On freebies

The really crap thing about being the wrong side of 40 is that you start to fret about all the stuff you thought you’d do ‘one day’, and haven’t done.

Ok. Scrap that. Deep breath, because today I am going to be POSITIVE.

The really great thing about being the right side of 40 is that you start to think ‘Ok, well, if I’m going to do it one day, that one day might as well be now’.  So a few weeks ago I tidied up the ‘about me’ page on my blog, added the words freelance writer (ha!) to my linked in profile, and started putting feelers out to see if I could find projects that would allow me to stretch my wings and learn, whilst at the same time earning me some extra cash for the kids’ Christmas presents.

I did quite quickly get asked to write a very short piece for a ‘new community magazine’, which I took to mean a locally created publication, perhaps a spinoff from one of the hyperlocal blogs in the area. So I wrote it and sent it off, and was dead chuffed when they came back and said they liked it and would be using it. I didn’t ask for any money, mostly because I’d assumed the magazine was a labour of love for someone.

I was even more chuffed to receive an email this week saying ‘The editor really liked your article, would you like to contribute something to the December issue, perhaps on Christmas?’  Wow! Brilliant, I thought, and had already started to put something together in my head.

I wanted to know a bit more about the magazine, so I scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the email chain to the very first message I’d received, and googled the signature details, which as it turned out weren’t particularly local at all – ‘Hibu (UK) Ltd, One Reading Central’ – until recently the business known as Yell.

I don’t have any issues with the fact that the magazine is probably a directory rather than a community magazine – any experience is good experience, and also it’s down to me and nobody else that I didn’t do my homework the first time round. BUT I figured that since the magazine was published by a commercial business, with a pre-tax profit of £369 million, it would not be unreasonable for me to ask for some financial recompense for any further contributions. So I sent the following email:

I’m glad the article went down well and I’d like to continue contributing – as a Mum Christmas is certainly on my mind so happy to do something around that for you.

 I gather the going rate is £50 per 500 words, would this be acceptable?

I wasn’t expecting anything near the going rate, but I figured it was a good way to open the money conversation. However it was to be a short lived conversation, as I very quickly received the reply:

That would be great. Unfortunately I don’t have a writer’s budget for the magazine. Sorry about that – understand if that means you’d rather write for somewhere that was paying.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know all experience is good experience, and I know I am trying to get somewhere in a crowded profession. And I know I’m not that good yet, but I am clearly good enough for what the magazine/directory/whatever needs. I also know that the editor will be paid, the sales people will be paid, the layout people will be paid and so will the shareholders of this multi-national corporation.

I need some guidance on this, people. Should I climb out of my own backside, write stuff for free (to be fair what they want from me is not anything taxing, and they are happy for me to post the articles on LearnerMother after publication). Or should I try and place a value on my efforts, however small?

Please be frank!




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9 thoughts on “On freebies

  1. Difficult one. Why should they profit from your hard work? But then its extra experience & getting your name out there? I’m really not sure. I think perhaps you should put feelers out for paid work & see how that goes …. Be brave & have confidence in your abilities x

    1. Thank you! I think when I actually see the publication (it’s not been printed yet) it will help me make a decision as to whether to carry on doing it for free. As for being brave, I’ll try! Thanks again 🙂

  2. It’s a difficult one isn’t it. Would you write a blog post for someone for free? Could your time be better spent finding paid work or can you add this to your portfolio for the future? Go with your heart.

    1. Hmmm…I would write a post for someone for free, but not for a commercial company (unless it was a review I decided to do off my own bat). I think I am going to wait until the magazine/directory/whatever comes out and then see what it looks like, if it is well put together and professional looking I guess that’ll say more for my portfolio than if it’s a glorified Yellow Pages, so will probably swing my decision. Thank you for commenting.

  3. I’m no expert on this by any means, but speaking from my own experience I think it’s a bit cheeky for any large corporate to expect you to write for them for free unless they’re giving you some form of reciprocal value, such as allowing you to promote your blog URL. However, seeing as they’re not stipulating the content should be exclusive it’s just about acceptable in my view – but only just – as they’re not laying any claim to your intellectual property, but ssentially using it with your permission.

    Never be afraid to ask questions up front when you’re approached. Personally, I always ask three questions: exactly what content do you want, do you pay for content and does it need to be original and/or exclusive? And if you’re not happy with the answers, don’t be afraid to turn it down. You’re worth more than nothing – you’re providing them with valuable content,.If you’re looking to earn a little on the side, the right opportunities will come along eventually.

    1. I guess you’re right – as I can repost on the blog they are technically borrowing rather than buying.
      That is a brilliant guide to what to ask next time (if there is a next time!) Thank you.

  4. I feel the email you received back was rather abrupt.
    However I enjoy your blog and my advice would be to prepare another article for this magazine as it is clear that you are a talented writer who will I am sure be recognised from your contributions.

  5. Well an interesting article. I happen to be in the same situation and I have written many passionate comments about this. Last one was on the page of Society of British Theatre Designers. I graduated over three years from Royal Welsh College of Music in Theatre Design and I am very proud of that. However the real world of theatre industry is not a positive as I would imagine. Ever since being on Alumni group on Facebook, most of the jobs posted are unpaid opportunities. Not all of them, but most of them.

    I appreciate that companies or people give opportunity to expand your portfolio, but there is a fine line. I have worked very hard all my life to become better in my art, went through Foundation, graduated from very respectable college within the industry, paid 15k for it, worked in so many low paid general jobs and did my best to improve and extend my artistic knowledge via many courses BUT!!! There is a limit to this, we all have to live, we all have to eat, pay rent and bills and function in our lives. So I refused to do free work.

    In the last three years there were only two occasions. One working for lovely Kerry, who promised, if she is happy with us during the Salisbury Jubilee Festival, we may be able to work with her on other festivals during the summer and we can get paid. And she was happy with me, so ended it up making animal clay sculptures and being paid for it. The second time I was offered work experience with Harvey Nichols during their Christmas window display. It was interesting and useful week, I went there for two more evenings after work following week. However when they called to do next set up in January and I asked if that is paid position, the lady said no. So I said NO to them.

    Several reasons- they are massive company, which earns millions and surely if they happy to ask me to come back, I am grateful, but they are cheeky to ask to do it for free. The artistic supervisor told she worked there for free for a year. That is just not acceptable! Secondly it was the time after Christmas, no one is taking holiday so as a temp I had no work and with tax deadline approaching, there was not even a chance. I can understand if they ask a 16 year old to come back and do some more, but ask someone with extensive knowledge of the industry, I felt cheated and exploited. They have never called back afterwards. It is still on my CV and I believe it looks great, but I rather work for someone, who appreciates me for what I do for them.

    Why can kitchen porter with no knowledge of English earn minimum wage and experienced talented graduate should work for free or earning next to nothing, when you work out the hours. The only reason I can think, when I would work for free is, when I do not have relevant skill or there is a great opportunity being advertised. Working on my current blog and the job challenge, I would agree to work free for an interior design company if they can teach me how to be more fluent in AutoCad, so simply swapping skills or opportunities. So in a way if you think, there is a great opportunity that thousands of readers may read your article, which includes your url and there is lot more to come up from this, I would do it so. Otherwise not. Since I have been asking people money for my decluttering, decorating and design services money or other kinds favors, people have lot more respect for me and they keep coming back. You show them you have value and by paying you(or doing something else for you)they show they have a respect. Employers abuse young people to make their businesses better. Some people may think it is stupid that I refuse to work for free, but I could not go living back with my parents or have rich boyfriend and I had to earn money myself, there is nothing wrong asking for money if you need them or dictating few requests if you feel the business will benefit out of you.

    Now that is the end of my rant, thank you for reading. Kat
    katdesigner recently posted…Day 16: My new interior design and diy corner of knowledge! 76 days to go!My Profile

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