WordCount – Freelancing in the Digital Age

By Michelle Vranizan Rafter

Top 13 warning signs a magazine is in trouble

with 10 comments

Magazines have folded by the dozen since the economy started its now infamous nose dive last fall. But most didn’t disappear overnight. Over the months, observant freelancers learned to read between the lines for signs a particular publication might be cutting back or, alas, shutting down completely.

Here are some indicators that all may not be well, based on my personal experience and with the help of some fellow freelancers on my favorite writers’ message board.

You know a magazine is in trouble when…

1. Emails to the editor you’ve been working with on an assignment suddenly bounce back, her voicemail is full and she’s not answering her phone.

2. They aren’t assigning anything new for the foreseeable future and are using up their backlog of already completed – and paid for – stories instead.

3. They’re using staffers – and editors – to write everything.

4. They’re using consultants, analysts and other industry experts to write columns instead of freelancers.

5. Instead of professionally written stories, they’re using message boards and other user-generated content to flesh out their Website.

6. They’ve switched to paying on publication instead of on acceptance.

7. They ask you to send a self-addressed stamped envelope along with your invoice.

8. Instead of sending your invoice to the lowly editorial assistant who’s handled the task forever you’ve been directed to send them straight to the assistant managing editor.

9. Invoices that used to be paid within 30 days or even less are now paid in 45 days – if you’re lucky.

10. They ask you to accept a smaller fee or lower per-word rate than what’s stipulated in your contract in order to get paid.

11. They love your story but hold it for a month for budget reasons and, despite the payment terms spelled out in your contract, demand that you to hold off sending an invoice for a month too.

12. They can’t find your invoice – again.

13. The latest issue comes in the mail and you mistake it for a promotional brochure.

What warning signs do you look for?

10 Responses

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  1. […] here to see the original:  Top 12 warning signs a magazine is in trouble Share This […]

  2. Great list.
    When you call the main number and the EIC answers the phone.


    February 23, 2009 at 4:08 pm

  3. That’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    Michelle R.

    Michelle Rafter

    February 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm

  4. Mine: I’ve been hired to run it.


    February 23, 2009 at 8:22 pm

  5. Good one Joe!

    Michelle Rafter

    February 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm

  6. when the publisher thinks that changing the logo will increase sales


    February 24, 2009 at 6:45 am

  7. Number 4 point is true. It means that the magazine doesn’t want to gamble on freelancers because they can’t afford to lose money for such.

    custom essay

    February 25, 2009 at 11:37 pm

  8. The worst: When they Hire you as a sub contractor to Design the Magazine, find out you have connections, fire a lot of people, and then expect you to get the celeb interviews, advertisements, websites, do the photography, call your buddies that write and get them to owe you a favor, and the expect you to run the whole mag concept, BUT they dont pay you anymore and they want you to stop working for everyone else that pays your bills.


    March 25, 2009 at 5:26 am

  9. […] 13 warning signs a magazine may be in trouble – Checks slowing to a trickle? Uh oh. […]

  10. […] leave a comment » Writer’s block has to be one of the worst occupational hazards of freelancing, right up there with magazines that take forever to pay. […]

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