Welcome to 1-11-15! Day 11 and blog post 11…and today, the Ultimate Blog Challenge blogging idea was to choose from a list of 30 ideas! So today’s post is a variation of the idea to do an interview, except it’s actually a guest blog post by my fellow writer and published author, Jenna Inouye.
Here’s Jenna’s bio, from her Writer Access profile:
Jenna I. has been a programmer and content creator for well over a decade and has specialized knowledge in the fields of information technology, web development, web programming, and accounting. She has worked for property management companies, real estate agencies, and public accounting firms, and understands the intricacies of these markets.
She is presently working in the information technology industry as an IT administrator and holds her Microsoft Certified IT Professional certification. She has written extensively on business, finance, technology and gaming. She is a programmer specializing in PHP/MySQL applications on both a professional and hobbyist level. She has also published a multitude of eBooks ranging from self help books to real estate manuals.
And here’s Jenna’s post for us today:
Why Freelance Writers Need to Stick Together
I often feel as though the freelance writing industry is unnecessarily divisive. As someone who comes from a primarily technical background, the writing community occasionally seems unnaturally hostile to me. And I feel that it’s important, sometimes, to pause and reflect on how extremely important it is for us all to stick together. It’s a hard, stressful industry — and if we don’t support each other, it becomes a very unpleasant career to have.
Part of what makes freelance writing so interesting is that people in the industry come from a huge variety of backgrounds. But that also leads to misunderstandings, because everyone isn’t able to interact on the same playing field; everyone has vastly different life experiences to pull from. Comparatively, the “computer nerds” that I grew up with were rather more homogenous, and perhaps that fostered more of a sense of community.
That is not to say that the writing community is flawed – just different. But one thing I have noticed is that freelance writers often work against their own interests and the interests of each other. And that is troubling.
Unions exist to ensure a certain standard across an industry. Standard pay, standard working conditions, standard benefits. Of course, freelancers have no such protection. But there’s a reason unions usually have to exist to ensure these standards, even in industries far older and far more established than the freelance writing industry. It’s because, left to our own devices, we humans tend to undercut each other. And sometimes we don’t even do it for personal gain. We just can’t seem to help ourselves.
Tell a group of construction workers “You should get paid more,” and you’ll likely get vociferous agreements. Tell a group of freelance writers “You should get paid more,” and half of them will say “Yes, of course!” and the other half will say “Are you kidding? In fact, we’re already paid too much! Slash our pay! Hire me!” That’s not healthy, nor is it ultimately beneficial to any of us.
Freelance writers are often beholden to clients, and so they are inclined to agree with whatever seems attractive to the client themselves – such as very low pay rates and very lenient terms. But surely that can’t be all of the problem; people would soon realize that they were simply bidding themselves downwards.
Because everyone arrives to the career through greatly disparate paths, things simply matter less to many of them, and that puts everyone on uneven ground. Some writers are writing solely as a hobby and they don’t care if they get paid; others are writing as a part-time job for beer or cigarette money. The existence of writers who are willing to undercut other writers and to actively argue against their own best interests will drag the market down.
As long as there are any writers who are willing to continually bid themselves down, the market will remain inconsistent. Writers need to be looking to the industry as a whole rather than just to themselves. Bidding low may get them more jobs for now, but bidding high would ensure that everyone made more money later.
But it isn’t just on issues of pricing that freelance writers need to stick together. There’s a certain harshness and competitiveness exhibited in the market that is also, again, not in any industry I’ve ever experienced. As an example, freelance writers will often outright attack each other for letting a new writing venue “slip out” to the public. I have never seen programmers, web developers, artists or craftsmen react in this way! And all of those industries are equally competitive and dependent on client patronage.
It’s certainly not a desperate or lean market. There is a lot of work out there. So it’s a curiosity that people can be so vicious and protective over their resources. And, more importantly, it really doesn’t help – at least, not in my personal opinion.
Having every freelance writer remain quiet about their “eggs” will help them in short term, that much is true. But not every writing resource that you know about is suited to you – and people aren’t going to tell you about other opportunities if you’re not willing to share. If everyone shared information freely, people would have a more complete and transparent picture of the industry as a whole and they would be able to connect with resources that suited them.
Through sharing, a community can enrich itself. Because work really isn’t limited. It’s out there. It’s the fact that people want to hide resources that creates an artificial sense of scarcity and results in self-sabotage.
As much as it may not seem to be, writing is really a people business. We don’t write to have words appear on a screen, we write to reach out to another person. Perhaps it’s naïve of me to think so, but I can’t help but think that reaching out to other people and supporting other people is the best way to flourish and find success. I have found over the years that the more I put myself out there for others, the more they are willing to put themselves out for me.
Thanks for your contribution, Jenna! I can relate, because I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over, in various online communities. I agree that support and encouragement are far more important and beneficial.
How about you readers? Are you involved in freelance writing and blogging as a career path? Do you often encounter the animosity and competitiveness that Jenna described?