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Your Freelance Writing Business Give—But Not Until it Hurts
by Patricia Fry

When a writer emails you asking for advice or resources, do you generally respond? Do you take the time to discuss publishing projects with new writers and hopeful authors that you meet in passing? Or do you avoid getting involved for fear that these people might take advantage of you?

Knowing when to give and when to withhold is a challenge for professionals and experts in any field. Who hasn’t attended a social event and watched as someone cornered a doctor, a veterinarian or even a plumber to ask for their expert advice? The longer you work as a writer, and the more experienced you become, the more often this will happen to you. But is this a bad thing?

We all give on occasion. Sometimes we recognize an unexpected opportunity and we give joyously. Other times, we feel uncomfortably coerced into giving up some of our time. And sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the genuinely appreciative writers and the user. There are occasions when I feel pressured to give and other times when I feel moved to do so.

If you are seriously building a freelance writing business, you are constantly putting yourself out there. Hence, other writers have no trouble finding you. Most of them want help. Some of them want a resource recommendation, others want information or guidance and still others may be seeking financial help. I suggest that you respond to them all.

Let your expertise and reputation work for you. When someone contacts you with their burning questions, this should not be viewed as a bothersome interruption, but a welcome opportunity.

I can’t promise that everyone you try to help will all bother to thank you. Unfortunately, some people don’t seem to have an appreciation for gifts of time and knowledge. Some of those who ask for your advice, will actually argue with you. And, yes, there are those who will try to squeeze every last drop of free goodies from your brain without regard for your generosity and the fact that you actually make your living counseling clients on these issues.

Just as I recommend sidestepping your fears about being used, it’s also imperative that you know when and how to set and maintain boundaries. It’s a balancing act and one that can improve or damage your business.

When do you stop giving? You can usually tell when someone is a bonafide potential client or someone who will genuinely appreciate and use the information and when this person hopes to drain you for all you’re worth before moving on to his or her next victim.

A man who asks you to read his 75,000-word manuscript out of the goodness of your heart because his book is that good, may be someone to avoid. This is especially true if he also wants you to finance his project.

What if someone calls asking for help writing a memoir or another book that you know is a bad publishing risk—another run-of-the-mill diet book, for example. Would you accept the lucrative job or would you counsel the hopeful author in an attempt to dissuade her from making an obvious publishing mistake? In this case, the gift would be in the latter. If she’s determined to write the book despite your warnings, as many hopeful authors are, she will still probably engage your services.

I’ve learned after over half century in this life and 33 years in this business that giving is part of living. As a writing/publishing consultant and editor, there is only one reason to give—to help someone realize his or her writing dream. If it brings business, then it was a good business move. If it generates nothing more than a thank you, it still leaves you with a heart full of warm fuzzies. But when the joy of giving suddenly becomes an uncomfortable burden—when someone is taking from you rather than graciously receiving—it is time to stop.

Help others to meet their goals and live their dreams. It feels good and it’s good for business. But be sure to take care of yourself in the process.

© Copyright 2007, Patricia Fry

Patricia Fry is a career writer, author, speaker and editorial/publishing consultant. She is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 27 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Visit her informative blog daily, www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.

New book of cat stories
Patricia Fry announces her latest book: Catscapades, Tales of Ordinary and Extraordinary Cats www.matilijapress.com/catscapades.html.

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