Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Would you like fries with that?

Today I've been flat out on three client projects all paying a reasonable rate. I've now been in front of the PC for nine hours, and look set to rack up another three or four before another three or four days of much keyboard whacking heading up to deadlines.

While the emails have been pinging and ponging around, I've also been asked to get involved in a communication project for a large professional services company. A new client, all good.

This afternoon, an agency also got in touch asking if I was free to do some phone interviewing and then write up the interviews for a publication. Well, if you want something done, ask a busy man. So I said that I could probably help with at least a couple of the interviews on Friday/Monday. I then enquired about what they were paying.

They said they were planning on an hourly rate of £20. i suggested they revise their thinking or look elsewhere.

In 1991 I was charging and getting £35 per hour. These days I generally work on double that and upwards, but will come down if the job or the client merits it. But £20 per hour.......

What value does that put on the work we do. It's not simply stringing together random sentences. Surely understanding a client company, their needs and what they expect from the particular communication exercise is worth more than £20? Surely asking the right questions to elicit the right responses and following that initial questioning with incisive follow-up is worth more than £20? Surely packaging the results of your research in a compelling interview that delivers on the business expectation is worth more than £20?

The only thing I'm sure of is that the client is paying the agency a lot more than £20 per hour.

But it would seem that this agency just sees the people paid to be creative with words as a low-price transactional commodity - one step up from the burger flippers.

Frankly, I wasn't impressed.

1 comment:

Ron Shewchuk said...

I sometimes tease my wife (who's a writer) with the truism, "All writers are whores."

The craft of writing has been degraded for as long as quills have been dragged across sheepskin. It's a sad and timeless reality: writers have a primordial need to see their words in print, which supersedes anything to do with money.

This need, which all writers share, plays extremely well into the hands of publishers everywhere, who are more than happy to pay nothing for something that should be one of the most valuable commodities on earth.

This sad truth is exacerbated by the fact that writers make appealing mates to high income earners like doctors, lawyers and real estate agents everywhere, allowing this pitiful, needy class of artists to practice their craft without having to live on the street like other prostitutes.

Every time a good writer agrees to a project for twenty pounds - or dollars - an hour, or 25 pence a word, he or she is contributing to this communal whoredom.

As Hunter Thompson said, "I've always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it's a bit like fucking — which is fun only for amateurs. Old whores don't do much giggling."

All that being said, I consider myself a writer. It's up to all of us to refuse work that exposes our whorishness and puts way to much money in pockets far less empty than ours.

Good on ya, Mark, for refusing that poor-paying job. It's an inspiring lesson there for writers everywhere.