Editors like you to negotiate your fee – within reason

Flashback. Some time in the 1990s. I was doing copywriting for various firms and one rang up with an emergency. What would it cost them to do this right now and send it back? I could hear the desperation and I’m ashamed to say I upped my regular rate by some vast amount. (I’m not being coy, this is ages ago, I can’t remember the figures.)

“Sold,” she said.


So much so that I knew I should’ve asked for more. But I did do one savvy thing: having upped my rate for this one emergency job, I never lowered it again for the ordinary ones that followed.

On the other side of the deal, though, I can tell you that I have never had a freelance writer question a fee or ask for more money.

The website Contently has good piece now about exactly what editors can do financially – short answer: not a lot – and what they think of writers who do negotiate – short answer: quite a lot.

Sometimes, asking for more money is a dead-end; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. “Most of my clients have a specific budget for content,” said content strategist Jessica Ashley, a former senior editor at Yahoo! Shine who now works as editor-in-chief for TapGenes.com. “I lobby hard to get writers fair compensation, but I appreciate when writers negotiate their fees. It’s just good business, and I appreciate writers standing up for what they can offer to the site.”

However, standing up for fair compensation does not mean you should pretend to be a hardline agent. The way you present your request will definitely have an impact on how it’s received.

“It’s important to be both confident and kind,” Ashley said. She suggests explaining what you can offer for your proposed rate using “ands” instead of “buts.” For example begin with a direct stance: “My current rate is $200 per post, and I would be thrilled to contribute to this site because…”

How Do Editors Really Feel When You Negotiate Rates? – Meagan Francis, Contently (10 November 2014)

Read Francis’s full piece for more.

Keep your balance

Here’s a tip for staying on top of everything in your life: check your bank balances every day. All of them.

I’ve been doing this for the last 1,044 days without fail and that means quite a few things. Firstly, it means there are days I really don’t want to do it but, so far, I always have. And there are days where I’ve done it just after midnight because I couldn’t wait to see if a particular fee had been paid in.

Most of all, though, it means I know everything. Yes, the finances, but also I know who’s paid and I know it just about the moment they have. There’s one firm I work for sometimes who is really quick at paying. They could be terrible people but I’d carry on working for them because of that.

On balance

Here’s a secret. I just checked all my various bank accounts – business, personal, tax, savings, all that stuff – and I needn’t have bothered because it’s Saturday.

My bank’s computer system doesn’t bother to register most changes over the weekend. It does some, but not most. Couldn’t tell you why. Not a clue. I think it’s feeble and I think it’s amateur, most especially when it does register a payment made on Saturday but then afterwards changes its date to the Monday.

But I know it does this and I know it’s pointless checking anything on Saturdays or Sundays and yet I continue to check because that’s what I do. I check all my accounts every day.

You may call this excessive. But it is a direct response to a problem of mine. I write for a living but it is the writing that I want: writing for a living is being able to live while writing. Money isn’t the focus, money isn’t the objective. It’s working out nicely, thank you for asking, but my head is always over here in the writing instead of on the bank accounts and the invoices. And there have been times that has caused me problems.

Now that I talk about writers being productive, I have learnt a recurring truth: all this felgercarb about accounts and pitches and calls and the sheer volume of things writers have to do that is not writing may be a burden but it is also easier than writing. And if you get it done, it is done. Done and gone. It isn’t weighing on your mind and affecting your work.

So I tell people to get this stuff done now and what I’m telling you is how I do that. I check the balances every day. It means I know the moment a client has paid, it means I know the moment I’d paid off my iMac. (When I bought a 27in iMac, Apple was offering interest-free repayments and I knew – I knew – exactly what difference that would make to my balances and my cash flow. It was the right way to buy at that moment and I did it without hesitation, yet I was also glad when the last payment was done.)

All of which means there is a specific and positive reason to stay on top of these things. But because I know it is an issue with me, I also check the balances every day in order to check the balances every day. In order to make sure that I don’t slip back into any problems.

And I’d like to tell you this is a nice round number but actually, today was the 918th day in a row.

Doing anything 918 times is going to take you a while. So over that time, I have learnt various ways of checking extremely quickly and I keep looking for faster ones too. So I can tell you, for instance, that if you’re the UK you shouldn’t with systems that display all your accounts in one dashboard-like screen: every time I’ve tried every one, they’ve proved impossibly slower than doing it all one at a time through my bank’s own website. If you’re the States, it’s completely different: take a long, hard look at Mint.com. I wish that were available here. And I can also tell you that 1Password is a godsend for this: one click on my Mac or one tap on my iOS devices and it has gone to the bank sites, entered a lot of the security details (but not all, I’m not that stupid) and I can be entering those last details, seeing the accounts and getting out again in seconds.

Today was the 918th time in a row that I checked my balances and yesterday was the 211th day working day I’d got up to write at 5am. I am a writer, I do not like constraints and I do not function at my best in 9-5 office hours, yet I apply these daily responsibilities to myself and they work for me.

They work one day at a time. We can all do one day of something. I just advocate doing one day tomorrow too.

Actually, this has just popped into my head. I’m very much a Suzanne Vega fan, I think she is an astonishing writer, but her first album and its first side and its first song begins with a first line that goes: “It’s a one-time thing. It just happens a lot.”

I can’t believe that got into my DNA. But I just check the balances once. I just get up at 5am once. And then it just happens a lot.