September 29, 2022
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Considering the profitability of my columnist career

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I’m not sure if I need a raise on this column-writing gig or if I need to start sending the column to a non-profit organization and take it as a donation on my taxes.

For those of you who haven’t tracked my entire illustrious career as a columnist, I got started almost as soon as Johannes Gutenberg finished inventing his printing press. OK, maybe it was more like 1988 when I had my first column published, but that was almost 35 years ago.

I’ll never forget the fellow who gave me my start writing columns. He told me he believed in me and he was sure I would be a hit. His advice was to write it like I was writing it for my mother and it worked.

Of course I appointed myself as columnist once I had worked my way up to publisher. Well, that’s not totally true either; after the first guy turned the owners down they looked around the room to see who might be crazy enough or drunk enough to take the job. I was stone-cold sober that day so it tells you a lot about my first career choice.

After I ordered myself to begin writing columns I found it was the best part of my week. Most of the time the ideas come pretty easily for me. I learned when they don’t not to ask my mother or my wife for ideas. I might be writing to them but they have terrible ideas most of the time. They have both brought a wealth of subject matter to my columns, just because I’ve shared a lot of life with each of them.

But let’s get back to contemplating this salary business. Having just finished my taxes I can tell you that filing a long-form with business deductions as a freelance columnist didn’t put me any better off than the allowable deduction. Some years it has worked out better but not this year, even with a hospital stay under my deduction belt I was still short-form.

A little math tells me if I had carefully saved all the money I’ve pulled in since I started doing this as a freelancer 14 years ago I could probably afford a used car if I didn’t mind one with around 100,000 miles on it. Car prices have gone up tremendously in the last 14 years. My price per column has remained the same.

I’m not sure the market for newspaper columns is increasing anywhere. I tried raising my price a few years ago and it didn’t fly. I guess I could drop the number of words I turn in from my usual 500 to say 250. That would be like doubling my rate and the publisher probably wouldn’t mind a bit. Actually he’s just relieved I’ve reined it in from 700 words a week over the years.

I’m liking that donation idea more all the time. Finding a no profit newspaper these days is not so hard — trick is for IRS purposes I’ll need an actual 501c3 non-profit newspaper to run my column. 

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]



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