03 February, 2012

A Freelancers Lament

I recently saw a similar article regarding photographers. It hit home so hard I felt the need to explain it for my circumstances.

I am regularly contacted by companies and publications who either want to use my work or have me as a regular contributor. For free. I mean after all, what’s a little of my time sat typing in front of my computer right? WRONG.

There’s my computer for a start. Which cost me about $1200. Then there’s the internet I’m using to research for your article. That costs me about $500 a year. Given that I generally cover a lot of events there’s the petrol to get me there. $10. Then there’s the entry fee. Anywhere from $10 to $40. Up into the hundreds if it’s a festival.

I also know that while I’m out there in the field I am in part representing your brand or publication so it’s important to me that I look the part. So clothing and personal grooming are important to me and cost about $150 per outfit.

But it’s already published on your blog, so we want to use it but because it’s not exclusive content we don’t want to pay for it. WRONG.

To run my blog there’s my domain registration, DNS hosting and email hosting totalling into the hundreds. Not to mention the money I pay to have a graphic designer make my site look credible so that your affiliation looks credible. Also totalling into the hundreds. Oh yeah, and it's copyrighted.

And don’t forget, this isn’t just a hobby. I studied for three long years to be qualified to do what I do. That’s easily in the tens of thousands.

1,200 + $500 + $10 + $50 + $150 + $150 + $200 + $10,000 = $12,110

$12,110 it has cost me to get where I am right now. And that's being conservative. Do you know how much I have earned from all the blogs, guests posts, contributions and magazine articles I have written? Not even a hundredth of that.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) recommends freelancers charge $219 per hour or $892 for articles 1000 words or less. I am not asking for even close to that.

So if you’re a magazine, website, brand or advertiser who wants to use my work or even worse, write something completely original for you, PLEASE don’t come and ask to have it for free or in exchange for credit or “exposure”. You contacted me, you have seen my writing and deem me good enough to represent you so obviously I have enough “exposure”.

You have a marketing budget. This is what it’s for.

You obviously don’t expect your sales department or secretary to work for free. So please don’t expect me to.

Just because it is available online doesn’t mean it was free to create.

Still not convinced? How bout next time you go out to dinner you tell your waiter that in exchange for giving you dinner on the house you’ll tell everyone you know how good the meal and service was. See how far that gets you. At best laughed at, at worst thrown out. Now I’m still answering your emails politely…you see where I’m going with this?

Now I am all about helping out independent and community organisations and publications. We all have to start somewhere and there are definitely plenty of people and causes out there who I have no problem donating my time to. And I do.

But I also run this blog, work my full time day job and have a number of other regular online and magazine contributions. Aside from the fact that my time is in such demand, there is a lot more to creating an article than just an hour in front of my computer.

I'm not being snarky and I'm not aiming this at anyone in particular. I'm simply trying to explain the reality of it for me. It's very disheartening when people don't want to pay you what you're worth or at all.

11 comments (+add yours?)

Madame B Fatale said...

I know exactly where you are coming from. Re-publishing posts on other sites can actually harm your standing with Google. I thought I'd leave you with this (cause I think its funny) http://thebloggess.com/heres-a-picture-of-wil-wheaton-collating-papers/

Tony said...

Hallelujah!! Very well said Sheri, not that you should have to justify yourself to anyone.

I wonder sometimes if its not that people expect it for nothing, agreed some do, but I think others just want to push the limits.
They want to spend as little as possible and will push you to see how much they can get away with, and once you done it once for them, they have you.

Good on you Sheri, we all support you 100% :)

Sheri Bomb said...

Madame B Fatale, I have seen this and I think it's brilliant! It makes me laugh everytime I see it.

And Tony, thanks for your support I really appreciate it. And I certainly think you're right, people just want to see what they can get. Which surprises me because it's the kind of thing you wouldn't dream of with other services and professions. Oh well, at least I got it off my chest :)

Max said...

nicely said!

Anonymous said...

Well said Sheri, although you really shouldn't have to had to say anything. It disgusts me that big corporations expect everything for nothing to further their own profit margin.
I don't install lights, power points and switchboards for free, so why should you work for free? You shouldn't. And if they insist on getting your work for nothing, then they're not worth having your good name and reputation affiliated with them!
Here's hoping these freeloaders see this blog post and reconsider.

Sheri Bomb said...

Thanks Max, I get the feeling that Max is back ;) haha

Thanks Brenton, it really is encouraging to see so much support from everyone on this issue :)

Lisa said...

Hi Sheri,
I do undertand your frustration as a former freelancer myself and I wrote for free for many years as a music reviewer in exchange for nothing but tickets to some very cool events. This seems to be a particular problem in the music scene especially as every man and his dogs wants that job so they know they can get away with it.
I still have the very first check I received for my writing from Scene Magazine framed on my wall. It's for $35! It took several years to earn money from my writing and even then it was doing boring stuff like accountants website copy, brochures for garage doors, articles on Mining machinery and the like. I would often sit here going "Hey, this isn't what I meant when I said I wanted to be a writer!"
Now I'm one of those independent publications that you are talking about and admittedly you did offer your article to us for free (which was very much appreciated as we have a VERY tight budget) so I'm not sure if this is directed at us... but note taken and just be brave and hit us up for the money next time!
if you're anything like me, you'll probably find that pricing your work and asking for money for it is the hardest part of your job. If you ever want to chat about the perils of freelancing from someone who's been in the game for ten years, call me! Would love to chat!
But I'll tell you straight out, the only way to make money from writing is by selling your soul somewhat to the more commercial nature of writing; advertising, website copy and commercially driven type articles - not fun, but it pays the bills.
Once you have established a decently varied portfolio of published articles, then the jobs start coming to you - like I said, it can take years!
As for the MEAA rates - well I've been a member for years and I've never made more than about $200 for an average article and yes, exclusivity is worth more as we publishers don't like it when an article we published ends up word for word in another publication very much!
Hope that clears the air and that we can work together again in the future - this new baby of mine has taken me a year of 6am-midnight of work so far and I'm yet to get paid myself, but it will all be worth it in the end. And then we can pay our contributors what they are worth!
Don't give up!
Lisa (Vintage Caravan Magazine)

Sheri Bomb said...

Hey Lisa,

Thanks so much for your comment, I really really appreciate your thoughts and advice. This wasn't aimed at ANYONE in particular let alone you or VCM it was simply inspired by another article I read.

I have been writing for the last 5 years doing everything from creating a publication from scratch to those boring corporate roles you were talking about. I guess that's why I'm at the same point you were now, thinking when does this actually pay off?

Some of the accountability certainly rests with me and now that I have decided to go out on my own, I need to be more assertive when trying to gain compensation as it is now an operation that is costing me money.

I really appreciate your advice considering your experience and would love to take you up on the offer of a chat about these things. VCM was a pleasure to work with and I really hope I get the opportunity to again soon :)

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Aleisha Simpson said...

Sheri, you are awesome! Cant see why anyone would expect to get your work for free, for work that awesome, any tom,dick & harry would know that has to come at a price. Keep up your awesomeness!! xx

Sheri Bomb said...

Bobbi I can't even imagine how bad it must be for graphic design!!!

Awww thanks Aleisha :) the support I have gotten regarding this post is extremely encouraging! I was a little hesitant to post it lest people I have previously worked with thought it was directed at them or people thought I was just being bitchy in general but I'm so glad to see how supportive everyone has been! Thank you all so much!!

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