Notes From a Hired Pen

Selling Team Lovato visors (or how to make cash from spiked assignments)

I run in Headsweats visors. They run $20 to $23 each. If you’re more adventurous, you can take your chances and buy a visor from the “grab bag” for $10. You have no idea what the visor will look like, which is how I ended up on Team Lovato.

This is a smart move by Headsweats. The grab bag appeals to runners who are frugal and/or don’t care what their gear looks like. I’m willing to look like a tweeny bopper in exchange for a 50% discount. In return, Headsweats is making money off of something they had: custom orders that for whatever reason came back. Why toss them or let them collect dust when Headsweats could get SOMETHING for them?

If you’ve freelanced long enough, you have some Team Lovato visors. Maybe you wrote a profile of an athlete who was then traded; or you did a nutrition piece that was cut because the magazine over-assigned for that issue. I wrote a long piece about an astronaut that my editor loved, but he didn’t run it because the magazine held it too long. My essay about running my first 5k was nixed when my editor was fired and her replacement decided not to use it.

Ideally, you’ve already been paid for these articles (you deserve the full fee, not a kill fee, if the story was spiked for reasons beyond your control). As long as your contract allows it, why not sell it to someone else, even if it’s a lower paying publication? Sure, you might need to tweak the angle, or do additional reporting, but you’ve already done the heavy lifting. If you let it collect dust in your story warehouse, you’re throwing money away.

This goes for stories that have already run, too, but I’ll address that in a separate post. The situation is a bit more complicated (involving contracts and what rights you own and the magazine owns). But when done right, making new rope out of old twine can add a big chunk of money to your bottom line.

After a quick revise, I turned my 5k essay into a humor piece for a local magazine. The national magazine had paid me $800 for it; the local rag $150. That’s not a ton of money, but $150 for 10 minutes of work isn’t too shabby. Plus, I really liked the piece and wanted other people to read it.

So if you’re tired of writing on a Friday afternoon, look through your assignment log and see if you have any Team Lovato visors. I bet someone is willing to buy them.

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