Freelancing For Different Clients: Keeping It All Straight

I am trying to diversify my client base, and when writing for three or more clients, I find I have to draw up a “cheat sheet” or spreadsheet to keep the writing rules straight for each one. After all, I can make myself crazy flipping back and forth through writing manuals and style sheets to find which punctuation or spelling rules are preferred for which client.

I put the client’s name on the left side and writing elements across the top. These element rules include: punctuation, spelling, numerals and fractions, measurements, percentages, money, dates, times, addresses and states. For example, one client may want serial commas while another one doesn’t. Numbers under 10 may have to  be spelled out, while 10 and over call for numerals,  unless the number is 10 or more and begins a sentence. See what I mean? It can get quite confusing.

I use another spreadsheet for more complex rules such as word treatment and foreign spellings. For example, some clients want Internet to start with a capital “I”. Other clients decree that picture captions need punctuation. One client insists on “website,” while another wants “web site.” I also list article word limits for each publisher. Screwing up on any of these rules can get me a rewrite or an article rejection, so the time spent setting up a rule spreadsheet is well worth it.

Deadlines are usually listed on my desktop or dashboard for each client, but it is easier to plan the writing week if I compile all of these into one spreadsheet. It is the same for paydays.

While multiple style guides and style sheets can make me crazy, I have found that electronic subscriptions to style guides are not the most useful. The online AP style guide is a nightmare to use, and I have spent too much time looking up punctuation rules. I’ve also gotten stuck when the style guide sites have crashed. Most publishers will choose a certain edition of a style guide for their writing rules, and I try to have a paper copy of that handy. You can annotate it, underline it, and the book does not “crash.”

While I enjoy writing for one client and it is easier, at least having a spreadsheet for more clients keeps me organized and hopefully keeps the money rolling in.

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