Freelance Can Never Be Free

What’s wrong with getting paid? It never ceases to amaze me how many corporations and individuals expect you to work for free, especially if you are in a creative business. Every day I see posts on CraigsList requesting writers to work for fun and recognition. You can’t pay the rent with recognition.

Which is why I want to bring two YouTube video posts to your attention. Kudos to Tina Dupuy, a freelance writer who used a YouTube video to shame the Tampa Tribune into paying her for running her article. Freelance work is hard, really hard. And those who tell you “write for me and I will make you famous” are smoking something strange and blowing smoke in all the wrong places. Intellectual property has value, and in the Internet age, we have to be even more diligent about protecting our own IP. Ms. Dupuy successfully defended her freelance writer’s honor through public humiliation of the newspaper that stole her work. It’s unfortunate that she had to do so in the first place.

And in the same vein, I want to share the best writer rant on record. Harlan Ellison, creator of “A Boy and His Dog,” screenwriter on “I. Robot,” and science fiction writer extraordinaire, definitely writes for a living. He understands the value of the written word, especially to the professional writer. No one should ever be asked to work for free.

So I want to close with a reminiscence of my Uncle Ed. He was the first freelance writer I had ever known. Long before the days of the Internet, Ed was cataloguing the latest jokes and submitting them to Playboy, or writing story p itches to the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post. He made a very comfortable living and supported a family of four with creativity, tenacity, and a sense of the value of his work. The Internet has leveled the playing field so anyone can call themselves a writer, sort of. Anyone can blog (including me) but being a blogger doesn’t make you a writer.

So here’s a small online tribute to professional writers. Freelancing is tough. And to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson and Janet Joplin, “freelance is another word for nothing left to lose…” But for those of us brave enough to continue to write for a living in the Internet age, we deserve to get paid for our work.

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