I’ll tell you no lies (you, aspiring writer, you aspiring freelancer, you aspiring freelance writer-journo-whatever). It is extremely challenging making a living as a writer, and a freelance writer no less. When it’s on, it’s on…but there are desert-dry patches…and in the best of times, uncertainty. You kind of have to be okay with living with the unknown. I call it being on the hustle. There’s a lot I love about being a writer, and things I like about freelancing, not least of which being insulated from the office politics that can distract from the actual work and make it so unpleasant (been there, not going back if I can help it). Mostly, I love the range and variety of interesting and fulfilling projects of which I’ve had the opportunity to be a part.
This article though reminds me of one of the more unpleasant aspects of the whole operation, price negotiation. I’ve been doing this for a while and I know what it costs to produce a story on an instinctive if not always by the numbers value though I’ve had to find ways to put value to intangibles like brainstorming, time, working through the night, research, getting around, tracking down, pinning down, writing, editing, re-writing… between paper and pens, utilities and communication expenses, travel and lost sleep it adds up. So I’m always a little amazed by folks who expect you to do it for nothing or next to nothing (I mean what they pay you doesn’t even cover the cost of producing the piece and APUA does not accept thank yous). I remember bidding on one of those job listing sites and being chastised that I hadn’t even been in the running because my bid had been too high…probably not the first time someone had thought that. But though I could’ve done without the dressing down, I didn’t regret losing the job which if I’d gotten it would have been more like charity (and while I do a lot of volunteer work and exchanges, I prefer to choose my own causes, thank you very much). What they were asking writers to produce for below factory pay was exploitative (though granted not as exploitative as the online news site that has skipped out on its obligations to content providers like me and is busy playing the victim of political machinations or whatever). Ideally, what I want are projects that are both challenging and stimulating that pay well and hopefully open the door to other projects. Yes, those can be rare but the cattle drive though more common is a quick way to getting burned out. I try to balance out the work I need to do with the work I love to do and some days even manage to find a happy middle ground and challenges notwithstanding (and they are great) I prefer the freelance track to the 9 to 5. That probably sounds irrational to most of you reading this, but as I said recently to a friend struggling with the expectations of others and their well meaning but ill timed/ill placed/ill received “so what are you doing today” inquiries, these choices only need to make sense to you not the whole world of people who’ll have their opinions no matter what you do.
And this article – which prompted all of this reflection – is a good read for those entering or on the same ‘free’ lancing track; a reminder to know your worth: “You must be diligent about finding the best offers. And, once you’re hired and have proven your value, be diligent about assertively requesting periodic boosts in pay as a reward for your increasingly valuable contributions to the success of the enterprise.”
Why’m I sharing this on the Wadadli Pen site…for the same reason I started Wadadli Pen and the sub-category, the Business; it’s about doing the things I wish had been there fore me and sharing the things I wish I didn’t have to figure out the hard way. Because, if you’re going to make a go of it you’re going to need to know this stuff.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.