words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the tag “back yourself”

Stop doubting and start believing

It's not who you are that holds you back. It's who you think you're notAs most of you know, I’m a freelance writer.

Like any other profession, the life of a freelancer has it pros and cons.

Pros include choosing my own hours, being able to work in my pyjamas, having a coffee machine less than 10 steps away, and being flexible enough to watch my kids at their various school activities or have lunch with a friend.

Cons include competing deadlines, varying monthly income, the need to work nights and weekends at times, and having to line up your own work.

For now, the pros outweigh the cons and I am pretty happy to be living the life of a freelancer. The ebb and flow of work also allows me to work on my first novel. (But that’s a different story for a different blog post).

 

Contributing writers, volunteers and interns

However, one of the pitfalls of a freelance writer is the need to constantly be on the lookout for work. Sometimes work comes in as a result of groundwork laid months or even years ago. But it can take time to build that momentum. So I have several email alerts set up to notify me of various writing jobs available.

Some of these jobs offer reasonable pay but most pay a pittance. I actually wrote a post a while back about the generous offer to pay $20 for 2,500 words which equated to less than 1 cent per word).

However, the more alarming and frustrating trend I am noticing is the expectation of writers to work for free.

Hard to believe?

Well, it’s pretty common in the world of freelancing and unfortunately, it is becoming more commonplace. It’s not unusual for me to see as many as 10 of these ‘job ads’ per day!

These job ads are very cunning. They start out as normal job ads, stating what their company is and what the ideal incumbent is like. These ads often request people with degree-qualifications, high-end research skills, native-English speaker, attention to detail, willingness to work hard and ability to deliver to brief. You can also expect wonderful working conditions. Blah blah blah.

The kicker is usually hidden, right at the end.

Unfortunately, we cannot afford to pay for writers at this time, but you will gain tremendous experience.

OR

This unpaid position is ideal for someone wishing to build a portfolio of work.

OR

In return, you will gain valuable experience and learn the ropes of writing for a digital platform.

In other words, ‘we want top notch writers who have loads of experience writing interesting researched-based articles, who are willing to work for nothing’.

 

Believe in yourself — or you’ll work for free

These ads anger me for several reasons.

  1. They promote the premise that good writers are not worth paying
  2. They play on the self-doubt that plagues many writers, that they aren’t good enough to request a fee
  3. They devalue writing skills in general
  4. They devalue the writing industry by setting up expectations for other business owners, that good writing can be obtained for free
  5. The business model behind these ads is based on exploiting people and their talents
  6. The business owner expects others to work for nothing in order for them to build their business (i.e. get ahead at the expense of others).

For every one ad that is willing to pay a writer a decent amount, there are at least 20 – 30 looking for a freebie. Quite frankly, I’m sick of it.

But what I am more sick of are the writers who agree to such terms, because they are really not helping their cause, or mine.

Every time a writer agrees to write for free, they undermine their own worth, the worth of other writers and devalue the writing industry in general.

The reason so many people respond to these ads, is because they doubt their skills are worth paying for. They don’t back themselves. Instead, they gladly accept any job that comes their way, even if it means they don’t get paid.

It’s kind of like being offered scraps from the dinner table and being over the moon about it.

 

Know what you’re worth…and stand by it

If writers stopped doubting their abilities and demanded to be paid, then these ads wouldn’t be tolerated, let alone answered.

Today I saw another ad for a ‘start-up’ wellness company. They were looking for “content writers/creators for blogs, research articles, marketing material and newsletters mainly focusing in health, wellbeing and fitness”. That’s exactly my niche, so I continued reading. (Note the grammatical error is the advertiser’s — no wonder they need writers) …

“All content will need to be original, and target our the desired readers along with the consideration of SEO.

We are looking for someone who is reliable, hardworking and keen to produce content. In return, you will gain valuable experience, working for a new up and coming health start-up company.”

I immediately saw red. I was so angry, I had to step away from my computer for a while.

But after thinking about it, I decided to contact them.

I wrote quite a detailed email responding to their ad, outlining my experience, my skills, my publishing credits and provided them with links to all my published works.

I finished my email with this sentence:

“I’m sure I have the skills you are looking for, so I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with your further. There’s just one thing …. I want to be paid for my expertise. If you are willing to pay me, we may be able to work together.”

I called them out on looking for free labour and told them I was worth paying.

For the record, I don’t expect them to respond. But that wasn’t the point of my email. I wanted to tell them they needed to rethink their advertising.

Instead of being angry about their ad, I told them I was worth something. I took back my power.

 

Do you practice self-doubt or self-belief

Sometimes it’s not easy to back yourself.

Self-doubt is probably the biggest hurdle for writers. Is this the right style? Will they like what I write? Is this the right angle to take? Am I good enough to write this?

When work seems to dry up, it’s very easy to think the worst — that you just can’t make it as a writer.

However, writers don’t have the monopoly on self-doubt. Everyone experiences it.

The man who wants to change careers but doubts he has what it takes.

The business owner who wants to expand her business, but questions whether she will be successful.

The boy wanting to represent his country at the Olympics one day, but wonders if he is good enough.

The student wanting to study law, but doubting she has the smarts.

The aspiring novelist wondering if she is kidding herself.

you can do anythingAs I see it, we have two choices.

We can keep doubting, or we can start backing ourselves.

We can keep questioning our abilities, or start believing in them.

We can keep wishing for dreams, or start working towards them.

The choice is ours.

Personally, I’m choosing self-belief, because I’m worth it.

And you’re worth it too.

 

Write to the Point CommunicationsNerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you (and you are willing to pay her), contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

 

 

What would YOU like to be paid?

Tell me, if you were a freelance writer, what would you like to be paid for the following job?

(Note: this ad has been copied directly from the website, so any spelling or grammatical errors are that of the advertiser).

Hi all!

This is a bit of and odd one, but I’m hoping to reach someone out there who’s looking to earn a little extra side money as a ghost writer / article writer.

 To be more specific:

 – I will provide the topic, the sub headings and references for you

– You will then use that research and turn it into your own words

– I am looking for articles about 5 pages long (approx 2500 words)

And that’s pretty much it! 

I require your English to be top notch, so native English speakers would probably be more ideal. I would also like each article in about a week.

I mainly focus on health and wellness, so example articles would include detoxing, weight loss etc. But, as I said, I will provide all of the research so you don’t need to know anything about it!

I could outsource this work overseas for much cheaper, but thought I would look local first incase anyone would like to earn a little money from home.

Pay is $___ upon completion of a 2500ish word article.

Scope is there to do as many articles per week as you like

I hope this ad has reached someone looking for a little extra money, and if that’s you – I can’t wait to hear from you!

By the way, this ad is about 250 words.. so 2500 is not that many 🙂

Got a figure in mind? Good. I’ll tell you what you can expect a little later on.

In the meantime, know that this ad is typical of the many that I come across in my freelance writing profession.

Write to the Point CommunicationsOn the surface, working freelance may seem to be the dream job — and in many ways, it is. You can work the hours you choose. You can be flexible regarding which hours you work, meaning you can free yourself up to watch your kids’ sports day, or not be in a tailspin about childcare when your child is sick. You can also choose the kinds of clients and projects you would like to work with.

But that’s often where the dream ends.

As a freelancer, you are responsible for finding your own work. You don’t get paid sick leave, annual leave, carer’s leave or, superannuation. You can often find yourself trying to be everything — project manager, marketer, accountant, web guru and even office manager. (Someone has to take care of the coffee, right?)

However, perhaps the biggest challenge, is the misunderstanding from many, that freelancers (in particular, writers) don’t deserve to be paid what they are worth.

Sure, there are some people out there working as freelancers who really don’t deserve to be paid anything at all for the services they offer. Some ‘freelance writers’ I have come across don’t know the difference between ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’. Nor do they even know how to proofread their own advertising!

However, there are many of us (myself included) who are brilliant at what we do, and as such, deserved to be paid an appropriate amount for services rendered.

That may sound conceited, but it’s not meant to be. It simply means I believe in what I do, just as I’m sure many other freelancers do too.

The freelance writer

While people freelance in many different capacities and industries, the path of the freelance writer is the one most vulnerable to exploitation. In particular, is the expectation that we will write for free, in exchange for ‘publicity’ or a token amount of money.

Why is that?

Not many of us expect doctors to provide their services for free. What about plumbers? Imagine the quality of work they would deliver if they knew they were not being paid for it. Do clothing shops offer us free clothing in exchange for us wearing them to promote their brand? Would you ask your mechanic to service your car for nothing, just to give him more experience or ‘exposure’? Of course not.

So why do people think it’s okay to ask (or expect) writers to write for free?

In short, it’s insulting.

Write to the Point CommunicationsWriters are professionals who have consciously decided that working with words is their craft, their niche, their career. Sure, there are many different kinds of writers out there, all with their different specialities. However, the one thing we have in common is that we are professionals, who have invested money and time into our careers.

For example, I am a writer who specialises in writing for the health and wellbeing market. This doesn’t mean that I can’t write other things, or edit or proofread. It just means that I have spent time and money honing my craft in that particular area.

My niche didn’t just ‘happen’. I studied at university for three years and gained my Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Journalism, Communication Studies and Australian Literature. I also hold qualifications in Magazine Writing, Editing and Publishing.

My working career has totaled 19 years. (I took five years off when my two children were born).

During those 19 years, I have worked in a variety of roles and industries, all of them using my writing skills. Prior to going freelance, I worked in a corporate wellness company as a health writer for several years. My work was published overseas and in Australia — both online and in print. I even wrote a great deal of copy for a leading Australian pharmacy. In fact, you’ve probably read some of it. All of that experience means I have developed the following skillset:

  • a knowledge of the health and wellness industry
  • a solid understanding of key health concerns facing the Australian population
  • an understanding of how to write for the health and wellness industry
  • an ability to take complex information and express it in a way that the average person can understand
  • highly developed research skills
  • a knowledge of where to source up-to-date and accurate health information
  • an ability to read scientific studies and interpret the information
  • an understanding of the publishing process
  • brilliant administrative, organisational and time-management skills
  • highly developed event management skills
  • highly developed verbal communication skills; strong negotiation skills
  • an ability to work to deadlines
  • an ability to work autonomously or as part of a team
  • desktop publishing and layout skills
  • highly developed computer skills
  • an ability to learn quickly.

The above list doesn’t even consider the skills I have in terms of spelling, grammar and sentence construction, etc. (i.e. ‘writing’).

Yet, I am still constantly asked and expected to write for free.

Although it isn’t phrased as bluntly as that. It’s more like this: “We would love you to write for us, as you have the exact skills we are looking for. However, we don’t have a budget to pay writers at present, but we would be happy to provide you with publicity, or links to your website in exchange for your writing.

Ummm. No. I don’t need publicity or links to my website.

I want to be paid. I deserve to be paid.

If I was employed with a company, I would be earning a pretty decent wage. I also wouldn’t have to provide my own computer, printer, paper, stationery, lighting or heating. I wouldn’t have to pay for my website or other costs of doing business. I wouldn’t have to spend my time looking for work, preparing quotes and invoices. And my employer would probably pay the fees for any professional organisations I belonged to.

I also wouldn’t have to justify why I am worth being paid.

Don't write for freeWriting for free

I have had a few people ask me why won’t I write for free.

Well, I have in the past. Yet, in every case it was carefully considered and each case had its own reasons. There are still circumstances in which I would write for free (or a reduced rate) — most notably for charitable institutions.

However, every time a writer agrees to write for free, they undermine their own worth, the worth of other writers and devalue the writing industry in general.

Once an editor/publisher receives an article for free, they expect the next person to provide it for nothing. If they have two people who can provide work, one who will do it for next to nothing, and one who wants to be paid what they are worth, who will they choose?

You guessed it — the person who writes for nothing.

Who loses? Well, obviously the writer expecting payment. But do you realise that you will lose out too?

You see, when it comes to writing, you really get what you pay for. If you pay poorly (or not at all), you get poor quality. When editors, publishers and everyone in between consider price before quality, you are going to get very badly written and/or incorrect information.

Anyone who once enjoyed reading satirical articles, amusing tales, in-depth analyses or informative pieces, will have to make do with poorly constructed sentences, misspelled words, and dull writing. Eventually, publications, websites and newspapers lose readers, which means less money to pay writers which means — yep, you guessed it — more trashy writing.

I bet you didn’t think about it like that, did you?

So back to our job ad.

Assume you have my experience, all my skills and know you can do a great job. This is also in your niche area of expertise which you have spent years learning.

Remember, you have to write to the brief, read the research attached, interpret the research and then ‘write it all in your own words’. 2,500 of them. That’s five pages — all correctly spelled, grammatically correct and easy to read. It could take you anywhere from 6-12 hours (remember, you haven’t even seen the brief yet).

What would you expect to be paid?

$1,500?

$1,000?

$500?

$250?

What if I told you, that if you agreed to the job advertised, you could expect to receive the grand total of $20.

Yes, that’s right. $20. Less than 1 cent per word. And if you’re lucky, you might even see that $20 after you submit the article. (Believe it or not, there have been instances where I haven’t received full payment for the work I have completed).

Would you write the article?

Imagine being asked to do that for no payment at all.

Would you be insulted? Feel angry? Feel bemused?

How would you feel, if your boss came to you and renegotiated your hourly rate to below $3 per hour? Would you bother working?

So if you ever need to engage the services of a freelancer (whether a writer, web designer, photographer, or consultant), ask yourself this question:

What would YOU like to be paid if you had to do that job?

Write to the Point CommunicationsNerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you (and you are willing to pay her), contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

 

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