One of the first things freelancers, self-employed professionals, and entrepreneurs have to learn very, very quickly is the art of closing the deal. The problem is, despite having worked in the business for years, many freelance writers still don’t realize that they’re responsible for being proactive about this and that this business term – closing the deal – doesn’t just apply to other businesses, but to everything they do.
Think about it. You e-mail an editor with an idea, he gets back to you asking for more information, you provide it, he sends you the terms of the contract, you negotiate it, and then it’s time to seal the deal.
Somewhere along those six steps is a black hole to which assignments frequently disappear. You keep hearing back from an interested editor, but still don’t quite get the assignment. Here’s how to quickly close the deal once you’re on talking terms with an editor.
1. Change the tactic.
I had an experience with an editor a couple of months ago that was beyond frustrating. He was really interested in a pitch I sent him, but wanted me to get more specific about the technologies I would write about for that story. He wanted me to zero in on one particular technology. So, I sent him another pitch with one particular technology that was being used for a ton of things and he was a little bit annoyed because, of course, what he’d meant was one particular technology for one particular use. Very, very specific. I got it wrong. He was still willing to work with me, though, so I promised I’d e-mail him another pitch. I’m about to do that this week. Had I been in this editor’s city, though, this is the point at which I’d pick up the phone and ask him if we could meet for coffee. If you’re not getting somewhere with a client – over e-mail, over the phone, whatever – change the tactic. Take it up a notch. Try a different method.
2. Leave some room.
When it comes to negotiation, I find that writers often end up in one of two camps – hardcore or softcore. The softcore writers are shy about negotiating. They’ll take whatever the editor or client offers them because they worry about losing the assignment and because they were taught that it’s not very nice to talk about money. The hardcore ones will set a line in stone. “I will not accept anything less than $1,000 per assignment,” they’ll say. I’ve been guilty of this. The problem is that, in an editor-writer relationship, you both want to feel like you’ve won. You want the person on the other end to feel like they got a great deal for good value just as much as you want to know that you got a fair price. So, when pricing, leave margins. Now, I tell a client I won’t accept less than $1,100 for an assignment. When we finally agree to $1,000, they feel like they got a 10% discount and I’m still happy that I got the $1,000 rate I was aiming for.
3. Move quickly.
Writers are advised often not to be pests. Don’t follow up too often, don’t e-mail already busy editors too frequently, don’t do this, don’t do that. This, however, is a business, and a fast-moving one so, if you’re not giving and getting information quickly, you’re losing sales. If the editor is going to ultimately pass on your idea, wouldn’t you rather she did it quickly so that you can send that timely piece elsewhere? The trick to being persistent but not spammy is to, well, be persistent but not spammy, that is, e-mail an editor a week after she’s expressed interest if you haven’t heard back and then once more before letting her know that if you don’t hear back by a certain date, you have to move on. I do this frequently and, what do you know, the contracts arrive within hours.
Closing the deal is an important part of any business and, as a professional selling your services, you need to make sure that you’re not missing out on opportunities because you failed to take a few simple steps.
Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist. Get her free e-book “21 Query Letters That Sold” with queries that landed her in The New York Times, Time, Ms., Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and many more publications, at: http://www.mridukhullar.com/.