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“Memo to Prospective Freelancers”

Aug 3rd, 2010 | By

From Tony Ortega of The Village Voice. One could take issue with some of it, but it’s useful. Reactions, thoughts? Share them in the comments.

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3 Comments to ““Memo to Prospective Freelancers””

  1. Even if not writing on spec, a journalist doing research on an article that hasn’t been accepted is a dicey proposition in terms of his/her investment of time (and time is $). Understandable that an editor with limited freelance budget doesn’t want to go out on a limb, assigning a story that may not pan out. For a freelancer who it pitching such a story, it seems to me essential that published clips showing how they DO make assignments pan out be provided along with the pitch. Even that is no guarantee. Maybe an assignment can be provisional, with the provisions (what is expected of said story) put in writing before the work is done. It’s essential that a freelancer have a pretty good idea of what the story they intend to write will be, but to have done all the work and writing before nailing down an editor’s interest at at least agreement to take the story seriously once it’s turned in seems to me like a pretty desperate way to try to get placements.

  2. avatar Enid Farber says:

    Yes, but perhaps desperate measures for desperate times. The newbie might be just hungry enough and funded enough to write the story and then pitch it. He/she probably has a plan to pitch it to many publications and hope that it is accepted and if not, then it can always be published online for vanity, if not compensation. As a photographer who has spent many years, shooting on spec, and not assignment, I wouldn’t have the body of work I have if I had waited for an editor to choose me. But that was when I was young, once upon a time. I am less willing, and presently able, to run around with a ton of equipment, shooting at my own expense, monetarily and bodily, just to have the photo of so and so, in case. I assume the writer, a Columbia student, was as eager as I used to be to have my name in print and took the risk of producing in advance!

  3. avatar James Hale says:

    I can’t think of another profession where people are asked/required to do work with absolutely no guarantee of payment. I’d love to know when/how this odious practice began.

    Freelancers: do not write on spec! You undervalue the work of all of us by doing so.

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