Freelance Writing: The Great Divide

Members of the freelance writing  community have been pointing out  I’m a little cranky lately. Everyone is writing to me to ask if something is wrong. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine. I’m just a little tired of the great divide in the freelance writing community. You’re either on one side of the fence or another and there’s no in between. As my friend Chris Garrett said to me today, it’s that old “if you’re not for us, you’re against us mentality.” I usually ignore it but today I saw something on Twitter that truly upset me. Some writers were calling an organization names and saying they’re “disgusting” and not acting in the best interests of writers if they’re accepting ads from a content site.

I guess I’m disgusting too.

I wonder, without knowing the organization’s motivation how can anyone trash them? I know plenty of people assume they know why I partner with certain sponsors, but no one ever comes out and asks. Partnerships aren’t always about money. And, really, who determines what is best for writers anyway? How can you be for writers one day and then as soon as you accept a sponsorship you’re not? Why does that change things? Personally, I feel money changes things more for the observer than for the parties involved.

We all have our favorite methods of earning, but does that mean the other guy’s way is the wrong way? Frankly, in this economy why are we discouraging people from working anyway? How nice that we have options and solutions to keep us off the dole.

We all have strong feelings about what we believe to be the best types of opportunities, and those feelings aren’t going to change. To trash writers and organizations who make decisions you don’t approve of isn’t going to sway anyone’s minds in your favor. It will only serve to cause further divide. I’m all for education, I’m all for advancing careers, and I’m all for showing writers how to go for more lucrative opportunities. However, calling people “disgusting” isn’t educating. It isn’t even arguing for your cause. It’s name calling and finger pointing and proves nothing.

If you wish to block or unfollow an individual or organization because you don’t appreciate the way they do business, that’s certainly your prerogative. To trash them on the social networks because you don’t approve of them only causes deeper wounds. That’s not being part of the solution.

Ten years ago, the freelance writing community was kind and helpful. Now, there’s a line drawn in the sand. I honestly don’t get it and I wish we could all get along.

Can’t we all get along?


23 responses
  1. Jessie Haynes / JHaynesWriter Avatar

    You are so, so right. If everyone in the freelance writing community could simply remember that each writer is a business owner, every business has different motivations, and no decision or opportunity is perfectly right for everyone the anger could subside. If people would act like respectable professionals and not like immature children, the freelance writing community would be pleasant again.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Deb. I come to FWJ for many reasons, and one of them is because I respect the opinions of my colleagues, even when I don’t agree with them.
    – Jessie

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Thanks,Jessie. I understand that there are people who won’t agree with the choices I or other writers make, and that’s just fine. In fact a discussion featuring respectful disagreement is also fine. To say a company is “a fraud” or “disgusting” for doing something one doesn’t agree with goes way beyond respectful disagreement – and disagreement in general.

  2. Philip McIntosh Avatar

    I cannot imagine why any freelancer would criticize another for making a living (or at least trying to) by getting some sponsorship or advertising revenue through their site. Write well, provide value, get sponsors, attract clicks. That sounds like 2010 to me!

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      I think we all have things we’re passionate about, Phil. Sometimes passion clouds people’s judgement.

  3. Lucy Smith Avatar

    I’ve never understood this vitriol about how other people choose to do things. It happens everywhere, not just in freelance writing. I think the problem is that a certain percentage of people are just jerks, and as the industry grows, there will be a greater number of these jerks involved in it.

    Is it hurting anyone? Does it affect me personally? Are you happy? If the answers are no, no, yes, then knock yourself out. It’s nobody’s business but your own how you choose to operate and make a living. People need to learn for themselves what works and what doesn’t, and they might change what they do as they grow, they might not. It’s not really up to anyone else to have an opinion on that.
    .-= Lucy Smith´s last blog ..Five ways I conquer my weaknesses =-.

  4. Anne Wayman Avatar

    Deb, I’m sorry you’re feeling this way… sometimes I do too… not right this moment, but sometimes.

    {{{{{ Deb }}}}}

    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Creative Commons v. Copyright =-.

  5. Susan Speer Avatar
    Susan Speer

    I echo everyone’s comments, and I empathize. The one thought that struck me immediately is that what you describe is exactly like the political battle between right and left that’s been intensifying in recent years. If you’re on one side, you’ve got to hate everyone on the other side, just because they’re on the other side? Really? It’s childish and it’s counterproductive, but we seem to have become a nation of people who don’t care about the rights of others — to opinions, beliefs and the right to make a living in a manner of our choosing. In other words, we’re surrounded by bullies!

    Keep your chin up.

  6. allena Avatar

    wait. I haven’t been convinced by either side. Seed annoys me, and I’ve stated it publicly on my blog. But I also come here quite often and adore you and don’t care about DS or all the etc. involved in it. Are you sure there’s no in between? I want to be in between!
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Three NEW Ways to Get Freelance Writing Jobs =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Thanks, Allena.I don’t mind a middle of a road approach. You sit wherever you’re comfortable.

  7. Jen Avatar

    Sadly, I know just what you mean. I’ve all but stopped commenting on blogs and in forums. If you share an opinion, someone wants to press you for private details to explain the reasoning behind the opinion – even if you agree with them – or you get jumped on for the fact that taking the time to discuss an issue is time “wasted.” Even though I used to like leaving comments so the author would know I was there and appreciated the time it took to write the post/article, it’s almost not worth it anymore.

    I don’t know what freelance writers were like 10 years ago, but I remember what it was a like this time last year and I can still see the change. 🙁
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Psychic Stress Relief =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      I’m sorry you’re not comfortable speaking your mind. Again, it’s all about being respectful in disagreement.

  8. Deb Dorchak Avatar

    Indeed,Deb, the times they are a’changin’. Work is work and you have to get it where you can to survive. Where unemployment funds are running out right and left and you see friends going on 3 years with their job searches, I for one am grateful for every business opportunity that comes my way. We – those of us online with our own businesses, should count our blessings we have what we have and do what we can to spread some of that around.

    You, my dear, are one of the few who walks the walk. Keep it up, you’re not alone on that path by any means.
    .-= Deb Dorchak´s last blog ..Follow the Sun =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar
  9. annette young Avatar

    Hi Debs,
    I can completely understand how you feel. You work hard and provide some great information and of course it’s hard if you get slated because of certain choices.
    I’m the editor of a writing site myself and I’m often really taken aback by how people can turn. Of course everyone has a right to think what they like but they should understand that writers need to earn money to make a living and that sponsorship is only one of many business decisions that has to be faced.
    Those genuine supporters will understand your reasons for sponsorship and to be honest, why shouldn’t you have whatever sponsors you like? It’s your site after all.
    Don’t take anything to heart, you will never please everybody all of the time and you are doing a great job.
    .-= annette young´s last blog ..Become a Writer….Today =-.

  10. Jeanne Avatar

    I’ll say it again – just for the record – and invite anyone who wants to contact me to go to my website and do so. I have over 22 years of freelance experience and have published books and magazine articles, as well as write for various private clients – and for those websites that always get hammered. Each writer must find the combination of work that works for her. Yes, some websites want writing and have a crazy payment method that pretty much denies that writers ever get paid. I write for one site that pays only in Google adshare revenues, but I don’t care – I use that site for fun, to express certain ideas I want to share that I don’t feel have much of a market elsewhere. My point is that each writer must find the balance of work that makes sense for his or her particular situation.

    For the record, this veteran copywriter, marketing exec, small business owner and many-times-published freelancer also writes for various content houses and residual income sites. I have NEVER had a client turn me down because of that work and in fact, I landed two magazine article writing gigs off a content site. The editors of each saw an article there, liked my style, and offered me work.

    If you think a particular site (Allena mentions Seed) doesn’t treat writers fairly, make your case. But don’t call other writers names like hack because they write for certain sites.

    Each of us has a family to feed (or ourselves), bills to pay and a living to make. We have to make a living in a way that fits our unique talents, lifestyle, and writing goals.

    Keep sharing, Deb. You do a great job and I certainly appreciate you!

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Jeanne, I don’t believe content sites ruin one’s reputation, either. If an editor isn’t hiring a writer simply because of content site work, and not taking a look at the writing itself, that person shouldn’t be an editor.

  11. Jodee Avatar

    In all honesty, I think there are much more important issues we can be focusing on than who is working where. People with too much time on their hands have time to spread poison like that around. Those of us who are busy trying to work or find work just move on if we choose not to apply for something.

    I wonder what the naysayers are trying to accomplish. Do they think that if they post enough snarky comments or tweets that the target is going to change their business strategy? Not going to happen.

    This smells a lot like bullying to me, and I personally hate bullies. Maybe the best thing we all can do is to choose not give them what they are looking for, which is an audience. Ignore them long enough and they will crawl back under whatever cyber-rock they emerged from.

    My two cents on this one.
    .-= Jodee´s last blog ..Are You Busy? =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      I think there’s some bullying going on and lots of bandwagon jumping and following the leader. Some people just like to echo what some “guru” says without weighing out the facts on their own.

  12. Bobbi C Avatar
    Bobbi C

    I’m guessing the goal of the naysayers is to bully the “union busters.” Many writers beleive that people who write for low pay are driving everyone else’s wages downward. In other words, if ALL writers refused to write for low pay, companies would be forced to offer higher rates for articles. I, personally, on the fence about this issue.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Bobbi, there was a time when I thought bidding sites would drive down the rates, but after a while I realized this isn’t the case at all. Before the online writing boom there were low paying markets and non-paying markets and none of them lowered the rates. The same holds true today. Vogue will still pay $1 per word even if Demand Studios is charging $30 an article.

  13. Sharon Secor Avatar

    Hello All:

    As a single parent raising young children — without paternal support or using taxpayer funded social programs — I recognize that there has to be a balance between philosophy and reality. I am an at home mother, and I do that via writing. I understand the concept of writing for low wages keeps the price down for everybody. I also understand the reality that children need to eat, and they can’t eat philisophy.

    I have worked for low wages, without shame. I wrote my way out of domestic violence, $5, $10, and $15 at a time. (Write For Cash changed my life.) I still do, on occasion, in an emergency moment between higher paying gigs, write a few Demand Studios articles.

    A few years ago, I was even reduced to the bidding sites, after a difficult pregnancy that left me bedridden, a delivery that nearly cost my life, and a long recovery with a tiny preemie caused me to be unable to keep up with the demands of my higher paying clients. Naturally, once I re-entered the market fully, I left those low paying gigs behind me. They fed us, however, as I got started again.

    To be harsh and hurtful about the choices writers make in terms of work and money is wrong. Far better to view their/our/my choices through the lens of compassion. It it really right to be hurtful and insulting towards writers who do what they must to feed their children on the basis of a principal they don’t have the luxury of choosing to adhere to in each and every writing transaction? They shouldn’t feed their children because it may hurt your wages?

    Can I fault an Indian parent for cheap content that will feed, educate, cloth their children, and help to provide elder care? I wouldn’t dare to, for fear of karmically sapping the blessings and great gigs I encounter in this field. Instead, I wish them the best, and look forward to their successful entry into the realm of higher rates and wages.

    Maybe there are people who will never move beyond those lower paying markets, but are happy being able to bring in enough money to be able to be at home with their children. Who are we to say they can’t or shouldn’t do that? They should put their children in day care and punch a minimum wage time clock because we don’t want our rates dragged down? Sounds more than a little selfish to me.

    I appreciate it when I can find easy to get gigs, even for low pay, in an emergency situation, and I know other writers do, too.

    Best Regards,

    Sharon Secor
    .-= Sharon Secor´s last blog ..Surprise, Surprise… (Not) =-.

    1. Anne Wayman Avatar

      Sharon, exactly! When the content sites first showed up I turned my nose up and wouldn’t post their jobs on my site until I got a letter not unlike yours… then I realized it simply isn’t up to me who writes for who or why.

      .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Copyrights Make Sense! =-.

      1. Deb Ng Avatar

        What Anne said…

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