Oct 28, 2013

The Sky Isn't Falling. Not If We Hold It Up.

We've re-ignited the squawk about creatives "working for exposure" again. "Don't give it away for free," urges Tim Krieder over at The New York Times. While voices like Dan Lewis argue for exploiting the exploiters. And almost everyone's ringing their hands and wailing about the industry going to hell in a handbasket. Probably one full of exotic fruits sitting on Arianna Huffington's desk...

Granted, the turbulence has made for a wild ride, but some sectors of the media are doing just fine. Community newspapers. Indie book editors. Magazines even (we've had more open than close annually since the bloodbath of 2009). A lot of veteran freelancers I know -- myself included -- had significant income spikes in 2012, which are holding steady this year. And an unlikely cavalry has just streamed onto the field with deep pockets, innovative ideas and considerable enthusiasm: technology's power brokers.

Which is to say: all is not lost, just shaken and stirred...

As a teacher, I encourage my Writers.com students to consider low- or no-paying gigs until they have six strong clips. The caveat: volunteer where it's needed – like, say, a zine or start-up – not at for-profit publications that disrespect the value of authors. Otherwise giving the milk away for free hurts the whole herd, not to mention their income potential down the road.

I see nothing wrong with a "journeyman" period, where a writer (or blogger) discounts their services to build a body of polished work (or audience). After all,  a newbie’s content may require a little more editorial TLC, so it can be a fair trade. But don't let the situation drag on. Professional work deserves professional pay. Period.

Good gigs exist. And more will, if we band together and collectively quit caving to the opportunists.

Freelancers, you're not alone in the wilderness. Seriously!

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