together, even though we're still friends.
But to this day, every time a client asks me to take less money, I remember that story.
You won't get more than what you ask for. It's the client's job to pay you less. If you don't fight for yourself, no one will.
It can be really, really scary... but you've got to do it if you want to be a successful freelancer.