Private Clients vs. Content Sites

I’ve wanted to weigh in on this topic for some time, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m also a little hesitant because I know there are huge debates raging out in the Internet land about this very topic and I really don’t want to get involved in the battle.

Let me first say very clearly that I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AGAINST content sites. In fact, when I first started freelance writing most of my income came from a well known content site. Having been on both sides of the debate allow me to share my opinion.

Content Sites

I’ve worked for several including Demand Studios (DS) and have to say that there are many benefits to content site work plus, if I ever need to I will do more work for them. It’s nice to simply have them around to fall back on. Here are my pros and cons with content sites:

Pros

  • Plenty of work – for most sites, there is always work. At DS they have thousands of titles available every day.
  • Fast Pay – content sites offer weekly or bi-weekly pay. DS even pays their writers twice a week. This meant that my PayPal account always had money in it.
  • Quick Work – articles for content sites typically range in length from 400-600 words. This generally means the articles are fast and easy to write.
  • Little Commitment – for most content sites there is no commitment required. I haven’t written for DS in a few months, but I could sign onto my account today and churn out several articles without being penalized for not writing in a while. Additionally, once an article is written for a content site you can forget about it and move on. No thinking about work when you’re not working.

Cons

  • Low Pay – To me the pay rate at content sites always seemed low. This isn’t to say that you can’t make a living off of them – I did for several months when I had nothing else, but I worked long hours and made less than half of what I make now.
  • Picked Over Titles – If you like to write about popular topics like weddings or pets your choices in titles are limited to non-existent. Sometimes I found the only titles left didn’t even make sense.
  • Inconsistent Editing – All the content sites that I worked for employed many editors. The problem was, what one editor found acceptable, another didn’t. I was constantly getting contradicting feedback from editors. At times it got very frustrating.
  • No Personal Connection – DS has a forum and that’s great, but for a content site that only pays me $15 per article I don’t want to have to go hang out in the forum for a personal connection. There is no “good job” or exchanging ideas to improve projects that you get with private clients.

Private Clients

For the past few months I have made my living solely from private clients and I have seen a huge improvement in everything associated with my career from my income, to my time, to even my mood. I love my private clients and feel very fortunate to have found all of them. There are a lot of benefits to private client work and very few cons. Here are mine:

Pros

  • Personal Connection – With private clients, I have immediate access to the client, the company and the editor. If I have a question I can fire off an email directly to the client, not visit a forum. Plus there is a lot of feedback and even some “good jobs” sprinkled in. And editing is done the same way, by the same person and guidelines every time!
  • Higher Pay – The pay with private clients is most definitely higher. As I transitioned from content site work to all private client work I saw my monthly income rise while I worked the same or even fewer hours.
  • Better Quality Work – I do my best work for my private clients for several reasons. First they pay me more so they expect (and rightfully so) to have perfect work turned it. Also due to the personal connection I feel more accountable for my work. Finally the work I do for my private clients is work that I intend to use as clips (with their permission of course). Clips from private clients hold a lot more weight and get me much more work than clips from content sites.
  • In Depth Projects – Rather than writing a short 400-600 word article my private client work tends to be more in-depth and more researched work – the type of work I can get involved in and really care about versus an article I write and then promptly forget about. Even when I write 400 word articles for clients they still require more thought, creativity and research that really gets my brain working.

Cons

  • Juggling Clients – When it rains, it pours. In other words, when one client needs me for a big project, it seems like they all do. Not that I’m complaining, its good to get needed! But sometimes my schedule gets tight and some days I juggle several projects and deadlines because of the commitments I have made to my private clients.
  • Accounting – I actually have to create the invoice, keep track of my hours/projects and bill my clients. Then I have to wait for payment. I’ve been lucky so far and all of my clients have paid me consistently and on time, but the whole process tends to be a bit slower than with content sites.

Overall, the benefits of working for private clients far surpass working for content sites. I would gladly take on more private clients than more content site work and I feel so lucky that I have had a full schedule for the past few months that has kept me away from the content sites. Fingers crossed – hopefully it will stay that way.

What about you – who do you prefer to work for?

Rates – Let’s Talk Money

MoneyApparently the event planning world in Ohio is a very small world indeed. Since making it known that I was leaving my job, I have gotten call after call from fellow event planners, colleagues and my general network. There are rumors flying around that I have been (gasp!) laid off or worse, fired (yeah right – they begged me to stay). Everyone wants to know what I will be doing and why I decided to leave. Once they find out the real story the next question is: What are your rates?

Now I was expecting some rumble about my decision, but I was not expecting this. People actually want to meet with me, give me advice and most importantly they want to hire me. So now I am left with setting my rates, and fast. I already have several meetings set up next week for potential projects. Ah! I thought this would take a while. But work is work and I want to take advantage of this buzz while I can.

So all day, instead of doing actual paid work, I have been researching rates. There is a lot of contradictory information out there on what to charge. Some people charge by the type of work, while others charge a flat rate per hour. I have decided to go with a flat rate per hour. I think it will make it easier for me come tax time and easier for my clients to understand.

So this is what I have decided to base my rates on:

• What I was making as my salary, broken down into an hourly rate for 50 weeks a year (factoring in 2 weeks of vacation).
• My estimated expenses such as, my taxes, my benefits, equipment, location, etc.
• What other people are charging for similar services.
• A price range of pure profit that I would like to make.
• The fact that most freelancers only work 23 billable hours a week – the rest is spent marketing, bookkeeping and the general duties of running a business.

That gave me my base rate. Next, I put it into an equation to see what my estimated yearly income would be. Here is the equation I used to get my estimated yearly income:

(Billable hours a week) (my hourly rate) (50 working weeks a year) = yearly income

Wow! I can only hope to make that much! Which means I must start asking for these rates and pushing my skills and services! What do you do to figure out your rates? Do you charge per hour, or per project?

Balancing Act

Trying to work full time and be a freelance writer is sort of like a balancing act. I’m slowly learning this and trying new things to get everything in balance. It is important for me right now to not let my full time work slip, and it will remain even more demanding of my time in the next few months. But, freelance writing is becoming even more important to me and getting increasingly more demanding of my time.

What I have noticed is that my schedule has forced me to be more productive at my full time job in the mornings and more productive at my freelance writing at night. However, if I come home from work and immediately sit down at the computer, I can’t concentrate. I have realized that I need some time to shift gears. My solution (and I am quite proud of this) is to hit the gym after work. It calms me down and allows me to sweat off the stress of the day. Plus, I have been meaning to start working out again.

For a few weeks, this was going great – until my husband pointed out that we barely see each other anymore because when I am home, I am holed up in my office. My solution to this was to cook together. Now, I am not a cook, or domestic at all for that matter, but we have started to make dinner together. Every night we turn off the TV, computers and cell phones, to spend quality time preparing and eating a nice dinner together. With the time change, it is light out longer and we have started to take the dogs on short walks together after dinner. I know, this is not enough, but it’s a start.

My balancing act is somewhat working right now. It might not always work, and I’ll have to readjust, but I am growing more confident in my ability to do this.

What does your balancing act look like?

Working from Home Experiment

I decided to take the day off of work today, to stay home and see what it would be like if I were to work from home every day. It was pure bliss until about 10:30. I woke up at 8am. Made some tea and an English muffin and was at my computer by 8:15 happily typing away. I have just gotten a new web content writing job, so I was spending some time trying to figure out their templates and getting my first few articles together. About 10:30 is when it started to go a little downhill. I think that is what time people assumed that I was awake.

First work called with a question. I had to practice self control and not yell into the phone, “I took the day off!” Next a friend called wanting me to meet her for lunch. Okay, that sounded nice, but not a habit I should get into as a freelance writer starting out with little pay and a lot of work to get done. Then my mom called, four times to be exact. She thought she left her straightener on and since I was home, could I swing by her house and check. Really?!? My husband, god love him, called to see if I could stop by and pick up something to take to a dinner we are going to tonight. And finally, the dogs who, mind you can go for a whole eight hour day without going outside seemed to be sitting by the back door every half hour to be let out. Just because I am home does that mean their bladder shrinks?

I’m starting to see where this is leading. Apparently working from home translates into I have all the time in the world to do other things. I now realize, just from trying this one day that I am going to have to set firm guidelines with people about what working from home means: It means I actually have to work.

Not that the whole day was a total waste. Once I reassured my mom her house wasn’t on fire and silenced my phone I was able to get a lot of work done. I happily turned in two articles, claimed some more, did some edits on another article, worked on a creative piece I’m submitting for a book and looked on some job boards. All in all, it was a pretty good day and it has made me want to quit my full-time job even more. Plus, now I know I have to either never tell people I’m working from home or more realistically tell people my requirements when I work from home.

I look forward to practicing this again soon!

Welcome to A String of Words

Welcome to A String of Words, a blog about my life. I am a woman in my mid 20’s who woke up one day, looked around and wondered how on earth I ended up on the career path I’m currently on. It is not what I ever imagined for myself, it’s not even something I remotely like to do. What I like to do, what I love to do is write. I have known that for as long as I can remember, I even majored in journalism. And yet somehow, I got sidetracked. I forgot who I was and what I wanted from my life. I forgot to be true to myself. I got blinded by the promise of benefits, a 401k and a regular paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, those things matter (I do have a mortgage), but I am determined make my passion, my work and survive off it.

So here I start my journey. I start living my life the way I had envisioned it. I get back to my roots. I get back to writing. I learn to write about anything and everything, all day, every day. I’m sure I’ll stumble, but I won’t give up. It’s time for me to seize the moment, be true to myself and live my life.

I invite you to join me on my journey as I leave my day job behind and transition to the writing world, building my writing life one word at a time.