In August I did something a little bit different. I agreed to curate the Pay the writers twitter and Tumblr accounts for the month. If you haven’t heard of Pay the Writers before, the premise is simple. Earlier this year Overland’s Jennifer Mills wrote about her own experiences of the difficulties of being paid as a freelance writer. She then set up the Pay the writers movement to keep the discussion going.
It’s an idea which I support wholeheartedly. Writing is work and writers deserve to be paid. You wouldn’t say to your hairdresser, “I can’t pay you but I can recommend you to lots of people and basically give you so much exposure you should be grateful to me.”
Full disclosure: I am not in the same boat as many writers where freelance work is my main source of income. I am employed full-time as a journalist. However, I do like to write for other publications for a number of reasons. Extra income is always nice, it’s fun to write in a different style to what suits a regional newspaper and it helps me to grow as a writer. Except the extra income part isn’t always guaranteed. I have to admit I have chosen to write unpaid several times but these days it’s always for publications I respect. In my uni student days I would often write for anywhere that would publish me but these days I’m pickier.
This year I had an article published in Peppermint magazine, which made me immensely happy because it’s my favourite magazine. What boosted my happiness is the fact that I got paid and I got paid promptly. It was a milestone. There is nothing like waiting for payment that doesn’t arrive until after many passive aggressive emails to make you want to cry in frustration.
Curating Pay the writers was a great experience. It was great to help provoke that kind of conversation. The discussion encompassed topics such as waiting to get paid, financial tips, submission fees and so on.
It’s a fact that publishing models are changing and we’ve slipped into a world where writing for exposure has become an everyday occurrence. If we’re to change it, we need to start thinking about new ways to go forward and discussion is key. I’m glad to have played at least some small role in that discussion.