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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Pay The Writer. And The Artist. And The Freelancer...

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I'm killing some time until I the current batch of coasters can be moved indoors to finish drying. So, a rant, of sorts.

Harlan Ellison famously ranted about paying the writer. He was not wrong. You should pay the writer. Or the artist.

When you see someone at a table at a con drawing complex sketches with seemingly little effort, you don't see what got them there. Study. Practice. Enough wadded up bits of paper to recycle into a couple of reams or more. Supplies, which tend to get more expensive as the skill level improves. And you think a buck is fair for that sketch?

When you read a work of fiction, you don't see all the writer went through to laboriously craft that work. All the education, reams of paper, the drafts, the trunked manuscripts, the proof reading. And, if they're self-published, the hours of formatting it so your e-reader doesn't fall over and crash into the swamp when you open the file. Do you think a buck is fair?

To be fair, that writer may have the opportunity to sell many copies of that work. (And yes, there are many nuances to e-book pricing. I get that. The point is, the writer has bills to pay just like you do.)

What about the writer of copy? This is something I've done for years, though not as much these days because everyone's charging $5 for hours of work. Let me tell you what I do when someone asks me for copy for a product or for an ad:

1. I sit down with the client and talk about the product, the audience they're trying to reach, the publication(s) that the ad may be intended for, and so on. They may present me with market research. That's awesome, and saves me some time. If I don't have to do that, my next step is:

2. Research the competition on my own. Look at the language in ads targeted to the same demographic. Is that ad successful or not? Is someone using the same words or imagery that I had in mind? If so, then I need to look at different ways of presenting the information. If the client wants me to go in a different direction from their competitors, I have to know what those competitors are doing so I can take a different path.

3. I sit down and write copy. I usually have to go through several drafts. When I have something about ready to take to a client, there's one more thing I have to do:

4. Use a search engine. Is anyone else using those slogans I came up with? Did I inadvertently use something that's Internet slang for genitals or a sexual act? Or something that someone considers racist or otherwise offensive? Our language is changing at the speed of the Internet. Our slang is changing just as fast. It's important to be sure I don't make my client a laughingstock. And then, should they ask why I didn't use that awesome slogan they suggested, I can say, "well, about that..." 

5. Polish again.

6. Turn it in to the client. This often leads to more edits, more massaging of the copy. It's not easy to hit a bulls-eye the first time because I'm not clairvoyant. The client may have changed their mind on something, too. If I'm doing an ad for a tech product, it's possible the specs changed. (I used to work in that biz. Happened all the time.) 

7. Final approval by the client.

9. Invoice for the amount previously agreed upon, which is a lot more than five bucks.

10. Payment. Ker-ching! 

And I hope 10a doesn't come into play: Dunning the client for payment. Honestly, the vast majority of my clients have paid up and on time. I've had some ask me to hand deliver an invoice, and I would leave with a check. It doesn't get much faster than that, save immediate electronic payment. 

Anyway, when you see an ad in a publication or online, you probably don't think about all that went into making that happen, and the people who need to get paid for their time. Unless you're a freelancer like me. 

In that case, don't nod your head so fast. It might fall off. ;-)



Filed under: Writing            
1/28/2019 3:48:19 PM
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