I know it’s a subject I’ve (ahem) touched on before: The old ‘please work for free’ spiel. But I thought I should share this latest request because it’s just so gosh-darn warm and polite. Makes it sound like a really good gig, doesn’t it?
I can never tell whether these guys are just blithely ignorant, or actually know what a raw deal they are proposing and are just hoping I’m fresh off the turnip truck.
Though given that this particular dude found me via LinkedIn, you’d think he would have had ample opportunity to scan my background.
I’ll be kind and remove the actual names here, but suffice to say the website/directory/publication in question is looking for equestrian travel content, for which they don’t want to pay.
Sure, I’ll not only contribute to your website and directory for free, but I’ll travel (on gossamer wings, presumably?) to come up with the content, and be delighted that in exchange you will:
* list me in a directory of other schmucks who work for free, so that no-one ever thinks I expect to be paid, ever again
* put links to your website all over my blog (a blog, btw, that doesn’t currently earn me a plugged nickel and, tragically, is likely not to magically monetize when it has a reciprocal link placed on yours)
* follow me on Twitter (be still, my palpitating heart!)
* give me a BYLINE! Woot!
* allow me to enter your upcoming writing contest (see similar rant here).
* oh, and my work will be read by equestrians.
Here it is, with names changed because I am far too impoverished to fight off a lawsuit (unless someone knows a nice Canadian lawyer who will work for exposure?):
You and I are connected through Linked In, and I’d like to briefly introduce myself.
I’m the CEO of (an American company), and I’m contacting you because I’m seeking writers for short well-written articles on a variety of subjects.
I can offer you additional national exposure in our newsletter. You would have a by-line, a link to your website, and would be referenced in our archive’s index of writers with your professional bio. As we grow, your work would be read by an increasing number of equestrians. We are also planning writing contests and awards, and have many other ideas we hope will appeal to you in time.
Our new service, http://www.insultingwriters.com , is the largest, most sophisticated equine travel directory in North America. This directory is free for everyone, both equine travelers and people who want to create their free travel-related business profile.
The directory features hundreds of horse-friendly campgrounds, layover stables, guest ranches, and backcountry vacation facilities that provide equine lodging in the U.S.A. and Canada. Each profile has an executive summary of the facility, contact information, pictures, travel directions, and reviews, assisting horse owners with finding the ideal place to stay with their horse.
1. If you are interested in writing short articles on equine-related travel (destinations, trails, trail gear, cowgirl apparel, campsite recipes…) please contact me! I’ll get you started…
2. And, if you wish, we’d like you to place our website’s link on yours as a benefit to your clients and readers. In turn, we’d be happy to post your link on our website.
3. In just a few weeks, we can also help you generate additional revenue with our link on your site. Please let me know if you’d be interested in knowing more about this.
4. I’m also seeking special discounts or promotions I can offer our guests and subscribers, and if you or your organization has a product or service I can offer to a national audience, I’d love to promote your special offer.
5. If you know anyone who has a horse-friendly campground, layover stable, guest ranch, or backcountry vacation facility, please let them know about us. They can create their free business profile on our site and increase their exposure.
6. Our website has a Calendar of Events… You’re welcome to post your events (or any organization’s events to which you belong) on it, and there’s a blog (link removed) on which we’d enjoy your comments.
7. Of course, if you’d visit and Like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/XXX ), connect with us on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/XXX ), or Follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/XXX ), we would greatly appreciate your kindness. We would be happy to do the same for you!
Please contact me for anything. I’m happy to help promote you and your interests in any way I can.
Best wishes, MR. X.
And my response:
Dear Mr. X,
I know your message wasn’t intended to be rude or insulting. More and more businesses seem to think that “exposure” in exchange for well-written content is a fair trade … but the truth is, it never has been, is not now, and is in no way a viable business model.
If you have actually looked at my LinkedIn profile, you’ll have seen that I am a professional writer, and have been for more than 20 years. By “professional”, I mean that this is what I do to pay the bills. With over 5000 published articles and six books to my credit, frankly, I have “exposure” out the wazoo. Alas, all it seems to get me these days is more requests (I won’t call them offers) to give away my work for free. And that, I’m afraid, won’t do me much good in terms of paying my rent, my cel phone bill, or dealing with the guy who’s bringing 1200 bales of hay to my place next week. He is not likely to hold onto his invoice until my newfound “exposure” begins to pay imaginary dividends for me.
I’m particularly concerned about your business model considering that you’re requesting travel pieces. The investment on the part of the writer is considerable; press trips are close to non-existent these days and if one manages to travel on one’s own dime, there’s little chance of actually recouping that investment. None at all, in the case of (your company). How does that make sense?
If I was independently wealthy or had a huge inheritance coming my way, and was still tickled by the idea of a byline, I suppose I might be more receptive to your proposal. But writers like that are a bit scarce on the ground. Frankly, I hope you don’t find any, because even if they don’t need the money, it hurts everyone in my industry when writing, as a skill, is so devalued that companies just expect it will be given away.
Just for the record, my minimum fee for freelance work is 40 cents a word … please feel free to get in touch if that rate is agreeable to you at some point in the future.
Sorry to come off as harsh, but it’s becoming very, very difficult to survive as a freelancer these days, and business models like yours (sigh) are exactly why.
I’m thinking I need to just develop a boilerplate response to asshat proposals like these. Anyone got a good one they’d like to share?