Because you’re worth it (the money)

Today’s Internet foray led me to the young-but-popular Tumblr blog Who Pays Writers? (more on that later), which led me to Ann Friedman’s CJR post on how much to charge for freelance work.

Friedman lays out advice points such as cultivating a personal brand and maintaining relationships with editors. But the post hints at a notion that not many veterans or mentors have addressed to me. As a freelancer in a Web-based writing economy, no less, you have to push for your dime.

In school, I heard all about my inexperience and having to accept whatever work I can get until I have the chops to demand more for my time. I think those ideas resound so loudly in students’ heads that it’s hard for them to recognize when they’ve crossed into Chops Territory.

Negotiating pay in freelance and balancing salary versus amount of work in staff positions is going to be a part of their work lives, as it is becoming a part of mine. But it’s intimidating to assume you have the right to ask editors to respect your time when all you’ve been told is “always say yes.”

Yes to low pay, long hours, earlier and earlier deadlines and simultaneous reporting assignments. I said yes.

But reading Who Pays Writers? and Friedman’s column reassured me that I have a right — as a prolific writer, reporter, photographer, videographer, part-time Web producer and social media manager — to say, “Hey, I’m only one person here. And I’m getting paid this much.”

My editors seem to understand. They understand when other staffers express the same concerns, directly or otherwise. I just hadn’t set my limits. And it’s not like I’ve had to sit down for a talkie. It’s just sort of an awakening for me.

I understand, now, that my work is appreciated and valuable, and my effort is worth the money I make. So in the future, I won’t be too timid to state my rates up front and negotiate with editors, and I won’t be afraid stating them will ruin my chances to sell a story.

If I accepted sub-par pay, wouldn’t I be cheapening the industry and cheating some more-expensive journalists out of a job? The writers in the links above are clear about one thing: You have to value yourself.

I’m still learning. This might be an issue employers don’t enjoy discussing, but I’m learning that this career, this passion of mine, is a business and a job nonetheless.