What do you do when advice seems useless?

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starmom

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I've been working as a freelance writer for nearly 10 years. I work almost exclusively for one content company, and when there are few jobs available I fall behind with my financial obligations (bills). Writers on other forums say it's important to have a number of "eggs," but I've had quite a bit of bad luck. Assisting other writers with their jobs usually turned out well, but finding "extra eggs" elsewhere has not. While I've figuratively kicked myself over not following two bits of advice- get everything in writing; and keep copies of all your work- even when I followed this advice to the letter it hasn't made any difference. So I'm posting to ask if anyone here might know what, if anything, can be done when editors, etc., screw you over?

A few examples, in no particular order:

- An individual frequently posts on forums under a fake name, asking for writers to do projects. She said she liked the first project I wrote for her, and offered me three more. She said while they had a base rate for pay, I'd receive a bonus if it involved any extra work. However, while she requested and I completed "summaries" for each article in the last three sets, I was not paid the bonus. I initially let this go because she said she'd have more jobs for me in the future. When she didn't come up with more jobs, I asked about the bonuses- and she posted on the forum that I'd never done the extra work at all, plus lied and said I had the habit of missing deadlines (although she never gave me deadlines). Although she had posted my articles & summaries on some of her websites, when my computer blew out I couldn't locate the sites and the copies I had on my desktop vanished.

- An individual posted on a different forum, asking for writers for her company's wide range of websites. She insisted on a phone interview, during which we discussed and agreed on the terms. She also asked me to connect with her in "Google Chat," where she said this would be a long-term job. We also had email communications.
However- the job involved writing a certain number of articles each week day, based on assignments she was to provide every Monday. As she did not get the assignments to me on time, I was in the position of completing full weeks' worth of work near the end of the week. After this pattern occurred a number of times, I explained as politely as possible that I could not do the work on time if I did not receive the assignments. She replied since I 'wasn't being patient' I could 'look elsewhere for work until future notice.' I said it wasn't right to withhold work- and she responded by causing me to lose the job entirely.
In addition, she claimed we never had any contract, and that she'd never promised me any work; when I brought this to the attention of the company owner (phone agreement, Google chat agreement, emails), instead of doing his job and resolving the problem I was simply 'let go.'

- When I was desperate for a few extra dollars to cover my phone bill, I found an online 'company' that was actually one guy and his sidekick. I didn't like the fact that he asked a lot of personal questions (how many kids I have, why I need the money, etc.), but the topper was when he insisted on talking to me on the phone- it had nothing to do with the job, just his ramblings about his ex-wife and his drinking problem. I said I didn't have time to spare for that- one-way 'conversations' spanning more than 2 hours each time- so he wrote an email to his sidekick, sent me a copy, and it was various lies and character-assassinations. When he read the first article I wrote for him, he said he wanted me to write ebooks- I still have the emails with all the details he brought up. Yet in the email he said I was a 'psycho,' that I was 'begging him for money,' and that he'd never said he wanted me to write anything else for him.

- I believe it was Oct. 2013 when an individual was posting all over the web, asking for articles for a new company. I was eventually paid for the first article, but he said I'd have to wait til the following January to be paid for the other two articles. Later, another person from the company told me the guy had vanished. This January, I managed to locate a person who was allegedly in charge of the company. He said he had other business ventures going on, that 'funding' wasn't yet completed for writing projects, and that I should be paid 'within a month or so.' When April came and I still had not been paid, he said it shouldn't take much longer, and I'd have an ongoing place in their company. He added that I should direct future communications to his editor- did; no reply from her at all. So I still haven't been paid for two articles the first guy accepted well over two years ago.

So it seems it doesn't matter if freelancers have agreements in writing, have copies of their work, etc., because, unless I'm missing something somehow, there's really nothing we can do about "deadbeats" and other jerks. If anyone has any advice, I'd really appreciate it.
 

Angie

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Since it sounds like you're doing mostly copywriting (albeit for content mills), I'll give you my two cents' worth. :)

My first piece of advice is to stop getting all of your clients from ads on forums and content mills. Those are all a race to the bottom.

It's a dirty word to many freelancers, but marketing is key. You have to have a marketing plan - research companies that make a revenue of at least $5 million (so they have the budget to pay professional freelance rates) and then market yourself to them. It takes a lot of legwork, especially at first, but you can make a real living without grinding out 100 articles a week.

The sad truth is, the really good-paying gigs aren't advertised. You have to go and find them, by forming relationships with marketing directors. I have a book recommendation: The Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Carol Tice (of the Make a Living Writing blog). It helps you identify areas where you have expertise, and then find companies you want to work with, qualify them (by checking sites like Manta.com and Hoovers.com for revenue information), and then market yourself effectively.

Since marketing to real companies in the real world that sell real products (rather than some form of content-as-commodity), I haven't had a deadbeat or crazy to deal with. Not saying it never happens, but once you're working with professional companies that have marketing directors, you just don't see as much of it.

I'm not on AW a lot, but you can PM me if you have more questions. I got a ton of advice and mentoring when I was clawing my way out of the content mills, and I like to pay it forward when I can. :)
 

stephenf

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Hi
All business are competitive and conform to the same basic rule of supply and demand .
Unfortunately the world is awash with people that feel they can write and are willing to do it for next-to-nothing, and will continually undermine you .
You've been a freelance for nearly ten years and not manged to make good contacts or develop a demand for your work. Understanding your market is key and I don't understand how you have not worked that out after all that time.
I would suggest find a more reliable source of income , and try to develop your writing career with less stress about the money.
 
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mistri

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There's always work on content mills and it keeps you busy doing a lot of work for fairly little return, but return that you nevertheless need, which means you don't get time to look for better work - you need to break this cycle. If you could find one or two better gigs that would buy you more time to search further afield. Have you tried approaching local businesses?
 

NateSean

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Ignore it. I have my salt shaker on hand so I can take the advice with that.
 

RightHoJeeves

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The sad truth is, the really good-paying gigs aren't advertised. You have to go and find them, by forming relationships with marketing directors.

I will also recommend forming relationships with established freelance graphic designers. I work with one, and when he designs a website for a client, he will on-sell my skills to write the website's content (same goes for annual reports, which can really be money spinners for copywriters). It's a good way to do things, because you have to form relationships with like 3 people instead of 30. If you're reliable and you add value to what they're giving their clients, they will bring you work.
 

Angie

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I will also recommend forming relationships with established freelance graphic designers. I work with one, and when he designs a website for a client, he will on-sell my skills to write the website's content (same goes for annual reports, which can really be money spinners for copywriters). It's a good way to do things, because you have to form relationships with like 3 people instead of 30. If you're reliable and you add value to what they're giving their clients, they will bring you work.

That's an excellent point - and the relationship goes both ways. I have one designer I work with, and we refer work to each other. It can sometimes help make the sale if you can offer a one-stop deal.
 

Snitchcat

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Have you tried approaching international companies? Sometimes, they need work re-written, or they need it written full-stop. While they might have in-house writers, some may prefer to have a freelancer on hand to call in when needed. The pay rate of these companies vary (obviously), but can be decent. Of course, all caveats and caution apply. But, this may be something to consider.
 

WeaselFire

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If anyone has any advice, I'd really appreciate it.

Get out of the business. If you've been doing this ten years, aren't earning enough money from it and don't know how to keep from being taken advantage of or what to do when it happens, this is not the business for you. Find a real job, paying real money, with a real paycheck and develop a budget matched to that paycheck.

Sorry to say it, but your very first post is basically a rant about why you hate the business and can't earn a living. The only solution is for you to change. The world sure isn't.

Jeff
 

gtbun

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I agree with Weaselfire, get out and find something else. Look for a paycheque-oriented copywriting job, develop your skills, get paid per month rather than per commission and get some security. Ten years down the line you might be able to leave with a list of contacts and clients made through the company and give a good go at being freelance, but at the moment it sounds like you're just not going after it. All of your examples are "I found this person online", where are the real people? Why aren't you going out and engaging with real businesses and start-ups to get the work? Why aren't you marketing yourself to people in your area or going to events and networking? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself, not "why do all these random people I find online end up not being reputable".

As a freelance graphic designer I can understand that freelancing is hard work, but you've got to put the work in first before you complain about hating the industry, y'know?

I would listen to the others on this thread, if you're serious about staying freelance, form some kind of partnership with a designer, not just so they can recommend you to their clients, but also to get yourself some real marketing materials so you can at least start making some human connections in the industry.
 

EPROM

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"What to do when advice seems hopeless"

...You do realize that this is a paradoxical subject line... right?

-Birdman
 

handsomegenius

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Get out of the business. If you've been doing this ten years, aren't earning enough money from it and don't know how to keep from being taken advantage of or what to do when it happens, this is not the business for you. Find a real job, paying real money, with a real paycheck and develop a budget matched to that paycheck.

Sorry to say it, but your very first post is basically a rant about why you hate the business and can't earn a living. The only solution is for you to change. The world sure isn't.

Jeff

Pumping out the word counts for content company sausage factories is pretty low on the food chain.

I don't think the problem is that it's impossible to earn a living in this business. It's that she's found one of the worst ways to go about it.
 

Debbie V

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Getting information in writing doesn't mean in an e-mail. It means in a contract. But contracts are useless if you can't afford to follow up when someone breaks one with you. Legal fees suck. So you have to research every client before you take the job.

If you see red flags, you have to say no no matter how much you need the money. If you see one red flag, and you've mentioned a bunch, say no. Respect yourself and others will respect you. When you work for someone who has maligned you, you aren't respecting yourself or your craft. It's just like dating. Stop accepting dates from folks who abuse you.
 

Tsu Dho Nimh

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Take your writing skills and resume to your local contract employment agencies - Adecco, Kelly, etc. They are usually looking for people with decent computer and language skills. They pay reliably and the work is not hard. You also get a LOT of experience and exposure that you can freelance about or turn into fiction fodder and plot bunnies.

Not all of the "content mills" are low pay for their experienced writers - one I work for recently renegotiated with a client for higher pay because the response to the initial job description and pay rate from the writers of the skill the client wanted was underwhelming. Also, I use them as "popcorn work". If I'm waiting for the car service to be finished, I cruise the content mills I am registered at. If I spot something I can write to their standards with little or no research, I do it. It's more entertaining than the magazines.

If you offer your services on places like UpWork, don't sell yourself short and don't get into the race to the bottom on pricing.
 

freelancemomma

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Hi there,
Late reply, but just in case... This may sound a little counterintuitive, but I've been a freelance writer for 23 years and almost never have agreements in writing. (I only sign such agreements if the client insists on it, but never create them myself.) IMO the important thing is to work only for reputable clients and establish relationships with them. If you have that piece in place, you don't need to cover your ass in the same way and you avoid the paperwork. JMHO and YMMV
Freelance
 
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