So, we’re watching Almost Famous the other day and it gets to the part where, in 1973, Rolling Stone’s Ben Fong-Torres asks William if he wants to do a story on Stillwater for the magazine. He offers him $700, then ups to $1000 when he mistakenly assumes William’s silence means he’s holding out for more. Funny, yes, but Matt (my boyfriend, also a writer) and I looked at each other and laughed for a different reason — his fee is not that different to what freelance writing rates are today. In fact, getting $1000 for a feature is still quite a good rate unless you’re dealing with the big boys. Of course, Rolling Stone is one of the biggest and I’m sure the pay their writers well, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
If you want to really see freelance writing rates in action, check out Craigslist’s jobs section. The posts almost always offer completely laughable rates, or offer it for “someone who wants to build their portfolio” aka, write for free. There’s someone on there who’s taken to chastising people for these low offers and I get a kick out of their crusade.
The thing is, writers don’t get much respect. And it kind of sucks.
What do you do, though? … I just try to only write for people that compensate me accordingly — which they tend to once they realize that a crappy writer isn’t worth the battle…
Tough gig, this freelance writing.
KATIE GOT this comment from Matt: “Well put. I wonder what William got for his Stillwater cover story?”
To which I jumped in with this:
$1,000. We always paid what was promised. So, here’s the reality: Cameron Crowe’s first article for me & RS was on Poco, maybe 600 words, and he probably got $50-$75. That’s how it was in ‘73 and, yes, sad to say, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. Young Cameron did graduate to bigger stories–even a cover story within a year, and probably got to that $1000 figure, but it wasn’t overnight, and he didn’t fool me over the phone. We’d met at a Stones concert in L.A. weeks before, and again at a publicity firm’s offices on Sunset. In broad daylight, he had nary a wrinkle, and my reporter’s instincts told me he might be on the youthful side.
And he still is.
SO, THEN THERE'S Ali, who’s seen Almost Famous four times before, and then again, apparently early in September. He raved about Cameron Crowe’s work, and asked: “And why hasn’t Philip Seymour Hoffman done a Lester Bangs biopic yet? … and then there’s the Ben Fong-Torres character. Someone needs to make a buddy film with him and Bangs. Hey—I can write that!”
I’m sure you can. But can you write a piece like Grey Street Girl did? It’s entitled “Oh Great Histamine Gods, why hath you forsaken me?” and details, in graphic detail, her losing battle with allergies, despite downing four different kinds of meds. After a little wishful thinking about death and a mini-rant about Gov. Sarah Palin, she stops. Concerned about what she’s just put out over the great, unwashed Internet, she issues an all-cap warning that she was medicated while writing and says she “CANNOT BE HELD CIVILLY OR CRIMINALLY LIABLE IN ANY JURISDICTION IN EXISTENCE AT THE TIME OF THIS AFOREMENTIONED WRITING. DON'T SMOKE CRACK. STAY IN SCHOOL. YOUR MOM GOES TO COLLEGE! BEN FONG-TORRES!”
Grey Street Girl’s physician didn’t comment, but Kurt did: “If nothing else, your frustration with your health allows you to shout out my favorite new expletive. Ben Fong-Torres! ‘Craaazy!’”
Hey. I’m here to serve.
Causes Ben Fong-Torres Supports
Susan G. Komen For The Cure Rocket Dog Rescue