I have been following a very interesting discussion on LinkedIn this past week.
It started off as a question about an average going rate for web content work, and it evolved into a whole discussion about the issues and roadblocks that freelance writers have been dealing with lately. Economy aside, how many times have you as a writer had to put up with someone saying to you, "Oh, you're a writer? Me too!!" just because they wrote a story that their mom liked. (Not saying that it wasn't necessarily a good story, or that mom has bad tastes, mind you. Just saying that it doesn't necessarily make that person a professional writer.) It's frustrating to be in a profession that everyone thinks they can do. And fact of the matter is, not everyone can! There are many aspects to writing as a craft that most people just don't understand. As one gentleman stated, "Just because you can read, doesn't mean you can write. No different than: just because you can eat, doesn't mean you can cook." I believe that he stated it perfectly. We may not have fancy software to use like the designers, but that doesn't mean that just because a person knows how to open up a Word program they can do what we do.
There are many facets to writing. It's not just about writing stories, or poetry. Writing is knowing your target audience and how to write to appeal to that target. Writing can be creating a well-crafted letter, adding attention grabbing headlines, publishing articles, blogging, or even doing product description in a catalog (just to list a few). It takes training and a knowledge of people in order to be able to draft some of these projects. It takes practice to be able to properly string words together in a way that will not only make sense, but will also achieve a higher purpose.
Unfortunately, there are many people out there that are so desperate to make money "writing" that they will work for a very meager rate. And by meager, I mean rates that no person could ever hope to live on. Not to mention that as a freelancer, a writer also needs to cover his/her own taxes, insurance, expenses, retirement, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on. As a group of professionals, how will we ever be able to make a consistent and successful living when there are so many people trying to undercut us and producing mediocre work (at best) in the process? Many designers are freelance as well, but they are paid MUCH higher, and much more stable rates than we ever get, and are also viewed with much more respect. How do we make sure that our profession has a standard as well?
There are no easy answers to these questions and there are many other questions that pop up as well. But our first step is to unite. Let's come together in a supportive environment. Let's show all the companies out there that we are a united front and that we deserve our fair share. Without writers, these companies would have no customers, and thus no money. Look what happened when Hollywood went through the latest writers strike. It practically closed down and the consequences are still being felt today. Hollywood may have more exposure, but the same thing would happen in any industry. Like it or not, this world cannot survive without writers.
And there is absolutely no reason why writers need to feel like we are constantly in competition with each other. The more we support each other, the more we receive in return. It is a win-win situation. I have met many writers that are firm believers in this support system. It is obvious on just about any discussion on LinkedIn. And it is also obvious that everyone is equally frustrated with the situation.
So now there is a call out to all freelancers - Let's unite and form an organization that will prove our worth and help us to stabilize our incomes. A new group has been forming on LinkedIn - the Certified Professional Writers Association. This is a group that is interested in bringing together the top minds in our industry and hopefully finding a way to improve the situation. If you are interested in being involved in this discussion, find them on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=1973734&trk=anet_ug_grppro or just search for the Certified Professional Writers Association.
We can do this!
Find me on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jenna-caputo/9/92/934