September 28th, 2007
Rachel Kramer Bussel, writer, editor, and cupcake connoisseur, put this question to me in a recent interview for mediabistro. (Here’s part one of the interview, which came out weeks ago, and here’s part two, which ran this week and focuses solely on freelancing. You may need a subscription to view one or both pages.)
Rachel says: You talk in the book about setting rates and “knowing your bottom line.” I was once offered a rate from a certain magazine, which sounded good to me, and I agreed, only to find that a friend had been offered the same rate, insisted that her usual fee was twice that, and got it on the spot. How early on in your freelance career should you start asking for more money and what’s the best approach to take?
I say: That’s an interesting tale because it sounds like you never would have thought to ask for more had your friend not spilled the beans. I think you should start asking for more money as soon as you find yourself in the position of being offered a rate below what other editors or publications are paying you. Because if publication A is paying you $1/word and publication B is paying you $.50/ word, you lose 50 percent of your potential earning power each time you write for publication B. That said, you should have an idea of what a publication pays before you do ask for more.
To ask for more money, couch your request in language like, “You know I love writing for you and think your publication rocks, but I’m in the tough position of being offered twice as much money to write for all my other editors [or clients]. Any chance you can come up in price? I’d like to keep working with you, but I have to wear my business hat, too.” Subtext: Eventually, dear editor, you’re going to lose me if you don’t show me the money.
Want more? Read the rest of this week’s mediabistro Q&A with me on the freelance life.