Friday, March 29, 2013

How to Set Your Rates as an Artist

When you work and get paid on a freelance basis, you are offering your services for less because you also spend less on your overhead expenses. But you shouldn't sell your talents short, either, lest you come out on the losing end.

Balance remains to be the key in pricing your services competitively. But before you set your rates, remember the two standard procedures in freelancing:

  • Ask for a flat rate.
  • Compute the equivalent of 40 to 50 percent of the estimated total amount you plan to charge your client for the project, and that will serve as your down payment.

Now, in general, freelance artists and illustrators earn more than their writer counterparts because art materials can be costly and are easily disposed. An artist or illustrator must look for several ways to obtain art supplies without putting a huge dent on his budget.

Among local illustrators and cartoonists, charging Php1,500.00 to Php1,800.00 for a portrait that measures 9" x 13" is the norm. If the client wants a full-blown artwork, a single portrait can fetch as much as Php3,000.00-3,500.00.

So with these figures in mind, ask yourself, how many days can you satisfactorily complete a portrait or a caricature drawing? Turn-over rates are not as fast in jobs in illustration, but you need to pace yourself according to your clients' demands.

It would be good to set a monthly quota for yourself. But this could only be done after you have determined the minimum amount you want to earn every month. 

Your monthly income from freelancing must cover the following:
  • Your overhead expenses (this is particularly crucial if you're renting office space)
  • Meals and transportation fare (if you don't have a home office)
  • Stationery and envelopes where you can have your letterhead done professionally
  • Bills (electricity, telephone, your internet service provider, etc.)
  • Tuition fee for art workshops 
Stay tuned as I discuss other aspects of freelance illustrating in my next few articles. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Are You "Art Smart"?

Individuals with visual-spatial intelligence, or those who are "art smart," can capitalize on their artistic ability and work as freelance artists or illustrators.

In the commercial complex near the suburban neighborhood where I live, there are artists who offer their skills for a fee. One of them does pencil portraits of their clients, while another one draws caricature renditions. 

Taking in work as an artist is not limited to these tasks. You can get in touch with authors of children's books and ask if your style in illustrating appeals to him. I have also heard of water color painters who design Christmas cards.

Before you start searching for clients, get these basics down:

Put up an office.

Having your own space need not be a huge investment. Decide on your priorities. A sturdy desk and chair can be obtained for a price cheaper than the ones offered at an office supply store if you'll exert a little patience in looking for alternatives.

There are online stores that sell used (or second-hand) stuff, or get prospective buyers to bid and then settle for the most reasonable price. It would be good to check what these stores have to offer.

If you have a mobile phone, that's usually enough for you to reach your clients. Also, you would need a professional-sounding email address so you can send samples of your designs or illustrations to interested clients.

Save up for your art supplies.

If you'd like to focus on rendering portraits, you need a set of drawing pencils in different grades (HB, B, and 1B to 7B) and paper in good quality. If you're more interested in caricatures, you would need to add up the cost of colored pencils or pastels.

Have a portfolio handy.

You need a place where you can conveniently insert your illustrations. Purchase a binder in a conservative color (i.e. black, navy blue, brown, or maroon) with enough room for the size of your drawings (8 1/2" x 11" drawing paper or larger).

Make the lay-out as presentable as possible. You can make it a rule to leave a one-inch margin on all sides of your artwork, and make your signature as visible as possible.

Another option would be to have your own website or Facebook Page that will serve as an "online gallery." There are also websites like Deviant Art where you can sign up for a free account.

In my next few articles, I'll talk about pricing your artistic ability competitively. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

How Can You Help as a Copywriter?

In my last post about writing a sales pitch, I have talked about catching your potential client's attention by baiting him with the first few lines of your letter.

The next step would be to follow through with concisely written information about your credentials and experience as a copywriter, and why you're the one who's most qualified to help your potential client.

Look at the following paragraph written as follow-up information for Mr. Ramirez:

With your passion for community outreach in mind, I would like to propose a project for Kennel Club that will come in the form of a public information campaign. 

I would like to help you craft solicitation letters so you can raise funds to publish a monthly newsletter with articles for dog owners, breeders, and active participants of dog shows. This newsletter can be sent through postal mail to the members of your Club to keep them abreast of current information about their hobby.

(In this part of your sales pitch, you are speaking authoritatively as you make a suggestion about a possible partnership with Mr. Ramirez. Notice that you have to be as specific as possible about what you hope the project will achieve, and you thought about the kind of readers that will most benefit from your newsletter project.)

I am a freelance copywriter with seven years of experience in conceptualizing and implementing cost-effective marketing campaigns, and I have spent the last two years helping professionals identify their goals in their careers or businesses and guiding them towards achieving their goals by taking concrete steps.

(This part of your letter requires that you cite the credentials that make you qualified for the project. Remember, your sales pitch is not the place for you to be modest about your skills, since you'll likely be competing with a number of other freelancers.)

I would be glad to hear from you to further discuss my offer. You can get in touch with me through the contact numbers I have provided in my business card, which I have enclosed along with samples of my past work. I can set up an appointment with you at a time that is mutually convenient.

(Your Name Here)

(The last paragraph of your letter is crucial, since you have to encourage Mr. Ramirez to take action. There are freelancers who prefer conducting the bulk of their correspondence through email, so if you don't want to take phone calls, provide your email address.)

Stay tuned, because in my next articles I'll talk about jobs in design and illustration.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pitching Your Skill: How to Write a Sales Letter That Gets Results

Let's say you have identified the type of small business or cause raised by a non-profit group to whom you would like to offer your copywriting services. As a professional freelancer, how should you make your presence felt to your target client?

In magazine writing, there is a term freelance writers use called pitching. And just like the act of pitching in baseball, to pitch in freelancing means to throw, or offer an idea for an article, to the magazine's associate or managing editor.

When writing a sales letter, you aim to "sell" your copywriting services by pitching your offer to small business owners or heads of non-profit groups.

But let me warn you. Great care should be taken when crafting the right pitch for your sales letter, since you want to increase your chances of getting noticed and hired by the people you're targeting.

So how do you do this? Here are several guidelines:

Make your letter sound as personal as possible.

I remember a time when I got a packet from the mail informing me about a group of artists who paint and design greeting cards and sell them to earn a profit. A letter of solicitation was enclosed, informing me how I can place my order.

And yet, no sooner have I gone beyond the first paragraph of the letter when I felt my eyes going droopy from boredom. I felt as if I were reading "marketing fluff," which is nothing but cliched phrases hashed and rehashed in an effort to make a sale.

So the key here is to think about your intended recipient. Be engaging. It must be evident right from the first few lines of your letter that you believe in his cause or would like to support his business. Here's an example:

Dear Mr. Ramirez:

(Notice that I used the person's last name, and not just a generic "Sir" or "Madam.")

A leading citizen among the suburban community. A man devoted to raising  awareness as to what can disturb neighborhood peace and order.

You've been described as such by various newspaper reporters. You're extremely busy, and yet, you  took time to organize a Kennel Club to keep stray dogs away from the streets, and encourage dog lovers to be more responsible towards taking care of their furry, four-legged friends.

(When you write this way, your reader will be impressed because you took time to find out what's most important to him. In Mr. Ramirez' case, his concern for the community and dog owners made him well-known to the suburban population.)

In my next installment, I'll talk about explaining how you can help Mr. Ramirez reach more people to get in on the bandwagon of his altruistic endeavors.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Do You Present Your Capability to Win Clients?

The field of freelance copywriting can be one of the most lucrative "work-without-a-boss" careers. And you can present yourself and your services to potential clients with little to no cost.

How do you do this? The answer can be summed up in two words: strategic positioning.

To illustrate, there aren't a lot of freelancers who have the connections (not to mention, funds) to place an ad in a well-known newspaper or magazine with a circulation of thousands of readers. And since most freelancers work at home, they prefer taking calls themselves or communicating through email or postal mail.

Let me assure you that even in this modern age when you can just advertise your services through a website, there are still a lot of potential clients who would prefer receiving a press kit from a copywriter.

You might think that you would need to have your logo or letterhead printed on fancy stationery. The truth is, something even as basic as Microsoft Publisher can do the job for you.

Ideally, your press kit must contain your business card, a sales letter, samples of your work, and maybe a brochure or any print ad informing your client about your copywriting services.

When I was just starting out, I came up with a three-fold brochure with "teasers." I would describe "teasers" as bits of information about your freelance services, written in a way that arouses the curiosity of prospective clients without giving away all the details.

Here's what I placed in front of my brochure:

Freelance Copywriter

Adding a touch of magic to make 
words sizzle to help my clients 
achieve their desired results faster

Now, by using the "hook," or pitch I wrote above, I can catch the attention of a variety of business owners who have different goals for their respective enterprises (i.e. appealing to a niche market, generating more sales, etc).

In my next articles, I'll talk about writing an effective sales letter.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Want to Bag Lucrative Copywriting Projects? Volunteer!

If you're just starting out as a copywriter, one of the best ways to get yourself trained is to offer to write copy for non-profit organizations or businesses that operate on a small-scale level.

Oftentimes, non-profit organizations have to stick to a budget in order to launch programs like raising public awareness for a cause. And the tighter the budget, the more they have to be creative with reaching as many people as possible. And this is when they'll most likely need a copywriter who can rub a professional touch to their campaign while working pro-bono, or without pay.

Small business owners who wish to generate more sales are also tapping into inexpensive ways to make their products or services known to the general public. Nowadays copywriting has extended to raising brand awareness by utilizing popular social media sites like Facebook and Multiply.

Begin by thinking about the things or causes with which you feel most passionate. Let's say you've always enjoyed reading for pleasure and recreation, and books have always been a staple in your shopping list.

Now, there are plenty of organizations like a group of teachers and professors, or writers and publishers' groups that launch literacy campaigns by holding book drives. For the book drive to be deemed successful, these organizers would need to get people to donate as many used and second-hand books as possible.

Now, how can you, as a copywriter, persuade people that getting in on the literacy campaign would be an excellent way to allot a fraction of their time in donating books?

Embark on a brainstorming session. If you could relay the message in a poster, remember to "write tight." Bait people with something short yet catchy, something that would unfailingly spark their interest, like the following:

Did You Know?

And then follow up by writing the rest of your ad.

When you have several of these "spec ads," or samples of advertising copy, it's time to put together a media kit to present to your potential client.

Stay tuned as I discuss more of this on my next post. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

How Do You Convert Productivity Into Profit?

Would you like to know the secrets to earning your desired income from freelancing? Here it is:
  • Raise your level of productivity by sticking to a weekly schedule so you can work without interruptions.
  • Be aggressive in promoting yourself and your services.

The best way to stick to a schedule is to track your activities by keeping a record where you can enter or write down what you did every hour, everyday, for five to six days of the work week. By doing so, you end up with proof on which type of projects are prone to giving you a certain level of difficulty, and which are easier to handle.

This method is also effective if you want to prevent yourself from getting distracted, like resolving to go back to that graphic design job even if your favorite T.V. program is on.

To illustrate further, as a writer who offers feature articles to magazines, I email my queries to editors during Mondays or Tuesdays. By doing that, the editor has the rest of the week to read my query and the sample articles that I have submitted as clips. And while I wait for the editor's reply, I'm free to tackle other projects and assignments.

Having the ability to meet deadlines is crucial for a faster turn-over rate. Let's say you were able to dispatch a proofread manuscript to your client on a Friday. Your client emails you next Monday and praises you for "a job well done" and asks you to bill him. While preparing a Statement of Account, you can then proceed to start on another assignment.

Do keep coming back, because in my next articles, I'll talk about cost-effective strategies for advertising yourself and your freelance services.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Do You Expect to Be Paid for Your Freelance Services?

It's one thing to get yourself started on freelancing. But it's another thing to sustain your career and support yourself (and probably other dependents like your family) by keeping a regular cash flow.

Whenever clients discuss the possibility of hiring you for a project or assignment, you must immediately explain that's it's within industry standards for clients to pay you a flat rate and a down payment.

If you have your own office and discuss your transactions with your clients there, you can ask them for the exact amount right then and there and give them a receipt. You must then make it clear if you're going to have the project dispatched to them piece-meal, so your clients would have to settle for an installment basis, or have the finished project turned over to them at once, so  they will settle the balance after a longer period of time.

Another excellent way to accept payment is to have a savings account in a reputable bank, and then provide your clients with instructions so they can gain easy access and make a deposit. Be forewarned, though, that you should be extra careful when it comes to disclosing your account number.

Also, you should be organized when it comes to collecting payment as soon as you dispatch any finished projects. Create a template (a simple Word document will do) to serve as your Statement of Account, and then enter your name and complete contact information. You should then proceed to enumerate every task you did and your corresponding freelancer's fees. Save a copy of the document in your computer's hard drive before sending a copy to your client. 

Stay tuned, because in my next article, I'll talk about how a high level of productivity translates to huge profits.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Importance of Getting Everything Down in Writing

If you're working and getting paid on a freelance basis, you would need to have every detail of your transaction with your clients written on a contract. Being professional includes having your projects documented and filed for easy reference.

Flexibility is key to a professional freelancer's success. Because of the fact that you'll be working for a diverse clientele, different types of people will make all sorts of demands from you. 

For example, if you write and proofread corporate resumes, some job seekers may prefer having a CD in addition to copies of the resume. Some may not bother at all. This is the main reason you have to make everything clear in writing. 

And one of the perks of freelancing is that bonuses and incentives come in the form of clients who are willing to give you additional remuneration like cash, or those that come "in kind" because they were extremely satisfied with your work. So if your client is an employee or is representing a renowned firm/company or organization where expenses have to be accounted, you need to make sure that it was your client's personal decision to give you an incentive.

Now, when you proceed to write your contract, settle for a simple template and have categories for every set of agreement. If you want some guidelines, take a look at the contract below:

Freelance Worker's Contract

Your Address Here                    Your Contact Information Here                                       


How long would it take for you to finish the project? Provide the exact start-up date and the date when your client can claim it.


What does your client want? If you're going to write a company's Manual for Employees from scratch, will your client furnish you with reference materials like documents or rough drafts?

For freelancers who write advertising copy, product reviews, and newsletter articles, how many rewrites will you allow without charging additional fees?

Stay tuned, because in my next post, I'll talk about setting up an effective payment plan.

Friday, March 8, 2013

If You Think Working Without Pay is A Drag, Think Again

If you're aspiring to excel in freelancing, I recommend getting some first-hand training in areas like crafting solicitation and cover letters (or emails), preparing a written contract, working on a cost-effective advertising campaign, entering data into a computer, financial management, and bookkeeping. And the cheapest way to do this is to work without pay, or volunteer, for at least six to twelve months.

Now, before you put up your hands in protest, let me just mention that oftentimes, getting into freelancing is like a Catch-22 situation. 

To illustrate, let's say you want to make money by submitting feature articles to magazines. Now, by industry standards, a managing or associate editor will not even consider publishing your manuscript unless you write a query and submit samples of your previously written articles (published or unpublished). 

So if you didn't take time to work on these requirements, the managing editor will have no idea how to evaluate your writing ability objectively. This will result to you being deprived of the opportunity to submit your manuscript. 

So think about working without pay as a period of training to prepare yourself for the long haul. There are also numerous benefits that go beyond money that will remain unparalleled. Some of these are:

(1.) You learn the value of cultivating work ethics.

Success in freelancing has very little to do with luck and more to do with your level of professionalism, which is tied down to your performance and ability to communicate and negotiate with potential clients. 

(2.) You acquire a minimum set of marketable skills, which will serve as the base for additional competencies.

If you're proficient in graphic design and you feel the need to expand in order to attract more clients, you may want to venture into writing web content, or take a class in multi-media marketing.

(3.) You become self-motivated and reliable.

While working without a boss and earning a six-figure income sounds extremely appealing, keep in mind that this can only be done gradually, and by consistently meeting (or even exceeding) the demands of your clients. If you're constantly cramming because you refuse to set priorities, think about how that would affect the quality of your work.

Keep coming back, because in my next posts, I'll talk about the importance of having a written contract. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Format a Career Changer's Resume

When it comes to crafting a career changer's resume, there are two things to keep in mind:
  • Keep it down to one page, so omit any irrelevant details. Your client may have been proficient in computer applications, but if he won't be spending much time with software in his new career, it's useless to cite all the responsibilities he's assumed by using technology.
  • Select a maximum of three of your client's transferable skills and make sure to highlight them. To illustrate, if he wrote and proofread memos  and collection letters in his previous job but will now handle customer queries and complaints on a face-to-face basis, you can still claim "excellent communication skills" as one of his transferable skills.

Now, you may be thinking, "Would a functional resume be the best format, or chronological?"

The best resume is a combination of both, especially if your client showed competence in specific tasks or duties that can be carried over in his new career, and if he took the necessary time to take classes or additional courses in order to be retrained.

After citing a Career Objective, provide any recent work experience that your client has in which he's shown considerable competency, but whose nature is similar to the responsibilities he's going to face in his new career. 

To boost his credentials further, write down the newly acquired skills that he has garnered from his period of retraining. Start with the most recent, say, any classes or seminars he's taken within six to eighteen months prior to his consultation with you.

In my next article, I'll talk about internships and working as a volunteer.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Crafting a Resume for a Client Who Wants a Career Change

There will always be a time when a client will come up to you and tell you that he's made up his mind about making a career change.

It's a basic fact that certain skills get obsolete with time, especially during the dawn of the twenty-first century when innovations in technology became the norm with the goal of raising productivity in the workplace.

A person may also consider going for a career change if he feels like his talents and potential are not being used properly at work. This causes dissatisfaction and the desire to explore if something out there may be better suited for him.

To illustrate, a person may have started out as a high school teacher, and yet, he dreads those days when he comes face-to-face with his students. He thinks the principal is "making unreasonable demands," and feels inadequate whenever he sees his fellow teachers getting the results they want in terms of the students' academic performance.

This doesn't mean that he's incompetent. Hopefully, he will eventually figure out that teaching is not his core gift.

So how should you handle a client who needs a resume before he can get started on a new career?

First, it's crucial for you to understand the nature of the new career that your client wants to get into. Work on a career objective by condensing the tasks and duties that most appeal to him into a two- to three-sentence paragraph.

Second, make a list of his most outstanding transferable skills. Regardless of the profession or trade, there are certain skills that remain indispensable and important.

Here are just a few of these skills:

  • Oral and written communication
  • Gathering data (facts, figures, etc.)
  • Interpersonal skills (negotiating, supervising, implementing, etc.)
  • Computer proficiency

Third, list down any classes, courses, internships, etc. that your client may have taken to train for the new career for which he's vying.

In my next post, I'll show you how to put all these data together in a resume.