As a full-time freelance writer/editor, I’ve been very interested in the discussion on the NFforKids list about pay for work-for-hire projects. It’s a constant struggle, especially when you’re somewhat new to the field.
I remember I got paid $800 for my first book, and I was so excited just to have the assignment! It was a lot of work for $800, that’s all I can say.
I now routinely ask for more money. I don’t find it easy to do, and I’m glad I can do it by email, since virtually all of my contact with editors is via email. But I’ve gotten better at it. The longer I’m in this business, the more I’m able to put on my “business face” and do things that make me uncomfortable. Here are the guidelines I use:
1. I DON’T ask for more money, usually, when it’s my first time trying something: book, assessment passages, leveled reader, etc. I wait until I’ve developed my skill level enough to know I can deliver an excellent writing project. That experience also helps me have a better idea of where this pay offer lies in the range of things.
2. I ask politely. “I was hoping to get X dollars for this project. Is there any way you can offer more?”
3. I never deliver it as an ultimatum unless it’s a project I don’t really have the time to do, and I know the only way I will take it on is to be paid a certain dollar amount. Then I say something like, “After considering the research and time involved in this project, I feel the only way I could take it on would be to earn at least X dollars for it. Is that an amount that can work for your budget?”
4. When an editor or packager comes up with the requested money, I always thank them!
5. If they can’t come up with more money, but I do still want to accept the project, I tell them that I think the work is worth more money, but that the project sounds interesting and I can’t wait to get started. If I can’t be enthusiastic about a project at the price the publisher is offering, then I don’t accept the assignment.
6. If I decline a project due to the pay, I do so graciously. I thank the editor for thinking of me for the work, and express my hopes that we’ll work together in the future. I don’t write off a publisher based strictly on money. Even if their pay is low on this project, they might have another project that is right up my alley and more efficient for me to write.
On trade projects, my agent is the one talking money with the editor, and I’m glad about that! But the above steps have helped me earn a little more money on many of the projects I’ve worked on. And I think asking for more money, in a professional way, helps editors value you. They know you are a businessperson, they know you know what your work is worth, and I think they like that. They might not always have the money to pay more, but I’ve never had an editor seem annoyed at my request. In fact, they usually seem apologetic and, if they can’t give you more money this time, promise more money with the next assignment.