A potential employer wants me to write a 500 word article to try out for the position. He’s already seen lots of samples of my published writing. What is your advice on this? How do I ask for payment on this article, if that’s what I do? Thanks.
Thanks for your question. This comes up more often than you might guess. Print magazines often ask for an article “on spec.” That means if they like it they’ll buy it. In print it’s a totally acceptable request, particularly in the beginning of the relationship. It’s understood and sometimes even spelled out that if they accept it they will pay, period.
With the web and the folks wanting to only pay a buck or two for articles, it’s gotten to be a problem because it’s so very easy to rip you off by publishing your article and never paying you for it.
You don’t say how much this particular employer is willing to pay, so here’s a rule of thumb:
If they aren’t paying you a dime a word or more, don’t do anything on spec or as a sample.
My thinking is this. At a dime a word, they are planning on paying $50 per article (yes, there are people willing to pay that and more for 500 word articles). I figure if they are willing to go that high they are probably legit. So I might write one sample. Before I wrote I’d be likely to fire off a quick reply saying something like “okay, but how will I get paid for that one?” Sounding naive at this point is a good idea.
But it would also make sense, since you’ve got samples they’ve already seen, to simply respond with something like, “I’m sorry; I’m unwilling to give you a free sample since you’ve already seen what I can do.”
In fact, that response might work even for the low paying employers.
Whatever you decide, don’t spend much time on it – not until you’re actually writing for pay.
Who has experience with this they’d like to share? Tell us about it.
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