Images of Money (US, UK, EU)I’m not new to the freelancing game. I know it’s a big bad world out there and some people have less than honorable intentions in the world of business. I read Clients From Hell.

Yet, when “job creators” don’t even bother with duplicity and boldly declare no intent to compensate, I can’t help but wonder “Where do you get off thinking it’s ok to treat people like that!?”

Again, I’m not naive. Companies and individuals take advantage of the freelancing workforce on a regular basis. The Freelancers Union used that sad reality (aka The World’s Longest Invoice) to launch their new legislative initiative in New York earlier this year.

Nevertheless, when I see ads like this one for Geek Binge, I can’t help but quietly seethe:

Geek Binge ad for writers

Please explain to me the thought process behind “We really shouldn’t be paying you?” In what other industry or career path is that an acceptable exchange? Ignore the payment system eventually offered in the ad for a moment ($2.00 per 1000 page clicks). Why is it even plausible for this concept to exist? Why do some budding entrepreneurs feel entitled to free content for the sake of their new business venture?

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. I mean I’ve provided free content for publication before. I knew going in no payment was involved and the owner was respectful enough to understand that my time and talent were there for as long as I felt it served my needs. I also left before any true resentment set in. However, when enterprises like Geek Binge announce from the beginning that they feel no obligation to pay you or treat the act of paying you as if it’s a favor, the resentment comes part and parcel with the first assignment.

Writers see ads like this all the time. Listings stating “please provide a 800-word writing sample on [insert subject here] by Friday” are rife throughout the internet. Pay-per-click has replaced pay-per-word in far too many ads. Even well known (and somewhat respected) publications try to game newbies into providing them with free content from time to time.

But writers aren’t the only victims. Jen Lancaster shared a tale in her best-seller Bitter Is The New Black where her second interview at a prospective company involved making a marketing presentation where the staff was clearly instructed to steal her ideas via note-taking. Thankfully, Lancaster realized what was going on as it was happening and cut them off at the pass, but the audacity of the moment never left her.

I also hear stories of famous bands running “contests” for a new opening act to join the band on tour, only to not pick a winner at all. Turns out, it’s a common publicity stunt to advertise the band’s new album and amp up ticket sales for the tour. No one cares a wit about all the hardworking musicians who put their blood, sweat and tears into the audition, hoping it will lead to their big break.

React, Respect, Intersect muralIt seems no one has any qualms about using others’ creative content to fill their own bank accounts. And now, if you’re a writer of any kind, your intellectual property is so valueless you don’t even get the “honor” of being lied to anymore in the job listing.

If you’re one of the lucky ones starting a new venture, you need to understand that valuing a creative professional’s skill set only raises your project higher. After all, you can’t complain about how our work is lackluster or subpar if you’re not giving us any incentive to go above and beyond.

Exposure is not a commodity. You can get it anywhere. So what’s the incentive to share our talents with you when we can share them with any other new enterprise promising the same exposure? There’s a reason why the best companies to work for attract the most talented people in their field.

If you insist on offering no pay or low pay, but hope your new magazine, blog, ezine or website is going to attract a large audience with quality content, you are sadly mistaken. You get what you pay for. Those who pay nothing rarely stumble across an enthusiastic writer with remarkable talent. And if you do, trust me, you want keep them in your masthead for very long.

Stop devaluing creative content like it’s a right and not a privilege. Our work isn’t charity and our livelihoods are not contests. And most importantly, your obligation to pay is not a favor. If you hope your project is an undeniable success, then we deserve fair compensation for helping you achieve that success.

Do you think our society’s value of creative content is diminishing?
What job listings have you seen that left you irate over their terms of compensation?