Monday, July 18, 2005

Scriptwriting  A Lucrative Writing Opportunity!

Imagine making $3,000-$15,000 on a two week project. Depending on your client's budget, scriptwriting projects can command money like this and more.

You may not have considered scriptwriting as a lucrative part of your freelance copywriting business. It's a skill you can easily learn -- if you apply some simple techniques. In fact, you're probably already equipped with the writing skills and motivation to be an excellent scriptwriter!
A plethora of projects: There are a wide variety of script projects available. Promotional scripts help companies sell their products and services or tout upcoming events. Educational scripts provide information about ideas, services or products. Script projects can come from companies, educational entities, churches and many other sources. Television and radio commercial scripts abound -- even promotional, "on-hold" messages require a written script.

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If you watch TV and listen to the radio, you will hear at least 16 script projects an hour played out by actors (or car salesmen who think they are actors). Sixteen projects an hour, times 24 hours a day, is a lot of scriptwriting projects. And, multiply the number of projects by the number of media venues across the world -- the work is there! Like any writing project, you have to work at finding it -- or help it find you.

Getting Started - Format is first: Before you begin looking for scriptwriting projects, you need to know about script format. Script format is not difficult and there are several formats you can employ, but you must adhere to these formats to maintain consistency. There are also subtle variations from writer to writer of course, but stay as close to a format as possible. Your clients may have a format they prefer. You should always ask.

You can find thousands of script format samples on the Internet or buy books on the subject. Video Scriptwriting: How to Write for the $4 Billion Commercial Video Market, by Barry Hampe is a scriptwriting bible. It is a small, unassuming paperback, published in 1993, but has timely, relevant information for scriptwriters. He covers the "dos and don'ts" of scriptwriting useful to any freelancer. It is a useful writing resource and motivational tool you'll refer to often. The author covers the whole process of getting clients, how to write the scripts, what to charge for them and how to close the deal.

What to charge: It is a good idea to charge a flat fee for writing a script because there are no surprises for you or your client. First, find out how long the script needs to be or what the budget is. Do some calculations on how long you think it will take you to research and write the script (don't forget to include time spent on the phone, meetings and rewrites). Multiply this projected amount of time by your hourly fee. Add two hours for incidentals and stick with this figure.

Getting Paid -- The Contract: In a contract, it is standard to ask for one-third down to start, one-third at the first draft, and the balance on delivery (or as soon as thirty days after you deliver). Outline everything in the contract: payment schedules, fees, rewrites you will do, etc.
Asking for a down payment ensures that your client is a serious participant in the project. Never do work without some assurance that you will be getting paid.

Rewrites: Never do more than three rewrites. By now, you know almost everyone thinks they can write as well as you do. Writing is a very subjective thing, so stick to your guns. You are the professional. That said, never argue with the client. Offer your opinion on changes, do it his way, then smile when the client hands you the check. If your rewrite meets with negativity and the project is scrapped, bill for the amount of the time you spent on the rewrite.

If the client shirks responsibility on payment for the rewrites, have proof of your work, your contract in hand and take your case to small claims court. If you've gone over your projected amount of time on a project, note it and don't shortchange yourself the next time you bid a project. If you go under the time, refund the money your client overpaid, a move that builds your credibility by volumes. And, you will be the first one called the next time a project needs a writer.

Know Your Audience: If you are writing a promotional script about an automobile, you need to know to whom your client is trying to sell and what the selling points are. A busy mom won't care about sleek styling and 100.6 horses under the hood. She won't want to know how "thingies" fire at the right time for peak performance. She wants to know she can pick up her carpool kidlets and get them to school: safely and on time.

Point out that there's room for 6, plus the class salamander with seatbelts for everyone. Show the cool storage compartment right below her right elbow for nose wipers. Tell her she can place a frantic call for help with the push of a button. Scriptwriting requires balance. You must consider all the elements of your subject, your audience and the tone.

Project Ideas: There are so many available projects for scriptwriters. All you need is to get started. Companies, organizations, schools, churches and more need your help. Here are just a few project ideas:

**TV and radio commercials
**Powerpoint presentations
**Tourism scripts
**Job orientation scripts
**Educational scripts
**Product usage scripts
**Product introduction scripts
**On-hold messages
**Instructional scripts
**Self-improvement scripts
**Scripts for travel industry
**Special event scripts
**Medical method scripts
**Public relations scripts
**And much more!

Don't forget -- Hollywood could always use your help too! Although commercial scriptwriting can pay the bills handsomely, writing movie or TV scripts is fun.

Get Started: You have all the tools to write scripts. You know how to research, outline and write in a cohesive manner. Now you can add script writing to your repertoire. Your Web site (you do have one, don't you?) is the best place to showcase your scripts. Always post your samples on your site. If you have a special knowledge in a field, be sure to promote the heck out of it. Optimize your site to get hits, when clients go surfing for the best writer for the project.

Pick a subject you're are interested in or favorite charity. Envision yourself profiting on a script submission and write a speculation script as if you'll profit from it. Who knows, you just might profit in ways you never imagined and you'll have a great sample for your portfolio.

Getting the First Job: If you've never written a script, now is as good a time as any to get started. You can pick a subject, research and write one.

Most likely you will get your first project with a former client or charity organization. If not, you will need a calling card: a finished sample to show. Either way, establishing yourself as a professional, flexible copywriter is the first step. Call a non-profit organization in your area and offer to write a script for them for free. Do a great job and who knows what could come of it.

NOTE: See article with sample script formats here: (article first appeared on this site).

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*********************************************************************************** About the Author: Missouri based Penny Warner has worked as a copywriter photographer, feature writer and editor for more than ten years and has published articles in Missouri Life Magazine, Ozark Farm and Neighbor, Lake LifeStyles, the Lake Sun Leader and hundreds of feature articles and photos in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She has written two of the top-selling instructional videos in the model railroad industry and completed three full-length screenplays. Her Web site is coming soon at

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