As Deborah Ng of Kommein has pointed out, freelance writing suffers from a vicious cycle of lack of respect.
In her terrific blog post, Here’s What’s Wrong With Freelancing Today, Deb says, “In the 15 years I’ve been freelancing, not much has changed. Clients are paying crap, and writers are taking that crap and writing crap in return. It’s a vicious cycle.”
She goes on to display several ads for writers that will make you cringe. There are clients who want to pay nothing and one who wants to pay with gift cards. Many of them have websites or e-zines you wouldn’t want a byline in anyway. There is the client who says, “Don’t worry if you haven’t done this before. Assignments are so easy, even a kid can do it.” And there is the dishonest author who will pay “$5 per posted LIVE AMAZON BOOK REVIEW.”
I have never looked for this kind of work, but I’ve received many requests from people who just won’t pay market rate for an experienced writer. One start-up founder with whom I had no prior relationship asked for a rate far below my minimum. When I refused, she insisted I should consider it because she already had one very experienced writer who was accepting the rate. This was someone I also didn’t know, so I have no idea why she thought I should be influenced by his bad decision.
That’s not even the worst part. She also wanted me to stop working with some of my other better-paying clients because they were in the same technology market sector and would eventually compete with her company (if it ever got off the ground). In short, I was supposed to sacrifice my current AND future income for a total stranger.
Now unlike the people posting these ads, the person negotiating with me seemed to know the value of good writing and good communication strategy. She just wasn’t willing to pay for it. It sounds like the advertisers Deb found wouldn’t have a clue, so they’ll get what they deserve. But I don’t want to be part of that vicious cycle and that’s why I bailed out. (Mostly.)
In freelancing, as in all other areas of life, people will ask for whatever they think they can get away with. But as Deb says in her concluding statement, “Writers, don’t minimize what you do. Know your value. And clients, don’t insult us. If you can’t pay us a legitimate fee, do the dang job yourself.” Or get any kid to do it!