Don't Give Yourself Away, Make 'Em Pay

For any writer who has ever felt almost mortally wounded when asked to offer up services for nothing - or close to nothing - you may see some of your sentiments echoed in my reply to a company that approached me about writing content for their website. 

If I am behaving like a diva, I blame the industry. I thank goodness for my top-notch clients; they know that a job well done isn't done for free. This isn't to say I've never done anything for free. On the contrary, I have done readings and work for causes I am passionate about without expecting a thing in return, but for the most part, that's not business. That's not writing for companies or organizations. That's writing I do for myself.

Without further adieu, my reply...


Hey Mr. X,

I hope you can understand if I decline your offer. You see, I feel it is sort of like asking Meryl Streep to audition for a Sharknado sequel. I'm not saying she wouldn't agree to do the movie - I wouldn't dare to speak for Meryl - but asking an actor of her considerable merits to audition for a film her repertoire shows she is clearly capable of handling is just poor form.

I have been in this insanely volatile and fickle industry - and surviving in it - for 11 years. In this time I've worked with global brands and multi-million dollar companies while also completing a graduate degree in Creative Writing and being published in genres ranging from non-fiction to fiction to poetry. I assume this is why you have contacted me: you've seen what I can do.

I've made a living out of writing, both as an artist and as a professional. I know you may not know this, but that's saying a lot considering a great many writers are forced to have part-time or day jobs. 

I get disheartened just thinking about that. So many talented writers are being forced to secure other types of work because people don't see the value in our time - in what we do and how hard it is despite the fact we make it look easy. It's understandable that a hefty sum of aspiring wordsmiths who want to write for a living fizzle out after a year or two - tops. 

It sucks, and we're often pitted against far less adept writers who are quite happy to work for exposure or meager compensation. 

Good for them, I guess, but I'm not one of these sorts. 

I suspect your requests were not unreasonable to some and that you will have no issue finding willing contributors, but when a professional of my  experience is made to feel like I have to wriggle my way out of relative obscurity, I'm - quite frankly - offended, which probably makes me a bigger diva than Meryl any day. Perhaps I'm more like Mariah Carey.

I'm OK with that. There's only one Meryl, there's only one Mariah and there's only one me, and we all deal with our business in our own way. You either take me or leave me. No middle ground.

I wish you luck in your search for writers.