Saturday, February 23, 2013

Editing Your Way to Success

If you’re a highly energetic writer, freelance editing can provide a lucrative sideline, provided you have some experience. Many former full-time editors take on outside editing jobs once they go freelance. But just saying you’re an editor isn’t enough. This isn’t something you can dabble in. Publishers depend on editors to do some very crucial work.

So how do you get such editing jobs on a freelance basis if you don't have publishing-house experience? In most cases, you have to find them, not the other way around. And you’ll need to have done some editing, no matter how small the job and whether you paid or not, before you venture into this market.

Before you seek any editing job, you’ll need to become acquainted with the different kinds of editing publishing requires. Basically, there are three types—copyediting, content editing, and acquisitions editing. Basically, the copy editor is the one who checks every detail in the manuscript for grammatical and factual errors, seeing that the text conforms to whatever style the publishing house considers best and that it’s consistent throughout in the use of type and so forth.

The content editor clarifies ambiguous passages, suggests rearrangements of material so the manuscript reads better, and deals with other conceptual matters. But the content editor may also pencil edit for grammar and such. A content editor focuses on the whole piece of writing, whether it be an article, short story, or book.

The acquisitions editor works as an idea person for a book publisher. He or she scans literally hundreds of newspapers, magazines, competitors' catalogs, and the like for ideas for books and for possible new authors to add to the publisher's list. Large publishing houses separate content editing and acquisitions editing. Smaller firms have editors who handle both.

Although it’s more usual to get freelance jobs either copyediting or content editing, there are occasions when an acquisitions editor will take on a part-time assistant. Having a sense of mission may be the most important sales tool you have to convince a publisher of your worth. Persistence is the next most important. Editors may not be looking for anyone when you approach them. They may not have any editing jobs that need to be done, but as time goes on, they will, and you want them to call you when that happens.

The main point to remember besides persistence is to take any assignment offered you to get your foot in the door. If you do a great job on it, the editor will look to you for other editing assignments. If you want to try your hand at such jobs, show lots of enthusiasm, and let the client know what kind of editing and/or researching you do best. Keep after them until they hire you. Then give it your all.

In today’s world of self-publishing, lots of writers need their work edited, but they may not know it. Start by obtaining some of the shorter ebooks online and read them critically. If you notice lots of mistakes and unclear passages, contact the writer and see if you might be able to edit their work for a small sum, or, if you’re desperate, for free. The more of these small jobs you do, the better you’ll become. And you just might get some fairly well-paying ebooks editing jobs from professional writers who normally would have depended on their publishers to provide the edits.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bookkeeping Tips to Make Your Life a Little Easier

For many writers, bookkeeping can be a drudge. But there are ways to streamline it and make it easy enough that it won’t dominate your life.

No matter which of the three bookkeeping systems you choose—simple checkbook, single-entry journal, or the more complicated cash-disbursements journal—you’ll also need to have an easy way of filing  backup receipts. You should have something—receipt, invoice, canceled check or petty cash ticket—for every expense. Make sure before filing these receipts that they indicate all of the important information—date and amount paid, to whom paid, check number or cash payment. Keep these receipts for business expenses filed separately from any personal expenses. You can use one of those accordion files divided into 12 compartments—one for each month—or 12 envelopes or a box in which you store receipts in monthly bundles. Whichever way you choose, be consistent.

The first step in recording your expense receipts is a program like Expense Director from This program allows you to record your expenses on your smartphone or personal assistant. Then you can sync the device you’re using to your computer to save and store your expense notations. After you record your expense amounts, place the receipts for that month in a box. Make sure to put a check mark on each receipt after you record it. At the end of the month, bundle that month’s receipts for storage.

A program like Expense Director allows you to create spreadsheets of monthly expenses easily and quickly. You can also sort your expenses so that you have all like expenses together. If you don’t have a spreadsheet program, get one. It comes in handy for lots of other records, too.

All funds received or disbursed from your freelancing business should pass through your business checkbook. Your monthly bank statement should be balanced against your receipts/disbursements spreadsheets, as well as verifying your checkbook balance.

Record all cash receipts in the proper column by category. If you're working part-time, you can keep the data in the same spreadsheet, but keep the receipts in a separate column. If you regularly receive rent or other such income from another source, separate those receipts also.

Record gross receipts and net receipts, if you have both, at the same time for more ease in figuring your taxes. Be accurate when you record figures across the page. They need to balance both horizontally and vertically. You’ll want to balance each page monthly, then record the balances on the balance spreadsheet.

You’ll find it handy to have a calculator with a printout tape. It’s also helpful as proof of balances during any tax audit. As you balance each page of your spreadsheet, you can file the tape with your backup material—receipts, invoices, petty cash tickets, etc.

If you’re following the above procedures, you’ll be able to check your accounts receivables each week which will let you know if you have any slow payers. You’ll also be able to check you accounts payables, your bills, to see if you can pay ahead to take advantage of any discounts.

And every month, you’ll need to post your income and expenses and balance your books. You’ll also need to prepare a profit and loss statement, balance your business checking account, balance and file any petty-cash receipts, and do anything to prepare for taxes. And one last thing: You’ll need to rebill any slow payers. Doing all of this should keep you on financial track.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Making Book on Your Business

No, you’re not headed down to your local bookie to make a bet, although sometimes it may feel that way as a freelancer. This business is fraught with risks, so why not take control of one from the start. Keeping a record of your income and expenses, known in the business world as bookkeeping, is an off-putting subject to many writers. But in fact, it’s an essential tool you shouldn’t do without. As for the idea that it's just a drag on your creative prowess, get over it. If you want to make a success of your business, you’ve got to keep records. It’s as simple as that.

Most people think bookkeeping is only for tax purposes. True, keeping good records certainly will help you at tax time, whether you do your own taxes or have someone else do them for you. But record keeping has other advantages. It can tell you where you’ve been and perhaps where you’re going. It gives you a heads up when things aren’t going as well and let’s you know when to breathe a sign of relief when they’re going better.

If you don’t keep good records, you’re allowing forces other than yourself to run your business. For one thing, whether your freelance operation shows real profit or not will he evident in well-documented books. Losses won't hit you as hard since they’ll appear in time for you to make needed alterations in your work habits or markets. On the positive side, if your income is growing, you might he edging toward a higher income-tax bracket. By noting this possibility early, you'll be in a better position to make the decisions that will save money and offset your tax liability.

How you keep control of the financial end of your business is totally up to you. You decide whether you want it to be easy or a constant headache. But it doesn't have to be the latter. Much depends on how you lay out your initial plans and how willing you are to diligently record the necessary information. Whatever system of keeping track you choose, you'll want it to he simple to use, easy to understand, reliable, accurate, consistent, and designed to provide information on a timely basis. The IRS doesn’t require any particular accounting system. All it requires is that you keep track of income and expenses.

Today, you have many digital accounting programs, both independent and online, to choose from. In most cases, these are meant for larger businesses. You want to keep things simple—at least in the beginning. You’ll need nothing more than a simple record hook using a single-entry system of recording expenses and income. You can pick one up at your local office supply store.
If you’re more inclined to work digitally, you could create a simple spreadsheet or multiple ones showing the necessary information. Whatever system you decide to use, you want to make sure it allows for expansion and ease of input.

One thing you’ll have to learn to do is a profit and loss statement. This should be done at the end of each year. Such a statement not only helps you see where you’ve been, but can also help if you need to get a loan as most lending institutions require one. There’s no special form. Just list all the money you took in and the expenses you paid out in various categories. By employing the expense categories set up by the IRS on Schedule C, you can just transfer those amounts to your statement. The difference between what you earned and what you spent is your profit or loss. This may or may not be the same as the total on your Schedule C of your tax return as there are other items involved on it.

A record of furniture, fixtures, and equipment in a separate section of the same record book will be an added convenience when, at tax time, or perhaps during any problems dealing with an insurance company, you need to see quickly what you purchased, from whom, when, and for how much. With all of this together you can then also record by which means of depreciation you are operating—another bit of information the IRS requires of businesses. All equipment needs to be depreciated according to IRS rules.

You can also keep a record of payments to your retirement fund, your savings account, insurance payments, dividends received, receipts from medical and disability insurance, details on payments and subcontracts, accounts receivable and payable, loans, leases, etc. Only your own particular situation and your accounting preference will dictate what is or isn’t included. Generally, as a freelancer, you don't have to be concerned about most of these details but, if and when you do, the same record book is expandable to include them and you have, as near as is possible, a complete financial accounting of your situation in one handy book.

NEXT WEEK: Some bookkeeping tips to make your life a little easier.

Friday, February 1, 2013

10 Ways of Improving Your Chances in Negotiation

As you progress in your freelance career, you’ll find that you’ll need to start negotiating with your editors if you expect to get paid more money. In the beginning, you had no recourse but to accept whatever a publication paid. But as you move on up the ladder of success, you’re in a position to ask for more pay. But to do that, you’ll need to negotiate.

Negotiation is a two-sided process. If either side weighs heavier than the other, it’s out of balance. Since you’re the one who will be initiating the negotiation most of the time, it’s up to you to make sure all your ducks are in a row. Otherwise, the other side will get the upper hand and control the process, usually not in your favor.

Here are ten things you can do to make sure the negotiation goes well and in your favor. Keep them in mind each time you step up to ask a client for more money or a more reasonable deadline. And as in any bargaining situation, be prepared to back away.

    1. Sell yourself on your idea first.
    2. Get to the right person before you start your negotiation. Let’s face it, there’s no point wasting your
time talking to someone who’s in no position to talk money.
    3. Know why you deserve what you’re asking for. Your resume and hourly rate schedule will help you here.
    4. Before you negotiate, get a good night’s rest. Being well rested will boost your confidence, improving your chances during the negotiation.
    5. Make sure you take the right approach at the start of the meeting or phone call. Remember, you want the client to think your idea is his or her idea and that you’re just calling attention to it.
    6. Think big. Always ask for more than you think you’ll get. You can always go lower but never back up once you’ve come to an agreement.
    7. Keep some other ideas in reserve. Be prepared to counter a negative offer with an irresistible idea.
    8. Offer to help the client. See the negotiation from his or her point of view. Does he need to make money or save money or reach more readers?
    9. Make your client think he’s getting the better part of the deal. If you do, he’ll want to do business with you in the future.
    10.  If you’re client gives you the your price-is-to-high treatment, don’t retreat. Be ready to explain why your price is a bargain.