When is a Freelance Writing Gig Really a Gig?

Do you get excited when you get a “nibble” back from a potential client? I admit that I do. What’s a nibble, you ask? Well, it’s when you’ve applied for a writing gig or made a pitch to a potential client and they have responded in a way that indicates they are interested in discussing the idea of your working together.

It’s not the same thing as getting the gig, though, so before you get too far ahead of yourself and start planning how you will fit this new assignment into your schedule or worse – turning down other work – consider the fact that you and your potential client are just talking. You don’t actually have the gig yet.

Unless you get the word that you are hired, anything can happen. The client may be interested in hiring you, love your samples, etc., but may need to put the project on the back burner for whatever reason. Things can change for a client very quickly, and it’s not a good idea to count on a particular project going ahead.

Here’s another example: The client may like you and your work, but you’re still negotiating fees. It’s not a writing gig…yet. The only exception to this rule may be when the prospective client tells you that you are the only writer on the plant they would even consider working with, and that you can name your own price for the project. Nice little fantasy, but probably not realistic. (If it ever happens to me, I’ll be sure to let you know.)

So, to answer the original question, when is a writing gig really a gig? Only when you have officially been hired, given the green light to start work, and negotiated payment terms (which should include a deposit). Anything else is just talking.


  1. says

    Amen! It took me awhile to learn this. And still I get hooked occasionally and all excited before the contract is signed and the advance check clears.

    I do make a small exception for past clients. I’m talking to one right now about a series of books and during the conversation he told me about another stand alone. We agreed on a price for that one and I’ve plugged it into my earning plan for the year under “Probable.”

    To pacify the kid in me that is always look for a reason to celebrate that spending plan also has a section called “Pure Speculation.” I rarely include anything there in a total of any sort, and if I do, I erase it pronto.

  2. says

    For me it is when I write the first word.

    This happens after payment, content and deadlines have been determined, after the the contract has been signed, and also after the client has provided me with his company’s accounting department information (I always get this info just in case they get fired before you get paid).

    Then I will call the writing gig mine.


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