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Alison Fromme has tracked rattlesnakes, witnessed dynamite blasts, and eaten goat stew while on assignment for national magazines and regional publications, including Backpacker, Discover, Pregnancy, and Mountain Home Magazine. She has also created educational materials for the New York Times Learning Network, PBS, McDougal Littell and many others. Alison lives in upstate New York, where she founded Ithaca’s Food Web, a hyperlocal website publishing local food news and commentary on topics ranging from crop disease outbreaks to school lunch reform. Alison is currently the Project Manager for The Science Writers’ Handbook.

5 responses to “Substitutes for Substandard Contracts”

  1. Christopher

    This articles brings up an issue I’ve been thinking about lately: does anyone else find it odd that, typically, our clients set the rates? I’ve been reading a lot of material aimed at “creative entrepreneurs” (photographers, web designers, writers). The issue of pricing always comes up. And, in every case, it’s the person offering the service that sets the rate. Can you imagine a wedding photographer allowing couples to dictate how much they pay?

    I admit I’m very new to this, but does anyone have experience on turning the tables? On saying “I’m a writer and this is my rate.”?

  2. Alison

    I’ve thought about this issue as well, Christopher. Yes, it is odd, but it also depends on the client. You might be able to set your rates for editing a nonprofit’s newsletter, but not for writing a magazine feature. I’m guessing it has to do with supply and demand — a lot of writers want to write for magazines. In the case of magazines, you can always try to negotiate: “Is this the best rate you can offer?” or “X is my standard rate — can you match that?”

  3. Anne Sasso

    Christopher, yes, it is very odd. Alison is correct, when it comes to magazines, the demand for writers is comparably low and the supply of writers is large (although SciLancers and editor friends of SciLancers will tell you that the supply of good writers–the ones who do all the things that make them liked by editors–is a much smaller subset). I imagine that the marquee writers can set their prices and venues who want the star power will pay the price. That’s a rarified world.

    Step outside the realm of magazines, though, and freelance writers function like other entrepreneurs, regularly setting the prices for their services.

    You might have to start out accepting the prices that clients are willing to pay, but that sets the pricing floor. As you gain experience, confidence and clients, you start to increase your prices. Low-paying or PITA clients fall to the wayside and, eventually, if you’re lucky and build solid relationships, you will have nurtured a sustainable selection of clients who value your work, rely on your expertise and pay you well.

    1. Kat Friedrich

      I completely agree. As you build up your client base, you can gradually raise your rates and seek out better-paying clients with favorable contract terms.

      You might be interested in these posts on setting rates and finding good clients (from The Freelancery):

  4. Christopher

    Thanks for both your thoughts. I hadn’t considered the supply-demand balance with magazines, interesting point.

    Looking forward to the day where I have the experience and confidence to say “my rates are…”!

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