Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be freelancers
August 25, 2001 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be freelancers Maybe I should get my plumber's license?
posted by sassone (6 comments total)
Seeing as this is the closest I've come to a possible future Career-with-a-capital-C, I've got only two words for this: Aw, crap.
posted by kevspace at 6:05 PM on August 25, 2001

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be freelance JOURNALISTS.
posted by brian at 6:14 PM on August 25, 2001

Wait a minute . . . you mean to tell me that freelancers can actually get paid? The fact that it is theoretically possible to make a living, however paltry, as a freelance writer blows my mind. I've recently started submitting essays and articles to publications that don't pay a dime, just for the sake of developing a portfolio. If the editors I've written to are representative of the field in general, writers are held in such low regard that even rejection letters are an elusive courtesy. If we were a dime a dozen, it would be a step up. I realized that breaking into the freelance market would be difficult, but I never expected the ruthlessness or lack of basic professional regard. So far, my inquiries have been ignored, a submission has been plagiarized, and I've been asked by a major online publication to gut an in-depth essay and turn it into a user testimonial in exchange for a free t-shirt.

Plumbing school indeed. At least your clients will value your services enough to veil their contempt.

Not that I'm bitter or frustrated . . .
posted by hipstertrash at 6:26 PM on August 25, 2001

ht - Think for a moment about what those editors (among which I am counted) are going through. There's not a pub out there with an extra dime right now, and most have had their staffs slashed. Editors (many of which, like me, are former freelance writers) are struggling to put together quality product, and sometimes have no choice but to pay as little as they can get away with. Blame the penny-pinching publishers, not the editors.

As for lack of basic professional regard, no editor owes you a letter for an unsolicited piece. The worst part of my day is opening the two or three thick envelopes that say, "Dear Sir, Enclosed is a 1,500 word article on the food of North Africa, written for your magazine. I also have photos available." Then I've got to write a letter explaining why his story doesn't work, or doesn't fit, or whatever. And now there's a stack of those letters a foot high and three months old on my desk. I don't have an assistant to answer them for me, and, sadly, only a few will get a timely response. I do try to respond if I get a professional query (one done in two paragraphs), and I'll bite if it's good.

Lots of people want to be writers, ht, you've just gotta hang in there and produce some great ideas that will get an editor's attention.

Until then, may I suggest bartending? I did it for six years before I caught a break. You can really play up the struggling writer mythos with hotties at the bar, too.
posted by chino at 8:58 PM on August 25, 2001

chino - point taken. While I'm sure that there are many editors out there who have the best intentions, it only takes a few jaded or cynical individuals in the right positions to make life difficult for a lot of aspiring writers. While I'm not exactly an expert, I get the impression that editors who have worked their way up from tending bar or waiting tables are a dying breed. I would like to think that hard work and persistence are still a writer's strongest allies. Such sentiments, however, seem quaint and naive when I look at a segregated media culture, where 'amateurs' are forced to create their own outlets. Writers who hone their craft independently seem to be ostracized by professional editors with the right degrees from the right schools, few of whom ever faced the hardships that you did.

In terms of unsolicited submissions, I see your point. I've been careful to restrict my submissions thus far to smaller publications, online ventures that are atively seeking writers for no compensation other than the experience. While not a direct solicitation, I would think that an editor who publishes a request for submissions would make it a point to reply.

Thanks for the tip. I find that temping has worked well for me so far as a way to pay the bills. Besides, daily exposure to massive quantities of alcohol is the last thing I need if I want to get any writing done . . .
posted by hipstertrash at 9:44 PM on August 25, 2001

The slushpile is pointless -- you will never escape. Get an agent if you can, and give up if you can't. Agents, like heavy metals, are a necessary evil.
posted by aramaic at 9:47 PM on August 25, 2001

« Older Should Teachers be Tested?   |   Wandering Camera Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments