I’ve been told that an ongoing debate that can get quite ugly on this site relates to whether or not people should take writing opportunities that are unpaid or offer a very low payment.
Let me preface my opinion on this topic by saying I don’t think anyone should judge why another person takes one job over another. Every person, whether they’re a writer, an actor, a business person, or work in any other profession, has unique experiences, education and circumstances. To judge another person’s willingness to take a job that is unpaid or low paying is completely unfair. Until you walk a day in that person’s shoes, you don’t know what his or her circumstances are that makes that person choose to work for a rate that you feel is too low.
Have I taken writing jobs early in my career that were unpaid? Yes. As a matter of fact, I still write for a couple of publications for free because the exposure they give me to a broad audience is just as valuable to me as money would be.
Have I taken writing jobs early in my career when I was trying to build a portfolio that were grossly underpaid? Yes. Again, a writer has to start somewhere and getting a portfolio is important to attracting future clients.
Now, there is a ugly little thing called online article farms of which I am not a fan. However, just because they’re not right for me, doesn’t mean that they’re not perfectly acceptable to another person. I have no intention of judging how another person values their time and their work. In fact, that process is none of my business. Based on my experience, I can give unbiased tips and suggestions and try to steer people in safe directions, but if a person is okay with writing a blog post for $3 because they need the money or need to build a portfolio, then that’s their choice.
To recap, I’ve written for free. I’ve written for the promise of a very meager portion of ad revenue on a site. I’ve written blog posts for as low as $4 per post when I was first building an online portfolio and brand. Each of these opportunities helped me build up my search engine rankings, so they served a dual purpose for me. I avoided writing for sites that could damage my online brand (meaning they didn’t offer the quality of content that I wanted to associate my brand with) as soon as I could, and I made sure any low paying opportunity would help me to indirectly build my business.
Finally, I would never presume to judge another person who takes a low paying writing job because they need the money. If employers are willing to hire people for low rates, and there are employees who are willing to do the work for that pay, then the rates those employers offer aren’t going to go up anytime soon. As with most careers, there are varying levels of pay, and there are different types of employers. It’s up to you to choose which pay rates you’re willing to accept based on your level of experience, goals, and financial needs, and it’s up to you to choose which employers you’re willing to work for based on their pay rates and reputations.
The goal for writers is to build up your portfolio with quality work, so in time, you can get even better jobs. The path to growth and success isn’t different for a writer than it is for anyone pursuing a career.
Bottom-line, do I like that employers get away with paying writers less than minimum wage? No, but we work in a global industry now where we compete with writers throughout the world who are willing to work for very different rates and for very different reasons. I just don’t judge anyone else for taking a low paying job, because they have their reasons. At Freelance Writing Jobs, I hope writers can learn that over time, they don’t have to take those low paying jobs anymore. It might not happen overnight (in fact, that would be a rare occurrence), but with patience and determination, it can happen. Freelance Writing Jobs tries to communicate the information, tips, and direction you need to make it happen.
That’s why I published the new comment policy yesterday. Comments that attack other people for taking low paying jobs or insult people, etc., will be deleted. Professional debate is always welcome. Remember, attack the argument, not the person.
Now, enough of the guidelines and process stuff and back to learning about freelance writing …
Next up, how to build your online brand and reputation, which will probably be a multi-part series since branding is one of my first loves and is so important for anyone trying to build a business these days since it is tied so closely to search engine optimization.
Oh, and back to shorter posts tomorrow, too. Long posts on blogs are not fun, but sometimes, it has to be done. Sorry about that. Shorter tomorrow!