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    Payment Upon Persistence

    Before you consider taking a freelance writing job, or even applying for one, itís best to know what youíre getting yourself into. For instance, is the payment per project, or per word? Is the payment upon acceptance, or upon publication? To prepare you for that job thatís just around the corner, hereís a quick run-down of the most common types of payment youíll run into:

    Flat Fee

    This is probably the most common type of payment for a beginning freelancer. Youíll receive a flat-fee for your writing, whether itís 800 words or 2,000. Naturally, youíll be so happy to be getting a fee at all, you probably wonít care very much how many words youíll be writing.

    Is the rate standard? Is it fair? Who knows. If itís acceptable to you to make $25 for writing 1,000 words, then itís both standard and fair. If youíre used to getting $1,000 for 500 words, than itís neither. (But then, you probably wouldnít be reading this article, either.)

    Flat fees are popular with start-up Web sites and other cash poor ventures, because theyíre quick, simple, and more often than not, cheap. Cruise through and and youíll see a lot of markets offering $5 for a poem, $10 for a short story, etc. Many freelancers quickly gloss over these listings, while others leap at the chance to get paid anything for their writing. Again, itís all up to you.

    After all, if youíve got 500 great poems sitting in your attic waiting for someone to read them, and a Web site with 4,000 unique visitors a day offers to pay you $5 a piece for even a fraction of them, what have you got to lose? Just make sure you own the rights, and can publish them on other sites or in books and magazines as well.

    Pays by the Project

    This is a little like a flat-fee, except that a project can mean one piece for one fee, or several different pieces for several different prices, which are all bundled up into a per project fee. Confused yet? For instance, payment on The Buzz On series, as Iíve mentioned ad nauseum by now, was $25 per 1,000 word section. Yes, that was a flat fee. However, many writers chose to do more than one piece.

    For instance, one freelancer chose to write the entire chapter on "Road Trips" for The Buzz On Travel. Since that particular chapter contained 10 sections, each needing to be 1,000 words, the author received $250 for "the project." Payment per project is an easy way for editors or publishers to make an assignment appear more attractive. Naturally, offering a writer $250 sounded better than offering her $25. In reality, however, it was the exact same rate for ten stories as it was per one.

    Pays by the Word

    This is often the most lucrative type of payment, especially for smaller projects. Many freelancers, when trying to negotiate with me for a higher rate than the measly $25 I was offering on the first go round of The Buzz On series, stated that the "industry standard" was $1 per word. Maybe, maybe not. Iím in the industry, and I can tell you thereís no chart on my wall saying that freelancers get $1 a word.

    The payment is what it is. After perusing your bookmarked Web sites for a couple of weeks, youíll learn quite quickly that the rate per word varies per listing, from magazines to Web sites, from anthologies to poems. Iíve seen rates as low as one cent per word, and as high as the aforementioned dollar per word, not to mention everything in between.

    Most often, an editor will ask you what your "going rate" per word is. This is a tricky way of seeing how in line with her pricing you are. The answer, of course, must depend on how much work is involved, how long the project will take, how much time it will take, etc. I usually turn around and ask the editor what her standard rate "for this kind of project" is. That way, I donít wimp out and say twenty-five cents per word, when sheís willing to pay thirty.

    Itís a confidence issue. Plain and simple. Get to know your value before trying to negotiate with an editor. Ask one of your message boards what the regulars make per hour. Read what magazines and book publishers are paying on the market Web sites. Any information you have is better than none...

    Pays in Copies

    Many start-up magazines pay in copies, as do most anthologies without big publisher backings. Naturally, getting paid in copies is akin to working for free. Still, if youíre a beginning freelancer, getting paid in copies isnít so bad. For one thing, it gives you a pretty neat piece of hardware (or hardcover) to bring to the table on face to face interviews with potential clients. For another, youíre usually able to use the piece over and over again, so you can still get paid somewhere down the line.

    (The Dreaded) Othr Payment

    Hopefully, youíll never run into this payment agreement, but when starting out, you just might. Web sites are famous for "other payment" set-ups, offering you stock in the company or free merchandise from their advertisers, etc. In general, read "other payment" as "no payment" and proceed at your own risk. Like Iíve said before, itís no sin to work for free, or for baseball caps, if you feel the credit is worth your time and effort.

    Pays Upon Acceptance

    This is not a pay rate, but a pay date. This is also not as common as some freelancers would have you believe. Personally, Iíve worked for less publishers who "pay on acceptance" than I have who "pay on publication." You, as a freelancer, might have had just the opposite experience. It all depends on the luck of the draw. It is by no means industry practice to pay upon acceptance any more than it is to pay a dollar a word. Some publishers do, some donít. Period.

    Naturally, itís to the freelancerís advantage to get paid upon acceptance. This way, your article is turned in, you get your check, and whether or not the piece actually gets published remains to be seen. Of course, as a freelancer, you want your piece to get published. However, if it doesnít, having a check in hand usually serves to soften the blow.

    Publishers, on the other hand, are stuck with a piece that may or may not ever see the light of day. Naturally, the more solvent the publisher, the less it matters.

    Pays Upon Publication

    In the beginning, you are probably much more likely to run across publishers who pay upon publication than you are to find publishers who pay upon acceptance. Many times a publisher doesnít recoup their earnings from a given project until the book, magazine, CD-ROM or Web site is published, and thus canít pay his freelancers until that date. Other times, it just makes better sense to pay upon publication.

    The friendly folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul, for instance, pay upon publication. Is it because theyíre evil, mean, wicked and nasty? Hardly. Theirs is now a massive operation with books slated for publication on into the latter half of this decade! Or maybe not. For instance, Iím still waiting for one of the books my stories have been accepted in, Chicken Soup for the Teacherís Soul, to be published. Itís been four years now, and counting. If they had paid me upon acceptance, and the book never got published, well, theyíd be out a couple of hundred books. Per person, per story. Thatís a lot of chicken feed!

    Copyright © Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of Freedome to Freelance, available at

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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