Sometime ago I got what appeared to be a lovely complimentary message – ‘great article’ it began. That’s always a good start, because no matter how much experience we accrue, how jaded we get, or aloof we pretend to be, ultimately we creative types are always hungry for appreciation.
Then my great start to the day, switched to a blow in the soft bits: ‘Can we use it – we’ll give you credit for it!’
Okay the problem is there is a different kind of hunger that I have to entertain, and it’s mouths to feed. Not just my own, but several dependents. Yes I’m going to take some time here to join a legion of fellow freelancers bemoaning the same lament: ‘Exposure doesn’t pay the bills’.
However I can appreciate that a lot of people starting out in the writing sphere will take the bait, and frankly it’s understandable. Not just because of this so-called ‘exposure’ that they will be exposed to, which is frankly more than somewhat doubtful in most cases, but because they need to build up a portfolio.
Publishers are aware of this and have benefited from it. But nowadays, it seems, that instead of thinking of this as bonus content, they are starting to think of it as the norm.
Trouble is that for career journalists, writers, photographers and other content creators, who once they are ‘established’ and have such a thick portfolio, that they no longer keep, or even bother, to obtain their ‘published’ work, this is a profession. It’s their livelihood. It’s their source of income. It’s how they survive.
They want paying, not exposure.
There’s more. I had a second smack in the face more recently.
Publishers in the past used to place a value on experience, knowledge, wisdom, clarity, incisiveness and powerful communication skills. The best get paid a premium. Right?
Well. I wouldn’t know…
The other day someone messaged me out of the blue, someone unknown to me. They’d obviously searched my various profiles, maybe here on portfolio website, on my Facebook page or perhaps my LinkedIn profile – I fully advertise what I’ve done, where and how I’ve done it, and what I can do – or perhaps they were aware of me through CAR ME and now MME, or perhaps I was recommended to them.
No matter, they claimed to be starting an Automotive-themed media of sorts and wanted to commission a weekly column from an ‘expert’ such as myself, and in all modesty I believe I’m justified in wearing that title considering my track record and achievements. For sure you are at liberty to disagree, but clearly this person didn’t because THEY contacted ME, after all.
Great then. I sent them a quote, with a little premium over the regular market rates because, hey, they want someone with recognised credibility and authority, right, not just any old wordsmith, yeah?
They promptly sent me a counter offer. Forget my quote, this offer was over 26% BELOW the standard industry word rate.
Am I justified in the fact that I felt not only annoyed, but actually quite insulted?
And aside from the gut-instinct – or should that be ‘gut-kicked’ – reaction, there’s the logic of it. Why would I do that? How is it even worth my while? And why should I contribute to lowering that ‘industry standard rate’ by accepting reduced terms?
Pay peanuts and you’ll get monkeys, pay nothing and you’ll get nothing.
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