Psst ... Are You Listening?
I don't know how many of you need to hear this. But if you're anything like me, you're gonna need to hear it over and over again.

Your skills have value.

Many of us spend our days doing work that we love. And that sometimes feels like its own reward. But don't be fooled. It's not enough.

Your skills have value.
Photo by Michal Czyz on Unsplash.
Sometimes you'll be asked to learn on the job. Or stretch your skills in ways they haven't been stretched before. And that's good! You should always be learning and stretching and acquiring new skills.

But just because you're new to certain things doesn't mean you don't deserve fair compensation for the work you're doing.

Your skills have value.

You might be working on a project that's underfunded. Or understaffed. Or both.

And it would be totally understandable if you found yourself wanting to be helpful. But still…

Your skills have value.

You might work for an organization with an important mission. Like public radio. Or another non-profit.

And that organization might tell you that if you really believed in their mission, you'd be willing to work for less.

But that's just silly, because…

Your skills have value.

Your skills have value.

Your skills have value.

Please forgive all the repetition, but I just can't say it enough.

Your skills have value.
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Look, I started in this industry a LONG time ago. When radio was "dying" and podcasting didn't even exist.

And so, for a lot of years, if you had a job in this industry, you wouldn't ever think of giving it up.

You wouldn't demand a raise. Or a promotion. Or even a job description that vaguely resembled the job you were doing.

And by YOU, I mean ME.

We're talking about me right now.

So, fun fact: I was an associate producer for 16 years.


Okay, if we're being perfectly honest about it, I was an assistant producer for some of those years. But nobody told me that. When I was hired, I was told I was an associate producer. So that's the title I used.

At some point, someone came to me and said, "We were doing a review and discovered that you've actually been an assistant producer all this time. Don't worry. We've fixed it. You're an associate producer now."


I guess?!?

But by this time, I had already long outgrown the associate producer title. And, truthfully, I'd stopped using it. I was reporting regularly. I'd covered the Olympics and other major sporting events. By that point, I might have even won my first national Murrow award.

So I used the title producer/reporter.

But just because I told people that I was a producer/reporter, that didn't mean I actually was being compensated for all that extra work. Nope. My employer had 100% been getting a producer/reporter for the cost of an assistant producer.


A decade or so later -- after 16 years as an assistant/associate producer -- I was offered the senior producer role.

Awesome, right???

Well…not so fast. Because really, it was an executive producer role. But they had never updated my predecessor's job title, so the job title they were offering me was wrong, too.

And even though I was completely aware that they were giving me the wrong job title, I had been so underpaid for so long, I had no idea what the job was worth.

I had no idea that my skills had value.

So when they offered me $90,000 to run a nationally syndicated public radio program in one of the ten most expensive cities in the U.S., I took it.

No negotiation. No debate. I just said, "Yes."

To be fair to my employer, they did not expect me to take the first offer. They expected me to negotiate. They planned for me to negotiate. They intentionally offered me less than they had to give, to leave room for me to negotiate.

But I didn't know that. All I knew is that they were offering me much more money than I had ever been paid before.

So I took it.

A couple of years later, I discovered GlassDoor. And I used the information on that site to negotiate my way into the correct job title and a $30,000 raise.


Of course, by that point, I was hosting the aforementioned nationally syndicated public radio program while also running the search for a new, permanent host and continuing all of my executive producer and producer/reporter duties.

Let's just say…my raise did not come close to covering that!

But look, the point of this story isn't to start a debate over whether or not I was paid enough by my previous employer.

Truth is, some people are going to read this story and be horrified that a public radio station paid me so much money.

And other people are going to be horrified that they paid me so little.

The point of this story is to say, we have to talk about these things. Even when it's embarrassing.

Especially when it's embarrassing.

Over the past few years, I've gotten a lot better at negotiating a rate that reflects my value. And, there are better tools to help me figure out what my rate should be, like AIR's rate guides.

As a freelancer, I don't just have just one rate. I charge more for story editing than I do for reporting. I charge less for executive producing than I do for teaching custom workshops.

My rate for each type of work varies, based on the value our industry has placed on that work.

(And based on some other factors. Like the length of the contract. Long term jobs pay less per hour than short term jobs. But that's totally okay! Administrative costs are real, and switching between jobs takes time off my billable hours. So if you need me for 400 hours, you're gonna get a much better rate than if you need me for 4.)

It was clear when I became a freelancer that not all my jobs were going to pay the same rate. But early on, I decided to set a floor. A rate I would not dip below.

No matter how much I like the project.

No matter how much stability it would give me.

Or how good it would look on my resume.

Or how much I like the people I'd be working with.

If a prospective employer couldn't hit my minimum rate, I would walk away.

For the sake of transparency, I'm going to tell you that rate. And believe me, I know that some of you are going to immediately say that I'm charging way too much. And others of you are going to send me emails telling me that I'm charging way too little.

But for me, in 2022, the rate I don't dip below is…$100/hour.

Lots of jobs pay me more than $100/hour. Some pay me significantly more. But I do not work for less than $100/hour.


I'm telling you my minimum rate, not to start a debate about whether my number is right.

I'm confident in my number. I have good reasons for my number. And my number works for me.

I'm telling you my number to try to take some of the ickiness out of talking about money.

Because it's one thing to tell each other that our skills have value. It's another thing to talk about what that value actually IS.

And until we start talking openly about what we're making, and what we should be making, there are going to be people in our industry who get screwed.

Quite often, those people are going to be women. Or people of color. Or members of other groups that have been marginalized and/or deliberately put at a disadvantage by this f-ed up world we live in.

So, yeah, here's me saying it on the record. I don't work for less than $100/hour. And usually, I work for more.

What's your minimum rate?

Don't tell me!

I mean, really, you can tell me. I'll listen. But that's not the point.

Find someone who does what you do, and tell them. They're the one who needs to know!
Resources I Love
There are lots of resources out there to help take the ickiness out of talking about money.

I already mentioned it, but if you work in audio you should really consider joining AIR and checking out their Rate Guides.

For my fellow freelancers, I cannot recommend The Writers Coop enough. You'll find some really useful tools here that will help you set your minimum rate…and stick to it.

And finally, the gifs in Ann Friedman's Gif Guide to Getting Paid might be outdated, but the insight is still spot on. Read it whenever you find yourself needing inspiration.

And then read it again, for good measure.
I'll be back soon with some actual advice on how to tell better stories…as that's what this newsletter is supposed to be all about!

But if it takes me a little bit to get the next edition out, please be patient. My schedule is super busy right now, with the launch of the second season of The Long Game and a still super-secret (but soon to be not-secret) project in the works.

In the meantime, please share this newsletter with anyone who might need to be reminded that their skills have value!