>How much is enough?

>When it comes to payment for articles, the answer to that question varies. At some publications, a writer is lucky to get a byline and a copy of the newspaper or magazine. At others, pay may go as high as a dollar or two per word. Quick, do the math. If you sell a 1,000-word story at a dollar a word, you get . . . $1,000. Nice. However, write a story for your local community weekly, and you’re more likely to get something ranging from $25 to $100. Maybe you’ll get your expenses paid. Maybe you’ll get a copy without having to track it down yourself.

If you’re just starting out, looking for clips and experience, take whatever they offer, especially if you don’t need the money to pay your bills and you’re having fun writing the articles. But if you’ve been at it for a while, maybe it’s time to ask for a raise or seek higher-paying markets. And if you need the money, it’s definitely time to do something.

A friend and I were both writing $75 articles for the same publication earlier this week, and we both came to the same conclusion: We should be getting more money for this.

My friend has lots of other work and is pressed for time. For me, the realization came because I can no longer count on my husband’s income when I don’t make much money. He’s in a nursing home, and his pension checks go to Medicaid now, so I’m on my own. Suddenly, maybe because I have been talking to my attorney a lot, I’m thinking “billable hours.” How does my pay look when I count the hours and materials I spent doing the story? Not so good. Ironically, the same day I was finishing my article and thinking about being underpaid, I got an e-mail from an editor who wants to reprint something I wrote a long time ago. She apologized for paying only $75. I have been paid for this story before. I don’t have to do a lick of work on it, just sign the contract and accept the money. Talk about a reality check.

I know times are tough, but most publications haven’t raised their freelance rates in decades. We all have to pay our dues, but if you feel, as I do, that you have already paid them, start asking for more money. As a woman I interviewed for my Freelancing for Newspapers book recommended, whatever they offer, respond, “That sounds a little low.” See what happens.

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