Blog,  Editing,  Journalism

2018 – what I pitched, published and earned

This post is the blog post version of a Twitter thread I posted a couple of weeks ago.

I recently became a member of StudyHallXYZ. This is a group of writers (mostly American or American based) sharing information and assistance.

One of the things I noticed that they were doing come the end of the year was creating these Twitter threads of what they had pitched, earned and published in the hope of letting other writers know who had been paid what and by whom.


This intrigued me. One of the biggest issues we have facing freelancers in Australia is that we don’t know who is getting what rate and that sometimes a company may pay one person a particular rate and another person another one.

And even in the best case scenario of there being a set rate within the company paid to all freelancers, it often is too low a rate to make a living from.

To combat this, various groups have banded together to share information and rates. There are Binder groups, groups like StudyHallXYZ and Young Writers of Australia but there are also initiatives by unions like MEAA.

MEAA runs a public rate tracker. You can add the rates you have been paid in and check out the list of what rates others have been paid. MEAA collects this information for several reasons:

  • to have enough data about current rates to create a reasonable rate to put in their recommended freelance rates PDF;
  • to have enough data to be able determine if they need to adjust their membership fee structure for freelance members;
  • to have enough data to whenever legally possible, lobby companies and others to pay better rates to freelancers;
  • to have enough data to whenever legally possible, lobby companies and others to ask for better conditions if rates cannot be raised like payment into super (pension) etc;
  • to have enough data to when possible, make a case to amend the Fair Work Act and other necessary legislation to allow for negotiation and conditions for freelancers to be legally set; and,
  • to have enough data to distribute to other members and non members so that everyone ends up negotiating for themselves with the same rate as a reserve rate.

January

In January 2018 I was mostly in Sri Lanka and trying to organise things because I knew that in February I was scheduled to move everything I owned over from Perth to Naarm/Melbourne.

I was interviewing African authors via Facebook Live videos and they were attracting thousands of views. My client was the publisher Africa World Books. I was paid $100 per video. I have linked some of them below.

I was also asked to speak at the Australian Young Greens conference. I had to dial in from overseas and there were tech issues but I got there in the end. That was about $100 for my appearance.

TOTAL: $300


February

View this post on Instagram

It seemed like a farewell to #whadjuk land in #fremantle today. This is a favourite spot of mine – the staff have never failed to make my life easier whenever I have come here and these days I really value that. I am moving away soon. It will be a hectic February partly due to that. Fremantle is my Australian home town. Whadjuk/Nyoongar people have always been welcoming to me. This is where I got citizenship. This is where Mayor Brad Pettit will run you over with his bike if you are walking past town hall as he comes zooming out of the side doors. This is where the cannon fires at one pm and you turn to watch the tourists jump. This is where the Italian and Greek grandpas catch herring off the South Mole. This is the place I wrote about for four years for a column so people in Sri Lanka knew about another little tiny place in the world. This is the place where fairies are real and Mother Mary walks down the street to bless the fleet once a year. And this little corner here, this little plaque – this is Fremantle (and Perth's) first library, writing centre and for a time Freo's first town hall. It is hard to move away. #freelancinglife #freelancing #fremantlecafes #fremantlestory #freo #freolife #freolove #writeratwork #writing #editing

A post shared by Marisa Wikramanayake (@marisa.wikramanayake) on

During February I was packing, sorting out flights for my cat, planning for attending someone’s wedding before I flew over – there was a lot to do.

I edited five short stories for Djed Press, an online journal that publishes First Nations and POC writing and assists First Nations and POC editors.

I landed in Naarm/Melbourne on February 14. One week after I landed, I had to fly out to a face to face meeting in Eora Nation/Sydney for MEAA.

View this post on Instagram

Where am I? In #sydney right now, at the @withmeaa national media section committee and federal council meetings. If you are an Australian freelancer in the media/publishing sector, hello, I am your delegate, your representative with the union and your first point of contact. Leave a comment or get in touch if you have an issue or a question. It doesn't matter if you are a member or not. And oh my word, I am tired. It has been fun and interesting and I got to see my WA buddies again whom I miss terribly. I have no reason to regret the people I have met by not just joining the union but getting more involved with it. Guess where I am flying off to as of tomorrow evening? #travellingram #uniongram #union #withmeaa #fedcouncil2018 #paythewriters #changetherules #meaa #unionism #unionist #activist #activism #solidarity

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This was just part of what I have to do as a voluntary federal delegate for MEAA. I wasn’t paid for those three days and then I had to duck out early on the last day and fly to Canberra.

View this post on Instagram

Where is Marisa today? In #canberra! At Parliament House. It is a bit gloomy today since there has been a lot of non stop rain and flooding but I got to meet Shawn the prawn and see a lot of the behind the scenes of #Parliament. It is very pretty but it was also rather wet so I don't have a lot of photos. Thanks to @crankynick for showing me around – it was so much fun! I am here to speak at National Library on Wednesday night at the Canberra Society of Editors so make sure to come along. There will be drinks and nibbles and I will chat about business stuff and being efficient at it and you can also ask me about mentoring and any @withmeaa related things. I also got to meet a former editor of the @canberratimes today which was exciting! #editing #editoratwork #editinglife #freelancing #auspol #politics #travelgram #travelling #editorslife #editors #editor #publishing #media

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Once in Canberra I was hanging out with an old editor friend and colleage and presented a workshop to the Canberra Society of Editors. I got to see Canberra and Federal Parliament and old and new pals.


TOTAL: $250


March

By the time I landed back in Naarm/Melbourne it was the start of March.

Everything I had done up until then had been scheduled months before in advance and there had been no time inbetween flying, packing, unpacking and doing what was on my schedule to organise any more work for March onwards.

So I now had a gap of two months where I didn’t have any freelancing work coming in. I also knew that come May I would be heading home to Sri Lanka for a family friend’s wedding and that there were some things planned ahead for June and July.

March and April were supposed to be the months in which I earned enough to offset May and the times I would not be free in June and July.

I hustled as best I could but that is the point, sometimes the hustling pays off later on.

TOTAL: $0


April

In April, something finally came my way. An old editor friend needed assistance and sent me a thesis chapter to edit.

But the rest of it was crickets chirping. So I kept hustling, kept applying, and kept my focus on unpacking and settling in and planning my May trip.

TOTAL: $500


Photo by jazbeck on Flickr

May

May was such a mentally tough month for me.

I wanted to work, I wanted to start working and I was very worried that if I could not find work in May that I would not be able to do so at any other time.

When you move to a new place and you are looking at the prospects of how much work there is in that place for you to be able to do – it can be hard to judge that and it can be hard to figure out how much time you need to give yourself before saying “Ok, this is not a good place for me at all.”

But as you will find out later on, my friends came through for me this year.

And May was hard. I got knocked back from a job simply because I was not going to be around in May since I was heading home. Even though it could have been done long distance till I returned and this was offered to me as an option.

But I had to go home. My family friend’s wedding was important.

Where you fall in terms of how you decide whether to choose between work or something like this is going to be different of course. And maybe it seems crazy to other people but I chose to go home. His wedding would have of course been absolutely awesome even if I was not there – tons of his friends and relatives were there.

TOTAL: $0


My desk in Phillips cabin at the KSP Writers Centre (c) Marisa Wikramanayake
My desk in Phillips cabin at the KSP Writers Centre (c) Marisa Wikramanayake

June

I raced back to, not Melbourne, but Perth, at the end of May, start of June. This was the start of my first week as the Inaugural KSP – Varuna Foundation Fellow. I posted a series on my stay and writing Gin and Tonic here. I wrote a massive ten thousand words.

Then I said hi to my union colleagues in Perth who I miss very much and raced back to Melbourne and fell into the middle of the Emerging Writers Festival.

What this meant was running into a lot of writers I knew. And at the same time I found myself longlisted for the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award which surprised me greatly.

I also got to speak at the Continuum Sci Fi Convention in Melbourne. This was unpaid and I stepped in when another POC writer friend put out a call out. I was on five different panels and it was quite a lovely experience.

Here’s a post about the book reviewing panel I was on.

I also ran a course on freelancing online for Writers’ Bloc. This was something I set up in December 2017 but it happened in June 2018 and I got paid $221.50 in July – half of the income depending on the numbers of people we got to turn up.

Writers’ Bloc are amazing people. I highly recommend them.

TOTAL: $0


July

July was interesting. I turned 35.

My mother came to visit me for three weeks and my sister joined me for the birthday weekend. By this point I had been commissioned for a piece for Audrey Daybook but was waiting for the issue to come out.

At the end of July, I also had to prepare to fly back to Sydney and go to Varuna for the second week of my fellowship stay there. I think I managed another five to seven thousand words while I was there since I was handwriting everything.

TOTAL: $221.50


August

I think I finally got paid and had the issue for Audrey Daybook come out in August. In the journalism business, this is often the case. Some things take time.

I got paid $480 for the vegan leather piece and $1000 for editing a manuscript for a private client. Woohoo! Finally! Money coming in!

August also saw me host writer friends who came over for Melbourne Writers Festival.

TOTAL: $1480


September

In September I copyedited a business PhD thesis for a private client for $1000. The money from that took some time to come in however.

Writers Victoria put me on their books as a mentor and as luck would have it, I had Cher Tan lined up with a grant in hand to get mentoring from me. Her grant paid Writers Victoria who paid me and I got about $400 AUD for mentoring her over several weeks and we had a blast and became good friends.

I also had to fly back to NSW to go to Newcastle for the National Young Writers Festival and I was on three panels. It was quite an eye opening experience.


TOTAL: $1400


October

In October, DjedPress paid me $100 to edit a couple of pieces. Then the Digital Writers Festival paid me $100 to be in a podcast episode on the union and the state of freelancing.

The payment for my panel appearances at the National Young Writers Festival came through at $150 all up. And then I got on the books at a trade magazine publishing company to write some advertorial/copywriting for them and that came to about $0.70 per word or $998 in total.

By this point I was debating whether I should head home for Christmas or not. I had wanted to earn enough for November, December and January in advance before I bought any tickets to fly home so that I would know that I had been paid prior to taking time off.

At some point in October I wrote a piece for SBS for $200 but I cannot count it in my earnings because I am still waiting on payment for that.

TOTAL: $1348


November

In November I got $200 for speaking at Queer Stories (the podcast episode of my story will be up soon) and I mentored DjedPress editorial trainees for an hour and a half.

I also wrote a feature article on African literature in Australia for Books & Publishing that netted me $749.

November saw me fly to Brisbane for MEAA meetings so I was really worried that I would not have enough time to not just find work for November and December but also to do any work prior to having to fly to Brisbane and potentially to Sri Lanka.

TOTAL: $1024


December

But my friends saved me at the last minute.

I got a proofreading gig from one friend – a very quick turnaround one.
I got to copyedit a report for about $296. And I also edited a monograph and created an index for it for about $800.

And then while I was at home, I got to report on Sri Lankan politics for the South China Morning Post for what I am hoping will end up being about $386 AUD or roughly thereabouts once certain taxes are taken out. But I will probably get paid that in either January or February so I may not be able to count it under December earnings.

TOTAL: $1100

TOTAL FOR THE CALENDAR YEAR: $7623.50

TOTAL PITCHES: I don’t know, I didn’t keep track of them. I might do so this year.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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