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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

What is a Good Copyrighter Worth?
How much should I pay?

 4:37 am on Sep 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

I met a girl last month when I was travelling through Italy. We got talking and she asked what I do and what I was doing in Italy. Anyway, to cut a long story short she has been sending me amazing travel copy for free.

I want to start paying her but as she is a student and not a professional I am not to sure how much to offer her.

Any ideas?




 6:53 pm on Sep 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

If she is sending you professional quality copy, then pay her appropriately.


 10:46 am on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi BigDave,

Thanks for your reply.

Is your post based on the view of a writer or a businessman?


[edited by: engine at 2:26 pm (utc) on Sep. 12, 2005]


 2:50 pm on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Business.. You expect to be paid a fair wage for your work, doing the same for her is only 'fair'.. The fact that she is a student has no bearing on how much you should pay..


 3:01 pm on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

if you pay her student rates then she probably won't be able to continue writing. therefore, by paying pro rates you get what she wants (presumably to travel more) and you get some good copy. everybody wins.


 4:03 pm on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have taken on students to write for me in specific instances. In these cases they get commissioned at about two-thirds normal rate (for my sectors) - a fee I consider to be very generous indeed.

I explain to these individuals that, as someone with little or no experience in professional writing, I cannot justify paying them full rate; they must serve their apprenticeship and start creating their portfolio.

Invariably the finished draft requires quite a bit of editing and I accept that this will be so. I use this as an opportunity to pass on a few 'real world' lessons if they are warranted. Invariably the student's idea of what makes a good article is somewhat misguided - especially if they are a 'journalism' student!

Sometimes, with guidance provided, I will ask the student to go away and rewrite the piece. Other times I will rework it myself and explain what was done and why.

The student gets a quality article published with a nice big biog/credit included - a useful start/addition to their portfolio - and they get paid a reasonable sum (more than many here seem to be paying for professional writers - but I guess that's all relative) for something they will always be proud of.

Although these experiences relate to the magazine publishing world, my approach would be the same if the student was supplying web only work.



 6:46 pm on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Syzygy, what if the student is already supplying professional-quality work, without the problems you mention? From what bts111 says, that seems to be the case here. At what point would you consider a writer to be a professional?


 9:36 pm on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Student & professional writer?

Consider which one is being employed and pay accordingly.



 11:09 pm on Sep 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am a firm believer in paying a person what they are worth.

As a programmer at several large companies, I've been involved in convincing management to pay some interns more than some recent grads just to get them back for a second internship. It also tends to help convince them that they want to come back to the company after graduation.

If you like what this "student" is sending you, then show your appreciation by paying them accordingly. If they are sending you stuff that is better than professional, then pay them accordingly. If they need more editing and hand-holding than normal, then pay them accordingly.

I don't put very much value in what pieces of paper people have hanging on their walls, it is what you *do* that counts. What is your value to your employer.

If you do not recognize her value, she might start writing for someone who does. How easy would she be to replace?


 12:07 am on Sep 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am a firm believer in paying a person what they are worth.

Hurrah! A wonderful generalisation. Quite right too. Every one should be paid their worth.

As a programmer at several large companies...

Oh, come on! Whilst I don't doubt your credentials within your own sector...

How does that relate to the publishing world and the commissioning & payment of writers specifically?

The original post was/is: "I have found a very good writer - how much should I pay?"

Let's not move this forum further down the road to sciolism, please!



 12:18 am on Sep 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Professional quality writing deserves professional level pay.


 8:07 am on Sep 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

How does that relate to the publishing world and the commissioning & payment of writers specifically?

It has everything to do with it. The field makes no difference. It could be astrophysics, and I would tell you the same thing.

One of the top two tech doc writers at a minicomputer manufacturer was hired part time right after her internship, but before graduation. The next summer she worked full time at full time pay.

They did this because she was worth the money and they wanted to keep her.

It was clear from the first post that the results she was providing were not student quality. I'm all for paying student wages while someone is learning their craft, but that does not appear to be the case here.

If you cannot easily replace someone, and you want to keep them, you pay them what they are worth.


 10:49 am on Sep 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have asked her if she wants to be payed by the hour, per article or by the word and how much. I am waiting for her reply.

She is extremely talented. I showed my Mum an article that she wrote (travel) and she could not believe the maturity in her writing. Her writing is concise, humourous, factual, positive and easy to read. Yesterday, I recieved a 2000 word article on Naples, that would be good enough to publish anywhere. It was written perfectly in around two days. She does not make any mistakes. I can cut and paste then upload :).

She is a lovely girl as well, and I don't want to lose her or rip her off.

I have found a gold mine. To be honest, If I payed her what she was worth, I would be broke.

She will be a famous one day.


 11:15 am on Sep 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

The National Union of Journalists publish minimum rates for different types of writing (nas.org.uk). You can use them as a guideline.


 1:01 am on Sep 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

How does that relate to the publishing world and the commissioning & payment of writers specifically?

It has more to do with writing than it does with most other jobs. And, at this point anyway, she's not being commissioned or hired; she's a freelance writer, and should be treated as one.

When a writer submits an article to a magazine or a book manuscript to a publisher (or agent), what diplomas the writer has doesn't come into the picture - unless the education is specifically related to the subject and gives the publisher an idea of the writer's expertise in that area. The writing is judged on the quality of the writing, not on the amount of education.

If this student quit school, she'd no longer be a student, but I don't see how that would make her more of a professional than she is now. If she submitted that 2000-word article to a travel magazine, the publisher wouldn't worry about whether or not she'd graduated yet. The quality of the article would be the only consideration (okay, with the exception of a big name having the inside track because the name on the cover would sell copies). If the article wasn't up to standards, the publisher wouldn't spend time teaching her how to write; he or she would simply reject the article.

If bts111 wanted to hire her, there would be a different set of considerations than those involved in simply buying and publishing her articles.

Those minimum payment guidelines could be useful, although it's true that the level of payment most magazines give is directly related to how much money the magazine has; a small magazine wouldn't pay the same as The New Yorker for the same article (this being the reason most writers learn to submit to the highest paying market first, then work their way down if the article's rejected). The payment is usually per article, word, or page (more if the author provides his or her own photos for the article). Since the publisher's not hiring the writer as a regular employee, the publisher doesn't care how many hours were needed to write the piece.


 8:44 am on Sep 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Rosalind, I think you meant nuj.org.uk. My company in the US pays $25 per web page of about 250 - 400 words. The writers also are trained on seo and linking strategies. I would make sure the content is optimized at least.


 3:47 pm on Sep 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

With content like hers it does not need to be optimised. It will attract natural, on topic backlinks very easily, like all good copy.


 2:09 pm on Sep 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

I guess one is paid for one's work and not designation or experience.
If you say she is sending you professional-level travel articles... you should pay for that work.

Pay has no bearing on she being a student or a professional. If you like what you see ' pay for that work'.
This will show your appreciation and will be a strong motivation for her also.


 11:21 pm on Sep 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm quite amazed at those without professional publishing experience - without experience of hiring (commissioning) writers - who have so much to say on the subject!

It's a bit like my local pub. Give the guv'nor a few and he'll tell you - based on his self-assumed experience - how easy it is to build anything from an A-bomb to an X-ray machine.

withbts111, are you in love?




 6:52 am on Sep 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

Maybe ;) Meeting pretty girls that can write great copy is like heaven.

Matt Probert

 7:11 am on Sep 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

she has been sending me amazing travel copy for free.
I want to start paying her but as she is a student and not a professional I am not to sure how much to offer her.

Under the circumstances, send her what you can afford.



 6:39 pm on Sep 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm quite amazed at those without professional publishing experience - without experience of hiring (commissioning) writers - who have so much to say on the subject!

As I tried to point out in an earlier post, but probably wasn't clear enough -- From the way bts111 tells the story, anyway, there's no hiring or commissioning going on. The writer's sending bts111 finished copy that he can either accept or reject; if he rejects it, she can submit it to someone else. The model is freelance writer, not hiring or commissioning. The latter would bring in a different set of considerations, which you discussed quite well, I thought; it's just not what's happening here (unless I've missed something?).


 11:19 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

I want to start paying her but as she is a student and not a professional I am not to sure how much to offer her.

Guys I think the question bts111 is asking is for a $$$ amount, but lots of good advice here. I don't know how much he should pay her, please help us out here guys


 1:18 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

>>If I payed her what she was worth, I would be broke.

This may be the most operative statement here. In any employment situation, one has to balance the "market value" pay vs. available funds.

So, you need to develop a compensation model you can afford. Be aware, though, that if you are way below the market value of her work that you'll eventually lose her. I've encountered companies that perpetually operate on the assumption they'll lose their best workers to companies that pay more. They hire new talent cheaply, keep the employees around as long as they can, and eventually lose them. (I used to have a competitor who was a great talent spotter but paid lousy salaries; I regularly hired his people away by paying them market-level salaries.)

To avoid, or at least delay, the inevitable breakup, try thinking outside the box... How about a graduated scale where over the period of a year her compensation will rise every month or two? This lets you start off more cheaply, but work up to more competitive levels.

Or, if your business model warrants it, how about some kind of revenue share, profit share, or other incentive program? Maybe some equity in your business would be more attractive than pay. (Probably not, though. :))

Her expectations have been zero up to now; sooner or later, they will reach market levels. See if you can ride that slope with her to hold down your cost while keeping her engaged.

Note, too, that "market levels" for writing are somewhat nebulous - most beginning reporters, for example, are paid a pittance. An accomplished and well known expert, on the other hand, may get paid thousands for an article of modest length. Between those extremes, there are lots of writers (many of them very good) earning vastly different amounts for their writing.


 5:45 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Very good suggestion rogerd. Thanks!


 5:01 am on Sep 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Please! I know this from the inside. Pay this girl the going rate. You will set her, possibly on a career path in writing. What editors want to know is that you have been read and can make them money. If she has made money, then someone has thought her worth reading enough to pay. If she can then go to an editor at some point with evidence of her 'worth,' it will make all the difference. Also get a web counter on anything she writes.

Getting into writing is very hard, Most people don't. Please pay her the full going rate and nothing less. To find out, I would ask a travel firm . However, if you have to edit - most students can't pay for independent editing, then take something off for that. Someone has to do it, and editors also need paying.



 5:38 pm on Sep 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Pay her $0.25 - $0.35/word excluding stop words, or $30 to $65/hour. That's what I pay for my articles that are over 1,000 words.

Or you could google this "Freelance and Contract Writer's Rates" - it provides some detailed rates - albeit a bit outdated (1999).

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