Writers have always been the brunt of bottom feeders. A great deal of work goes into being an independent writer. Too often, the money that's made doesn't get into the hands of the writer/creator. Even the most ethical of businesses out there have been known to take liberties when it comes to using the creative work of others without fair compensation.
If you're really serious about making a living as an independent writer pay close attention to marketing yourself and to your promotional activities. More important -- watch those contractual arrangements carefully.
It doesn't matter whether you're negotiating for an outsourced project or signing a contract for your first blockbuster. Your livelihood depends on you doing due diligence...and also on your ability to look past the initial headiness of FINALLY achieving recognition for your hard work. You've got to take a good hard look at what's really going on if you hope to survive the trauma that may lie ahead.
Several particular current examples come to mind immediately:
1. The Bogus Job Offer I've been running a job search for contract work for nine months now. In fact, I constantly run such searches as my ongoing marketing strategy. Two companies keep cropping up - and I keep setting them aside because the first requirement for even being able to access services is that I buy a book. Hmm, not terribly awful in itself, you say - a small price to pay.
Well, I have started getting email from these same two companies offering me a very specific position in those companies complete with full discussion of payment, bonuses, times and place of work, etc, etc. Only requirement -- you've guessed it -- I have to go to the site and buy the book.
So, I did a check on the domain names. It seems the domains have been in existence exactly one year...in fact both domains are due to expire within 3 weeks. So I called the number listed on the register. It was disconnected.
Now, I'd love to have a job at what they offer -- in excess of $50,000 -- but I don't think I'm going to buy the book so I can work with a company that isn't even going to have a domain beyond a month - or that has no phone contact even as they offer me the jobs. (Both, by the way are registered to the same individual.)
2. Freelance Opportunities There's a rash of new companies offering freelancers the opportunity to promote themselves for projects - for a fee. Three of these truly do sound fairly interesting. One is owned and operated by one of the top Career Search sites on the internet today.
Be that as it may, these freelance opportunity sites, require that freelancers pay a fee for the privilege of searching for and applying for jobs. It's an interesting twist, to be sure.
3. Bid for Projects This one sounds somewhat interesting. Projects are posted and freelancers get to bid on them. I haven't talked with anyone who has ever gotten a project on these boards, though I'm sure there must be people out there who have. My question is this -- what professional writer would pit their skills against the skills of a hungry beginner who will do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G to get their name in print?? I don't think so. And, what self-respecting professional writer would take on a job that may involve a week or more at the rate of $5, which is often what's bid....you can't bit $0 but I'll bet there would be people out there who would readily bid $0 just to get the job.
4. Publishers Beware the Trojan Horse. It's a heady experience when a writer gets a contract from a publisher who is willing to publish his or her book. All too frequently hungry writers will jump on the opportunity without a second thought. But not all publishers are created equal and - more important - new writers don't realize that publication does NOT necessarily mean that there will be money flowing into their pockets any time soon.
First caution: Be absolutely SURE that you read every word of the contract that's offered to you. Then read it twice more before doing anything. It's also wise to ask someone else to read the contract - a lawyer or a professional you trust. Remember, that publishers' contracts are written for the benefit of the publisher -- AND ALL CONTRACTS ARE NEGOTIABLE. If you accept the initial contract without clarification and negotiation the only thing you've accomplished is making it clear that you don't know your business and you're truly desperate to get your name in print.
Now I'll be the last in the world to suggest that freelancers don't need to spend a little bit of money to promote themselves. Every business spends something on marketing, advertising, public relations. But what's happening is essentially that writers and other creatives are being reduced to paying for the privilege of working -- or, rather, trying to get work.
I've purposely eliminated names in the above examples. It's not my intent to cut down anyone who thinks they're trying to fill a need in the marketplace. But if you want exact details, email me or call me.
1. Check that domain Who owns it? When was it registered? When does registration come due again? Who is behind the business?
2. Call the company or individual. Don't depend strictly on email for information. Talk to a real person BEFORE proceeding. An ethical company will prominently display contact information. Use the number in the WhoIs data base, if need be.
3.Check the Better Business Bureau, SEC and other Policing Agencies. Yes, I'm dead serious. Don't stop until you have every doubt in your mind about the credibility of the person or individual you're dealing with answered.
4. Use the internet to ask others for feedback. Others have dealt with the company - what has been their experience? In one of the examples above while researching a company, I found a site that listed at least two dozen disgruntled writers' tales of woe -- lack of communication, multiple deductions from the writer's credit card for services that they couldn't access, failure to identify credible positions and lack of payment for completed projects.
4.Read that Contract! And, negotiate on your behalf. Every contract is negotiable. More important your time and skills have very real value. Don't ever accept less.
5. When in doubt, check with an attorney!