www.inkthinkerblog.com — Yesterday, I listed seven heinous freelance writing practices. Most of them have been well-received, but there were a couple of objections that surprised me. Here’s a recap of the list:
- Publicly badmouthing companies/editors/etc. when you’re not hired or when you’re fired.
- Visiting other writers’ blogs for the sole purpose of harassing them and/or making trouble.
- Visiting others’ blogs for the sole purpose of promoting your products and/or services.
- E-mailing the poster of every Craigslist/Guru.com/Elance.com ad that you think is offering compensation that’s too low.
- Flagging or otherwise deleting a job ad, or badmouthing it, after you’re responded to deter the competition.
- Bugging your writing pals for work when things are slow and never (a) saying thank you or (b) reciprocating.
- When someone does give you a referral, do a bad job or otherwise embarrass them and make them regret helping you.
Both in the comments and in private e-mail conversations, folks have shared with me that they feel strongly about the need to set people straight when they’re offering a pittance in exchange for writing work. As I said yesterday, I can understand the temptation. But there are several reasons I think writers should resist the urge to “teach those fools a lesson”:
- Every time you send a complaint/diatribe/etc. to a low-baller, you are wasting time you could be spending on finding or performing appropriately paying work. You are also dedicating both time and energy to negativity. What is the long-term impact of that choice? Will it build up your writing career? Make you feel good? Really, consider it.
- People who don’t value good writing certainly aren’t going to have their minds changed about the benefits of hiring a professional writer when a so-called professional busts on them for being the scum of the earth. Think of it this way: If someone accuses you of being a hot-head and then you lose your temper in response, have you proven them wrong? These people think writers aren’t worth much, and by being petty you’re simply reinforcing their already misguided ideas. If you must respond to an ad you’re not interested in, send a genuine application and state your rates. They can choose to hire you or not, but at least you’ll be demonstrating how a true professional writer behaves. And who knows — maybe that will change their minds.
- When someone feels attacked, he is more likely to cling to his existing belief out of a knee-jerk response to the threat than to concede that you may have a point. See the bullet above.
- The more attention these posters get, the more they’re encouraged to continue in the same theme. But what would happen if they didn’t get so much as a single response to their awful offers? When people stop acknowledging the posts at all, maybe the idiots offering $10 for 500 articles will get a clue already. And if they don’t, as I said in one of my comments on the original post, they’re paying crap money, so they’re going to get crap writing. They’ll learn or they won’t, but they suffer either way.
- Rather than complaining to the posters, who obviously don’t have any vested interest in the writing community, the more effective course may be to educate the writers who respond to the ads. Kindly. Without degrading them. By building them up so they feel like they can pursue higher paying jobs and that it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
- You have the right to charge what you like for your services, and your potential clients can choose to hire you and pay your rates or to go with someone else. Whereas it’s smart for you to get the most you can in exchange for your expertise, it’s smart for the person hiring you to get as much product as possible for as little money as possible. Misguided though they may be, these low-ballers are making a financial choice that’s not in and of itself a bad one: shopping for a bargain. That’s why educating the writers is critical — because people will always try to get as much as possible for as little as possible, but when “as little as possible” is a fair rate because writers stop allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by accepting less than their work is worth, the problem will be solved.
I’m not so naive as to think that this is an easy fix, but I think the potential is there to handle this, as a class of professionals, much better than we have handled it in the past. So, is confronting low-ball ad posters truly heinous? I think it depends on your approach.
A vent can be good sometimes. A vendetta never is. When it comes down to it, you need to determine what you want to invest in: arguing with idiots who aren’t paying your bills, or building up your own business and your fellow writers? I vote for the latter.
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