There was a fairly seismic shift in my world a week ago.
It only dawned on me in its full entirety once the dust had settled, but my personal landscape had changed – and arguably for the better.
“So what?” you say. “You were paid to write. Big deal.” Well you see, it was a big deal – and for several reasons.
First of all, it was a pronounced tilt towards doing something I’ve long wanted to do in a less amateur way.
Writing has been a dominant force in my life since childhood. From coursework to career, time spent in the private sector and in government, scribbles jotted down as a precocious kid to lengthier pieces written in later life, writing has been my constant.
I now feel half-way there. I’m writing professionally in a part-time capacity – and getting paid for it. It may eventually become full-time, be it for business, writing fiction, or in any other realm of the written word. For now, I’m happy to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully keep doing it right. I set up this website late last year which outlines a little bit of what I’ve done and will continue to do – http://www.russellvjward.com/.
Last week’s outcome was also significant for another reason.
Not only did I write professionally for a client but I was fairly paid to do it. The lack of any meaningful financial reward for fledgling and often established writers out there has been my personal bone of contention since I dived into the online blogging world in late 2010.
A friend and former BBC journalist recently remarked that if she had a dollar for every time someone asked her to write for free, she’d be very rich indeed. “Pay people their worth” was her view and it’s a view I wholeheartedly share. Last week proved to me that it can, and should, happen.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been contacted by organisations seeking content for magazine articles, websites, expat columns, exciting new initiatives and so on and so forth, only to be told that “Unfortunately, we can’t pay you; however, we can link to your blog!”
Such a wondrous offer that at first seems both appealing and laden with potential can all too suddenly seem less attractive and peppered with doubt. Will writing a monthly column lead to more prominent visibility in that particular community? Will I then become inundated with further writing opportunities that will pay handsomely and regularly? Will this be the start of that successful freelance writing career I’m so close to realising?
Of course not. The reality, harsh as it may be, is that this won’t be the case.
There are vast numbers of organisations out there looking for varied, insightful content to build their sites and grow their communities. Unfortunately, most of them will want it for free (but not all!). Offers of ‘profile building’ in return for a guaranteed flow of your hard worked and time-constrained monthly content probably won’t deliver the outcome you’re looking for. I dare you to analyse just how many extra website page views and Twitter ‘follows’ you get as a result of churning out more than 1,000 words of content every month multiplied by however many requests – and all for free. I’m guessing it won’t be many.
This may sound like an extremely pessimistic and simplistic lens through which I’m looking. Of course writers need to establish themselves, gain credibility, and prove their worth before seeking financial reward. On the flip side, there are hordes of bloggers-come-wannabe freelance writers putting pen to electronic paper and demanding something in return when these requests are neither justified nor deserved.
|Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons matryosha|
My point is that established, credible writers should always be paid for their efforts. The mindset in certain quarters of the online world that such folks should write for free must change. At some point, you have to say “Enough is enough. I’m worth more than this” and start asking – no, demanding – your real worth and true value. You may lose people along the way but, hey, life’s too short.