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Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:46 pm
by Beetlejuice92
Hi everyone, I have a question regarding the salary I'm being offered on an ongoing Patreon writing job I was hired for. I've looked at other threads on this forum on the subject of money, and most of them seem to follow a dollar amount per word structure. While I understand how this makes sense when you're being paid for a job that hasn't turned a profit yet, I'm not sure if my situation is applicable to this.

I won't go into exact numbers of what this creator makes, but I will say that it's a few thousand dollars a month. I've been hired as the primary writer, however after doing the math, my cut comes out to about 6.5% of their current monthly profit. I've never been paid for this kind of work before, so I'm not sure if it's greedy of me to be thinking I should get more than that? Also, how would I deal with a situation where their Patreon following grows, which in turn would net them bigger profits, but because I'm being paid a flat fee, i won't be rewarded for that growth?

I'd really appreciate any advice, thanks.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 12:14 am
by LateWhiteRabbit
Most writing gigs are based on a certain amount per word. Articles on websites, submissions to magazines, etc. work this way. Playboy was pretty famous in the writing community back in the day - late 80s, early 90s - for paying way more than other magazines. They were harder to get published in, but they paid $0.03 a word at the time, when a lot of magazines were offering $0.01-$0.02 a word. (You used to be able to get published pamphlets that told you what nearly all the magazines on the market were offering, and details for submission. I think I still have one sitting on a bookshelf covered in dust from circa 1996.) It became a joke, but Playboy really DID have some of the best articles, because they attracted the best writers. Roland Dahl, Ian Flemming, Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury, etc. all wrote articles and stories for Playboy. Why did I go into this tangent? Because that was a time when magazines were still successful and raking in good advertising dollars.

So, you are working for what sounds like a successful Patreon project. I'd say the "few thousand dollars a month" detail means it would not be unfair to compare it to a successful magazine back in the day. So, if you go by that metric, and say that a successful magazine back in the day would have offered you $0.02 a word, adjusted for inflation that would be $0.04 a word - you might be getting paid enough or not. Some freelance article writers these days get $0.10 a word, or even more if they are experienced and well-known enough.

A magazine pay rate is a good comparison in this case, I think, because like a Patreon project, most of them were monthly.

I would say that you shouldn't necessarily expect more money just because the Patreon is making more money unless that was a stipulation of your hiring. Most writing jobs are on a contract basis, meaning you take payment for the requested job agreed upon and that's it. Ray Bradbury didn't get more than $0.03 a word if the issue of Playboy he wrote for sold twice as many copies that month - whether because of him or a popular model - because he agreed to write the article for $0.03 a word.

How integral is your writing to the project? How complicated is your writing? Are you writing branching and condition based dialogue? You may be owed more than the writer of a straight-forward magazine article would make. Could you be easily replaced? Is the Patreon getting pledges due to the writing, or something else? All things to consider before trying to renegotiate.

Hard to give you more advice without more details, but I think this should help you.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 1:06 am
by Beetlejuice92
Hi, thanks for taking the time to reply. First of all, as far as whether or not I'm replaceable, then it would be arrogant and naive of me to think anything other than, probably. Even though I went through an application process in which I obviously came out on top, I'm fully aware that someone else could do the job. As good or better of a job? I'm not so sure. I'm also writing the main story for the game, and yes, there is choice based dialogue with branching paths. In regards to what makes the game popular? In all honestly, it's probably not the writing. But my goal is of course to change that. One of the main reasons I applied was because I felt I could elevate it beyond what it is.

Ultimately though, what I mostly take away from your post is that you're generally not of the opinion that someone's salary should be dependent on the success of the employer. So I suppose maybe I've been looking at it the wrong way...
Anyway, thanks again for giving me your thoughts.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 2:56 am
by jack_norton
As an employer (I hired many people over the years though I do all the Patreon stuff myself) I can give my opinion. One thing most people forget is how hard was to get there. You see someone making $$$ and think immediately you deserve a cut. Sure you need to be paid fairly. However, to get where that person is now, took a lot of hard work and also personal investment (I don't know what kind of game is but to get few thousand on Patreon you need to have worked a lot! I am not even at $1k with mine and I've been making games for 10 years... :lol:).
So it's easy to see the amount and think you deserve XYZ - however, to get there, that person probably has made a lot of sacrifices and also took all the risks (because you can't know before if your project will succeed or will be a flop, losing all the money and time you invested).

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:31 am
by Mammon
Mostly just what the two before me said.

You are looking at what they make, and that can easily be considered too little if they're popular or gathered a good donating fandom. But, as said before, that's their work and effort that raked it in. They managed to obtain that fandom, and you're lucky enough to add your name to one of their projects. Of course such name recognition and a chance to obtain fans of your own shouldn't be all you're getting, I bet there's some employers who'll try that. But you're getting paid, and you chose to apply to this gig.

So I advice not to look at percentages and at the absolute number you're getting. You might be getting too little, but you should look at it from a cent per word angle. Assuming LateWhiteRabbit to be absolutely correct on everything and taking the amount of words vs pay (The script length they asked for, not what you'll be delivering if you're going to do more.), if you're getting paid to little then you can start asking for more. But if you're getting $0.05 when the rate is $0.04 and you've got no reputation or better-paying projects yourself to demand more, then asking wouldn't be smart. (Double-check what the normal rates are from other sources too, though.)

Also remember that you're an unknown factor for this guy/gall. Not only did you already say yourself that writing isn't exactly the most important part of their project, they don't know yet if you can deliver as promised. A lot of internet writers who send in a sample of their work cannot work on a deadline, long projects or a storyline given by someone else. They don't know yet if you'll be performing well, if things will be going smoothly between the two of you, and if the audience will like your writing. It might be that you trying to make the writing more important, only for the creator to not want such an invasive/heavy script or for the audience to be turned off by it.

I'd advice to look at your income in absolute numbers, not percentages. If that's fine, finish the project. If they ask you back for another project or keep you on as their staff writer once that project is finished, then you can go asking for more. Because that's when they'll be asking you for the job rather than the other way around, and they'll know what you'll be worth.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:29 am
by Beetlejuice92
Thanks for the advice guys. You've made a good point about not looking at the percentage when deciding how much I should be getting paid, because it's true, I wasn't involved in the following they've garnered until now, so it isn't right of me to be expecting a cut of that. Once I've proven myself an asset we can always renegotiate anyway. Also, I did the math on what I'd be getting paid, and it comes out to about $0.07 per word, which judging by what I've recently learned, is more than fair.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:36 am
by traineroflegend
Beetlejuice92 wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:29 am
Thanks for the advice guys. You've made a good point about not looking at the percentage when deciding how much I should be getting paid, because it's true, I wasn't involved in the following they've garnered until now, so it isn't right of me to be expecting a cut of that. Once I've proven myself an asset we can always renegotiate anyway. Also, I did the math on what I'd be getting paid, and it comes out to about $0.07 per word, which judging by what I've recently learned, is more than fair.
According to the Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of America, a professional writer is one who earns $0.06/word or more. Your rate is higher. If you’re interested in getting more out of it, I would suggest you ask to take on more work, not get paid more.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:53 am
by LateWhiteRabbit
jack_norton wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 2:56 am
I don't know what kind of game is but to get few thousand on Patreon you need to have worked a lot! I am not even at $1k with mine and I've been making games for 10 years... :lol:).
Beetlejuice92 wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 1:06 am
In regards to what makes the game popular? In all honestly, it's probably not the writing. But my goal is of course to change that. One of the main reasons I applied was because I felt I could elevate it beyond what it is.
I was perhaps being a little cheeky when I was asking about evaluating whether your writing was the most important draw on the Patreon project. I know what kind of Patreon game projects get thousands of dollars a month. :wink: Nothing at all wrong with that, but it is why I asked.
Beetlejuice92 wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 1:06 am
Ultimately though, what I mostly take away from your post is that you're generally not of the opinion that someone's salary should be dependent on the success of the employer. So I suppose maybe I've been looking at it the wrong way...
Yeah, that's my general opinion. I usually advocate for artists or anyone freelancing to do contract work and get paid for the job rather than taking a percentage deal. First, that's a crap shoot. A lot of times you don't know if something will be successful or not - so it could work to your advantage, but often won't. Second, it isn't really fair on the project creator, because keeping track of profit sharing can be an accounting nightmare, and it can often seem like punishing them for success if they are suddenly paying out more money to everyone. Third, profit sharing is something PARTNERS do. So if you are profit sharing, you should be sharing EVERYTHING. Risk, liability, work, stress, etc. Personally I find it a lot less stressful to do art for clients for a set price, cash my check (so-to-speak), and move on.

But ultimately I'm for negotiating and keeping to agreements. If you agree to do work for a certain price, I would do it, prove yourself invaluable and great to work with, and thus secure yourself future work with that client. You can discuss price increases for future work with them, once, as Mammon said, they know you and the work you do. And Jack Norton will be the first to tell you that if you prove yourself dependable and a good communicator, you'll be in HIGH demand.
Beetlejuice92 wrote: Thanks for the advice guys. You've made a good point about not looking at the percentage when deciding how much I should be getting paid, because it's true, I wasn't involved in the following they've garnered until now, so it isn't right of me to be expecting a cut of that. Once I've proven myself an asset we can always renegotiate anyway. Also, I did the math on what I'd be getting paid, and it comes out to about $0.07 per word, which judging by what I've recently learned, is more than fair.
Yeah, I think that's fair.

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:21 am
by Beetlejuice92
LateWhiteRabbit wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:53 am
I was perhaps being a little cheeky when I was asking about evaluating whether your writing was the most important draw on the Patreon project. I know what kind of Patreon game projects get thousands of dollars a month. :wink: Nothing at all wrong with that, but it is why I asked.
lol, I have no idea what you're talking about. :roll:

Re: Am I Being Paid Fairly?

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:56 pm
by Mutive
As noted above, "pro" magazines pay upwards of $0.06/word. So if you're making more than that, you're not doing *too* badly for yourself.

(In fact, it's probably even better as most of these markets don't pay on spec, so you're writing a story, submitting it, and *hoping* you get $0.06/word. Note that most have rejection rates well above 99% so...chances are good you're writing a lot more than the one story you made a sale on. With that said, different genres pay better and worse than others. Speculative fiction tends to pay...not very well.)

But I'd also look at what makes sense to you. How long does it take you to write/edit for the game? How much do you feel you'd need to be paid to make it worth the effort to you?

(If you'd do it for free, that's good to know. Then anything you make is gravy. If it would cost $15/hr to get you to do this - or you're having to turn down other jobs that pay equivalently (that you'd like to do as much or more) - see how fast you write and whether you're hitting the $/hr mark at the current position. If you're making $0.07/word and want $15/hr, you'd have to be writing about 214 words per hour to make that wage. But you can plug in your writing speed, payment per word, etc. and see if the hourly wage you're making seems "right" to you or not.)