Happy 2013. I hope this one is going to be a better one. 2012 was a bit of a struggle in my world.
As a writer, blogger, columnist, with a fairly low profile, (i.e. I’m not on the TV/front pages etc…) I have to work double hard to make a living from doing what I do best. At least, it’s what I think I do best; because other than dreams of running off with a rock star when I was in sixth form, there’s no other way I’ve ever imagined spending my life, than writing.
I have a genuine passion for creating copy and on top of that, I’m lucky enough to enjoy the subjects I write about; those being property, fashion and travel. I was first published in a local paper in 2006. It was a story about a local man who had opened an exhibition of his photographic work in New York. I wasn’t paid for the piece, nonetheless, I was over the moon; my mum was so proud that she still has the original cutting framed and up in the office at home. A few (long) months later, after much searching, I landed a job in a small publishing house, writing property and lifestyle/fashion features for magazines.
That was 6 and a half years ago… since then I started my blog, was made redundant and began writing as a freelance journalist. I utterly love the writing part of my job; sometimes I can’t actually believe that it’s what I do, and that it makes me happy. The happiness swiftly fades when I look at my bank balance though; the truth is I’m often approached to do a heck of a lot of writing for nothing, or next to nothing.
As my flatmate often jokes, “There are children in third-world sweatshops, making trainers that get paid more than you”… I presume (pray) that this isn’t true, but if I actually worked out how much money I get for the hours I spend working on copy for other people, I may actually be inclined to agree with him.
For every comment I’ve had published, for every photography session I’ve set up, for every submitted interview and photoshopped ‘outfit collage’ I’ve created, for each time I’ve sat up until 3am, stressed and working to a deadline for an editor who couldn’t care less whether or not my copy comes in, for every time I’ve been asked to come up with something by tomorrow because I’ll do it for free, (and if I have agreed to it, for every time that work hasn’t actually been published anyway), for every time I’ve helped out a PR agency with the promise of a ‘thanks’ that I am still waiting for, for every time I have walked miles for the sake of a commissioned article because I can’t afford the travel expenses, more fool me if I’ve done it for free…
… Or for the promise of raising my profile and increasing the visitors, WordPress allows me to see exactly where visitors come here from, and it isn’t from any of the unpaid/low-paid writing I’ve done. (around 90% of visitors get here because of my own work)… see below:
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Referrers: i.e. where visitors have come from:
i.e. of the 2,453 visitors to my blog, 2,162 (88%) came from google/bing/yahoo etc… (NB: ‘Whisty’ resulted in two visits to my blog from web searches)
The truth is that working for less than you deserve gives you nothing but a lack of respect and a lack of disregard, it won’t raise your profile, (though it may add to your CV should you have no experience).
It transpires then, that working hard and being nice to people won’t get you on your way to doing what you love for a living. Only shameless self promotion will get you anywhere. I know I’m not the brash, obnoxious wannabe I’ve met so many times in the fashion game; (often full of delusional self belief and lacking in talent and integrity) – when working at a magazine, I was unfortunate enough to have submitted to me, a fashion feature, by a future TV personality. Alas the copy was never published as it was in fact copied, direct from Topshop.com – Yet after years of working 12 hour days, creating original (and published content), I am still struggling to live my dream, yet said plagiarist is very much living theirs.
So do I blame the people doing the hiring? Hell no. People under pressure will take the easiest route. Why spend effort looking for talent, when you have a willing and flirtatious wannabe with an open mouth, ready to convince you that they are just what you need instead? Why search through all the applicants to find a slightly shy, yet outstanding applicant, when you can have your ego massaged by listening to sycophantic compliments? Better still, how can you refuse your boss/golf partners/neighbours’ kids? Ah nepotism, my old enemy.
Does hiring the person who stamps his feet the hardest make for a better end product and a more enjoyable working environment? Possibly?
Is it really about being pushy or having the right relatives, or does luck play a part? Possibly; some of the most incredible writers are published every day, they can’t all have daddy’s pals in their pocket can they?
So should I blame myself then? I have quiet confidence in my ability, so why then do I continue to work for less than I should, somehow contradicting that self belief. I was speaking to a fellow writer/blogger recently, she said it succinctly “I no longer work for free”. But she said it with such confidence I was taken aback. I was inspired, I wanted to stand up and say, “me neither!!” Except I didn’t, couldn’t.
Maybe if I picked a new years resolution it would be to brush up on my pushiness skills, develop my self belief, learn to swallow my pride or just say no to working for free…
They’re all tough resolutions to stick by, but apparently the best things don’t actually come easy…