Nothing For Money

My productivity is about to drop off quite a bit for the next month, but for a good reason: the Connecticut Renaissance Faire opens this weekend, and I’ll be with my wife at the Storied Threads tent…when I’m not wandering around playing paparazzo.

This year’s faire is going with an unscripted, interaction-heavy approach this year, so my usual writing duties are very light; all I’ve had to do is work up is Mandrake’s Mystery, an interactive game patrons can play throughout the faire day. The concept is simple: patrons seek out performers and merchants sporting a numbered ribbon and hit them up for a clue (they often have to earn it by doing something for the clue-holder…this is often simultaneously a fun and sadistic exercise).

The game is very like “Clue” in that the players eliminate possible suspects, victims, items, and locations until they figure out who stole what from whom where. They get to go up on the stage during final revels and get knighted by the king for solving the mystery, which is totally new each weekend.

Writing this up took up my Friday afternoon, and as much as I wanted to go back to my YA novel (which is coming along splendidly, FYI), I first have to get some stuff done on the murder mystery project I’ve been hired to do for Stephen of Autumn Tree Productions (who, by the way, will be at the German encampment at CTRF).

Both of these are enjoyable projects in their way, but perhaps more importantly, they pay cash money. It’s nice to know that I’m at a point in my career where people are not just asking me to write stuff for them, they are offering to pay me for it.

When I started out on my writing career path, I did a lot more work for free. Yes, I was spending my valuable time for someone else’s benefit, but I was at a point where I needed experience and exposure as much as I needed money — if not more so. It was mostly small stuff like audition pieces for actor friends, content for faire newsletters, text for friends’ websites — the sort of work that usually took me an hour or so to crank out and was probably not worth that much even if I had been in a position to ask for payment.

I don’t know when I made the transition to writing mercenary, but I know that it was a significant decision to decide that my time was no longer free; that was me sloughing off that last of my amateur/aspiring writer status and moving into the professional category.

I think this is one of those career transition points that does not have a formula attached to it; there’s nothing out there (that I know of) that tells you exactly how many articles or scripts or copy you can write for free before you have to start asking for payment.

But that’s not a concern for me any longer. No, my big unanswerable question is how much can I rightfully charge for my efforts? I’ve read several articles with suggested rates and formulas for determining your own rates, but there does not seem to be any hard-and-fast industry standard for freelancer pay, so I’m left to field offers from potential employers and decide, based on nothing but my own gut, if it’s a good paycheck.

I don’t much care for this system, but the alternative is throwing out requested/suggested pay rates based on nothing that could wind up pricing me out of work. If anyone knows of a really good, solid, tested, reasonable method for determining freelance rates, feel free to pass it along.

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