Having worked for Corporate America, Fortune 500s, and Elance and later, Upwork, I can guarantee prices for ghostwriting, editing, and design are all over the map — as is the quality you get for what you pay. I've paid top-dollar and gotten crappy work, and vice versa. No wonder clients are reluctant to pay a lot of money for untested talent!
So how do you find great talent at a price that's fair for you both? Number one — don't rush in to hire without doing your due diligence. That means find the going rates for the work you want done. No, that doesn't mean checking on Fivvr.com or Upwork or any of the other low-ball, iffy talent sites. You CAN find great providers at low prices on those sites, but if you do, you've either lucked out, or have a friend who referred you to their find. If you're shooting blind, and don't know where to start, here are some tips:
Define your project. Many clients come to me not sure of what they need, let alone what it might cost. If you don't know what you need, say so up front and ask for insight and feedback. Most providers will talk with you for free for 15-30 minutes, or charge a consulting fee for their time. This fee can run anywhere from $75 to $150 depending on their expertise, and what you want to know, how much time you need. If you're really unsure, plan on no less than 30-minutes. Defining your project can be as simple as "I need a website," or "I want an ebook written." Don't be surprised if the writer/designer asks you about your overall plan or objective for the website or ebook. Many people don't realize an ebook is only a piece of the puzzle. Everything, from website, ebook, landing page, or book should have a job, a place in the strategy of what you're trying to achieve. I had a client a while back who wanted a book written. He didn't have a website, or any social media, or even an idea about what his book would be about. He didn't need a book. He needed a goal. We talked for several hours while I helped him define his goal - which was to be a life coach, and then a speaker. I explained how he had to have followers, a website, content, and what his strategy would be. The book was really one of the last things he needed. He needed a website, a newsletter, social media, and a following first. Once he had followers, and understood what problems they wanted to solve, then he could use his website, blogs, and social media to craft a book readers would want to buy. From the book he could leverage all those things into clients, and testimonials, and then speaking engagements. If you don't have a goal, you won't have a clearly defined project, and your writer/designer will have a hard time giving you an accurate quote.
Take time to spell out a list of deliverables and a timeline, or ask your creative (writer, designer, etc.) to give you a list of deliverables based on your project goal. Ask for a list of all the things your project will need. For instance, for an ebook you'll need content, a cover design, layout and formatting, and editing. Your primary creative may be able to source all that out, or only provide one aspect of the job — like the content. Others, like myself, may do it all — which lowers your cost and keeps everything on track because I "maestro" (manage) the project so everything is scheduled and happens in a reasonable manner. Writing costs will range from .10 a word to .50 or even a $1 a word depending on the project's scope. You can find cheaper rates (.01 to .05 cents per word on Upwork and Fiverr), but again, the quality will range. Good writers will start out low, then raise their rates quickly once they establish a good clientele willing to pay higher rates, so the churn is high.
Learn to pronounce
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines what it means to plagiarize:
"to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source,
to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."
But what happens when you honestly do have an original (to you) idea that you didn't find online, or hear from another? Case in point, a five-year old fishing with his grandma (who didn't really know anything about fishing at all) noticed, astutely, that fish liked to congregate under rocks and in the weeds along the bank. No one told him that. He just noticed that was where he tended to catch the most fish. If he were to write about his experience, should he cite someone for that information? Was it an original thought he could claim as his own, even though thousands of fishing experts before him had written about it? Is that common knowledge or easily accessible fact? Maybe it's all of the above. See how slippery the slope gets?
To determine if something is common knowledge many universities [including the Writing Center at UNC https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/plagiarism/ ] use two criteria for student papers.
When I was a college freshman I wrote a paper on the comparisons between the "Rose of Sharon" in the Bible (Song of Solomon) and John Steinbeck's' Grapes of Wrath, and Rose of Sharon Joad - a character in the book. I was in college before computers (1974) and my comparisons were unique and a topic decidedly un-freshman like. The writing was excellent, far above par for a freshman, and the topic bizarre for an 18-year-old. So, my professor gave me an F on the paper, claiming I'd plagiarized it. I took it to the dean, horrified at the accusation. He happened to have been an expert on the subject - go figure, and after talking to me about the concepts in the paper, he pronounced it entirely original thought and an A paper. I got my A, got a B in the class, and moved on, angry at the professor forever for having doubted me. I've made it a point to cite references ever since, and still find that the rules aren't etched in concrete and opinions about what to cite often change from editor to editor.
In order to avoid plagiarising the work of other people you should cite or reference anything that is not common knowledge or based on an easily accessible fact. If in doubt, cite it and let your teacher, ghostwriter, editor, or publisher sort it out. Better to overcite, than under cite. That brings me to the reason for this post. Plagiarism a much larger problem than just a few sentences or paragraphs:
Plagiarism of Entire Books:
Over the past year I've noticed a disturbing trend with new authors. They come to me with a "book" and ask for several extra chapters to be written, or rewritten in order to complete it. I assume they have created the content they're giving me. I've been wrong, several times now — usually after running the content through a plagiarism checker [Turnitin.com, Grammarly, or https://www.duplichecker.com/ So, I just instituted a new policy, I must run everything a new client calls their content through a plagiarism checker before quoting them a price on their job. Why? Because three clients over the past year or so have plagiarized entire books. Was it deliberate? I don't know. I find it hard to believe that they were entirely clueless, as much as they protest they were unaware of what they were doing.
What they were doing was failing to tell me when they hired me is that their "book" was not really their book (as in their original thoughts), but that it was a collection of copied and pasted information they found on the Internet. In these books they have generally failed to cite anything or point to references for what they are talking about. They just found something they liked, and copied and pasted it into a document to create their "book." Or they hired third world, English as a second or third language writers to create a report (which was also mostly plagiarised from English websites) and used that.
Some people honestly don't understand what plagiarism is. Some don't care. Some don't realize it's a serious problem. I've experienced the whole topic of, "what is plagiarism and what is not," to be difficult even for "experts" - such as editors, ghostwriters, and publishers. As Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas wrote in an 2015 article on BookDesigners.com, "Plagiarism. You know it when you see it, but it’s as slippery as a Canadian sidewalk in winter when you try to define or explain it."
The lines between what is "common knowledge," or "easily accessible facts," as in information or facts most people know, like "bears hibernate" or Tennessee is one of the 50 states in the United States, versus information that needs to be cited, like "Chevy Trucks are better than Dodge Ram trucks" can be difficult to determine.
For instance, is the fact that "vinegar can kill 99.9% of germs" common knowledge, easily accessible fact, or is it something that should be cited? If you're a woman (not to be sexist here), that's pretty much common knowledge. I don't know many men who clean, so it's not such a common fact with them. In fact, a male editor for a housekeeping magazine (whom I would have assumed would be familiar with vinegar's cleaning properties, told me vinegar's natural germ killing properties were not common knowledge. He was upset and said that statement should have been cited. Really? So you can see the dilemma even professional writers have with what is plagiarism and what isn't. Apparently, even with the excess of information and easy access to information on the Internet today, the bar for common knowledge is what a five-year-old would be aware of — as in "fish swim in water," or "cats purr." Better to be too conscientious than not.
If the person writing the paper/book etc. is an expert in their field and they are writing about a topic like, oh let's say horses, then they can write about their personal experience from their professional expertise, but, even if you've known or believed something for years and know it to be fact, you must still cite it if it's not common knowledge, if it's an opinion, if it could be challenged.
When Should You Cite Your Sources?
The best practice for deciding whether to use a citation is to overcite, and let someone with a higher pay-grade (your ghostwriter, editor, publisher, etc.) make that decision.
When you're working with a ghostwriter, tell them if the writing you're giving them is original (your own), or borrowed, paraphrased, or rewritten from sources you found online, etc..
"I was ten years old when I began writing for my life. Once I realized the power of words to stop the beatings and the molestation, I never stopped writing, and I never looked back."
That's the opening of my memoir, Writing for My Life. It was the alternative story I gave the TED organizers for my 2009 TED Global talk. Dan Pink, yes, the best-selling author of Drive, and other books, voted for it. But my account of being homeless won the nomination. I'm kind of glad really, because 10 years ago I wasn't ready to go public with how I started writing. I still may not be, but I'll know soon enough. Finishing a memoir does that — heals you I mean. It's why I love memoirs so much. It's why I love ghostwriting or collaborating with others who are writing their own.
What is a memoir? First off, it is NOT an autobiography. Biographies/autobiographies are linear. They're historical accounts of one's life. "First this happened, then this, then this." Or, "I was born and then...." Biographies are my second favorite genre but I'm hopelessly devoted first and foremost to the memoir.
Memoirs are snapshots into the memory, the angst, the recollections, pains, pleasures, and challenges of a person over time. That time can be short (summer vacation, planning a wedding, getting sober, having a child, a divorce, starting a business) or a look back at a lifetime. The focus of a memoir is not the order of things, or how they happened. A memoir is a shifting of memories, insights, pains, coming of age, remembrances of a theme.
Some memoir themes are:
Any major life change, for instance, is fodder for a memoir. The other great thing about memoirs is you can write more than one. But the reason I love the genre most is because people generally write memoirs to heal, or to share a truth that's haunted them, or to confront some demon or abuse, loss, or to share their coming of age stories. Memoirs are real, intimate, and often raw. They're the hardest book to write, but often are the most powerful to tackle. They can leave readers wrung out and emotional, change lives, give insights, and heal others. They're amazing.
If you've never thought about writing your own memoir, start thinking. If you don't know where to start, have never written, and would like to learn more about memoir - there's a September 22-24, 2019 memoir writing conference at The Spruceton Inn, in the Catskills, outside New York. Only ten attendees will be admitted so the conference can remain small, focused, and personal and so everyone gets lots of personal attention. The $550 fee covers your accommodations (your own room and private bath) in a bed & breakfast, tuition for the three days, one-on-one time with host/best-selling author and Hollywood Screenwriter Stephen Foreman, catered lunches, bonfires at night, and a fantastic experience being with other writers. There are four spots left. Join us. For more information: https://www.sprucetoninn.com/workshops-retreats and to contact the Inn, Email email@example.com or call 518-989-6404 to reserve your place. They’ll take a 50% deposit via credit card upon booking. Registration officially closes August 1st, if not sooner once it’s full!
Writers are multi-faceted. Great writers can see a scene or create a character from ANY point of view (POV), even if they don't agree with it. Their characters are real, not stereotypes. They have good intentions and bad. They are complex, difficult, lovable. They are human. This is what makes their dialogue so brilliant. The writer truly understands ALL sides, views, and people whether they agree with them or not. They have taken time, often a lifetime, to try and understand differences, not just hate them.
It's why those on the far left or the far right will NEVER, EVER be great writers. Their writing will never appeal to anyone outside of their own twisted, one-sided POV. That's the problem. They have ONE point of view - theirs. And, according to them, they're right and everyone else is wrong. They don't want to hear anything different, and if you film or record something as proof their stance is false, they will deny it even as they're watching the tape. Their writing is as flat and one dimensional as a flat sheet of paper.
You can't reason with them. You can't explain your side of things and you can't engage them in conversation. They scream and shriek and threaten and stick their fingers in their ears and run around like children screaming "Nah nah nah nah nah..." as if by not listening they can make the scary things like facts, history, and insight go away. And they wonder why their writing sucks.
In one of my Facebook writing groups a woman was complaining about how the Social Justice Warrior (for profit) group was not paying her for her internship. Seems kind of contrary to who they claim to be, I said. I also said that was also typical of similar liberal and Social Justice groups I was aware of or had interacted with and wondered why they were like that.
Trigger. DING DING DING DING. Someone else in the group - a social justice warrior social media person immediately jumped in and attacked ME personally. That seems to be how the extremist on both sides operate. When you don't have facts or proof, or an intelligent response, then attack, intimidate, threaten, and bully.
Rather than listen to more hate and trollish remarks, I blocked her. And it saddened me. She's so eager to be right, to intimidate another woman (a group whom she claims to protect and respect), that now everything I say or write in this group will be attacked. It's ruined the group for me.
Here's the thing. I have some friends who are liberals, some who are Muslims, one who is a Sikh, and many who are atheists. I have friends who claim to be Christians, some who truly are Christians, some New Age friends, and some agnostics. We are friends because we respect and honor each others right to believe, think, and act as we choose in a free society. We agree to disagree. We have fascinating conversations because we are genuinely curious about how the others came to the belief they did. None of us go off, or go rabid, bat-shit, frothing at the mouth crazy because we disagree on politics or religion. The liberals, Muslims, Christians, and atheists I know who DO go insane and threaten to kill, rape, burn, torture and hurt anyone who disagrees with their point of view, or who actually gets violent, stalks people, or attacks them or beats them up are the next active shooters. They are not human. They are insane. They need to be confined in an institution where they can't be a threat to peaceful society.
If you can't hold differing thoughts or points of view in your head without exploding and becoming enraged, violent, and unsettled, you can't be a good person, let alone a good writer. Good writers, great writers, understand their characters, their motivation, their feelings, and how they came to be who they are. If all you can do is write hate filled stereotypes your characters will come across to your reader as the cardboard cutouts they are. Unfortunately, extremists rarely change. The only people attracted to their writing are the people who think like them. And that's just sad.
A friend of mine, let's call him "John," who is struggling to find work recently called me. For several years I've had a waiting list of two weeks to two months, depending on the project. I get sick, and can't work sometimes, but I can't remember when there wasn't someone waiting for my calendar to free up. He asked me what my "secret" was.
"No secret," I said. "Just be awesome." I wasn't trying to be a smart-ass. But most of my work comes from referrals by companies and individuals who are pleased with my work. It's just human nature to keep going back to people you like, people who treat you fairly, people who do a good to great job for you and overdeliver. That's what "word-of-mouth" means. We all do it - from getting recommendations for restaurants, to finding a dentist, doctor, or hair dresser. We want to go where our chances of getting a fair deal, good service, and dealing with honest people is more likely. Thus, we poll our friends and find out where they go, and what they think of the person. That's what word-of-mouth is. It's powerful. In fact it's THE most powerful advertising there is. You can't buy it. The minute you make one bad referral you lose credibility with your friends. Lose enough credibility and no one asks you for a referral anymore. The closest that advertisers can come is hiring/paying "influencers" to advertise to their followers. Still, it's a risky game for an influencer if they refer followers to a bad store/product/service. The best way to get those referrals then is to provide:
That was the short list, here's more detail:
Excellent Customer Service
It always surprises me how many companies hire and keep sullen, angry, unhappy people who treat their customers like they're a bother. It may be hard to find good employees, but it's harder to find and retain good customers when your employees are jerks. Whenever and wherever possible I believe in being friendly, generous, and focused on providing the best customer service I can. There have been times I've blown my stack with insanely outrageous people who were abusive takers who used a product but claimed it "didn't meet their needs," and attempted to get their money back, violating every line of our agreement. For the most part I try to leave people with the feeling and awareness I went out of my way to do the best job possible, for a fair price, and with their success in mind.
Prices for writing/editing/blog posts can range from $5 to $5,000. The quality ranges too - and doesn't always reflect the pricing. For the most part I use the Editorial Freelancers Association rates. These are rates that most professionals charge. I may charge more for some writing because of the time, skills, and value I bring to that kind of work. Fair pricing does NOT mean the provider/writer/creative works for less than a minimum wage so the customer doesn't have to spend more money than they want to on a project. Fair pricing means fair to both or all parties involved.
Consistently Great Services or Products
Some projects are going to be more inspired than others, and you're simply going to do a better job for unforeseen reasons. It happens. You get in the flow, you've done a lot of work in that niche/industry and it results in a really good piece. Conversely, you're going to have work that falls below your standards and disappoints you and the client. That happens. You deal with it. However, your overall work, customer service, response time to your clients should be consistent. If work turns out poorly, eat it and offer your client a second run at it, or don't charge them at all. If YOU think the work doesn't met your standards, then own it and make it right. If you think it's great and they don't, well, that's another issue.
Clear and Detailed Letters of Agreement re: Deliverables, Scope of Project, Change Orders, Deadlines
By taking the time to craft a detailed, but easy to read and understand letter of agreement you can avoid a lot of headaches. Be very clear about what you'll deliver, when you'll deliver it, the scope of the project (how many changes, revisions etc. you'll do for the price quoted, what will cost extra), deadlines - including when the client will have work/data/photos/info to you so you can do your work, and your policy on change orders. Change orders are when the client wants something outside of your original scope of work -for instance, you agreed to write four pages of website copy and now they want two more pages of copy for two new additional pages. That should require a change order, and extra money for extra work.
An easy online shopping experience
If you have a website where you sell your products or services online, make sure the process for contacting you, scheduling an appointment, or buying your goods and services is easy. Don't make your visitor click through a dozen pages or links to buy something. Make checkout and the shopping cart easy to find and use. Say thank you when someone buys something. The easier it is for someone to navigate your site the more likely they'll return and tell their friends.
Be real. Don't be fake real. Be you — warts and all. Don't try to be someone you THINK people want to do business with. You'll only attract people who are looking for that. Be yourself, be honest, if you can't meet their needs refer them to someone who can. You can only win by being honest, trustworthy, and real.
Depending on where in the country you were born and raised, your friendliness quotient will vary. Here in the South we say please and thank you, and smile. Sugar, as we're told, gets you more attention than vinegar. The friend John whom I mentioned earlier is a natural grouch. I don't think he knows how to smile. He's always oversensitive, assumes people are thinking poorly of him, he's usually in victim mode, blaming everyone else for what's wrong in his life. No one likes to be around him and he doesn't get a lot of repeat business because people just don't like him. I've known him for so long I know it's just who he is, but I also limit my interactions with him, don't try to change him, and don't make suggestions unless he specifically asks for them. He just naturally repels clients. I tell him that and he agrees. So, it's not like he doesn't know. He just hasn't struggled enough to want to change. Many people are like that. It's too much effort to be nice, or to care. It's much easier to pay for more ads and try different marketing approaches. Each to their own.
The truth is, you're not going to get all great customers or clients. You need to understand some customers/clients will push your buttons, and your boundaries. They will hire you to write webcopy, or a report, or produce a slideshow and then, halfway through the project they'll change the scope, focus and project entirely. And they will assume that you're okay with that and won't charge them more. The emotionally and mentally healthy provider will say, "In our original agreement we agreed to ______. This change is not in our agreement, but I can make those changes for $____. Having good boundaries does several things. It shows you respect yourself, your time, your value, and your work. Providers who respect themselves are more likely to (1) be respected by clients (2) have the wisdom to separate from people and clients who don't respect them. When you set and communicate good boundaries with your clients around pay, time, communication, expectations, and job scope you're much less likely to have misunderstandings that can generate hard feelings with your clients.
Putting Customer/Client Needs First
Sure, your needs are important. Don't ignore them! But if your primary need is generating business and income for yourself, you might want to consider putting your customer needs first. For instance, there's a writing group/social event once a month that I like to attend. But last month I skipped it so I could work through the afternoon and evening to finish a project for a new client. My need as a raging extrovert who works alone at home and doesn't get out much, is to recharge by being around people. I missed not being able to go to dinner that week, but I wanted/needed the work more. By putting my client's project first, I made him happy. I also got some repeat business. He liked the work so much he put me on a permanent retainer. THAT was worth missing one dinner with other writers I enjoy. Plus, I attended a writer's conference later in the month so I got my "people fix."
Sometimes putting a client's needs first means working on a weekend, or in the evening, or going the extra mile to make the project a success. My decisions regarding this shift in boundaries around my time depends on several things. Among those are client patterns, project scope, and boundaries.
For instance, I recently had a client delay getting data to me on several occasions, resulting in a delay in the project on my end. That included my not being able to pay/retain editors and researchers. Not being able to find other editors and researcher doubled my workload and delayed the entire project. I relayed this to the client each time there was another delay. She apologized profusely because she didn't understand the ramifications of not hitting her deadlines and promises to me. She promised not to do it again if I'd get to the work done over the weekend. However, I had plans for the weekend and declined, citing those plans. I'm so glad I didn't cancel my plans. She was unable to hit the deadline once again. Because I was seeing a pattern developing with her I changed our agreement from date specific to "within 10 working days AFTER receiving work product." We're both happier with that structure.
There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to clients. You have to trust your gut and strike a balance between your needs and theirs when all things aren't equal.
Easy Access and Fast Communication/Response Time
I've had laryngitis for a week now. I have NO voice. I can't even whisper. The doctor said to expect another week to ten days of the same. I'm very bummed. I've had to alert a lot of clients, reschedule phone calls and text or email all my questions and contracts. When I'm not so inconvenienced it's important for me to respond to clients within 24 hours, or 48 hours if on the weekend. People, I've learned, can roll with just about anything if you get back to them in a timely manner. If you have to schedule an autoresponder, do so. Keep people in the loop as quickly as possible. This is generally easy for me if my client is good about phone calls and email. When someone blows us off for days or weeks at a time it's just the sort of thing that can sour a good working relationship. So be proactive, contact or respond to people in emails, social media etc. as needed. If the response requires some thought or more time, then a quick, "I'm on a deadline but will get back to you within 24/48/72 hours" is a good alternative. Just be sure you DO respond!
Keep in Touch and Develop GENUINE relationships
I like to touch base every few months to see how things are going with clients. I might review their website to see what's happening, or notice some activity on LinkedIn, like a post, news, etc. I touch base to comment on what I've seen, or to send them an article about their industry I think they might like. This is NOT an effort to get business. This is simply networking and maintaining a good relationship. In one conversation I had with a client I was able to refer new business to THEM. These are the kinds of efforts that show my client's I care about them and their business. People can tell if you're just doing these things as part of a sales effort. Develop GENUINE relationships with your clients. People like to do business with people they like. And if they don't have business for you, they'll refer friends who do.
Show Your Ongoing Support
I set Google alerts (FREE) for most of my clients. When news pops up about them in the alert I read it and if relevant, shoot off an email of congratulations, or link to an article I know they'd be interested in etc.. I recently saw half a dozen requests on HARO (HelpaReporter.com) that were perfect for clients. I sent each of them the contact info and information. Half responded to the queries which netted three of them mentions in the media. There's no charge for my doing that. I am showing my ongoing support for the client in keeping an eye out for them. They appreciate it. Sometimes it results in additional work, but not usually. It's just a way of saying, "I've got your back and am supporting you!"
When you follow all those things I guarantee you'll get repeat business. It's so hard to find, fair, honest, reliable, consistent providers that when people do find them, they keep hiring them. You don't need luck. You do need a smile, consistency, and good work product. You won't be able to do all these all the time without practice. I still drop the ball and don't follow up, or miss a few things. But I am striving to be all of this and more and the majority of the time I succeed. I hope you do too!
Last time I checked, my landlord didn't take "warm fuzzies" or good will, or inspiration in payment for rent. In fact, no one takes anything but cold hard cash in exchange for their skilled services. Yet many writers and those who hire them, think great writing should be free or close to it. When I have told some clients their demands exceeded the scope of our agreement they've become highly offended and angry. For God only knows what reason, they thought they could offer me a couple of hundred dollars for a blog post, and expand that 800-words into a full-length book. Go on Upwork.com and look over the job postings. Some clients expect a "GUARANTEED blockbuster, best-selling novel for $50." See the Upwork ad below for example. This person truly expects to get a 150-page BOOK for $50. And he owns all the copyrights. He says "Ignore price, it will be negotiable," but that usually means he'll go as high as $150.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a writer's retreat where Jane Friedman spoke about "The Business of Writing." I looked around the barn (where the retreat was held) at the many talented men and women who wanted to make a living writing, dreamed of being a "successful author" and who struggled with the shame of charging money for their talent. I think the majority of writers have been there - having something incredibly valuable to offer, but not knowing or believing in their writing enough to charge for it. And, the public senses that. That's why job boards are full of offers like this:
While the $50 budget is "just an estimate," the reality is this client will most likely balk at the $20,000 cost a book this length would cost. Why so much? A 150 page book is 37,500 to 39,000 words (based on an average page of 250 words). At only .10 cents a word, that's $3,750. Good writers, those who get .50 per word, are looking at about $18,000, rounded down. Then there's editing and proofreading, about $7 + per page. At 150 pages that's $1,050. What goes into writing involves more than sitting down at a keyboard. There's research on the topic - and not just reading what other bloggers have said. There are papers, experts, fact checking and interviews to do if you want to do it right. Many writers simply copy, paste, and rewrite or spin existing content for books like these. They don't bring any insight, research, new points of view, solutions, or true advice to the book.
Two years ago I was asked to write a 300-page book in ten days. It was on a complex, controversial scientific topic that should have taken six months to a year to write. But the client wanted it NOW, and was only willing to pay $500. I laughed. I could make more money asking, "Would you like fries with that?" in one week than I could writing his book. He insisted the exposure would be invaluable. Only, my name would be nowhere on the book, and he had no plan to tell others about me or get me more work. In the real world, "exposure" (as in to the elements) kills. The same is true for writers. Exposure does not pay the bills.
Here's another add. The "client" wants someone with a business background, experience, expertise, insight, and knowledgeable about ecommerce and entrepreneurship. He wants some semblance of thought leadership and professionalism, and he wants this talented, skilled writer to write a full-length book of about 200 pages. He "needs it urgently," but is probably not inclined to pay rush charges. The $300 he's offering wouldn't cover the cost of EDITING the book, let alone writing it. Yet some poor writer will bid and win this "job" and earn all of .02 cents an hour to write it, then get nothing in return. Ghost writers don't get royalties. They rarely get bonuses. And if they do, it's in the $25 to $50 range.
The evil evil people who perpetuate this MYTH of making millions off of hiring ghostwriters for pennies, are the people who run get rich scams. They tell the people who pay $500 and up for their "courses" that they should go on Upwork and say, "For someone who knows what they're doing, this won't take any time." Uh. No. That's NOT how it works. Usually the BETTER a person is the less time it takes to do something. True, but that doesn't mean they should be paid LESS for being faster. It means they've invested, time, practice, work, and training to get to be fast and should be paid MORE for that expertise. When I first learned how to change the brake pads on my car, it took me almost five hours. By the fourth time I did it, it took me less than an hour (mostly because I'm old and slow). But I knew what to do, what steps to take, what to look for, and HOW to do it accurately and quickly.
I write fast and effectively because I was a journalist for 23 years, freelanced for 33 years, and have ghostwritten for 10. I am efficient and skilled. I should be paid MORE to do my job. It would take three times the money I charge to hire some newbies working for $20 an hour to do (or try to do) what I do. My brain is trained. I can process more information and in ways new writers can't, simply because I'm experienced. That's what clients pay for. They pay for the value, insights, connections, and concepts I can bring to their project. They're not paying a typist. They're paying an expert. You may be happy getting your medical advice from WebMD for free, but I can guarantee that if you were diagnosed with Stage 3 or 4 cancer you'd pay more than you could afford for a specialist and an expert to treat that cancer. Why? Because you want the best.
Here's another example of a client gouging writers. Successful romance writers can make six figures and up, per year. If you're a good romance writer you don't need to write a $750 book for someone who will turn it into thousands of dollars for themselves. Yet writers do it all the time - wanting that $750 (minus the 20% fee or $150 Upwork takes off of the top) rather than write for themselves. Look at the level of expertise this "client" is asking for:
They're offering $50 for a "trial" piece of 5,000 words!! That's INSANE!! That's SLAVE LABOR! These people are the pig shit of the literary world. Greedy, ruthless, evil bastards.
If you're a writer, and you VALUE yourself, your time, your intelligence, and what you have to offer the world, don't do this. I did it for years, and suffered, always at the edge of becoming homeless or starving, just to have work. Then I learned I didn't have to do that. I could ask what I was worth and people who valued that WOULD pay for it, and they do. I now make enough to "help" those I think have a great concept for a book, but not the money to pay for it. But it's MY choice. And I don't do it often. It's a journey. What helped me was talking to other writers who charge full value for their work. Reading about money helped too. Here are the resources that helped me turn things around:
These are absolutely the most valuable books I've ever owned. The Pumpkin Plan alone doubled my income in 30-days. I went from charging $15 to $20 an hour to $50, working less and having more satisfying clients. And, Mike tells anyone in any business (not just writing) the step-by-step process. HIGHLY recommend it. Whether you're a copywriter, or a fiction writer who wants to know how to market your book, you should own The Everything Guide to Writing Copy. It was recently named one of the top 10 copywriting books of all time and it's deserving of the name. It's amazing. Easy to read, easy to follow, and just applying a few of his tips will boost your sales. Ilise Benun, author of the Creative Professionals Guide to Money was personally recommended to me by both Bob Bly, and on the phone with Ilise herself. This past weekend Jane Friedman (Former Writer's Digest Publisher, who now teaches at the University of Virginia, and writes for Publisher's Weekly) also highly recommended Ilise. The books do contain an affiliate link - which means Amazon pays me a tiny percentage (a few cents) of the cost of the book, but there is NO extra charge to you. You pay the same price whether you use the link or not. But by using the link you support another writer.
It's easy to get caught up in the trap of reading and attending conferences and shying away from writing, but there are times when you really do need some insights to break out of the rut you're in. So, take an hour, a day, or a weekend off to really think about whether you want to make your writing a business, something you earn a living at, or if you just want to write for the joy of writing. If it's the former, get serious about making what you do a business so you can make a living. Don't settle for crumbs. Pull a chair up to the table of professionals and feast. You'll be glad you did.
What do you want to know about the business of writing? Comment below! Ask! I'll answer or get answers!
Consistency Matters More Than Talent
You don't have to be talented to succeed. You do need to be consistent.