I’ve had a fake Christmas tree for years. It’s pink. It sparkles. My neighbor said it reminds him of Dolly Parton (the ultimate compliment). My style has changed a bit since she last stood tall in my home, so last year I decided to keep Jolly Parton in the garage in favor of a living room that smells like a seven foot Douglas fir. Off to the forest we went to hunt one down. In southern California that means turning on the AC as we drove to Home Depot.
I kid you not, we were there for fifteen minutes before we turned right back around. $109 to fulfill an evergreen daydream. $109 that some people can justify for sentimentality. But not me.
Part of me wants to conceal the hurt that it caused knowing that I was sad over a thing. But I know it was more than that. It was the reality of working hard and still making just enough. A realization that if I want to afford certain things, I’m going to have to ask for another raise for my writing. I’ve done it before (when pink plastic trees were my thing).
As a writer there are a few different ways to get paid for a job well done. Some are more advisable than others.
5 Tips to Prepare for Getting the Raise You Deserve
I won’t keep this to myself since we are, after all, members of the creative community where supporting one another is key to sustaining the arts and our contributions to it. Here’s what works for me and what will work for you too when it comes to getting a raise for your writing.
1. Update Your Portfolio
You’ve got to show clients what you can do, and if you’re going to ask for a raise in writing you’re going to need to show proof that you’re worth it. If you have a portfolio going already, be sure it’s up to date. If you haven’t started one yet, get on it. You know what you’re worth. Others don’t until you show them.
2. Know Your Rate
Though there are projects that pay by the hour or by the project, it’s industry standard to pay by the word. The going rate is on such a sliding scale it’s impossible to give a ballpark average. I’ve seen some jobs posted as low as three cents per word. I’ve heard rumor of jobs paying $1.50 per word, but I’ve yet to come across a job listing offering that high. So, it’s possible but less common.
It seems small when you think about the fact that we’re talking about actual pennies for a fine piece of writing, but it adds up quickly.
If you’re hired to write a blog, you could be looking at between $200 to $400 dollars for a 1,000 word post. (For reference, this blog post is approximately 1200 words including cool SEO formatting stuff that you don’t see.)
Some great advice was given to me when I was just starting out as a freelance writer: Do not charge by the hour. The more you write, the more efficient you will become. An hourly rate might seem high at first but charging by the hour means you’re eventually getting paid less money for more work. If you opt to charge hourly, be prepared for prospective clients to haggle (insult) with you for good work at a cheaper price. If you feel good about negotiating for an hourly rate, go for it. But if it doesn’t feel right and you can afford to turn down a job, lean in that direction. Either way, stand firm in your worth. Writing is hard work. Get the cash you deserve!
I know, I know. All this talk about negotiations for literal pennies can feel the exact opposite of what you were hoping would happen with your writing career. But take heart and remember that everyone had to start somewhere. Remember this article about odd jobs that now-famous authors once had? We’ve talked about where they started, so let’s have some fun by looking at where they’ve landed. You’ll be here too.
Keep in mind while reading that many of these authors have books that became marketing goldmines with series, movies, sweatshirts decorated with the original cover art, even Halloween costumes! In many of these cases, the money comes from everything combined rather than a singular book deal with a publisher.
This is how much best-selling authors made in 2021:
- Dean Koontz: $145 million
- Michael Crichton: $175 million
- Jackie Collins: $180 million
- R.L. Stine: $200 million
- Tom Clancy: $300 million
- John Grisham: $300 million
- Nora Roberts: $370 million
- Danielle Steel: $385 million
- Stephen King: $400 million
- James Patterson: $750 million
- J.K. Rowling: $1 billion
3. Explain Why
If a client is hesitant to negotiate a higher rate it’s possible that they don’t understand the scope of a writer’s job. Explain to them why your rate is what it is, or if you have worked with them in the past, why your rate has increased. Patiently inform them of the attention to detail required through research, time spent throughout the entire writing process. Good work doesn’t come for free.
4. Limit Your Time
Let’s say a potential client is unwilling or unable to negotiate a higher rate but you really want to take the gig. Let them know that you are happy to work for them but on the contingency of an extended deadline. Why? Because if you’re not getting the money you need from them you’re going to need to take another concurrent job to make up for the loss in pay. It might be worth it if it’s with a publication that you’re excited to add to your portfolio. See it as a raise that will pay off with clout in the future.
5. Market Yourself
You’re a professional. You know it. I know it. But sometimes clients think writers are struggling artists who should be honored to work for next to nothing.
To prove you are a professional who deserves to be paid as such, market yourself well.
This is your sign to start a website if you haven’t already. Your social media matters, too. Make social media accounts specifically for your writing and save the photos of the family trip to the zoo for your personal account. Work toward gaining an audience of followers and subscribers so you can say to a client, “Hey, look at all of the readers I can bring to your publication. This is why I can raise the rates for my writing.”