UPDATE at the bottom
UPDATE II (June 8, 2009) — enabling the entrepreneurial journalist
Jeffrey Seglin, a professor who has written for the New York Times, makes the case that when writers write for free, they not only devalue their own work, they make it harder for others to receive compensation:
Your work has value. If you start giving it away for free, then it diminishes that value and makes it harder for others to charge for their work as well.
I think this is true. One need only spend a few moments perusing freelance writing job sites or surveying the payments correspondents are receiving from local pubs (online and print) to know just how little contributors are compensated.
Now, do I think it’s wrong for writers to contribute their work for free?
But do I agree that anyone other than a new writer looking to build a portfolio is — to use Seglin’s term — a “blockhead” if he or she writes for free?
Posted in blogging, news industry, news website, newspaper cutbacks, newspaper websites, newsroom layoffs, Online journalism
Tagged bloggers, foreign bureaus, foreign reporting, freelancers, freelancing, Jeffrey Seglin, journalists, Mainstream media, MediaShift, newspaper layoffs, Online Journalism Blog, True/Slant, unpaid contributors, writers
Of course you don’t. You get no health benefits, assignments are sporadic and the pay sucks. But you’ve been laid off, left without a reliable source of income, only to be replaced by — freelancers. So how do you make ends meet when newspapers and magazines aren’t hiring? Linda Jones has some solid advice, including this nugget:
Don’t compete on price
It’s tempting when you start out working for yourself to tell potential clients (whether it’s an editor, a possible commercial writing client or someone who wants a script writing for public sector DVD) that you are cheap and you can beat what the next writer will do the job for. Please don’t do that. If you compete on price, you will lose the job on price. Your customer will move on to the next supplier when they come along with an even lower fee.