23 January 2008

Monkeys and peanuts revisited

Matthew Stibbe, over on his very interesting Bad Language blog, has written today about paying monkeys peanuts.

As regular readers are probably sick of hearing, late payment is my bete noire. The other thing that really raises my hackles is shoddy rates for the job. No point in repeating what Matthew has so eloquently said already, so I'll just expand on it.

A particular hate of mine is those wretched bid sites such as Elance, where writers are encouraged to compete against each other by offering ever lower rates to win a job. I don't wish to single Elance out - it's not the only one by a long chalk. Then there are the job boards that profess to offer "opportunities" to writers and editors - jobs that offer US$10 per article, for example, or an editing rate of £8 per hour.

Worse is the rife practice - at least in the UK - of offering desperate journalism wannabes internships that last for up to 6 months. Unpaid, of course. Quite apart from the fact that this is slavery by any other name, such openings discriminate. Most of the media is based in London, which as we all know is outrageously expensive to live in. Only those with wealthy parents who are happy to support their offspring for such a long period of unpaid "work experience" are in a position to wangle such positions. Thus eliminating at a stroke those with immense talent from poorer backgrounds, who have no possibility to take up such an internship, because they have to work to support themselves.

The unpaid internship is a hot topic of debate across my trade right now. But that aside, even if you've gained the experience you still have to find work. Which throws you straight back into the arena of shoddy rates for the job. Any wordsmith worth their salt will probably steer clear of the bid sites (unless you are seriously desperate to pay the bills this month), but it angers me that some of the sites I regularly browse to sniff out any gems of an opportunity seem to have no policy on pay when it comes to accepting ads. One site I use, Write This Moment, has a great jobs board, but does not distinguish between work offered at a reasonable rate and work offered at peanuts or nothing (except for the glory of seeing your name in print). I'm not singling them out - they are fairly typical of many job sites specialising in writer opportunities.

It would improve things in the industry enormously if job sites were to have some kind of policy on rates for the job and thus uphold a standard. To say, "you can't advertise here unless you offer a minimum rare of X". Because it would teach a lesson to every company that if you want skilled work you have to bloody well pay for it.

Otherwise you will indeed get monkeys.

Or desperate wannabes...

1 comment:

Juliet said...

Spot on! Especially about those bidding sites, which I investigated and quickly abandoned last year. Currently smarting from having done a last-minute proof-reading job for an A-list academic publisher only to be told that, on this particuar journal, their rate is £11/hour!! (NUJ recommended MINIMUM is £21/hour). May as well take in ironing at that rate and at least I'd be able to listen to the radio while I worked.

I fear that in virtually every branch of wordsmithing we will always be competing with the 'just keeping my hand in' brigade - ie non-breadwinners, retired people, dabblers, etc, none of whom need anything like a realistic market rate. (Spit, hiss, growl.)