I’m an experienced freelance writer, so I’m acquainted with the ups and downs of this vocation. One of the more challenging aspects of being a professional writer – especially in the aftermath of a terrible economic recession – is that some people expect writers to work for free, or below their market rate.
For example, some prospective clients need help with brochure or website content, but they can’t pay. One local (Portland metro) business owner recently told me that writing a column for free was, “good for exposure.” The folks who say or write those things aren’t malicious. Many times, they are well-meaning. I am most confounded, though, by those who promise payment only after a writer’s work leads to an awarded grant, investment capital, or a book deal.
This last type of request reminds me of consignment. Consignment is where you benefit from your work only when the work is purchased – not before, during, or even after you produce it. Consignment may work for some artists, but it doesn’t work for me, and here’s a couple of reasons why:
I have a per-project/per-page/per-hour rate. It reflects the expertise I’m bringing to my clients’ projects, but it also reflects the amount of time it will take me to work on something. My goal is to always provide quality work the moment I am hired, whether I am writing or editing a brochure, blog post, white paper, or an entire website. That takes time, which I regard as my most valuable internal resource. Clients also put their trust in me, and I feel they’re owed my complete attention.
I don’t focus well on a project if I am paid below my market rate, and I’m worried about things like food, shelter, and office rent. My family‘s gotta eat, so I gotta get paid for my work, 🙂
With that said, there are circumstances that I would write pro bono. If there was a non-profit I believed in, I’d consider creating content as a courtesy. But, for the most part, I think writers should be paid market rates for their work (and “market rate” is the subject for another blog post).
What’s your take on this subject?