Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Writing for free or for payment?

I usually advocate that it's best for a writer to write for payment. Now by this I'm not saying that a writer needs to be paid for every word he or she writes. After all, I'm not getting paid to write this blog, although of course there are ways of being paid to blog. What I'm saying is there are times when it's only right for a writer to be paid. An example of this would be if a writer is asked to write a column for a magazine on a regular basis, if that publisher is being paid for advertising and is paying other members of staff, then that would only appear fair for the writer in question to be paid.

It's a controversial issue. I believe in writing for free if it's to benefit a cause like a charity or to help someone out, but in the main I believe writers should be paid like any other profession.

Over the years, these are the kinds of things I have been paid for [not always large amounts mind you, but as the Tesco ad goes: Every little helps!]

1. Non fiction articles published online and in magazines

2. Short stories online and in magazines

3. Running online writing workshops

4. Running writing therapy groups

5. Royalties from my novels

I can even remember a time one month when I earned as much from writing as I do from my day job. However, post 911 a lot of online writing markets dried up or paid less. I had had a regular writing column but the website in question suddenly decided to stop paying writers. Their argument was "If you want to play a round of golf, you have to pay a fee!" To this day, I have no idea what was meant by it. Lots of writers pulled out of that website. I might have stayed but they also took away our free e-mail addresses.

So, along with lots of other writers, I left.

Not so long afterwards they began paying writers but in a different way. It was all about keywords and getting hits to the site. I think the money writers earned was probably a pittance for a lot of work. I don't think that site has the same feel to it anymore, somewhere along the line it lost it's energy, outlook and what it stood for.

There was another time when a new Canadian women's magazine was due to launch. I was offered a stint to write a regular column on personal development. However, the downside was I wouldn't be paid for it. The editor said I could write for it to 'make a name for myself' and then perhaps she would pay me!!!

Now, I wasn't that hard up to get my name in print. And I told her so. I also told her that as her magazine ran paid advertisements, and all the regular staff got paid, then so should their freelancers. Later on, after I had opted out, I found out she did indeed pay freelancers, but it was a pittance, but still, better than nothing.

I have witnessed online flame wars over the writing for pay issue, mainly from the people who think it's acceptable to write for publications like the one above, for free. How can a writer gain respect if all they do is write for nothing and maybe even put another freelancer out of a job by doing so?

Write for free on your website, in your journal, or to help a cause or someone out. But don't do it for the sake of it, especially, if it costs you dear in the long run.

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