Subbing matters - so ask for more

HOW CAN sub-editors make more money, asked Christy Lawrance, who runs a successful subbing operation, at the June London Freelance Branch meeting, where she was joined by Martin Cloake, who looked into the future of subbing.

Christy, a former building inspector, noticed that builders are much less embarrassed than most of us about asking for more. "I never lost work for asking for more - be business-like about it. Printers and suppliers put costs up. If the publishers don't hire you, they'll have to pay an agency £180 a day."

Christy's early years in the Brownies taught her to Be Prepared. Preparation for asking for increases includes finding out what others are being paid (see www.londonfreelance.org/rates), and looking at the Office of National Statistics' index of prices (www.statistics.gov.uk) when requesting a rise linked to inflation. The best time to ask for a rise is exactly a year after you started, or at the beginning or end of the financial year. And keep asking.

Christy's "asking for more" gambits include: "I was looking at my invoices from a year ago, what's the new rate?" and "Would you mind awfully talking to the budget people, is there any chance of a rate rise?" One client replied, "it's too tough this year," but gave her a £2 a day rise anyway.

Or tell your client bluntly, "I can't afford to work for you anymore, it's not cost-effective for me." This approach resulted in Christy's rate being upped immediately. "Rates for everyone will stagnate if you don't ask for more," Christy warns us all.

What does the future of subbing and production look like?

Martin Cloake, who writes, edits, lectures and makes training videos on production journalism, looked into the numerous current "lofty debates" on how technology is changing subbing. Says Martin, "it's too easy for subs to be portrayed as people holding things up.

Martin Cloake (right); © Matt Salusbury
Martin Cloake (right) tells us how it wroks

"There is more information being put on more platforms than ever before, so why do we need fewer people to do more?" Martin asked: "we have to take control" of the way things are put out into the media, and we have to be confident, and value our own work.

Journalism is still about telling stories, and we can do this better than the bloggers, says Martin.

He teaches journalism students, and notes that while "the media establishment say, we're hip, we do Facebook, we Twitter," the future journalists on his course are Facebook-literate, but the questions they're always asking him are about how you make a good story, and about the principles of journalism.

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