We need to talk about money
ASKING FOR more money was the aim of the interactive workshop in May&rsquo:s Branch meeting, facilitated by Phil Sutcliffe and Humphrey Evans - tutors on the NUJ’s Pitch and Deal course. Too many freelances, says Humphrey, put up with "copyright grabs, little extra bits of work for no extra money... people work for years without an increase. Some have never asked". Freelances need to start being Terribly Unbritish and say to their commissioning editor, "We need to talk about money".
It was a lively meeting, with many contributions, especially from female freelances. There were role plays, in which freelances learnt to "talk confidently and competently about money, civilly". A simulated "Greek Rupert Murdoch" was talked into raising a rate set eight years ago.
A technophobic Historic Royal Palaces flunky - played with a frightening convincingly cut-glass accent by Branch committee member Guy Smallman - was informed that an extra-contractual call-out to turn on their video would cost an extra £200. (The actual Palace called the member the following morning and the conversation was reprised with uncanny accuracy - and success.)
What have we learned from this experience?
- If anything stands out as exceptional, demand more money for it. Tell them, "This is my third article, I'm an expert now, don't I get more?". As one member put it, "That's your standard rate, but as you know I'm not a standard freelance". They don't reward you for good work, but for being obstreperous.
- Do your homework first. Have the Rates for the Job page www.londonfreelance.org/rates in front of you when you call. (It's also accessible on 3G mobiles.) Have some scripted phrases ready. Phil Sutcliffe says: "You need to be in a good mental state as well as having the freelance script", and this may mean putting time in before the conversation to find replacement work if the editor doesn't make you a better offer.
- Take control. "It's too easy to get lost and apologetic," says Humphrey: "stop waffling away - say what needs to be said". The subject of increasing your rates shouldn't just pop out in conversation, it needs a separate call or email. You can put your editor on the spot by asking them, "How much do you offer?" If you haven't got an instant answer to their offer, arrange to ring back in 20 minutes, to give yourself time to think.