Open Thread: Your Extremes

Off early this morning to have a play date with a writer friend, then back to brace for Irene.

So let’s end the week with a fun exercise.

What’s the most you’ve ever earned on one project? You can give percentages or XXXXs, if you’d rather.

What’s the least you’ve earned?

What was the experience like with your highest-paying client?

Your lowest-paying client?

Is there any correlation between what you’ve earned with each of those clients and how nice the experience was?

Happy Friday! To everyone on the east coast, prayers and good vibes to you as Irene visits. May she decide to skip the party altogether.

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  • Paula August 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    To everyone here who lives anywhere in Irene's projected path – stay safe. Consider evacuating even if your local authorities didn't declare a mandatory evacuation. Anyone else here on CNN or TWC last night (can't recall which one, I switched back and forth so many times I thought Anderson Cooper worked for TWC) when they were discussing NYC's evacuation zones? Only one zone was mandatory as of last night, but if Irene hits just so, some of the other zones could be devastated. If you're on or near the East Coast, be smart, be safe and keep your weather radios handy.

    Onto Lori's questions:

    The most I earned on one project was in 2001. It was a 4,700-word project at $1 a word. You do the math. Better yet? It was fun. I interviewed and profiled maybe a dozen top cable execs….about their odd hobbies and collections. That's one of my favorite projects.

    The least? Probably 10-cents per word.

    The client I wrote the 4,700-word piece for was one of my top two favorite clients. They folded in 2002, but at least I got a couple years in with them before then. That editor, and my current Favorite Editor share several traits: 1) they're nice, caring people; 2) they trust their writers and never interfere; 3) they're open to off-the-wall ideas. The fact they they both pay/paid well is just a happy bonus.

    I'm not sure if this counts as my lowest-paying client or not, because I quit: About 12-15 years ago I wrote regularly for a sales and marketing newsletter that paid 50-cents a word. Great editor. Quick and easy assignments. Ideal filler work with a quick turn-around. The publisher was bought out by a bigger house. My editor left. The new editor wanted to keep assigning, but was a micromanager. (Step one: "Here is a list of the 12 sources you need to mention in this 600-word article." Seriously.) She sent the contract and I was shocked to find the new publisher dropped the pay rate to about 10-cents per word. I balked. The editor said it was a fair price. I argued to the contrary, adding that you can't fit 12 sources into 600 words anyway. She wasn't going to budge, then said if I didn't do the article I'd be "forfeiting" the pay. I laughed and told her she could try squeezing all of those sources into 600 words. I quit.

    There's an obvious correlation between these clients, but I've also worked for some low-payers who were just as easy to work with as my favorite editors. They just didn't have the budget to pay as well. I've also worked for some places that pay 50-cents per word and up that weren't worth the hassle.

    Once again – all you East Coasters stay safe! Full reports due after the storm clears.

  • Damaria Senne August 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Everyone on Irene's path, stay safe. Most I've earned on a project – it lasted close to 2 years and paid a retainer of over $4000 per month.
    Least I've earned per project – $10for approx. 500 word article.
    Experience with highest paying client – excellent. Gave me a brief and didn't interfere while I did my job, constructive criticism, healthy respect for my knowledge as a professional ( listened when I said what she wanted wouldn't work).
    Lowest paying client – very demanding. Seemed to operate under the assumption that I couldn't follow instruction and needed every order specified precisely. Extremely short lead times for assignment and seemed to assume I was home twiddling my thumbs waiting for her to send work. Worst incident was, please do this quick text for me and send it back in 20 minutes. I said No and walked away.
    Yes. I'm finding that I've had nicer experiences with clients who have a healthy respect for what I do and are willing to pay well for it. It's not just about the money -it's respect for me and my work as a professional. The worst experiences come from clients who either assume they are the only market available to writers / those who believe they could do the work if they only had time and they pay very little because what they're asking me to do is "easy." This year, I learnt to say "No. I don't think I'm the writer you're looking for." And I've done that even when I had cash flow issues, because the stress of working with such clients is just not worth the money.

  • Lori August 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks, ladies! We're inland by about 80 miles, but we're expected to feel it nonetheless. Heavy rain and wind. Ugh. We've had the wettest August on record (10 inches already) and we're expected to see 7-10 inches more.

    And we may be without power, so if you don't hear from me, you'll know why.

    Paula, I expected some correlation, but I expected some surprises, too. I've had great clients that paid a whopping $100 (back when I was uninformed), and I've had high-paying clients I was glad to shed.

    Damaria, I think your experience ies pretty typical of what I've experienced, too. I've had micromanagers at the higher levels, but usually because I was the sub-sub-contractor. Understandable to some extent there.

    My best was a job that paid $12,000 for work I never completed. My job was to coordinate the writing of three different people into a book that had consistent voices. They were all writing from a corporate perspective, so I had next-to-nothing to do, but they insisted they paid me. In fact, the project lead asked if I needed more money. For what? They were great, and they refused a cut in my rates when I felt guilty. They said it was my fee for being available and being easy to work with.

    The worst? Oh lord, there were many! LOL I think the worst remains the client who agreed to my price in writing, then said "We don't see the difference between these two projects, so we'll just be paying you the lower rate from now on."

    Guess how well that went over? LOL

  • Lori August 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    FYI, that big project didn't finish because it got scrapped. Didn't want you to think I was dumb enough to walk away from such a nice gig!

  • Paula August 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Lori – the hurricane is over 400 miles wide, so even if it veers slightly out to sea, you'll probably still get heavy rains and strong winds. On top of the saturated soil, I guess they're expecting a lot of downed trees, which of course leads to power outages and property damage.

    It's just astounding how many millions of people are within the hurricane's reach, no matter where the eye makes landfall.

  • Jake P August 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Best was $12K for a project that included a couple of newsletters, email blasts and web copy. High-maintenance, generally impatient client on a tight timeline. He's still a client, and I've learned to handle him better, though he's still mercurial. Totally worth the occasional headache.

    I got paid $3k for a 1500-word story that never printed in a big-name men's magazine. The editor who assigned it got canned and the new editor dumped everything. It was tragic, because it was probably the funniest thing I've ever written 🙁

    Back in the worst part of the 2001 economy (summer, pre-9/11), I took a story for $50 that required ~8 hours of research and writing, AND the editor was a complete jerk. I lost her number after that.

    Good luck riding out the storm! We're suffering major heat out here in Phoenix, if it's any minor consolation…

  • Gabriella F. August 27, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Hi Lori.

    Just want to say stay safe. I was thinking about you and hoping you're all going to be safe.

    As for the highest and lowest pay, hard to say. If I were to divide my hourly rate on some projects that didn't require a lot of legwork, it might be as high as $200 an hour. Per word it's been $1.25.

    Lowest? $125 for a project that took about 3 hours each month to do. I did it because I liked the small-business owner who needed it, so I told myself it paid for my cleaning lady each month.

    My best clients are those who've been steady, easy to work with, and who respect my work while accepting that I make boneheaded mistakes on occasion–because I do.

    Worst? Hard to say. Probably the guy who couldn't pay and then got sorta pissy with me for being persistent. Then, when I told him I couldn't keep working with someone with such shaky finances (I didn't quite say it that way), he blathered on about how I didn't take this "relationship" seriously.

    Oh, kind sir, I do. That's why I'm ending it!

    Anyway, as I said, good luck and stay safe!

  • Lori August 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Too bad you couldn't recycle that story, Jake. Sounds like the Garrison Keillor buildup in Lake Wobegon Days, where his lost manuscript became the irreplaceable story, the finest work, then that best-selling novel that will never see daylight. 🙂 If you still have it, I'd like to read it sometime.

    Gabriella, I laughed out loud when I read his comment about the relationship. What a manipulator!