When Should Writers Charge for Their Work?

When can you expect to be paid for your expertise as a writer?

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Perhaps a more pertinent question is this; when shouldn’t you charge for your work? For a charitable cause, perhaps, or if a piece of work is gathering dust on your laptop and you’d just as soon see it published somewhere just to get your name out there? I’m on slightly shaky ground with that second point, however, as there could be an argument that, even though it’s old, it deserves to be paid for.

The creative arts are in an odd position; the amount of times we are asked to create something “for the exposure”, perhaps in the hope that it’ll lead to paid work in the future. But when? When does our work become good enough to warrant the jump from “free” to “worth money that enables us to pay our bills”?

It’s a generally-accepted rule of thumb that entry level jobs will inevitably pay less than jobs that require five years experience. They should do, in any case, and if you’ve got five years experience but are being paid the same as someone straight out of school, then there’s a problem with your employer that needs sorting out.

I am not the cleverest or most talented writer in existence, nor even in Thanet. So for me to expect my payment rates to be the same as theirs is entirely unrealistic, but neither should I be paid entry level; I’m not being mercenary, just factual. I want to have a career in writing, and that requires me to be paid for the work that I do.

But creative arts are seen on a different level to other sectors. I’d be fascinated to see the reaction of an army cadet if you asked him or her to serve a tour of duty for the experience. A favourable response would not be forthcoming.

An extreme example, I concede, but a valid one; plumbers, doctors, scientists, bin men – none of them are asked to work for free. We must feel more confident in setting out the “red lines” for our expertise; realistic payment, of course – we can’t expect to be paid J.K. Rowling’s level of income straight away (wouldn’t it be nice?), but society needs to change so that it can accept that creativity deserves payment. Fight for your worth!

Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.

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