Article by Wendy McCance
I remember the first article I was ever asked to write. It was the happiest and scariest moment all rolled into one. I was in disbelief that I had an offer to write for a paycheck and from a company who had sought me out, to boot. At the same time, I was on high alert. What if this was a scam? What was I supposed to do next? I was truly in fear of handling this moment incorrectly.
Anyone who is looking to have a career as a writer is bound to face a moment like this. Maybe a company doesn’t seek you out, but you will still need to know how to handle the situation when prospecting pays off and you have an interested customer.
The first thing you should do is to Google the company and the contact person’s name. Make sure there are no red flags. You should also check the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is well thought of.
When it comes to payment, I use PayPal. I never give out a social security number. PayPal is great because it allows you to create an invoice to send to the company to bill them and no personal information is ever exchanged. The company doesn’t even have your address (if that is of concern to you).
I highly suggest you get a small business license. I have a Limited Liability Company (LLC). If for some reason you are hired long-term (for instance) and the company wants to put you on their payroll, you can give an employer id number (EIN) which you get when you form your company instead of giving out a social security number.
Besides worrying about giving out personal information, another worry is, will you actually be paid? The way I look at it is like this, there is always risk that payment won’t occur. Don’t sign on to do big, long assignments until you have had proof of writing an article and being promptly paid for it (if possible). Putting together a contract is also a smart thing to do. You will have all of the details written out which will save confusion over what the assignment is, how much you will be paid, when payment will occur etc.. If nothing else, at least put a quote together so there is something in writing.
Understand that there are risks in life and losing a small amount of time spent writing an article isn’t the end of the world, just a lesson in what to look out for next time. Maybe you will ask to be paid a portion up front and the rest at the completion of the assignment. It’s all up to you. It’s your business and believe it or not, you get to call the shots. Maybe the company will decide against using you, but these are the decisions that only you can make. Go with your gut and be fair to yourself. I have never had a problem getting paid within a few days of submitting an article, but I know the possibility is always there.
Charge a rate that is fair to you as well as to the company you will be working for. I have never used a content mill and refuse to charge peanuts just to sell an article. The Writer’s Digest is a wonderful book to use with guides on how much to charge for a variety of situations. Know your prices before you get that first offer. You will want to be able to throw a number out when you get that call or email. If the assignment is more complex, it is completely acceptable to say that you need to work out the numbers and will get back to them.
Here is an example of a portion of my pricing scale to help give you a guide:
$55.00 300-500 word article
$65.00 501-1,000 word article
$75.00 press release
These prices aren’t set in stone. If there is travelling, interviews, meetings or research, that goes into consideration when I price out a quote.
I hope this advice helps you out in your own venture. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section. I’d be happy to answer any questions I can.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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