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How to Increase Your Bottom Line Even When You're at Rock Bottom
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Back in the day when I had a crush on bad-boy rapper 50 Cent, I would devour every hip-hop magazine, celebrity news story, or blog that featured his interview, movie review, or the 4-1-1 on who he was dating. In his six-pack-displaying days, he was in my mind, “to die for.” Twice! Okay, so it's not one of my proudest moments. But bear with me; there's a point here.

Anyhow, I remember coming across one such article where he made a statement that stayed with me and changed my perspective on how I do business, and the art of negotiations forever. In doling out advice to future music moguls and entrepreneurs in general, he stated, “Never pay people what they're worth.; pay them what they'll accept.” (No wonder he was able to turn 50 Cents into millions!)

It was at that very moment I had a paradigm shift. I realized that the reason I was busted, disgusted and an expert on all things Ramen Noodles, was that as a freelancer, I wasn't being paid what I was worth. I was too afraid to take a stand. I figured if I asked for too much, I would knock myself out of the running.

And why would I? It's common knowledge that there are hundreds of writers who will work for free, just for the benefit of a byline and “15 minutes of fame.” So I figured some money was better than none at all. Then I did a reality check. When I really took a cold, hard look at my cold cash, in some cases I was making less by the hour than some factory workers in foreign countries. This despite having two degrees.

Something had to change. I decided to adopt Dr. Phil's philosophy, “we teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.” I discovered that not only were his sage words applicable to women who were in abusive relationships, they worked for freelancers who worked for freeloaders too!

You know the type: they'll pay you in “exposure”. Or they'll “reevaluate” your status based on how many clicks you get, or how much mileage they can get out of you. As a result, you have to string together a dozen odds-and-ends jobs just to make ends meet. Which I had been doing, and simply had had enough. And if you're in a similar situation, you should too.

With this in mind, here are five ways to increase your dignity and your bottom line this year.

  1. Kick “tire-kickers” to the curb. Simply put, tire kickers are potential clients that will test the waters by asking a lot of free questions about your rates for projects, your creative ideas, and your strategies to help advance their business goals without any real desire to hire you. Some will even take your suggestions and implement them themselves to cut cost. Cut your losses short by limiting the time and frequency of (free) consultations and creative brainstorming on others' behalves. As they say, “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?” Funds for Writers creator, C. Hope Clark charges 50 bucks to chat with writers for a thirty minute consult.

  2. Change your perspective. Even the Good Book tells us that, “as [a man] thinketh … so is he.” Stop buying into the belief that you must be a “starving artist.” Consider famous authors J. K. Rowling and Stephen King or celebrity bloggers like Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, and Daniel Scocco for examples. Positive thinking works. Positively!

  3. Hone your craft to increase your cash. What are your creative weaknesses? Do you have a difficult time with conducting interviews? Is your fiction more like Ripley's Believe It or Not? Do you struggle with subject/verb agreement? Assess then act accordingly. There are many online classes offered for writers of all levels and genres to sharpen skills. One such site is Coffee House for Writers. Also consider joining a critique group in your local area.

  4. Diversify. Don't devote all your hopes, dreams, or literary efforts to one area. The key to staying in the black, is creating multiple streams of income. For example, though I've had a successful career as a relationship columnist and blogger, my first foray into writing was as a poet. And I was indeed “po” until I expanded my creative horizons. You should too.

  5. Recognize that time is money. Invest it well to yield optimal results. In other words, don't spend endless (unbillable) hours surfing the Net catching up on Brittney Spears and celebrity gossip, or exchanging photos on Facebook, or playing computer games. Budget your time like you would your money. Get your priorities in order. Ironically, the more money you make, the more freedom and leisure time you'll gradually earn.

Follow these five tips (and get a clue) and you'll discover a writing career that's rich and rewarding on many levels.

© Copyright 2011, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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