Sunday, 2 December 2007

Freelancers don't just do it for love

Here's a clip that's been doing the rounds in freelance circles. I discovered it courtesy of the Wordsmith (thanks, Wordsmith), since when I have noticed it appearing all over the place on the blogs of others who work at the freelance coalface in the arts/media/publishing.

Whether you're an editor whose clients make their low budget your problem rather than theirs ('sorry, we can't pay you more than £[derisory sum x] to do this, so take it or leave it but if you leave it we'll sulk and you'll never get any work from us again'); or a photographer whose image is selected for publication in a large-circulation national newspaper/magazine ('sorry we don't actually pay for photos, but you'll get a credit'); or a journalist who's asked to research and write a piece for peanuts because if you don't, then someone whose only goal is seeing their name in print will do it for nothing instead; or an artist who's offered twenty quid for an illustration that's taken days to create; or indeed anyone struggling to earn a living through their art, whose creative talent is completely undervalued or taken for granted or assumed to be available for nothing by those who bask in the certainty of a regular pay-cheque (I'm just setting the tone here, you understand, and the tone is full-blown RANT!) . . .

. . . then you're not alone. And this is for you . . .

4 comments:

monix said...

I suspect you have touched an awful lot of raw nerves with this post, Juliet. I used to get calls from people who didn't want to pay the fee for my professional advice but still wanted the advice 'just as a favour' without even the offer of travel expenses. Now that I'm retired they want my help 'because we know you must like to keep your hand in'. Education and church groups are the worst offenders in my line of work, using the emotional blackmail technique exquisitely.

Juliet said...

You've hit the nail on the head, M, it's that word 'just'. There's a collective subconcious notion that if you insert the word 'just' before what you're asking someone to do, then the task becomes somehow small, non-time consuming and something the 'service-provider' will be happy to do as a favour. Thus 'please check these proofs' or 'please supply that photograph' or 'write a 2-page article by Tuesday' looks like an order for goods or services and hence implies payment, whereas 'oh, could you just quickly check this for me' or 'if I could just borrow that photo for my magazine' or 'would you just let me have a few words to fill two columns' give exactly the same request an air of nothingness, to which the (hoped for) reply will be 'of course, no problem at all'. Would anyone approach a plumber and asking him 'just to come out and have a quick look' at their heating system, or an accountant 'just' to run through their accounts for nothing? I think not. We all let it happen time and time again and it's high time we started ranting about it more, in my (embittered, jaundiced and very grumpy) view!

monix said...

I might do a rant on 'the turning of the worms' over on RD!

60goingon16 said...

Oh yes,' just' is absolutely the word.

Another favourite of mine is the 'Well, so and so said they would do it for X.' And then you discover that so and so is about 21 and will work for peanuts - probably still living at home and with access to the bank of mum and dad. In which case, my reply is: 'Well, it's your choice: what is professional knowledge and experience worth to you?'

You get what you pay for as many shamefaced clients have later admitted. I left my last major client after 11 years, when the relevant director slashed the budget and expected me to work for a pittance. She assumed I would just roll over and say 'yes'. After I left, they hired a whizz-kid consultancy, which put three young but inexperienced executives to work on the account. They lasted three months and were fired from the account. Now they have someone in their 50s, ex-Fleet Street, who delivers every time. But, as he tells me, they still resent paying him what he's worth.

Talk about falling on stony ground.