I had an interesting week of ups and downs. I was complemented for building strong relationships and alternately referred to as a “darling,” “lap dog,” and “cancer.” I had a grant rejected, and another funded, and I had to revise the budget of a third. I submitted two proposals, was asked to join a nonprofit Board by one start-up, and asked to donate my grant writing services to another.
Talk about a week of mixed messages. This is one of my weirdest weeks on record and the events of the week made me reflective. I don’t know about you, but when I get called a “cancer” it makes me stop and think about whether my actions actually merited that kind of “sticks and stones” schoolyard crappola.
The essence of it all in my opinion is that there’s a thin line between being a professional and just being a greasy sell-it-anyway-you-can dirt bag who doesn’t have two brain cells worth of ethics.
The thin line really is not so thin. There’s a big fat line between scammers and professionals. A scam involves taking from someone and not giving equal value. What’s worse is that some of these people are so deluded that they think they’re entitled to take from you. You used to have to go out into the world and look for the pickpockets, now you just have to spend five minutes on the Internet.
I try to live by a concept that was well described by Steven Pressfield’s in “Do the Work,” professionals “deliver.” If I take on a job, I deliver. I will work early, all day, and late, plus weekends. But come hell or high water the job is going to get done and it will be done damned well, end of story. It’s in my genes.
Some people operate their online businesses by taking advantage of writers. I did a 90 day writing “internship” for a company in Chicago about five years ago. They advertised on Craigslist for people to write content and there were hints that it could lead to paid work. Hints mind you, nothing firm, no promises. I applied, they offered, I accepted, my bad.
I wrote about 90 articles for them over three months about everything from Fiats to Bass Pro Shops. I completed the Internship and got a nice letter of recommendation for my effort. They got all my content and sold my articles to their clients. I was a sucker.
The internship was about writing content for someone else, not for me. I could have been building my own site over that time and I could have made some money doing it. Even though I volunteered for it, I felt I was taken advantage of; after all, I could already write. I thought I was going to learn something.
I see lots of similar ads on Craigslist today. Someone is looking for an intern to write content for this web site, or a volunteer as a reporter for that web site. Web developers want the content because content is King and they know it. A web developer needs content to build an online following so they can charge for advertising. But many of them don’t have any money to pay a writer what they’re worth so they look for starry-eyed writers willing to sell their soul for a “by-line” on a bunch of articles.
It’s crap. All those articles aren’t going to land you a better writing job than you can get writing on your own web sites or blog. Those scheisters are not going to teach you anything about writing, but they’re smart enough to know someone who can write from someone who can’t, and if you can’t write you aren’t going to get the gig anyway.
Write for yourself, not for someone else, and never for free. There’s a bunch of people out there who want to take advantage of your talent. Even though the hacks may call you a disease, ignore them; they’re unprofessional scammers and eventually they’ll have to pay if writers turn off the tap of free content.