8 great tips for creating writers’ contracts

pencil slanted

Q. Can you please show me a writer’s contract?

A. Sure.

I use a contract or a simple letter of agreement that clarifies who will do what, my fee, and payment terms.  No lawyers involved. No big words. Here’s a sample contract with a client to ghost-write an article for an (imaginary) professional magazine.

Thank you for inviting me to write a 500- to 750-word article about investing in real estate for Private Asset Management.

  1. You will give me a bulleted outline of the sub-topics. You will answer my questions in a timely manner so that I can meet your deadline. You will send me links to sources of additional information, if appropriate.
  2. I understand that the information you give me is confidential and of great value to you. I will respect your intellectual property.
  3. The names of Ms. A and Mr. B will appear as the authors of this article. My name will not appear.
  4. I agree to write the article for delivery on or before DATE. I will provide one major revision and any minor changes before DATE.
  5. I will charge an hourly fee of $400 (don’t I wish), and I anticipate that this project will require 4 hours.
  6. If you decide to change the scope or subject of the article, we will consider that a rewrite. If that happens, there might then be additional fees and/or an extension of the delivery date.
  7. We will consider the assignment “accepted” when you approve it, regardless of whether the publisher decides to use it.
  8. You agree to pay me on or before DATE, upon accepting and approving the article.

Susan Perloff

Now write one of your own.

What brand computer should I buy?

typing smaller

Question: What brand computer should I buy?
Answer: That depends on your needs.

American homes and offices have 260 million laptops and desktops. 86 percent of American computers are PCs. Apple users are fanatical about their computers.

Apple computers

• More Mac users than PC users are satisfied with their computers.
• Apple computers cost more.
• If you have important clients who use Mac, buy a Mac.
• You may have to buy Microsoft Office separately.
• Best for creating graphics, charts, visual art.
• You can find support at a “genius bar” in an Apple store.
• Computer hackers who create viruses do so almost exclusively for PCs.
• PCs come with more memory than a Mac of the same cost.
• If you need more memory, you need to buy it.

Windows computers

• If you have important clients who use Windows, buy Windows.
• If Microsoft Word is your primary software, choose a Windows PC.
• Word for Windows is far more sophisticated than Word for Apple. Source: Substantial personal experience.
• You can find support through the manufacturer.
• Most Windows computers cost less than Apples. The better your purchase, the less you need to be concerned about security and reliability.
• Computer hackers who create viruses do so more frequently for PCs.
• PCs come with higher memory than a Mac of the same cost.

Write about your expertise

hay & taxes

Q. I am a one-person shop. How can I promote my business by writing about it?

A. If you are self-employed or own a small business, use your website, blog and all available social media to promote your expertise.

  • Add relevant copy to your website and blog.
    • Write about your proficiency in your industry, not about yourself.
    • Divulge a good idea or 2 to show that you really know your stuff.
    • Be specific in your advice so that readers can actually take a step you recommend.
    • Limit your content to your experience, capabilities and expertise. Skip your pets, travels and rants.
  • Post your writing on other people’s blogs.
  • Prepare one- and two-minute presentations (for elevators and formal meetings) about your capabilities and qualifications.
  • If you cannot write well, invest in a professional writer (not a hungry English major).

Write evergreens

Q. What’s an evergreen?
A. In botany, an evergreen is a plant that is, uh, always green.
In writing, an evergreen is an essay that you write once and can bring to life again in future years.

Grand Canyon evergreen

Grand Canyon evergreen

Plant a tree. Watch it grow. If you plant a Japanese maple or Northern red oak, you can appreciate its life during spring, summer and fall. But if you want to watch a tree flourish all year, every year, plant a gold arborvitae or a densiform yew.

Write evergreens.

* Every Valentine’s Day you wonder about flower-delivery people. How do floral recipients react to a delivery of 2 dozen red roses? Does anyone actual kiss the person handing over the sterling vase with 3 long-stemmed roses? Do men or women tip more?

To report this story, get yourself a one-day gig delivering for a florist near you. Write the story immediately, while it’s fresh as a daisy. Then file it until February 1 of next year, when you can pitch or send it to a local daily or weekly. If you have a monthly in mind, tell your calendar to remind you to ship the piece before Labor Day.

And the following year, assuming you have retained copyright, sell it somewhere else. You can revive many essays for years to come.

* Every year, on the second Sunday in May, you regret that you haven’t written that Mother’s Day article that’s been percolating. TIP: Write it now. Send it to your favorite – or desired favorite – editor on, say, April 20.

Several of my essays, published ages ago, have seen new life as evergreens in digital media. These days, with online payment at zilch, publication with links to your website are nearly worth cash.

Happy Bosnian emerald arrow pine to you.

Dumbing down the content

above average Joe






Q. I write and edit the newsletter for an association that serves adults with special needs. Most of our articles address agencies, families and caretakers, so they are really above the heads of our direct clients. How do I write something that is simple enough for the clients but intelligent enough for everyone else?

A. It seems impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Try writing separate stories for your separate audiences. As you write about an upcoming event, you can write one piece about attendance goals, costs and driving directions. Then draft an article for your clients that is simple and straightforward, explaining what they can expect when they arrive. If you use larger type, and perhaps a playful font like Comic Sans or Stylistic SF, you can make them want to read it, too. Include pictures.

Be respectful, as always. For clients whose special needs are physical, not mental, they can probably read as well as you.

Use the same techniques on your website, too.