I Don't Work for Free
I think we as writers need to band together to start a movement. Maybe include a hashtag. #IDontWorkForFree. Unless you're doing something as a hobby, or doing a favor for a friend or something, NOBODY should be working for free. I'm not even going to get into unpaid internships & all that jazz in this post, because that's a whole other ball of wax, but instead, I'm going to focus on this dehumanizing trend of not paying writers.
When I decided to start doing school visits as an author, I looked around to see what other authors charged to come to a school and present. One website I found listed a bunch of authors in Illinois and their rates. They made it VERY clear that, if you offered to do school visits for free, they would NOT list you on the website. Why? Because if you offer to do something for free, you're driving down the market value for everyone else who wants rightful payment for their work.
So here's why publications can get away with not paying their writers--people are willing to write for them for free. I'm not innocent here, either. I used to write for free, back when I was a skinny little dreamy-eyed twenty-two-year-old fresh out of college, trying to build up my portfolio so I could get some paying work.
Look at my Journalism page. Everything I wrote for Halftime was paid. Halftime is a wonderful publication that pays its writers. Now look at the article at the bottom. I wrote a very personal essay about my lifelong struggle with OCD, hoping to expose the horror that OCD was to live with, beyond just the often-inaccurate stereotype of liking things clean. Elite Daily offered me no payment for my article, and, like a naive young person trying to get my thoughts out there on a site with a lot of traffic, I let them. Look at all the ads on that article. Elite Daily, are you honestly telling me you couldn't even pay me a royalty proportional to the ad revenue you received from that article's views?
After that article was published (and they changed my title to make it less meaningful and more clickbait-y), I made a decision: I do not work for free. I hope other writers will join me in making this decision--together, we can make it so that publications can no longer get away with taking our work for free.
What are your thoughts on working for free?