Freelancers: How much do you charge/or get paid for a story?

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by jamesjems, Oct 25, 2006.

  1. Okay. I did it. I signed the paper...I live in a small town and I've been shooting and writing stories on a piecemeal basis for years...a couple of pics a couple of stories per year...just to celebrate our small community. Two days ago, the editor called me up and asked me to cover the homecoming football game. Pics and story. He could pay me $40. I signed a first use/non-exclusive agreement with the publishing company and scratched my head in wonderment of what I had just done. It all happened so fast. Technically I'm an independent contractor. I'd like to make more if he calls me up again. But I have no idea what my pics/story is worth.'s some more background: The paper is a weekly, owned by a conglomerate that owns several small community weeklies. I think these types of conglomerates are actually making money...they cover small town news that isn't covered by anyone else and no one can get the news for free from the internet. And the circulation is small, 2400/week for our paper. But it's stable. Subcriptions are stable. Tourists will always buy it and marvel at the quaintness of it all...This publication is actually flush with cash...not like a major metro daily facing extinction. So here's my question: By exactly what amount did I undervalue my own services? What would you have accepted for submitting 700 words and matching photos? We've got to share info and work on keeping our prices up. James
  2. I'll let others come up with a figure but I have to ask how many hours are involved covering this story? Including any travel time delivery time etc. Are you using your car? I don't think you are making any money on this. You really need to look at Cost of doing buisness. I believe Editorial Photographjy site has this.I.m sure someone perhaps Ellis will chime in on this as he is in the trenches every day. It been too many years since I've been in buisness for me do be really specific but I don't see you paying yourself more than a couple of bucks for that job.
  3. A community daily in my area would have paid two stringers a total of $65 for that job -
    $25 for the writer, $40 for photog. Still not enough to cover anyone's costs, much less
    compensation for their time. Needess to say, they're always hard-up for stringers.

    I've seen reasonabe cost-of-doing-business estimates at $900/day for career

    BTW - don't believe the hype about dailies being broke. Most actually run well in the black
    quarter-to-quarter. Investors are demanding major returns today, as they claim that
    declining readership will rob them of future revenue.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I've seen reasonabe cost-of-doing-business estimates at $900/day for career photojournalists.
    You're saying that in order to make $50,000 a year, a career photojournalist would have to pull down roughly $280,000 a year if they are doing freelnce work? I don't know any pjs, regardless of their experience.
  5. If you want to do it for fun and experience, go ahead. You will have a good time. It will be a thrill to see your stuff in print and you will meet interesting people.

    Then, after a time you will become insulted by the work and pathos you bring to the job and the little you are paid for it. These weeklys are usually highly profitable. You deserve more. My magic number is nothing less than $100.00 for the assignment.

    Papers value what they pay for. They preach a good game at standing up for the little guy but they are notorious for poor pay, poorer working conditions and no loyalty at all. You are not covered by their insurance. Have a run-in with the cops trying to cover something and the paper will run and hide on you. Wait until they use your picture in advertising rather than editorial and you have no model release. Hurt yourself and no workman's comp. Wait until you write a story and they decide not to run it. Do you still get paid?

    Unfortunately the world is full of people who are willing to work for the "glory". If that is what you enjoy I say go for it. Just don't expect much in return. If you would do it for the sheer joy anyway, who cares what you are paid.

    An alternative. Get a copy of "Writers Market" and see what trips your trigger. You may collect a bunch of rejection slips but you can cast your net as far as you like.
  6. In the dim and distant past I edited two local newspapers in the UK. One had a circulation of 4,000 and the other 10,000. Neither made great profits despite having strong advertising revenues. Think about the costs involved: rent, rates, administration, salaries, office equipment, typesetting and page layout equipment, vehicles... the list goes on and on. Photography is largely incidental to local newspapers and, frankly, the sort of picture that most editors want is one that shows lots of faces, so that the picturees and their families will buy extra copies. I've also seen this from the other side, as a freelance photographer myself. I was lucky, as I was sited in an area that was disputed by no less than six newspapers. I sold most images three or four times and, before you ask, no-one ever complained and they kept on coming back for more. Why? Because those pictures were stuffed with faces and all the faces were named in the captions. So, James, I think that, far from undervaluing you, the editor is being pretty generous. In the current climate, I think $40 for that package sounds pretty good.
  7. Jeff - Actually, the target salary for the estimate was $40k. But I entirely agree, I don't know
    of any agency or publication paying anywhere near that amount. That estimate made lots of
    assumptions, obviously. Though some of the estimates seemed generous to me, I didn't
    think them unreasonable.

    My point wasn't that we all should be demanding $900/day. It was that, by what I considered
    reasonable estimates, there is a huge discrepancy between what we 'should' make from a
    business point of view and what clients are willing to pay.
  8. I get $100-$250 per shot, but it's a large paper. If the editor does not want to come off with any more money I would see if he will run a free ad for you... that is if you do portraits and such. I supply photos to a Local Crime Web site in trade for free ad space. He/She should also refer you to anyone that needs photos taken for Newspaper ads. Good Luck Nice photo.
  9. One guideline an older reporter offered back in my newspaper days was to price freelance work according to your overtime rate. Take whatever you're getting paid in your day job (newspaper work or anything else) and multiple it times 1.5 (time and a half). Then multiply by the number of hours involved with the job. Consider time getting prepped for the job, time on site, time back at home/office to write and/or develop/print/photoshop pictures. That gives you your price. I work in PR in Washington, DC, and when I hire a photographer to shoot a news type assignment, the minimum we pay is around $400 to $500 for a 2-3 hour assignment. When I hire shooters in New York, it's more like $1,000 to $1,200. Messenger fees and cab rides are more than you're getting paid for the whole job. The last freelance newspaper story I did 12 years ago paid $150 and the last 1,000 word magazine story I did paid $500. Now if I haven't depressed you, here's how you make money on the deal that you've got: Take the $40 from the paper and shoot the game. That gives you an excuse to be at the game. Then take everything you shoot at the game and post it to Shutterfly's professional service, where people can order prints at your price and Shutterfly does the fulfillment, subtracts the printing costs and sends the rest to you. Then make it known to football parents and students that the photos are available for sale. Ideally get the paper to carry a credit line like "prints available at"
  10. I've done some stringing over the last year or so for a similar situation - a couple of hometown newspapers owned by one company, albeit with larger circulation.

    It's per picture price with them - $15 for the first picture used in an article, and $10/picture after a three picture article you get $35.00.

    I'm doing this for the experience and the learning, not the money, so the small amounts don't bother me.
  11. Don't take any less than $150 for a half-day/small assignment, if your work is professional quality. You should get $300 for a full-day assignment. This is not to mention that you wrote a story as well! These rates are what freelancers get paid in the larger journalistic world, at least by Getty Images. AP, Reuters, Wire Image, et all are the same as far as I have heard. (Don't know what writers get paid...Getty doesn't have any!) You get paid by the assignment. Don't let them pay you by the picture or by the word. You are a hired professional hired for your professional skillset to do a specific shoot. You are not hired to produce a specific image. Whether or not you produce a printable image has nothing to do with how you get paid. It only has to do with if you get hired again!

    You are better off working in a grungy factory than doing that job for $40. At least you would have decent pay, benefits, union representation, and would be done as soon as the whistle blew.

    If you don't assign value to your own work, nobody else will.

  12. In situations such as this I contact the paper as a potential advertizer and find out what they'd charge me to have in an advert of the size they want to use my picture, and what their lineage charge is for the accompanying text. It might give you a huge surprise to see what they charge, and it also gives you a valid starting point for negotiating from. As was said - the value of your work depends a lot on what you determine your skills are worth.
  13. Pics and a story for $40? You're kidding right?

    That will barely cover gas and expenses. If your goal is just to get published, then fine, but if you want to make it as a pro photographer, you'll have to demand more than that. Likely, though, the editor will simply say "sorry, that's all we can pay" and then hire the next wannabe PJ that walks through the door. That is the reality of small town newspapers.
  14. "If you don't assign value to your own work, nobody else will" (Keith Lebow)
    Great quote Keith. If you are a professional photographer never negotiate for a lower price, while offering the same services. Always adjust what you are offering in exchange for changing the price. Example: I can't shoot a full day at that rate but I can do a half day at that rate.
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