I almost never search for writing clients who offer a single project for hire. Except for magazine pitches — which may win an assignment with no guarantee of future work — I consider the single-shot client a waste of time. It all comes down to economies of scale, really. It pretty much takes the same amount of hustle to chase a client for a one-time gig as it does to chase another for an ongoing stream of work. If I’m trying to work smarter instead of harder, the choice is easy.
But what about when the single-shot client comes to you? That’s what happened just before Christmas, when someone who’d read one of my articles contacted me asking if I could write a lot more just like it. He runs a website with a very particular health focus and asked me to go wide and deep to create content to expand that focus. I was flattered, but also a little flummoxed.
Who was this guy? How could I be sure he wouldn’t just use my work and leave me with an unpaid invoice? Would my writing be edited and displayed in a way consistent with my wider body of work? It would have my name on it, after all — a name I have been careful to associate with quality writing.
But I realized this was the right challenge to have. And it forced me to figure out some of the vagaries of the writing business that I usually leave to the larger companies I write for. The contract, for one. That would have my name on it too, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t screwed.
I found an online template of a standard writing agreement and customized it to my needs, requiring 50 percent of my fee up front and laying out who owned the rights to the completed work (him) and where else it could be published or adapted (nowhere). I was happy to see him follow the agreement to the letter and amazed to receive final payment two days after I completed the project. I have to say, it was also very nice to pad my bank account by that much more in addition to my expected income that month.
Would I do it again? Well, the client emailed me this week asking for more articles. Looks like my single-shot has turned into a double.