The Joy of Refusal By Wendy J. Meyeroff

It was the early 90’s an,d after freelancing for a year or two, I had gotten some top-notch assignments; e.g. Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, and Weight Watchers. Still, pay was often less than stellar.

Periodically, something came up that sounded like it might have potential – but the pay stank. Despite various misgivings, at that stage of my career I rarely refused – and kept getting burned.

Changing Tide

Then came the turning point. The editor of a highly respected NYC business magazine had seen a query of mine. He couldn’t use that story but was impressed and wanted to know if I’d tackle something else.

At least I didn’t just yell, “Sure…anything you want!” Instead, I asked, “What do you have in mind?” He wanted a story on the trend towards employee wellness programs, which were first gaining traction as a way to keep down an employer’s health expenses.

His original description asked me to interview several execs–HR people, owners, whoever were instituting this program…and develop 750 words. The fee: $500. Sounded good except:


  1. The editor also wanted 500-word profiles on three different companies that had instituted this policy.

  2. He had no idea where I could find ANY of these sources. Since it was way before the ‘Net, it would probably take a LOT of time/effort to find qualified sources.

  3. He wanted all rights, including “in perpetuity” (at a time when first rights were still fairly common), so I wouldn’t make any residual dollars.

  4. AND…he needed it all in about 10 days!



Basic Arithmetic

This meant I was writing 2250 words at not even 30