You Don’t Have To Pay Creative Freelancers Who Love Their Job (& Other Bullshit Myths)
by Cara Sutra
Before I joined the world of creative freelancers, I worked the typical 9-5 office job. I may have worked for an eclectic mix of industries – from hair product wholesalers through nursing home receptionist to offshore banking and, most recently, adult product retail – but an office is an office. The days of staring out of the window with glazed-over eyes, dreaming about working for myself one day, are still vivid memories. I quit the office job almost 5 years ago now, and I know I’m very lucky to be able to work for myself. I joined many other freelancers who make their income through creative & promotional online work.
So, the big question: Is going freelance/running my own business everything it’s cracked up to be? Do I get up at midday, answer a few emails in my PJs and get paid handsomely for the privilege? Am I, in fact, living the dream?
There are definite advantages to working for myself, and from home to boot. However, if I’d thought it was difficult enough to get paid overtime or a bonus when I worked for a salary, that’s nothing compared to how difficult it is to get paid at all now. And I don’t mean low or no pay because of no work – because I am working, a lot. I get up every morning and work. Yes, I mean every morning; 7 days a week. You’d think I was getting paid a fortune, but the reality is that it’s a struggle to get paid anything at all for the time and effort I put in, and for my relevant experience and skills besides.
It’s a struggle to get paid at all? That doesn’t sound like living the dream? Why wouldn’t you get paid if you’re working at a job?
Inexplicably, when you’re freelance/run your own business/work from home/work in a creative niche such as professional blogging, copywriting or marketing, some businesses feel that paying you for your work is just an option, not a requirement. Requesting payment for skilled creative work such as marketing and copywriting can give rise to attitudes anywhere from surprise and reluctance, to offence and flat refusal.
I’m here to bust a few myths which seem to be circulating with regards to creative freelancers and payment for their work.
But you love your job! Therefore, you shouldn’t demand any payment for doing it.
So people who love their job don’t need any payment for doing it? There are loads of people who love their work, but I doubt they would do it for free. Unfortunately, we’re not living in some sort of magical fantasy land here: happy thoughts don’t pay the bills.
And even if they did, you’re still not helping.
Writing about sex and chatting on social media isn’t a job, it’s a hobby.
Some people might view their sex writing and social media interactions as a hobby, because it’s something they do in their spare time, separate to their day job. For me, this website, my brand, my copywriting and promotional work with 3rd parties are my income. I’m a professional blogger and marketer, this is my day job.
Let’s talk about the changing face of social media platforms. You might have noticed – especially from their inclusion in pretty much every TV and print ad going – that socials are not merely used to discuss what people had for lunch and what their cat’s getting up to any more. Businesses have come to realise that social media platforms are powerful tools when it comes to targeted advertising, especially in exponential growth industries such as the adult sector. This is especially true of Twitter which (so far, keep your fingers crossed) is free of the majority of free speech censors that flaw other social media platforms such as Facebook and Tumblr.
How do I know all this?
Because it’s my JOB.
I get paid to write about sex, whether that’s for entertainment and traffic growth, or educational reasons, or product promotional reasons, and I get paid to market via social media. It’s not a hobby for me, it’s my work.
You only value money, which means you’re not serious about/not very good at/won’t get anywhere with your job.
“You only value money!” I rant at them, when the bill payment demands fall on the mat.
Apparently, offering to write about their awesomeness on my website isn’t deemed ‘acceptable’ payment. Who knew.
Going by this reasoning, anyone who is serious about their work doesn’t need to get paid money. If you can’t see the flaw in this logic, then I would contend that it is you who cannot be serious.
The service or skillset you’re offering isn’t worth the price you’re asking.
‘Negging’ seems an up-and-coming tactic. I don’t just mean in the morally murky waters of PUA circles, but also when it comes to businesses negotiating the services of creative freelancers. You can attempt to belittle my work, my website and my brand all you like, but the fact remains: my rates are my rates. I will not slash my prices simply because you don’t like them, or because you (astoundingly) think I’ll give you a discount for insulting me. Other businesses are paying the prices I ask for the various services I offer, and the prices I set have been put in place after many years of gradual increases due to demand, audience size, experience and many other factors.
My rates are clearly shown on this website; if you don’t like them, you don’t need to get in touch. If you do contact me about the services I offer, but then attempt to negotiate me down in price, I will see this as an insulting business tactic and it’s doubtful we’ll do business together.
You’re only a blogger. It’s not like you have a ‘proper’ job in an office.
I make enough money from my website, brand, copywriting and promotional services to pay my bills each month – and pay for business expenses on top. I’m registered as a sole trader and as a limited company. This means I abide by legal requirements to declare my earnings so they can be taxed – and when that demand comes in very year, I pay my income tax and social contributions.
If the only way you judge a ‘proper’ job is that it’s done in an office, then you’re very much mistaken. I have had many so-called ‘proper’ jobs in offices and I earn more than I did in any of those roles now that I’m a freelance, professional blogger. If you’re still stuck in the ‘you only value money’ frame of mind then I can see how you’d think a voluntary role, perhaps as office admin, would be more of a ‘proper‘ job than my work nowadays. The job I’ve worked hard carving out for myself for the past 8 years in this fascinating industry.
If we send you ‘free’ products, then you’re obligated to reciprocate by promoting our business.
Happy thoughts don’t pay the bills, and neither do your products. You might have the most spectacular, ‘technologically-advanced, game-changing and revolutionary’ product going, but it still does absolutely nothing for my bank balance. That means I can’t pay my bills with it, which means it’s not supporting my work – whether that work is based on my own website, yours, or takes the form of promotion through social media.
I’ve worked very hard to curate my social media audiences. I have bought precisely zero followers on any of my social media platforms. I will not allow your business to take advantage of my genuine followers – or me! I limit the amount of promotion through my social media because I believe no-one likes to follow a billboard. There is availability to advertise using my social media channels, but as this is a promotional service there are fees payable. You do not automatically gain advertising through my social media because you sent me a box of toys or whatever it may be. Advertising is a business, not a favour – wherever the advertising takes place.
Linking back to your blog is valid payment for articles you write for our website because ours is better than yours.
This is a particularly amusing one, especially going by the methods often chosen to give validity to these claims. Thinking of a recent public spat between a business refusing to pay for promotional work and the creative freelancers they were approaching, I have to say that Alexa Rank is quite possibly the third worst way you can assume the total value of your website. The first is if you consider yourself to have the largest penis in the world, and the second is via Google Page Rank.
Even taking out the fact that Alexa Rank only counts those with the toolbar installed (and as such is a very US-biased measurement scale), and the fact that Alexa Rank can be artificially inflated in any case, the fact remains that copywriting is a skill and the creation of articles deserves fair payment.
If a best-selling famous author like Neil Gaiman or JK Rowling wrote articles for your website, but they had no website of their own, would you still merely offer ‘newsletter mentions’? I don’t think so. Their writing skills aren’t considered to have merit just because they might have a website of their own. Considering ‘website value’ to be the reason to either pay or not pay creative freelancers for their hard work is absolute balls. Someone with NO website still deserves to get paid, if they have the relevant skills and create high-quality work which helps build & further your business.
Let’s say, for instance, that a business declared they’d only remunerate a writer with an Alexa Rank of less than 150,000. That’s Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling out of the question:
Obviously they’re shit writers who don’t deserve to get paid for their work, amirite?
Oh, and I’m going to revisit the first paragraph in this section in order to point out yet another fact. The creative freelancers are the ones approached for their work. If you’re approaching freelancers requesting their services, then your business is the one in need of those services. You’ve also somehow been able to find those freelancers, meaning they already have enough exposure in their niche to be able to be found by businesses like yours. To contact and then state that the freelancer should work simply for mentions or for nothing because ‘our site is better than yours’ is actually laughable.
Promised or actual exposure is fair payment for your hard work.
So, happy thoughts don’t pay the bills, free products don’t pay the bills, can you guess what comes next? Oh yes.
EXPOSURE DOESN’T PAY THE BILLS.
Yes, in time, and (most importantly) from the right places, exposure can help add to the brand and credibility of a creative freelancer. Such exposure from websites and brands much, much bigger, louder, more established than myself has happened over the course of my freelance career. While I’ve been busy completing my paid work. The biggest exposure of all, for my career so far, has been from the national & worldwide press – and for that, I didn’t have to write or advertise anything at all.
Stop telling creative freelancers that your offer of exposure is fair payment for hard work creating articles, graphics, advertising – whatever it may be that you’re asking of us. It’s complete rubbish. I have worked with some of the biggest names in the adult industry, and I mean worked with. They have paid me for my work. They didn’t contact me saying, “don’t you know who we are? We don’t need to pay you, because we’re just that awesome!”
Don’t insult me or other creative freelancers by offering exposure in exchange for the hard work you’re requesting. Hard work deserves fair payment.
There are decent companies out there who understand the value of my hard work, the articles I create, the promotional services. I know this because they’re the ones paying my bills every month.
If you ‘don’t have the budget for that’, then don’t contact me requesting my services. To ask me to work for free -and this includes in return for exposure, products, smiles & happy thoughts and anything else that isn’t cash -isn’t just insulting to me. It’s an insult to those companies who are being forced to levy your miserliness and greed. It’s an insult to every other creative freelancer out there who also deserves fair pay for their hard work. And it’s an insult to the new creative freelancers, who might be more easily fooled into believing that their hard work isn’t deserving of remuneration.
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