Working as a professional writer takes skill and determination. As a continuation of last week’s tips, here are additional ideas to help you build your freelance business:Tip #6: Prepare a business commercial.When I first built my business, I began passing out business cards to everyone I knew. People are truly thrilled to meet a writer – they think we lie around in pajamas all day smoking French cigarettes and drinking whiskey while we type out inscrutable words of brilliance. Then they would ask…”what do you do?”At first, I stumbled over this question. I knew what I was good at writing and I vaguely knew my target audience, but it didn’t flow off my tongue. To be sure I gave the best possible answer, one that would make my questioner itch to work with me, I wrote down a commercial about my business. Conversations can be long or short, so I made sure I could enticingly explain my work in 30 seconds and two minutes. This is also called the “elevator presentation”. You should be able to interest a potential client in your work in the amount of time that it takes you to reach your floor in an elevator. Believe me, the questions will come – be ready for them!Tip #7: Build a portfolio of work.When starting a freelance business, many people do not already have a body of work to show potential clients. Whether a customer is looking for published clips or just samples of your work, a new writer is often stuck in a catch-22: you need samples in order to be taken seriously, and you can’t provide samples until someone hires you.Thankfully, there are many organizations and alternative methods to building your clips list or portfolio. Non-profit organizations, small newspapers, and park districts often do not have the staff or the talent to communicate well. Within your target niche, there may be additional opportunities. Approach these organizations with an idea for work you can offer them, and do the work for free or a reduced cost. You’ll build up contacts as well as fattening your portfolio.Tip #8: Determine how much work you’ll do primarily for recognition.This tip is related to Tip #7. Once you have built up clips and start receiving job offers, you may be offered jobs that pay very little but give you the opportunity to brag far and wide. If you need the recognition, take it! But if you have built your business and your name is recognizable, you may turn down non-lucrative jobs even if you will gain publicity. To determine whether you should take the job, ask yourself these questions:Can I afford the time it will take to do this job?Will I be recognized in the right places (such as within my targeted audience)?Will I gain new knowledge or a new skill that will make this job worth it?Will the recognition lead to additional, more lucrative work?Tip #9: Determine how much you will charge.This is difficult to answer and varies with each writer. You must consider factors such as your experience and skill level, and the market in your area. Most people have an idea of how their local economy rates with the national average – for example, a writer working for a local Chicago publication will likely make more money than a comparable situation in a small town in Montana. The type of work you do will also be a factor: copyediting generally pays less than writing a new, original piece; website designers writing content will often make more than a website content writer, since they also design and build the website in question.A good place to start is with the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market book. There is a table listing each type of writing and the high, low, and average charge for each. Find your work and your skill level, and you have a ballpark idea on what to charge. Next, adjust the figure for your particular circumstances. Is your job for a friend who needs communication help? You may want to adjust the price downward. Is the job likely to require more work, patience, or hand-holding than the usual job? Add to the figure. You will soon be able to do the estimating without a degree in Calculus.Tip #10: Keep records of your estimates and final costs.On your first few jobs, estimating the amount of work and pay may take some guesswork. But once you’ve completed a few jobs, you have real-life data that will help you determine what to charge and how profitable your business is. Keep track of all your original time estimates. As the work is completed, log the actual hours and final cost alongside your final pay for the job. Over time, as you become more experienced and work more quickly, you will see which jobs are most lucrative and which clients take more time than they are worth. Your business will prosper as you analyze and use this information!