Thursday, September 14, 2006

Non-Monetary Compensation for Writing

An opportunity to put my writing out on a more public stage has arisen, but due to lack of funding they've made it very clear that monetary compensation is not available.

I'm wondering if others out there have accepted or pushed for alternative means of compensation? If so, what? Can anyone suggest options/possibilities?

The writing would be done for an independent outlet that produces television shows. They sell their shows to larger media companies in my city that have television and print access. Anything I write for them may be distributed through these media companies, the most likely being one of those daily newspapers most commuters read. While they are well connected... they aren't directly connected.

The form that my writing would take is likely along simple restaurant reviews, recipe recreation reports, or short articles.

My goals include promotion of my blog, getting media attention for a charitable event I run, more writing experience, and simple compensation for any costs I may incur. But maybe there are things I'm not considering here that I can throw into the pot as another option? I'm excited for the oppotunity and am glad for it, but at the same time I don't want to feel as if I've walked away with the short end of the stick (something that often occurs in retrospect).

Thanks for any insight!

This Post was written by Vanessa from Tongue & Cheek


Celine said...

I've done that and am still doing it. I think as long as they compensate you (non-monetary I mean) it's alright. If they don't at all, then you should pull out.

William I. Lengeman III said...

You mention that "they sell their shows to larger media companies" but claim not to be able to pay you. That would throw up a flag for me. But if you can convince them to provide some alternate compensation you're happy with go for it.

cybele said...

I have written and still write for group blogs for different reasons. One is that I think it increases my exposure, especially to people who might not ordinarily find my blog.

However, the people who run these blogs aren't making any money either. My guess is that the outlet has employees that they're paying them and their model is to charge for the content. But for some reason they haven't built anything into the budget for the stuff they're actually selling ... the writing.

If you want to try it for a while, I'm guessing there's little harm if you didn't have any other plans for that writing and you see a benefit to the other charitable work you do. Perhaps you can track who ends up publishing your writing and then contact them directly to do freelance writing.

Duane said...

At least it's a way to get your name out there.

Zoe said...

How do they make money out of it, and how long have they been going?

Writing is a skill, and it's a valuable one. I think Celine is right, and you need to be compensated in some form.

David said...

In the food world, it's common to work for free (aka:internships) to gain skills and get your foot in the door. That's classically how chefs begin their careers. I think that's true in other kinds of businesses as well too. (I'm sure none of those knuckleheads on shows like The Apprentice get paid, even though the network rakes it in. But they do it in hopes of fame and/or fortune.)

If you're a professional writer and that's what you do for a living, that's one thing. But most folks I know with blogs are doing it for the fun of it. And as someone who writes for magazines, most online companies pay only an extremely small fraction of that rates that you get from print media. But I've done lots of things for free just to help someone, or for some site that seems to been cool or doing something interesting.

I agree 100% with Cybele that there's a lot of these start-ups that aren't making money and you're taking a gamble. A friend of mine was one of the first employees at Yahoo!, and worked for peanuts, when a dozen of them spent days in some funky back-office building and he combed the internet in a grey, dreary cubicle scrolling around the internet.

Then they issued stock options.

They Yahoo! went public, and he raked it in...and I mean, really raked it in. Then retired in his mid 30's.

nika said...

Food writing will never pay like an early-in at Yahoo :-\. Ever.

Think of online writing (pro bono) as relatively deprecated online writing samples. You may or may not want to use these writing samples in RL to get writing gigs in print.

To do that, offer to write for free for your local rags. Again, do it because you like it. Save all those samples as tear sheets. They will be helpful in building your "food writing career".

Do it because you like it. Dont do it when you dont like it anymore.

Even established food writers can have a hard time making it pay the bills.

I write for free, I write for miniscule amounts, and I write for very high rates (NOT food writing). I enjoy the food writing more but its just not a profit-making activity. I have come to terms with that (ok, it didnt take long for me being the cynical sort that I am).

I wish you luck in finding a good-paying gig and then come back and tell us all your secrets! :-)

L Vanel said...

One thing you might ask for is if your written pieces do end up in those handout free papers, that you get sent a hard copy. These can come in handy when you pitch to magazines later on.

Vanessa said...

thanks for all the comments.

i realize that some people would gladly do this pro bono, but there's a possibility that i would have to source, purchase and spend time cooking/writing about a recipe for these articles. as much as i do enjoy doing this, my time is pretty limited as i'm already lagging with blog posts.

i'll give it a shot and see how it goes. if i don't enjoy it anymroe i'll just pass on the torch! thanks again!