“Money’s just something you throw off the back of the train…”

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And earlier post, and the comments, recently brought about some questions as to the cost of writing classes at one of the places where I teach. I responded in a more general way there, but I thought I’d break it down financially from the perspective of moi, the teacher, just to give you some insight on the kind of extreme money-making possibilities that teaching offers (yes, you may laugh now. Or, if you’re a teacher, you may cry along with me.).

Please note: These are very, very general numbers, and they don’t include ANY expenses, of which I have many, being a real-live business and all. The hourly numbers (for things other than teaching) probably seem pretty damn good until you take out the costs of: having an office (rent/electricity/etc.); buying a computer, printer, scanner, internet, phone, postage, paper, ink; paying self-employment health insurance; promotional expenses; self-employment taxes, the non-paid hours spent hustling for business and taking care of business; on and on and on. (In the end, I figure that my take-home pay is about a third of what’s listed below).

That being said, here are the general numbers (again, take note: this is after more than 15 years, almost 20 years now, of doing this. Trust me, these aren’t starter rates. When I started, I was making about two dollars an hour if I was lucky).

ARTICLES

Typical pay for a freelance article is between $500-1000. An article takes me about 5-15 hours to write, depending on the subject matter, the number of interviews, etc (this, of course, is after 15 years of writing articles. It used to take me MUCH longer).

PAYMENT? About $75-100/hour   (take-home pay: $25-33/hour)

EDITING/PROOFING/GHOST WRITING

Typical charge for this is anywhere from $50-125/hour, depending on what’s being done, the length of the project, etc.

PAYMENT? $50-125/hour  (take-home pay: $15-40/hour)

FICTION  & POETRY

The amount I’ve been paid for my creative work is anywhere from nothing at all to up to $1000. I can’t even begin to figure an hourly rate for writing fiction, but I’m going to guess that it’s very small, of course offset by those once-in-a-great while big payments. Of course, fiction is my first love and my true heart, so I would do it for free, for joy, for pleasure.

PAYMENT? $0-100/hour  (take-home pay: negative infinity to $30/hour)

TEACHING

Most of the classes that I teach cost the student around $350. The Educational Place takes about a third of this to help pay for the space, the employees, the website, etc. The teacher (that’s moi) receives about two-thirds of this, so about $220. If I have six to eight students, which is average, that’s $1300-1800 total.

Classes are ten weeks, for two hours each week, so that’s 20 hours of in-class time per class. I spend an average of three to fours hours a week either doing prep, planning lessons or reading student’s work for critique, and another hour or so meeting with students each week, either before or after class. So, that’s an additional 40 hours, spread over the ten weeks. Which means I spend about 60 hours total on a ten-week class.

Divide $1300-1800 by 60, and you get

PAYMENT? $21-30/hour  (take-home pay: $7-10/hour)

CONCLUSION

Yep, a price tag of $350 on a writing class is expensive for you as a student. There’s no doubt.

Just as a payment tag of a third of what I usually make is expensive for me as a writer.

So why do it?

Why should you take a class? Take it because you love writing and you want to get better. Take it because it’s an investment in your future. Take it because you want to learn, because you know you can become a stronger writer, because you’re willing to listen, because you have something to say and you want to learn to say it. Take it because you’re stuck and want inspiration and education. Take it because you believe writing — and writers — matter. Now more than ever.

Why do I teach classes? I teach because I love it, in much the same way I love writing fiction. I teach because there’s nothing better than helping a student past hurdles in their writing process, or watching a student “get it” or hearing them read a revised work that just sings because of the effort they’ve put into it. I teach because I learn as much from my students as I do from writing itself. I teach because I want to give students the kind of educational experience that I wish I had as a beginning and intermediate writer. I teach because I believe writing — and most of all writers — matter. A lot. A hell of a lot.

I don’t teach for the money. I teach for the students, the words they string together like pearls, the stories they mold out of their lives, the excitement that shows on their faces when they bring in a new piece, a better piece, a stronger piece. I teach for the same reason I write: For the love.

Take a class.

See what you think.

Make it worth my while. Because I’ll definitely make it worth yours.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

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“My buddies wanted to be firemen, farmers or policemen, something like that. Not me, I just wanted to steal people’s money!” ~John Dillinger

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“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.” ~Virginia Woolf

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