I’ve been thinking all day about this thing that happened. I recount this story to you here for reasons about to be illuminated: 1. For those of you who are also writers who may be able to commiserate or add your thoughts, 2. for those of you who are not writers who need to understand what the Writing Life is really like, and 3. because the whole thing kind of pissed me off and I need to get it off my writerly chest.
As you may know, I have recently started broadening the Writing Spider’s writing web by building and launching a professional freelance website. I have decided, for better or for worse, to accept that I’ve been called by God, the Universe, and Everything to be a writer and that means accepting what comes with that – we writers have to hustle to earn our daily bread but we also have to take a good hard look at such things as what our time is worth, what our services are worth, and so on. I have been pretty happy with the website so far, and continue to build and fortify my online presence so that one day I can live in my freelance web full time.
One of the things I have been doing is getting the word out that I do what I do – hence the website – but I’ve also obtained some shiny business cards and I find ways to work my biz into conversations. I’m marekting myself in as many free and creative ways as possible. One of those ways I do this is to post myself on a certain site that is LIKE craigslist.com (but it isn’t). This site is a local classified ad type site and once a week, they allow you to post services you offer. This is the time for your in-home childcare or lawn service to be promoted. Once in a while (READ: when I remember) I post my freelance writing services on this site.
So far, the response has been dismal, but it has opened my eyes to what people think I mean when I say I AM A PROFESSIONAL WRITER.
Let me ‘splain.
The first time I posted, a woman called me, and after a few minutes on the phone it was clear she was interested in not only someone to write her college papers for her, but to write her college papers for her very cheaply. I finally said, “I don’t think I’m the service you need, but please keep my information on hand if you ever need it.”
I posted again this week on the site and got an email from Danny.* Danny asked in his first email if I “do resumes.” Well, sure I can write your resume. I’ve written resumes for myself and others that have landed actual paying jobs, so why the heck not? We went back and forth over email for about a week – I couldn’t pin him down about what he needed. He finally said he needed someone to “type the resume in the correct format, and give me a paper copy and a copy on a disc I will provide. I don’t need proofreading.” I fiddled around with this for a day and emailed back. I said, “For $35 I will type your resume and give you a paper, disc and electronic copy. I’ll throw in proofing as I go.”
Before you blanch at $35 (as Danny did) let me show you my thought process. It would have taken me AT LEAST one hour to type up whatever he had, plus the accompanying emails and then mailing the stupid paper copy to him (go to post office, obtain postage, affix postage, etc etc). When one factors in what I have to pay in taxes, my home office usage, and other items, you will discover that I should easily be charging an hourly rate of $65 right off the bat. My time and my expertise are worth every bit of that.
“Like that you are striking out to establish a business! I wish you well. I need typing I can get free from a neighbor. I have plenty of discs to provide. Come in around $10.00 and the copy will be in no need of proofing. You would save me a bit of time, but you need to realize that your audience’s aren’t all inept. I can pull up an e-mail and accomplish what I need. I just can’t type! If I find someone needing your services, I’ll gladly refer them. I learned the hard way with my own business for 17+ years.”
My first response, Dear Reader, was indignation! Effrontery! When reading it aloud to Husband, I was even more affronted! He wanted to pay me ten bucks to type his crappy resume.
Off the top of my head,
1. If you can get this service free from your neighbor…why did you waste my time with this? Does your pro bono neighbor know you would have paid $10?
2. Do you ask ALL professionals to accept ridiculously low payments for their services? Do you inquire about a 90% discount at the dentist? Restaurants? Do you say, “Hi, pathologist. What can I get for $80?”
3. If you plan on doing your own proofreading…good luck. There’s at least one glaring typo in your email. (And MAN DID I WANT TO WRITE BACK AND POINT THAT OUT TO YOU.)
4. What exactly did you learn the hard way in your 17 years of small business ownership? That people writing you passive aggressive emails deserve your services at a guilty discount?
5. You seem proficient enough to type out this stupid email to me. I cannot see why you couldn’t type out your own typo-ridden resume and copy it onto one of your zillions of discs.
People do not want to pay other people to write. Or edit. Or proofread. We are not taught that there is an art to writing. People think, in general, that any idiot can write.*** The truth is that like having kids, any idiot CAN do it, but it takes a special person to do it well. Again, I think of other professional services we pay for. I brush my own teeth, but I pay my dentist to do the heavy duty cleaning. You write your own name, but you leave the heavy lifting to a professional writer. Because being a freelance writer isn’t like being a doctor or an accountant, the payment issue is different. This all reminds me of the response teachers get – people think teaching is sooo easy because “you get off at 3 every day and you get summers and holidays off!” NO NO NO NO!!!
I continue to think about this and I keep coming back to, “I’m worth more than ten dollars.”
So neener neener Danny. Sorry you won’t get that job you so highly covet.
*Names have been changed to protect the clueless.
** I’ve been freelancing now for about ten years. I have a BA and and MA. If I can say ONE THING about myself it is that I am not only really good at grammar and spelling, I’m a good writer. As I have mentioned, I am A PROFESSIONAL WRITER.
***If you’ve read Stephanie Meyer’s work, you might have a solid leg to stand on here…