I almost never take on an assignment without asking for a higher rate. Sometimes this results in securing a higher rate. Other times it doesn’t. But the ask never works against me.
No matter what, it’s worth trying.
I’ve been making at least some of my living as a freelancer, either full- or part-time, for 13 years. In this time, I’ve learned a few things:
- When working with a given client, the rate you start at is likely the rate you’ll stay at. Forever. (Unless the publication gets hit by company-wide budget cuts, in which case you’ll take a hit like everyone else.) If you start low, be prepared to stay there in perpetuity. Long story short, it’s in your best interest to raise that starting rate.
- Virtually no editor is going to be put off by an ask for more money. Editors typically don’t hold the purse strings, but they sometimes have some wiggle room with budget allocation; most are willing to exercise it, or at least will try.
- If an editor IS put off by the ask, that’s a HUGE red flag. You will inevitably run into an editor whose budget is fixed, and no ask can or will change the offer. They will gently decline, and you can decide whether or not you’re willing to play ball for what they’re able to offer you (I strongly recommend saying no if the amount of work required for the assignment isn’t worth your time below a certain pay threshold, unless you think you will benefit in some other way from the association or experience).
If the editor gives you ‘tude for asking, though, that’s a whole other story. If that’s the case, don’t expect a respectful working relationship. If you’ve already agreed to the assignment, do the work and GTFO. Trust me, it isn’t worth your while.
4. Someone else is probably getting a better rate for the same work at the same organization, and they don’t necessarily have more or better experience than you do. In fact, they probably just got it by asking for more in the first place. Or, you know, by being a white cishet male. (Or both!)
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that asking for more doesn’t make me a diva, but an advocate. I’ve spent enough time as a staff editor to recognize that good freelancers don’t exactly…