Friday, May 15, 2009
Today Is Writers' Worth Day
Today is Writers' Worth Day and writers all over the world are blogging about the worth of a writer. The issue that is being raised in many ways is: "Writers should be paid a living wage for their work."
That means, writers should ask for what they are worth, and publishers should offer writers what they are worth.
I want to look at the issue from a perspective of someone who earns her living as a writer. I'm a mother with school fees and assorted child-care fees to pay; a home owner with a bond, maintenance and insurance costs. I have to clothe myself and my family and like everyone else, I want to enjoy a good life while building a solid reputation doing a job I'm good at.
Can low-paying assignments, pay-per-view, $1 per articles or horrors, sites that offer me "exposure" actually help me meet these objectives?
1. If you take a low-ball price, you are putting yourself in a position where you have to work harder to earn a living. Say I want to earn R1500. Now, I could pitch a feature article to any number of local magazines ( which pay an average of R2 per word), write a well-researched 800 word piece, or I could write a couple of el cheapo assignments, write 30 $5 articles for some of the online article mills to make the same amount of money. Now which move is more likely to land me with carpal tunnell syndrome and which one will land me a decent byline in addition to the cash?
2. If you take a low-ball price, you have to work longer hours to meet your target. This is time you could have invested in your career, family, friends or anything else that bring you fulfillment.
3. $1 assignments will not help build your reputation as writer ( and they don't pay bills well either!). Many low-paying assignments are about quantity rather than quality, so working on them does not help you to build a strong reputation as a good writer.
That is, if you even get credit for the work. And if you want to estasblish some sort of online presence, or get into the routine of writing, why not start your own blog?
Your content will still get published, but you still own it and you can pull down the articles, refine them and send them to other publishers any time you like without having to ask someone else.
4. If you take low-paying assignments, you could be paying people to work for them! Sometimes I chuckle when I hear people on forums say that writers in third-world countries can afford to take low-paying assignments because dollars and pounds in those countries go farther.
While it is true that the Rand/Dollar exchange works to our favour, ridicilously low-paying assignments mean that the earnings are eaten up by some of the operations costs.
Internet costs in South Africa are relatively high as compared to other countries. So a large chuck of your money when you work online goes to paying Internet connection costs. Then there are banking charges, which are ridiculously high....
So I want to urge writers to ask for what they're worth. It will give you the space to do your work properly and deliver quality work, so that your career can grow.
My message to publishers and other types of businesses that use writing services is that, you get what you pay for. Quality writers who know their worth will not take low-paying assignments.
They know that time spent looking for a fair client is worth more than an assignment on hand from a low-paying client.