In my DMs, I saw I had a question from Naureen (hey there!) asking me for advice on how to best approach the subject of payment as a writer.
This question should really just have one simple answer: we all have bills to pay, and no one works for free. However, for some reason, it’s so hard to ask for what is rightfully yours.
Careers in the creative industries are mostly pursued due to passion, with the knowledge that you will probably spend a number of years living off packet noodles and justifying what you’re doing to your parents. There will be times you will wish you had just taken an accounting course instead. I know I’ve been there.
My old job as an agent was to negotiate money on behalf of other people. Asking for more money was never normally a problem and often I’d find, as the middleman, I could push the limits quite far and secure the deal without even batting an eyelid. When it comes down to asking for yourself, unless you’re incredible assertive, you feel like you might run the risk of coming off entitled or greedy.
Here’s a guideline of things to consider when doing negotiations:
- Get the conversation over and done with - the earlier the better. The deeper into a project you get the harder it gets to ask, and you run the risk of having committed loads of hours to something without any remuneration.
- The person doing the negotiating will be on a salary - they will be understanding that there needs to be some form of negotiation.
- Don’t be afraid to agree upon all the logistics, like an outline of how you will be billing the client, the scope of work you’re expected to do, will you be paid hourly or a flat rate? With this information you can determine if the fee will reflect the amount of work you expect to do.
- Simple phrases like “What is the budget for this?” are confident, assertive and can’t be ignored, yet don’t sound as brash as “How much will I be paid?”
- Imagine if you could get something for free instead of paying for it. You would give it a go. Expect for people to take advantage if they sense inexperience or a window of opportunity.
- Remember that generally, money being negotiated belongs to a company and isn’t personal. You won’t be offending anyone, and an extra £50 won’t have any personal repercussions for them… but could make a huge difference to you.
- Consider the job and what there might be to gain from it, even if you weren’t to be paid. Do you feel passionately about the project? Will it be something beneficial to associate yourself with? Could it be an opportunity to upgrade your skill set? Will it give you access to a hard to reach network?
- Some companies will feel that their brand name is currency enough and that the affiliation will be enough for you to want to work for them. It’s up to you to decide if that’s right for you. If you can come to an agreement that’s mutually beneficial, great - but don’t let yourself be bullied into less than you feel is fair.
The key to approaching payment conversations is to value to yourself and the work you are doing. Try to trust your judgement when it comes to these situations. In recent years loads of creative industries have had budget cuts, and companies will make that known to you time and time again. It’s also extremely competitive and you’ll be reminded that if you’re not willing to work for free, several others will be. Just decide project by project if there is value in it aside from money and stick to your guns. If you don’t believe you’re worthy enough to be paid, no one else will.
I would love to hear from you if you have any stories or your own or questions! Comment below or get in touch on socials.