Pay Rates: Is It Worth My While?

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Recently, I realized how differently writers and their spouses look at money. Honestly, I thought it was just me. When I’m scanning markets, and check the pay rate, a market drops down the submission list if it pays less than the sewer bill. Another rises up the list because, with it, I can make a house payment. In fact, this is how my husband and I discuss them, “It pays the groceries” or “It’s good for a car payment.”

Then I spotted a Facebook thread. A fellow writer commented on a more practical way for Writer’s Market to rate markets, substituting for their current system replace-the-aging-kitchen-appliance or pay-someone-to-do-the-painting. Another writer commented that she interprets royalty checks in terms of college credits.
Kitchen cabinets. Swim team fees. A new windshield. Whatever is next in your bills, the reality is that if you are a freelancer some jobs are worth your while. Others simply eat up time and keep you from paying the bills.

Here are four things that I look for when assessing a market:

Pay Rate. First and foremost, I look at the pay rate. It sounds mercenary and, to an extent it is, but it’s also real. I can’t pay the light bill with “experience” or a “by-line.” To keep the lights burning, I need actual money. But the dollar amount alone doesn’t tell the whole story. . .

Time commitment. A craft activity may pay only $25. But I can rough an activity in 15 minutes. It doesn’t take all that long to earn that payment and by turning in multiple activities the check quickly bulks up. Keep track of how long it takes you to finish a $1000 article. Then see how long it takes to earn the same thing with smaller checks. Some smaller checks are worth the time. Others aren’t.

Rights. If a market buys all rights, it has to be something I can crank out quickly or it has to pay really well, because I can’t reuse the work elsewhere. If I market buys non-exclusive or one time rights, I can sell reprints. That means that even if the market doesn’t pay that well, I can earn a second and third check.

Exposure. Some jobs don’t pay well and I can’t easily reuse the work, but they give good exposure. If I can get my name and bio in front of a large number of readers, that means students in my WOW! class. It can be great advertising for your book or whatever helps pay your bills.

It isn’t all about the money, but if that is how you pay the bills, don’t be surprised when you start to evaluate various jobs in terms of groceries, new tires and phone bills.


Sue Bradford Edwards blogs about writing at One Writer's Journey.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Great practical post. Writing is part-time for me, which is good and bad. Good, because I have another source of income. Bad, because something else saps most of my energy and time. However, your tips and your considerations are great. (And the little ones sometimes DO add up to something more than the big ones, if you can crank them out quickly.)

And thanks for commenting on my post. I appreciate it.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

That's definitely true, the little ones can add up. That's why I keep writing up crafts and activities. But I also turn in batches of 15 or more. Especially when you have another job, the small writing projects can be important because they let you write without a huge time commitment.

Margo Dill said...

These are great tips. I always think: How long will this take me, so how many dollars an hour would that be? This works for freelance jobs. This does not work for novel writing--where I don't even think I make one cent an hour because I am SLOW. :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

No, I wouldn't dare calculate this for a novel. Never! Or a picture book. That would probably make me cry. Good thing that we love the writing itself!

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