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I spoke to a family member today who has a PhD in clinical psychology and decades of clinical experience. She was telling me about a course module she was writing for a publisher. The initial material she created for them was based on current research in the relevant field. A year later, they asked her to do a second edition of this online course. Which meant that she had to do additional research in the current literature on the topic and apply her considerable expertise in the rewriting of material whose audience, by the way, was other clinicians. And that is what she was doing when I called her today.

Last year, they paid her a fraction of the royalties they earned for the coursework, which means that she earned a grand total of $96.

I was floored.

I told her that, as a clinical psychologist, a PhD, she could easily have commanded $60 an hour. At least. For this project, she did research and wrote pages and pages of course materials in her area of expertise. Can you imagine what the publisher should have paid her?

She wanted to know how I knew that. Well, primarily from other professionals. But I also pointed her to the American Medical Writers Association, the Editorial Freelancers Association, and the Society for Technical Communication. And she was floored, too. She originally thought that the publisher was paying her a compliment when they approached her—I’ll say this again—they approached her to provide this service. I pointed out that patients who came to see her for treatment also paid her a compliment, especially if they were referred by other patients, but she still expected them to pay her.

We then had a discussion about how difficult it is for women in particular to assert themselves in the business world, and how running a business doesn’t come naturally to most people, anyway. And that’s when I remembered last summer’s kerfuffle about women’s using language wrong by saying just and using vocal fry. And I realized that, yes, we are using language wrong, but not in that way. I advised this professional with her advanced degree and her decades of experience that the words “The going rate for this service is $60 an hour” are much more effective than saying “Thank you for the honor” while leaving out the word just.

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