Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Opportunity doesn't stand in for reliable, sufficient payment!

This evening I was browsing through jobs and ran across an ad on Craigslist for PreschoolRock.com, a website looking for writers who are experts in preschool topics. I read the ad and the first half or so of the page on their website describing the job requirements, and then simply scanned the rest before scrolling down to the application form. After applying, I realized I hadn't seen anything about compensation, and returned to the job description to find it. I was rather surprised to find, in a little paragraph toward the end of the job description, a mention that payment is in the form of ad revenue from your PreschoolRock.com site.

I generally don't cater to jobs that offer ad revenue as "payment." I need a set payment so that I know what to expect each month - especially for a gig that would require as much time and effort as PreschoolRock.com demands. However, I wasn't entirely concerned about it - if I got a response, I figured I would just send the editor an email explaining the situation and apologizing.

PreschoolRock.com must be having a hard time finding good writers who will work under their terms, because I had a response from the editor, Stacey Lloyd, a little over an hour later. I sent the following email in response, which I thought was rather nice, considering how I feel about people who pay their writers in ad revenues:

Thank you for your email. After submitting my application, I read through the guidelines a little more closely and came upon the part about writer compensation. Because I depend on writing as my sole source of income, I cannot afford to put my time and effort into a job that does not pay me directly. Taking a chance on ad revenues might be a viable gamble for someone else, but unfortunately, it's not for me.

I'm sorry if I have cost you any of your valuable time in applying before I completely read the page. I read the first half of the page, and got so excited about the job that I scrolled down and applied immediately. Please believe me when I say that I am truly sorry the compensation arrangement will not work for me, because the topic is one of my own passions and the site seems like a lot of fun. If the payment arrangement ever changes, I would be happy to sign on to PreschoolRock.com - but for now, I sincerely regret to say that I cannot.

Best of luck with your site! It looks great!

About an hour later, I received a response to my nice email: "Ah, a write [sic] must also be a good reader." Even though she put a smiley face after this, I found it rather rude to insult my writing skills after I had written such a nice and apologetic email (not to mention rather amusing for her to criticize my reading skills while she - the editor of PreschoolRock.com - included a glaring mistake in the opening line of her email). To add insult to injury, she continued to tell me how successful PreschoolRock.com is, and what a great opportunity it is to work with the company:

Those who have managed to get selected for this opportunity are already seeing that being a part of PreschoolRock.com goes far beyond the immediate monetary gains. One look in our Writers’ Forum (which you would’ve gotten access to) and you would’ve seen all that’s going on behind the scenes.

I have two comments to this: 1) A "good opportunity" is not a substitute for reliable, sufficient payment, and 2) if PreschoolRock.com is as successful as she says, why can't she afford to pay her writers real wages? In general, my bills need to be paid in "immediate monetary gains" on a monthly basis, so I don't see why I shouldn't expect as much from a writing gig.

Taking a chance on my share of ad revenues being enough to justify all of my hard work does not seem to me like fair payment. Other people - most likely people who already have other jobs or live in areas that don't have the high cost-of-living that is found in most of the U.S. - might be willing to gamble on ad revenues or give their work away in exchange for a "good opportunity," but I prefer clients who will pay me an amount that is decided on beforehand. And even though I've spent my freelancing career working for "immediate monetary gains," I haven't suffered for opportunities.

In other words, don't let any employer ever tell you that their "good opportunity" is worth working for nominal or unreliable pay!

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