Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freelance Doesn't Mean Free Work

This morning a fellow LinkedIn Group member sent me an e-mail. He complimented my writing style and said he'd love for me to write the copy for his new fashion-related website. My first thought: 'Hells Yeah!'

With my freelance career I've slowly been trying to make the transition from a strict business writer to a fashion and lifestyle writer. It's no easy task since journalism is usually a niche profession (more on that later this week). But I've been working on my own fashion blog, started blogging for a lifestyle/fashion blog out of Australia, and been doing several one-time articles for various pubs/blogs/sites. So, obviously my initial reaction was 'Finally someone recognizes my writing talent in this area.' Well... that was until I read the next line...

This potential client went on to say that because it was a start-up company they would be unable to compensate me in anyway for my work. Once the business was financially viable they might be able to pay me for future work. *bubble BURST* At this point my sunny, excited disposition swiftly turned into annoyance and anger.

What is it about freelance that makes people think you have the opportunity and desire to work for free? I'm no longer at the start of my career, when I might have tripped over myself to get an opportunity like this, regardless of compensation. I don't need a couple great clips to pad my portfolio. And I'm not naive enough to believe the experience from this writing gig will be more valuable than any monetary compensation.

I'm a professional. I work hard. I write well. And I rely completely on the money I make from writing to pay the bills. You wouldn't walk into the Gap and say to the manager 'give me these Long and Lean jeans for free. It'll be great exposure for your brand and really worth it in the long run.' The manager would kick you out of the store and not entertain your request for even a split second. (incidentally Long and Lean jeans from Gap are some of my all-time fav denim styles)

In this man's defense, I don't think he wrote me with any ill will. He probably honestly thought this would be a great opportunity and something a writing professional would jump at. So, instead of delete his e-mail without a response I wrote him back and kindly explained that I am unable to take non-paying gigs at this point in time. I offered to write if he could come up with some kind of payment in exchange.