Just How Much Do We Owe the Industry?

You’ve heard me fussing and lecturing. You’ve read Screw You! and Kathy’s outing of each pathetic job offer she comes across. You’ve read blog post after blog post deriding you, begging you, insulting you for taking any job that doesn’t pay you a fair rate for your skills. You think it’s because we don’t want you to waste your time and talent. That’s true, but the bigger reason I do it – I don’t want you screwing the rest of us out of a decent pay.

It was a commenter here who drove the point home. She said she’d given her price to a local client and the client’s response was to use those $4-10 a job postings as an example of why her fee was too high. That, my friends, is everyone’s problem. For now the annoyance has become a real problem that every single one of us is facing.

I know many writers believe that letting the writers with no scruples take these jobs is keeping them out of direct competition with the rest of us. I used to think that was true. Now, I’m seeing how the actions of the unsure are about to come crashing down on all of us.

So to my question up there in the title – how much do we owe the industry? From this chair, we owe it to ourselves and our own future earnings to take a hard stand against scam jobs and to take an even harder stand against writers who take these jobs. If we can’t convince them to have more pride, to earn more than minimum wage for skills others are getting hundreds an hour for, then we need to convince them that freelancing is not their industry. Sorry to say it, but there’s no longer any room in this field for people who devalue their own worth.

So educate your newbie peers, and even those who are thinking that cheap is all there is out there now. It’s not. It’s just what they’re finding because they aren’t marketing themselves but rather taking the passive approach and letting the jobs appear before them.

In just a few weeks, I’ll be holding the second annual Writers Worth Day, designed to help us recognize our value in the market and build our confidence and our cash flow. This year, I’m urging you with blogs to join me in spreading the word about the reality of these pseudo-jobs, minimum wage, and why writers can’t take it anymore.

Are you with me?

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  • Devon Ellington April 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Count me in for Writers' Worth Day. Let me know what day it is and I'll devote a special blog post to it, Twitter and RT others' blogs.

    Bluntly, those who take the crap paying jobs aren't writers — they're wanna-bes and dilettantes. They're not getting decently paying work because they're not willing to take a stand, hunt it down, and grow in their craft so that they're worth more money.

    I'm tired of hearing these writers scream that the work isn't out there and they have to accept crap pay. The work IS out there, and they need to look long and hard at themselves as to why they're not landing it. Yes, it's harder now — and they're making it worse. But it can be done.

    When the economy picks up, they'll still be making $1/article. That's what they're worth. However, they're hurting the rest of us, because they're telling clients that ALL writers aren't worth a decent rate. They're saying it's okay to disrespect those who've spent years honing both art & craft. And they're wrong.

    It's the same when you give your business to a business whose practices hurt others because they're cheaper — you hurt EVERYONE and bring it down for everyone.

  • Lori April 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I have to agree, Devon. If you devalue yourself enough to take jobs waaaaaay beneath you, you’re not a writer. You’re only dabbling. I’m frustrated with people who will join bidding sites and participate in the slow erosion of our industry by going lower than the next guy. This is a service we offer. It’s not an auctionable talent! Ridiculous. I have not, will not EVER get involved in a bidding war. Everyone loses, including the clowns who think they’re getting good writing for nothing.

    I’d love to see the healthcare industry behave this way. Would we win? At first, yes. But even we patients would suffer in the long term. We have to be willing to stand firm behind our worth. It starts with knowing what we need to earn to make our target. Then we have to guard that fee like lions protecting their young.

  • Lori April 16, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    This year’s Writers Worth Day is May 15th. The “usual” day falls on a Saturday, so I’m bumping it back a day to get the word out to the most people possible.

  • Irreverent Freelancer April 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Oh man, I was just having this exact same debate with someone on a freelance message board I visit. Looking forward to a second Writers’ Worth Day.

  • Katharine Swan April 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    ABSOLUTELY with you, Lori!

    I know many writers believe that letting the writers with no scruples take these jobs is keeping them out of direct competition with the rest of us. I used to think that was true. Now, I’m seeing how the actions of the unsure are about to come crashing down on all of us.I think it was true in a better economy, but now that our economy is suffering clients are starting to think, “Hey, if XYZ company can get their writers for X amount, why shouldn’t I be able to, too?” When money is tight, they are just not as willing to accept the “Pay more for better quality” approach.

  • Katharine Swan April 16, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Huh. There was supposed to be a couple of hard returns in there. Interesting…

    Sorry for the confusing long paragraph.

  • Devon Ellington April 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Katharine, when they do get what they pay for — low quality for low pay — because we hold the line — they come back to us at their usual rate.

    It’s happened several times in the last few months.

    It wound up costing them more because they paid crap, they got crap,and then they had to pay me to fix it. At my rate + the aggravation fee. And they get the quality with me for which they pay and then they don’t complain the next time I quote them my rate.

    My clients cover a wide geographic range.

  • Katharine Swan April 16, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Oh, I know what you’re saying, Devon. I just think it’s a tougher pill for them to swallow right now, which would explain why some of us are hearing more protests of “Why should I pay that when I can get it for…”

    I am definitely NOT saying we shouldn’t hold the line, just that I think the low-bidding writers are able to have more of an impact on clients’ expectations in the current economy. But to me, that’s even more of a reason why we need to convince MORE writers to hold the line right along with us.

  • Chuck April 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Seems to be that writers could easily be included in some craft union, and when in conversation with a potential client one could refer to a published pay schedule that’s mutually acceptable to most.


  • Lauren April 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Lori, I agree with you, but I’m not fretting.

    Heard of the Darwin Awards? Evolution always wins.

    Anyone living off $3 per blog post will soon need to harvest their 2nd kidney, any day now actually….

    Problem solved.

  • Kimberly Ben April 18, 2009 at 2:39 am

    I’m with you! Just tell me when and I will make sure to recognize the day.

    I was lurking around a writers forum a couple of weeks ago, and a writer posted asking for feedback and advice about raising her rates from $10 an article. There were over 24 responses and only two supported raising rates. The others basically told her that she should be more realistic and not look a gift horse in the mouth. Talk about depressing…

  • Lori April 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the responses, everyone. Kim, the day is May 15th, and here’s what you can do – go to that forum and post a comment educating those people. They’re totally clueless about their own industry. Then point them here and I’ll give ’em a little more hell.

    THAT is what I’m talking about – crazy notions that we have to accept what a pseudo-employer is paying.

    Chuck, I believe the Writer’s Union does exactly that. I’ve been tempted to join in the past, but I’ve not decided which writing association is the best fit for me.

    Lauren, great plan. :)) They’re good until they run out of organs, at which point, no more problem for us! LOL

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