8 Terms Every Freelancer Needs to Know (to Avoid Looking Like a Fool)

Have you ever felt like you lost thread of a conversation because you didn’t know what certain words meant? You realized it was jargon but what did it mean?

When I started freelancing, I remember being reduced to ‘Hmmm’s’ ten minutes into a conversation with a fellow freelancer because I didn’t know what certain words meant. I eventually figured them all out but not before a few embarrassing moments!

To help you avoid getting embarrassed or end up looking like a nincompoop, I’m listing the words that are most likely to make you go ‘Huh?’

1. Kill Fee

The first time a fellow freelancer mentioned it, I said ‘You mean I have to kill off my fee? But how will I earn then?

Total idiot, wasn’t I?

Thankfully, no. I was just new.

A kill fee is a clause you include in your freelance writing contract. It means the amount you will receive from the client if, for any reason, the project is cancelled before it’s completed.

Your time and hard work don’t come free. A kill fee insures that you’re paid something for the time and effort you’ve already put into the project.

2. Spec Work

Client: Please write an article/blog post on xyz topic to help us decide whether you’re a good match for us or not.

Freelancer: Sure, how much will I be paid and will I be allowed to retain the copyright if I’m not hired?

Client: Uhhh…

Spec work is a term clients use when they want freelancers to work for free. They want to see if the freelancer’s work is the right fit for them. Yeah right.

If a prospective client uses the term spec work, it means they want you to work for free. Now I don’t need to tell you why that’s wrong, right?

3. Content Mills

While I figured out pretty fast what content mills were, and you probably have too, it took me a while to differentiate between the different types.

There are two types of content mills. One lets you publish articles on any topic you want and lets you earn ad revenue. The others allow you to choose assignments and then pay a low rate for it.

In a nutshell, a content mill is any company that mass hires writers and has a business model that depends on writers writing for criminally low rates.

In an even smaller nutshell, a content mill is a company that asks you to sign up instead of the other way around.

4. Query

If you want to write for magazines, queries are your best friends. They’re a letter or email to the editor introducing yourself and suggesting a possible article idea. It includes the rough outline of your article idea, lists your experience and asks if the publication or editor would be interested in said article.

5. LOI

A Letter Of Introduction is a letter/email that you send to prospective clients introducing yourself as a freelance writer. It’s the email equivalent of a cold call.

6. Pitch

A pitch is the informal sibling of a query. Usually, you pitch an idea to blogs or online magazines. The purpose of a pitch is to get the editors to take notice and ask for more. If you have a passing acquaintance with a blog owner or editor, you can also send a pitch through social networking sites to find out if they’re open to receiving your work.

7. Clips

A clip is just another word for a writing sample. One of the first job ads I applied to asked me to send related clips. Took me a while to realize they meant samples and not scanned copies of actual clips taken from magazines and newspapers.

8. Scope Creep

The first time I heard it, I shuddered. It reminded me of the creepy crawlies that come out after it rains. Turns out, scope creep is a lot like those creepy crawlies. The scope of the project creeps up on you until it doesn’t resemble the original project at all.

Maybe a client hired you to blog for them but now they want you to promote the posts on Twitter and create a Facebook fan page for their company/blog while you’re at it.

Before you know it, the scope of the project has grown and your rates aren’t reflecting the increase in work load or the additional hours spent on the project.

Which freelance jargon terms made you trip when you started freelancing?

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