Tag Archives: Writing for Free

Recommended Reading: For Love or Money (or both!)

The other week, I mused about giving your young’uns a steady diet of scares, inspired in part by reading an article by artist Greg Ruth.

Well, as probably comes as no surprise, Ruth also has some thoughts about the eternal struggle to make a living from one’s creative work and yes, it’s naturally pertinent to illustrators, but I think his points should resonate with writers as well.

By the way, if you want to check out more of his work, his website is here.

Paying the Writer

After last week’s post about being a self-sufficient artist who slices, dices –and probably self-publishes– I thought it was a good idea to look at the evergreen topic of creatives not getting paid.

Writers being undervalued and being underpaid is an oft-told tale — and not just because there are writers around to write about it.

Writer Matt Wallace created a freelance rebuttal guide that covers about just every usual reason given to not pay writers — or not pay them much.

It’s fantastic.

Read it. Absorb it. Make the answers your own. Get comfortable quoting rates that you know to be what the actual market finds fair.

Because while I’ve had the pleasure of working with some nice producers (and indeed, I try and be one of those nice producers), some people are horrible about trying to gaslight and guilt trip creatives. What I especially like about the rebuttal guide is that you can tailor it to a very neutral tone and make any issue just about the project at hand. Slimy producers and publishers show their hand when they try and make it all about you and won’t let your refusal to work at their rate go (producers who know you’re pricing yourself “out of your league” or their budget will simply wish you luck).

On Rejection and Writers Writing

Mark Evanier has had an ongoing series about writers and rejection some of whose columns apply very well to actors and other creatives.

The most recent one, however, goes deeper into the notion of writing for pay and how one might go about it from his experience. Check it out.

More on Writing for Free… or Very Little

I should spend more time talking about and linking to Mark Evanier‘s series on rejection. However, in the meantime, in light of my post on Monday, I figured I’d list Part 7 of his Rejection series which covers low and no pay writing.

One standout quote: “Working cheap or for free occasionally leads to getting paid decently but more often, it leads nowhere… or to more offers to work for little or no money.”

At the same time, I really like what he gets into in the second part of the post: about how peers can influence your decisions.

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in grade school. Naturally, as with anyone who’s ever wanted to do anything creative, I wanted my work to be breathtakingly original, if not all-out genre re-defining. And of course, I didn’t want to “sell out,” whatever that might be.

We can talk more about “being original” at another point in time, but through my later teens, I came to a much better understanding of what “selling out” meant. Simply put: “selling out” in most cases is a meaningless phrase others will foist on you, much like Eugene did in this case.

This isn’t to say you might not sell your soul. You may use your creative powers for evil, not good. There’s a lot of corporations out there that don’t share your values and scruples — and even if what they’re asking you to do isn’t criminal, it doesn’t feel right. The trick is that outside of actual criminal activity, you not the Eugenes of the world, get to define where that line is. You cross that line, you are selling out. Once you stop to examine what peers are advocating, you’ll see their lines are, almost to a fault, very different, even if they’re on your side. If they’re folks like Eugene, who want to hold you to a line to which they themselves don’t want to be held, run.

The Seemingly Eternal Issue of Writing for Free

My head nodded knowingly, along many other part-time scribes, as I read Wil Wheaton’s piece last Fall about turning down Huffington Post’s offer to e-print a popular article of his in exchange for “exposure.”

Wil Wheaton touches on what appears to be one of the most infuriating aspects of the modern economy (though I know examples of it have existed for ages): exposure is sufficient payment for creative work.

Robert Bevan, from a post on his blog back in January, considers the whole issue of whether to write for free… and in part based on the chest thumping pronouncements of various colleagues online, proposes that writing for free is not wholly horrible — and that includes Huffington Post’s seemingly abusive offer. Sometimes you’re using these platforms just as they are using you.

Bevan’s piece is a quick read. And for those of us not making a noticeable income from our writing, the concepts of how one might employ “giving free samples” using some of these platforms is an intriguing idea. In fact, it’s good to think how it should or should not factor into the strategy.

However, the larger industry as it applies to writers is important to keep in mind. Unless I’m missing something, there’s a severe structural problem within the overall publishing industry with paying writers: both in a timely fashion and for a reasonable rate. Photographers, musicians, and other creative folk appear to be in the same or similar boat. And while this issue pre-dates the Internet, the Internet seems to have helped push the cultural attitude that content can be free — and the way to maintain that non-price is to squeeze the content creator.

That brings us to a second piece by Yasmin Nair on Vox. She also references Wheaton’s piece, but from the perspective of an active freelancer unapologetically trying to make a living here and now entirely as a writer. (I believe Bevan works as both a teacher and a writer)

Nair’s piece is longer, but well worth the read. She makes several points throughout the article, but I would say an overarching argument is that writing needs to be seen as more than a hobby and writers should be budgeted for — even as other positions are budgeted for in organizations, many of which are bare-bones concerns.

I see similar arguments with actors and the aforementioned photographers, musicians and others. People try and pay them nothing because sometimes they can get away with it. As Nair points out, there’s a cost to “free” and that cost can hurt other writers trying to make their major living from writing (just as actors working for free can harm the livelihood of other actors).

I can’t say I have answers, but I’m listing these links here to spark and continue conversation. And I’ll continue to discuss my own strategy as well (hint: this blog is where I write for free and provide “free samples”).