Thursday, February 08, 2007

Remember Writers, You Can't Take it With You

On January 29, this ad appeared in a job listing service to which I subscribe. For those of you who know my work, you know that one of my passions is writing about social issues, particularly the homeless veterans in this country. As a result, I violated one of my own rules of applying for these sorts of listings - be very wary of start-ups:

I am looking for freelance writers that are interested in developing a column for my online magazine that will be launching in March 2007. The magazine is a human interest magazine that will focus primarily on bringing today's problems (homelessness, addiction, genocide)to the forefront and to offer possible solutions or at least attempt to begin a dialogue with those within our Government that can begin to take action on these and other issues. We will also offer light entertainment, business, and local (Palm Springs) news while expanding slowly to every major city in the US. If you have a writing background or are currently a college student interested in a career in journalism please apply to the email below. I don't need a resume, I just need you to tell me what you are passionate about and why you'd like to write a weekly column. • Compensation: TBD

Yesterday, I received a letter in my email box that said in part:
Dear writer, (my note: I think the lack of capitalization here says a lot about exactly how he views our profession - and this guy is going to be an editor?)

"I thank you for your recent inquiry in regards to joining a revolutionary online webzine based in beautiful Palm Springs, California.
A few of you quoted me your “rates” and I wanted to be upfront with everyone from the beginning. I have been in the Internet marketing business since the beginning. A new website does not generate an income stream for approximately one year. Income for a website is generated through selling advertising (banner ads, display pages, email newsletter links, and so forth) so, initial pay will be “expenses only” and on occasion a cash payment for an in-depth article.
Once the revenue stream has begun I will make staff position offers to those who have proven themselves as a good writer and as a loyal passionate person."
The letter was signed by Calvin Byer, CEO/Editor

I wrote him the following:

"I am a professional writer who had sent you my qualifications to write for your website.

In your job posting, you listed compensation as TBD, which usually means To Be Determined, or to be negotiated.

It doesn't mean: I Won't Pay You Until I Have a Revenue Stream.

This leads me to a question. When you set up your Internet provider for this site, did you tell them you were interviewing a few ISP's and that the one who provided you free services for a year would possibly be paid if your revenue stream increased? Did you tell your utility company that if they passed your loyalty test of providing you services for a year that you would pay them? How about your landlord/mortgage holder, are they passionate enough to provide you a place to conduct your business for free?

I didn't think so.

When I was in business school, I learned when you set up a business plan, you forecasted expenses for the professional services that your business requires. If you are opening a restaurant, you hire wait staff, cooks and dishwashers. If you're opening a retail store, you hire retail clerks and stockers. If you're starting a publication, you hire editors, copy editors and writers.

The operative word: HIRE for pay so we can all pay our bills.

I will never understand a business model for a publication that requires the talents of professional writers when pay for these services to make the publication successful are not built into the plan.

Next time, if you want to be up front with people about your "business," you might want to let professional writers know in advance you don't intend on paying until (if) your revenue stream increased and they pass your loyalty test of working for a year for free. "

And of course, I received the following reply from him this morning:

"Your letter proved my point. Your passion is $$$$ and not the subject matters which my magazine will cover. You would not be a fit within my company and as a matter of fact my ISP and Web Designer are working for free.

I wish you the best of luck but, remember....You can't take it with you."

Well, instead of taking it with me, I guess I will just continue to do my best contributing to my family's income so we can continue to live in this spacious house, all 1,200 square feet of it, while taking care of my elderly mother because the government will not and donating a portion of my sales from my own book about homelessness to homeless veterans - although my expenses on the book haven't even become close to being paid.

Darn, I'm not a good fit for his company. This guy is no different than that other scammer last year who called me a Greedy Money Hungry Writer because I expected a wage (gasp!) for my work. Only this guy is hiding behind the guise of Doing Good Things for Society.

I'm not a saint, but I won't be guilted into wanting a fair price for my work and my talents.

Really, writers, if you want to give of your time and money (and I suggest we all give back), find legitimate charities to which to contribute.


Blogger TB said...

I applied for the same job and got the same response. But I don't bother writing back to these people as I know they won't care what I think and the time it takes to reply is time I can use to apply for another job. I just send these jokers straight to the email trash bin!

6:37 AM CST  
Blogger Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell said...


That's a very good strategy and one I suggest most writers employ. Since it is a part of my business to help new writers and mentor, I think it is good to remind new writers that this isn't the norm (or shouldn't be) for our profession. People don't have to work for free under the guise of internships or giving back to society.

7:03 AM CST  
Blogger Kristen King, Inkthinker said...

What a bizarre response. No wonder so many new writers think they have to work for free! This is a delusional way of doing business.


10:58 AM CST  
Blogger Julia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:45 PM CST  
Blogger Julia said...

Oops! Sorry about deleting-- I just wanted to add something to my original comment, and Google/Blogger is being a pain.

It is good to post experiences like this, especially for the sake of those new to the trade. I cannot believe that "editor" was so demanding! He's really very delusional, like Kristen said. He's in for a rude awakening, eventually.

The audacity of him to say that "you can't take it with you." I'd like to see him explain that when he has to pay bills. Why can a locksmith get paid hundreds of dollars for a few minutes of work, and writers and editors are expected to work -- hard!-- for nothing?

Julia Temlyn

4:49 PM CST  
Blogger Irreverent Freelancer said...

Amen to that, Kerri, but you forgot the two most important words: Screw You! LOL It's because I'm now well paid for my writing that I'm able to give back to society. I've made charity a focus of my marketing campaign this year and it's proven both personally and professionally rewarding. Would I write for free for a good cause? Sure, if I knew the business was on the up and up. Would I write free for a start-up that claims it has no revenue stream in the hopes that it one day would generate one? Not on your life...unless it were my own. I'm glad you took a stand against this idiot. I know I "waste" a lot of time responding to uniformed freelance seekers, but advocating for freelancers rights is important to me...even if it does cost me money over the long haul.

10:03 PM CST  
Blogger AGK said...

Wow. I wish this surprised me, but it doesn't...

12:16 PM CST  
Blogger Star said...

I write "scoldies" to these bozos, too! It's my time and it gives me great satisfaction. Not surprisingly, I often get obscene responses...real class acts these people are. The irony is--there will be NO ad revenues without people coming back to the site for GOOD writing. They don't seem to see that.

8:34 AM CST  

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