Freelance Writer Files: E-mail or email?

Today, while working on Web copy, I felt the 90s collide with the 10s.

The Web designer, another Woman of a Certain Age, informed me that, though I had requested that she change “email” in some copy to “e-mail,” as I’d written it, the latter form was only popular in the 1990s, when “electronic mail” was new.

I'll be wearing verbal sweatsuits everywhere...

I'll be wearing verbal sweatsuits everywhere...

On my own, I’d lazily left out the hyphen and toyed with the idea of leaving it out permanently. Little did I know I was following a lot of other lazy, hyphen-hating lemmings over the language cliff’s edge. You know, that land where it’s “Whoopee! anything goes now!” That land where “snuck” is fine, instead of the correct “sneaked.” And “hung” is the word for a person who’s been executed by the rope-noose method, not a man who is… Oh, you know. Well, I don’t want to go to that land. Before I know it, I’ll be wearing verbal sweatsuits everywhere, belching loudly over my plate of escargots, and letting the house go to hell. It’s a swippewy swope, as Bennet Cerf used to say. (And if you remember him, you’re of a Certain Age, too.)

What’s your opinion? Is it still “e-mail” for you, or have you made the transition to the new, more compact (but suspicious-looking) “email?”

Freelance Writer File: “Hanged” vs. “Hung”

Mortician: “That man who was *hanged* for murder sure wasn’t *hung*.”

Know the difference between a man being executed by hanging and his being well-endowed, if you know what I mean. And I know that you do.

This is a man who has been hanged.

This man has been hanged.

Freelance Writer Files: Where do ideas come from?

A new idea is often represented as an incandescent light bulb glowing over someone’s head. Now that the old Edison bulbs are banned in favor of the CFL ones, we’ll have to think of something new. ‘Cause those CFLs look weird, and they’re slow to reach full brightness, while new ideas usually come flashing into your brain fully formed.

Or so you think.

• Ideas begin in your subconscious mind.
It’s that mysterious part of your brain where memories, impressions, images, smells, and bad old jokes are stored. You see, hear, smell, feel or read something, and it kicks off a fast conveyor belt carrying associations (Think of Lucy and Ethel working in the chocolate factory). When your subconscious sees the germ of a good idea, the conveyor belt jerks to a stop. What then?

• Your conscious mind plucks the “proto-thought” off the conveyor belt and holds it up to inspect it.
At this point, what you have is an amoeba-like blob: an association and a thought kind of oozing together. If it seems as if it might jell into something useful, the mind starts integrating it (or “mooshing it around,” as we creative professionals say) with other thoughts to create an idea that has form and substance. A creative idea, a business idea, whatever it might be. Perhaps “THE IDEA,” perhaps not. If not, it’s back to the conveyor belt.

• Coming up with “THE IDEA” takes a little time.
People (left-brained people, usually the account people) must think all you have to do is drop in a quarter, the machine goes whirr-whirr-zing, and at 12:59 p.m., “THE IDEA” chunks out of the chute. Not so.

• The “monkeying around” time is essential.
It takes place while you’re sleeping, showering, walking, watching TV, reading a book or newspaper, playing games, doing something unrelated to “working on” THE IDEA. When it doesn’t come is when you’re sitting rigid at the computer keyboard feverishly thinking, “OMIGOD, what am I going to do? Only 35 minutes to go! Come on, IDEA!”

• Now, deadlines for ideas are a good thing.
They focus your mind. They’re helpful, as long as they’re not so close you can feel their hot, humid breath on your neck. Nothing closes down the creative brain like time pressure. On the other hand, sometimes your very first idea is “THE IDEA.” Not often, though.

• So where do ideas come from?
Out of your dank, dark subconscious mind, through your collected associations, up into the conscious mind, out into the daylight, then into the monkeying around process. Then, you devoutly help, they will transmogrify into just “THE IDEA” you need.

• So don’t short-cut the creative process.
Good ideas are like shy little bunnies hiding in the shrubberies of your mind. If you rush to grab them, they’ll high-tail it into the woods. But if you sit down quietly some distance from them, eventually they’ll come out and reward you with a wet sniff with their cute little bunny noses. That’s my take, anyway.

Need good ideas? Come and find me. I’ll be sitting near the shrubberies.

Freelance Copywriter in Kansas City: Retainers

The first time a new client offered me a couple hundred bucks upfront, I was surprised. Of course, I accepted the money (My motto: Never say “no” to money a client offers you, unless it’s to carry out a Mob hit.).

Mafia hit-woman

My fee does not cover whack jobs.

But I still wasn’t convinced it was necessary. After all, if you and the client hit it off, a long-term relationship seems probable, and they seem solid enough to pay you for work done, why bother?

Well, here’s why: It’s a gesture of good faith. It’s also a token of their esteem for you. And, like an engagement ring, it’s a symbol of engagement. You’re together, and you expect to stay together—at least until your fees for work done have exhausted the upfront retainer.

Don't work for free under the guise of good exposure.

My business manager won't let me.

So there’s another question: Is the upfront retainer to be taken in addition to hourly fees or not? I favor the idea that it’s a down payment on work to be done, not a signing bonus. My Midwestern work ethic just won’t let me take money for not doing anything. But it also balks at doing anything for no money.

If a client wants to solidify his/her relationship with me, sure, I’ll take a small retainer upfront. If not, that’s okay, too. I’m easy to work with.

One thing I have been doing, though, is asking a new client to sign an “Engagement Agreement” setting out certain understandings about my fees and what types of activities they cover, billing procedures, payment, late payment fees, and so on. It gets everything on the table, so there are no surprises later.

Getting a written agreement from a client is a good idea (and less heavy than the Contract I tried that caused new clients to have instant panic attacks). But my business manager is telling me I still need to:

(a) ask for retainers upfront without blinking;
(b) turn down “spec” jobs, unless they’re for causes I support; and
(b) raise my fees to their pre-recession levels.

But my business manager is me, and I tend to ignore me. So if you’re thinking of hiring a Kansas City freelance writer, better do it now, while my business manager is in sleep mode.