1000 words, free to good home

Can’t we take it case by case?

Well, sure, Mr. Madrigal. I do that all the time.

Of course, I’ve given up on making any money at all at what I do. I love writing. I love fiction, I love editing, I love blogging, and the essays I write for class . . . well, I can cope. At least when I’m writing for class it’s the barter system at work: show me you understand this concept and I’ll give you credit toward your degree. This will be even fairer when I stop having to take out loans to pay for that credit.

I offer guest posts to good people for a couple of reasons.

a) I’d like to do a friend a favor. If someone like me, who is starting out and needs some kind of content to seed the fallow field, comes to me and says, “Hey, Cat, we’ve been buddies for years and done each other some solids,” I’m unlikely to object on any kind of principle. If I do say I can’t help, it’s because my personal resources, and I don’t even mean money, are engaged elsewhere. I’ll decide based on the size of the project if I’m juggling commitments. Generally, I don’t take flak for saying, “I’m sorry, this is not going to work out.” People at the bottom get what it’s like to be at the bottom.

b) Niche market, potential for exposure, and nobody’s getting rich. This is specifically the case when I consider guest blogs (or, in a fit of optimism, that time I tried to rush out a short story for Rookie). In these cases, I’m the one looking to broaden my horizons, or I’ve got something that would suit someone’s page. All the better if I already have it written, but really? How hard is it to dash off a thousand-odd words about the decision to purchase my first suspender belt? In fact, I’m in the middle of a bra reconstruction and I might offer to document the process for the same blog. The post would be out of place here; it would fit right in over at the Lingerie Addict, if Treacle needs to fill a content hole. Treacle isn’t running away with the fortune she built on my back, please note. She gets ad revenues in an AdBlocker world. It’s not going to put her over the bottom 20% of wage earners in this country, I’ll tell you that much.

And I have stopped believing in markets that pay more than pennies per word. That world had already collapsed by the time I thought I was good enough to write or edit for public consumption. I’m flexible about reimbursement. As you see, sometimes the exposure’s enough. Sometimes that’s the way into a regular job, or regular enough to keep me happy. I’ve done graphic design work for people, and with every job I complete, I can say, “Yeah, this is something people will pay me to do.” In the case of the friend who subcontracted to me because I had a strength he didn’t, I now know that if he needs to play with his original design, he’ll offer fair pay for the part I’ll play.

I suppose it’s now a matter of knowing your worth, and in that, Mr. Madrigal, you are right. The world has changed. We have to change with it. But from Twitter, via the Edmonton Journal, words that sum up my feelings on people who could pay for content but won’t:

“And if you’re a for-profit outlet and you’re asking established pros to work for free, you should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.”

(Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, Arianna.)


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