How much should I ask for a freelance assignment?

Writing is a tough profession and a lot of authors get by with getting freelance gigs on the side to pay for their writing time. I’ve freelanced almost all my life, negotiating with corporations, adjusting to different work ethics, chasing payments, waiting for payments and getting them.

Freelancing is a tough, competitive, variable market where you can get paid as little as Rs 500 for content for a website to as much as Rs 10,000 for a magazine article. Writers often approach me with a question on how much they should ask for an assignment they’ve been offered. Which is why this post.  Here are five ways to determine what you should ask for. Best of luck!

STEP 1: What’s the monthly salary you want?

Forget the thought of what companies are paying or what other freelancers are getting. Have some faith in yourself and find a sweet spot you want to reach per month. Believe me, all the rest usually falls into place. What would you like to earn? Think up of a monthly amount. This amount could be either what you want to lead a good life or what you’d get if this was a full-time position. But this amount will make you satisfied and happy. Generally, my suggestion would be to keep it a littler higher than what you’ll fetch in a full-time position since freelancers don’t make a regular income and you won’t get paid leaves or medical insurance. But don’t make it double either. That’s just getting greedy. For example, say you think that your monthly salary should be Rs 1,00,000. That’s 1,00,000 for 20 working days if this was a fulltime gig. Which shortens to Rs 5,000 a day.

writeSTEP 2: How much time will I take?

To know how much to ask for, you need to know how many hours and how many days the assignment is going to take you. Continue reading “How much should I ask for a freelance assignment?”

The Bank always wins

I haven’t really ever played Monopoly while growing up, so me and husband bought one and brought it to our home on a Sunday with loads of fanfare. It took about six months to get the wrapper off the game and about three more months to actually playing it. (Well, in our defense, we are never really in home to do boardgame stuffs. But that’s not what the blog is about.)


The blog is about the game. So we did manage to play this game, just the two of us, yesterday night. With much excitement, we opened the boardgame, read the rules, prepped the dice and chose our fast-driving cars. For those who have never played the game, Monopoly is all about buying plots and then building houses and hotels on your property. Finally, in true Khosla Ka Ghosla style, by luck, crook or hook, you turn into a landlord and keep on collecting rent from people who through the roll of the unlucky dice land on your property. You keep on going round and round the board, buying property, building houses and collecting rent till all others than you are bankrupt. You can only win the game when the rest all are bankrupt and not by making money. So your aim? Make sure the rest of them become kangaal. Force them to sell properties, force them to pay you high rents, force their money off the table.

If you haven’t guessed or don’t already know, there’s one massive silent player in this on the side. It’s called the Bank. According to the rule book, the Bank holds the title deeds of all properties, the houses and hotel before they are purchased and all the rest of the money in the game. This player is neutral. After we as players have been given a puny amount to start the game (1500 currency each, while the Banker keeps the rest), the Bank is the place where all players do their transactions. They buy property or plots, the Bank gets rich. They have to pay rent to another player and don’t have the money, they mortgage the plot, the bank gets 10 percent for mortgaging. The player pays tax, it goes to the bank. The player is in Jail, the bail is to the Bank. In all transactions as the players get greedy (and it is a game of greed), fight over rent, purchase, convince each other and haggle like crazy, this silent partner gets rich and rich and rich. The Bank you see, is always there, even if you opt out by declaring bankruptcy. The Banker is so important that his face pops up on all Monopoly boardgames as a male, top hat and suit wearing fella.

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Not very different really from our social set up right now where the Banker plays a vital role in all our lives. The Bank keeps your salary, gives you puny interest but also taxes you on bills, spends, credit cards, debit cards and many other complex rules. Most of the couples I know around me, have bought houses and are duly paying mortgages to the Bank. They have car loans, personal loans, cellphone EMIs and have one chore related to the bank on their weekend list. Mostly, one of their salaries is completely going to the Bank. And as all of us who have had drawing room conversations on this already know. The Banker always wins. Not only in the boardgame, but in life. Always.

In the view of recent bankruptcy threats by a bank in the USA (remember the Lehman Brothers who are already onto a new big deal in real estate), which brought the whole world on its knees and gave money to crooks, I who is full of questions had a very important on to ask from Monopoly’s rule book. What happens to the game when the Bank declares bankruptcy? And here’s the answer in Monopoly’s official rule book page:

 What if the Bank runs out of money?

A. Some players think the Bank is bankrupt if it runs out of money. The Bank never goes bankrupt. To continue playing, use slips of paper to keep track of each player’s banking transactions, until the bank has enough paper money to operate again. The Banker may also issue “new” money on slips of ordinary paper.

So you see, the Bank knows its deals. Even if it runs out of paper money, it will just print more money or do the deal on a sheet of white paper which is better than bankruptcy as a letter in Financial Times informs us. Yemen just did that. I think Parker Brothers who created the game in 1903 had it right all the way to their bank. In an economy which works on currency and a society which works on aspiration and greed, the banker always wins. And isn’t that human nature?

On another note, before we called it a night, my luck with money made me win over my poor husband who was bankrupted by paying rent over and over again. But I still feel I had less money than the Banker! So no, it wasn’t a win really, if winning (and not others losing) was the aim of it all.

Sachin tattooed on my skin


Real life story of a ten-rupee note…



The note, recovering from the washing machine fiasco


Recently, a ten rupee note was discovered, dried, wrinkled, faded and folded in a washed jeans pocket by this writer. In exchange for the security of a dirty, almost-empty, much-travelled wallet, the ten rupee note revealed its yet untold story:

‘Atleast I would not die in a pocket, forgotten, slowly decaying into mulch,’ it says, thankful. For that is what it thought would be its end when it had been travelled from a sabzi-seller to a forgetful human hand who placed it in a rough, but a pocket of a pair of jeans.

‘That’s always a little dangerous, a pair of jeans. For you can be easily forgotten and then before you know, you are in the washing machine, screaming to be let out. But who will listen to you? The credit card receipt, the coins and the scribbled on notes, all are drowning too and too busy trying not to be shrunk and converted to mulch,’ it told this journalist.

Now lying in the comfort of a wallet, it hopes its next destination is someplace exotic.

‘You never know where you will land up,’ it says, ‘it’s not like I can control my exchange from one hand to another or in any way control  my destiny. Humans use us, millions of us, everyday, callously passing us on from one to another for things they don’t need. We don’t have a say in where we want to go. Did a note ever refuse to go into a rickshaw puller’s rough hands? Or a filthy hand of a garbage collector, his hand squeezing me so tight that I thought I would disintegrate? Or even a greedy, soft hand which keeps me under a mattress for years, without air or light? Sometimes we are even buried alive and forgotten until someone changes upon a treasure. No, we are nothing but things for humans.’

This tenner was created some five years ago (it doesn’t remember its exact birthdate) and thrown into the overflowing (with its type) economy of India . It already looks like it had been through some rather rough times (other than the washing machine).

‘I am not a big number. There are millions of tenners like me out there. I am exchanged fast, without any hesitation. But it still hurts if someone abuses me and calls me chillard. I….’ the note stops, overwhelmed with feeling, ‘All the tenners want is some respect from humans. There was a time when my ancestors were put in iron safes by clean hands with a photo of goddess Lakshmi next to it. We were celebrated, we were worshipped. We had a festival to our name.’

But these are just stories that the ten-rupee note has heard from its elders, who have heard it from theirs. Now, times are quite different. Now, these stories have become myths, told to each other to provide comfort for one’s purpose-less, disrespected life. Tenners are nothing but short change now and that’s the dark reality that each of them face every day in their lives.

‘Not even the hundreds, no mam! It’s only the five-hundreds or the thousands who are coveted now and get the privilege of a pooja. Though I hear,’ he whispers, carefully looking around the wallet, in case there’s a big note lying around (There’s not. I am a writer, my wallet is always empty), ‘that the thousands might all be recalled you know.’ Recalling is the worse nightmare of any note, of any denomination and age. Something worse than death.

‘To be torn, burnt and destructed. To simply cease to exist,’ it shudders. Every year, thousands of notes of all denomination are recalled by the RBI, after they have been abused, become torn, unreadable and broken by rough, hungry exchanges between humans. Then they are burnt without any ceremony or prayer for peace for their services to humankind.

‘That’s the least your race can do! Respect us for our service,’ it shouts, angry, ‘Humans have a saying that money makes the world run around. Show me where I was ever running things around me?’

When I ask it about the scribble on its side, with faded ink, it smiles again. ‘It was in Kerala, it says, proud that it has travelled so far. (If you can’t read it in the photo, the writing says: ‘Sachin Tendulkar Fans Association, Kerala’) I was donated by a fan of Mr Sachin Tendulkar himself, to a diligent volunteer of the STFA who then tattooed this on me. It was my proudest moment. Tell me how many tenners you have seen, who can boast of a name of a celebrity on their skin?’

When I tell it no one, except for it, it says, its eyes glazed with memory, ‘Those were the days, madam. Those were the days.’ It entered the emptied wallet, glad for space for a while and waited, for a new adventure. In some ways, thankful that atleast travelling won’t stop, even when the economy tanks. It’s only a tenner after all.

Writer’s note: I have tried to quote the tenner as closely as possible. As promised to it, the ten-rupee note has been carefully ironed, as new, and sent off to a new travel. May it never be recalled.

PS: This post is dedicated to my brother, along with whom I have counted innumerable number of money for the temple that my grandfather was a treasurer for. And this post is dedicated to my darling grandfather. The note brought a smile, a tear and lots of memories. Over the years, I have seen many interesting scribbles on notes, from association markers, to life quotes, to love proposals, to messages to each other. I have always loved reading them and imagined their stories. This time around though, the story that came to me was this note’s. Fascinating!