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WRITER’S LIFEGUARD: WILL/WON’T WORK FOR FOOD

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WILL/WON’T WORK FOR FOOD

[I wrote this in 2012. Now, examiner.com has suddenly and without any real advance notice to its “content providers,” closed up shop.]

How is it, dear friends, that so many of us don’t just say no?

We gnash and moan at the parlous, perilous, ever-worsening state of writing for pay… and then we write for free.

I’m not talking about writing for struggling startups. Nor for good causes. I’m talking Huffington Post. I’m talking examiner.com

And I know why you’re doing it. When I ask, you give me answers I understand. “I do it for the free trips. For the free theatre tickets. For the free lunch.”

I understand.What I hope you’ll understand: There is no free lunch.

Especially for writers. When you write for lunch or tickets or trips, you’re holding out a sign that says, WILL WORK FOR FOOD.

And once you do that, there is no reason on this good, green Earth that anybody should hire you for money. Ever.

When you write for Huffington Post, you’re working for AOL — they own Huffington Post. How’s AOL doing when they’re not paying you?  They’ve just “reported more than a fourfold jump in first-quarter profit as online advertising revenue increased. Net income rose to $21.2 million from $4.7 million a year earlier.”

When you write for peanuts — no, for peanut shells — for examiner.com, you’re putting cash in the pocket of a billionaire who uses what he doesn’t pay you to support right-wing causes that will make you even worse-off than you are now.

Why are AOL and examiner.com doing so well? In part, because you’re supporting them. You are a 21st century ragged-trousered philanthropist. That phrase was coined in 1910 by Irish-English author Robert Tressell to describe workers “who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages in order to generate profit for their masters.”

I urge you: Don’t be that sap.

Don’t steal from yourself. Don’t take food from your family. Don’t be a ragged-trousered philanthropist.

Stop giving away your talent, your skills, your work to the obscenely rich who grow ever richer on your back. Your voluntarily offered back.

Take back your back.

Demand pay for your services. Your plumber does. Your kid’s teacher does. Your receptionist/librarian/nurse/croupier/mailman/mechanic/publisher does. So should you. Starting here and now — Just say no. Let your sign read,

WON’T WORK FOR FOOD.

— jules

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