So here’s the skinny. I hear about this new website which says they will pay its writers £20 an hour. Yes I know – it does sound like bollocks doesn’t it? But the idea of a regular gig sounds nice so I send off some writing samples and forget about it. A few weeks later I receive an email. It tells me that they’ve had such a fantastic response they can’t make up their minds! And so would I mind writing not one but two travel articles because it’s going to be some sort of travel website. That way they can decide who they really want.
And what do they get? They get a whole load of free work is what they get.
Now I know it’s difficult when you’re starting out as a writer, but I feel I’ve paid my dues and if someone doesn’t like the way I write, when I’ve supplied them with a few samples, then fair do. But I don’t think it’s arrogant to assume – hey I know I can write and I’ve written professionally so if you expect me to write two free articles then you can stick it.
I have an issue with any company expecting free work anyway. And it’s often got nothing to do with their financial situation – everyone in the world wants your services as cheaply as possible. If you go to the NUJ site, they have a section where writers anonymously post how much they’ve been paid for writing in some very prestigious newspapers and magazines. The sheer shitness of some rates will amaze you! There is also a very good section on copyright. I am deeply embarrassed to admit that when I recently had a new commission from Radio 4 I didn’t actually know about streaming rights (where the writer is paid extra for their play to be available as a download or on iPlayer). I didn’t know! The average writer in the UK makes about £10K a year which is crap. So we should be paid properly. Remember how the entire Hollywood industry ground to a total halt when the writers went on strike a couple of years ago? They were accused of being greedy just for wanting a bigger slice of the downloading and internet rights. It’s not greed to be properly paid for your efforts and if you accept a rubbish rate, you’re driving down the price for everyone else.