Thursday, July 22, 2010

We Have No Budget

As a freelancer a common response I am getting to requests for work is:
"I'm sorry we don't have a budget to pay anyone right now. If you'd like you can still publish and get a clip. We have blah blah blah customers who read our publication and the exposure you will get for having your article in Blah Blah magazine will be payment enough"

Here is my response to that:
Hell no but thanks for the offer!!!

When you give away your work for free you are inviting the magazine to do a few things:

1. They might expect it all the time and thus you will never see a dime from them.

Example, you write the piece and after it's published you ask for a paid piece. The response of the magazine will most likely be something like, "We still don't have a budget and since you wrote for free last time, I'm sure you wouldn't mind doing it again" Sure they won't put it this bluntly...but you get the idea.

2. They might tell other people you are willing to work for free.

Like it or not, magazine publishers that don't hate each other talk. If the subject of how to get free content in their publication were to come up, it is possible that your name will too and you could get the dreaded call of, "Hi, I heard you wrote a free piece for Blah Blah magazine and I was wondering if you would like to do the same for us. We can offer more exposure and I'm sure it will benefit you."

Well- if you have more customers, why can't you pay? If you have more exposure, isn't it safe to assume that you have more advertisers and thus less excuse to not be able to pay?!?

3. They might expect other writers to do it for free.

More and more people want to be writers and there is an excitement that comes with having your name in a publication. Letting a magazine have your work for free makes them think that it is okay to ask others to work for free.

When is it okay to work for free?

If you are an intern working towards a degree. I still find unpaid internships unfair, but they can lead to work for pay.

You should be able to get all the clips you need for a respectable portfolio during your internship and after it has ended command payment for every piece you do after that.

The only other time I think it is acceptable to work for free is if it is for charity. At that point it is not work, it is volunteering for a cause you believe in.

What to do when someone asks you to work for free?

Here you have some options!

You could say no and never call them again.

Be a grown up and respectfully decline and mention that you would like to be remembered when the budget allows for paid writers.

Suggest alternative payment such as trade. Many publications I have encountered receive gift certificates for dining, a day at the salon, shopping or travel. If they insist they can't afford to pay you, ask for some trade that will be the equivalent to your writing rate. Beware of this though if you ever expect to get money out of them in the future!!!

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