As a professional writer, your goal is to make money. Okay, so I didn’t say anything all that profound there, but if you’re like me, chances are anything with numbers or dollar signs can make your head spin. (Lucky for me my husband is a CPA so I can outsource some of the details to him.)
However, whether I like it or not, when it comes to being a professional writer there are still things I need to do. For instance, I need to be tracking what assignments I have, how much am I charging, what am I spending on and make sure I get compensated for my work.
Assuming that you are already submitting your work and being paid, here are some things to keep in mind. (And just FYI, I have been guilty of not doing at least one of these on a regular basis):
1. Record all your work — I record all articles assigned and the track when they were submitted, whether they have run or not.
2. Send out invoices in a timely manner.
3. Record all payments.
To keep track of my assignments, invoices and payments I use a spreadsheet in Excel. Every time I get a new assignment I add it to an Excel doc I call “Assignments.” (I know it’s a very clever title!) I also keep separate excel files with individual tabs along with story assignments and payment lists for my regular clients. (Yes, these lists will overlap and as far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing. I’d rather double-up then accidentally miss something!)
BTW, if the idea of spreadsheets is too complicated (and believe me I know where you are coming from!!) you can accomplish the same thing in a notebook or binder that you customize to fit your needs.
If you are just starting out and maybe not yet generating income, it’s still a good idea for you to get in the habit of recording everything. That new box of pens you bought to help with editing your work, it’s a business expense — go ahead and record it as such. Traveled into the city to meet a prospective client? Yep, it’s a business expense, write it down.
It may take a while to get the hang of all of this, but the more you do it, the more conscious you will become of how much revenue you are bringing in, how much you spending and you may gain some insight into what you need to do to make your writing business profitable.
EXERCISE: Take a piece of paper and divide it into columns — ideas for columns include assignment name, the editor you are working with, deadline due, fee and whether you have filed the story or not. Other columns may include hourly rate, whether the story ran, if you have billed and the check number of any payments received. Then on the left side of the page list all the stories you’ve had for the last few weeks or months and fill the columns accordingly.
COMING TOMORROW: STEP NUMBER 5!