Mistake No. 38: Revealing all your clients

What follows may come across as uncharitable towards other writers. My defence is that you’ve got to protect your own interests in this game, and while I wholeheartedly endorse scratching other writers’ backs and sharing your knowledge, as I like to think I do here, a little part of you should remain unashamedly selfish.

There will come a time when you will be successful enough to count a number of clients in your portfolio. You’ll want to mention them, naturally: to editors as evidence of your abilities, to other writers to compare notes and trumpet a bit, and to all who happen upon your website – as I do on mine here.

All fine when we’re all familiar with the clients in question. When they’re prestigious – shout away. When more modest but still household names or on every shelf at WHSmith – by all means tell the world. People in a position to feed you work do need to know.

But what of those unheralded publications and little-known websites you’ve unearthed which pay well and of whom few have heard? Or those corporate, business or private clients, maybe paying handsome rates, who most writers might not even consider being recruiters of scribes?

Keep zipped about them, that’s what.

When I’m scouting for new markets a favourite method, other than talking to fellow health writers, is nosing around their websites. I know others have hootered similarly on mine. “I see you write for Gout Weekly,” they might even venture, in person or by email. And ask: “Who’s the features editor there?” I usually answer. And with bonus hints and tips, if it’s someone I know well or they’ve flattered me a bit. I don’t mind this, and I trust they don’t mind when it works in reverse, and that they too, like me, are keeping a few select employers under their hats. They won’t admit it, perhaps – they’re secretive about being secretive – but if they’re wise and successful it’ll surely be true.

Why do we keep schtum, then? Competition! It’s unavoidable with most markets, but with some you may find there is very little – and that you’d rather like to keep it that way for as long as possible, in order to be served the largest possible slice of the available pie, before others start elbowing you aside for a bite. You want to make hay while the cat’s not out of the bag, to completely mangle my metaphors.

That moggy may well end up working its way free – but why loosen the knot?

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