I'm No Longer Doing Freelance Writing

It’s official!  I’m making an executive decision.  I’m calling up the folks at Miriam-Webster and I’m formally requesting the word FREELANCE, as it pertains to artists, be permanently changed to PAY-LANCE! I’m not the only person who feels this way.  I searched Facebook for the term and I saw SEVERAL people who have the same frustrations I have.

For some reason…people truly believe that Freelance means, FREE. 

No one wants to pay a writer for their time, talent, or expertise.  Instead, I’m constantly hearing forms of payment like, “getting your name out there” or “good exposure” or my personal favorite, “If it makes money I’ll pay you.”

First of all, my name is already out there.  Not everybody knows it yet, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’ve been writing for years and I can’t buy groceries with “good exposure.”   And as far as taking a job that only pays if the client makes money?  I can do that by writing my OWN book. 

In 2011 I was asked to assist an entity with putting on poetry shows.  The first show was a test run to see how the city would respond. I was told the poets would not be paid for the first show but that they would be paid for all future shows if the interest was there.  I thought it was a cool idea and ran the idea by a few poets in my circle.  Most of the poets responded positively but a few jumped down my throat…accusing me of trying to use them.  That was definitely not the case.  In my mind…this ONE unpaid show was going to lead to many PAID shows and my goal was to help put poetry on the map in my hometown. 

The first show was a success, and the poets were paid for the next show.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t included on the payroll.  Yes, you read that right.  The woman who organized the show wasn’t paid.  Why?  Because the promotors decided to pay themselves back for their expenses BEFORE paying me. Once they paid themselves back there no money left.  Security got paid.  Poets got paid, but only because they sold tickets to the show.  The girls taking money at the door got paid, but I, the person who put the entire show together and even secured a well -known host, left with zero dollars.  It hurt me to my core.  I was counting on that money to pay my rent.  It was a set fee the organizers had agreed to BEFORE the show so I felt confident that my bills would be paid.  That month I had to borrow money from my sister to pay my rent.  I realized I was taken advantage of because I didn’t know how to demand my money.  I didn’t know how to ask for my worth, and I didn’t recognize bad business practices when I saw them. 

I did one more show after that, making sure I got my fee, but when the subject of the money still owed came up, the organizers presented me with a deal: They wanted to cut my fee for future shows…but with each future show they would pay me a little extra to go towards what they owed me FOR WORK I HAD ALREADY DONE.  It was then that I cut ties and never looked back. 

I knew my worth.  I recognized bad business practices, and I let the money they owed me go for my own peace of mind. 

Throughout the years I’ve been approached by people wanting my “advice” on how to write a book, or step by step instruction on becoming a published author as a favor.  Once the subject of money comes up they no longer need my help. I’ve gotten used to it.

So a few weeks ago, when a ghostwriting opportunity was presented to me, I was thrilled to actually be working with a professional who understood that time and talent are money…or so I thought.  I had, what I thought, was a very productive meeting with a “pseudo celebrity” who spent lots of money on television impressing the ladies. 

After making verbal agreements on a BARGAIN PRICE for ghostwriting, and setting up a payment plan, the only thing left to do was sign the contract.

The ‘pseudo celebrity” disappeared.

As my granny would have said, “He didn’t say goodbye, I no longer need your services, dog kiss my ass, or NOTHIN!”  He just, POOF disappeared.

Maybe he spent all of his money trying to impress the ladies and didn’t have any left to get his book written. 

Maybe he felt I should have done it for free?

My friend, Barri, owns her own interior design firm.  In discussing my annoyance with her she said, “I actually had someone tell me how to deal with this today. You state your rate, and say NOTHING else. They say 'oh that’s a bit high'...you say NOTHING ELSE... they say 'do you have discounts?" You say 'I was charging you the discount' and then say NOTHING ELSE. Pay or go away.”

I’m going to use that approach in the future.

But for now I’m feeling like Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas, “Eff you. Pay me.”