Over exposure

February 20, 2014 § 15 Comments

I’ve just seen the following tweet on my Twitter timeline, and I admit it irritated me a little. And it irritated me because it is all too familiar.

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Somehow people still seem to misunderstand what it is that writers do, so I thought I’d explain a little, in the clearest possible terms.

Writing is our job. It’s what we do to make money. It’s how we send our children to school, put fuel in our cars, and buy clothes to wear. It is a skill that takes years to hone, and which you would not need us for if you could do it yourself.

I don’t know what you do, but imagine you arrived at work in the morning and you had landed your dream job, with the corner office, after years of working towards that goal. Maybe you’d had to do some other jobs along the way, but now, finally, you were doing what you’d always wanted to do, and knew you had the skills to do it. And then imagine that your boss said, “There’s just one catch: we can’t pay you a salary. But what we can do is send traffic to a website of your choice. Just think of the exposure!”

What do you think the chances are that you would grab that job with both hands? I thought so.

And yet, writers are asked to do this all the time. Exposure is the favourite carrot to dangle in front of our noses. But here’s the thing. If I offered to pay the school fees with exposure, I’d be laughed off the school campus. If I tried to pay for groceries at the supermarket with exposure, they’d call the men in white coats. Exposure just isn’t a valid currency anywhere in the world as far as I’m aware.

And writing isn’t some kind of fun hobby. Those of us who write for a living take it as seriously as you take your job. We read about grammar and spelling and punctuation, we read style guides. We keep office hours and then often write well into the evening too. Now and then there are things we can just sit down and churn out, but that’s because we’ve spent years practising. And even then we go back and rework, rephrase, rewrite until we are happy with what we have crafted. Why? Because we know the impact that changing one verb can make, that placing a comma in just the right place can make all the difference to the meaning of something.

Mostly, good writing is a slog. It requires dedication, an eye for details, a measure of ruthlessness and a dash of flair. And that’s on top of being able to construct grammatically correct, stylistically sound sentences that are clear, concise and impactful. And it takes the ability to continually self-assess and redo something as many times at it takes to get it right, not just written. It is an exercise in endurance.

So, when you ask us to write for nothing – and I’ve done it, so I know – we actually lose money. Because we could have been writing for someone who’s prepared to pay us for our work in the time it took to write something for you. That’s not a sensible business model, is it? This is our business. This is what we do. It’s how we earn a living.

It is actual work, and it does take a lot of effort. And all we ask, is to be remunerated in return. I don’t think that’s overly demanding – do you?

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§ 15 Responses to Over exposure

  • Lesley Marks says:

    very well written, myself being a photographer get this all the time, “exposure”

    Like

  • Ann Rundle says:

    Well said Mandy. Everyone wants me to do everything for free. It becomes frustrating to say the least.

    Like

  • Kit says:

    Hear hear! Everyone thinks that they could write whatever it is themselves, except that they just don’t have the time….

    Like

  • Wenchy says:

    Yes………… a scenario I have come to know very well over the past year especially.

    Like

  • iona says:

    I once provided content for an online portal for a paltry fee. I did it mainly because it forced me to keep up to date with the financial industry. After about 2 years a new CEO took over and decided to cut costs starting with the contributors. I was told that they had just bagged a deal with a “big financial services co” who would provide them with content for free so “take it or leave it. I left it. After about 3 weeks I noticed that no new financial content was being posted – then I got a call from a “big financial services co” to please write content for an internet portal because the execs that were supposed to supply the content, well, just couldn’t. They paid me triple the fee for half the work. Har har last laugh. 🙂

    Like

  • Ruth says:

    I understand the need to write and to right correctly with the perfect word good grammar and punctuation because I watch the process all the time – my husband writes and prepares and speaks to deadlines. The pay doesn’t change no matter how many times he speaks or writes. The hours of dedication, research, and related reading most people are not aware. All this takes unselfishness and sacrifice. Guess his profession!
    Keep writing you gifted people. We derive great pleasure and joy from beautiful sentences, word-pictures and so many other delights you share. They bring us happiness. Thank you.

    Like

  • Only this week I was asked to “help us out” with some pictures (I’m a photographer) I politely explained that it would have to cost real money, that I can’t bank the “tons of referrals” or the “link to my website” As the discussion spiralled out of control toward a heated debate concluded in a nuclear meltdown, when the conversation went something like this….” Ahem, no. I cant do it for free, I cant walk into one of your new franchises and eat for free can I?” “Can we use your studio, borrow your lights and a camera and do it ourselves then?” “Ahem, No” “But we can’t use our crappy SLR, it just doesn’t take cool pictures like your Phase One, and can you show us how to use your lights, oh and your Mac we’ll need that too” “Ahem, No” “Why cant you just do us a favour Dude?” “Ahem, you’ve never commissioned any work from me, ever. Thats like going into a bar and asking the pretty girl you meet there, to go home and perform unmentionable carnal deeds on you without even buying her a drink first” “Its nothing like that you F@#$ng Douche, so you wont do it then?”…… Ahem, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    Why Oh WHY aren’t we allowed to shoot stupid people?

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  • Keri says:

    YES! Love this! And also Neil Kirby’s comment – hahhaa!
    Couldn’t agree more with all of the above.

    Like

  • Keri says:

    Also: who tweeted that? I MUST follow them.

    Like

  • Keri says:

    Ah, follow that lovely lady already 🙂 I’m a bit late to the overexposure party but so glad I saw this all! Had a number of these requests over the last few weeks.

    http://www.midlandsmusings.com

    Like

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