In my previous spew concerning sites that offer to place your blog entries in publications to give you more “exposure,” I indicated that I was not comfortable with the concept of opportunists feeding off my carcass without benefit of compensation.
But, since this write-for-free debate is such a tired standby, I sighed and said maybe I was becoming the crab on the block. What do you think? I asked. My mailbox overflowed!
One writer, who is a top-rated contributor to one of the sites mentioned, commented: “Although it’s very nice to have a star by my name and be recognized for my superior writing prowess (gag, she adds), the articles haven’t done a thing for me professionally. The only thing writing for free has done for me is gain me a reputation as a generous spirit – or sucker – depending on your vantage point.”
“This ties to my pet peeve, trawling craigslist.org for legitimate writing job links and instead, finding several advertisements looking for writers for ‘no pay,’ just ‘Coverage, Resume building! Exposure!’ ad nauseum,” writes feng shui expert Katy Allgeyer (www.fengshuibyfishgirl.com). “I actually emailed Craig himself. Much to my surprise, Craig emailed me back 20 minutes later and said they are working on the problem. I suggested they come up with another heading for these types of jobs. ‘slave labor’ comes to mind.”
Betsy Crowfoot, a journalist and screenwriter for 11 years, says this controversy is being fueled by the existence of two camps: Those who are full-time writers and want/need to make a living at this profession, and those who want to be writers, but are making their living in another profession and don’t rely on writing gigs to feed their children. (I would add those with working spouses to that list.) “Unfortunately,” she says, “this gives editors/businesses the idea they don’t have to pay writers or pay them on time.”
“I can’t tell you the number of times I”ve had these robber barons try to blow smoke up my rump with their lines about how they have helped writers by ripping off their content,” writes DeAnn Rossetti. “I just read an ad yesterday on Craigslist that said, ‘Do it for the love of writing.’ Ha!”
Continues Rossetti: “These same people pay for everything else on their site, the hosting service, the website layout, and I am sure they pay a doctor when he has taken care of them. I doubt they tell him that by taking care of their health concerns, he is getting good publicity!”
Writes Kevin Murphy, author of Degrees of Murder and other books, “The only ‘freebies’ I ever do are for no-budget community organizations of which I am a member – and I do very few of those.”
Lest this become too one-sided, Ricardo Valfreixo, a writer in Portugal, says, “I know an ad in a newspaper can cost a few bucks, I am not shocked at trading a 400-word article for an ad.”
Travel writer Tim Leffel took it further. “This is a conflict that cannot possibly be resolved, no matter how many writers plead in vain for people not to write for free (or cheap). Compensation takes many forms. I have had professional travel writers ask me to put a link to their website on the home page of www.perceptivetravel.com rather than pay them – the link was more valuable to them in the long run.
“If you are just a freelancer trying to make a living selling articles, this is a raw deal,” he allows. “But if you’re one of the (wealthier) writers who puts out books, does paid lectures, or provides a consulting service, the benefit gained from the (website) traffic is far greater than what people make from a lousy article.
“Writing,” Leffel adds, “is not rocket science, after all, or the free content sites wouldn’t get so much traffic from their free content, Much of it is quite good, actually.
“Don’t write for free,” according to Leffel, “is dumb advice that will never work in the real world.”
What if, Tim – and I know this sounds crazy – you could be paid and still get a mention?
That is how the real world works, if writers stick to their principles and decide their time and expertise are worth something.
Katy Allgeyer gets the last word: “All of these newbie writers out there don’t realize they are undercutting not just other professional writers, but also cheating themselves out of paid work in the future if they agree to write for free now. The standards (and the paychecks) get smaller every time some writer agrees to write for free or less than market rates. There are just too many amateurs out there willing to bend over.”
And speaking of pay, even ranting carries a pricetag.
Angela Hoy paid me to write this AND she always allows contributors to promote their books/services in their bios. All comments were used by permission. Sources – now, they do it for free.
Star Lawrence has been a full-time freelancer for 24 years. Her work appears monthly on WebMD.com and in various trades. She is also a columnist for the Arizona Republic and a screenwriter with two options to her name. Her website is: http://www.sunoasis.com/webjean.html.