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How to ask for freelance compensation

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by irnsdn, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. irnsdn

    irnsdn New Member

    Hi everyone,

    So this may sound like a stupid question with all the professional writers on this board, but I'm going to be a freshman in college this fall so please understand that for me, this is a legitimate and honest question. I'm not afraid to say, "I don't know," so I hope you all understand that I'm not trying to waste your time. I just want to understand this.

    So here's the deal: I wrote this story for a magazine (1200 words - not sure if that matters), and the editor e-mailed me back saying "Excellent article, this will definitely run in the next edition." It's a pretty popular magazine for this sports team (a soccer team in England) and they charge £3 per-issue at the news stands.

    Because I contacted the agent of the person I interviewed, conducted a 45-minute interview, transcribed it, wrote the article, edited, etc. I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask for some compensation. My question for all of you (who probably have freelanced a lot) is 'How do I ask for compensation?' and roughly how much should I ask for? Does the amount depend on word count, circulation of the magazine and all of those aspects?

    I'm a timid person when it comes to asking for money and I realize I should have tried to figure this out before I submitted the article/query, but I didn't. So because of that, does it mean that I don't have a right to ask anymore?

    Thanks for your time. I appreciate any help.
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    You should have worked on it up front.
    I've worked for publications that have paid by the word up to a $1 a word, others for a flat rate. Magazines usually pay better than newspapers; national magazines should pay better than regional locations.
    Ask the editor about compensation -- otherwise you might not get any. If he/she says something that doesn't sound fair to you, counter him. If you wrote 1,200 words and put, say 10 hours into it, try 100 pounds. But if his first offer is 50 pounds and you're good with it, then let it go. If it's 30 and you dont like it, counter at whatever you're comfortable with.
    If you lowball yourself early, you've set a precedent for later on; on the other hand, if it's too high, he might not use you again.
  3. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Just thank the guy and ask if they have a standard rate for freelance articles of the type you wrote.
  4. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, you might be stuck here. But be confident, as if you expected to be paid from day one, and maybe approach the topic from an indirect way: "For my records, when should I expect payment?"
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    By not discussing payment first and already giving him the story... well, as the saying goes, you can;t unpee in the pool.
  6. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    Yes, you need to get all the $$$ agreement worked out ahead of time, otherwise some will look at it simply as a contributed (free) piece.

    I don't know what to expect with magazines, but in the newspaper world $50-$125 per story is typical depending on the size of the publication. A simple e-mail laying out your story proposal and your rates should suffice.
  7. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    send him an invoice ... itemize (or itemise in the UK) your efforts ... then total it ... start at 200 pounds ...
  8. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Geez Dan, I know you're THE guy when it comes to paying freelancers around here... but all I do is freelance and even I think 200 pounds for a fan magazine for an individual team is high -- maybe if it was Man U or Arsenal, it might be different...
  9. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    $300 for a 1,200-word story is not "high."

    I agree with Dan. If you plan to ask for money for this story, start at 200 pounds. They can do three things: Say no, negotiate down or tell you it should have been discussed prior to submission and agreement. In the future you should take care of this prior to agreement; ask about, discuss and agree upon the fee for the story and a "kill fee" of 25-30 percent if they accept it and then do not use it.


    Experienced writers should quit accepting shitty pay rates from publications, especially from newspapers and websites. If they don't want to pay for your knowledge and skill then they can pay for poor writing elsewhere.

    We make fun of citizen 'journalists' covering a football game for the byline or $15, and the 'pay for clicks' people on Examiner. But writers will take $75 or $100 for a 1,200-word magazine takeout or travel to cover a college football game on deadline for $75? That's crazy.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Just to reiterate. You don't "ask" for freelance pay. You negotiate it up front.

    It's amazing how many writers will agree to do something without asking how much it pays, though.
  11. jrw

    jrw Member

    Completely agree. My response to the OP would have been pretty harsh if he didn't tell us upfront that he was a freshman-to-be. Regardless, this is something you have to learn when you freelance.

    You'd never accept an offer to write an article for a proper publication without a word count or outline for the article. So why would you sign up for something without discussing pay? That makes no sense.

    You can only hope the guy is nice enough to consider paying you for your hard work. But I wouldn't be surprised if he balks when/if you send along an invoice. He's going to be confused if you didn't talk about this prior to accepting the assignment.

    Just more people working for free and not asking for compensation! Welcome to the new age of freelance writing...
  12. irnsdn

    irnsdn New Member

    Thanks for the comments. I do realize it was a mistake not to negotiate prior to the article submission, but I'll learn from this (hopefully). I appreciate your constructive help and in the future this won't happen.
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