Check Yourself: Getting paid or, B*tch better have my money

How do you navigate working alone, finding a community, dealing with your mental health, finding work, and coping when the money just ain't flowing? CHLOE PAPAS, an experienced journalist and writer, answers all of these questions in Check Yourself, a column on navigating the pitfalls (and the spoils!) of the writing life.

Illustration by Charlotte Day

Illustration by Charlotte Day

Q: How do I bring up the subject of payment with an editor if they haven't? Do I mention it before or after I've sent the piece?

A: 

Dear Writer Pal,

Great question.

When it comes to discussing payment with an editor, my golden rule is: ALWAYS ASK FIRST. I have put that in capitals not because I am yelling, but because it is very important. If you have pitched a piece or an editor has asked you to write something, your follow up email should always include a question about payment. I know, it’s kind of an icky thing to discuss - but it doesn’t need to be! You are providing a service, and services don’t come for free.

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In terms of asking the question, figure out what works for you, and roll with it. I’m a fan of the: ‘Just to double check - what is the pay rate for this type of article?’ Or, if you know what a publication pays: ‘I know your usual rate is $300 per article - is that what we’re looking at for this piece?’  

Hot tip: If an editor replies asking what your rate is, they usually have a bit of money to play with. Tell them $1 per word and play the game from there.

And what should an invoice look like?

Here is what you need to include on a general invoice:

  • Your name, address and ABN
  • The name and address of the publication or organisation you are invoicing

  • The issue date and due date of the invoice (if they don’t pay by the due date with no explanation, I do weekly email reminders)

  • A description of the work (usually just the article title), and the amount due

  • Whether or not you are charging GST (you don’t need to register for GST unless you have a turnover of/earn over $75k)

  • Your bank account details

Here is a basic example of one of my invoices:

P.S. I’m not charging Noted $100k for my services! Maybe.

P.S. I’m not charging Noted $100k for my services! Maybe.

A standard invoice can just be created using Word, and it’s up to you how fancy you want to make it. For those who have a few different clients, or freelance on a regular basis, you might want to try out an invoicing program. I can highly recommend Rounded - it’s an Australian program that pulls in your bank accounts, lets you track time, create pretty invoices, and keep track of expenses. It’s around $20 a month. Harvest is also great, and I’ve heard good things about Reckon.
 

Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of CHECK YOURSELF, coming out tomorrow. While you're waiting, read previous posts in the series, on how to survive on the $$ of a Full-Time Creative, or making time for writing, and remaining positive, committed and motivated when you work full-time.


Chloe Papas is a writer, journalist and editor based in Victoria via Perth. She spent a few years working as a journalist for the ABC before turning to the freelance life. Her work has been featured in publications like SBS, Overland, Kill Your Darlings, Daily Life, Vice and Junkee.