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Negotiating Freelance Salary

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by mustangj17, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    Hoping some experienced freelancers could help me out. I currently freelance for two publications. One is local newspaper where I have written a weekly technology column for 3+ years, the other is a local magazine where I have been a contributing writer for 2+ years.

    I'm in good standing with the editor's at both locations and each have told me I among their most reliable writers. I never miss deadlines, pick up slack when others do and always have fresh ideas to help fill pages.

    Because of these reasons, and my experience, I feel I should be making more money. However, I'm not sure how to go about negotiating the salary. Complicating matters, I've never met either of the editors - we only communicate via email.

    What is the best way to go about negotiating my per-story salary and what are some success stories from those who have done similar negotiations?

  2. silvercharm

    silvercharm Member

    I know I'm nitpicking here, but be sure never, ever to refer to your freelance compensation as "salary." Salary is what a paid staffer receives, not a freelancer. Many newspapers insist on certain verbiage when it comes to freelancers ... generally anything that separates you from being a staff writer.

    As for tips, it's no different than any other business. If you're good, you'll be in demand. Your compensation often can be tied to how good you are at salesmanship. I would say though that once you establish a strong working relationship with a newspaper and/or editor, you should figure out what your time is worth. That's what you negotiate. Don't settle for less.
  3. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    I would start with the magazine, because your work is probably more important to the magazine than to the newspaper.

    You need to start talking to these people, because you are limited when it comes to building a relationship if you only use e-mail. The editors would probably tell you things verbally that they would not write in an e-mail, i.e. that the budget may be cut/raised, that maybe there would be an opportunity to do more items for the newspaper, that a new buyer for the magazine could make your work more/less valuable.
  4. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I had a 3x-a-year project for a few years with an out-of-state editor, same price for each project. Great work and solid money, but after a few years I had returned to steady full-time work and continuing the side gig was a major grind. I simply asked if there was some wiggle room in the fee, that I had reliably completed X numbers of projects and, if at all possible, would appreciate a bump. I didn't threaten to not do the work, because if the answer was "no" then I probably would have continued anyway. Editor responded almost immediately with "sure" and a 25 percent increase. And I still haven't met her.

    In short, just state your case and level with 'em (like you did in your post). Don't paint them into a corner unless 1) you really need more $ and 2) you are prepared to walk if you don't get it. I think the vast majority of editors can and will do what it takes to retain their most reliable, and that it's possible to get that without going guns-blazing.
  5. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    I feel as if I am in the exact similar situation. The pay isn't as awesome as it was right out of college but it is hard to turn down a little extra cash. Its nice to be able to go out to dinner a little more.
  6. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    This has happened several times at my shop and it always ends the same way. If you're worth the extra money, they'll find it. If you're not, they won't.

    So here's the deal, do NOT worry about talking or meeting in person. Many businesses, including newspapers, conduct their entire relationship with some workers without ever meeting them. Your correspondence through email is fine. Whoever said that hasn't joined us in the 21st century yet.

    Anyway, tell them you have been doing whatever work it is for however long and you'd like whatever amount it is that you want. I would not go so high over what you're already being paid that you price yourself out. The most we have ever given to a stringer who asked for more was a 33 percent increase (from $75 a story to $100). So you do the math and figure out what you think they can pay and what you think you are worth to them.

    Don't demand it or be unprofessional. Just be yourself and ask in a professional manner. Be prepared to be turned down and be prepared to walk if they do not meet what you want. Sometimes you do have to play hardball.

    A photographer did that with us. He walked when we wouldn't come up. Then when we needed him, we called and gave him what he wanted. He was worth it and we knew it, but our editors tried to get him on the cheap.

    Don't sell yourself short. Don't do something if it's not worth it, either.
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