After a few years of writing some writers look much older than their age. They have deep frown lines, and startle sharply at any loud noise. Here’s why they’re nervous wrecks: they never grab the reins of writing jobs they’re offered, and they’ve never learned the power of “No.”
There’s a secret you need to know if you want to make money writing: many of your clients have no idea of what they want you to write, and why. They have an amorphous idea, or even a collection of ideas of what they want. They expect their writer (you) to put bones and flesh on their ideas.
Your first task as a writer if you want to avoid frown lines and lead a peaceful productive life, is to help your potential clients to define exactly what they want — BEFORE you accept a writing job.
Here are three steps to doing that.
1. If It’s Not in the Brief, It’s Not Going to Happen
Every writing job starts with a brief, or job description. I advise my writing students to study each brief, and then rewrite it in their own words. When you do this, holes in the brief will come to light, and you can start asking questions.
Please get into the habit of asking lots of questions. No, you won’t look stupid or inexperienced — remember that 99.9 per cent of your clients aren’t clear on exactly what they want. Your first task is to help them to decide and articulate the scope of the job they want you to do.
Make it your motto: “if it’s not in the brief, it’s not going to happen.”
2. Trust Your Intuition, and Google
You’ll be offered writing jobs, and your gut will clench. Sometimes it’s because a writing job seems too good to be true. Trust your gut. If you can sense that there’s something not quite right about a job, you’re rarely wrong.
Use Google. Google each and every prospective client, without exception. If something seems wrong, stay clear. A client’s problems need never become your problems, unless you willingly slip a noose around your own neck.
3. Learn to Say: “No”
Yes, you can refuse writing jobs. As your writing career develops, you’ll refuse more jobs, because you’re booked up. You’ll become selective, only taking jobs which a client can articulate clearly, and which you know you can complete in a timely manner. You’ll have more confidence.
However, you should be selective right from the beginning of your career. If a prospect won’t respond promptly to questions you have about a brief, pass on the job. There are always more writing jobs.
Finally, avoid being the kind of writer who becomes jubilant whenever you’re offered a writing job. Check the jobs out carefully before you accept, ensuring that the scope of the job is clearly defined in your brief.
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