I'm taking a cue from freelancer extraordinaire Lori Widmer, who regularly blogs about the importance of freelancers recognizing, reinforcing, and requiring their own worth and value at Words on the Page. Lori, you've inspired me. Read on...
As I've said in past posts, I think I've been in the freelancing game long enough to recognize a red flag for what it is. In this case, it's companies who don't feel freelancers are worth paying for the work they do; they either flat out don't pay, or they don't pay nearly enough for the work that the writer completes.
I've been in this situation myself a few times, unfortunately; twice recently, in fact. For two projects I was told I wouldn't be paid at the outset; for another project, I was getting paid, but wasn't comfortable with the rate. And in another instance, I'd emailed an editor asking if they work with freelancers. I got a reply saying that they did, and she spelled out exactly what would be required. Pay was not mentioned, which to me always spells trouble. Sure enough, I had to ask the question, and wouldn't you know, I didn't like the answer. Though it could have been a good opportunity, my time is too valuable to spend it on something that I'm not even being compensated for. Volunteering for an organization I feel passionately about is one thing; not being paid for a service is quite another.
Worse yet, I know writers who gladly take on these unpaid projects. Of course it's important to build up some experience, and we all know that quite often the "experience" comes from unpaid (or low-paid) projects, but at some point I think we really have to ask ourselves if the work and no compensation is truly worth it. I know of a few writers in my writers' group who are doing some work for a publication that I'd contacted a few months back and doesn't pay their writers. When I heard these ladies were doing work for them, I cringed inside. Perhaps these ladies have the time to devote to researching, interviewing, and writing the final article--I, however, do not, so if there's no value in it for me, sorry, I'm not interested. Maybe I sound greedy, but I have to be honest.
Obviously we all have our own goals and aspirations for our writing careers, but for the life of me, I can't understand those who just want to "write for myself". I love writing and it's always been (and always will be) a huge part of my life, but honestly? If I can get paid for it, so much the better. Some things are for myself, sure, but I'll happily put something out there that I might be able to get paid for.
What about you? Where do you stand on low- or no-paying gigs, and the writers who accept these types of assignments?