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Friday, 17 August 2012

Recession + freelance = extra shit rates part 2

Just finished reading a very good blogpost by the writer Jenn Ashworth on writing for money, and she starts off by stating quite rightly in my opinion that it's not OK to write for free.  Not only because it drives the price down for everyone but it adds to this toxic and patronising idea that writers do it for the love anyway.  It's a very good piece which lists the bullshit reasons writers are given for not being paid and how you should respond to them.

Here's the other thing.  The recession is being used as an excuse to pay writers - all writers - even less.  Squat in many cases.

Anyway, to follow on from my first post on this subject,  last week a friend of mine finished a book and recommended me as copy editor.  I received a nice email from one of the editors at the publisher (and it was a perfectly respectable publisher) asking about my rates so I went to the Society of Proofreaders and Editors and learned that they suggest a rate of 24.25 per hour to copy edit a book which would work out at say 10 pages an hour for a 50 000 word book.  So If I worked for 8 hours solid a day, that would work out at £194 per day.  I reckon I could do a 50 000 work book, line by line in a week which would work out at about £900.  So I offered to copy the whole book for £600 because given these stringent times I thought it would be fair to offer a flat rate but not one so low I would feel ripped off.

Back came an email saying they would use someone else.  My friend later told me that they had offered the work to someone else and had suggested about £400 and he with great difficulty had pushed them up inch by inch to £500.  £400 to copy edit a whole book?  And I've heard of highly experienced copy editors being offered £250.  Which works out - if you take a week to do a whole book at about £6.25 per hour.   With tips you would get more for waiting tables.

The NUJ has a section where writers can post rates - the good, the bad and the ugly as sin.   Perhaps writers should start up another  - like that series of books on Crap Towns and Crap Jobs.  We could add Crap Rates to that.  So what's the worst rate you've been offered?


Minnie said...

Worst rate? £20 for what turned out to be a couple of hours' copywriting (c 20 yrs ago). And they picked so many holes in my copy that they concluded it wasn't even worth that amount ... I slunk away, shamed, ashamed and unpaid.
Needless to say, the work in question was used/published.
I suspect those buying in freelance services - whether editorial or design - are entirely ignorant of the time it takes to do the job properly, let alone the high levels of expertise tested by experience that are deployed.
In the past, I've found the 'think of a figure then almost double it' approach worked. The Harley Street strategy: people think you're a top operator, so they expect to pay more ... It is, of course, bollocks and a con trick; but gives the (dear?) client a dose of his/her own medicine.
Gawdelpus and save us all from people who think they can write (and/or design).
Bon courage, Jane.

Jane said...

So they whined and complained about your work Minnie - didn't pay you and still used it? Shame on them. Grrrrrr.

Emma Darwin said...

Great blog, Jane!

I don't do a lot of one-off freelance work, but there have been couple of times when I've quoted a decent rate for doing a good job, and had just the silence you describe. And a couple of times I've been asked to work for free, effectively.

And I found it amazingly empowering to walk away from those things, even though I'd have liked the work. That sense of empowerment fed back into all sorts of other things, which I tackled with much more confidence and energy.