Writing Is Hard Work

Musings of a Hard Working Writer...

  • Roger Colby

Writing For Friends: When Do You Charge Them?

I recently had the pleasure of being asked to write a motivational book for a friend who is a motivational speaker.  It wasn’t much, just a 7 day booklet that had five very short stories or vignettes that illustrated 7 different concepts about teen leadership. 

The booklet was really successful, and I did the work pro bono because he was my friend and it wasn’t really that much work for me.  He passes out the booklet at his speaking engagement to help students further examine the things he talks to them about during his speech. 

Well, he liked it alot, so much in fact that he wanted me to increase the size of the booklet to a full fledged book and after looking into what this would require of me, realized that I would have to put my novel on hold and even possibly not blog so much in order to complete it by the deadline we set for the rough draft. 

My predicament was: At what point do I ask my friend to pay me for the effort I put forth?  I don’t want to ruin the relationship by demanding a large sum, but like I said,it’s a lot of work.  My friend needs a more expanded book where each of the seven topics on leadership need to have five stories instead of the one I created for him in the first place.  He will write the “questions to ponder” at the end of each story, but I had to come up with 28 more short scenes or vignettes to go with the original seven I wrote. 

In pondering this enigma, I came up with a few rules:

1. Don’t Be Afraid – The fear of damaging the relationship should not be the issue.  If the project your friend has asked you to do for them is large or will take more than an hour to do, you should expect payment as a professional writer.  Most editors who are hired as proofers make around $25 an hour as a start.  You have to level with your friend and tell them this.  They may not have any idea about it at all, and have a misconception that writers just love writing so much that they will sit around and churn this stuff out without being paid for the fun of it.

2.  Break It To Them Gently – Start off by showing them how much work this will be and what you will have to sacrifice in order for the project to be completed in a timely manner and in professional quality.  Once they see what it entails they will agree with you that you need to be paid.

3.  Get It In Writing – Verbal agreements can be a nightmare.  Write out a short e-mail or something detailing what you will do for them and what they have agreed to pay.  You need to have them sign it and you sign it so that there is at least something there to keep the both of you honest.  There is nothing wrong with this at all.  I told my friend I would expect a portion of the royalties for the book that he felt would be worth my effort.  I could have taken a lump sum, but then my name is on the booklet as the writer, so I figured I should be paid for each book sold.

4.  What Is It Worth To You? – This question is a good question to ask of your friend because it is non-threatening and places the ball in their court about payment, keeping you both honest.  When discussing payment, this is the best question to ask.  Honor your friend with this and they won’t let you down.

5.  Talk About Other Things – Don’t make this contract the center of your conversations.  Continue on with your friendship, hanging out, texting and talking on the phone.  Once the job is done, move on to something else in the friendship. 

If any of you have ever done writing or creative work for friends, I would appreciate your comments.  Please feel free to write them below.

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