And for the most part it's been a breeze. I've earned a steady income, always had a swag of stories under my belt and could charge a decent rate. So much so, I struggled to take time off to write my fiction. It was a lovely conundrum. At my peak I had 25 freelance articles lined up.
It was a beautiful thing. Busy, but beautiful.
Then the internet—which had made it such a beautiful, busy thing—turned against me and suddenly everyone was a writer, everyone had a blog and nobody wanted to pay anybody a decent rate for anything.
As a consequence, all of the old magazines were closing down, the freelance market was flooded with writers, good and bad, and earning a quid became hard yakka.
C'est la vie, right? Suck it up.
Well, things reached a new low the other day when a new editor reached out to me and offered me some work, for less than half of what I usually get paid. A lot less. But that wasn't the low. I mean all power to the woman. She's starting a new magazine and has no advertisers lined up yet. Can't blame her for having a crack.
Oh no, dear readers, the low came when I began to seriously contemplate doing it! After decades exhaustively building my portfolio, earning experience as an editor of several national magazines and a bureau chief in three cities including New York and London, I was considering selling myself short.
For a few hours there I thought:
"Maybe I should just accept that lowly wage. What if nothing else comes in? What if this is the story of my life now? Maybe I should just get over myself and start earning less."
But it goes deeper than that. It goes to basic fairness.
Think about it. Imagine going in and saying to your hairdresser/builder/plumber/dentist, "I'm only going to pay you half what you usually charge. Cool? Now, about that tint... "
It's not fair. It's not right. Enough was enough. I decided then that I'd rather NOT work as a freelancer anymore than give my power away for nothing.
So, I emailed the editor back, politely declined her offer and wished her all the best with her new venture.
Then exactly an hour later—I kid you not, people, ONE HOUR LATER—another editor I had never met emailed to offer me work on her publication. But this editor wanted to pay me MORE than I usually get paid. Was I up for it?
It wasn't just that it was more money. It was what I should be earning after 30 years in this business, 15 of them as a freelancer. (Damn did I say those numbers aloud?)
There's a moral here, guys, in case you didn't catch it. It's a pretty simple one, and one I hope to remember in all areas of my life:
Believe in yourself, belief in your true worth, and the rest will follow
(although I can't guarantee it'll follow that quickly! One hour. Extraordinary.)