EWF: Industry Insider: Get Money, Get Paid


Melbournians are great with giving directions. Or mostly, they are great with having smart phones.

“Rue Bebelons is on the corner, over there.” The suit man pointed.

“Thanks!” And thankyou Mister iPhone!

Through the door marked toilets, up some wonky steps, onto the roof and into a little room. There was the host Estelle Tang with union-er Bede Payne, crikey-er Andrew Crook and freelancer Elmo Keep. All geared up for writing money talk, and the struggle. I prepared myself for the worst, that I may walk away feeling gutted about potentially living in the gutter (a writer’s life for me hey!)

Bede Payne kicked off with the subtle blow: there’s 4600 journalist students in Australia but only 200 entry level jobs each year – most of which are out bush.  So entering from the bottom is not easy anymore. There are more freelancers around because it’s cheaper for companies. They don’t have to give you benefits, sick leave, superannuation. There’s no award wage for writers or regulation. There’s also the current Fairfax striking issues.

Three important things to think about when freelancing:

  • The copyright issues.
  • Your creative control.
  • Are you gunna get paid?

Elmo Keep spoke honestly about how much writer’s live off, “$50 – 60,000 a year for writers who work 7 days a week. $35,000 for full-time writers.” She said that working in advertising part-time was a good way to support your writing career. Elmo’s writer friends said they attribute 30% of their time in advertising work for 70% or their wage. Not bad aye? Advertising is where the money’s at.

“If people ask you how you get to sleep at night,” Andrew Crook said, “tell them you sleep on a pile of money.”

Elmo Keep said you should only ever write for free when:

  • you’re starting out
  • it’s an amazing opportunity
  • its for a literary journal/small press that you really belive in.
  •  will advantage you in some way.

As Bede Payne pointed out “there’s a difference between money and value.”

The panel moved on from pay rates (which you can find a more thorough listing of Australian publication pay-rates on EWF’s site here) to contracts. Contract-king Bede Payne said to never sign a copyright agreement, which gives away the exclusive rights to your work allowing the newspaper/magazine to resell your work for their own profit. Always ask before submitting a piece if you are going to get paid. There’s plenty more on freelancing contracts by Andrew Crook, here.

Elmo Keep recommended to always use the google before pitching your story, because it’s probably been done to death. She said, “networking, fucking horrible part of this job” but necessary to promote yourself and have a rhinoceros-like skin.

It was a very interesting night, talking about money. The general agreement between writers is that we should talk about this more often. Why should it be secretive? Thinking about money is never a happy one, especially when it concides with your passion. It depends what kind of life you want.

And as my Mum always says, “money can only buy you a better class of misery.” So for now, bring on the baked beans.


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