30 November 2007

Getting paid

It's the end of a month and I've just spent a tedious half-day invoicing various clients and getting my books up to date. It's a relief to see that not too many people owe me money. Apart from one client who still owes me £145 from a much larger bill sent in February. Most of it has been settled in dribs and drabs over the intervening months but I don't want to get heavy as this client does give me regular, prestigious work, even if the rate is not fantastic. My accountant will not be pleased though if the debt drags over into yet another tax year.

Money is also an issue when you freelance. One hack I know of through an online forum writes for the national press and was asked by another client if she would write a lengthy feature. She said yes, until she found out the payment on offer was £25. Stick a nought on that and you might be getting somewhere... You have to laugh or you'd weep. Our trade is being wrecked by the zillion and one wannabes out there who are prepared to work for little or nothing. An example: someone on a business forum I use offers to write articles on any subject to be used as content on someone else's business website. His charge? £4 an article. Yes, you read that correctly -4 measly quid.

The number of outlets (particularly on the net) seeking writers who are willing to work solely for the kudos and the portfolio clippings is also rising. And now the NUJ is planning to confront the government over the blatant disregard for the minimum wage laws by newspapers and magazines who ask students to do up to 6 months' work experience for free. That's not work experience, that's exploitation.

Writing is a profession and a skill. It can be incredibly hard at times - staring at a blank page and struggling to string it all together (thankfully, for us professionals that's not an everyday occurrence but it can happen at times). As a professional skill, writing should and must command a professional remuneration. Why should we work for nothing? Newspaper bosses don't work for free. Neither does the editor, the page designer or the secretary.

I leave you with this fabulous clip, brought to me by a fellow hack today. It made me laugh but it has the bitter ring of truth to it...


Juliet said...

Oh what a brilliant rant! - it really strikes a chord with me and I've just sent the youtube link to dozens of my freelance friends!

Ever noticed how corporate people expect to climb the ladder and get a salary commensurate with their age and experience, with a rise every year, while freelancers who charge a rate that reflects their expertise have to compete with desperate novices new to the job or hobbyists who don't need to earn a decent living?

My husband's a music photographer and the situation is even worse than it is for writers as far as I can see - everyone simply assumes that they can have pics for their newspapers/magazines for absolutely nothing at all and they get quite affronted and stroppy when he starts asking for unreasonable things like payment or even a credit.

No wonder we all rant from time to time!

Unknown said...

The hobbyists drive me nuts - they are responsible for ever-quickening collapse of rates in our industry because of their willingness to write purely for the glory of seeing their name in print.

Your point about snappers is true - on one journo forum I use, this is a regular topic. The number of publications that claim "we don't have any budget" is unbelievable, yet snappers' overheads can be really high, even for digital images. I've been asked myself to provide pics, which I refuse to do. I point out I'm a wordsmith not a professional photographer and if they want pics they need to hire a proper snapper. I barely know one end of a camera from another anyway, although that's not really the point. But I'm certainly not going to snatch bread from a colleague's mouth.

Juliet said...

This is so good I've just stuck in on my blog too (with full credit re where I first discovered it!)

Chet Kent said...

Is it any wonder Harlan is one of my favorite authors? Brilliant guy and he doesn't take any, well, you know.

Thanks for posting that video!