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Price Perspective
by Lisa B. Samalonis

Some people feel small publications or low rates are not worth their time. I believe if a writer has a perspective and a plan, even low paying jobs can work out well financially and emotionally.

For me, the business of writing comes from medical and corporate clients. However, my true love is creative nonfiction, commentary, and the personal essay. Unfortunately, today the essay market is limited and the available markets are tight. Editors at glossies tell me they have ample inventory and few pages allotted for essays.

Yet, the words come to me and I long to see share them. As a result, I wind up selling an essay for $30, $50, $150, and above while I am also billing clients at much higher rates for medical assignments.

These smaller checks may arrive in time say to buy my two boys new sneakers, rent a movie, or take them on a surprise lunch. It may be enough to cover a trip to the zoo, an oil change, or the water bill -- things that sometimes slip off the family's budget sonar.

These jobs also help out emotionally. After all, doing what brings me joy provides the psychic boost needed to continue in the dog-eat-dog world of business writing. Each essay helps me work through details of my life and brings me one step closer to my dream: writing about what I love on my own terms.

While working for several steady clients on technical assignments, I also can switch gears and exercise the other side of my brain. In a typical month, I may be writing for regular clients, plus, publishing in a nationally known newspaper that pays $50 to $100 for commentaries, a local parenting publication that pays $35 for first person essays, national newsstand pubs that pay from $150 to $800 per essay. I also write parenting and health articles for regional and web-based pubs for around $150 each. For these "fun" writing assignments, I pick topics I want to learn more about. I interview nutritionist, doctors, and psychologists regularly on health and family issues and benefit from the things I learn.

By carefully planning my workload for smaller pubs, this system still can be profitable. For example, for essay markets that pay under $50, I try offer reprints or submit only those essays that have been rejected by every major market applicable.

For article $100 to $500, I limit the amount of time and interviews allocated for each one. Therefore, for an article of $150, I limit myself to a couple of very brief interviews (under fifteen minutes or via email with very pointed questions) and try to complete the article in under two or three hours.

Also, these smaller jobs sometimes lead to better paying jobs or related articles. These articles also help find ideas or research for other articles for other publications. Finally, on weeks (or months) when no essays are selling, even a publication with a small rate gives me the energy to keep going.

On occasion, this strategy does not work well. For example, one summer while working on a lucrative but stressful project, I had several small projects going on simultaneously and the kids were home for summer vacation. The pocket change at this time was not worth the missed hours with the boys. After I completed the articles, I decided to not take any small jobs for the month of August. Instead we went to the beach. Similarly at Christmas I scale back, but not before pitching several small articles months before to help pay for some gifts.

Keeping yourself open to opportunity at all pay scales can help move you forward as a writer and also benefit your bottom line.

© Copyright 2005, Lisa B. Samalonis

Lisa B. Samalonis writes from Gloucester Township, New Jersey, where she is working on a variety of projects both large and small.

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