no assumptionsI was talking with a coaching client recently and realized she had a set of assumptions about writing clients that would, if not corrected, sink her freelance writing business.

She’s not alone in this at all. There’s something seemingly inherent in human nature that makes us sure we know what some other person is thinking.

But we don’t – not really. And how could we?

Sure, humans have a lot in common, but we have huge differences too. When we make assumptions about our writing clients or our potential writing clients we tend to make the wrong ones. Far better to assume nothing and ask questions until all gets clear.

Typical Assumptions

Here are six assumptions many writers make about their clients that simply may not be ture:

You can’t move low paying clients up in price. Often this is true. If someone’s been paying you to write for them for $5 or $10 an article, or five cents a word, they are going to be startled if you jump your fees to a dollar a word. But you never know. At least give them a chance to pay your rate and occasionally one will. Or they will offer something you consider reasonable. To assume no client will ever pay more than they’ve been paying is to leave money on the table.

Sole proprietors can’t pay as much as corporations. Just because a business is owned and run by a sole proprietor doesn’t mean they aren’t making enough to pay you well. You won’t know until you ask. Some entrepreneurs have more money to spend on writing than some corporations.

Potential clients who say no won’t help you find some who say yes. When a potential client says they aren’t interested in hiring you, ask them if they know someone who would be. People love to help and sometimes you’ll get a referral that makes it worth your while to ask.

Potential clients who say no today won’t hire you in 90 days. Unless a potential client specifically asks you not to contact them again, try in three or six months. Things in business are always changing.

Clients know what kind of writing they want and need. Often the client only knows they need writing for something – a website, a marketing piece, n instruction manual, a white paper, and they may not know even that much. Remember you’re the expert in writing – that’s why they are hiring you. Ask questions, and you can gently guide them where they need to go.

Clients know how writing actually gets done. If you assume the client has any clue how writing actually gets done you’re likely to be surprised and not get paid for something you think of as extra, but the client assumes is part of the gig.  It’s up to you to make sure both you and your client are precisely clear about the details of the writing job.

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What assumptions about writing clients have you found to be untrue?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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creative commonsThis is the final post, at least for awhile, on copyrights and freelance writers.

The first was triggered when someone asked me, over at AboutFreelanceWriting, what a writer could do if they discovered an article had been used without permission.

It actually turned into a series when I wrote:

Copyrights – What You Need To Know – Part 1

and:

What You Need to Know About International Rights – Part 2.

Creative Commons

Finally there is something new in terms of copyright and that’s the Creative Commons. Wikipedia defines it this way:

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States, devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. (Links removed.)

The idea was to give creators, writers, artists, musicians, scientists, creators of educational material, etc., more say over how, if at all, their works could be used by others. It recognizes that there is often a need for sharing and collaboration that goes beyond the rather simple approach of copyrighted (you can’t use) and public domain (anyone can use and change.)

Here is a quote from Creative Commons that sums it up pretty well I think:

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.

Our free, easy-to-use copyright licensesprovide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

Not everyone agrees

Of course, there are those who think this is a rotten idea. Again, Wikipedia gives a pretty good overview of the objections in the subsection called General Criticism. And it’s not yet clear that a creative commons license is enforceable legally, although that’s gradually changing.

Probably the most obvious place you’ll see creative commons licenses used is on Flickr where a special creative commons search brings up a ton of photos that are licensed under a creative commons license – free to use, free to alter with certain restrictions.

Should you use a creative commons license?

Should you use a creative commons license for your writing? Maybe.

Some of my ebooks are licensed that way – generally allowing no change, but free use provided everything in unaltered and there’s a link back to the original source. My thought is they may get wider distribution – I have no idea if this has actually worked.

I can imagine creating something that I would want to work with others on and a creative commons license might be just the thing.

On the other hand, there are times when I want the more complete protection offered by a copyright.

What rights you keep and what rights you might be willing to share and on what basis is an important consideration for a freelance writer. Please remember, I am not a lawyer and these three articles are meant to be an overview, not a definitive answer.

As always,

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

copyright for writersLast week I wrote about US copyright law and promised I’d do something on Interntational Copyrights,

The bad news is there is no such thing as an international or global copyright that will protect writers and other artists around the world.

The good news is that there are two major international conventions dealing with copyrights – the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). The United States is party to both.

According to US copyright law pages, if the country you’re in is a part of these agreement, you’re pretty much protected (the UCC asks that a copyright symbol (©) be placed on the work). This also means as a writer you must respect the copyrights of others if their country has signed on.  You’ll find a list of signatory countries midway down this page.

If the country you’re in or the one you want protection in hasn’t signed on to these agreements it may be possible to get protection if the country in question is part of any number of other copyright treaties or agreements.

However – and hear shouting this – if you really think you need protection outside the United States, particularly in countries with odd copyright agreements, you’d best get a real expert – probably an intellectual property rights lawyer with solid international experience. I’m certainly not a lawyer – get the help you need, please.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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copyright for writers

Yesterday I answered a question, My Article Was Stolen – What Should I Do? – Ask Anne at AboutFreelanceWriting.com and it got me thinking again about copyright law.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV; this is my understanding of copyright law as it applies to freelance writers in the United States. (More about overseas copyrights later.)

When you’re writing for yourself, you have an automatic copyright on the work even if you don’t file for copyright protection. That protection is based on the idea that as the creator of a work you deserve ownership and any financial benefit that may come out of that ownership.

When you write for someone else, who owns the copyright should be spelled out before you even begin the work. In many cases the publishers claim the copyright – sometimes you can negotiate this and it’s always safe to ask. Assuming the publisher owns the copyright, they stand to benefit financially – ideally you’ll have been paid enough to make giving up the copyright worthwhile. (It’s probably worth noting that images – photos, drawings, graphics, etc. are also usually copyrighted – meaning don’t use them without permission.)

Is it worth a copyright?

Many writers have an almost knee-jerk reaction of “NO!” when they discover a publisher wants to retain the copyright. My suggestion is you take a deep breath and consider what you’ve written or plan to write and decide if this is a battle worth fighting.

For example, if you’re doing a series or even a single 300 word blog post on last night’s television show or about an company that makes widgets, there’s probably not much point in trying to insist on retaining the copyright. It’s easy for you to write, and it’s not a topic you’re likely to want to use again, at least in that form.

On the other hand, you may very well want to negotiate the copyright for a book or other significant piece of writing.

In other words, pick your battles carefully.

Neither ideas nor titles can be copyrighted

It’s not possible to copyright an idea – just the expression of that idea. That’s why it’s totally okay for you to write about raising feral kittens and for me to write about the same topic – both of us can protect what we write on the same subject, but not the idea itself.

Titles can’t be copyrighted either. Yesterday I looked up a book title, Blink, at my library and found maybe a dozen books with similar titles. I had to sort through them to find the one I wanted.  In this case, the subtitle, The power of thinking without thinking  was my clue. It’s written by Malcolm Gladwell and I’m enjoying learning about how we often make decisions.

Filing for a copyright may make suing easier

Although, in the US, you have a copyright as soon as you begin to write, using the copyright symbol (© ) and or actually filing for a copyright may make it easier for you to sue if someone steals your work. Of course, there’s the whole cost of lawsuits issue, but if you want you can file online at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/. There’s a fee involved.

If you look at the bottom of this page on the right you’ll see a copyright symbol.

Then there’s the whole issue of what your clients may know or think they know about copyright. Next week I’ll talk about that and maybe work in some information about international copyrights. (Hint, there is no such thing, but there are some guidelines.)

By the way, the cc symbol on the graphic indicates this graphic is licensed through a Creative Commons license. Although this doesn’t have much if any legal standing at the moment I suspect it’s the direction we should be heading.

What’s your experience with copyrights? Let us know in comments or inside the forum if you’re a member.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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