How much is my work worth? A tricky, potentially awkward question we have to ask ourselves. But does it need to be so wince-inducing? Francesca Baker caught up with some fellow 26ers to get their two cents on writers’ pay.
If you’re a working writer, it’s not enough to just write the words – you’ve got to sell them too. For many people this is the hardest part of being a professional writer. Putting a price on your writing isn’t easy, but it’s also one of the most important aspects of building a business.
It’s something that’s not made easier by the offer of ‘opportunities’ to grow your reputation by writing for free, or in exchange for a byline. The advent of content mills and growth of technology means that there are many people around the world willing to write words – any words, not necessarily good words – for a dollar per thousand.
But we must be paid, and we can be paid well. It doesn’t mean always charging as much as possible – many people charge different rates for charities for example – but charging what is fair and representative of the value you offer.
So why do we find talking about pay so hard? And how can we make it easier? I got advice from a few of 26’s writers.
Remember why you’re charging
You’re not charging a certain rate to make money in and of itself, but to make money to let you do certain things that you care about. That’s what Elen Lewis reminds herself. ‘The more I earn in a shorter space of time, the more time I get to spend with my children. Similarly, if I can put up my day rate and earn the same money in less time, then that would give me one day a week to write my novel, or work for a charity I really care about, or play the cello or go running…’
Remove services, not pounds
Negotiation is normal in business, and clients will ask you to reduce your rate. It’s a given. Ashley Hoyland follows a long line of professional copywriters who recommend that you reduce the numbers of things you will do to fit the price someone wants to pay, which she says ‘prevents devaluing my services by knocking loads of money off.’
Remember the ebb and flow
As you grow in experience and expertise, you will start to increase prices to reflect that. And clients will start to grumble. That’s fine; let them. If you find yourself losing clients because of your prices, and you genuinely think that your prices are reflective of your skill and offering, let them go. This frees up more space to work on bigger and better projects.
Think of plumbing
‘I think it’s difficult because we have created a strange sort of narrative for the industry. Many regard the pay-off for doing something you love (writing) is accepting that the pay will not be great and is unlikely to change. We need to be more robust if the culture is to change,’ says Jonathan Wiley. And he’s right. Working for free or for bylines wouldn’t happen in other industries.
Olly Davy says that ‘if your writing is going to be seen by the public, for the benefit of a business or brand, you should always, ALWAYS be paid. Otherwise it’s slave labour. Unless it’s for charity. We need to make a stand. Would a plumber, no matter how inexperienced, fix your toilet for free?’
Elen Lewis is a writer, editor and author www.elenlewis.com