As a newbie freelancer writer, you may feel unsure about what’s acceptable and what’s not when a new client throws an offer at you. Well, here’s a warning for you: some clients are dickbags who want to take advantage of you. Here are some lines to watch out for:
We’ll Pay If We Use It
Oh my, will you? Why! That’s awfully generous of you. Oh no wait. No it isn’t. How about you take a look at my portfolio to find out if you like my style, and then, oh, I don’t know — actually request a piece you’d like to publish rather than just making this shit up as you go along?
Don’t have anything to put on your portfolio yet? No worries. Here’s what you can do.
We Need You to Write a Free Trial Before We Decide if We Want to Work with You
Similar to the above, except there’s no fucking way you’re getting paid for this. What you may get paid for, however, is any work they decide to give you in the future if they happen to like your ‘trial’ piece. Which they might not. Let’s be clear on one thing: if you’ve got a portfolio on your website, they don’t need you to write a free trial piece for them — they can find out whether they like your writing by, you know, actually swinging by your site before agreeing to work with you.
One thing to bear in mind is that just because somebody asks you to write a trial piece does not mean they are asking for a FREE trial piece. I’ve written more about how to deal with ‘trial’ requests here.
How Much We Pay You Depends on How Many Views/Likes/Shares it Gets
Gee whizz! Well, since I’m getting paid according to some arbitrary goal you’ve set, how about you pay me in jellybeans while we’re at it? Because if you’re going to be weird and unprofessional about this, I want to be too! And I sure do like jellybeans.
If, on the other hand, you want to act like normal grownups, we could do the whole payment-in-actual-money-for-actual-services-rendered. Sound good?
We’ll Pay You with ‘Exposure’
This may be the most insulting of them all because, fuck — there’s not even any pretence that money is going to be sent your way. Instead, they’ll pay you with ‘exposure’, which means new people will discover you by reading about you on a site other than your own. The trouble with this approach, of course, is that the sites that can only pay you with exposure often don’t have very much exposure to offer in the first place.
When you’re a total noob, it’s tempting to accept a few of these trashbag ‘offers’ (I use the term lightly), because you want to get some experience under your belt. But let me tell you: this is the wrong sort of experience. You want to gather experience as a professional, not a pushover, and diminishing your integrity and acting like an amateur is not how you do that. Here are the traits you should cultivate instead. Because you’re better than that, damn it.