Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Projects I Don't Handle

I love being a jack-of-all-trades, although I've started to focus on web copy. I love doing different types of projects and offering numerous services to clients looking for a "one-size-fits-all" writer. But some projects just don't work with me, and never did. Here are a few areas I typically don't write in--and why.

Press releases. I've written several successful press releases for clients, but it's not an area I like to focus on and lately I've been recommending press release clients to other writers. The reason? Press releases are supposed to be about newsworthy events, and newspaper editors select which ones make it into the paper based on which ones offer info their readers are likely to find fascinating. Self-promotional documents masquerading as newsworthy stories are anathema to editors. The problem? Many of the clients I encounter who want press releases want me to get coverage for really banal things--like their new website launch. If there was something really innovative and different about their new website, that would be workable--but often there isn't much. Trying to turn a promotional agenda into something newsworthy may be the perfect project for some writers, but for me it's a struggle.

Magazine and news articles. I know several writers who do both commercial copy and magazine writing. While I do ghostwritten articles for trade magazines sometimes, I typically don't submit article ideas to magazines on my own. I'm not crazy about the way magazines pay--100% once the story is published, much less if they decide not to publish it through no fault of your own, and often months after your story's run. I like commercial copywriting better, where I have more control over my terms and payment schedule.

Highly technical writing. I love learning all about new technologies and translating those into sales copy that appeals to consumers. What doesn't work as well for me is writing highly technical copy for an expert audience. I got involved in a blogging project like this once where I essentially had to become as much of an expert as my readers to provide them with expert-level commentary, and to reach that level I'd need an advanced degree. Suffice it to say the project didn't pay enough to reimburse me for research time.

Ghostwriting books, screenplays and other involved creative projects. I'm writing my own novels, and prefer to devote my novel-writing efforts toward my own career--so I typically avoid ghostwriting other people's--although I'm perfectly happy to write nonfiction e-books and such. There may be some angel clients out there for these projects, but often when I see someone in the job boards looking for a writer for a long creative project, something about those postings always makes me nervous. Maybe it's that I get a sense of big egos looking for writers to confirm their brilliance--and I'm a little nervous about getting stuck with a lame idea and a slightly psycho client.

What projects do you typically avoid? And which ones on this list do you handle regularly?


Unknown said...

I'm TOTALLY with you on ghostwriting books! Having been involved in a number of those, I'd rather chew off my arms than go there again. The problems, for me, are the high expectations of the author, the timeframe, the indecisiveness, the question of payment (I get tired of saying "No, I don't get paid in royalties"), the endless edits, the posses that inevitably come in at the end and totally screw up the entire manuscript and convincing the author to write an entirely different book....

Yea, not a fan of the ghostwriting.

Jennifer Williamson said...

My position on ghostwriting books is that if I want to drive myself crazy, I'll do it on my own time.

Gabriella F. said...

I just don't have the same experience with magazines and news publications that you have.

All of the ones I write for pay upon acceptance (which is almost instantaneous) and nearly always meet my net 30 days terms.

I have had a couple that did the payment-upon-publication thing, but my thought is that if I have the time to fit the assignment into the schedule, why not add it to my income?

We're obviously working with different types of magazines and news publications!

Anonymous said...

I've avoided writing grants. I have tons of experience in them, but no one wants to pay for something they "may" get.

Jennifer Williamson said...

I had the same experience with grants. In the very beginning I started out that way, then had the bright idea of getting paid a percentage of the grant I got and working only with really well known nonprofits that nearly always get what they apply for--then I learned that in the grantwriting world it's really not done to get a percentage of the grant amount. Oh well.