Freelance writer Melissa Petro recommends always negotiating rates with a new editor or publication. Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and mom of two based in New York.
In over 10 years as a freelancer, Petro says she’s learned how to ask for and get paid her worth.
Work for money and not clout, always negotiate, and exchange information with other freelancers.
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Working as a freelance writer may sound alluring for those wanting to escape a 9-to-5, but it’s not always easy to be your own boss. When you’re no longer tied to an employer (or salary or benefits), it’s up to you to make freelancing a reliable and lucrative income stream.
As a freelance writer for over a decade, I’ve been through many ups and downs. In my experience, rates now are lower than they were 10 or even five years ago. As inflation goes up, it can be difficult as a freelancer to make ends meet— unless you figure out how to raise your rates.
In my time in the freelance writing industry, I’ve learned a lot about how to make sure that I’m being paid what I deserve. Whether you’ve just started out or have been freelance writing for a while, here are four strategies I recommend following to ensure you’re getting paid your worth. 1. Work for money, not clout
When I started out, I was desperate to share my point of view and practice my craft. I also wanted to establish myself in the industry and make connections with editors at well-known publications. But sometimes in pursuit of these goals, I accepted assignments that paid very little or even nothing at all.
I quickly realized that if my goal was to make money, I had to keep my eye on that prize.
After years of collecting bylines at as many different publications as possible, I’ve learned that more respected publications don’t necessarily pay better. I also figured out that writing for exposure rarely, if ever, amounted to anything.Until my child’s daycare accepts “likes” as payments, I’ll keep working for employers that pay me well, regardless of clout. 2. Stop accepting low-paying work If you’re literally hungry and have nothing but time, it might make sense to crank out blog posts for pennies on the dollar, like I did when I was just starting out. One of my first consistent writing gigs paid just $35 per 700-word post.I was grateful to have what freelancers call a “bread and butter” assignment — an employer you can count on for consistent work — but when I did the math, the hourly wage I was making from that assignment was abysmal. I realized it would benefit me more to quit writing for this low-paying publication […]