By Lori Russell
While I have learned many things from and about my writing this past year, the most valuable lesson has been about asking for more. More assignments. More feedback. More money.
As I watched gas rates go up, postage go up, the price of my haircuts go up, it seemed
everyone and everything was demanding a higher price. If I was going to keep up with my rising
expenses, something had to change. Either I had to write faster and more or I needed to be paid more
for the work I was already doing. Of course, the second option sounded much better than the first.
I decided to begin by talking to the editors that I already wrote for regularly and who I knew liked my work about raising my rates. Whether as an employee or a freelancer, asking for more money always makes me a bit uncomfortable. What if I am turned down? Would it be better to avoid the conversation altogether and go after a better paying market? Not in my case. I liked my editors and I like the types of stories I was
writing. It was time to have the hard conversation.
I began by doing some research. What was the going rate for other similar publications? How long had
I worked for my editors at my current rate? I called other friends who were professional writers in
the area and asked them what rates they were making. Before contacting my editors, I determined the
range of rates I was making and the types of publications I wrote for.
Next, I emailed my editors and explained I wanted to make an appointment to discuss my rates. This
gave them time to consider the topic.
During our meetings, I reviewed with my editors how long I’d been writing for them, and the range of
rates I was making with my other publications. Just like asking the boss for a raise as an employee,
I presented my strengths and the value I brought to the publication.
In each case, I received a raise. One editor apologized for not bringing up the conversation sooner,
another gave me more than I asked for.
As valuable as the increase in my rates was, the feedback I received from my editors was equally
valuable to my career. They told me that while editors find writers who can write well valuable, they find writers who can write consistently even more so. I was surprised to learn that my ability to make deadlines, turn in
an article with the right word count, written coherently and on the topic that I had pitched was
also of great value.
I was shocked. Doesn’t every writer turn in solid copy, neither too long or too short, in the form and on the topic that was assigned? Apparently not. Those who can and do, become valuable to their editors.
I have made it a habit to asks my editors for more assignments by closing a conversation with the
invitation “if there is ever anything else I can help you with, let me know.” More than once an
editor has contacted me in a pinch when another writer has backed out, become ill or a story fell
through. Now these editors call me with story ideas and give my name to other editors who need
By asking for more, I now am making more money, receiving more assignments and working for more
editors. It was been well worth the risk.
Lori Russell has written profiles about people, their passions and their places for more than a decade. Her nonfiction articles have been published online and in magazines and newspapers around the country. She is a contributing editor for Columbia Gorge Magazine, a regular contributor to Ruralite magazine and has co-written the “In the Spotlight’ column for WOTR for the past two years. She is currently enjoying a writing residency teaching memoir writing to high school students through Columbia Gorge Arts in Education, an organization that brings professional writers and artists to the public schools.