Gettin’ Paid

At the start of the year, I posted some advice on how I use Trello to track my project work. Since then, those posts have been referenced several times by other freelancers and contractors, and they’re some of the most-read on my site. As such, I’ve added a Freelancer Advice category to help me share more information I’ve found useful as I continue my education as a full-time freelancer, contractor, and business owner.

And one of the key aspects of owning a business is making sure you get paid for your work, which comes in three steps.

Know Your Value

There are two different ways you can approach this: by determining how much you want to make and learning how much you can make.

The first is pretty straightforward: start with your desired yearly salary, add in all your expenses as a freelancer (including self-employment taxes!), divide it by the number of hours you plan to work in a year (1,800 to 2,000 is a good estimate), and divide. Simple!

Of course, you might end up charging too much or (perhaps more often) too little for your services. Doing some searches for “living wage” with your field and state or country of residence can give you some numbers to consider. Then you can use that number as if it were your desired salary above.

For writers in particular, there’s an extra step, as many clients charge by the word, not by the hour. You’ll need to sort out how many words you can write in an hour. Comparing that to the amount of words targeted will tell you how long a draft will take. Multiply that by 1.3 to 1.5 to account for planning, research, and revision, and that gives you how many hours you’ll likely work on the project. From there, you can calculate a rough “hourly rate.”

Negotiate

Now you have an idea of how much you’re worth, and you’re talking with a potential client about work. Pay discussions are a part of being a freelancer, even if that “discussion” isn’t necessarily with the client directly.

Wait, what? How can you discuss something without… you know, talking about it?

Well, sometimes, the client isn’t open to discussion of the rate — for example, there may be a fixed payment (common in writing assignments), or you have applied for a job with an hourly rate up-front (common on freelance sites like Upwork). If the job is more than your usual rate, there’s obviously nothing to say except “Where do I sign?”, but more likely it’ll be lower. In that case, you’ll have to decide for yourself if the opportunity offers you added benefits. These can be things like access to more clients, free publicity or marketing by the client, or learning a new skill that will help you in other areas.

If the client is open to negotiation, though, you’ll need to explain why the rate you’re suggesting is important. Focus on why it’s better for them, how your work will improve their business or have a positive benefit on their bottom line. Ask them what their budget constraints are. And always aim high — you’ll likely be surprised at what they’re willing to pay. However, if the conversation results in the project being offered at a lower rate, use the paragraph above to decide if that lower rate is acceptable to you.

Finally, if you can’t come to a fair compromise, it’s okay to walk away. Not all opportunities are a good fit, and it’s better for you (and for your would-be client’s perception of you) if you politely decline. It’s entirely possible that a later opportunity with that potential client will work out better, and clients do talk among themselves.

Handle Your Invoice

Now the job is done, and you have to send out an invoice in order to get paid. I highly suggest Wave — it’s an automated invoice system that’s free and allows you to easily track a number of invoices. It also allows for clients to pay by credit cards (for a percentage), and it can send automated reminders over email when the client is running late. I even have one client that I charge the same amount every month, and Wave handles it without me having to do a thing.

On the invoice, you need to know if you agreed to full or prorated hours. In my experience, it’s typical for hours to be prorated in fifteen minute increments, but some clients are fine with full hours. It’s the difference between working ten hours and five minutes, and knowing if you should charge for 10.25 or 11 on the invoice.

Many clients offer to pay via services like PayPal. If you go this route, clarify ahead of time who will handle PayPal charges. Others choose to use physical checks, direct bank deposits, and even credit cards. You can handle all of these with a personal account, but if you get a lot of bank deposits or checks, you might want to look into a business account.

When (hopefully not if) your client pays, make sure to send them a receipt. A simple email confirming that you received payment and attaching a copy of the paid invoice in question helps immensely down the road, particularly if this is a client you have a lot of invoices with. Both sides being able to confirm that you were paid for May and July but not June is a huge help, and gives your client assurance that you’ll only ask for payment for work you actually did.

Now, enjoy the benefit of your labors before you start on the next project!

A Five-Pack of Sherlock Holmes Reviews

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been (slowly, so slowly) reviewing some of the Sherlock Holmes books over at DriveThruFiction. Here are the five I’ve done so far.

Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business: New Stories of the Great Detective: A very good collection of short stories, all tied together with a common theme: a previous client of Sherlock Holmes coming back for a second case. Some cases are better than others, but all of them are true to the original canon, and the Watson voice is solid and immersive. A great anthology for Holmes fans who know the original canon, or casual fans who are looking for some solid, classic mysteries.

Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Knights: A compilation of the four-issue series, “Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Knights” seems to be inspired by the recent Guy Ritchie films. The story draws details from the original stories without being too closely committed to any of them. Holmes and Watson bicker and argue, and a few times the writing is laugh-out-loud funny. The art is good and the PDF quality is clear. If you aren’t a stickler for fidelity to the original canon, this is an entertaining romp.

The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: It has an uninspiring title, but this is a massive anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories — 25 in total. Most people don’t realize that many modern Holmes anthologies usually have a theme or a flavor, such as stories that attempt to accurate evoke the original Doyle voice or Holmes stories that involve the supernatural. These are a grab-bag of stories ranging from very well-researched and faithful pastiches to stories of Holmes travelling through time. With many anthologies there are always some stories that hit or miss with the reader, but that’s especially true with this. If you can’t get behind the concept of, say, an investigation into a cult of readers of bad Holmes pastiches, some of the stories won’t resonate with you. But with nearly 600 pages of material, odds are you’ll find more hits than misses with this collection.

Victorian Villainy: A Collection of Moriarty Stories: A fun rework of Moriarty as an anti-hero. This version of the character differs pretty strongly from the canon (unlike, say, Kim Newman’s version, which is still pretty villainous), but it makes for a fun anthology.

The Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures Trade: A charming (if moderately inconsistent) reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. The trade is set in an alternative steampunk world, where Sherlock Holmes runs around with his friend James Moriarty (!). There are some new characters introduced as well, including a female Indian character who is sadly more of a stereotype than a compelling character in her own right. It’s not remotely close to the original stories, but it’s a fun adventure.

Your Own Personal Kanban: The Backlog

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Yesterday I looked at how I use my board to track my task momentum. Today I’ll finish by talking about how I plan my tasks.

Continue reading Your Own Personal Kanban: The Backlog

Your Own Personal Kanban: The Board

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Yesterday I looked at how I handle my daily tasks. Today I’ll go into how I use those tasks and track them.

Continue reading Your Own Personal Kanban: The Board

Your Own Personal Kanban: The Tomato

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Let’s start small and work our way up.

Continue reading Your Own Personal Kanban: The Tomato

Card Game: Tactical War

One of the advantages of a good vacation where you can really unplug is that your mind can focus on things you wouldn’t normally have time to consider. Naturally, as folks who work on games professionally, my wife and I think about games.

So on our recent cruise, when we had some time to kill, we bought two decks of cards and set about writing a new variation on the game “War” that didn’t suck as much. This new version (tentatively titled “Tactical War”) attempts to reduce the randomness of the original game, add a layer of player choice, and remove the “death spiral” design of the original. It’s been through a few iterations, but if other folks want to play it and give more feedback, I’ll be happy to keep this post up-to-date with the latest rules and clarifications.

Tactical War Rules

Setup

  1. Each player starts with their own deck of playing cards (two Jokers included.) Ideally, each deck has a different back, to make sorting the decks back out easier.
  2. The players also need some marker to show who sets the battlefield. The box the cards came in works fine.
  3. Before play begins, each player shuffles their deck, and presents it to their opponent to cut. Each player then draws a hand of five cards.
  4. The first player to set the battlefield is determined by random determination for the first round, or with whomever lost the last round.

Turn

  1. At the start of each turn, both players draw their hands up to five cards.
  2. The player who has the marker can decide if they want to “set a battlefield” for the turn. If they choose to, they play a card from their hand and declare what limits are on the battlefield.
  3. The “battlefield” is limited by the suit or color of the card played, depending on what the player declares — for example, a Two of Hearts can be played to limit the battlefield to “red cards” or “Hearts.” If there is no battlefield card in play, there are no limits on the cards for that turn.
  4. Once a battlefieldis played (if any), each player must try to play a card that fits within the presented limits. If they have no cards that fit within the limits, theymust play any card from their hand instead.
    1. The highest card played that fits within the limits wins the turn. If one card fits and the other doesn’t, the card that fits automatically wins.
    2. If neither card fits the limits, the highest value card wins.
    3. If the cards are of equal value, a second card is played that also fits the limits. If these cards tie, a third card is played, and so on.
    4. If both hands are emptied and the cards are still tied, the top card is revealed on each deck until a winner is determined.
  5. Once the turn is won, the winning player can choose to put their opponent’s card (not the card that set the battlefield) into their hand instead of putting it into their score pile.
  6. Any cards not put into the winner’s hand (including the card that settle the battlefield) are then put into the player’s score pile. The market then moves to the player on the left.
  7. Play continues until one player runs out of cards in their deck. All other opponents then put all their cards into their own score pile.

Scoring

  1. The score piles are counted, and then the total written down. The decks are divided back out, and play continues until a set score is reached (typically 200). That player is the winner.

Peer Review: “A Scandal in Bohemia” by Petr Kopl

(Disclaimer: Petr Kopl is a fellow author at MX Publishing, and MX Publishing gave me a free iBooks version for review.)

A few months ago, MX Publishing ran a Kickstarter to translate a comic. Intrigued, I looked into it, and was blown away. A Czech artist and writer, Petr Kopl had won several awards for his Sherlock Holmes comics, and his artwork was just amazing. Unfortunately I missed the window to contribute myself, but when I got a code to review it myself, I eagerly downloaded it and started reading.

Narratively, Kopl has woven two Holmes stories together (“A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Speckled Band”), along with references to other stories not written by Doyle (most notably “Around the World in 80 Days”). It’s not a faithful adaptation, and it takes a lighter tone than the original material — for example, Watson once finds Holmes hanging from the ceiling as he tests a new theory. The dynamic between Holmes and Watson, however, is much more the squabbling friendship that is common in more modern interpretations, and there are some genuinely funny exchanges between the two. Plot elements are rearranged to accommodate the new material, but it all hangs together through the thread of Watson working to overcome Holmes’ inherent misogyny. It’s a wonderful, entertaining story.

Artistically, Kopl’s style is unique and evocative. It looks a lot like an old-school cartoon, with hyperbolic character expressions and toned-down images of violence. And yet there’s a level of detail that draws the eye in: colors are rich and textured, backgrounds are drawn with little details that jump out, and even the sound effects look carefully crafted. More than once I caught myself staring at a panel, forgetting the story for a moment as I just soaked in the look and feel of the comic.

The book also has an introduction about the Czech Sherlock Holmes community, and an epilogue from the author talking about why Conan Doyle created a fictional king of Bohemia, and the nature of love and sex in the Holmes canon.

I haven’t been this drawn into a Holmes-based comic since the run of Moriarty. I highly recommend picking this graphic novel up.

A Scandal In Bohemia – A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

Writer. Gamer. Sherlockian. Usually Not Dead.

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