First up, a little disclaimer… To be honest, I hadn’t planned on posting about the b5media issues. I’ve worked for b5media for a long time and at this second still do. However, I’m involved because I’m knee deep in emails and Skypes and now I’ve even got a direct comment at b5media asking me if I’ve been fired, so I suppose I’ll comment here.
If you’re a blogger, I’m sure you’ve by now heard about the b5media shenanigans. But just in case you’ve been living in a cave…
Yesterday with zero notice b5media fired all of the bloggers who had been writing for their entertainment channel. Some had been with b5media for years. Later on in the day, tweets were posted that linked up two specific posts (Is this the end of b5Media’s Lifestyles channel? And, is b5Media is moving to NYC?) from Elizabeth Spiers’ site which led to speculations of course (i.e. people putting two & two together).
Here’s the deal…
Do I think it’s nice to fire people with zero notice? No, of course not. Who thinks that? I think it’s decent when a company offers a heads up to contractors and employees about what’s happening in said company because it helps to maintain a better work environment and also it’s just a basic nicety, but as a freelancer I also know that it doesn’t always happen.
In a perfect world…
- Companies, regardless of scope, would practice basic kindness and be forthcoming with the people they hire. It builds a better community and yeah, it’s nice.
- All freelance writers would be confident enough to look for work that pays decent wages not take gigs from $2 bid sites or work for free.
- There would be no more querying! Jobs would fall in your lap.
- When you’re hired as a freelancer you’d get good pay, rights to all content, rights to later buy your domain, and health care benefits.
Now, welcome to the real world. Freelance writing is far from a perfect career choice for everyone. ALL jobs, freelance or otherwise, have pros and cons. The good part is that it’s your choice what you do with your life.
As a blogger you’ve got a few choices. Freelance blogging for clients, starting your own blog projects, or signing on with a company as an employee blogger. Each one has different perks and slumps. For example, as a blogger for clients or if you blog as an employee you won’t own the domain and sometimes you won’t own the content but you also don’t usually have to deal with back-end issues like designing, fixing stuff when it breaks, or placing ads.
If you own your own blogs you will get all of the profit (if you make any) but you also have a million little things to deal with such as updating your platform, design issues, and server crashes. One major perk of owning your own blog is that minus major weirdness like Google banning you or a server loosing a year of content you can’t technically get fired from your own blog.
Pros and cons. You’ve got to weigh them for yourself and choose a path.
That said, try not to lose your cool…
If you choose to go the blogging for clients route, there are certain things you should keep in mind for the long haul.
You can lose your job. Clients can go under. You can be fired or have your pay cut. All sorts of messy stuff can happen. These are basic facts of freelancing. That’s why you need to job search even when things are swell.
Never, ever put all your eggs in one basket. Both Deb and me post about this almost to a fault in my opinion. If you put all your trust in one writing client it’s a problem due to the fact that sucky stuff can and will most likely happen. Freelancers do need to branch out. It’s not a smart move to get too comfortable.
In most cases you won’t own your domain. That can really suck because it’s easy to get attached to a site or blog when you write content for them and become attached to your readers. Personally I think it’s good to be invested because readers can tell if you are or not. However, if you’re too attached it’s not good either because again, you don’t own the domain. You are a contracted writer not a blog owner and it’s important to keep this in mind. You take a freelance job for a client for the money, not the ownership. Trust me I’ve been there. I was super attached to a blog I wrote. When I started feeling too attached to it, I quit because I knew putting more time into it might make me nuts. After I quit I felt a lot better.
In this specific case, people seem upset because b5 is (from what I hear) using the old entertainment content to redirect people to the new entertainment site they launched. Which (if it’s true) is within b5′s rights because they own the domains. They’re a business. If they want to they could sell domains to bloggers they’ve hired or fired, but they don’t have to unless it was stipulated as such in the contract. It’s like if you’re a home builder, website designer or social worker or a number of other things – if you’re contracted to build a house for someone that doesn’t mean you own it. If you work with kids at a non-profit, it’s awesome to see them do well, but it’s not all up to you.
It’s perfectly normal to love where you work or feel attached but as a freelancer for clients and even as an employee for clients you need to be able to separate yourself from ownership.
You should read your contracts carefully. Don’t ever take a gig unless you’re willing to sign and abide by the contract. If you don’t like a specific contract, no one is holding a gun to your head to sign it. You can turn down gigs, another one will come along.
Don’t burn bridges. In this specific b5 case and in other cases where major companies have fired people or downsized, I’ve seen people who used to work for the company offering up their termination letters or other company secrets publicly. I.e. I’ve seen comments like, “Hey I’ll send you my termination letter” – in my opinion this is not a smart professional move. If you work for a company as a writer and you’re fired or quit, it’s fine to be upset, but it’s unprofessional to publicly offer up company letters, secrets, or other company goods. It doesn’t make you look good and is the equivalent of burning bridges before you build them. I’ve also seen name calling and other less than professional behavior.
Here’s the thing, if I needed to hire someone for one of my blogs, I sure wouldn’t hire someone who shoots around the web giving away stuff from their last company or calling names. What if our relationship didn’t work out well? Would that writer go around giving away personal info from my contract too? Being upset – normal. Being angry – fine. Being unprofessional – you’re digging your own grave. If you think a company sucks, ok, maybe they do but you can be better than that.
What you can do…
- Vent to your friends privately. It’s normal to want to vent and can make you feel a lot better but don’t let it stop you from moving on and looking for new options.
- Land some new blogging gigs.
- Land some other sorts of writing gigs.
- Start your own blog.
- Be thankful for what a company offered you while you were there. I’ve worked for companies that have come and gone. It’s sad sometimes when a job ends, but I’m usually glad that one, I got paid while I worked there and two that I learned something new.
Freelancing can be a stressful job. Stuff like the b5media issue happens all the time. Not just in freelancing either. Right now, in my neck of the woods a major video store just went bankrupt and locked out all store managers and employees with zero notice last week. Even huge companies break down. It happens and nothing is guaranteed. Like with all jobs you’ve got good and bad times. Being prepared or not prepared can make a big difference when it comes to being able to deal with a career where things change fast and often.
PS as often happens, Deb and me tend to agree on blogging issues. As I was writing this post above she posted An Open Letter to B5media Bloggers elsewhere. Go check it out; it’s a good read.