per word than $.50 per word. After all, the latter is three times as much
hassle it takes to complete the assignment, not just how much you’re earning
per word. Although most publications pay by the word instead of by the hour,
it’s a good idea to estimate the amount of work involved and make sure the
assignment is actually worth your time.
national magazine that pays $1.50 per word. That’s $1,200, which sounds like a
tidy sum of money. But if your editor asks you to interview two “real
people” sources and two experts, you’ll easily spend several hours (if not
days) finding “real people” who meet her criteria and cajoling them
article, let’s say your editor drops one of your sources because the source
refuses to sign the photo release form or maybe the art director doesn’t find
the source very photogenic. Then you spend several more hours finding and
interviewing a new source. By now, you’ve easily sunk 20 hours into the
her boss, who chimes in with a dozen questions that require you to re-interview
one of the real people and both experts. Another two days playing phone tag and
revising your article so the article is (finally) accepted and you can submit
so you send a follow-up email, which goes ignored. The next week, you call
accounts payable and they ask you to resend your invoice.
check for $1,200, but you realize you’ve easily spent two full weeks reporting
and writing, then re-porting and rewriting your article, not to mention the
time you spent begging to be paid. At roughly 40 hours a week x 2, that’s 80
hours. Divide $1,200 by 80 hours and you’ve earned a measly $15 per hour, which
is even less after taxes.
word? Perhaps a trade magazine offers you $400 for an 800-word article that
requires three experts (all provided by your editor so there are no approval
issues and no “real people” to wrangle). If you schedule the three
interviews in an afternoon, you could spend an hour brainstorming questions and
reading background information (you’ve covered the topic before so you just
need a quick refresher, not a crash course), then a half hour on the phone with
half hour proofreading and verifying the stats you included. Your editor emails
you back right away with a few minor questions and zaps your invoice over to
accounts payable. A few weeks later, you get paid via direct deposit. All told,
you’ve spent a little over five hours on the assignment, which equates to
between $75 and $80 an hour. Even if it took a little longer, you’d still earn a
lot more money per hour than the other example and you’d keep your schedule
open so that you could accept other projects, too.
Assignment A (prestige, the personal satisfaction of seeing your byline in a
magazine your mother-in-law reads). But if you consistently under-value your
time, then you’re stunting your earning potential.
with low-maintenance clients and earn a decent hourly rate than kill myself
trying to please big-name clients and earning close to minimum wage. The
handful of high-prestige, low-paying assignments I do tackle are balanced out
by assignments for publications with a lower headache factor and higher pay.
hour? Katherine Lewis of CurrentMom has an excellent post on calculating
your freelance rate and the Editorial Freelancers Association lists common editorial rates.