Friday, March 10, 2006

The Well-Fed Writer - a helpful book for freelancers

I can't remember now where it was, but on one of the writing sites I found a recommendation for Peter Bowerman's book The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less. Of course, not having found financial self-sufficiency as a writer, I didn't have the money to buy the book, so I checked it out at the library.

I had a few complaints about the book. Like other "get rich quick as a writer" books, I thought some of it was ridiculous - when the author discusses how much newbie copywriters can charge an hour and how soon they should be able to consistently find enough high-paying work to make $80,000 annually, he forgets to mention how location can change that. Certain cities are simply not good markets for copywriters. Also, since the book was written several years ago, I don't think all of the information is accurate - cheap internet copywriting is bound to drive professional rates down. Very seldom have I seen any company advertising that they will pay $50 or more an hour for a copywriter.

However, I thought the book was overall very good. Even if the book promoted delusions of grandeur, it also had some very good information about how to find work, how to determine rates and flat fees, how to invoice, and so on. He also includes sample correspondence in an appendix in the back of the book, for those who need a little extra guidance.

Interestingly, the author kind of poo-poohed contracts: he said they weren't necessary, as he does not use them, and has been burned only once. Since most of what I have read (and experienced!) tells me the exact opposite, I think I will continue to take the better-safe-than-sorry approach, and continue to work under contract.

Ironically, the one tip that I found most helpful was probably also the most trivial. The author talks about breaking down his desired income into pieces that are a little easier to conceptualize: $80,000 works out to be about $400 a day, so he has motivational signs posted everywhere that say, "Where is today's $400 coming from?" I liked the idea, so I set up my screensaver to display a similar message. And while I haven't reached my desired income every day, I've found it's much easier to gauge how I am doing when I break it down into a daily goal.

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