Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pinning a Value on Your Time

Writers, like other artists, often have a hard time when it comes to pricing their work. With visual artists, it’s a difficult prospect because a project may take hours and hours of grueling work before its completed. If they charged an hourly rate, their work would be overpriced in the market place. Instead, many just take a wild guess and figure that if someone wants one of their pieces bad enough, they’ll pay whatever it takes to get it.

As a writer, on the other hand, if you produced one copy of a book, for example, and charged what it took in time to produce it, no one would buy it. But as a writer, you have an advantage. You have to ability to produce multiple copies of a work or get paid by a publishing company for them to do so. Artists who have adopted this same business model are doing significantly better than those that don’t.

Still, how do you figure out what your time is worth? The first thing you have to remember is that you’re in business. And as such you have overhead—the cost of utilities, including phone and the Internet, office supplies, postage, food, transportation, insurance, equipment, clothing, etc. All that adds up! And before you can make any profit, you have to be able to pay for it all.

There’s no guess work involved when figuring out what your hourly rate should be. It’s simple mathematics. First, you add up all your regular monthly expenses, then you factor in the cost of extras, such as buying replacement equipment. If you can’t wait to get the latest smartphone, then you’ll have to add in that cost to the mix. You can’t leave anything out.

Next, you need to divide your total monthly expenditures by four in order to get the amount you spend per week. By dividing this by seven, you’ll find out what you spend per day—even on days when you’re not actually working.

If you work the standard 40 hours—not necessarily 8 hours per day—then you should divide your weekly total by 40. Let’s say your monthly expenses come to approximately $1,600, then your weekly expenses would be about $400. Dividing that by 40 hours gives you an hourly rate of $10. But that doesn’t allow for any profit, so you must add on an equal amount or higher to make sure you’re getting enough to cover your expenses and make a profit.

However, you won’t necessarily be working steadily as you would in a salaried position. Instead, you may work more one week than in another. Generally, money won’t be flowing in regularly. So it’s a good idea to make your hourly rate slightly higher to cover the times when you may not have any work. In the beginning, you can possibly shoot for a lower rate, increasing it as you gain more experience and more complex assignments.

While you probably won’t ever get your hourly rate, at least you’ll be able to judge if what you’re getting paid is enough for the time you put into your work. You may also want to consider establishing a minimum rate for writing projects. But don’t make that rate too high or you’ll be cutting yourself out of some easy jobs that overall will net a higher profit.

While you won’t have much control when it comes to be paid by editors of magazines and newspapers—essentially, they generally tell you what they’ll pay you—you still need to know if what they’re paying is enough for the time you put in on a project.

Many freelance writers make the mistake of putting in the same amount of work on each article they write and then get paid a different amount for each piece. But unlike products produced by other businesses, no one piece of writing brings in the same amount from different publications. You may get paid $300 from one publication and $50 from another for exactly the same piece. Also, some editors may only pay a pittance but ask for a lot more work. It’s only by knowing your hourly rate that will enable you to decide it what they’re offering is enough for you.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

So You’ve Decided to Retire, Now What?

For whatever reason, you’ve decided to retire from the daily grind of stress of freelance writing. Perhaps through no fault of your own. You’ve lost all your paying markets. Maybe, freelance writing has become too demanding. Maybe you just need a change. Whatever your reason, you’ve got to think ahead before making the leap, just like y oui did—or at least should have done—when you firest started freelancing.

Before doing anything else, you should take a look at your inventory, both your published work and the research you did to write it.

If you specialized in a particular subject, you may have enough information, or at least a good bit, to write a book on one aspect of your specialty. You may have been thinking about this for a while but never had the time to pursue it.

Opportunities for publishing go far beyond commercial publishers. While you could pursue the more traditional route, you can also look into self-publishing, either as a print-on-demand book or an ebook. Either of these will work well, if you already have a target audience.

You might also consider writing a blog. This shouldn’t be one in which you pour out your personal opinions, but a more professional one that appears online regularly and explores a particular subject.

Your blog could be based on your previous speciality or you could explore a subject is that is near and dear to your heart. The possibilities are endless.

And if you’re really ambitious you might try publishing a magazine—not one that will drain your financial resources but an online e-zine that mostly requires just time and energy. More and more people are reading about things online, whether through tablets like Kindles or Nooks or on their smartphones. An online magazine is just another extension of a blog.

You can pursue any of the above while still keeping your hand in commercial publishing, just not as much.

One thing you must do in order to enjoy your retirement years is to keep a flexible schedule, one that allows you to write at whatever level you wish but also allows you to pursue recreation and travel.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Do Writers Retire?

If you’ve been working for years as a freelance writer, will you be considering retiring as other working people do? When you work for a salary, your job has an end point. For most people that’s around age 65 or a bit later. But for a writer, is there an end point?

Some writers, especially those who write books, have one or two successes, then nothing. While they may be in the limelight for a little while, it’s not a steady income. But a freelance writer, even a moderately successful one, has the ability to publish in different market for as long as those market exist.

But after you’ve been writing for 20 or 30 years, you may be ready to switch gears. As a freelance writer, you’ve been writing mostly non-fiction. Now that you’re approaching retirement age and a regular Social Security income, even though it may or may not be as much as you earned previously,

Do you know many former writers? Does that category even exist? Do you, as a writer, have an obligation to write or is that something you have for yourself? It’s one thing to stop feeling the obligation to write and another thing to never write anything again. After all, it’s as odd for a writer to be retired from words as it is for a man or woman to be retired from love.

Perhaps it’s not so much retirement from writing as it’s retirement from commercial publishing that you seek. After all, you have been putting up with the vagaries of editors for your entire career. Don’t you wish that you didn’t have to struggle so hard?

The Retirement Book of Genesis might read like this: “ In the beginning, there was no retirement. There were no old people. In the Stone Age, everyone was fully employed until age 20, by which time nearly everyone was dead, usually of unnatural causes.” That’s not true today, as people live longer and are more active for a longer period of their lives. So, too, are writers.

Retirement resulted from the pension system enacted in Germany in the late 19th century, but it didn’t come to America until the 1930s, when the country needed to find a way to make room for younger workers by encouraging older ones to stop. Older people like retirement because they get to stop working and still enjoy some financial protection, whether from the U.S. Government or from their own pension or 401K contributions. Young people like retirement because it gets the old people out of jobs, making room for them. Maybe there are too many writers—or not enough readers to go around. Unfortunately, compulsory retirement won’t help all the young writers out there.

Unlike sports celebrities, writers have fewer fans. They earn less money and their value to the public isn’t necessarily diminished by age—Charles Dickens did much of his best writing in his older years. In many cases, it is enhanced, not simply because there’s a real possibility that their talents will improve with years of practice, but also because readers want to interact with them at 90 as much as they do with writers at 20.

All writers are different, so it’s impossible to tell when each will produce his or her best work. Some never match their earlier work while others reach their peak mid career. Still others don’t begin writing until later in life and reach their peak almost near the end of their lives.

For a freelance writer, retirement actually means the end of struggling. Officially, you’ll gain a steadier income after 65—or now 66. And you won’t necessarily have to struggle to pay bills, so you can take a much needed sigh before continuing on.

Next Week: So You’re Retired, Now What?