Tag Archives: #FreelanceIsn’tFree

The Pitfalls Of Freelancing: Spec Articles, Radio Silence And The “Free” In Freelancing

A wise writer once said the following:

Easy reading is dam hard writing.

Whether it is a novel, an article or another document, writing, despite appearances, is hard work. It requires, time, skill, effort and talent. I’ve been a freelancer for nearly three years. While I still have my full-time job, I make time for my writing. That doesn’t mean that it is easy. Below, are three pitfalls that don’t help freelancers.

  1. Spec Writing: A spec is a sample article. It is typically written when either the writer or the publisher is unsure if the potential article would be a good fit for the publication. As a sample article, it’s fine because if it the editor does not feel like it would be a good fit, it’s no big deal. The problem starts when the article is accepted, but the editor thinks that the writer will work for free.  If it is understood (and preferably written down) that there is no payment and the writer will only be getting a byline and another article to add to their portfolio, that’s fine. But when the writer is looking for payment and the editor is looking for a free article, that is another story.
  2. Radio Silence: I get it that publications receive a large number of submissions. Not every publication has the time to respond to every writer who submitted. Some publications may even send a form letter via email. I’ve gotten a fair amount of those. The problem is what I call “radio silence”. It’s when a writer submits an article and hears nothing back. It’s disheartening, to be honest. I would rather hear a hard no rather than radio silence.
  3. The “Free” In Freelance: There is no such thing as “free” in freelance writing. Payment is often on a sliding scale, depending on the publication and the article. Some publications, as I have stated above, can only afford to pay via a byline. I have no problem with that, as long as it is stated beforehand. The problem is when some publications pay next to nothing for a long form piece or a piece that maybe more detail oriented because of research. I’ve stopped counting the number of freelance jobs that want a thousand word article, but the payment is pitiful. Respect me as a writer, respect my work and understand that I deserve to be paid a fair wage for my work, even as a freelancer.

Despite all of this, I still love writing and I still love freelancing. It’s just that some publications and editors make freelancing more difficult than it needs to be.

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A Byline Or Experience Vs. A Paycheck

We all remember the crash of 2008. The numbers of unemployed workers were staggering. As of a report in 2009, 2.6 million Americans were out of work. The unemployment rate was 7.2%, a figure that had not been seen since 1945.

Many workers, after failing to obtain traditional employment, started freelancing. A report from the Freelancers Union last year stated that 53 million Americans chose freelancing over traditional employment.

There are pluses and minuses to both traditional employment and freelancing.

The question, especially when it comes to freelance writing, is that if a byline (i.e. experience) or a paycheck is preferable?

On the surface, the answer is obvious: a paycheck. We all need to eat and pay our bills. A byline cannot be presented to a bank or landlord as a mortgage or rent payment.

However,  if an article goes viral or if it is published in a well-respected publication, that may be enough to open the door to larger projects, prominent clients and larger paychecks.

#FreelanceIsn’tFree has become a popular saying among freelancers. While it is certainly true, sometimes it takes one article to set a freelancer off in the right direction.

Now I leave the question to you. If you were freelancing and it came down to an article that promised to set your career off or a less prominent article that came attached to a decent paycheck, which would you choose?

 

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