September 14th, 2012
Freelance Q&A: Why won’t anyone talk specifics about rates?
By Dana Neuts
As a new freelancer, it can be frustrating to not get a straight answer about how much you can make annually or what a “good” price per word is. But the reality is that so much depends on the situation – the media organization’s budget, your experience, complexity of the story, your relationship with the editor, etc. – that you can’t nail down a range. It’s truly a moving target. One of my first, and favorite publications, paid me $0.07 per word. When their revenue dropped, it was reduced to $0.06/word, but I loved the work and my editor so I stuck it out. I wouldn’t write for that amount now, however, but that’s really a personal business decision.
You will also find that, on message boards and list servs, members are discouraged, sometimes even prohibited, from discussing rates. I think there is a fear that there will be price fixing or increased competition. Those fears are debatable, but freelance etiquette tells us not to discuss rates in such forums. If you are meeting fellow freelancers for lunch and want to talk shop, feel free. Most of us do it, but don’t do it in an online forum. You’re likely to get booted from the group.
Dana E. Neuts is a full-time freelance writer and editor and is the publisher of iLoveKent.net and iLoveWashington.net. An avid SPJ volunteer, she is the regional director for SPJ’s region 10, serves on the membership committee, and is the chair for the freelance committee. She is also a candidate for the office of national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer. Followe her on Twitter (@SPJDana, @SPJFreelance, @VirtuallyYourz).