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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Only $400 for 600 words? Why I Said, "Yes."

I've posted before about the difference between dollars/word and dollars/hour, and why the latter is a better indicator of whether an assignment is worth it. Don't get me wrong--I want to get the highest rate possible, believe me! But I take assignments that other writers might say "no" to--if I think I can make my hourly rate. 


For example, a couple of weeks ago, an editor I'd worked with before emailed me. The magazine she worked for had been sold, and she was now editing another publication, one that's new to me. She asked me if I'd be interested in taking on a brief assignment (600-700 words) that involved creating a workout plan and shooting photos of it as well. The rate? Only $400. That's a pretty low per-word rate, especially considering that I'd be providing photos as well. 

A few years ago, when the freelance environment wasn't as competitive, I may have turned this assignment down. After all, I used to do a lot of features for national magazines that paid $1-1.50/word--and I much prefer a $2,250 assignment to one that pays less than 20 percent of that. Plus, most of my work these days is ghostwriting/coauthoring books for clients, which typically pay at least $15,000.   

Well, I said "yes." Surprised? Well, let me explain my reasoning: 

1. I've worked with this editor before, and have always enjoyed it. She's smart and easy to work with, and I knew I wanted to to continue our professional relationship. 

2. I knew the piece wouldn't take me long to complete. I've written dozens of workout stories and they're relatively easy for me to draft. 

3. As an ACE-certified personal trainer, I didn't need to source this piece. In some cases, editors want me to rely on other experts, but here, I had the OK to create the workout myself. That meant I had to do no extra research--after all, I write workouts for clients. Now I was writing one for readers. 

4. The publication's subject matter focuses weight loss, fitness, and health, subjects I specialize in. It's likely that if I do a good job, I'll be offered other assignments--and hopefully become a regular contributor with the magazine. 

5. I hadn't shot photos for a story before. I'm a writer, not a photog! But I figured this was an opportunity to practice a skill that would be valuable to clients in the future. Plus, I already had a "fitness model" in mind and I thought it would be fun! 

6. Even considering a photo shoot (which took just 35 minutes), I thought I could write the piece and deliver the photos in five hours, which meant an hourly rate of $80, not bad at all. 

Get the idea? Well, the assignment ended up taking just over five hours, total. I turned in the story long before deadline, and my editor accepted it a few hours later. Better yet, she's so happy with the piece she's promised me more work soon--and now I've gained some experience "shooting" as well as writing. 

Remember, you can't control what a market pays, or what a potential client offers you. But you can make an educated decision about whether that assignment is worth it to you--and whether it may offer some long-term benefits as well. 

Readers, what about you? Do you say "yes" to assignments you think other writers would turn down? Tell me about a time you've done so, and I'll enter your name in a new giveaway for some free freelance consulting time! 

**Are you a new freelancer, or want to launch a career where you can get paid for your writing? My book, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, will take you from unpublished to published and paid. If you have some clips to your name and are ready to ramp up your writing career, check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition


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