The Sorry State of Freelancing

Despite Ed Gandia’s study showing most freelancers are doing well financially, all is not well in the kingdom of writing for hire. More and more outlets – magazines, websites, blogs – refuse to pay writers, or else only pay a pittance. Paying gigs are few and far between, and the competition is fierce. Even big-name, and big-dollar, sites like the Huffington Post don’t pay the majority of writers; see Mike Elk’s “In These Times” article on the topic.

One would think that food writing, being the hottest new trend, would have more opportunities. One would be wrong. Food writer Dianne Jacob, author of “Will Write for Food,” interviewed Colman Andrews, editor of “The Daily Meal” and co-founder of “Saveur,” on her blog. When asked if “The Daily Meal” paid its writers, he states that it “occasionally pay[s] for pieces that involve heavy research but otherwise we don’t pay.” He says he doesn’t feel bad about it, explaining that nowadays writers are more interested in exposure than the money.

It must be nice, to live in a world that runs on exposure. Imagine being able to pay your rent or electric with exposure. I could pull up to the gas pump, and instead of inserting my debit card, speak into the microphone, “over 1,000 people read my story!” and get a tank of gas.

Completely oblivious to the irony, Andrew then states that he would never recommend food writing as a career. Gee, I wonder why.

What Huffington, Andrews, and all the others who take advantage of free content don’t seem to realize is that writing is a craft and a skill: just because someone can hammer a nail doesn’t mean they can build a skyscraper. Anyone can sit down and make words appear on a computer screen, but if you want well-written, well-researched, interesting, coherent stories, you need a professional.  And every blogger and freelancer who agrees to provide content (that is, write) for free makes it that much harder for any of us to get paid.


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