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Writing and Publishing

Tips on Being a Ghostwriter

I’ve ghostwritten some books and enjoyed doing so. The payment is almost always a fixed rate, paid in installments. Require the first payment before starting the project, and the final payment is due when the writer submits the finished product to the author. (The person who hires you is the author, and you are the writer.)

The number of installments is up to you and the author. Two, three, or four are common, but my last book was in ten installments (per the author’s request). Also, try to frontload the installments so you receive more money in the beginning. That way if the project doesn’t work out, the author changes their mind, or they stop paying, then you have received just compensation for your work to date.

Don’t write on spec or have it contingent on them getting a book deal. Also, avoid a revenue share based on books sold. Though you could negotiate a base fee plus a revenue share unless the author has a large platform and can sell books, assume there will never be any significant revenue for them to share with you. So make your base fee large enough to make the project worthwhile. See “Ghostwriting Fees” for some general ghostwriting rate ideas.

If you need to interview the author, such as for an autobiography or memoir, your fee should cover your time. Estimate high. You may need to help the author organize their thoughts, or they may be evasive or unwilling to share, which has happened to me.

Two related items: Always have a written agreement that states your fees, the installment amounts and dates, and details of what you will include and not include. A basic “work-for-hire” agreement should work. (Remember, I am not a lawyer, and this response is not legal advice.) 

The other item is to be aware that you are selling your words and cannot claim them as your own or reuse them for another purpose. Though a nice author may share the byline with you or acknowledge you were the writer, most will not.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

How to Make Money through Freelance Writing

Being a freelance writer can take many forms, some lucrative and others that leave you struggling as a pauper.

Payment for most freelance work is by the finished piece, though some might be per word. But when it comes to looking at how much you can earn as a freelancer, always think in terms of dollars per hour. If you charge $100 for a piece that takes you five hours to write and edit, you’re earning $20 an hour.

Unless there’s a strategic reason to do so, aim to make at least minimum wage for your freelance work. But don’t be satisfied with that. Seek higher-paying work, knowing that the effective hourly rate for experienced freelancing can be $50, $100, or even more an hour. But use this hourly rate for analysis purposes only, and don’t share it with clients. Instead, quote the price per finished piece or the rate per word. 

Though I’ve never quoted a project rate per hour, there may be times when a project is so undefined that quoting an hourly rate is the only option. But then, I just pass on those types of messy projects.

And never compete on price. That’s a race to the bottom. Someone will always undercut you.

Instead, here’s how to go about getting the better-paying freelance gigs.

Start by considering what you like to write and are good at. Then find a niche you’re knowledgeable about—or willing to become knowledgeable about. Look at how much competition you would face in the market. Then consider what clients/publishers are willing to pay. In general, the less competition you have, the more you can charge, and the more people will pay.

For myself, I like to write blog posts and am good at it. I selected a small niche market I know well and promoting my services for writing content marketing pieces. Because of my knowledge of the industry and long-standing reputation, coupled with the ability to write fast and well, I have little competition. 

As a result, I make enough income from being a commercial freelance writer in this niche market that I could support myself full-time through it—if needed. Fortunately, I have revenue from other sources to supplement my freelance writing.

The point is that it’s possible to earn a living through freelance writing. But you need to find a niche with little or no competition and produce great content that your clients will love and pay for.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Business Articles

Customer Service Matters

We hear much today about delighting our customers. This is an admirable goal, and every business should strive to do so. We must acknowledge, however, that this is not sustainable. We may delight customers upon occasion, but to expect we’ll succeed in every interaction will leave us falling short of their increasingly higher standards.

Each time we do something that excites our customers, we set the bar higher for next time. What delights them today and gets them to tell their friends about us will soon fade into the recesses of normalcy. Then, when we can’t meet their newly heightened expectations, we have much further to fall and their disappointment will be all that much greater.

Instead, we should set a more realistic goal. Though it’s not exciting or compelling, we should aim simply to meet customer expectations. Though this sounds boring, don’t dismiss the idea too fast. Many customer service interactions fall short—sometimes far short—of meeting customers’ expectations.

Meeting expectations is sustainable and is good business.

Constant Churn

Do you know someone who left one company because of service issues and then left the new company for the same reason? Once they have used and dismissed each company, their new goal is to pick the least objectionable one.

They no longer pursue the best option. Instead, they seek the one that is least bad, returning to a former unsatisfactory provider. This produces a revolving door of customer churn, whereas a better goal is to keep existing customers.

Does any company provide quality service anymore? The good news is yes, and I celebrate this whenever possible. Yet for each positive example, it’s usually not the company but one person who made the difference. They cared about me and had a genuine interest in the outcome. I was their priority, and they did what the situation required.

Every company claims they offer quality service, but is it real or fantasy? Is a personal connection provided to customers? Can you say, believe, and prove that your company delivers quality service? If you can’t, what changes do you need to make?

Throughout my career, from the jobs I’ve held, businesses I’ve managed, and companies I’ve owned, a consistent thread has been customer service in one form or another. Yet I’m not writing about my experiences in providing customer service, for we are our own worst judges of success. And I’ll admit to having fallen short too many times.

A Lifetime of Experience

Though sharing a lifetime of experience in providing customer service would offer useful input, it would only draw from the businesses I’ve owned and managed. Instead, in these posts I cover something I have much more experience with. Not in providing, but in receiving customer service—and in not receiving it.

We can glean a far better perspective by looking at a lifetime of receiving customer service. This provides a greater array of consideration, offering a more comprehensive approach that most customer service books miss.

I am a consumer. As someone who purchases products and services, I often need support after the sale. I need customer service. I’ll share the times that left me appalled or produced discouragement. Yet I’ll also share those times—albeit not as common—when I experienced customer satisfaction.

Customer service opportunities occur in three arenas. These are in person, over the telephone, and online. None functions in isolation. Each type of customer-focused communication informs our expectations in the other formats. Regardless of the communication channel, whether we’re speaking face to face, talking on the phone, or interacting over the internet, we deal with the same issues and desire the same outcomes. It’s my hope that these posts will provide you with helpful customer service insights that will encourage you to do better and celebrate what you do best. Let us meet our consumers’ expectations every chance we get.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights with others through his books and blogs to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.

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Writing and Publishing

Financial Considerations of Being a Full-Time Writer

If you want to become a full-time writer, consider the financial ramifications. First, don’t quit your day job. I’m serious.

I don’t know anyone who one day quit their job and transitioned into being a full-time writer the next day. It takes years to make that move.

While you still have your full-time job, start writing on the side. How much money can you generate from it? As your income from writing increases and provides consistent revenue month after month, you can consider scaling back your other job and ramping up your writing.

But before you take this step, pare back your expenses as much as possible. Beyond living simply, live frugally. Be prepared to do so for as long as necessary. Also, set aside a cash reserve to pay your bills as you make this transition.

When I switched from a traditional job to going solo, my family had no debt (not even for our house), and I had six months of income in the bank as a safety net. I used it all. I also had an emergency fund, which I didn’t need.

Many authors wanting to go full-time look at their current expenses and think they need to make that much money through writing. Instead, they should look at how much they can reduce expenses. Doing so will make the transition easier.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Is It Possible to Be a Full-Time Writer?

One author quipped that in the United States more people earn their living from playing Major League Baseball than from being full-time novelists. Ouch! The truth is, few people make their living full-time from writing.

One author quipped that in the United States more people earn their living from playing Major League Baseball than from being full-time novelists.

And most of those full-time authors earn their income from a variety of sources. For example, I write books, am a commercial freelance writer, and publish magazines and e-zines. From these three areas, I earn my living as a full-time writer. Most full-time authors have a similar situation.

Though I hope to one day make my complete living through writing books—and have a plan to get there—I’m not there yet. I might never achieve that goal, but it is my dream.

Being a full-time writer is possible, but it takes patience and creativity. Also, don’t expect to get rich through writing. If you happen to make a lot of money through writing, consider it a bonus. Instead, resolve to be satisfied living a simple life and able to cover your basic living expenses through writing.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.