A freelancer has been asked to sign away her rights to criticize the company she will write for — including all their contractors, clients, etc. She sees the ridiculousness of this — who exactly are we talking about anyway? — and asks Nate Thayer to comment…
Has the state of the news biz come to this? Freelance journalists required to sign document forbidding writing anything negative about employers or advertisers before being payed unlivable wage.
Freelance journalist not only asked to work for unlivable wages, but now required to sign away constitutional rights and fundamental ethical journalistic obligations, forbidden to say or write anything negative about their employers or advertisers?
August 21, 2013
An email exchange today between me and a freelance journalist requesting advice, comment, and suggestions after receiving the contract terms for her to write, still on a freelance basis, for a major U.S. news outlet which demanded she sign an agreement which demands she “cannot criticize, ridicule or make any statement” that “which disparages or is derogatory of XXXXXXX, or any of its officers, directors, agents, associates, consultants, contractors, clients, customers, vendors, suppliers or licensees.”
All comments from anyone who has had a similar…
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Myths about freelancing and the IRS
Deb McAlister has written a white paper called called Taxing Questions: What Makes a Writer or Blogger a Professional, and from her description, it behooves freelance writers to at least take a look. There have been a lot of changes in the last couple of years, both to the tax code and to the types of freelance writers that are trying to make a living, and it’s important to know what you’re doing when it comes to dealing with the IRS.
In the blog, Deb lists a few myths about taxes & freelancers, such as:
Myth # 2: Deducting the cost of your home office is difficult because of all the records you have to keep, and it’s sure to trigger an audit. (Wrong. For 2013, there’s a new flat-rate deduction that requires far less paperwork and there’s no longer a clear link between an audit and the home office deduction.)
You can read the rest of the myths, and find a link to the white paper, at her blog, which is called Marketing Where Technology Intersects Life.
As with all freelancers, I had similar issues. I just wish that I had the chutzpah that Nate Thayer has; my immediate instinct is to complain politely, and it’s likely I wouldn’t have gotten paid under the same circumstances.
The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work
By Nate Thayer
August 6, 2013
There is only one thing more frustrating to freelance journalists than being asked by for profit companies to work for free.
That is being forced to spend months fighting, arguing, begging, threatening, cajoling, and renegotiating to, if you are lucky, actually get paid a portion of the compensation you were promised for the work you have already done.
Every freelance journalist, photographer, musician and creative artist on the planet knows exactly this scenario–how unethical, debilitating, frustrating, and sometimes humiliating this, routinely, is part of the everyday cadence of freelancers who make a living practicing their craft.
Here is a portion of the latest example of my being forced to divert my attention today from writing for a living to trying to get paid for…
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TechCrunch writer Colleen Taylor reported yesterday that Scripted, a company which pairs freelance writers with companies looking for written content, has raised funding in the area of $4.5 million. That’s not the kind of news I would normally cover, but I was struck by the following interview with Scripted CEO Sunil Rajamaran:
Many of the writers on Scripted’s platform aren’t actually professional journalists, Rajamaran said. Often, they’re people with day jobs in other fields who are passionate about sharing their expertise on either their professional vocations or their hobbies. “We had an audio hardware company looking for content, and the guy we matched him to has a day job of working as an engineer at Pixar,” he said. “We’re not a journalism company; we don’t pay professional journalist rates. We’re selling to businesses, and what businesses need are subject matter experts.”
Which means that the majority of Scripted’s reported 80,000 writers are most likely people looking to add to existing incomes rather than use writing as a full-time means of support. And there’s nothing wrong with that — but it is one of the reasons that full-time writers are having trouble making ends meet.
(And, as somebody who started her tech journalism career basically rewriting articles written by computer engineers who were experts in their field, but who couldn’t put two coherent English sentences together if their lives depended on it, I can’t help being just a bit doubtful about the quality of at least some of the content produced by these enthusiasts. But that’s being cynical..)
An accurate assessment by writer Alexandra Wong writing for The Star Online: Not really a love letter, though — more like a listing of the various myths about the freelance life. Myths such as not having a boss (no, now you have lotsa bosses), no more politics (think again), and that freelancing is a solitary profession:
The biggest myth about being a freelance writer is that it’s a solitary, lonely position. Far from it. On a direct level, your very survival depends on whether your editor trusts or likes you enough to assign you that plum assignment, and once you’ve landed it, whether you have enough contacts to track down that lead.
Writer Cassandra Leveille writes a short piece called 3 Pro Tips For Millennial Freelance Writers in which she talks about how millenials often choose to freelance rather than take a traditional job. She offers three specific pieces of advice: learn how to negotiate payments and contracts, save money so you have something to fall back on, and be political:
Our generation has to be political by necessity of the cultural moment we find ourselves in, one defined by transition. Moving forward, freelancers must advocate for a less convoluted tax code so they can see more of their income, and for benefits to carry over outside the confines of the traditional work place, which no longer offer them. Because traditional models don’t take freelancers into account, they often risk their financial security.
Good advice for any freelancer of any age.
One of the most difficult things about being a freelancer is figuring out how much to charge for your work. Charge too little, and you’re cheating yourself, and possibly undervaluing yourself to your client. Charge too much, and you may lose that important assignment.
This situation is exacerbated by the problem that some freelancers may be good at what they do, but are not very good at marketing themselves — and what you charge isn’t only part of your income, but part of how you’re presenting yourself.
Amber Leigh Turner has written a nice column on “How to price your services as a freelancer” for TNW. She offers several tips for figuring out what to charge, including the always frustrating-but-true: Every single freelancer’s situation is different:
For example, a freelancer living in New York City who is married with three kids and the only breadwinner in their household has different priorities and responsibilities to someone who is single, with no kids, and who lives in a very rural part of Europe. There are just too many factors differing from one freelancer to the next that it is impossible to generalize and make sweeping statements that group thousands of freelancers together when it comes to pricing.
She also offers links to some interesting resources, such as the FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator, which is something I could have really used when I was freelancing.